Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Focusing on Jesus Christ in lessons

From Jessica's December 5 letter.

"This week was Cuh-RAZY. Crazy. People were definitely not lying when they said that the mission is a roller coaster--not just week by week, or even day by day, but hour by hour! I think that's why the days seem so long--there's just so much emotion packed into every single day!

"This week we've really been trying to focus on the importance of Jesus Christ in our lessons. We realized that as we teach, we aren't connecting things back to the reason why we have the gospel, the reason why the Plan of Salvation is possible, and the person in whom we place our faith and in whose name we are baptized--Jesus Christ. I've noticed that as we testify more of Jesus Christ in every lesson, whether it's on the restoration of the gospel or on the word of wisdom, that the Spirit is more present. It's a testimony to me that this work really is His work, and that the gospel of Jesus Christ really is the only way we can receive salvation and a fulness of joy.

"Updates on our investigators: V, one of our investigators who had a baptismal date, [was scheduled to have a] short interview with our mission president on Sunday. Problem though, when we went to wake him up for church, he didn't answer his door! And he has no cell phone, and no car, so we were panicking about getting him to church, both because it's important that he attends church in order to increase his testimony and keep the commandments, and because our mission president was going to drive all the way from Oakland to meet our investigator at the chapel. Eventually we had to leave without him. Sis Osborn and I were freaking out all through sacrament meeting and Relief Society. Finally, we got permission from our district leader to leave church early to go and get V for his interview. We were praying really hard that he would be at home. And when we pulled up to his apartment, there he was, just chilling on his balcony! It took all that was in me not to yell, "Where WERE you???" Haha, apparently he was asleep until about noon. At any rate, we got him a ride to church and he had his interview. It was a miracle that we found him, because it's pretty much impossible to track him down because he has no phone. He had his interview, and President Wade said that he's progressing well toward baptism. He doesn't have a baptismal date right now, but things are looking good for him.

"...We finally got to meet with [two others who have baptismal dates], and we went through the questions of the baptismal interview. They are so prepared! The only thing is that [the brother] is a pretty persistent coffee drinker, like 3-4 cups a day. We talked about the word of wisdom, and he committed to reduce his coffee intake to 1 cup a day this week. That is for sure a big sign of faith--first, even wanting to give up coffee, and second, trusting that the Lord will make it possible to break such a strong habit. Also, we followed up on their Book of Mormon reading and asked [him]what he'd learned from 2 Ne 32. He said, "Well, basically, it talks about how baptism is the gate. And then after baptism, you have to keep going until the end and keep the commandments for the rest of your life. And then you can have eternal life." Sister Osborn and I had to pick our jaws up off the ground after hearing such a stellar explanation of the basic doctrines of the gospel. It's so great to see how the Spirit works in people to bring them to an understanding of truth.

"New investigators: [Another sister] also accepted a baptismal invitation in the first lesson! Somehow I'm always a little shocked when that happens, because even though it's a wonderful thing, it's not all that common. [She] is a very, VERY beautiful young mom who has two daughters. We talked about the blessings of the gospel in families, and she was very receptive to the message of how Jesus Christ can help us improve our families. Sad story though--we haven't been able to talk to her since the lesson when she accepted a baptismal date. :(((( Sad face, big time. It's so sad when people all of a sudden stop responding to calls, start missing appointments, etc. But, like what happened with [sister] last week, all we can do is put forth our best effort to keep trying as many times as is useful, and then we have to trust the Lord that He'll allow the Spirit to continue to work in them even if we have to stop trying to reach them.

"We also started teaching a lady.... She has more Christmas decorations in her house than ANYBODY I have ever seen. It's like a Christmas explosion in there. Twice. We went into her house and sat among the Christmas villages and nativity sets, and it felt like our house's decorations, but on Hispanic steroids. We taught her the restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ, and she opened up to us, and shared her testimony of prayer. She said the story of Joseph Smith's experience with prayer is "beautiful." She said she's excited to learn more and share with her daughter. Awesome. We're praying really hard that she'll be able to progress in the gospel, because her heart is definitely prepared.

"Definitely a good week. It was also tough because we had zero investigators at church, and many, many dropped appointments, but we know that with faith and hard work, miracles are going to happen in this area.

"Hilarious story for the week: we knocked on the door of a person whose name we got from the English-speaking elders. It was for a 15-year-old girl named Elizabeth. She speaks English and Spanish, but her parents only speak Spanish. She answered the door and we explained, in English, who we were. She said, "just a second" and went into the house and started yelling for her mom in Spanish. In Spanish, she said, "there are missionaries here!" Her mom said, in Spanish, "Say something to them!" Daughter, in Spanish: "Should I tell them we're busy and we have stuff to do?" Mom: "Si!" Girl turns back to us and says in English, "sorry, I cant' talk right now, we're about to leave and do something with our family." We then asked her, in Spanish, if we could set an appointment to come back and see her sometime later. Baha, the look on her face when she figured out we speak Spanish and we understood her entire conversation with her mom... priceless :) "

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Thanksgiving week, one month mark

From Jessica's Nov 28th letter.

"Mkay, so this week was definitely a rollercoaster week. On Monday night, we had what felt like unreal success. When I wrote you on Monday morning, we had one investigator with a baptismal date. When I went to bed on Monday night, we had FIVE investigators with baptismal dates. Insane! Inviting people to be baptized is a really special thing. I've never really had experiences quite like it. It's amazing to feel the Spirit of the Lord backing your words up when you invite someone to follow the example of Jesus Christ by being baptized by someone who holds the priesthood authority of God. We had four investigators accept baptismal dates in one night. And on P-day!

"One of them was a lady who we were teaching for the first time.... She very readily accepted baptism, even when we told her about the word of wisdom. She said, "I drink coffee, but I'll just have to start drinking hot chocolate instead." Haha :D Unfortunately, yesterday morning, when we called this lady to see if she was coming to church, she "dropped" us. It was super super super sad. She was prepared, but she said that she can't talk to us anymore because she can't hurt her family by changing religions. Hopefully we will get to talk to her again and address some of those concerns, but for now she's made it pretty clear that she doesn't want to talk with us anymore. Muy triste, but hopefully there's a seed that's been planted there.

"The other three that accepted baptismal dates are a family--[a mother](20) and her husband..., and [the mother's] little brother, (14). They've been invited to be baptized before, but on Monday night they accepted. They're hopefully on track to be baptized on January 1st. We're nervous because they've all of a sudden been a lot less receptive to our efforts to teach them, so we're praying really hard that they'll want to keep moving forward. I'm noticing that Satan works really hard on people who are preparing to be baptized. So I'll keep you posted on them :)

"Tuesday was a great day as well. We got to go to the temple! The Oakland temple is definitely very unique. It's very Polynesian in design. It has teeny tiny cramped staircases, but the ordinance rooms are ENORMOUS. Someone called it a megaplex, and that's a fitting description. It was really nice to go to the temple. I'm really lucky to have arrived here in time for temple week. After the temple we went to the mission office for more new missionary training. We focused on the importance of the doctrine of Christ. My mission president is really a man of God. He's not afraid to tell us where we need to improve in order to be more effective missionaries.

"On Wednesday we had a crazy day. We had a district meeting, which took up most of the beginning of the afternoon, and then Sister Osborn and I had to run to the library to write letters to President Wade. We were stressing out because we were supposed to write them on Tuesday but because of the temple and training we didn't have time. But it worked out great, because at the library, this man came up to us and said, "I'm a brother! I'm a brother!" Turns out he's a member of the church and has been attending different wards in the area because he couldn't find out where the Spanish branch in this area meets. But GUESS WHAT, he totally lives in our area! ... he was baptized about a year and a half ago. We gave him the details for our ward's meeting times and he came on Sunday! It wasn't by chance that we were there on Wednesday writing letters at the same time he was there. I can tell already that he's going to be an asset to the ward. The ward here struggles sometimes because there are not very many men who are active members, and the majority of the ward is made up of very recently baptized members.

"Thursday--Thanksgiving! Oh mannnnnn. What a day. We had three Thanksgiving dinners. Whew! Our first dinner was with the senior missionary couple in our ward. It was straight out of a Norman Rockwell painting--very traditional American turkey-n-stuffing type dinner. Our second dinner was with the Betances family in our ward, and it was "mixed"--mashed potatoes and such with Mexican side dishes and desserts. And then our last dinner--which I wish I could have enjoyed more--was straight up MEXICAN. Loved it! We had this really neat garbanzo bean soup, and tostadas, and beans, and this mango smoothie thing that rocked my world. Unfortunately, by this time, I was literally about to cry because I was so full. And one of the elders that was eating with us WAS crying because he was so full (and because he put too much chili in his soup, haha). The ward members here are fantastic and they take very, very good care of us missionaries. The one thing I missed out on here was pie though. It sounds like you all had a pie party! I was thinking about pie when I was eating Mexican fruit salad. :)

"Other stories from this week--Sister Osborn and I get hit on all the time, it seems. This week a drunk man kept asking us for our phone number. It was pretty funny. We gave him the number for the Oakland Temple Visitor's Center instead. :) Then we had a drunk guy try and get into a Bible battle with us about the words of Paul that say women shouldn't speak in church. A classic. And for the first time, someone literally slammed their door at us! It was kind of cool--like a rite of passage. People here are actually very, very nice, and they're almost never rude when we knock on their door.

"This week it's been really hard to find people to teach, and we feel bad because we feel like we're wasting time when our appointments cancel on us. But like Derek said, you just have to embrace it, give thanks for the opportunity to follow the Spirit and try something new, and then be sensitive enough to the Spirit to know where you're supposed to be when everyone cancels on you. It's a good lesson for me to learn--humility, and reliance on the direction of the Spirit.

"Big miracle this Sunday--we had a brand new investigator unexpectedly show up at church on Sunday. We were discouraged because that morning nobody came to church except our faithful [investigator]. Then, about 30 minutes into sacrament meeting, [a siter] and her two sons showed up for church! It was great! Rachel, you would love this womaan's youngest son. He's 4, his name is Eric, and he is the CUTEST child on the planet! He loved Primary, which is great, because we can tell that the focus on families in the gospel will be key for this brand new investigator and her kids. Such a miracle that she came to church!

"Other highlights of the week--Every day. EVERY. DAY. people think I'm Hispanic. And these are all Hispanic people! Their jaws literally drop when I tell them I'm half Taiwanese! It's really hilarious. Sis. Osborn says it's a blessing though, because people will be more willing to talk to me :D Um, also, our apartment has hormigas (ANTS). We've been battling them this week though, so I think we're good to go. Our house smelled like Raid for a while, but I think it's under control now"

"...I'm unfortunately out of time already. Man, this hour on the computer is the fastest hour of the week! I love you all!"