October 28, 2013

Missionary Work and Personal Insights

Dear Mom,

No, you didn't tell me that you were putting hardwood in the den. Why hardwood and not cork? (I'm just curious since it's like the only room in the whole house that will be hardwood, and that seems a bit weird to me.)

Monday was a really relaxing P-day, since we'd basically run out of money for the rest of the month and didn't have to do laundry. Sister Coleman caught up on all the letters she's supposed to write, and since I'm no longer getting the correspondence of a new missionary, I took a nap. (I was totally cool with that, because I feel like I'm okay with getting less mail, but naps are becoming more important to me the longer I go without sleeping in. Haha.) After P-day was over, we went to our lesson with Val and took Courtney, one of the members. It was totally awesome. Val was like, "I still have doubts about Joshua Smith being a prophet," and Courtney was like, "Well, I didn't believe it at first either." It was great. (And no, Val can never remember Joseph's first name. It's hilarious.) We had assigned her to read Moroni 10, but it turns out she's dyslexic and it totally didn't sink in at all. So we were reading with her, and at one point she stopped and was like, okay, explain the Smith thing to me again? So we re-taught the First Vision, and afterwards I could tell she was really thinking about it. I almost just kept reading, but instead I decided to ask a followup question. But I had no idea what to ask, so I was just like, "So...do you have any questions or thoughts about that?" She was like, "Yeah, I do actually. I was just thinking to myself, I can believe Jonah was swallowed by a whale, but I can't believe in Joe Smith?" It was a really awesome moment that led to her realizing it was true, and she said, "So what do I do now?" and we were like, "Get baptized on December 14!" It was fantastic! I was SO glad I listened to that subtle prompting and asked what she was thinking about! Right after she accepted baptism, she asked, "Can this help me quit smoking?" and we were like, "Yes! Actually..." and taught an impromptu WoW AGAIN (except we only talked about smoking and decided to teach the rest next time), and she committed to live it. After that, we went to a lesson with Mohammed and Amina. The Hofmanns invited them over for FHE, so we watched some Mormon Messages about the Restoration and the Atonement and played "Button, Button Who's Got the Button?" It was really great. Then we went to contact a referral, but she wasn't interested.

On Tuesday we brought a member to a lesson with Samantha. When we got there, she was all like, "I'm not feeling well," but finally she decided to let us in and "get it over with." Haha. She's a pretty cynical person and I think she's more genuinely interested than she lets on, but I'm still not sure how well this is going to continue to last. We really tried to focus on prayer, reading the Book of Mormon, and why she needs to know it's true and how it can bless her life. We were pretty bold. I'm pretty sure I extended the baptismal invitation like twice. Once in a while I realize I haven't been being bold for a few weeks, and then I try to do that more and it feels awesome. After that, Tuesday was basically the story of successfully bringing members to appointments and all the appointments falling through, which was a bit frustrating since we really want to focus on having member present lessons. They all understood though, which was nice. One of the members gave us a big bag of groceries when we dropped her off back at her house, which was really sweet of her. We had a DA with the Claytons, which went really well. Their kids are SO adorable. After that, we tried to go to a lesson with the Dallings, but they were "sick" (pretty sure they're avoiding us because their oldest daughter is visiting and she's been making fun of it), but that worked out okay, because it turned out that the member we took had her non-member sister visiting with her. So she invited us back to her house to come meet her sister, who is a retired opera singer and is very strong in a non-denominational Christian church she attends in NYC. It was interesting because on one hand, she's SO close to the truth. She's put a lot of effort into studying the Bible and going back to the original Hebrew and stuff, and she kept saying stuff like, "You may not know this, but there are different levels of heaven, and these are who gets to each level..." and we were like, yep! We know! Haha. But it was sad because she really just sees it as this elitist thing, like the Celestial Kingdom is Mensa or something and God only wants to save a select few of us, so of course most people don't know these truths. As opposed to, these truths were lost and needed to be restored so EVERYBODY could be taught them and have the opportunity to return to God. And she "draws a hard line at the Book of Mormon" because of that verse at the end of Revelations, which was frustrating. But it was a really good conversation. I thought it was really interesting how all these things WERE in the Bible, and you CAN still get them from it, but they've just been lost or obscured or distorted.

On Wednesday we had correlation at the Cosman's, as usual, and Brother Cosman kept trying to make Elder Davidsen get all competitive with me about playing the piano, and we were both like, I'm so over it, who cares who plays better? Haha. I was perfectly happy to let him keep playing pop songs the whole time we were waiting for breakfast to be ready. Then we tried to go to a lesson with a potential, but he basically just didn't want to wake up by 11 (even though I specifically asked him if it would be too early when we set up the appointment), so that fell through. So we had studies, since we missed it for correlation, and then went to see a semi-LA RC who is going through some pretty bad health problems. She really just needed somebody to talk to, and I felt kind of bad because spending a long time just chatting isn't really what we do, but she doesn't have a lot of friends in the ward. There are a lot of times where I just think to myself, "THIS IS WHY MEMBER MISSIONARY WORK IS SO IMPORTANT." After that, we went and visited a sweet old lady in the ward whose husband is not a member, and we encouraged her to go to the temple, since she keeps planning on it and then it falls through. She gave us referrals to go see all her kids and invite them to the missionary concert that's coming in November, so that was awesome! After that, we had a DA with the Bishop, and he invited Courtney, one of the students who works at the library. We were kind of teaching her, but then she decided she didn't want to take the lessons just yet, so we just keep in touch. After the DA, we went home, because I started to get really bad stomach pain in the lesson with Sandra and it just kept getting worse all evening. So we called all of our investigators and tried to have contact with each of them, which legitimately took all evening since we had so many of them.

On Thursday I felt better, but I was just FREEZING all day, as if I were back in Newfoundland in March or something. We tried contacting in the Pedway, which is basically like the +15 in Calgary. It was an "experiment," in that we only planned it for half an hour in case it was ineffective and/or we got kicked out. It turned out to be super effective, since there were way more working people and way fewer crazy people than on the streets below, so that was great. Then we went for an LA visit, but she slept through it and didn't answer the door (as we found out later), so we tried a few other "creative" finding ideas that proved that "creative" is sometimes a euphamism for "ridiculous." Haha. I'm torn about thinking of new ways of finding – on one hand, they often turn out pretty dumb, but on the other hand, daytime tracting is totally ineffective anyways, and I think the Lord rewards us for taking thought instead of mindlessly picking streets to knock, and sometimes we hit on something great. So anyways, after that we started doing some knocking, and we got a new investigator on the third door! Her name is Sharon, and she's super nice. She grew up Catholic, but she converted Pentecostal after her life basically fell apart and a Pentecostal pastor prayed with her and everything resolved itself within a week, which was miracle. She believes very strongly in miracles – except for modern revelation. (Sarcastic comment redacted, because I'm genuinely trying to stop that.) We really tried to teach to her needs and got out a lot of concerns about being deceived or God somehow being displeased with her for looking into the church. I find that the two biggest tools Satan uses is teaching people not to ask questions, and giving them the spirit of fear. So we shared 2 Tim 1:7 with her and talked about how God would never want her to be afraid, and clearly that's just Satan trying to keep her from something good, etc. It ended up really well, and we have a lesson with her tomorrow. Then we had dinner, and then we went knocking again, because it's honestly been super effective recently, so we might as well keep doing it. We got a really strong potential out of it, who grew up Catholic but says she's open, but was just taking her daughter to dance. Then we went to the RS Provident Living activity to meet Sister Hofmann's non-member friend, and then we left about halfway through to go to a lesson with Mohammed and Amina. It was pretty awesome. We're about 95% sure Mohammed believes in Jesus Christ now, and we focused a lot on how because our religions have so many similarities, it's the differences that tell us which one is right – whichever difference is true points to the correct religion. And the major difference in our religions is Jesus Christ, and this dream he had where he was supposed to ask us about Christ shows that God wants him to know that Jesus Christ is our Saviour, etc. It was great. Amina's a lot less open though. She's a pretty devout Muslim, and the major barrier we're hitting with her is she believes it would be displeasing to God to even ASK which church is true. We committed her to pray about Islam vs. Mormonism if we'd do the same. Afterwards, Mohammed walked us out to the car, and he asked us to "please help his wife" believe it. He wants us to read the Coran because he thinks that will help convince her. So, that was some fun pondering. We decided eventually that we weren't going to, because whether we do or not isn't the POINT. The point is, we need to be open to following God and getting a personal answer and personal direction for ourselves. (Also, yes, I prayed about whether Islam or Mormonism was right, and the Lord was like, Sister Olson, just go baptize them. I guess the church is true.)

Friday was weekly planning, which was a really good planning session, and then we had a lesson with Phoebe. She said she's been making the effort to read from the Book of Mormon every day, which was awesome, seeing that we nearly dropped her a few weeks ago because she refused to accept anything but the Bible. We were bold with her and really helped her see that she needs to know if it's true, and she accepted the soft commitment to baptism after we read with her in Acts 19 about people who got re-baptized when they received the fulness of the gospel. After that, we had a lesson with Val with the Elders, where they gave her a blessing to quit smoking. She's already doing really well with it, and the blessing was a great experience. Afterwards, she said she felt lighter inside, like a huge weight was lifted off her. It was really awesome because we were able to use that to explain more about the feeling of being cleansed from baptism and how it WILL be different from her previous baptism, because it's done by authority, just like that blessing, which made a tangible difference. I think it's really important for people to really have these experiences where they EXPERIENCE what we're talking about, instead of just understanding it intellectually or believing it because they trust us, but they don't totally understand. We also taught the rest of the Word of Wisdom and committed her to live it, which was great. Then we went to try to see some less-actives, but they were busy, so we went to the Halloween Primary Party since Carey and her kids came, and they'd never met anyone before. We were so excited! She and her kids had SUCH a great time! It was also great because we FINALLY got her address, AND she got to meet a bunch of members, AND we got her into the church building, which really helps people feel more comfortable with coming to church. After that, we went knocking for a bit, but I felt SO sick. The stomach pain was back and it was pretty miserable. I couldn't tell if it was some sort of subconscious stress thing (I didn't FEEL stressed, but I tend to get stressed without noticing I'm stressed), or if I was developing an intolerance to sugar (I only had like 5 pieces of candy, so it wasn't like I'd eaten a ridiculous amount), or if I was getting sick. But I kept knocking, because if it were the last two, then knocking wouldn't make it worse, and if it was stress, then that basically would boil down to not working because I didn't want to work, and that seemed like a bad idea. But I was really glad when we went home, haha. By the time we got home, I was just FREEZING, like I was shivering like never before in my life, even though I could objectively tell it wasn't cold. 

So I went to bed. At 3 in the morning I woke up again, just completely freezing, shivering harder than ever. And I knew I'd feel better if I got up and took some Advil and heated up the rice pack again, but I didn't want to, because then I'd be all the way awake and it was colder outside my bed. And as I'm lying there for about 15 minutes just keeping myself in misery, all I could think about was, "This is just like our non-progressing investigators. The solution to their problems is totally within reach, but because it requires some initial sacrifice and effort, they're rather just keep themselves in spiritual darkness and suffer." Then I finally thought, well if it's the right thing for them to do, then it's objectively the right thing for me to do. So I got up, and as I went back to bed feeling all nice and warm from the hot pack, I thought, "This is like the Holy Ghost they'd experience if they'd make the right choice." Then I thought, "I think I've been on my mission for too long." Haha.

I still felt super sick on Saturday, but whereas usually my mind feels really foggy when I get that sick, my mind felt completely clear, and so I didn't really feel incapacitated enough to not go out working. So we went to visit Heather, one of the less-actives we're working with. It was a really great lesson where we uncovered some of her deeper concerns and also encouraged her to get her patriarchal blessing. After that, we had lunch and then we went to Rockwood Park to go contacting, except it was only like 5 degrees, so instead we drove around all the roads surrounding it until we stumbled upon a dog convention thing, where there were enough people to talk. Then we stopped by the Dallings and Samantha, but neither of them were available, so we went to the university to make posters for a family history workshop that's coming up as a finding activity. After that, we got picked up by the Hofmanns to drive out to Fredericton for Stake Conference. They had to go early for leadership meetings, so we worked on the area book, prepared a musical number for Zone Conference, walked to Subway for dinner, and did some street contacting in Fredericton. Pretty much everyone we talked to was like, "I already got one of those cards" or "We just met missionaries from your church the other day," so we were like, good job Fredericton missionaries! Then we had the adult session, which was really great. One of the ward mission leaders talked about how the #1 thing we can do to be unified as members and missionaries is to be worthy of the Spirit, and how in D&C it talks about how missionary work will increase our faith and help us be forgiven more easily, so trying to do missionary work actually helps you become more worthy AND then you get the Spirit so you can do MORE missionary work. There was also a really great thought about how sometimes Satan tries to tempt us by convincing us to serve in the way WE want to serve, instead of the way the Lord needs us to serve. And Sister Leavitt gave a really great talk about being a mediocre member vs. really trying our best. I realized this morning that I was a totally lame member before my mission, haha. Seriously though, it's so easy to think that because you're keeping all the obvious commandments, you're doing all you have to, when really you're not magnifying your callings or serving others or doing MISSIONARY WORK, which is totally a commandment. I heard a quote from one of the other missionaries (who couldn't remember which prophet said it and it might not even be a real quote), which was basically, "A lot more members of the church are going to the Terrestrial Kingdom than they think they are." Haha. Whether or not it's a real quote, it really got me thinking about how it says in D&C 76 that the Terrestrial Kingdom is people who "weren't valiant in the testimony of Jesus," and how when we live our lives just turned inwards and really being selfish, even if we're not trying to be selfish, but we just genuinely aren't trying to serve others and bring them to God, we're living a very Terrestrial life. Which is basically one of the reasons I came on a mission, is that I knew on some level that I needed to learn to have more of a missionary mindset than I did. I just can't believe sometimes how much I was missing out on before and how I genuinely didn't see it in myself. And then sometimes I have this moment where I think "I'll be glad when I can go home and do X selfish thing want to do," and then I'm like, yep, not ready to go home yet. Haha.

We stayed at the Fredericton sisters' apartment on Saturday night and went to the regular session on Sunday, which was also really great. I was feeling better by then, just really tired, and I could tell I'd been sick because basically every talk made me tear up, which is unusual, haha. It was a really good Stake Conference though. It just continued to emphasize to me how important selfless service is in becoming like Christ and returning to God, and how the reason some of us were born into the Church is because we're given the responsibility to share the gospel. There are so many people out there who the Lord knows how to approach, and everyone can be reached by someone. But if we never open our mouths and try, then how will we know who they are? And when it really comes down to it, the work is going to happen either way. We just have the choice of whether to be a part of it or not. We certainly won't be hinderance, because the Lord won't let us. He could do this work all by Himself, but He refuses to do so because He wants us to take responsibility and fulfill the covenants he's made. I think we so often think of whether we're keeping our covenants by the quantifiable things, like the temple recommend questions and either you're drinking coffee or you're not, or either you paid 10% tithing or you didn't, or either you come to church or you don't. And we forget all that's contained in "sustaining our leaders" or "sacrifice" or "living the gospel." Like, how many leaders think they're sustaining their leaders, but just shrug off the Work of Salvation as "That's not my responsibility; that doesn't apply to me."

I've also found myself thinking a lot about how serving my mission is going to bless my children. I just really feel like it's going to bless them. The Stake President told a great story about Jesse Knight (who the JKB is named after and who saved the Church from financial ruin), and how faithful his mom was and how unselfish she was, and Jesse went less-active, but she was assured by the Lord he's come back, and he did, and became a huge force for good in the Church. And he was just talking about how when we live faithfully and do all we can, we can't even BEGIN to imagine the blessings it leaves our posterity. And I was just studying about all the blessings of missionary work, like increased faith and prosperity and forgiveness and testimony, and I was thinking about how I really want my home to be a member missionary home so that it can be this additional spiritual fortification for my kids. And I know I'd never have the desire or skills to have a member missionary home if I hadn't come on a mission.

After Stake Conference, we came home and decided to really take stock of the LA's, so we called every single one of them that we hadn't met yet. A lot didn't answer, but we got some great experiences out of it. One lady was like, "I've just retired and I'm looking for service opportunities." So we invited her to an upcoming RS service project, and she's so excited! Service is probably the most under-utilized way to bring people into the church. When people are prosperous and happy, they don't realize they need the Church. We know it, but when we tell them, they don't believe us. But when we ask them to serve, and tell them the Church needs them, they're happy to be needed, and then the Light of Christ shows them that they DO need to serve, and they can fill that need here. And then they realized they need the Church. And THEN they're open to all the other doctrine and realize why they need the Church. Service is really so great, but it's really something that depends so much more on the members or the missionaries. We can't ask non-member friends to serve in little ways like helping with an activity or something, and we can't spend all our time organizing service projects. But if the members seek out non-Church service opportunities, and then invite the service-minded people they meet there to Church service opportunities, great things happen!

After that, we had a DA with a really great member family, and then we taught Val. It was a really good lesson. It's great to see her receiving personal revelation on what's going on in her life. She's just so straightforward and tells us her concerns and then we resolve them. I wish more people would do that. Then we had a lesson with Mohammed and Amina, which wasn't so great. Amina's basically hit this roadblock where she believes it's forbidden in Islam to pray and ask God like she needs to. And then meanwhile, we need to focus on Mohammed as well so his testimony builds instead of dwindles. We had some great moments at the end though where we bore our testimony of the Book of Mormon and getting a personal witness from God, but overall we were a bit frustrated when we came home. It's okay though, because at least now we feel like we know exactly what the challenges are so we can prepare for them.

Sister Olson

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