July 14, 2014
Only 10 months out and I’ve run out of witty ways to start an email.
I’ll be honest, this week was a rough one. There are some weeks when if your preparation day is rough, so is the rest of the week. Sad but true. I think preparation day is the most stressful day of the week. So much to do in only 12 hours (0630-1800): laundry, clean, errands, email, calls…
I had a stomach bug for half the week, which was miserable, especially with having appointments. It ended up being a bunch of exchanges with the sister training leaders. I swear, every time I woke up, another sister was “baby sitting” poor Sister Redner. I was so confused. But, I got to chat with 4 different sister training leaders over the span of three days. Quite enlightening. Luckily, Sister Flake was able to get out and teach a few lessons, which was a huge blessing. I know from experience that there’s nothing worse than when your companion is sick and you’re stuck inside.
I recovered on Thursday only to be accidentally ‘poisoned’ on Friday. Apparently, I am allergic to a certain type of cactus. A member was experimenting with a local favorite dish which has some type of cactus in it. Fun stuff. Lots of benadryl. And then later in the week, a few of our investigators cancelled appointments on us. But you live and you live, right?
But other than that, the week was good. Things are slow for most missionaries in the Valley right now – everyone is on vacation, so there aren’t a lot of people home, and not a lot of people out either. It’s good to be able to spend more time focused on the members occasionally though, because if your ward isn’t strong, it’s hard to keep your investigators coming to church. I love our ward though, they’re doing really well.
One thing I love is dinners with members. The whole getting fed thing is great, but most of all, I love talking with and learning from the members we work with. This past week we had dinner with Brother Flosi, our ward mission leader, at a Jamaican restaurant with the elders. Brother Flosi is pretty hilarious, he’s this quiet guy who shows Italian grey hounds and works for the FBI.
Imagine this scene:
We’re in this Jamaican restaurant eating ropa vieja and fried plantains, surrounded by Bob Marley and steel drums. Out of the blue, Sister Flake asks, “Brother Flosi, do you carry a gun?” He just stops with a fork half-way to his mouth and just stares at her. His only answer was, “well, you’ve never seen me without a gun, if that’s what you’re asking.”
I’m beside her dying and trying to hide it, Elder Holdaway is turning bright red from trying to not laugh, and Elder Lee is merrily drinking his pineapple soda.
We have fun, the lot of us Mission Hills missionaries. Brother Flosi always regales us with stories about his mission in Finland and when his parents were mission presidents in Italy (he knows Provost Sowell by the way). And for the last two weeks we’ve been frustrating him to no end by accidentally talking about the world cup scores that he hasn’t watched the games for yet. All week we’ve heard, “ELDERS! I have that on tivo to watch tonight!!!!!!”
Apparently it happened in elders quorum too. Someone told the elders the score of the Germany-Argentina game (which I was VERY happy to hear about by the way) during the meeting, and apparently Brother Flosi jumps up and turns around, saying, “I’m going to KILL SOMEONE!”
This is the man with the gun, mind you.
We all have those days.
Life in Mission Hills is never boring, my friends. Missionary life is never boring, really. There’s always something going on, something to be learned, and someone to serve. I love it.
I got the chance to sign with Sister Ingram, our other sister in this mission who is Deaf. She’s one of the sweetest people on the planet. And she really tests my signing because she signs completely differently and so fast, it’s hard to keep up. But I love the challenge, especially because she is so patient with people learning to sign. She was telling me all about signing her first talk on her mission this past week in her ward in Burbank. While she signed, Sister Panlilio (her companion) voiced for her. Apparently she gets very annoyed with the microphone because it was getting in her way, so she kept batting it away. I wish I had been there, because Sister Panlilio needed the mic to voice. We all learn to adapt!
During my studies this week, I was rereading the talk by Lawrence E. Corbridge, entitled, “The Fourth Missionary.” I loved this passage, because it was really relevant to our week: “Every challenge you face, every hard thing you confront, every bad thing that happens to you,every unfairness, every conflict, every sadness, every disappointment and heartache, every temptation and every opposition happens for one purpose only: to give you the opportunity to respond by applying in your life the teachings of Jesus. As you do so, you are changed to become more like him.”
Hard things happen for good reasons.
It’s one of the toughest things you learn on a mission, that the hard things are for your good, like the Lord promises in Doctrine and Covenants 122:7-8, “And if thou shouldst be cast into the pit, or into the hands of murderers, and the sentence of death passed upon thee; if thou be cast into the deep; if the billowing surge conspire against thee; if fierce winds become thine enemy; if the heavens gather blackness, and all the elements combine to hedge up the way; and above all, if they very jaws of hell shall gape open the mouth wide after thee, know thou, my son, that all these things shall give thee experience, and shall by for thy good. The Son of Man hath descended below them all…”
All of the missionaries I have served with here in California can quote these verses by heart, Part of it is because we all listen to the Joseph Smith CD and that verse is quoted on it (we don’t have a lot of music here, folks), and the other part is that these words provide a lot of comfort for missionaries wherever they serve. We have hard days. We have hard weeks. We have hard transfers. But there’s always hope and comfort in the Lord that makes those moments before your head hits the pillow at night peaceful, knowing that you worked hard, you’re safe and protected, and the next day is always brighter than the last. I love the quote by Parley P. Pratt in 1856,
“If it is the will of God that I should spend my days in proclaiming this Gospel and bearing testimony of these things, I shall think myself highly priviledged and honored. And when the Spirit of God is upon me, I think it matters but very little what I suffer, what I sacrificed – if it so be that I can keep the faith, fight the good fight, and finish my course with joy. I have all eternity before me, in which to enjoy myself.”
I love the opportunity we have on this earth to change and become better. As I’ve taught a lot of different people with different backgrounds, one thing provides a lot of hope for both them and me: God asks for progression, not perfection. The Gospel is perfect, the people aren’t. We have to learn to forgive, to help each other, and to rely on the Lord. To change to be better, and to be the person the Lord needs us to be.
Another quote I love by Elder Corbridge: “The purpose and central blessing of life is change. It is to be changed to become more like Jesus Christ. It is to incorporate into your character the qualities of His character. It is to move from one degree of intelligence and capacity to the next, and from there to the next, until you see God face to face, and know Him as He knows you…The purpose and essential blessing of life is to be changed to become more like the Lord, to realize the full measure of your divine potential… redemptive change happens by the power of the Holy Ghost. But it happens only if and when your heart is right… It happens only if you unconditionally surrender your will to Lord.”
Hard things happen to help you change. You change a heck of a lot faster when you are faced with challenges than when you are home-free and happy. You come to the Lord a lot faster too. I found a lot of strength this morning in Joshua: “There shall not any man be able to stand before thee all the days of thy life: as I was with Moses, so I will be with thee: I will not fail thee, nor forsake thee… be strong and of a good courage” (Joshua 1:5-6).
Hard things happen for good reasons, and I’ve found that you find a lot of joy along the way. No bad days, right?
Hope everything is well on the home-front,