"Improvement and progression have one eternal round" (Hymn 284: If You Could Hie to Kolob).
This quote has been prominent in my head in my mission thus far and I think it will continue to be in my mind often as my mission continues. I'm not exactly sure why it's been so stuck in my head, but I know it applies to how I feel about missionary work in general. Sometimes I don't improve as fast as I would like. Sometimes I don't see progress in investigators for a long while. But once you do, it's a wonderful thing, though it can sometimes pass by unnoticed because of the truth of this saying, or in other words, the common phrase of 'there's always room for improvement.' We are constantly improving ourselves little by little, and once a step of progression is reached, then you can move on to the next step, but only if you have reached that first one prior.
This week I have finally seen a large sense of improvement in the lessons that we have taught, both in the investigators and in our teaching. Sometimes it just takes time, but it happens eventually. It's rewarding to see and I'm so glad I can be refreshed by seeing improvement.
This week we did a lot of service, so we didn't tract as much. That is a big focus this week, finding more people to teach. We need a larger teaching pool. I pray that the Lord will put those who are prepared in our path so we may teach them, just as he has with the investigators we are currently teaching. There are four main people we are teaching right now, but I will for now only tell you about one of them and wait for stories to develop more concerning our other investigators.
"Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven" (Matthew 18:4).
Do you remember me talking previously about the eight-year-old who was reading the index of the Book of Mormon, but who we had to teach him the story of Adam and Eve? This is a story about him and his family. Because these are real people but I have not been given permission to use their real names, I will call the eight-year-old we are teaching Adam, because of how curious God-loving he is. When he turned eight, before we taught him, he told his mom, who is has not raised her three boys (Adam being the oldest) in any religion, he told her, "I want to learn about Jesus."
His mother was raised catholic, but she was forced into the religion and she doesn't want to do that to her kids. She wants them to make their own decisions. She is one of the greatest mothers, I know she is, I can see it every time we visit. I will call her Tire Swing Tracy, because she showed us a video not to long ago of her and her boys playing on the tire swing and the park and she lost her balance and fell off. We all laughed, and it is the best thing to hear those three little boys laugh together, and there mom just chiming in and laughing at herself with them. Tracy has been warming up to us as we have continued coming over. It is interesting how the Lord works. We always seem to catch them at a time when Tracy is having a bad day.
The first time we ran into her (it was actually just a few weeks before I arrived here, so Sister Easter was there, I wasn't) Tracy was smoking on the porch of her trailer. I don't remember the whole story, but she was having a bad day and when they told her about the Plan of Salvation she started to cry because it touched her so much. We were excited to actually teach her that lesson.
At first, she would sit in on the lessons, but keep on saying it was for Adam. But she's been warming up to us and to the gospel. And she's given up smoking now. For a fridge. haha. Their fridge quit on them because of the one really randomly hot day and she had a brother? I think? That was getting rid of his fridge and said he'd give it to her for free if she quit cold turkey. So she did! "Hey, free fridge!" she said, "And I quit smoking before while I was pregnant, but I just picked it back up again one day. I don't know why, stupid. So I've not smoked for about a week now and I walked through a smoking area and it stinks! It smells so bad!" Oh, we were so happy to hear that she quit smoking!
We usually just stop by their house, see if their home. Tracy works painting houses and usually during the weekends she takes the kids to see their dad. Their divorced I believe, but I don't know the whole story. So she told us to just stop by from time to time. So this particular time we hadn't seen them in about a week, perhaps more, and we bowed our heads to pray in the car and we out of the corner of our eye see three little boys coming out of the house and waving at us! We laughed and said a quick prayer as is customary before getting out of the car to do teaching or tracting of any kind, and we were welcomed with laughs as they piled into their car. "We missed you!" Tracy called as she came out of the house. They were going to do necessary errands though, and they were going to a funeral of her friend not tomorrow but the next day. She said that we could come visit then. It just so happened that we had the rest of the plan of salvation to teach, our life on earth, the spirit world, the resurrection and judgement, and the three kingdoms. Those were next on the list and can be very impact and provide comfort despite the grieving after a funeral. It's always a mix of sorrow and peace, the feelings after a funeral. But Adam was so cute, he said, "Just come back in two minutes." ..." In three minutes!" ... "In four minutes!" And he and his brothers were just lauuuughing. They're always laughing, and it's the cutest thing.
We came by after the funeral. The youngest was conked out on the couch, sleeping with his head up and back and his mouth open. The house was a nice mess, as expected with three boys all with single digit ages. They were watching sponge bob with the volume turned low, a favorite show at their house.
Tracy was pretty beat, exhausted from the funeral emotionally. She explained that this was one of her best friends, died unexpectedly from a heart attack when in his sleep and he was only in his early thirties. She'd never been to a native american burial before and it was so spiritual and so cleansing. All of the songs were super emotional. And usually she likes to just take off before the burial. She doesn't like to stay for the lowering or anything like that. But in this service, they actually buried her friend, and she was throwing dirt in and everything. It was very hard but cleansing and she feels like it'll help her because there was more closure.
We were starting the lesson and then Heather got up and left... we were both very sad. We wanted her to sit in on this one... I figured maybe she just couldn't handle it emotionally right now. But I prayed in my heart that she would come back. She was talking on the phone after all. We talked to Adam about the book of Mosiah because he said he had questions about it. I was stalling, hoping Tracy would come back... and she did! She apologized for having to take the phone call and sat on the couch again next to her sleeping youngest.
Adam was super chatty. He had so many questions and comments, but mostly comments and he was getting off on tangents about common eight-year-old things. But one random question he asked really struck me. Out of the blue he asked:
"Why do people make games with guns?" ...This question was very purpose driven. This was something he was really concerned about. "Because I don't like them. My dad plays them and they said a lot of bad words and there's a lot of blood. I like games with cars. But GTA5, that's a bad game. I don't play that game except for driving. There's a lot of bad stuff in there. You know what also I don't like. Strip clubs. I don't do those. Why do people make games like that?"
Heather was irked that their dad would be playing games like that around them. ...Things like this, it just goes to show how much little children are aware and how they do know right from wrong, how things like this really bother them, and it should bother us as well.
"Have you ever told your dad how you feel about him playing those games, Adam?"
I hope those games stop...
We continued with the lesson and we explained everything and were reexplaining the spirit world and it was really powerful. I shared that this scripture gave me a lot of comfort when my grandpa passed away the past August and I began to read.
"This is in Alma chapter 40. Now, concerning the state of the soul between death and the resurrection-- Behold, it has been made known unto me by an angel, that thew spirits of all men, as soon as they are departed from this mortal body, yea, the spirits of all men, whether they be good or evil, are taken home.... to that God who gave them life..."
I had started to cry, it evident in the stops of my voice. Tracy was curled up on the couch, her eyes red too...
"And then shall it come to pass that the spirits of those who are righteous are received into a stated of happiness....... which is called paradise...... a stated of rest,... a state of peac-.........*sob* where they shall rest from all their troubles and from all care, and sorrow," I finished in a tearful whisper.
As I began to bare testimony, Adam began to audibly cry, tears flowing freely, because his mother was crying, as if his mothers tears had injured him.
"It's okay Adam," her voice froggy. "It's only for a day, I'll be okay. It's only for a day."
He sniffed and sobbed. He stopped soon after but... that is just... there's not many more examples of love that explain and demonstrate love so purely as a son who cries because his mother is crying.
Later, and again, this was just out of the blue, but he started listing off the people he was thankful for. As I listened, I was touched. I could only imagine how I would feel as a mother of this sweet little child as he bore his testimony.
"I'm grateful for my family. I'm grateful for my mom and dad. I'm grateful for all the people in the world that I don't even know and that aren't even here. I'm grateful for everyone that isn't even born yet."
...Yes, this was probably the most powerful lesson we have taught yet. I feel so privileged to have been there for Tracy at this time and to be there for that special spiritual moment, so precious, to share that with their family...
And so I will leave you with this quote, the one that Tracy texted us after we left.
"Yesterday is history. Tomorrow is a mystery. Today is a gift. And that's why it's called the present."
I'm so grateful for the Plan of Salvation and how it blesses lives. I'm grateful for my earthly father as well as my Heavenly Father.
Here is a wonderful video that explains more about the wonderful responsibilities and blessings of being a father:
Always and forever grateful,
Sister Hannah Sanderson