September 22, 2014
This week was service overload, and I absolutely loved it. It was the saving grace that I really needed after a lot of stress and what feels like little progress in our area. We spent 3 days working with Operation Gratitude in preparation for a packing day – when we put together kits and boxes for the troops overseas and their families. It was a blast, and we had a lot of cool experiences.
I’ve loved working with Operation Gratitude, especially because of the people we work with. I had just been enjoying working hard for a good cause, and hadn’t thought much about it until we went in on Saturday, and Ruthie (one of the supervisors we work with on a regular basis) just opened up while we were making paracord bracelets. She was telling us that she really had disliked the LDS church because of the political affiliation of our members, and how she had been wary when the elders showed up to volunteer one day a few months ago. Over the course of several weeks, she told us, her heart had been softened (her words, not mine) by how hard we worked and by how honest and joyful we were as we stacked, sorted, and lifted. It was just a really cool experience that testified of the power of our actions verses the power of our words.
After packing a few boxes and helping out on the floor for a few hours, we went to say goodbye to Kelly, another one of our supervisors. She’s a crack-up, all bark and no bite, and she scares the living daylight out of people. I love her. We were talking to her when this random guy walks up and says, “you guys with the black tags are the hardest workers I’ve ever seen.” Best compliment I’ve received on my mission. Kelly chimed right in and told him that no matter what she asked us to do, no matter how hot it was, we always did it with a smile, and that “her Mormons” were the ones she relied on to get things done. Talk about a compliment (especially coming from Kelly, who’s about as cuddly and sweet as an angry grizzly). It’s funny, I’ve never felt so loved as when we’re working alongside this motley group of swearing, smoking, tattooed, rough around the edges people all focused on one thing – bringing a little bit of love to the troops and their families. And it’s just cool to wear jeans and a tee shirt and serve out all that missionary frustration we have and see the fruits of our labor literally be stacked right before us.
Doing service is one of my favorite aspects of missionary work – it brings me so much joy to be able to help people out, and just show them that they’re loved. We work with a lot of people who speak English as a second language, or have a very set opinion about missionaries, and it’s such a blessing to just not have to worry about what we say, just what we do. It’s love in action when you put yourself aside and just serve another person. I think that the oft-quoted adage by St. Francis of Assisi has been the most integral to last year of being in California: “Preach the Gospel at all times. If necessary, use words.”
It’s SO true! I’ve seen more miracles and tender mercies in this work by serving someone, whether it be by pulling weeds, simply listening, doing dishes, or helping out with a project than by knocking doors or relying on street contacting. It’s right up my alley. Put me in a skirt and make me knock doors, I’ll do it. Give me a task to do that involves wearing jeans and simply talking with people about whatever floats their boat, and I’m one happy missionary. :)
We also had the opportunity to clean up around Lake Balboa (okay, to an easterner, it’s a glorified duck pond, not a lake) with all the other missionaries in the Valley. I don’t know that the chamber of commerce and REI intended it to be a giant missionary reunion, but that’s what it turned out to be. I got to see not only my English/ASL missionary friends, but also a few friends that are in Spanish work, including Hermana Rodriguez (I swear, she’s the only sister in the mission who can look like a model while picking up trash). Such a cool morning! And, you can always bribe a missionary to do anything if it involves a free tee shirt and a sack lunch (hint).
This week was also full of birthdays – both Elder Lee and I were spoiled by our ward. The lot of us Mission Hills elders and sisters had dinner with Hattie (including birthday cake and chaos) twice this week. Sister Johnson and I had bought Elder Lee a few little gifts for his birthday, including a little stuffed minion that was promptly named “Elder Papoi” and goes everywhere with Elder Lee and Elder Villejo. Totally worth the $8 we spent on it at Target. I love Elder Lee and Elder Villejo – they really helped me get through a tough transfer, and are just all around awesome elders. I’m bummed to see Elder Lee be transfered on Tuesday, but am excited to see him train a new missionary. Transfers are tough – there’s a lot of good and bad: you miss the friends you’ve made, and are excited to work with different missionaries. Two edged sword of missionary work.
This week is going to be nuts with transfers, a mini mission conference, service, and the ‘normal work.’ I’m looking forward to it. Til next week!
Picture 1 – My Filipino Brothers :)
Picture 2 – Hattie, Ava, and our elders at Elder Lee’s birthday.