I would have had a picture of me holding a lizard for you this week, but I could not catch it. Instead, you can have this mental image. Me noticing a lizard, and "quietly" sneaking up behind it and catching it (miracles) when I realize that I am holding to much stuff to actually pick it up. In an attempt to readjust everything I'm holding, it runs away, so I begin to try pulling myself up on the wall to see if I can see where it went. It was super graceful.
This week has been rad! Sister Johnson and I are still working on finding, so we have been tracting (going door-to-door) a lot. The only problem with tracting in this area is we will look over our ward list to make sure we don't accidentally knock on doors of people who are already LDS, and then the first door we knock on is still one that belongs to someone that is actively LDS. *sighs* but it's okay because then we keep going and we find people who do want to hear our message. Sister Johnson and I have been trying to be more bold, and knocking on doors really helps with that because I never know who we are going to meet.
This week, we were knocking doors on a street that I had wanted to tract. I picked this street because we had met people about two months ago that had been super nice. They didn't straight up say that they wanted to learn more, but the Holy Ghost kept bugging me to follow up with them. I guess the Holy Ghost actually knows a thing or two. We knocked on this door (it was the very last door of the street) and I hear about three barking dogs. A man opens the door and is trying to hush his dogs and put them in a different room. Eventually he comes out and begins talking to us (still holding one of his dogs), and instantly the fear sets in. But I knew we needed to be here, so I asked, "Are you John?" and he said yes! I reminded him who we were and that we had met, and we began talking to him. He was very nice. We told him a little about what we do and asked if we could share our message with him, and he said we could. I almost lost it because it's like in the movies were someone says, "Well dang, I didn't think we'd actually get this far" because I need to work on my faith. We decided to teach him about where the name Mormons came from and talk about the Book of Mormon. We have a cute little visual aid to go through it. We told him about how the people in the ancient Americas kept records, just like Prophets did for the Bible, and how they recorded of Jesus Christ's personal ministry among them shortly after His death and resurrection. John was super awesome and was listening, and I just really appreciated that. When we finished going through our little "schpeel", Sister Johnson asked, "What do you think of Christ coming and ministering to the people of the Americas?" Hold onto your seats because I should have been sitting down for this. John responded, "I don't see why He wouldn't. He loves all of us." I was super excited because I could have sworn this only happened in made up situations. We were able to testify and talk about feeling the Holy Ghost and help him understand that feeling. He then made a comment how it was interesting that we had stopped by on that day specifically. He then opened up and told us that it was the six year anniversary of him losing his best friend and that he was having a rather somber day. He thought it was interesting that we would be bringing this happy message on that day. Sister Johnson and I switched gears a little and started testifying of the Plan of Salvation. I read him a scripture from Alma 40, and we talked about that a little. We testified that we knew that this message could help him and gave him a copy of the Book of Mormon and a little pamphlet about the Plan of Salvation. We asked when a good time would be to come talk to him more about what he read, and he said that he actually didn't even live here--it was his parent's house. So guys, let's get this straight: I happened to talk to John who doesn't even live there, and the Spirit prompted us to go back, not only on a day that was significant to him, but on a day that he just happened to be there again! God is absolutely in charge and knows what He's doing! John mentioned that the Elders in Mesa (where he lives) had been trying to set up an appointment with him, though. We chatted with John a little more, and he asked if we needed anything else. We said no, and he said, "Okay, if not, I don't have anything to do today, so I'm going to go read this book." *eternally screams with joy* Even though we don't get to teach John, I felt to blessed that I was able to be an instrument in helping him in that way. I just pray that he does call up the Elders in Mesa and learn more about our happy message.
We had another lesson with Nicole. At first, she was super closed off, but she's starting to seem more comfortable around us. We read 1 Nephi 5 with her this week. We weren't really sure what direction to go with Nicole, so we figured just continuing to read the Book of Mormon with her would be best. In this chapter, it talks about Nephi and his brothers bringing back their scriptures (which was the first five books of the Old Testament) to their father so they could have those. In it, it talks about their family history, and Lehi is able to recognize that he is a descendant of Joseph who was sold into Egypt. Literally, I had no idea where to go with this chapter, so Sister Johnson and I just started talking about Family History with her. That's a missionary thing to talk about, right? Yeah, we had no idea what we were doing, but again, GOD DOES! As we talked, she started opening up about hard things she has been through, and we were able to just testify of Christ's love for her. And now we know what we can teach her that will help her understand her identity as a daughter of God. We think it also helped her to want to read the Book of Mormon on her own more. I am so excited for Nicole.
There is also this less active family we have been working with who I just love to death--it's the Petersons, I may have mentioned them in previous emails. Anyway, they are working to come to church more regularly, but they are still having a hard time with it. Sister Johnson and I were just praying on what we could teach to help her, and we eventually felt that we just needed to be bold with them. We were scared because all of Satan's "what ifs" started popping into our heads, but we decided to go through with it. It ended up being an incredible lesson, and even their rambunctious little six year-old listened reverently! They were able to feel the Spirit and actually set the goal for themselves to be at church on time. I realized something super important about why that lesson worked out when sometimes others don't. Alma 38 says we should be "bold, but not overbearing". One talk I really like defines overbearing as "boldness without love" and says that if we truly teach with love, "we can never be too bold". Sometimes I still mix those up and I think I love the person, when my underlying motivation is truly that I just want to be right. It never works when I do that because the love is not truly there. With the Petersons, I felt it so strongly that I really did just love them and THAT is why I wanted them to be at church. It was no longer about being right, it was about the Petersons and how much I love them. That was a super important lesson for me to learn.
I wanted to end with our last lesson with Alex and Rachel. I mentioned last week that I had been worried about them, and Sister Johnson and I have been really praying about what we can do. They have such rock solid testimonies, and we just want to make sure we do everything we can to not lose them because of something dumb. We have really been wanting them to get into the Book of Mormon more because Elder Ballard made a promise that if you read the Book of Mormon every day, you will not fall away. You will still have questions, but you will find the answers to those questions. Given, this is brand new for them and it is a hard habit to change. They are not used to reading every single day from any scriptures, but we know that it will help them. We got to have dinner with them on Sunday, and we began talking about reading the Book of Mormon. We asked them if they had ever gone to the Book of Mormon with a question in mind. They hadn't even thought of doing that before. I was able to share my experience that I had had earlier on my mission when I went to the Book of Mormon with a question and found my answer in Alma 38. It was a neat experience just to introduce them to something that I had always thought was so elementary, but they hadn't ever thought of before. It made me really grateful for all the ways the Lord reaches out to us and all the things He wants us to learn. I am truly grateful for these experiences. My biggest take away from my mission so far is that having a life that is centered on Christ is the so important. If you have a "bedrock understanding of the Doctrine of Christ", everything else will fall into place. I only wish that everyone had the chance to know that as much as I am learning that. I love you so much, family!
1001 N Burk Street
This part of Gilbert makes me really happy--it reminds me of Canada
Highland Zone at the Gilbert Temple
Basic Art-sy picture because Comp Unity