I can’t believe it’s only been a week! Do I say that every week? Because I feel like I do. I’m not sure I can even remember most of it! But a few points. Saturday we went to Shenandoah National Park for a branch hike. I’ll attach some pics so you can see, but it was absolutely beautiful! We went on a six mile hike, and our branch mission leader and branch president were the two in charge of that hike (there was a smaller one for the kids). Suffice it to say, they’re both in the military and had whistles. You can imagine. We ran up the mountain. Ran. And missionaries don’t exaggerate. But even though we were going so fast, it was hard to miss how amazing everything around us was. Sunday we were dragging and so sore. We had a pretty busy day with appointments and church and such, so I actually forgot it was my birthday until later. It was Sunday so we didn’t get any mail, so I wasn’t expecting any surprises. But at 9:30 as we were finishing daily planning the elders in our district showed up with a cake and sang. It was really thoughtful. Then as we were getting ready to go to bed, the Stake President’s family showed up with a cake and sang to me! I was so touched. The people here are so great. So it was a pretty good day. Yesterday being Memorial Day and all I’m a day late on the e-mail, but apparently 24 hours makes a big difference in the amount of things I remember from this week. I just know that it was full of ups and downs with nothing exciting to report, but we still have some really solid investigators that we’re working with. So please pray for the work! I know you will each be blessed as you pray for missionary opportunities and seek them out. The message of the restored Gospel of Jesus Christ is for everyone, whether they are single or have a family, don’t believe in God or regularly attend their own church, old and young, financially stable or not. And whether they know it yet or not, everyone needs the joy that the Gospel brings. Spencer W. Kimball (I think?) once said: “The Gospel makes bad men good, and good men better.” Many a prophet have testified of the blessings that come of missionary work, so pray for the courage, open your mouth, and the Lord will give you the words to say in the very moment that you need them. The Church is true.
We planted a lot more seeds this week. My companion has been sick lately and it’s hard for her to speak, so I ended up doing most of the talking when we were able to leave the apartment and invite people to church. Maybe the fact that I was the one stumbling over the Spanish so much had something to do with the number of doors that were slammed in our faces. If I had to guess, there’s probably a correlation. But nevertheless, we did have our first investigator come to church yay! She’s 17 years old and dating the branch mission leader’s son who is leaving on a mission this summer, so that probably helped, but she genuinely loved it. She told us that everything just makes so much more sense now and it’s like everything we’re teaching her and everything she learned at church just connects and supports each other. Isn’t it amazing how the Gospel works? So she’s going to be coming back next week and hopefully we’ll get to teach her again soon too. We have another investigator who we’re still excited about, but she’s been going through a lot of rough stuff lately, so hopefully we can hang on to her.
Has it only been one week? This week has been so long I can’t believe it! The days are all a blur and I can hardly remember anything that’s happened, but I know it’s been forever since I last e-mailed. The sun is finally starting to come out here and I think it might be the beginning of summer. This is really nice for tracting because when the weather is nice, people are outside in their yards and it’s easy to talk to them.
This was one of the more difficult weeks in my mission so far. Sometimes it’s frustrating when people don’t follow through on what they say they will. We were so sure that we would have at least 4 of the people we are teaching come to church yesterday, but they all backed out or just didn’t show up. So it’s really sad when you see people that need the blessings of the Gospel so much and simply choose not to accept them. That darn thing called agency. But even if the people we teach aren’t growing right now or choosing to act on the witnesses they’ve received, we can at least know that we are doing our best and at the very least planting a whole bunch of seeds. I never really liked leaving unfinished work, but I guess it all just boils down to having enough faith to know that the Lord has put me here in Newport News at this specific time with these specific people for a reason, whether that be to baptize or to plant seeds. My companion told me this week that Elder Holland didn’t baptize a single soul on his mission. And now he’s one of the apostles of the Lord. So I figure that for the next 16 months (crazy I’ve already been on my mission for 2) I’m going to plant so many seeds that the missionaries that come along later to harvest are going to have some serious work to do. Everything in the Lord’s time right?
That’s about all I have for this week, but in honor of Mother’s Day yesterday, I wanted to share a thought really quick that I had this week. In 1 Nephi 3:7 there’s the famous reply of Nephi to his father that he will: “Ire y hare lo que el Senor ha mandado, porque se que el nunca da mandamientos a los hombres sin prepararles la via para que cumplan lo que les ha mandado (sorry I don’t have it memorized in English). Well a much less well-known scripture is in 1 Nefi 5:8, where Sariah has just finished murmuring against Lehi for sending her sons out to obtain the records from Laban without knowing they’ll be safe. At this point they return and she repents and says: “se de seguro que el Senor ha protegido a mis hijos, los ha librado de las manos de Laban y les ha dado poder para llevar a cabo lo que el Senor les ha mandado” So pretty much she’s just said the exact same thing Nephi said earlier, that she knows the Lord always gives a way to complete the commandments he gives. Thinking about this more I realized it’s very possible that Nephi learned this from his mother. Sariah probably taught her sons that the Lord never gives a commandment without a way to complete it. Just look at the influence she had. Sariah is always recognized as murmuring before her sons returned, but I think she rarely gets the credit she deserves for being the mother of one of the most famously faithful prophets of the Book of Mormon. I too have been born of “goodly parents” and am so grateful for the influence they’ve had in who I am today. Shout out to all the mothers who have been a good example for me in my life. Happy belated Mother’s Day.
Holy canoli has this week been nuts. All the days are starting to blend into one and I’m not sure what I have and haven’t told you, so forgive me if I repeat or leave out any information. So I think I mentioned in my last e-mail how we met an amazingly golden potential investigator knocking doors? Well, turns out she belongs to another church that will remain un-named for the present moment, and when her pastor found out the Mormons had talked to her he scared her into calling us back and telling us never to step foot on our property again. Well that was fun. I was so excited and was sure that she was so ready for the Gospel, but I guess not. So we were without an appointment for Tuesday night after dinner. We’re pretty used to appointments falling through, so we always have backup plans. We decided to visit a previous investigator just to introduce ourselves and see where she was in terms of the discussions. So we knock on the door and she answers, looking extremely peeved, and we proceeded to introduce ourselves. Sort of. We only got, “Hola como es…” out before she told us not now and to go away. Just before she closed the door in our faces my companion asked her if there was anything we could do for her. She opened the door again and looked at us like we were either angels or locos. After a couple seconds she told us there’s nothing anyone could do.” She again started to close the door when my companion stuck her foot in and asked “Segura?” She opened the door again and looked like she was about to cry. She gestured for us to come inside. As we entered we saw a young woman who turned out to be her daughter at the table sobbing her eyes out. Well, long story short, we had come in the middle of a small crisis and her daughter was distraught. We spent a long time just comforting her and then started to read her scriptures that had comforted us when we were upset. As she calmed down we started discussing the role of Christ and the Comforter in our lives with her and her mother, the previous investigator. Then we prayed with them and that was an amazing experience all on it’s own. By the end of the night, they both trusted us and were excited to start taking the discussions. It wasn’t until we left that we realized that if the first woman who we thought was so ready to hear the Gospel hadn’t have called and cancelled, we would never have gone to their house that night and been able to show them right then and there how we can be comforted through the knowledge of the Gospel. So we were able to witness several other instances where the Lord has His hand in the work from start to finish. Every time something good falls through, something better comes along. It truly is amazing. I am so blessed to be here at this time. The Spanish is still really difficult for me, but I know I’ve improved so much just in the last couple weeks. Just to give you an idea, everything you’ve seen from West Side Story about how fast Puerto Ricans talk, is true. Except way faster. And Ecuadorians talk even faster than that. It’s nuts. I’m still translating the first sentence they said when I realize they’ve already moved on to another topic. But I love it. The people here are really generous and nice. We’ve had people feed us meals almost every single day we’ve been here. I’ve already had to start a recipe book for all the amazing dinners we’ve had. I’ll have to send you some to try out at home. Thank you again for all the mail and support. I really really appreciate it. I love and miss y’all so much and can’t wait to hear back!