October 7, 2013

Just do all that you can

Dear Mom,

This week was seriously cool.

Monday was a bit of a gong show. Laundry here is really expensive, but the Elders have a washer and dryer in their apartment! So the Elders offered to leave their apartment on P-day so that we would be allowed to be in there and do our laundry for free. Of course, they wanted to come back before it was done and there was a really funny moment where we were just chilling in their apartment and weren't allowed to come in. We made them cupcakes while we were there though, so I think it was worth it for them. After that, we went to a dinner appointment. It was pretty funny because the sister who fed us kept saying "The missionaries do this", referring to the Elders, and asking us questions like, "Are you going to share a thought with us like the missionaries do when they're here?" I was just like, WE ARE MISSIONARIES. Haha. I wasn't really annoyed because she was being so genuine and sweet about it, so I was mostly just amused. After that, we dropped off some cupcakes for Melissa in order to try to soften her heart. (It didn't really work.) Then we went contacting, but nothing really came of it, so that was kind of an inauspicious start to our week. But it got better!

On Tuesday, we actually had basically all of our lessons cancel. But it was okay, because we went street contacting and walked around all day and talked to 78 people! President Leavitt thinks we need to talk to more people, so he's set a companionship standard of 45 contacts per day. We were pretty blown away when we counted out our pass-along cards at the end of the day. At one point, we realized we were right beside Heather's family's house, so we dropped in on them and had an impromptu lesson. It was really good, in that we taught her 21-year-old daughter for the first time and they all seem to believe in the Restoration, but her husband stayed in his office and we got the definite sense that they were more shaky. We think that they don't want to move forward unless they're all united together, and the more people you add to a group, the harder it is to get them moving. I'm pretty sure they'll be baptized someday, but probably not by the end of October like we planned. After that, we did more street contacting, and we managed to get 5 return appointments in a couple of hours, which was huge progress! This is the first area I've done street contacting, and it's definitely a skill. It was nice to see we were improving. After that, we went to institute, and Brother Cartier was there! It was awesome to see him again.

Wednesday was another unproductive day. We have breakfast/correlation on Wednesday mornings, and then we have to study during the day and it really throws off the whole day. So we went to some appointments that cancelled, and we studied, and had a DA, and did more contacting, and had more appointments cancel. We went knocking in the evening though, and at the end of the evening, seriously at the last house we knocked, a sweet old lady let us in and we did some how to begin teaching. We couldn't really get into the Restoration because it was late and she talked a LOT, but we left her with a pamphlet and we're going back to see her tomorrow, so that's exciting.

Thursday is when the week started to really get awesome. We had district meeting, and Elder Jensen gave a training about doing all we can to achieve our goals. And the Spirit was just like, Sister Olson, stop worrying about if you're doing enough or if you're measuring up to this standard in your mind of "a good missionary" – just do all that you can and then don't worry about it! So I tried to apply that philosophy to the rest of the week, and it was really awesome and also really motivating. It's like, I have less than a year left to do this, why wouldn't I do all that I can in that year? And at the same time, it's not like it should be difficult or expecting too much to do all that I can – that's the definition of all you can, that it's not more than you can do. I don't know. It probably seems pretty obvious, but something clicked in my brain that wasn't connecting and I really benefited from it. After that, we had planned to take lunch with us, but we forgot to pack it, so we decided to use Dad's out-to-dinner birthday present to go to Cora's, a breakfast and lunch place that all the missionaries have raved to me about. Meh. It was okay, but it wasn't exactly fantastic. I got Montreal bagel with lox and capers, which was fun, but I don't know. It was a bit lame compared to all the hype. But it was a really good experience, because it was uptown and so we ended up parking really far away. We were in a hurry, but we street contacted all the way there and back and it just felt AWESOME. There are times where I just LOVE talking to every single person in my path, and there's a part of me in the back of my mind like, "I'm enjoying this? What?" haha. On our way back to the car, we kept contacting and literally the last guy we talked to immediately recognized us as missionaries and was like, "Do you have a Book of Mormon????" really urgently. So we gave him one, obviously, and then he got on a city bus before we could get his contact info!

After that, we went to an appointment with a less-active member. She has depression and hoarding issues, and I just thought, man, I wish we had more time as missionaries so that we could really give her the support she needs. If I were a member of this ward, I'd have time to help her, but we just can't do everything! And then it occurred to me that there are probably members in EVERY ward, including the ones I've been in, that could have benefited from the kind of support I wished I could give now, and I just didn't know they existed because I didn't do my visiting teaching. Repentance moment! Then we had a few appointments cancel again, but it was okay because we still got to talk to people and find new appointments! Then we went to stop in on Carey, another one of our investigators, and she'd read 5 or 6 chapters of the Book of Mormon before leaving it at a client's house! (She's a home care worker). So we gave her another one, and then we decided to knock all the way up to our DA. The whole street was old houses that have been chopped up into duplexes, and this one house was divided by stories. The entrance to #3 was THREE STORIES UP, and you accessed it via these super rickety-looking stairs. Sister Coleman and I had the following conversation: "This is my least favourite thing I've done on my mission so far." "How dangerous do you think this is?" "Let's talk about that AFTER we're on the ground." Haha. Then nobody was home! I left a pass-along card in the door so it wouldn't be for nothing, although I'm honestly not sure I want to pick up an investigator who lives there, haha. Later on in the street, we knocked into an old Jewish lady from France who said we could come back, so that sounds fun. Then we went to our DA. It came out in the conversation that my birthday was the next day, so they put candles in the apple crisp and sang happy birthday, which was sweet. Except the apple crisp didn't really hold candles well, so they kept tipping over, and then at the end the bottom of the candles had melted into it because it was still hot! It was hilarious.

On the way back, I got attacked by a dog, but it was on a leash and the owner got it away before I got hurt, so it's all good. Weirdly, I wasn't even shaken up – I think my first thought was, "Well, I can check that off the list of mission experiences." Hahaha. Then we went to another appointment that cancelled, but I was okay with that because the neighbourhood turned out to be pretty sketchy. After that, we decided to try to buzz into apartment buildings near the university at night, based on the idea that nobody likes us knocking on their doors late at night, but students stay up later. Well, the second apartment let us in without talking to us through the intercom - they just opened the door and let us come to them - and the lady who answered was wearing this huge burqa and my mind was kind of automatically like, "Not interested, next door." But I did the door approach and asked if we could share our message, and she let us in! Her name is Amina and his name is Mohammed. So I'm sitting there trying to start a lesson to a lady in a burqa and a guy named Mohammed, and my brain is totally in panic mode because my comfort zone is WAAAAAAAY on the other side of the planet at this point, haha. Just like, are we allowed to teach Muslims? How do we teach Muslims??? What the heck do I say????? So I said, "I don't know anything about Islam. Tell me about Islam!" Amina's eyes just lit up and she enthusiastically launched into an explanation of her beliefs. Holy similarities, batman! So much of it was true doctrine, and the longer she talked, the more I could see her love for God and her desire to follow him and I was just like, we can't NOT try to teach her. Seriously, how much of a jerk would that make me, she'd come up to me in the Spirit world and be like, "I've tried to follow God all my life, and you KNEW what you had was true, and I invited you into my house and you didn't try your best to tell me!" Yeah, that wouldn't be cool.

So we started trying to teach, and quickly realized that you have to build up a LOT of basic context when you teach non-Christians. So we were teaching and checking understanding and establishing common ground, and at one point she was showing us a verse in the Qur'an, and the version she had was Arabic with the French translation. (They're from French-speaking Africa and their first language is Arabic, turns out their second language is French, and their third language is English.) So she was like, oh wait, sorry, this is French! and Sister Coleman and I said, don't worry, we speak French. Well, up until that point, we thought Mohammed was skeptical and uninterested, but suddenly he started speaking French and it turned out he's VERY interested, he just can't express himself well in English! So we continued teaching, in French this time. At the end of the lesson he basically said, we're open. What's important is finding truth, and if you think you have more truth than what we have, don't leave us in the dark! And I'm just sitting there thinking, "Oh my gosh I'm glad we tried to teach them."

So yeah, those last four paragraphs were Thursday. Haha. On Friday morning, we got a call at the beginning of personal study from the Book of Mormon guy! He wanted us to come over RIGHT THEN, and we were like, can we come at 10? Haha. So we drove all the way uptown and were obviously really excited. Well, we get there, and it quickly becomes apparent that there's something not quite right with him. We sit down with him and his mom, and it turns out he's schizophrenic and clearly not accountable. So there was kind of this awkward moment when we realized that and were just thinking, "What do we do with this?" I was definitely just praying, "Pleeeeeease tell me what you want me to do here, because I have no idea what I'm doing here." He's a really sweet spirit and really just wants to follow God and be healed so he can have a family and raise his children in the gospel. He has a ton of copies of the Book of Mormon and knows it REALLY well – just so clearly not accountable, though! We tried to teach to his mom, but she's a pretty firm Catholic. So we just taught to his needs and tried to give him some comfort and hope for good things to come. I think it really softened his mom to see us just show Christlike love for him and be patient with him while he rambled. After that surreal experience, we went home and did weekly planning, and went contacting for a bit before the ward barbecque/baseball activity. That was pretty fun. Some people brought some non-members, one of whom later came to conference, so that was pretty awesome. The ward sang happy birthday to me, which was really nice, and the Elders gave me a GIANT bag of candy from Bulk Barn, haha. After the activity, we went to stop in on a less-active member. It was a good visit, but it was also sad because it's becoming clear that she's not working on her addictions as much as she says she is, and it's sad to see that happen. Then we went to a lesson with the Elders, because their on-date investigator's wife isn't super receptive and they thought sisters would help. It turned out his wife wasn't there, but it was a really good lesson and it's really inspiring to see the way the Spirit is teaching him and making changes in his life.

Saturday morning, we had a Sisters' conference call, which was really awesome. President Leavitt has set the goal of 50 baptisms by Christmas, and we're all really excited. He also said, "There's an unlimited amount of good we can accomplish in the world if we don't care who gets the credit," and I really liked that because I realized I need to have that attitude more. After that, we had a lesson with a less-active member who basically believes the church is true, but struggles with getting personal revelation from the scriptures and has just gone through a divorce. We've been trying to build her scripture study skills and help her get personal revelation. So our lesson focused on that, and towards the end we were reading Nephi's dream, and we got to the part where the people cast their eyes around as if they were ashamed. She said, "Ha, that's like at a ward activity where everyone swarms the food and then after they eat they realize they were being totally immature about getting the food first." We thought that was pretty funny, but I didn't think anything more of it. Sister Coleman said, "How you do you think that thought relates to your question about whether getting a divorce was the right thing to do?" which was obviously an inspired question because my natural mind was just like, "...whaaaaat?" But it totally led to personal revelation for her and she was so excited! It was a REALLY cool experience. After that, we studied before conference (because the Sister's conference call and lesson were during our usual study time), and then we had to drive the Elders to Value Village to get a VCR as a makeshift cable-to-composite converter. After that, Conference! I love conference. It was awesome. I think I'll just summarize all my conference thoughts later though instead of trying to go by session. In between sessions, we tried to visit all our investigators and follow up on watching conference, but none of them had and none of them did, which was frustrating.

That evening, we taught Mohammed and Amina again, and we brought Sister Hofman, who served a French-speaking mission in Africa and is one of TWO active member families in the area of town they live in. There are no coincidences! It was an AWESOME lesson and it went pretty long, oops. They have so many good questions! We mostly talked about the Plan of Salvation in order to help them understand the importance of Jesus Christ, which is looking like it's going to be an ongoing project throughout our lessons. They were really excited to get an Arabic Book of Mormon. We realized we're going to have to learn to at least recognize some Arabic phrases in order to teach out of it though. Amina is a little more devoted to Islam, whereas Mohammed was like, "I'm Muslim because my parents and my grandparents were Muslim. But I can't trust that - I have to do research." He really wants to find "le bon chemin," as he calls it. They're so wonderful. At the end of the lesson, we explained General Conference and committed them to watch the Sunday sessions, and they didn't even bat an eyelash when I said President Monson is a prophet, which I was super nervous for!

On Sunday we basically just had Conference and not much else got accomplished - we tried to have a member come to a lesson with us between sessions, but she wasn't there. That evening, we went knocking, and it was cold enough that I wore my peacoat and leather boots. And so it begins...

Conference was so great! I loved President Monson's opening remarks about how the commandment to do missionary work is so direct and urgent. The message of Saturday's sessions really emphasized that THIS is the time that the Lord is hastening His work, and we should all be excited by it and involved in it! I also noticed that a LOT of the talks quoted Preach My Gospel word-for-word without explicitly referencing it - clearly they are all studying it regularly! I really liked Sister Stephen's talk about being endowed with priesthood power and magnifying our abilities so that everyone can be blessed. Elder Dubee's talk was probably one of my favourites. I really liked his point about how it's not what we have done or where we have been, but where we are willing to go. I feel like I probably could have worked harder the first six months than I did, and I really feel like the solution isn't to say "Well I'll do my best with the year I have left," but to say, "I'm going to do my best to be a missionary all my life." Elder Bednar's talk was also really great. I liked both his and Elder Hales' almost more for the implicit message than the explicit message - you have all these resources. We have these wonderful commandments. Use everything you have available to you and live the commandments to the fullest! I also liked how bold Elder Bednar was. "I invite you to consider your ways and repent." So great. Elder Uchtdorf's talk was awesome for fairly obvious reasons. I loved his quote "First doubt your doubts before you doubt your faith." Elder Christofferson's talk was great too. I liked the phrase "equal opportunity promiscuity." That made me laugh. And then Elder Nielsen's talk was great, and hilarious! Exclamation point! The prophet really HAS called all of us! Elder Holland's talk was really inspiring and sensitive, which was awesome. And then Elder Ballard's talk! That got me so fired up! First of all, his whole talk was basically the same as President Leavitt's "Pray/look/speak/invite" method of member missionary work, which was cool. And then he told us to talk to everyone, which President Leavitt told us a month ago. And then he said something about "by Christmas" and we have that baptismal goal of by Christmas. SO AWESOME.

Sunday's session seemed to focus more on marriage and less on missionary work, but it was still great, obviously. I really liked "The new morality is actually just the old immorality", and I also really liked Elder Mynes' talk. If I haven't died of a heart attack, my mission obviously isn't that hard. Haha. President Monson's talk was really good too, but mostly I just felt sad that he misses his wife so much. Elder McConkie's talk was awesome. I know he was changing "missionary" to "teachers" and "investigators" to "students," but I just changed it all back to missionaries, hahaha. Elder Hamilton's talk was a really great one about coming to church. I also really liked Elder Vinson's talk when he was talking about the little boy trying to move the rock - "You need to use all your strength to move a rock like that" "I have used all my strength!" "No you haven't. You haven't had my help yet." I think it really illustrates the principle of doing all we can and relying on the Lord at the same time. I also really liked Elder Nelson's talk. When he was talking about revering life in all forms, it made me remember when Ted Germaine died in Cole Harbour and how much good I could see coming out of his death taking so long, and it just really made me think that the Lord is in control of everything, and we don't always see his wise purposes, but they're always there.

I love you all!

Sister Olson

The ridiculously high house

The birthday apple crisp

My attempts to understand learn the names of the books in the Book of Mormon in Arabic

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