It was so good to talk to y'all yesterday! It was mostly fun to see your faces and hear your voices. It looked like everyone was doing so well! I told you a bit about this week, but I'm hoping to be able to give you a little more detail now that I am emailing because, unlike Nephi who is not "mighty in writing" like he is unto speaking (2 Nephi 33:1), I am much better at getting my thoughts across when I can write them down. I think this is why the Lord sent my to a "no iPad" mission. He is definitely showing me this weakness so that hopefully I can turn it into a strength during this next year.
This week was super busy with Christmas. I would have liked to have more time to contact people, but I did get to have a chance to have fun with some missionaries and I learned a lot along the way.
Last Monday was Mission Christmas, so the entire mission got together and had a dinner, played games, had a devotional, all sorts of fun stuff. I finally got to have funeral potatoes again--a Utahn delicacy that I have definitely missed. We played a bunch of Minute to Win It games, and I got to see all my friends from Bella Vista and Desert Ridge--most of the Desert Ridge friends have been transferred to other zones, so that was weird. My favorite part was the slideshow of all the baptism pictures from this year. In the Arizona Gilbert Mission during this year, we've been able to be part of helping almost five hundred people come closer to their Savior Jesus Christ through being baptized by proper authority. I was watching each picture, and it made me realize just how much of an impact we can have, even if this is the second smallest proselyting mission in the world. I made a new goal to be more focused on "teaching repentance and baptizing converts". I reorganized the pictures on my wall by my desk to be only those that remind me of the Savior, my purpose, my "why" for being on a mission, and those I have been able to help them receive that essential ordinance of baptism.
After the slideshow, President Wheeler talked about Luke 2:7: "And she brought forth her first born son and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because their was no room for them in the inn". He was able to teach us so much about the Savior just out of one verse. I think Dad would have enjoyed it a lot. President told us about what the different words meant and helped us understand the Nativity in a new light that made me all the more thankful for my Savior.
Afterwards, all the missionaries got to go out on the field. We each had two balloons that had lights attached to the bottom of them. Each balloon represented one convert in the A.G.M. from this year. It was absolutely stunning.
This week continued on, and we got to have some laughs and bring smiles to others. We met a sweet baptist couple one night and they asked us, "Are you LSD?" That awkward moment when you get asked if you are a drug. Sister Miller and I had a good laugh over that. On December, we were invited to a member's home to make sugar cookies to take to people in the ward. We had a wonderful time talking to Sister Kerr as we made the sugar cookies. She has a daughter serving right now, so she is so kind in making sure we are taken care of as she hopes someone is doing for her daughter. She asked us who we wanted to take them to. I had a list of people that we had been trying to contact, but I kept thinking of the Green family--a referral who had since told us they were not interested in our message, but they were still very nice. I decided there had to be a reason why I kept thinking of them (i.e. a prompting, perhaps?) and added them to our list. We went and the wife answered the door. We gave her the sugar cookies and she told us this was perfect because their dog had eaten their sugar cookies not thirty minutes earlier. The Greens have two little kids, so it must have been quite the ordeal for them to lose their sugar cookies. It made me happy that the Spirit prompted us to help them in that way. We sang one verse of "O Holy Night" and went on our way.
The night before Christmas, we had to be inside after 6 PM. The Highland zone met at a stake center, and we got to watch a movie that president had approved. We watched the Chronicles of Narnia: the Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. It was definitely a highlight because 1. I love movies--it was a tender mercy that I got sent to a mission that gets to watch a movie on Christmas Eve--and 2. I noticed many more gospel truths that had gone over my head previous times I had watched the movie.
Christmas Day was pretty spectacular as well. The sisters in our house all got up and opened presents together. I felt so much love coming from my family as I read the precious notes and opened the presents. After, we had church, and it was only three hours for us--each ward just had sacrament meeting. Then I got to FaceTime with my wonderful family, and I definitely enjoyed their funny and wonderful personalities--even if I didn't do that well at telling y'all what I've been up to. (I'll practice being better at that for Mother's Day.)
Well, that pretty much sums up my week. I just wanted to finish with one more story that demonstrated remarkable faith in one of the members in my area. On Christmas Eve, we couldn't be out unless we had set appointments. We had a couple in one of our wards. Since it was half an hour bike ride from our house, we stayed at the Kerr's home between appointments. Sister Kerr had actually thought of a member who could use a visit and asked us if she could set up an appointment for us to go over. We gladly agreed. We went to talk to a single sister, and it was such a special experience. We got talking, and she alluded to bits of her life story that Sister Miller seemed to know more about than I did, so I asked what her story was. Oftimes, we talk about being persecuted for our beliefs and our minds immediately turn to the early Christians in the first century of Christianity or to the pioneers being driven from their homes in Missouri. As much as we would like to think of that that persecution as past, listening to this sweet sister made me realize that sometimes we do still have to stand up for our beliefs a lot more that I had see growing up in the Mormon Bubble of Utah County. This sister had married her husband after meeting at BYU. They were sealed in the temple and she thought she was set. Well, turns out that wasn't the case. Her husband over time began questioning his testimony of Priesthood power, which eventually spiraled until he has now completely lost his faith, even in Jesus Christ. She went along with it, wanting to keep her marriage together, and they raised their children outside the church. After a while, she began seeing a difference between her children and their cousins, and she realized exactly what was missing. She started with simply watching General Conference. Her husband would notice this and turn the TV off, telling her she was not to watch that. But she knew that she wanted that spirit in her life. She continued trying to quietly invite the Spirit into her home. Eventually she built up the courage to go to church. That Sunday morning, she got ready. Her husband noticed and told her that he did not want her going to church. When she was ready to go, he physically blocked her from leaving. She found a way to get around him when he yells at her that if she leaves, she is choosing a divorce, and proceeded to tell their young children that their mother was choosing a divorce. Unfortunately, her story does not have a picture perfect ending. She eventually filed for divorce and is slowly working to have her children learn to love and trust her after the terrible things their father would say about her in front of them. But this sister, despite the bombardment of manipulative control from her husband, continued to keep her faith in the Savior. Her life is far from perfect, but she has peace. I know that it is because of her faith in Jesus Christ that she has that peace. I found a quote a while back, and the basic idea was that while the world sees peace as an absence of troubles, the Savior offers peace amidst our trials and heart aches. I'm not always the best at allowing Him to do so--sometimes I'm stubborn and won't let go--but I know that that is true. My goal as I go into 2017 is that I will learn to more fully learn to trust the Savior in order to develop the charity and faith that only He can give me to do this amazing work. I love you all so much!
1001 N Burk Street
7-1/2 months later with my MTC sisters
Releasing the balloons
This bird hates me.
Mission temple trip