Great week this week. And come Wednesday I will have officially been out for a whole transfer. One down, sixteen to go. :)
I just have a bunch of random stories to tell, so pardon the ramble.
Last P-day we ended up being so busy with other stuff that we didn't have time to go shopping. We talked about it and decided that we would just make do with what we had, and be obedient, and not go shopping until the next P-day (we're supposed to shopping only on P-days if we can help it). Which is kind of unusual for me, typically I'm all for making exceptions to rules, especially ones that seem dumb to me. It's sort of an "I won't get sent to hell for breaking this rule so why should I care?" attitude. But this time I decided to be obedient.
One thing I've been hearing a lot out here is that obedience shows our love for God, and it always brings blessings. And I know that sounds really cheesy and missionary-ish and abstract and whatever, because that's how I felt about it at first. But I didn't understand just how literal and true that statement is. After p-day was over people kept spontaneously giving us food and stuff and inviting us over to eat. Seriously. One of the sisters in the branch even dropped by and handed us a box full of groceries, completely unannounced. We didn't ask anyone for anything, or even tell anyone that we didn't go shopping. People just kept giving us stuff. We got more food this week than we have gotten any other week, and we didn't buy any of it. Nobody saw my little shopping list in my planner, not even my companion, but literally every item on it that we needed was given to us by somebody. Even stuff that we didn't urgently need - like more shaving cream, and a pull-up bar.
God is real. He truly takes care of His missionaries, and of all those who are in His service. And obedience, even when it seems dumb or like an exception would be kosher or whatever, truly does bring blessings.
Teaching this week has been really good. We had like 10 lessons, which is great, because we usually only get like 5-7. And 4 of them had members present, which is fantastic, we usually get 0-2.
It's cool to feel the Spirit working through us. On Saturday, during morning studies, I was looking for something totally unrelated and I ended up reading a few chapters in 2 Nephi that felt like they'd be perfect for one of our investigators named Brad. I bounced it off Elder Merrill and he felt like we should read one of them with him and leave the other two for him to (hopefully) read on his own. And it ended up being a fantastic lesson. He progressed a ton more than he ever has before. Like, a bunch of his concerns finally came up, and we helped him understand. And there were some things I said that I know was the Spirit working through me, because they just popped into my head, and they visibly changed his demeanor. Like, he just couldn't believe that there could be a prophet in today's wicked world, and I pointed out that throughout the Bible, in all the times God has destroyed a wicked people or nation, he has never once done it without first calling a prophet to call them to repentance. Why should it be any different today? And he just stopped, and sat there for a minute, and then was like "I think you're on to something..." And I think he finally grasped the significance of what we're saying - that Jesus Christ's church is on the earth again, the same as it was before, and it is led by a living prophet, today. He kept on repeating "now that just blows my mind..." Especially after we mentioned Apostles. He was like "you guys have 12 Apostles?? Like...just like Jesus had? ...now that just blows my mind!" It was so great. We were grinning ear to ear by the time we left. And none of that was us. The Spirit led us to find the scripture we read with him, and none of that would have happened without it. And the Spirit inspired us with a lot of the things we said during the lesson that really changed things with him. We had to exercise the faith to study, and look for things, and try the ideas that we had, and open our mouths, and go with the gut feelings. But we were merely instruments in God's hands. It was so cool.
Whoo... That was a long paragraph.
We had a similar experience in our lesson with Ronnie this week. We both kept being inspired with things to say, analogies to share, things to point out. He actually agreed to pray on his own!! Hopefully he follows through. :)
I don't know if I mentioned Austin last week. He's our absurdly golden investigator. He has studied everything we've given him, he believes it's all true, he believes Joseph Smith was a prophet and that the Book of Mormon is true, and he wants to be baptized. We're super excited about him. We're planning on mid July for his baptism.
Funny stuff from this week: I accidentally scared the crap out of Elder Merrill last night. I stood next to the bathroom door with my head poking out in front of it right before he came out and made a funny face, trying to make him laugh. But then he didn't see me until he turned off the light and when he did he about fell over he was scared so bad. It was so funny.
Also, a lot of people here buy into conspiracy theory type stuff and it's super funny. I have had to physically restrain myself from laughing out loud more than once during lessons when the person starts talking about politics or the government or whatever. And we're supposed to stay out of those conversations, and we try our best, but people just start talking sometimes. I have been told (seriously) that Obama is the anti-Christ. I've also been told that the large hadron collider in Switzerland is going to destroy the universe, and the government is trying to keep it a secret, and Stephen Hawking even warned them not to turn it on, but they're gonna do it anyway... Haha that guy started talking about dark matter too and it was all I could do to keep a straight face and breathe evenly.
It's neat to see and feel that the gospel and the Church are the same and just as true out here as they are back home. You don't see that in many other churches, if any. Out here you can drive down just about any street and see at least two different churches, usually baptist, and none of them will totally agree with each other.
Out here a lot of people jump from church to church until they find one they like and they're comfortable with, and they go there for awhile, usually until the pastor says something they don't like, and then they go find another one, and the cycle repeats. Pastors are trying crazier and crazier things to try to get people to feel something and stay. A fairly recent (I think) fad that's going around right now: some churches will set poisonous snakes loose in the congregation, and supposedly if you have enough faith you won't get bit. People seriously do this, and people die all the time. It's insane.
People do feel the Spirit testify of things that are true. We find that a lot of the things people are really sure that they believe are things that are true - that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, that He suffered and died for all of our sins, that He is the way to eternal life... They believe in the things the Spirit has testified to them are true. But they are missing so many simple truths that make it all make sense - like that our loving Heavenly Father doesn't send little children who aren't baptized to hell, for instance.
I'm watching Amos 8:11-12 play out before my eyes:
"Behold, the days come, saith the Lord God, that I will send a famine in the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord: And they shall wander from sea to sea, and from the north even to the east, they shall run to and fro to seek the word of the Lord, and shall not find it."
I don't think they understand that we believe the same things they do, but we have the fulness of it. Brad kept saying "so you believe the same things I do... just more?"
God lives! The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is truly Christ's church restored to the earth. It is led by a living prophet of God. The members, leaders included, may not be perfect - they're human - but we try our best anyway and we succeed for the most part. And the Book of Mormon is true. All of this I know because the Book of Mormon is true.
One last spiritual message for the week: so much conflict could be avoided if we all would commit to forgive each other, no matter what. Commit now, before it's hard. Be willing to let go of old grudges, to reexamine your opinions of other people, to give people second chances, and even third and fourth chances. Christ taught that "I the Lord will forgive whom I will forgive, but of you it is required to forgive all men." (D&C 64:10) So much drama and conflict, in the church, among families, in societies and workplaces and neighborhoods, and in the world at large, would be avoided if we will all commit to be forgiving, always.
I love you all! Have a great week!
Tennessee basketball hoop