July 21, 2014
It’s official, Sister Flake, Elder Holdaway, and Elder Lee are making Mission Hills our very own Filipino branch here in the Great California San Fernando Mission. We had Filipino food four times this week alone. I love it.
We had dinner with the Lapena’s on Thursday, which was a blast. They took us to their favorite local restaurant and spoiled us rotten. It was pretty funny because Gina was explaining everything to us, not realizing that I had grown up with a lot of the food she was ordering. It was so funny to be the only two Americans in the restaurant, because everyone was telling us to try different things, teaching us to eat properly with a fork and a spoon, and explaining the various ways you can prepare rice. It was a blast. I love the Lapena family, they always brighten my day and remind me to keep smiling.
We didn’t have a lot of time to tract this week because of everything going on. We had a talent show, a memorial, district meeting, exchanges, and a surprise party for our Relief Society President, Sister Ryane.
We’ve been getting a lot more dinners with members lately, which is a huge blessing. Honestly, it’s not about being fed. It’s about us having the chance to learn more about our members, to support and strengthen them, and to learn from them. I love especially being able to learn from the members here in the Mission Hills ward. I love the sanctuary of a home at the close of the evening, when the Spirit is so strong and you are able to recharge from a hard, long day in the California heat. That’s the reason we eat with members. Because we need to strengthen one another and learn from one another.
We were able to have dinner with a member and spend an evening talking about some experiences from her life that I have really wanted to share since we talked. Kat is one of the strongest people I’ve ever met on my mission. When she was 19 she moved to California and was your typical outward bound athlete – she taught bikram yoga, was a cyclist, and was a skilled rock climber. She was a free climber, so she climbed without ropes, and was considered an amateur professional, climbing thousands of feet in several parts of the world. She was climbing solo her shortest climb – just fifty feet – when she slipped and fell. She hit every ledge possible on her way down, severing an artery, breaking ribs, receiving serious lacerations and bone breaks, and receiving serious damage to her entire body. It was a miracle that she hit the ground alive, especially with multiple concussions and a collapsed lung. I wanted to be sick, hearing her describe what happened, but the Spirit was so strong as she described how the hand of the Lord saved her life through a series of “coincidences.”
The first was nearby three climbers had seen her fall and were able to reach her quickly – one went for a cell signal, the other went to get search and rescue, and the third, a trained paramedic and first responder, stayed with her to do what he could. He tried to keep her comfortable, but he couldn’t find a pulse. She had no response, and he thought she’d gone. All of sudden, she was talking again and he was able to keep her focused. The second miracle was that search and rescue was able to reach her in record time, despite her being deep within the canyons beyond what you can reach with a vehicle or helicopter. She flatlined again in the helicopter for several minutes, and the paramedics weren’t able to do anything because it would further damage her lungs and heart.
She described to us the slow progress and the miracles that happened throughout her recovery that proved that the Lord was protecting her. In her recovery process, she questioned why the Lord had brought her back twice, and why all these “coincidences” and miracles were occurring. Various religious leaders couldn’t explain it, they told her they didn’t know. A friend introduced her to the missionaries, who immediately taught the Plan of Salvation.
I love being able to teach people that the Lord does have a plan for us, a plan that helps us to return to Him, but also to find joy and comfort along the way, not matter what physical, emotional or spiritual trials come along the way. We had the opportunity this weekend to help the Ludovico family at the memorial for their grandmother, which was a really special experience for all who attended. A little background on the Ludovico family: they are one of the most incredible families I’ve ever been able to work with. They have such a strong faith that binds them together. There are seven boys (whose all have ‘j’ names: Jorell, Jash, Jish, Jao, Jehu, Jayo, and Jake) and two girls (who also have j names), and all of them are so humble and loving. You could tell that they were sad to have to say goodbye to their Lola, but there was a joy that radiated from them that went beyond that sorrow. Jash, who recently returned from his mission in Hawaii, had asked us to attend the memorial. I expected to be assigned to set up and break down duty, but Jash was prepared. He talked about the Plan of Salvation during the memorial, explaining it so eloquently and with such love that all of the congregation was moved. He included in his remarks the four of us missionaries who had been ushering, telling people to come to us with any questions or for any materials that they wanted, including copies of the lesson pamphlets, copies of the Book of Mormon, and pass along cards. We were able to talk to a lot of the Ludovico’s family members and friends about what we believed and explain that God has a plan for us.
The knowledge that we are literal sons and daughters of God is such a huge blessing, especially when you pair it with the knowledge that the Lord has specific and wonderful plans for each of His children, not only to return to Him at the end of the lives, but also throughout their mortal journeys here on earth. I love knowing that the Atonement of Jesus Christ – or the sacrifice that He made that it possible for Him to understand our every pain and sorrow, and also cleanse us of our sins – makes all the difference in the world. God has specific plans for us to be able to be the people that He needs us to be. We face certain trials and are able to experience certain joys, all of which add to who we are. It’s all about trusting the Lord and relying on Him for everything, and knowing that you’ll be able to see His hand in your life, both in the big ways and in the little ways. I’m so thankful for the plans the Lord makes for us.
We had the opportunity to attend the Granada Hills talent show, which was a blast. A ton of members of our ward participated, including the Relief Society performing a hula, the Ludovico family doing a choreographed hip-hop dance, our youth doing a Spanish dance, and a few of our young adults singing. A brother from another ward made my day with his slam poetry. For you imagination pleasure – a California verson of a Duck Dynasty guy in your typical Valley sandals, a plaid shirt and a huge beard, performing slam poetry that covered all the basis of life in California, from politics (based upon the Transformers movies) to Ikea, from Downton Abbey to the World Cup. I was in the back dying, trying to interpret as fast as I could for Sister Flake. It was useless, I was laughing too hard.
Laughing while signing sometimes works, but most of the time with me, it doesn’t. Luckily I have a really patient companion.
Yesterday we had to pull the biggest “missionary con” of the century… somehow getting our Relief Society president to come to the Lapena’s for a surprise party for her 66th birthday. It was awesome to see her reaction to seeing all the people in the house waiting for her. Sister Ryane is one of my heroes. She’s been through so much, and has such incredible faith, and a beautiful testimony of Jesus Christ and the His gospel. I love learning from her and having her come to lessons with us, because she understands people’s needs without hesitation, and has a wonderful honesty that helps them to understand why the gospel is so important and how it makes all the difference in the world.
We had exchanges this week too. Sister Bishop came to Mission Hills with me and Sister Flake went to YSA with Sister Goettsche. It was pretty fun to finally be companions with Sister Bishop for 24 hours. She’s pretty awesome, and we get along really well. We talked to 27 people, and met this really cool guy (Stephen) who told us all about his adventures. I was so proud of myself for recognizing his Tough Mudder tattoo, which sparked a conversation. Even though he wasn’t interested, it’s always really cool to meet different people and find out more about them. You find the coolest people just by striking up a conversation.
Time’s up, but remember that I love you! And remember that God has a plan, no matter what!
Photo 1 – Just knocking into your occasional robot here in the Valley.
Photo 2 – We found the cat version of Charlie Chaplin.
Photo 3 – All of the sisters in our zone at the talent show.
Photo 4 – the Ludovico family performing at the talent show.
Photo 5 – Relief Society hula!
Photo 6 – Sister Bishop!
Photo 7 – We find random things like random chairs during contacting hours here.