July 7, 2014
Happy belated Independence day! Ours was pretty quiet, minus the fireworks being set off in the parking lot beside our apartment building. We had a BBQ with a few members of our ward before grabbing ice cream on our war home for the evening. Earlier in the day we had a 7 am flag raising with the Granada Hills ward, and our zone training meeting with our ‘new’ zone.
Transfers are always interesting because so many people move in and out, and it feels like an entirely new group, even if over half the missionaries stayed in the area. We had to go up to transfer meeting to bring Elder Benjamin and Elder Hawker’s things, so it was my first time at a transfer meeting without a) being transferred, or b) my companion being transferred. It’s always interesting to see who is assigned where, and to work with whom. Elder Benjamin was transferred to Sylmar (on the other end of the Valley) to work with Elder Kang, one of my favorite Korean elders, so that was pretty awesome. And Sister Bishop has been transferred down here to GH as a sister training leader with Sister Goettche. Elder Barnett is working in our zone now too, I haven’t worked with him since we were in the MTC together. It’s incredible to see what 10 months means in the span of ‘mission life’… there is a lot of time for improvement and progression, and you see people really come into their own. Pretty cool stuff!
After transfer meeting, we helped Elder Holdaway and Elder Lee move things from one apartment to the other, as their areas were combined. It’s so funny to see them trying to coordinate to sets of investigators schedules and trying to mesh them together effectively. But they are an awesome companionship, and they keep things going really well. I’m so fortunate to work with the missionaries I do here in Mission Hills, they are a pretty spectacular group of people. And the ward itself! We joked in our correlation meeting yesterday that we are really just English missionaries working in a Filipino branch, due to the high amount of Filipino investigators we are currently teaching and the ward members we have. It’s such a blessing to have Elder Lee, who is fluent in both Cebuano and Tagalog, in this area. Just before transfers, Elder Holdaway and Elder Benjamin found a really solid Filipino family to teach who speak very little English. Then transfers roll around, and not only is Elder Lee working in the area the Navarro family live in, but President Hall has also approved another Elder from the Philippines (Elder Quizon) to come down once a week so that they can teach the lessons in Tagalog to the family. And it gets better – our Filipino families in the ward have already taken them under their wing and adopted them.
Mission Hills, as humble and tested as it is, is such a joyful ward. I am reminded each Sunday as we sit in sacrament meeting and Sunday school of how much simple joy just radiates from the members here. It’s pretty incredible to be a part of it all, because it has really helped me to focus on why we’re here on the earth. As a ward, we are working on refocusing our efforts to reach outward, rather than turning inward. We taught Relief Society on Sunday and it was focused on charity and service, so that was pretty cool. I really enjoy teaching Relief Society, especially when the sisters are willing to laugh at my stupid jokes.
There have been some cool changes to missionary work recently – to both Preach My Gospel and the technology we will be using for both studies and teaching (check out http://www.mormonnewsroom.org/article/church-expands-use-of-digital-devices-for-missionary-work
for info on the tech aspect). Now we will be teaching a fifth lesson before baptism (laws and ordinances), as well as taking the lead in the teaching of recent converts the new member lessons. I know it will work wonders not only with our investigators being baptized, but also their activity in the Church after baptism. Our training on Friday focused entirely on PMG chapter 5, and it definitely brought a new energy (and a new anxiety, let’s be honest) to meeting and to our work. #missionarygeekout
I’ve been thinking a lot about gratitude lately. It makes all the difference in this life, cultivating a life of gratitude, not simply for the big blessings that are readily apparent, but also the little blessings that just make the day a little brighter. Gratitude transcends our circumstances, and changes the odds of our happiness. I have never met a happier person than those filled with gratitude despite their dark circumstances, the trials the faced, or the sorrows they underwent. I love President Uchtdorf’s most recent general conference talk, “Grateful in Any Circumstance,” you should definitely check it out. This is my favorite part of the talk:
“Perhaps focusing on what we are grateful for is the wrong approach. It is difficult to develop a spirit of gratitude if our thankfulness is only proportional to the number of blessings we can count. True, it is important to frequently “count our blessings”—and anyone who has tried this knows there are many—but I don’t believe the Lord expects us to be less thankful in times of trial than in times of abundance and ease. In fact, most of the scriptural references do not speak of gratitude for things but rather suggest an overall spirit or attitude of gratitude.
It is easy to be grateful for things when life seems to be going our way. But what then of those times when what we wish for seems to be far out of reach?
Could I suggest that we see gratitude as a disposition, a way of life that stands independent of our current situation? In other words, I’m suggesting that instead of being thankful for things, we focus on being thankful in our circumstances—whatever they may be.”
I am so thankful to be a missionary, but also grateful for the little blessings that I receive as a “normal person” throughout the week. Heavenly Father is definitely aware of us, and loves to give us little things to make us smile, especially when the week is hard, the weather is terrible, our investigators don’t have time for us, and the dinners are few. Heavenly Father really does love to see His children smile. Being a missionary is incredible. I love it. I get to spend 24/7 focused on other people, on feeling the Spirit, and on living the Gospel, not just studying it. Exo-facto-oreo, I’m really loving my life right now. It’s the best it’s ever been. :)
Sorry it’s a boring email this week, things are slow in the first weeks of summer in this area. More next week!