No, Not Yet

2 February 2015

This week was a little crazy. My companion, Sister Marsh, and I had some ups and downs with the area, but we are determined to blow this transfer out of the water. At transfer meeting, when President announced that she and I would be companions, we were a little less than reverent, causing the English/Korean/ASL half of the mission to die laughing. We served together when we worked in the Granada Hills zone, and have joked since then that we ought to be companions… and then it came true. I love serving in a mission small enough for us all to know our companions/leaders/fellow missionaries before we even serve together. It’s such a blessing, and really helps the work move along nicely. I love our district leader, Elder Wollenzien, who is also training a new missionary, Elder Okojie.

It was adorable, we were talking with Wollenzien on the phone last night for our Sunday evening reports, and all you hear in the background is Elder Okojie asking, “is that my mom??” Apparently he and Elder Wollenzien had realized that I’m Elder Okojie’s ‘mission mom’ – the oldest sister in the district. It was adorable. And I can handle it a bit better now that I’m not just 3 transfers out. Elder Okojie is such a powerhouse, it seems like he’s been out for months already. He’s from Nigeria, and had lived in Ghana before emigrating to the United States. I think he’s a little overwhelmed by Los Angeles, but he’s doing great so far. I love hearing him pray – they are some of the most sincere and beautiful prayers, mainly because of their simplicity.

My knee is really presenting a problem recently, so I asked the elders for a blessing, and all four of the North Hollywood elders trooped in, ready to serve on Friday evening (Wollenzien and Okojie are on bike, so Ahn and Bodily are their ride at times). It was a really special experience, receiving a blessing with the four of them there. They all participated, and I felt like I had four little brothers standing at my back. Okay, maybe ‘little’ is the wrong adjective… Elder Ahn is the tallest, scariest Korean missionary I’ve ever met aside from Elder Oh, and Elder Bodily is just as tall. ;) But anyhow, it was a really special experience, even if they did eat all the clementines I had sitting on the counter. Punks.

My first full day with Sister Marsh in Studio City was nuts. Everything got shuffled around, and we got off to late starts most of the day. We had planned to contact people on Ventura, a street in our area with a ton of shops, restaurants, and businesses. We got there later than planned, and were kind of bummed, but excited to be out. We were walking, and Sister Marsh stopped a girl on the street, asking if she could give her a card.

The girl’s eyes lit up, and she asked if we were Mormon. When we replied yes, she said, “oh! It’s my birthday! Can I take you out to dinner for my birthday?? I have been praying for someone from the Mormon church to find me!”

I don’t know about the reest of the missions in the world, but that doesn’t happen very frequently in San Fernando. Sister Marsh and I were absolutely floored. Of course we agreed, and as we walked with her down the street, we chatted and found out that she’s a less active member. I was getting a little “missionary deja vu,” so I asked her name. She told me it was ZZ, and I just about had a heart attack of the brain. I asked her what her last name was, and she told us.

I’ve been looking at this name on our ward list for months – the entire time I’ve been in Studio City – but we had no information: no address, an incorrect phone number, and no email address. I’ve wanted to find her, but there was no plausible way. And every time I prayed about it, I felt the answer of ‘no, not yet.’

I’m not one to mess with the ‘no, not yet’ answers we get on occassion. It usually means that it’s right, that the desire is good, but it’s not quite the Lord’s timing. He needs us to be prepared, to learn something, or simply to be patient. It’s a hard thing for me to learn, but I’ve learned it, and it’s been integral to  my mission experience. Every time I looked at ZZ’s name, or prayed about her, I felt a ‘no, not yet.’ Apparently, the time was finally right, because we found her on the street, on the day that she had been searching for us. I just looked at her, and couldn’t help but saying, “We’ve been looking for you, for months.”

God’s timing is perfect, because it was that day that He answered both of our prayers. ZZ has been through so much since she lost contact with the Church. She’s from Burma, and has an incredible story. She moved to Austin, Texas with her sister and worked full time, trying to save money to get an education. She’s a talented Indie-Folk musician (singer/songwriter), and is currently workign on her English so that she can do better in the industry. One day, she woke up and told her sister that she had to move to Los Angeles. She didn’t even know where California was, but she packed up her car, and with $400 in her pocket, started driving with a print-off of google maps and the GPS her sister tossed in the car in desperation before she left. She was telling us how she got to El Paso, walked into a gas station, and asked, “is this California yet?”

I can’t imagine being so lost and knowing I had to be somewhere. It takes a lot of faith to just up and leave, and head to a place you’ve only heard of in a dream. Enter her first ‘no, not yet’ from the manager of the gas station. She didn’t know how to use the GPS, so she prayed and prayed, and eventually figured it out, set it to Los Angeles, and just drove. She wound up in a homeless shelter, and over the years has seen a lot of success, failure, temptation, and miracles in her life. She’s faced a lot of abuse and opposition, because she stood up for what was right, even if she didn’t know why. The Lord had given her the Gospel basics, and she stuck to those.

ZZ asked us if we could teach her the lessons again, because she’s forgotten a lot. She said this is the year she wants to focus on herself, to better her English, but more importantly, to better her relationship with the Lord. Both Sister Marsh and I are so excited to be able to work with her!

I really gained a testimony of prayer and the Lord being in the details, no matter how tiny they may appear, this week. I’m excited to continue to work hard to the next five weeks. It was so hard to see some of my best friends in the mission go home this past week, including Sister Attanasio (AT&T!) and Elder Hansen. Ahh! That will be me up there on the stand in a short time. Eek.

Anyway! Love you!

Sister Redner

Sister AT&T and I

Sister AT&T and I

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