Tuesday, July 22, 2014

12 - No Longer Green!

Missouri River

"Away, I'm gone away, across the wide Missouri."


See that? It's the Missouri River! A not so good picture of it, but I'm totally living minutes from the Missouri River, have driven over it and everything! I don't know, I just realized that a bit ago and it was really mind blowing to me because it's such a landmark river you know? And it makes me think of the song Shanandoah. But anyway!

No Longer Green!


I am officially no longer a greenie! Have have made it through my first 12 weeks, or 3 months, or 2 transfers, whatever variable of time you want to measure it with, and now am considered a full fledged missionary, meaning I could be called on to train a missionary just coming out of the MTC. Do I feel like I could do that? I would say I do! I haven't been asked to do that, but if I had been, I would've been ready. haha.

Every six weeks we have transfers; the mission president switches up companions throughout the mission according to what the spirit prompts him to change. Transfer calls are always the Saturday before. It's always a day racked with anticipation because seriously, the day's not over till it's over. President Anderson tries to call earlier rather than later, but there's a lot of missionaries in the field! Sister Easter has gotten a transfer call as late as 5:30 before. So you go through that whole Saturday trying your best to stay focused on your studies, your lessons, calls you have to make, but you are so paranoid about getting a call! You keep the phone at your side the whole day; it's litterally attached to your hip, because if you get a call you NEED to answer, and if you get a call that means someone's going somewhere for better or worse. Well. Always for better, but it can be a bit difficult these changes, as with all changes.

Soooooooo... the result? Drumroll please? .....................

Sister Sanderson and Sister Easter...Still Companions!
I'm staying! And so is Sister Easter! She's been here one transfer longer than me. Actually, not a lot of changes were made in Bismark... again! There were hardly any changes last transfer so we expected it to get pretty changed up, but nope. Elder Schneringer (Snare-reen-jur) is leaving though, which is sad. One of my first zone leaders, leaving Bismark, sad! And then our district leader's companion, Elder Hedmond, is leaving too. But they aren't leaving till tomorrow, so I'm going to take some action shots of us playing chair soccer later today, as is usual at around 3:30 on p-day, and I will post them next week! It'll be great.

Michael...Just baptized!
Oh, and Saturday we attended two baptisms. Neither of them were ours, but one of the people baptized will be in our ward, so that's awesome. And you know what else is awesome? This awesome card that this family made for Micheal, the baptism in the other ward.

Isn't that a genius card!? So great.

Awesome Card for Micheal
Being as I am now done of training... well, I should probably tell you what my 'training' consisted of. Each missionary when he or she comes out into the field goes through the 12-week booklet with their companion. There is an additional hour of time that you carve out of your day in order to do the assigned reading and videos etc, so basically it's just additional specific study, making sure all the bases of missionary work are covered and talked about. Each week there is a specific thing you apply to your missionary work, such as, "the new missionary will take the lead in extending the invitation to baptism." Stuff like that. And every week on Saturday for an hour you have a bridge call with the zone leaders and all the rest of the missionaries going through twelve week to see where they're at and whatnot.

SO! I'm done of all twelve weeks, and it's neat to reflect back on what I used to be, how I used to feel, and how I'm doing now. And, how the work in our area is doing now. And in my reflection I have come up with a few things I'd like to share.

What I've Learned


I've learned a lot about the spirit, though I still have lots to learn. I feel like I will always have questions about the spirit, how it works and how to utilize and access it. But I also know now that I can lean more readily on experiences that I've had with the spirit in order to answer my questions and back up the knowledge that I do have, even if it's just a testimony that I have and I don't know exactly why it works, just that it does. Which is another thing that I've learned, the power of testifying. I have a goal to bear testimony more because it's powerful and it seals your words so that the spirit might testify more clearly to the investigator the truth of our words. Because, when all is said and done, we are not the teachers. We use the 'spirit' to teach. We can bring the gospel to their hearts, but only the holy ghost can take it into their hearts.

And I've also noticed, I'm quite content with listening, more than I have been throughout my life I've noticed. There have been times recently where I think, 'should I share this and that?' and then I just don't feel inclined to share, but rather to listen. I used to always like to share what's on my mind, and I still do but, I guess now I'm just becoming more inclined to listen instead? It's important to listen to your investigators so that you know how to help them. And it's important to listen to people because sometimes people just need to talk.

It was a struggle adjusting to missionary life, not because of the busy schedule, but oddly enough, because of the lack of business. As missionaries, you go from being spiritually slammed in the MTC, getting 30-45 minutes for meals having absolutely no free time and barely enough time to get ready in the morning, to having a full hour to get ready for the day, and having a full hour for lunch as well as dinner, and you are commanded to use that time for yourself. I don't know, it was just a big struggle for me. I never felt that we were doing enough. I felt completely overwhelmed by what I wished I had a comfortable knowledge of and what all there was to do and how we were seeming to sit idly by while the work was still not done. And it's still a struggle, but it's better. I'm always trying to find solace in discussing with other missionaries how they find new investigators, because I want to know that we are doing everything we can. I find comfort in the scripture in Mosiah: "for it is not requisite that a man run faster than he has strength." We are given this extra time because otherwise we could not withstand the rigor of a year and a half to two years of mission life.

And, our area is progressing, just... very slowly. We taught 25 lessons total my first transfer, or my first six weeks. And this second transfer, we again taught 25 lessons. It seemed like we taught less lessons this transfer, so it was comforting to see that our lessons didn't decrease. Weeeeee are the tracting sisters. It's been established. I mean, we FINISHED tracting that 500+ trailer mobile home park. We will tract ALL of Bismark! Woo! We WILL see success! Our investigators are really struggling in their lives right now, but things will get better!

That love that everyone talks about that you have for the people in your area? I think I just, have a lot of love for people normally, because I seriously love these people like I love the people at the adorable little gas station back at home. I wish the best for them and want them all to succeed and have great lives and to comfort them in their trials that they are all going through right now. Sometimes it just seems like you're helpless and all you can do is pray... and that's really hard... but it's alright. People will be okay. I just pray that they will use these trials to shape them instead of to tear them down.

I'm grateful for my mission and for the chance to tackle this area for another six weeks with Sister Easter. We know how to work with each other now and I believe that we will see success, even if it continues to be slow. Improvement and progression are one eternal round. I've been told I have a natural ability to teach. I sometimes envision myself at night when I'm trying to sleep having these awesome powerful lessons of awesome where I just say all the right things and bring about clear understanding. I know that I can be that missionary. If I work hard and study hard, I can be that missionary. I'll have great experiences on my mission. I love you all and I want you to know that this gospel is true and that power and sacrifice have a direct correlation with each other. Learned that on Sunday. This gospel is true; it just makes sense. I'm so glad to be spreading it to those who are searching for a foundation to lay their lives on. I know the atonement is real and that you can find comfort and that your guilt will be swept away if you use it. 

I love this gospel and I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

11 - Smile! ...the Rest of the Story

(Well, more of Smile's story anyway. LOL)

A Week of Trials and Triumphs

Oye. This week was well, eventful, but in some disappointing ways. We had many potential investigators drop us and we had two investigators who we had to put in formers because they no longer want to hear anymore from us. And we can no longer visit one of our newer investigators because she's living with her sister and her sister doesn't want us over. She was so sad, she wants to learn. We're trying to figure out a way that we can still teach her without stepping on anyone's toes... It's proving difficult. We're so sad about it.... And we had one person, the women who had the experience with us giving her the picture, who we were so excited for to come to church, but she faced health issues yet again and didn't come. And it would have been such a good sacrament meeting for her too! Darn it.  

However, Angel, our Spanish investigator, came to church! My first investigator at church! And he was able to meet some people in the ward who speak Spanish who will make great fellowshippers for him! We also were able to get in with the picture lady for the first time in a while! She's such a sweetheart. She's getting ready to retire at the end of this month so she's been working lots, so it's been hard to get in with her. It will be WAY more consistent in August. Oh, and we found a family too, but they believe very very strongly in the trinity, at least the parents. The first lesson was something else. We'll see how things go with them. We're going to try and stay away from the trinity subject and build a foundation on everything else and then address the trinity again. That's the plan.

Now... to continue with Smile's story.

Just Another Door?
After he opened up to us and dumped all these thoughts and feelings and experiences out, we left. It's hard listening to such misfortune, but cleansing as well, and awakens a sense of urgency to pray with more fervor. That's almost all you can do. We did give him a business card of someone in our ward though that might have a job opening. We really hoped something would come of that card. He was so appreciative of it, though felt horrible at the same time because he doesn't want to be just some charity case. He won't even let anyone give him rides to church for the self same reason. It's a little frustrating. Just causes this vicious cycle of being permanently stuck in a rut.

Then, poor Smiles. Just one thing after another. He called us earlier on the next Wednesday to tell us he was sick with the flu. Satan just doesn't give up...

We then had our first phone lesson with Smiles. We shared a scripture about hope, and he thanked us and told us that he had found some leads! One of them being from the card we gave him! And he called his mother to tell her the news before us and he told her about us and how we were helping him out and.... told Smiles that she doesn't want him converting over to Mormonism and that he should stay at the Lutheran church the way he was raised. "And my mother's never led me wrong so, I'm going to start going to church at the Lutheran church." ...sigh... Smiles.... Why... Though, he says he'd still read from the Book of Mormon to decide for himself what is true. So that's good. And we set up another sit down appointment. Also very good.

We went into the lesson, our game faces on. We had to come out of there knowing that Smiles understood that it is through his effort to read and pray about the Book of Mormon that he would receive his answer, and that if he focused on finding where he was spiritually he would have success in finding a job. We committed him to start from the beginning of the Book of Mormon, to read the introduction and title page and the beginning testimonies. We talked about faith and what faith is and he expressed the concern of being able to "accept the Lord into your heart" and how that was scary to do, that he's "not to that level yet like [we] are." AND, and, he asked us our thoughts on him going to the Lutheran church, which shows a lot. We told him to "follow his heart." AND during the lesson, it was so quick and slight, but he said if he finds out it's true "maybe I'll convert." He's open to the possibility. AND! during the prayer, he totally thanked us for our boldness, which was awesome because we were talking about earlier how we needed this to be a very bold lesson.

We kept with the every other week thing and we had a phone lesson the next week. He told us that he has decided to go to the Lutheran church and read the Book of Mormon and we committed him to read at least a verse every day. Because, he had NOT been reading. Smiles! Read! And we shared with him 2 Nephi 33:10-11, and... he then before we hung up told us he doesn't want to meet anymore... "that he's just got too much going on looking for a job and stuff" .... Smiles... why.... why are you so swayed, flip flopping from interested to not... and yet, he's one of our most reliable investigators! Even through this temporary time where we had to drop him and put him in formers! The irony. Though, he did express to us that he knew he could call us any time with questions and he promised that he would. And that is when Sister Easter felt inspired to ask:

"Do you have a picture of Jesus Christ?"
"No, but that'd be real nice to have."

The Picture We Gave to Smiles
And that is what prompted us making those pictures. Here is Smiles's custom made picture. Colored ink on paper at the library, Dollar store frames, and Sister Easter's crafty things, bam. And Tim also has been wanting a bible. He's wanted a bible to compare the Book of Mormon too and whatnot, one with the foot notes like we have, and so we doorbell ditched his picture and Bible a week or so later. It was awesome. I honestly don't know how well he can understand scripture? He's not very eloquent in reading, quite slow actually, yet he says, "it just flows out of me. I should read Shakespeare and stuff because with that language, it's just flow. It just comes so natural." ..It was very choppy when he read uh.. yeah, Tim's a weird dude. But we love him anyway.

And then......... guess what........ HE CALLED US!! And he told us that he READ the beginning of the Book of Mormon!!! "See, I told you I'd read it." And he summarized it all very well! That Joseph Smith saw the angel Moroni who appeared to him multiple times before he could translate the plates and yata yata, so he must have been summarizing the testimony of Joseph Smith in the beginning, but YEAH! SUPER sweet! AND he is making progress on getting a job! A highlight of that Friday or whenever it was!

And then.... holy cow... and then..........

Remember when I said like, two entrees ago, that there was an awesome thing that happened but I'll tell you Smiles's story later? Well. This is the awesome thing that happened.

It was Sunday and we were sitting down to study in the afternoon and right before we could begin, the phone rang. Smiles. We were excited for what this phone call would bring! We said our greetings with smiles on our faces. He lived up to his name. (The name 'I've' chosen to give him, but, still.)

"I have good news and a favor."

Do you know what the good news was???? HE GOT A JOB!!!! At Little Caesar's across the way, but HEY, STILL A JOB!!!! And do you KNOW what the FAVOR WAS!???? TO READ THE FIRST CHAPTER OF THE BOOK OF MORMON WITH HIM OVER THE PHONE!!!!! AHHHHHH!!!!! Oh my goodness, it was like, the happiest thing ever. And he read too, and he did very very well, wasn't nearly as choppy, I was very impressed. And just! AH! He wanted to read with us! And he really liked it and ah! And I MADE sure that he was GOING to talk to his employer to get Sunday's off. He said he was planning on doing that, but yeah! He doesn't have a regular schedule yet so we can't set up appointments with him, but whatever, YEAH! And he shared that when he got the job, when he told his son, that his son just picked him up in a hug and spun him around! And he put him down and looked at him and said, "now, you keep it, ok?" "Oh, I will." And just, ah, that story and father son bonding and.... AH! IT MAKES ME HAPPY!!!!

 When we hung up Sister Easter and I had a jumping dancing freak attack around the apartment. "HE GOT A JOOOOOB!! AAHHH! HE READ WITH US! FIRST CHAPTER OF THE BOOK OF MORMON!!! WOOOOOOO!!! I'M SO HAAAAAPPPYYYY!!!!!" It lasted for like, a good two or three whole minutes. We were jumping around like maniacs. The things that missionaries do when exciting progress happens. It's great. 

Soooooo time passed. We didn't really hear from him, and we hadn't called him or anything, buuuut it had been enough time that it was time to try again. We called yesterday, but he I guess didn't have any minutes on his phone. So we stopped by yesterday instead and he's doin good! He's the oldest guy there by a lot and he gets pushed around a lot and he's not used to standing for long periods of time anymore so it's been hard... but he's pushing through. We didn't really teach a lesson. He was in a very very jokey mood. And he can do a very good Donald Duck and Goofy voice, we were super surprised. We did NOT expect that from him. He hasn't gotten the chance to go to any church from our understanding because of how tough work has been. But yeah, he's doin good and he says to just call before we stop by again to make sure he'll be there and yeah! So yay! Praying that things continue to go smoothly for him!

So yeah! That's the story. Sorry it's long, but you see why I had to tell the whole story? That exciting thing wouldn't be nearly as exciting without the full story. So yeah! Until next week!

PS.

Crazy "basement" Spider
Here's a picture of a spider. It was in the closet of a basement of a house that we were helping someone pack up. The hospital across the street bought out the land from the landlord and now the people who live there have to pack up and leave in a matter of a few days because their houses are going to be torn down and made into a parking lot... I just have to say... I'm kind of glad that this house is being destroyed because I wouldn't want to have to clean this house. ...Apparently, the family, a less active family, just gave up on cleaning completely when they found out. And they weren't the greatest at it in the first place and... yeah. We just threw things in boxes and wrote what room they were in and... yeah. That was an adventure this week.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

10 - Fireworks in the Area

Why are there no knock knock jokes about America? ..........
Red, White and Blue Missionaries of the Bismarck Ward
Because freedom rings!
 

:)    Happy Fourth of July!

Fireworks at the Bismarck Capital Building
How was everyone's Fourth of July!? Well, ours was pretty great. It was pretty hot and muggy, over 100 degrees at one point, but that's ok! Anyway, our mission President even gave us permission to stay out and watch the fireworks past our 10:30 bed time! We got to bed an hour later, at 11:30. We came home and it was dark; we felt rebellious, Sister Easter moreso than me, seeing as she's more used to the strict clockwork schedule than I am.

We watched the fireworks at the capitol, the tallest building in North Dakota everyone, woo! The fireworks themselves were not super astounding, the ones in Mandan, just the next place over, are the crazy ones. But! We had a symphony orchestra playing along with ours! I've never had that before, and they played Stars and Stripes Twice! Such a genius song! John Philips Sousa is a genius. I mean, the trombones standing up at the end? What can be more glorious?

The Tyler Family
We spent the evening with a family in the ward. What an awesome family. I love them! Brother Tyler is in the Bishopric, and Sister Tyler is the Relief Society President, AND both of them served Spanish speaking missions and we came in contact with a new investigator who only speaks Spanish, so they came with us and translated! What a blessing! And it was really fun for them to go out teaching together and to practice their Spanish. They've never gone out teaching together before, and they really enjoyed it.

Which brings me to my next point. We actually have appointments set up for this week! We've been working on finding people to teach and it's finally starting turn into teaching lessons rather than just knocking and knocking and knocking. I have a lot of little stories, but those will probably be stories that I'll just tell at home. Plus, I think I promised you a story last week. I wouldn't want that promise to go empty. 


So here's the story of my first found investigator.


"My son, peace be unto thy soul; thine adversity and thine afflictions shall be but a small moment; And then, if thou endure it well, God shall exalt thee on high; thou shalt triumph over all thy foes," (D&C 121:7-8)

It was the last Wednesday of the last day of April when I knocked on my first door.

An Actual Angled Door--Not an Illusion.
With a fist which now belonged to an official and set apart representative of the Savior Jesus Christ, I knocked on the door. And it opened, and scarcely after we had opened our mouths to speak our names, the man invited us in. His apartment reeked of smoke. His teeth were yellow, though not to the point of being missing quite yet. He had large glasses and thin hair gone completely gray. He sat down, his potbelly predominant on his figure which had the potential to be fit, and he smiled. And he wouldn't stop talking.

This man was lonely, it was clear, and he needed someone to listen to him. It was also clear that he likely had some mental issues. He was just strange. But aren't we too a peculiar people? He talked of strange and wonderful miracles that had happened to him, God given abilities that he possessed which he thanked the Lord for, and he knew we were good people.

It was difficult trying to teach him, and when I was still so unfamiliar with the structure of the lesson. When I would think of something to say which tied in with the one-sided conversation, he would veer and we would be left trying to think of a way to steer us back on course. And he would fill every blank part of the conversation with 'and stuff.' He would say things and we would laugh and he said, "See? I put a smile on your face. That's what I try to do, every day. I put a smile on somebody's face and stuff because that makes me happy."

Smiles. I believe it's a fitting name.

I was VERY proud of myself. I covered all the points of the restoration. I am more comfortable interrupting people out of necessity than Sister Easter is, so I was the only one who really got a word in. We were there for two hours, double the time we should be in a lesson. We left, smelling like smoke, and discussing what a strange character he was. We set up a return appointment for next week. Wednesdays were the day.

But before the appointment Wednesday, we found that during the Saturday of stake conference there would be a broadcast, so we invited him. He borrowed his son's nice clothes and his son dropped him off at the church. He loved hearing about all that he needed to do to be a missionary like us. I don't think he understands completely how missionaries well, how they're called and that you do have to pay for the mission upfront 'before' everything is covered for you, but we would get to explaining that later I suppose.

During the appointment on Wednesday, we committed him to read the first chapter of the Book of Mormon. We also committed him to church, offering a ride, but he wouldn't except it, saying he doesn't want to be a charity case and that he doesn't have good Sunday clothes to enter the house of the Lord and he can't always be borrowing his son's. The following Wednesday, we knocked on the door and he opened it, soup-like dinner in hand, and looked at us, mortified at the sight of the two young ladies who had committed him to read something which he had not yet read and who he forgot were coming. He apologized thoroughly and put his dinner down for the lesson. We explained to him upfront that we would be doing most of the talking, but even still, it was pretty difficult to keep the lesson on track. We gathered that he is afraid of going to hell, but the lesson wasn't able to be finished because it went over and we were already late for another appointment... and we were just about to explain about what really happens during life after death. sigh.

Then... a voicemail...

I had just come out of the bathroom at the library and Sister Easter looked at me solemnly. ...Tim had gotten into anti. He had "heard that we weren't a good Christian religion and he would like to discontinue our services." Our hearts were weighted... we didn't know what to do. What do you do with a call like this? ...

After some thought and prayer, we resolved that we would stop by this week at the same time and we would testify that the only way he was going to know of the truth of the Book of Mormon was to read it himself. It would be a powerful teaching moment, if he would answer that is.

Wednesday. We knocked... He answered and we testified boldly, and he opened up to us. He opened up that he doesn't feel like a man. That he's out of work because of medical problems which are resolved now but because of past issues people won't higher him. He told us his son was living with him and paying the rent. He told us his been told he's worthless from the day that he was born, that his bother would beat him. He told us of his wife's story and of her passing, how she was extremely bipolar and how she would hurt herself severely as well as him and how he loved her anyway, and how his son, the son living with him, told Smiles he should get rid of her, his own mother. He told us about how he walked in the house four years ago, his wife laying face down on the couch, an empty bottle of sleeping pills on the table. And he told us his son blames him for it. In this moment of him being overcome with grief, us being overcome and his trails in life which continue to press on him, we closed with a prayer as is routine, blessing him with the ability to realize that he is strong and he is winning the battle against Satan, praying that the Lord will bless him inasmuch as he is diligent and faithful. He told us he wanted to meet every other week now, that he needed to focus on finding a job before September when his son would be moving out, to find a job "so that he could be a real man again."

We prayed for him, are still praying for him...

Smiles story isn't done yet, and it does get better, but I don't want to spoil anything. I apologize, I didn't get as much written as I wanted and it left on quite a depressing note. His story is not done in letter or in real life, but don't worry, he's not in such a slump anymore! I'll tell you more next week!

Until then, cheer up seeing a picture of me by my favorite tree!

Me and My Favorite Tree!
 :)