We had a bit of a slower week this week. A whole bunch of our appointments fell through. But! It was still a pretty darn good week. We had some really good experiences, one in particular was pretty powerful. And Elder Frederick and I are getting along really well. We're working hard and also having a lot of fun. He's a great missionary and I'm grateful for the opportunity to be his trainer.
Esther is still doing alright. She is moving with her family in a week or two, which is a bit stressful for us because her situation is so complicated and we are really hoping the transition to the Nashville missionaries will go smoothly. She still really wants to be baptized, and also really doesn't want to tell her family. I will say though, the more I learn about her family, the more I am starting to think that she really shouldn't be so worried. I don't think they are nearly as bad as she makes them out to be.
We met with Jonas again this week - he's the boyfriend of one of the Laurels. Jonas is awesome. We talked more about why he is wanting to be baptized and he told us that it is because he sees how happy church members are - he sees something in the lives of the members that is different from anything he's seen before, and he wants that. We asked him if he feels like he has changed in the past 6 months as he has investigated and he told us he has - he is a harder worker, a better person, and happier. He feels he hasn't received an answer yet about whether the Book of Mormon is true, so we talked about the different ways we receive answers to prayer and what it can mean when we don't receive an answer right away - that quite often it is God's way of saying "You decide. I trust your ability to make decisions. Take a step or two in what you feel is the right direction and I will give you confirmation or warning as to whether the decision you are making is right." He loves us and wants us to learn and grow. Jonas related to that and felt it applied to him, and told us he wants to start making preparations for baptism. We just need to meet with his parents - they are really good people and very supportive, but understandably they have some questions about the Church before he is baptized.
My favorite experience this week, though, was meeting with Crystal, a returning inactive member, and her nonmember kids Cameron (10) and Camille (14). Crystal has been pretty far off the deep end for the last 15 years of her life, and pretty opposed to God and the gospel and the Church, but now as she has been going through one of the hardest times of her life, she has decided it is time to turn back to God. I wish you all could have been there this week. It blows my mind how far she has come. She read Lehi's dream in the Book of Mormon this week, and she bore such an incredibly powerful testimony to us, her parents, and her children of Jesus Christ and His Gospel - of how much better life is when you come back to the iron rod and press forward holding fast to it - that it even made 14-year-old stony-faced Camille cry. Man, it was incredible. The Spirit was so powerful. She told them that their lives were their own to live, but that she hoped so much that they would receive guidance from God leading them to decide to be baptized (the lesson was on the Gospel of Jesus Christ - faith, repentance, baptism, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end). She told them how hard her life has been without the gospel the last 15 years, and how much better it has been now in the last few weeks as she has begun to come back. She wants more than anything for them to have that in their lives, and for her family to be together forever. The church is a hospital, she told them, and we all need it. She never knew just what she was denying herself until she finally came back.
My message this week seems to be one of the major themes of my mission thus far: none of us - neither you, nor those you love, nor anyone else we share this mortal life with - is so far from the love of Jesus Christ that we can't come back to the rod of iron. Never lose hope. If someone you love has wandered away from the iron rod, be patient and never give up. Christ has not forgotten them. Crystal's parents waited and tried patiently, but without any sign of success or hope, for over 15 years - and now look where she is. And if it is you that has wandered away - come back! It is not too late. I add my testimony to Crystal's and promise you that life is so much better when we hold fast to the iron rod, which is the word of God. The reward we reap, the fruit of the tree at the end of the rod, is the love of Jesus Christ - and there is nothing else like it in this world. It will fill you with a hope and joy and purpose that nothing else can do. And the mists of darkness and the rugged fields of life are so much easier to navigate and endure when we are holding fast to the rod.
I love you all! Make yourselves a great week!
Elder Alex Swindler
Saran Wrap and the Local Wildlife
1) We finally saran wrapped the car of the member who toilet papered us, with the help of a couple of really cool other members, Haley and Hanna. And we filled it with balloons. And we wrote all over it with window chalk. >:) Haha it was awesome. And Haley is actually a really good friend of Elder Lambert's. He told me about her before I came here and it was cool to meet her.
2) Why would anyone do this to a perfectly good truck? Can it even drive if you put too much stuff in it?
3-4) A cool sunset.
5) Just to make sure all the wildlife remembers to come to a full and complete stop before entering the intersection.
6) Notice how the porch light is full of what looks like pencil shavings? Well, guess what? Those are actually dead moths. O.o
7) Picture: A member had this at her house. It reminded me of my Grandpa's stories of sending middle schoolers down the road to the grocery store for ridiculous things. Imagine if one had actually come back with a jar of this stuff!
Video 1) Sometimes I bark at dogs for fun.
Video 2-5) The latest form of missionary entertainment, courtesy of Elder Frederick.