"And now it came to pass that after I, [Sister Gillespie] , had made an end of speaking to [Chuck], behold [he] said unto me: Thou hast declared unto us hard things, more than we are able to bear. And it came to pass that I said unto them that I knew that I had spoken hard things against the wicked,according to the truth; and the righteous have I justified,and testified that they should be lifted up at the last day;wherefore, the guilty taketh the truth to be hard, for it cutteth them to the very center.
Tuesday, June 28, 2016
That title describes my last Tuesday; it is not categorizing young woman with wood roaches and rats. Last Tuesday we helped a ward member clean out her garage for four hours. We started at 8 and it was already 85 degrees when we started. Her garage very desperately needed to be cleaned out. She had two specific reasons why she finally decided to get it done though: they're going out of town this week and they needed to make the lawn mower easily accessible to the young man who agreed to mow their lawn while they're gone, and they're garage door is broken so they needed to make room for someone to come and fix it. Her garage was INSANE! They moved to Texas 3 years ago and had been living in California for 4 years before that and were originally from Utah. Some of the boxes in her garage had been packed when they moved from Utah and never opened in between. Her mother and I tried to convince her that since she hadn't opened ANY of the boxes in AT LEAST 3 years that they could all be thrown out but she wouldn't have it. So we had to go through all the boxes. It was four very laborious hours filled with silverfish, wood roaches, and petrified rats (I'm not kidding; the rats were stiff and dry) but we worked miracles on that garage even though there are still about 20 unopened boxes. When they get back from vacation we'll finish the garage and they'll actually be able to park cars in there. What a novel concept! I found the hard labor quite enjoyable though; I just love purging and organizing.
Then that evening we went on splits with the Laurels in the ward. Sister McCleery saw Chuck with her two girls, and I and my two girls and they're leader saw Anna Maria another one of our investigators. She's also been struggling with the Word of Wisdom but we found out just yesterday that she made it through the whole weekend without drinking! It's AMAZING! She usually doesn't drink much during the week; it's the weekend that lots of family and friends come hang out at her place and drink and she struggles to say no. But she not only said no to them this weekend but also LEFT because they were drinking so they couldn't ask her another time and have her possibly cave. We told her how amazing and just gave her lots of encouragement because we know she can do this.
Sunday we had 4 investigators in church. Chuck, Anna Maria, Steven, and Rodrigo. It's really interesting. For the longest time we've been thinking of Chuck as our most progressing investigator because he wants us to come every day and he comes to church each Sunday. But Chuck is more converted to Sister McCleery and I than the message of the Gospel. He likes the message but hasn't truly been applying it in his life; he doesn't really want to allow the Gospel to change him. Which is entirely what the Gospel is about: Repentance which means to change and become closer to God. So whenever we call him out on something that he's been lying to us about because he wants to please us, I feel like Nephi talking to Laman and Lemuel in 1 Nephi 16: 1&2
Sister McCleery and I have been talking a lot about that last line this week. Because there's two ways that the guilty react. When we're told something we're guilty of it hits us and it seems hard but we can either recognize it and something that we therefore need to change or become angry at the speaker. So, for the past month we've been putting a lot of time and energy into Chuck thinking that he was progressing because he knew and understood more and wanted to see us more than our other investigators. But Anna Maria, and Steven, and Rodrigo hear the hard things and are truly trying to be better.
This gospel which starts with faith and repentance and is a continual repetition of faith and repentance is about hearing the hard things and working on it. So those who are hearing the hard things and progressing in that change (though it may be gradual) are the ones who are truly progressing in the gospel instead of someone who might just be progressing in the missionary lessons.
Yeah, it kind of hit us rather hard this week.
Hope everyone is doing well
Special shout out to Colin who is now in Utah and officially starting a new phase of life. And to Mom and Dad who have now officially become empty nesters.--
Missions are supposed to be the "most" two years: most rewarding, most frustrating etc etc. Apparently I don't complain enough about my mission because Mom was wondering about the mosts. So let me wax poetic about the weather here: it's hot.
Seriously, even some of the people who have lived here forever and try to tell you it's not that hot are admitting that no it definitely really is rather hot here. I think they don't really acknowledge it the rest of the year because they don't stick around for the heat. Everyone LEAVES Texas for their summer vacations. Somebody told us the other day that the heat index placed the weather at 106 degrees the other day. 😨 A lot of people have wood fire grills the scent of which make me desperately want to go camping, lots of people have horses which I don't get to ride because it's against white handbook rules, and the mosquitos have eaten me alive. But really, aside from that there isn't much that I would complain about and none of those are real problems.
Sister McCleery is doing just fine. We had a rather eventful week despite her being out for half of it. Her surgery was Wednesday and we got a member to drive us to it and hang out with me while we sat around waiting. She was just the tiniest loopy after the surgery.
We got her back to the apartment with no incident and as I handed her a pain pill she told me that I'd need to hide the keys, phone, and the rest of the painkillers... what?! Yeah, apparently her family has a tendency to react a little crazily to painkillers and that she might try to steal the keys and run away... okaayyy.... She didn't, but I was kind of looking forward to it.
For the rest of the week she slept at various ward members houses while I went out with a recently returned sister missionary on Thursday and with the Manvel sisters on Friday. So the only investigator we really saw much of this week was Chuck who is still doing good and progressing toward his baptismal date of July 14 (he chose it. It's his birthday).
One of our other investigators came to church again this week - that makes three weeks in a row. Our Gospel Principles class on Sunday was about baptism so we really want to sit down with him this week and talk about what's keeping him from baptism and what we can do to help him.
Yeah, so not much happened in Friendswood Second this week but it's been safe and I've been fun 😉
Love you all,
Be the person your dog thinks you are,
Sunday, June 19, 2016
This weekend was the Friendswood Stake Conference. We had THREE investigators there! One of them of course was Chuck who has come pretty regularly since we started teaching him and he absolutely loves church. But, he said he didn't care for stake conference because he said it felt too much like a board meeting and that none of the speakers had enough time to talk. We also had a former investigator there who we've been picking up. He's been struggling with A LOT so he reached out to us because he wants that really strong moral compass in his life. He had just told us Saturday that he didn't see himself joining any church anytime soon but a talk on Sunday made him decide that he wanted to work towards becoming a member. Our third investigator is another former investigator who's a single father and there were a lot of things said about fatherhood and how reading the Book of Mormon in the home helps you build up your household and your children. He definitely went away thinking about a few things.
Elder Foster of the Seventy came for a mission tour this weekend. He spoke to all of the leaders in the mission and their companions (e.g. Sister McCleery and I because she's an STL) on Thursday and then all the other missionaries on Friday. It started at 9 but Sister McCleery and I had agreed to join a small choir to sing a special musical number during the conference and they asked us to be there at 7:30 to practice for it. And the building is about an hour and a half away so we left Friendswood at around 6 in the morning. The conference was done at 2 and then there were a couple extra meetings for just the leaders while all the companions hung out in the gym so we didn't get back to our area until 5 in the evening. It was a super good conference with him though. He talked about the Lord's vision for us. It's amazing, when we truly think about it, how truly miniscule we are compared to the whole of God's creation and despite his creation being numberless to us we are so very important to him. "They are numbered unto me, for they are mine." ~Moses 1:37 I really like what Ammon says about this realization in Alma 26:37 Now my brethren, we see that God is mindful of every people, whatsoever land they may be in; yea, he numbereth his people, and his bowels of mercy are over all the earth. Now this is my joy, and my great thanksgiving; yea, and I will give thanks unto my God forever. Amen."
There were also a lot of thought provoking things said at stake conference this weekend. The first speaker talked about in Luke 6 how multitudes pressed forward to touch the Savior some to be healed but some - he posited - simply to touch him. So he asked "What do you need to be healed of? OR What will you approach the Savior for?" He then said "I promise ou that the Lord can heal you of anything that ails you and keeping the Sabbath day holy is the way that we can approach the savior to be healed."
I'm sorry this email doesn't have much about what we did this week. I feel like not that much happened but I learned so much at the conferences. The email will probably be even shorter this week because Sister McCleery is going to have a surgery this Wednesday and then she'll be in recovery for, probably, the rest of the week so I'll only be able to get out and work when I find both a member for her to stay with and a member for me to go out with. The surgery is going to be a very minor surgery so don't worry but say some prayers for Sister McCleery that she can stop being so worried. Don't tell anyone (I say to the masses of people this is going out to) but she's been having some worst case scenario nightmares. So any good prayers and/or vibes you can send this way would be appreciated.
Have safe and be fun!
God Bless Y'all
Don't worry too much.... maybe worry a little. We see roadkill armadillos around here all the time (we've yet to see a live one and sister McCleery has been out almost a year). But everyone will tell you: "don't touch the armadillos; they can carry leprosy and it can transfer to humans." Well... isn't that a fun thought. It's something we've been rather dismissive of but one of our investigators has a sister who has something wrong with her leg and we're 20% convinced that she touched an armadillo and got it. But, if you're going to worry about me, you should worry about the mosquitos. They're pterodactyls down here. So I want all of you to be praying that they decide to include the Texas Houston South Mission in the missions where sisters are allowed to wear dress pants.😜
Something interesting I came across while I was preparing for a talk on baptism for a district meeting. On the mission, our commission is to "Teach repentance and baptize converts." Did you know that's the final commission that Christ leaves with his apostles? Matthew 28:19 says "Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost." And as we fulfill that commission of the Lord, he'll be "with you always." I know I've felt his presence in my life while I've been out here.
The Sabbath was great yesterday. We started the day by going to PEC where I wrote down a quote from the Bishop that I thought was funny: "Thou shalt not do that." I thought it was funny but I think it's a really great way of summarizing the 10 commandments. The people weren't ready for the next step of God's law so he had to give rules to the house of Israel the same way we give them to children - in essence - "thou shalt not do that." But as we grow and progress the thou shalt's change. They become "thou should be's." The Lord wants us to make good choices in our life. Choices that help us become the person we're capable of being. And the first counselor spoke about how "The Lord has a system that produces predictable results. The cool thing about the system is that it works on imperfect people like us ... like me."
And in Sunday school we talked about repentance. And Sister Ellis had a wonderful comment "Like water, in life things that stand still become stagnant. So, I'm thankful that the Lord stirs me up." It's so true. And I'm thankful the Lord has given us a way to clear the waters, to progress, to release weights that burden us. In third hour, we went over President Uchtdorf's priesthood session talk (https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2016/04/in-praise-of-those-who-save?lang=eng). I really enjoyed it but something that really stuck out to me was when the scripture was quoted "charity never faileth." And for a second I thought, I don't know about you but it's pretty hard to be filled with charity all the time so obviously it's not perfect. But then I thought charity never faileth doesn't mean that we never fail at having charity; it means that charity is the solution to almost every problem we have in this life. If we have true christ-like love in every situation and for every person, the problems we face in life cease to be problems.
Our investigator Chuck got his paycheck on Friday. He payed all of his bills and was left with some (what he calls) walking around money. He told us previously that he was worried about that. He knew he'd spend it on alcohol. He did. We were disappointed; not in him but for him. But we had a great member there with us when we taught him a lesson yesterday who has also been overcoming addiction. And he said many encouraging things, mainly that repentance is there because we mess up and as we continue to repent it becomes easier and the mistakes become fewer. But like I talked about previously, some people think they run out of chances to repent. But I liked what our member said "I can repent as many times as I mean it."
Oh, by the way, we had THREE investigators in church!!! That's a record. We've been really busy these past couple of weeks but the work's been great.
Hope y'all have a great week too
And it came to pass, on the Friday of this the fourth week of the fifth month of the year 2016, that I did learn of The Book of Miracles which was a record of both humor and faith which had been previously kept by the people of the Friendswood District. And, recognizing that the workmanship thereof was good, determined to create a similar record which might be comparable. This new record will contain, as did the Book of Miracles, the curious and plain workings of God in the lives of those missionaries who were faithful and strove to be obedient to the laws of the mission with exactness.
And it was pleasing to me that I might begin this record with a summary of those miracles which had already occurred so that my people might recognize those miracles which seem small and simple to the eyes of man.
Therefore, this record doth commence in the time of the teaching of Chuck the son of Foshee. Now Chuck being a man of many years, therefore being taught somewhat in the learnings of the Witnesses of Jehovah, did seek again to study the words of the Lord with those Witnesses of Jehovah who had once taught him. Thus he cried mightily unto the Lord that they might return.
How great was his astonishment, he being drunken with strong drink, to discover the stratagem of the Lord. For he had no sent unto him Witnesses of Jehovah but Saints of the Latter Days.
So, yeah. Apparently a while back the districts passed around "The Book of Miracles" at the end of every transfer so that they could all write their stories in biblical language. But it got lost somewhere along the way and was just rediscovered this week. We decided we'd pass it around again. This is a portion of what we've decided to put in the book for the Friendswood 2nd area. But I've also decided that it'd be fun to keep my own personal record every week or so and call it the Small Book of THSM.
Sorry that I forgot to tell y'all, this week p-day is on Tuesday because yesterday was Memorial Day and they always shift p-days on holidays.
This last week we also found a new investigator. He's a young man who's a family friend of a less-active family. The parents have recently become more active but they want us to come share messages with them and their son. We went over Sunday evening, only the mom was home at first but as we were sharing the message with her her son and this young man came in and something we said really struck him and he asked us to come back and teach him more. We've been able to see and teach him twice this week with the less-active son and that's been great for both of them. The investigator is able to have the ease and comfort of learning with a friend and we're able to share these lessons with the less-active without him shutting us down because he "already knows this." We've witnessed both of them being touched by the spirit this week.
We had to teach two lessons in church this week. The Primary president asked us to share the message of the restoration in sharing time since it was the last Sunday of the month and the theme this month was the Gospel of Jesus Christ has been restored. It was amazing! I want to be called to primary when I get home. I think because children are so innocent the spirit is able to be in the room especially strong. I felt it teaching me the message of the Restoration as I shared it. That lesson had been planned for. What hadn't been planned for was that Sunday's relief society teacher coming in just before sacrament meeting and handing me papers for the lesson on Tithing and asking me to teach because she was too sick. It ended up going really well though. There were a lot of great testimonies and experiences that people shared. I liked one comment in particular. "God has asked us to tithe from the very beginning. Literally, it's in the book of Genesis. But does God need money? If God doesn't need money than the law of tithing isn't for him; it's for us."
Also, SHOUT OUT to Kasey and Miranda. I hope you enjoyed your visit through Galveston and liked the McGuinness family. Thank you so much for the package. It was almost literally everything I had been contemplating buying but decided not to buy because what I had would make do. It was super exciting and uplifting.
Yesterday was Memorial Day and we shared a message around "Greater love hath no man than this" and talked about the freedom that we've received from the sacrifices of others and how it's a similitude to the Savior's ultimate sacrifice and the complete freedom he's granted us in doing so. It was an amazing day.
May we all remember the sacrifice of others and remember to share our love for others by sacrificing a little bit of ourselves each day to do what the Lord would ask of us.
God Bless Y'all
Well, the votes are in and...
Sister McCleery and I are still companions in the Friendswood II ward! And since last transfer had an extra week due to the 2 week to 3 week adjustment in the MTC, at the end of this transfer she'll have the record for the longest stretch of time that any missionary in the Texas Houston South Mission has spent in one area. She's really excited. So are many members in the ward.
This Tuesday I had to give a 7 minute talk/lesson on asking people for referrals. This left me repenting a lot because sister McCleery and I aren't very good at remembering to ask everyone we talk to for referrals. Specifically, we talked about asking the "who do you know who ... ?" questions (e.g. who do you know who recently had a baby? who do you know who recently lost a love one?). In the scriptures it's often stated that someone can't receive the Gospel until they have humbled themselves. These questions help us find those who have been recently humbled; they help us find those who are prepared to hear the message. What the questions have in common is they are all seeking people who have recently had life changing experience. A change in somebody's life is like a spiritual earthquake that leaves people on shaky ground looking for something solid. The Gospel and more specifically Christ is the Rock of our Salvation. He IS the solid ground of life. Members often won't refer someone to us because they think their friend isn't ready or isn't someone who can use the gospel. These questions help our members to see who may be more prepared then they think.
Wednesday we had another exchange with Baybrook. I took over the Friendswood area for the first time since I got here. It went really well. Most of our appointments fell through but what the sister from Baybrook really needed was help to see how easy it is to talk to everyone we see. So every time that an appointment fell through we'd just park the car and walk around the neighborhood. Then the very next day I went on an exchange to Galveston! It was SO MUCH FUN! I was with Hermana Flores who happened to be the person I sat next to on the flight into Houston. I met their investigator (who just got baptized this last Saturday). His name is Billy Sapp and he wanted to make sure I knew and that I'd tell everyone back home that I now knew the coolest guy in the US. He's very very hood and it's very very entertaining. The funnest part of that day however is that we were biking in buckets and buckets of rain. It was a crazy thunderstorm and we even got a tornado warning on our phone. Listening to the spirit is really important for a missionaries safety. When we got the tornado warning we discussed it and decided that we needed to continue working but an hour later we looked at the sky and the spirit yelled at us to go home. Oh man! On the way home the lightning kept getting closer and closer. When we were a mile away from the apartment we heard a particularly harsh crash of thunder that indicated that bold was only a mile away.
I felt that day that I had had the true missionary experience. We were absolutely soaked. My dress which had previously been green was so wet it looked black. One thing I can say for optimism. I've seen quite a few different people out on my mission. A lot of them face horrible trials and challenges. Some of them are murmurers. Like Laman and Lemuel they look at everything bitterly and ask "why?" and think "I don't want to" and "but it's hard" and like Laman and Lemuel this attitude only serves to make them more angry and bitter and as they fill their lives with those feelings they aren't open to the communications of God through the Holy Ghost. Others roll with the punches. When something isn't working right in their life they say alright, I'll try doing something else and you lead me as I go Heavenly Father. I'll follow you and I'll trust in your plan and your timing. Essentially it's about hope and faith in the Lord. Those who have that hope, faith, and trust (what some people might call optimism) look like everything is going right in their life simply because they find a way to always be happy. Others seem to have things going catastrophically wrong in their life all the time because they see life that way. As Hermana Flores as I pedaled furiously through that thunderstorm on Galveston, we were laughing. When we got back into the apartment and wrung out our wet clothes we were joking about the weight of them. I paused for a second and expressed to her how happy I was that where other people might have found misery in the situation, I had found joy and energy to continue.
There's a lot more I wish I had time to tell everyone this week but we went to the temple today and did two sessions (4 hours) so I'm short on time. I pray that each day as you face challenges that you have the strength to pause and look to find the joy in it.
I love you all and pray for your peace, happiness, and safety this week.
I had a fairly interesting week for a number of reasons.
An interesting theme was popping up this last week in my scripture studies and discussions with potential investigators that we just started talking to on the street: the last days/the end times/the second coming. I mean, it wasn't the main focus of this week or anything but it was popping up a lot. Especially as it ties to things that are occurring in the middle east right now. I don't really know how to sum it all up very succinctly but what's stood out to a lot of the people that we've talked to and a lot of the things I've been studying are the gathering of the house of Israel, the parable of the olive-tree, and the last shall be first the first shall be last. We know that the Gospel was first given to the Jews(last) by Christ and then to the Gentiles(first) by the apostles and that in the last days the Gospel will be given to the Gentiles (Restoration/first) and when the Gentiles become to wicked and begin to reject it, the house of Israel will once again be taught(last). An investigator we found just last night was telling us about all the people that he's in contact with in the middle east and how thousands of Muslims are converting to Christianity everyday over there. It really all just kind of struck me last night that we truly are living in the latter days.
We went up to Sugar Land twice this week. Once on Monday for a doctors appointment and then again on Tuesday because we had a Zone Conference and the mission office. We had a mission vehicle rep come from Salt Lake to check all of our vehicles during the Conference but it took a while so quite a few companionships were stuck in Sugar Land for quite a while after. Sister McCleery and I had a planned exchange right after to I was able to leave to Silverlake by 4:30 but apparently Sister McCleery and Sister Hunter weren't able to leave until about 6.
The Zone Conference was SOO good. One of the things that really stuck out to me was a lesson we had on being equally yoked. You know Christ says "Take my yoke upon you...for my yoke is easy and my burden is light." I think often times when in Sunday school we've talked about that scripture they teach you that you're yoked with Christ and so he pulls your burden. OH HO HO! NOT SO! Christ/his Grace is the yoke. So who are you yoked with? And what can his yoke do for you? An ox by itself can pull 8000 pounds. So two oxen can pull 1600 when yoked together right? Wrong again! They can pull 2400 pounds together. That's what Christ does for us. We have to work and he magnifies our work but we aren't supposed to work alone. You're always meant to work with someone. Whether it's your spouse, your family, or your ward, you all have to pull together and when you pull in unison the yoke is able to work and magnify what you do together. Christ's burden is the work of the church and "[the Lord's work] is still work, but in it we find rest to our souls." I just thought it was a really amazing lesson.
The exchange went great as well. Guess who I was on exchange with in Silverlake... SISTER LOVERIDGE. That's right, my MTC companion. It was definitely fun getting to work with her again even though we didn't get much time to work together since the conference went so long.
We got a new investigator this week! And not only that, he's chosen a baptismal date and he came to church yesterday!! It's miraculous!! Someone else that came to church is Cheyenne's (our 9 year old recent convert) little sister Sissy who's 8. She loved it and their mother loves that they're going to church and says that she's going to come with them next week. So say your prayers and cross your fingers because they have a lot of potential and we really love them. We love everyone we meet (even the drunk Hispanic men who yell at the white ladies walking toward their house and make inappropriate comments... boy was that one a character).
Things are going awesome out here! Next week Sister McCleery and I find out if either of us are getting transferred. She's desperately wants to stay in Friendswood another transfer but she's been here her whole mission and she's over half way through so she's not expecting to stay. But you'll all get to know next Tuesday when I email.
Love you all and God Bless