This week was all over the place, which is pretty normal for the week of transfers. I didn’t realize how hard it would be, though, to have Sister Flake leave. She’s now in West Hills in a trio with Sister Goettsche and Sister Cox, and the three of them are opening a deaf/ASL area in the mission (the first!). It’s definitely interesting, because I’ve worked with each of them individually, and it will be cool to see how the three of them work together. I’m so proud of Sister Flake and how far she’s come and how much she’s grown in the past three months.
Half of our zone is now entirely new, which makes meetings fun. We always have to figure out a new dynamic. The best thing about this transfer is that all of our jokes about turning Mission Hills into a Filipino Branch have come true – our new district leader (Elder Lee’s companion), Elder Villejo, is also Filipino. The ward was estatic, and are entirely determined to spoil them with their favorite foods and treats. So we have two Filipino elders and two American sisters. Only Sister Johnson doesn’t like Filipino food, which is going to be interesting. And then in our district, we have two Polynesian sisters. Meetings are challenging with languages and personalities, to say the least! But there is a lot of joy and the spirit is so strong in our district, I am excited to work with the new missionaries in our area, Sister Smalley (from New Zealand), Elder Loshbaugh, and Elder Villejo.
It was a lot harder to transition from a deaf companion to a hearing companion than I anticipated, weirdly enough. Sister Johnson’s alarm went of on Wednesday morning, and I couldn’t for the life of me figure out what it was (I’m awake before my alarm goes off). And then when we are on the phone, it’s my automatic tendency to start interpreting right away. Luckily we both have a sense of humor, otherwise, it would just be weird. I’ve worked with Sister Johnson in the past (we were companions for three days in between emergency transfers), and she was a sister training leader in Santa Clarita when Sister Finau and I were in Solemint. It will be a challenging transfer, because we both work and think incredibly differently, but the Lord puts challenges in our paths for good reasons.
We were finally able to see some recent converts this week that had been missing the radar. The first lesson didn’t go so well, but our lesson with the Rangel’s was one of the best recent convert lessons I’ve been a part of. We brought Bishop Bradford along, which really helped. Jorge (19) was baptized the week before I arrived in Mission Hills the first time, and Sister Stewart and I had begun teaching his siblings, Esmeralda (10) and Miguel (13), and Sister Flake and Sister Panlilio taught them to baptism (they were baptized on Easter of this year). Their parents aren’t members, but have been so supportive of their decisions and desires to join the Church. It was really special to teach the new member lessons (a review of the lessons taught before baptism) to them with their parents there – their mom provided a lot of insight on the changes she had seen in each of her children, and the kids were able to testify of the power of the Holy Ghost and their love for the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the scriptures.
I love bringing strong members to lessons with us – they make all the difference. And I love having Bishop Bradford accompany us to lessons, and just spending time with his family. He’s someone I really admire (it doesn’t hurt that he really admires me of Abraham Lincoln… he’s 6’7 and can be a little intimidating, but has the biggest heart and is so honest), and we got to talk with him for a bit before we went to teach. He shared with us how he came to join the church, and the power he had seen in the Atonement, and the witnesses he had received that God truly is our loving Heavenly Father. One of the things that really struck me was the honesty with which he described himself before joining the church – angry, doing things that weren’t good for him or his family, etc. He joined the Church 22 years ago, and has been married for 17 years, and has 4 kids who are just as powerful in the Gospel as he is (and are destined to be just as tall – his 8 year old son is my height), and is just an exemplar of how applying the atonement of Jesus Christ in your life doesn’t change you in terms of who you are, but changes you in terms of making you the best person you can be, the person that the Lord knows and destined you to be.
In my studies the past few weeks I’ve been studying Isaiah, focusing on the atonement and on the example that Christ set for each of us. One thing that really struck me was how often we are reminded to ‘fear not’ and that we are never alone, no matter what. I few verses have been on my mind recently, Isaiah 30:20-21, “And though the Lord give you the bread of adversity, and the water of affliction, yet shall not thy teachers be removed into a corner any more, but thine eyes shall see thy teachers: And thine ears shall hear a word behind thee, saying, This is the way, walk ye in it, when ye turn to the right hand, and when ye turn to the left.”
These verses have brought me a lot of comfort and counsel over the past several weeks. Despite the challenges we face, we are always given the opportunity not only to learn, but to be walking beside the Lord as we go through it. Prayer is so critical to making it through the “adversities and afflictions” of which Isaiah is talking about – how else will you receive what the Lord needs you to hear? And it just astounds me how He answers us: through the scriptures, through the promptings of the Holy Ghost, through lessons, talks and speeches of members of the church, and especially through other people. It’s such a blessing to have that comfort throughout the path of mortality.
The week of transfers never bears much news, there’s a lot of paperwork and transition, so it’s not necessarily the most productive in terms of the work itself, but it’s more about getting on the same page as your companion and seeing what new things you both bring to the table and to the area.