Ladies and gentlmen…New York has finally reached springtime!
My first sunburn of the year goes to spending all day on Thursday at the McNeeses doing yard work. They’ve got a huge backyard, and needed a bunch of trees down in preparation for their son’s graduation party coming up. All six of us missionaries went to town busing sticks and logs to the bottom of the yard for a huge bonfire that night. (Unfortunately, the wood was still too wet…it wasn’t that exciting.) But…as we were working, it was one of the most opportune times to remember and ponder what I studied in personal study that morning. My mission president said something a while back that forever changed my thinking habits, and affected my work that day. He said when he has thoughts that he doesn’t want to have or that are mindless, he presses a mental button in his head to go back to what he studied that morning, and ponder it some more. While pushing the wheelbarrow up the hill, I got to think of how I was a literal child of my Father in Heaven, and He did not want me anywhere else in the entire world but throwing logs on the pile, wearing my name tag, serving other people. Before my mission, doing what I used to call “mindless” work, I’d usually think about what I needed to do for school or my job, or even what I was going to do that weekend. But not anymore. If my mission changed anything in me, it changed how my thoughts should always be centered around the Savior in the act of serving. If they’re not, I better get to a place quick where I can do something for someone, so my mind will get back on track. I always need to be thinking, “does what I’m doing forward His work?” If the answer is no, change your attitude. Because most of the time, you can’t really get out of the task ahead. Positive thoughts put anybody on top.
I woke up Friday morning really wanting to be in the Salt Lake temple. Before I was fully concious, I was trying to figure out how I could get there, who I needed to take with me to make it legal…etc. Not after too long, I realized I was still on my mission in New York. Then, came the most important realization. I realized that a year ago that day was the day I went through the temple for the first time–in Salt Lake. It was a pretty cool thought Heavenly Father placed in my mind to start me out in the morning. Just having that memory in the background of my mind throughout the day helped it be a great one. That night, we helped cleaned the church with McNeeses again. We also have this coming Tuesday and Thursday planned for yard work as well with other members. We just can’t help it if this weather will cooperate with us! It’s nice to finally have a day in about six months that we can actually spend more than an hour or two outside without freezing to death.
Which reminds me of another thought I had. Remember how Joseph Smith had the First Vision in the early spring of 1820? Well, I would consider this time of year the “early spring.” It’s not exactly that warm, yet. We had one day that went into the 80’s, then a couple hours later it was down into the 50’s again. The lake effect doesn’t help either–so yeah, it’s really cold. Anyway, obviously this question was pressing on Joseph’s mind for a while now, because I’m sure he took the first chance he could to get outside to be alone. It tells me first-hand how dedicated Joseph really was to this, and how it really wasn’t all singing birds and flowers during this world-changing event. It was real–it really happened, and it changed the way I think about things forever.
That’s all I really have for this week. We did get two new investigators, and then dropped to one. I was pretty bummed, because the woman that dropped us only spoke Spanish. She shared the most beautiful testimony about Jesus Christ I’ve ever heard, but then texted us and said her husband won’t allow us to come over again. Oh well, it comes with the job. I’ll leave you with a quote that has been ringing through my mind every so often the past couple weeks: “We are not obedient because we are blind, we are obedient because we can see.” -Elder Boyd K. Packer
p.s. Hill Cumorah Pageant training starts in 2 WEEKS!
We’ve been quarantined a lot this week. We’ve tried to go out as much as we can, but it only seems to be an hour or two at a time. It didn’t help that I woke up sick on Easter Sunday morning too…this weather is killing me when it drops thirty degrees overnight! Hence, this e-mail will probably be more what I learned than actually what I did. I hope it’s usually like that, but in any case…bear with me.
Sister Johnson and I have continued to talk a lot about our futures, and how our missions will shape the person we were meant to be. I know she was meant to be my companion, not just because she’s teaching me how to really love a person, but because she’s also teaching me more than I could ever teach myself about my own potential. She told me it’s not normal for a human being to be this optimistic, at such a constant rate. We’ve been trying to diagnose why my brain works like that, and what I can do to magnify the reason for it. After her help, I’m slowly starting to realize that’s...weird? Anyway, I want to share some of my journal entry on a day that we couldn’t work at all. Usually, that situation would make me really anxious to just go out and do the work, but somehow, that day…it just made me…well, you can read it:
“I opened my mission call a year ago today. It’s incredible how fast time flies… but I just have to express how much hope I have in my life right now. I think today might top it all, just because everything is continually getting so much better. Nothing special–in fact we’re quarantined right now because Sister Johnson is really sick. But I’ve just been studying and pondering about my family and my future. I am just so extremely HAPPY…I have absolutely no limit on anything I want to do–and to say that as a 22-year-old is mind blowing. My future looks better than I can even picture it, and God is always giving me more than I ask for. I think it’s because I’m finally realizing it’s not about me. Anyway, it’s just lovely to be SERVING A MISSION! I can’t believe I’m a missionary!”
I really want to reiterate the fact that it’s not about me. The more I read my Patriarchal Blessing, the more I realize that I am a vessel only to be used for the Lord. It’s great to see how obedience and dedication play a part in me thinking that. I feel like I’ve been trying to be obedient for so long previous to my mission, and all I experienced was failure. I always ended up doing my “back-up plan.” I still was happy, but I always felt like my first choice was never what God wanted for me. But now, It’s taken me this long to fail over and over again to actually comprehend that it was all for something, and something much much better. I’m finally seeing my rewards of obedience to our Father in Heaven, by just letting it all go and asking Him to make me want what He wants for me. It really works. My first choice is finally His, and I intend on keeping it that way.
In other news, we could go to the local nursing home to visit Anne’s mother, who is undoubtedly stuck in there for the rest of her life. She grew up a strong baptist, and is very close to Jesus Christ. It’s fun to periodically read to her poems from her mother’s journal, and talk to her about her husband who passed away a short time ago. Sometimes, we can even get in excerpts from the Book of Mormon. She continually seems to be surprised that Christ did come to the Americas, and that He said the same thing to the Nephites as He did to His disciples in Jerusalem. All she can say is, “Well that just makes sense. It just makes sense.” She’s not at all looking to convert, neither can she at this point with her physical health, but the simple fact that she is accepting our message and loving us makes me feel like we’re doing something right. This week, as we were walking out, we smiled at another old woman who could barely even move her mouth. Before we walked on by, she blurted out, “I just want to go home.” Both mine and Sister Johnson’s heart tore right in pieces. We turned around and just clung to her. We started talking to her, and asked if she had any family close around–she didn’t. Then we explained to her the Restoration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Her countenance did change, so we offered to come back and teach her more, but she didn’t want it surprisingly. I hope people know, especially at that age and situation, that there really is something more than sitting in a nursing home until they have to pull the plug. Like I said, it breaks my heart, but what puts the pieces back together is the knowledge of the Atonement and how we can use it.
On Saturday, we also went to the Bishop’s Storehouse in Canandaigua to help fill orders. It was extremely humbling to see how much time and effort the Church puts into the physical well-being of their members. We truly have everything taken care of…if we just come to church! Later that day, we got to go to a baptism of a 9-year old girl that Sister Johnson taught in Irondequoit. It was a beautiful service, and we got to sing “He Sent His Son.” It was very simple, and a good reminder that we are doing the Lord’s work.
I hope you all take time to find reasons throughout your day that your life really isn’t about you. It is all about other people. The more we can comprehend that, the better our life will turn out, and the happier we will be. So…
Well, Sister Johnson officially has Celiac Disease. So of course, our diet ROCKS. I’m dead serious. All we eat is protein, vegetables, and water. We do have the occasional grains, but for the most part it’s pure fuel. I feel absolutely amazing. Sister Johnson is majoring in nutrition and has my same body type, so she is teaching me a lot. I can’t even tell you how big of a blessing being her companion is–on top of all this. So naturally, these past couple of weeks have made me realize of one of the biggest blessings I’ll share with you that Heavenly Father has given me for serving in His army.
Before my mission, it would make me nauseated to workout before 10 a.m. I don’t know if it was a mind game from the horrible two-a-days during basketball season, or what, but I’d almost be blacked out within the first ten minutes. Naturally, I was really nervous about this missionary schedule that the only time we could (and had to) exercise was from 6:30 to 7 in the morning. I prayed and prayed it wouldn’t affect my work. Long story short, I am now able to workout harder and faster at those early morning hours than I ever did in the afternoon, and I think I know now why the Lord allowed me such a thing. It’s not just because “that’s what the rules are.” It’s because I had to ask for it, and especially because that half an hour in the morning gives me more confidence and spirituality than I ever had before. It gives me the ability to focus during personal and companion study, and it makes me forget about myself and do His work. Yeah, I know, He’s a genius.
Most of the week, full-proselyting wise, we have been taking it pretty easy. From what I can see, Celiacs get hit hard the first few weeks they are diagnosed. But the work we can do, is super effective. For example, on Saturday we worked an hour on, and hour off in Hilton. On the off hours, Sister Johnson crashed on Sister Trimm’s couch and she gave us pep talks to go out and do work for what we actually can accomplish. Side note: I don’t know if I’ve mentioned her before, but this woman was hand-picked for Rochester to specifically “fix” all of the missionaries and get us back to work. She is a convert of about three years and all of us call her mom–because her whole life is revolved around the missionaries. Anyway, after getting re-charged, we went to visit some potential investigators that the Elders found two years ago, and we had planned to go see a woman named Emma. We walked up to her door, and a woman answered. “Is Emma home?” we asked. Almost in tears, the woman said, “I’m sorry, she died two weeks ago. We’re actually writing thank-you notes from it right now.” Rushing up from behind her was another woman who shouted, “Ooo, you’re the cute Mormon kids that she loved! She talked about you all the time, in fact she was just reading your little Mormon book before she passed away. She really thought the world of you.” Sister Johnson kinda looked at each other and we wondered what to say. After grieving with them, I asked if we could share something out of this book she had been reading. They agreed, and I pulled out Alma 11:43. “The spirit and the body shall be reunited again in it’s perfect form; both limb and joint shall be restored to its proper frame, even as we now are at this time…” It was so picture-perfect, we could all feel the love from Emma that was obviously there, and especially the Spirit bearing witness of the truth. Even though they didn’t want any help at the moment, they accepted their own copy of the Book of Mormon and profusely thanked us for being there for her, and for them. We gave them our numbers, and we went on our way realizing the magnitude that must have been for two of Emma’s very best friends.
The interesting thing about this story is that Sister Johnson nor I had absolutely any pull to go to her home. As a missionary, those are the kind of stories you hear all the time. “We just felt we needed to go stop by that house,” or the classic, “I knew we just needed to knock one last door.” Nope, we just went right to work. We were in the right place at the right time, because the spirit guides us everywhere we go. Not just to certain places. It is absolutely everywhere, especially with the missionary badge. The Lord will never waste His time.
I’ve learned a lot of things this past week. It’s amazing what the Lord can do when His disciples actually love Him, and it’s amazing what little things He knows we need to keep us motivated to be obedient. I will never doubt the reach, power and magnitude of the Atonement. All of you keep studying hard and praying hard. I really love you all, and all that you do to support me!
…And she’s baptized! This is the best. TWO in one week?!
Anne got baptized yesterday…she invited some of her family that she thought would never come–and they came. They’re self-proclaimed “die-hard baptists,” but they came to support her in her decision. This was a huge step for her and them, because like I just mentioned, she grew up in the Baptist church. Everything she knows is the Baptist church. But when we started to teach her, she said there were holes being filled in that she didn’t even know were there. Anyway, the whole thing went extremely smooth. Compared to last week! Anne even asked me to sing and play something on the piano, so I sang “Where Can I Turn for Peace?” It went a lot better than I had planned, I think just because the Spirit was so strong. However, the moment that topped everything yesterday, was when her new Visiting Teacher was speaking about the ordinance of baptism. At the moment she told Anne that this decision would continue to change her life, I had my arm around her, and she just put her head down and squoze her little fingers into her eyes and just cried. She was so happy. She IS so happy. She got up to bear her testimony after everything was done, and sounded more eloquent than I’ve ever heard her talk before. She was the calmest I’ve ever seen her, the happiest I’ve ever seen her, and the most powerful I’ve ever seen her. I can’t begin to even comprehend the things that I’m witnessing right now. I can’t believe I just assisted Heavenly Father to bring Him two of his most precious daughters.
We also had Mission President interviews this week. It was really good to just sit down and talk to President Christianson. He is the most kind and powerful, calm and enthusiastic man I’ve ever met. I haven’t ever seen anyone so engulfed in the work that he has to do. He puts his absolute heart and soul into everything. He is what I think of when I think of keeping an “eye single to the glory.” He has turned down extremely presitious job offers, sacrificed his health, and has even missed his own father’s funeral to be here serving Him with us. He is what a Mission President is supposed to be. We do get a new one in June, and all of us are pretty nervous, because we don’t know how this new guy will top President Christianson! But President Christianson affirms and re-affirms us that whoever has the duty to take over the Cradle of the Restoration after he leaves will take it to a whole new level. I trust him. We just want to know who it is! That’s another thing that missionaries are always talking about: who the new mission president is going to be, and especially what is going to happen at transfers. Ha! Like I said, it was good to sit and talk to President..because he gave me some of the details about what’s going to happen. Seriously, if you ask him, he will tell you anything. I told him that I would give anything to stay in Brockport as long as I can. He said, “I know, I know. I would give anything for you to stay in Brockport for the rest of your mission. That ward is going to kill me if I take you out of there. But I have to close two sisters’ areas, and bring in 20 new missionaries and their trainers, so it’s not looking good.” NOOOO. So don’t be surprised in a few weeks when I (might) get transferred. Again. I hate that. But for more of an explaination, he needs to close two sisters areas, because we’ve got 10 new sisters coming next transfer, and he needs me to train again…and I have to train at the sites. Plus, being a cast trainer I have to be within 15 minutes of Palmyra to prepare for Pageant 2013. It’s complicated–I don’t even know half the stuff that goes on at transfers–but I know it’s all up to the Lord. You should expect it though, because when President Monson announced the age change, this is the after-effects! In total, we are opening up 17 new areas this next transfer alone, and our mission is expected to double by the end of this year. Prepare yourselves, people of New York, the missionaries are coming!
Anyway, now it’s back to square one. Right now we’ve got like half of an investigator. Ha. After focusing so much on these two baptisms, we haven’t had as much time as we’d like to find people. So, now is the time to do it! Finding people is always interesting, especially since tracting is now discouraged. We visit a lot of less-actives and a lot of the time, and somehow, their friends are there who want to learn. Imagine that! We’re going to keep trying that, street contacting, and especially getting involved in the community is a great way to find. The phrase, “Teach when you find, and find when you teach,” always goes through my mind when we are walking down streets. (Obviously it’s been in the teens, so it’s been too cold to walk for long hours everyday.) We have to always have our armor of God put on correctly so we can constantly be doing what Christ would do.
January has gone by extremely slow, so I’m hoping February will move a lot faster. My mind plays a lot of tricks on me, sometimes I feel like I’m in a dream, and then the next moment I feel like my previous high school/college life was a dream. It’s so weird. I don’t even have time to think about myself, so I think that’s why everything is just moving under me. I feel like I’m on a treadmill that I can’t get off. I don’t realize the importance of things until they are either in the moment or past–so that’s something I’m working on. Realizing. Comprehending. Understanding. I honestly don’t think I will until I grow up a little bit more. I found a set of scriptures from D&C 123 that I think describes perfectly what I’m trying to accomplish:
11 And also it is an imperative duty that we owe to all the rising generation, and to all the pure in heart—
12 For there are many yet on the earth among all sects, parties, and denominations, who are blinded by the subtle craftiness of men, whereby they lie in wait to deceive and who are only kept from the truth because they know not where to find it—
13 Therefore, that we should waste and wear out our lives in bringing to light all the hidden things of darkness, wherein we know them; and they are truly manifest from heaven—
17 Therefore, dearly beloved brethren, let us cheerfully do all things that lie in our power; and then may we stand still, with the utmost assurance, to see the salvation of God, and for his arm to be revealed.
He’s right. We OWE this work to everyone. Everyone needs what we have, even though they don’t realize it. We have to work harder than we’ve ever worked in our lives…there is no “going home at the end of the day.” We take our work home with us. This is 24/7, giving 100%, for 18 months to 2 years. That’s why it says, “waste and wear out our lives.” Believe me, I’m going to throw myself on my couch the second I walk into my house in October…I’m going to be exahusted. However, now is the time for me to work, and to work cheerfully. We have to make this happy, or else it’s completely pointless. There is no reason in doing this unless someone gets joy out of it.
What a great week, and what a great time to be in the mission field! I LOVE being a missionary, and I love you all!