June 2, 2014
You should all be proud of me – my navigation skills have improved drastically in the two weeks I have been companions with Sister Flake. It’s given me a lot to think about recently. The way we work is that it’s her job to manage the car itself, and it’s up to me to do the rest: figuring out where we need to go, listening for sirens, managing the phone, etc. The way it works is that I have to point and do numbers in order for Sister Flake to know when/where to turn, and how many miles it is until the exit or street we need because she can’t hear the GPS. Talk about a heavy handed metaphor living the Gospel! It was hammered home this week in my studies when I was ready a talk given my President Monson called “Happiness – The Universal Quest.” He outlines 5 things that we need to do in order to have real joy and happiness in life, and it’s been pretty incredible to focus on them and try to apply them in my life:
1. Follow the path of virtue.
2. Follow the path of uprightness.
3. Follow the path of faithfulness.
4. Follow the path of holiness.
5. Keep all the commandments.
I’ve focused this week on the path of faithfulness and striving to live in a way that helps me to stay on the straight and narrow as not only a missionary, but as a child of God. It’s a path that requires a lot of hard work and self-discipline (working on that), but the reward is eternal and incredibly worth the price. N. Eldon Tanner said, “I would rather walk barefoot from here to the celestial kingdom … than to let the things of this world keep me out.” In President Monson’s talk, he referred to one of the shortest and most poignant messages we see on a regular basis, a sermon sentence in two words in the form of a traffic sign: ‘Keep Right.’ Keep right in the things you do, keep right in what you say and think, and keep right in the life you live.
“Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain.” – 1 Corinthians 9:24
We’re all working hard and running the race, and bringing others with us along the way, as missionaries. It is such a blessing! I have learned so much, and it has required all that I have. President Monson said, “There is no resting place along the path called faithfulness. The trek is constant, and no lingering is allowed. It must not be expected that the road of life spreads itself in an unobstructed view before the person starting his journey. He must anticipate coming upon forks and turnings in the road. But he cannot hope to reach his desired journeys end if he thinks aimlessly about whether to go east or west. He must make decisions purposefully.”
Yesterday in fast and testimony meeting, it all came together, summed up in comments made by two of the brethren in my ward (boy, do I love Mission Hills). Brother Galo, who is the only member in his family, stood up to bear his testimony and began with saying, “I am still here, and will always be.” I could just hear Christ saying it as we walk along our paths, our hand in His. Because, after all, “He is one kneel away,” in the words of Brother Ludoviko (one of them, anyway). That meant a lot to both Sister Flake and I, as it’s been a long week, and we’ve both had what some might call “strange” missions. Luckily, we’re learning how to ‘Keep Right’ and rely on each other to do the work before us and to enjoy every moment of it.
I am so happy to be back in the Mission Hills ward – I didn’t realize til this past Sunday how much I missed the people here. And what luck – more amazing people have moved in! The ward is the most diverse I’ve served in so far, and I’ve learned so much from them. I love that it’s practically a Filipino ward too – they are people I am innately comfortable with, and I admire their joy and zeal for life and their generosity. They spoil us and buoy us up after our hardest days, and are so willing to help us with the work. Yesterday Danfil, who had just returned from his mission when I arrived in California, got up to bear his testimony which was pretty incredible. And he was wearing a tupenu to boot, so it made me smile. He spoke of the reason we have hard days, and the reason we have friends, family, and companions. And the reason we are in the wards that we are. Mission Hills is definitely one of the most joyful wards I have ever visited, it will always be special to me for just that reason.
Sister Flake had a tough week last week, and we were in and out of the doctors several times trying to figure out exactly what is causing her to be sick. It’s pushed us to be innovative with our work and with our relationship. We have a lot of laughs too, because although Sister Flake is Deaf, she speaks and reads lips. But, sometimes she’ll “mishear” things, only to repeat it back to me to confirm that’s what I said, or someone else said. The best was when the doctor told her that her liver was inflamed (yeah, we’re worried about that too), and she turned to look at me and signed with wide eyes, “my liver is in flames??” I just about died.
Another classic miscommunication moment brought to you by your favorite Mission Hills companionship: Elder Holdaway (district leader) called and told us that he had assigned houses from Harry Potter and said, 10 points to Hufflepuff!, and she turned and asked me, “what’s a huckle-puck?” She has also spent the last 2 weeks thinking that Elder Sautia’s name was Elder Tortilla. Name translation is hard, so she’s given the elders and sisters we serve with name signs so that we can refer to them as necessary without spelling it all out.
It’s interesting, I’ve never thought of Sister Flake as my ‘deaf companion.’ She’s simply my companion, whom I love dearly, who is Deaf. We field a lot of questions about how it works having a hearing/deaf companionship, so I figured I’d answer them briefly.
– Sister Flake is considered Deaf, but has a tiny bit of hearing that is amplified by hearing aids and facilitated by her ability to lip-read. In order to obtain all of the information she needs, she needs to see your lips in order to understand what you’re are saying while you’re speaking. She speaks, and works really hard to. She told me the other night that she took six years of speech therapy in order to be able to speak how well she does. We sign a lot in the house and while contacting in dim light, when she can’t read lips. It’s been pretty awesome to learn as much as I have in the last 2 weeks.
– I interpret as Sister Flake needs, so usually that means when she’s on the phone or if someone has a really thick accent, and when she receives a blessing. I interpreted when we were at the doctor’s because she was too exhausted to read lips. That proved to be interesting!
– Sis. Flake’s alarm clock is terrifying. It has a little disk that you put under the pillow, and it vibrates until you wake up. In this case, she’s a really heavy sleeper, so she generally shoves it away and it hits the metal bed post. It’s like being woken up with pots and pans. I set my alarm to 6:29 now so I don’t wake up due to cardiac arrest. :)
– when I need to get her attention and I’m across the room, I flip the lights on and off once or twice. It’s not considered rude at all, but has taken a while to get used to. It’s a lot faster than waiting for her to turn so I can flag her attention.
I am so thankful that I get to be her companion. She’s pretty incredible, and has such a powerful testimony. She is one of the best teachers of the gospel I have ever met because she teaches simply and powerfully without hesitation. We get along so well. We went to see President yesterday, and he commented that he had rarely felt so prompted to put two sisters together even if it didn’t necessarily “make sense.” We told him our hypothesis – that we get along so well because we hung out in the pre-mortal existence playing soccer with Joseph Smith.
Coincidentally, I have been teaching Sister Flake some basic soccer moves and it’s been pretty fun. We sprung for an inexpensive ball today and are really excited to play in the mornings. We live right across from some soccer fields (soccer is the most popular sport in the valley right now), so we have easy access to level ground. It’s the little blessings in life that make it pretty darn wonderful.
When we met with President Hall yesterday, he asked us to try a few things to change the way we work and to see how it works in improving our finding before he makes it mission-wide in July. We are going to start doing up to 10 hours of community service a week, whether it be working in a food bank, providing help at women’s shelter, or volunteering at the library. He’s hoping that it will help us find more people and will provide a way for regular stress relief for missionaries. I’m excited, and thankful for the opportunity – it answers prayers for a lot of missionaries in the field currently, and I can see it doing nothing but improving our abilities as teachers and helping us to become more unified as companionships, districts, zones, and ultimately as a mission. Heavenly Father answers prayers in creative ways!
This side of nine months into the mission is looking pretty good, and I am so thankful for it. I’ve had a lot of time to reflect this week on how far I’ve come and how much I’ve grown and changed. Most of all, I am thankful for the relationship that I’ve been able to forge with my Savior and Redeemer, Jesus Christ, and with my Father in Heaven. I have learned to love more deeply and serve more humbly, and am grateful for every single minute of the time I’ve served thus far, no matter the doors slammed in my face, the sunburns, the tiredness, and the hard things we all face in life. It’s all in trying your hardest to ‘keep right.’
Love you lots!
Sis. Meg Redner
Picture 1 – Sister Flake and I yesterday.
Picture 2 – a magnolia the size of Sister Flake’s head. Strangeness abounds.