November 25, 2013

Lessons and Learning

Dear Mom,

Whaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaat is that about scholarships?! Seriously, what the heck? Considering that over half the church is "international" now.... On the other hand, I guess it is true that it's more difficult to predict how international students will perform at university because education standards are so different all over the world, so they probably looked at who keeps their scholarships and who doesn't, and if a lot of internationals are losing their scholarships after freshman year, it would seem to imply that they shouldn't have gotten them in the first place. It's impossible to have a completely fair standard no matter what you do. And I guess there are a limited number of 4-year scholarships anyways, and when you consider the low percentage of international students, it won't actually affect too many people. My scholarship is still good, right?

On to my week...

Monday was SO RAINY. OH MY GOODNESS. It was RIDICULOUSLY windy and SUPER rainy, so we basically tried to stay inside as much as possible during P-day, which made for a pretty slow day. We made a big thing of shepherd's pie and ate that all week whenever we didn't have DA's, since one of the members gave us a bunch of canned vegetables and the last sisters left a big thing of instant mashed potatoes. It turned out pretty good. After P-day, we had an appointment cancel on us, so we drove around to try potentials and less-actives. We were walking from our car to Veronica's house to stop in on her, when Sister Coleman stopped these three random guys on the street to talk to them. They did NOT look like the type to be receptive, but we actually ended up having a long and super good conversation with them and set up an appointment with one guy, Jeremy, for Wednesday! Then we had a lesson with Muzammil, which was great as usual. We brought Courtney, and we ended up getting on a really interesting tangent about treating scriptures respectfully. In Islam they're super hardcore about it, like not touching the Coran with unwashed hands, or putting it on the sofa or on the ground, and keeping it in a shelf high above the ground apart from secular books. And Courtney used to be 7th Day Adventist, and a lot of Christian churches really frown upon putting another book on top of the Bible. So he was like, "Why do you put your scriptures on the ground?" and we were like, "Because there's no room on the couch?" But it made me think about how we show respect for God's word and such, and it was really interesting.

On Tuesday during personal study, we got a phone call from some random person saying she'd received our card in her door and she was interested! It was crazy! We set up an appointment, but then she called back and cancelled because something came up. But we got her name and address, and I realized that she lived at the same address of a former investigator Sister Lewis and I had tried to stop by on exchanges last transfer. Nobody was home, but I felt impressed to leave a card in the door. So that was pretty cool. More on how that unfolded later. So we went out looking for less-active members nobody knew anything about, and discovered quite a few wrong addresses, but also got a potential out of it. Then we stopped in on Sister Kennedy, an LA, and during that the Elders called and asked us to come to Sister Neilsen's to give her a blessing. After that, we were supposed to have an appointment with Leslie and Sam, but they fell through, so we went street contacting, and while we were having a conversation with this one guy, a young mom and her little daughter stopped, and I could tell they were waiting to talk to us, which was actually a bit stressful because this other guy would NOT wrap up the conversation. But we finally got to talk to her, and it turns out she's a less-active member and wants to come back to church! And then went to a lesson with Barry. He gets off on really long tangents and it's a bit frustrating to teach him, but we left him with some more commitments to ponder and pray over things and tried to guide the lesson as much as possible. After that we had dinner, and then we had a lesson with Val and Sister Hofmann. It was a really good lesson – we just taught keeping the Sabbath Day Holy, and it's kind of cool once in a while to just have a lesson where everything just goes according to plan and everything. After that we went knocking, which was pretty average.

Wednesday was correlation. The Elders were sick at the last minute, so we went up to Brother Cosman's without them and had breakfast with his family. He made us eat our portions AND the Elders' portions because he doesn't like to waste food, so I was pretty full. We called the Elders on speakerphone for the correlation part. After that we went to the church to study, and then during lunch we went to try and get the coat, but they didn't have my size and I was pretty bummed out about it. But they said to keep checking back, since they get new stock every day. After that, we went to Sandra's and had a lesson with her based on the 6th lecture on faith, which is the one about faith and sacrifice that President Leavitt has been really big on recently. Then we went to the mall to find out if they'd let us set up a free family picture booth for Christmas (so we could meet families) but they already had things like that that they wanted people to pay for, so that was a no. After that we contacted a referral, who said we could come back, which was great, and went knocking before our dinner appointment. She'd had a crazy day and part of the meal included french fries, which she felt super bad about, which I always think is funny. Members (at least out here) seem to have this pride thing where they feel like they have to make us really high-quality meals. (But I'm not complaining, because members who don't feel that way feed us some pretty weird stuff.) Then we picked up Andrea, who is a senior in high school, to come to a lesson with Jeremy with us. He's agnostic and doesn't really have a lot of confidence that he can know truth, but he's also open and had great questions about what we had to say. We committed him to read and pray and he accepted. Then later that night, he texted us saying he read and prayed and "didn't think it was for him," so we talked with him a bit about how you can't expect to just go from not believing in anything to having faith in a couple of hours, and managed to prevent him from dropping us. Then that night, I was thinking about the last couple of lessons we'd taught, and I noticed that I was hesitating to testify of the Book of Mormon and praying to get an answer, because I've never really had that experience. Like, obviously I've had plenty of spiritual experiences, including some reading the Book of Mormon, but no matter how many times I pray about it, I've never just gotten an answer like that. So I prayed that night and basically said, look, I really need to have this experience so I can teach these people. And then I asked, "Is the Book of Mormon true, is Joseph Smith a prophet, and is this Church your Church?" And before I could even finish the question, the Spirit just hit me like "YES! FINALLY!", almost as if Heavenly Father was like, "I've been wanting you to ask with enough faith for AGES." Because I think that was the problem – I already believed it was true and I was perfectly happy to continue in the gospel no matter if I got an answer or not before, which is great obviously, but if I was just asking for the sake of asking, that wasn't a good enough reason to give me an answer.

On Thursday, we decided to set up a free hot chocolate stand uptown to try to get people to talk to us. It would probably go better on a colder day, since it met with mixed results. Some people were all like, "Free hot chocolate?! This is the best day ever!" and some people were doing that thing where they walk past us really quickly, studiously ignoring us. We could be handing out $20 bills and some people would still avoid us. This one guy came up to the table with this hilarious fake British accent, trying to tell us how the story of Gadianton is his favourite from the Book of Mormon. You could tell he was just trying to seem WAY smarter than he was. But we also met a few less-active members who aren't on the ward list, and had some cool experiences that way, so it was great. Following the hot chocolate stand, we went to a lesson with Jackie. She seems to feel like saying she needs to be baptized again is like saying that she doesn't have the relationship with God she believes she does, and it's difficult to get her to understand that we're saying she should get re-baptized because of her relationship with God. Then we picked up Gabbie to go to a lesson with Barry again, where we actually managed to keep reasonably on topic, which is great. After that we went to the west side for a dinner appointment, which was great as usual and since we were right by the store where I wanted to get my coat, I stopped in and they had it in my size AND the colour I wanted! It was great. 

New Coat

We were supposed to have a lesson with Michelle afterwards, but she moved it to 8:30 in the evening, so we tried to stop by some less-actives. We finally got in to see Sister Atwin at about 8, and it turned out she's been having a really hard time recently, so we made it out of there late. But we hadn't gotten to see Michelle, so we decided to stop by even though it was 8:45, because we were honestly expecting her to have not progressed very much and were expecting a short lesson. To our surprise, she had read several chapters in the Book of Mormon, had a list of questions, and had a personal experience with prayer, which wasn't related to the church, but still helped her have confidence she could get answers! She's been going through some really hard things, but it's totally humbling her and causing her to hunger and thirst after righteousness. It was an AWESOME lesson. And it went REALLY late. Sister Coleman and I actually decided to do our daily planning during weekly planning the next day. And then on Friday, people kept calling us and making appointments with us, and the day filled up perfectly and we didn't need any backup plans without us even planning anything, so I feel like the Lord gave us a break there. It was pretty cool.

So Friday was weekly planning, as usual, and we realized we were on track to meet or exceed ALL of our goals for the week, which was crazy! It totally hadn't felt like such a successful week! During weekly planning, a less-active member, Sister Neilsen called. We'd offered to help her clean her house on Tuesday, and she'd turned us down then, but she was still feeling sick, so she decided to take us up on the offer. After that, we went to Sister Ross' to prepare a musical number for Sunday, since President Leavitt called and asked us to do one. Then we had a lesson with Leslie and Sam, and we brought Sister Woodruff. I think Leslie knows the church is true, but she's talked herself out of it and is really avoiding anything that will make her admit it. After that, we dropped off an invitation to the missionary concert to Holly, a less-active, had dinner, and went to teach Val. It was basically resolving concerns the whole time – tithing is a huge struggle for her financially, and all her family and friends were trying to convince her she was being brainwashed. She was all like, "Maybe I should go to the Anglican church one more time on Sunday just to see" and we were all like, "If you feel like you're in the right path now, why would it help to deviate from it?" We managed to resolve things pretty well, but I still left feeling like it wasn't going to be enough. Then we went to see Sister Atwin again, since we had to cut Thursday's lesson short. OH MY GOSH SHE HAS THE CUTEST LOVE STORY EVER. She was in an abusive marriage for many years, and while being separated, she met the missionaries and converted. Then she went LA, moved to Houlton to live with a boyfriend, came back to church, they got engaged, and then he had a heart attack while in the car with her and died. She continues to go to church, and has pretty much given up on love. One day, she prays and tells Heavenly Father, I give up, if you want me to marry somebody, send me someone with these qualities, but I'm not trying anymore. The next day, a member drops by her house with an investigator. She and the investigator fall in love INSTANTLY, he proposes two weeks later, he gets baptized, they get sealed, and 26 months later, he DIED. The whole time she was talking about him, you could just feel how much she loves him, and wants to be with him forever, and it was seriously just the most adorable thing ever. Old people love. Awwwwwww. She's LA right now because another member offended her, but we as we talked about her conversion and her husband and the blessings waiting for her in eternity, she agreed that it was more important to be worthy of those, and she came to church on Sunday!

On Saturday we decided to fast (because the Zone Leaders asked the whole zone to fast). We taught Heather early in the morning. She's doing SO well. Almost ready for us to stop working with her. She's thinking of moving to the Territories for some job up there, and she really feels impressed to do so, but she doesn't want to if she can't go to church. *fistpump*. After that, we decided to finish our studies in the library uptown, and it was SO WINDY and SO COLD as we walked up there. It made street contacting pretty much useless, so we went to Market Square, where they were having a Christmas fundraiser called the Empty Stocking Fund. We talked to some people there, and we found a lady who is SO prepared and TOTALLY understands the apostasy and need for restoration...and then she wouldn't let us make an appointment or get any contact information because she "doesn't want people putting things in my head" and "doesn't want to change." Frustrating. After that, we decided to stop in on Shawna, the lady who called us on Tuesday. She let us right in. She's been going through some really hard times lately, so we taught to her needs first, about how the Atonement can help us overcome addictions, and then we started teaching the Restoration. In the middle of The Saviour's Earthly Ministry, she asked something like, "What does the Lord want me to do?" So Sister Coleman taught a PERFECT 5-minutes Gospel Of Jesus Christ lesson just on the fly, totally by the Spirit, and Shawna said, "I see what's going on here. God is calling me to be baptized...well, I accept!" We were just like,whaaaaat, we didn't even challenge her! So I put her on date for the 28th, and then she said, "What do I have to do to be baptized?...I bet I have to give up smoking and drinking, don't I?" So we taught her the Word of Wisdom before we taught her about Joseph Smith, and she committed to it! Then we finished the Restoration and committed her to church the next day. She had an AA meeting that conflicted, and asked, "What do you think I should do?" Obviously, we thought she should go to church, and she agreed with us. We walked out of there like, "What just happened???????" 

After that, we were supposed to have lessons with Michelle and Muzammil, but they both cancelled, so we parked in a Catholic church's parking lot while we made some calls. While we were there, tons of people started showing up for an event, and there were so many people that they just started parking in the lanes, and boxed us in! We were trapped in a Catholic parking lot! Eventually, with a lot of careful backing, we managed to escape. We headed over to the East side to check on a potential, Sabrina, and taught a quick Restoration before our DA. It was fantastic. Then we had a DA with the McKenneys, who are quickly becoming one of my favourite families. This is the first ward where I really just love all the people in the ward so much that it makes me want to move here after my mission. I liked the other wards just fine, obviously, but these people are awesome! After that, we went to the Orange Blossom Special concert. It was really good, although some of the classical pieces grated on me a bit because I just know them too well to listen to a performance of it. I got to see Sister Echols again, which was great! 

Sunday was the special musical presentation at church, and the Kennebacasis Valley ward was there as well, so it was PACKED! Shawna came to church with Gabbie, and Muzammil came as well! He texted us asking where the door was, so we came out to find him. He was sitting in his car looking at his phone, so I knocked on his window, and he jumped SO high. It was hilarious. The meeting opened with "I Believe in Christ," and his main issue is the divinity of Christ (to believe in it would be a form of shirkh in Islam, which is unforgiveable), so at first Sister Coleman and I were pretty uncomfortable (it's like having "If You Could Hie to Kolob" and "O My Father" when you bring a born-again), but then as we were singing I just felt like, no, this is true, and this is awesome that this is the opening hymn. It was pretty much the most spiritual church meeting I've ever been in, which was AWESOME. Shawna was just loving it. She kept bearing her testimony to everyone and she was just so grateful we found her. There was a linger-longer after church, and Muzammil and Brother McKenney really hit it off and we ended up discussing a LOT of doctrine, so he offered to come to a lesson that night, so we set that up. After church, we went knocking. Holy freezing wind batman! We made the strategic error of knocking "Rivershore Drive" on a day when it was -7 and windy, so the wind coming off the water was just freezing. After that, we went home for dinner and 12-week, and then we stopped by Michelle to drop off a Book of Mormon picture book for Zoey, her daughter, and we stopped by Val to drop off some leftovers from the linger longer. Her brother was there, and asked to come to the lesson we have with her tonight, and I'm getting anti vibes, so that should be fun. After that, we went to the lesson with Muzammil and the McKenneys. It was a really good lesson – usually, he gets really hung up on logic and it turns into a very factual discussion, but this time it was a lot more spiritual. We focused a lot on the importance of reading the Book of Mormon and consistently praying in order to know truth, which was good. I felt bad though because Brother McKenney, Muzammil, and I are all very similar in the way we like to discuss the gospel, and Sister Coleman didn't get to say much. Things to work on.

Sister Olson

I got the advent calendar in the mail. It made me REALLY happy. Advent calendars have always been such a huge part of our Christmases, which are always so family centred. To give you an idea of how much I care about advent calendars, I wouldn't even CONSIDER opening them before the day, whereas my birthday presents can just be opened whenever ;P

November 18, 2013

Sister Olson Likes Winning (who doesn't)

Dear Mom,

Really, instead of any big Christmas presents, I need a warmer winter coat. It was -2 the other day, and it felt like -15 does in Calgary. I'm serious, I was going numb, and I was layered up and everything. It was weird, I wore that coat when it was -20 in Calgary and wasn't cold. They have a really nice coat at Urban Planet that's rated to -20 and it's $100. I'm wondering if I could just buy that on your credit card? And then if you just want to send whatever for Christmas so I have presents to open, go ahead :) Infinity scarves would be high on my list.

Probably the most exciting personal news of the week is that when President Leavitt came to do interviews, they also had a big binder full of the media referrals for all the areas for the past year, which they wanted us to look through and make sure we knew about each person. Well, when I was looking through the binder, there was a tab called "Bathurst Sisters," Bathurst being an entirely French town in northwestern New Brunswick. I asked President about it and he said that whatever happens with French sisters will probably happen in the next transfer or two, so I'm really hoping to be called French speaking by mid-January at the latest.

On Monday the library was closed and everything else was closed, so we all went to the church to email. It was a pretty chill day because of that. After P-day, we dropped off a video to Karen, the excommunicated member we met last week, and then we went to a lesson with Val. She was really concerned about the 2nd coming, since a lot of other churches around here teach some pretty crazy stuff about it, so we used that to teach the Plan of Salvation. In the middle of the kingdoms of glory, she interrupted and said, "It sounds like a cult." "...the Celestial Kingdom sounds like a cult?" "No, at church on Sunday, when they passed around the little cups." Hahaha. So we taught the Sacrament and she feels better about it now. I love Val because her medication makes her drowsy, so whenever she zones out and then comes back into the lesson, she usually just flat-out says her concern no matter whether it's on topic or not. And then we resolve it.

On Tuesday we had a lesson with Heather really early in the morning, since she works night shift and she really wanted a lesson earlier in the week to prepare for her patriarchal blessing. We were really excited for her, she's progressing so well! After that, we had district meeting, which was mostly amusing. Then we went contacting for a bit, and we found a former investigator, Leslie, who set up an appointment with us for Thursday. After dinner we taught Val again to follow up with the Plan of Salvation, and then we had institute, which was great as usual.  After that, we went less-active contacting and got into a lesson with a lady who hasn't been active for probably about 50 years. She would NOT stop talking. She told us she'd had a hard time in the past 4 years, and we asked what happened, and then she proceeded to list every. little. thing. that had happened to her in the last 4 years. It got to the point where we were actively trying to interrupt her, and she just steamrolled over it and kept talking. It was pretty funny. We got home SO late because we just couldn't get out of there, short of standing up and leaving mid-sentance.

Wednesday was correlation, and then we returned to our apartment just in time to get a combination birthday/Christmas present from Brianna Cobb, which totally made my day! we went to some volunteer training for service at the hospital. They shared a really cool video where it showed a bunch of different people in the hospital, both patients and employees, and there were little words above their heads like "Fears they waited too long for this operation," "Just found out he's going to be a father," "Recently went through a divorce," etc. It was supposed to be about having compassion and empathy, but all I could think was, "And this is why everybody needs the Atonement and the restored gospel." After that we went street contacting and knocking and followed up on potentials, etc. We were SO cold street contacting, so we went to Starbucks and got a hot chocolate, and then we were nice and warm and enjoyed it, but nobody else wanted to talk to us anyways because they just wanted to get inside. So we decided that we should start a free hot chocolate stand, so that people would talk to us, so we went looking for supplies for that, and while we were at Walmart, we bumped into the Bishop of the Kennebecasis Valley ward, and he gave us $20 for dinner! We went to Wok Box and I got a butter chicken naanwich and it was awesome.

Thursday was the Sisters' conference call, and then we had service at the hospital. I brought my Classical Carols book and had a really good time. Then we went to visit a less-active, Amber, who we only recently discovered. She converted here about 7 years ago, but then she moved to Calgary, and she has apparently been living in Saint John for a year but hasn't come back to church. She's super nice and has a great testimony, just a lot of social concerns. She had a lot of hilarious stories about dating awkward recently returned RMs when she was a new convert and was still used to the non-LDS style of young adult interactions. Then we went to a lesson with Leslie, and her daughter Sam. We did a lot of establishing our purpose and trying to help them see the need for the gospel, but Sam has selective mutism and Leslie is also really quiet, so it kind of felt like we weren't getting through to them. Then at the end of the lesson, Leslie explained about the selective mutism and everything and assured us they were really interested, so that was a relief! After that, we went knocking for a bit and then had dinner before following up on some potentials and going to Old Testament Jeopardy at the church. Courtney, one of the ward missionaries who used to be 7th Day Adventist, got into an argument with Elder Davidsen about whether the Old Testament is relevant, so she planned an AWESOME activity to prove that it was. She invited a ton of 7th Day Adventists to the activity, and it was just really well done. We had several rounds, and I played in the first round and I won handily. We got a giant gift basket of various types of food, like unleavened bread, pomegranates, grapes, gummy whales, etc., all with a bible verse written on it. 

After that, we went to a lesson with Mohammed and Amina, where they dropped us. It was so sad. They were all like, thank you so much, we love you, you're like angels, we appreciate you making us look more into our religion, but we know the Coran is true, we want to keep in touch, etc. Mohammed bore his testimony of the Coran to us and kept saying, "I know if you read this after your mission, you will know it's true. I know you will be Muslim." I think we're genuinely going to be friends for a long time, but it was sad to lose them as investigators.

On Friday we did weekly planning, and then we went to a lesson with Jackie. It was a good lesson, we focused a lot on the Holy Ghost and about prophets. We brought Sister Walker with us, and she was just testifying every chance she got. Members are the best. After that, we went back to the apartment and finished weekly planning while we waited for Sister Nelson and Sister Dougherty to come down for exchanges. President Leavitt has changed it so that you both work in the same area, to cut down on k's for travelling back and forth, so Sister Nelson (the STL) went with Sister Coleman for Friday evening, since it's more effective and she needed the experience more. Sister Dougherty and I went uptown to pay a parking ticket (we totally paid for parking, but when we closed the door, it blew the stub off the windshield) and while we were there, we ran into Michelle, our investigator we haven't been able to get in touch with, and a less-active member we didn't know about! So, that was awesome. After that, we went to a DA with the Woodruffs, where we got halibut and cod. I get so much less seafood here than I'd like to get. Then we went knocking, and we tried out a new idea from Sisters' Conference call, where we go to card aisles in stores and talk to the people there. The theory is, we look for people who are going through life events like birth, marriage, death, etc., so they'll be in the card aisle! But nobody was at Walmart, so it was just turning into standing in the card aisle reading mushy Christmas cards. Someone told us everyone was at Target, which had just opened, so we went there and talked to people while we looked to see if they had a card aisle.On Friday we were texting Michelle, and she was telling us how her baby wouldn't stop crying (it had been about 4 hours) and she was really stressed out. And I just felt really impressed to tell her we'd pray for Zoey to stop crying right now. So I did, and then I told Sister Coleman, and she was just like, really? But we did, and when we ran into her on Friday, she said Zoey stopped crying right away! It was awesome!

Saturday morning, Sister Nelson had a Skype call with the other STLs, so I got to sit in on that. It was really nice, for the somewhat selfish reason that they were all like, "We're so overwhelmed and have no idea what we're doing!!!" and I was like, okay, so the more experienced sisters feel this way too. Haha. Then we went store contacting, since Sister Nelson is really good at it and I'm not. It turns out all you have to do is figure out a way to add the phrase "...because I'm not from around here" into whatever you say to people, and then they ask where you're from, and then you explain you're a missionary. Then we went back to the apartment because President Leavitt had arrived early to interview us, like I mentioned before. Then we went and stopped in on Barry, a former investigator, and picked him up as a new investigator. He's really old and tends to ramble a lot, so it was kind of frustrating because everything he said was like, "Apostasy therefore need for a restoration! Questions of the soul!" but we could never really get there. So we committed him to do some readings before we came back. We think he's going to be someone who will really only be converted through really making good commitments and following up with them. Then we had dinner, knocked for a bit, and taught Val the first half of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. After that, we were going to have a lesson with Muzammil, but the member we brought was trapped behind the Christmas parade, so we kept knocking his street. We knocked into this couple that let us in, but it was just anti out the ears. At one point he was trying to explain the Trinity, and we weren't having it, and he kept insisting it was only because English isn't his first language so he couldn't explain it properly. So he asked what his first language was, and it's Arabic, and it turns out he's from Egypt and is Christian, but is obviously very familiar with Islam. So I said, maybe you can help us, we're teaching some Muslims and are trying to get them to believe in Christ! Total 180 in his attitude. When we left, they were all like, come back any time, we'll help you any way we can! Haha. Then we went to Muzammil's lesson and taught about prophets, more about Christ, and the need for prayer. The member we brought, Sarah, was super into it. The first question he asked, she was just like, "Old Testament cultural context! Doctrine! Bam!" and we're just sitting there like, yesssssss! At the end of the lesson he said, "I'm kind of disappointed because I don't feel like I've really challenged your scriptural knowledge - everything I say, you have an answer to." That's because it's true, Muzammil.

Sunday was church, obviously. Val came for sacrament but wasn't feeling well and went home, which was too bad. We taught the first lesson in our member missionary class, which should be pretty good, and then after church we had choir. The usual pianist wasn't there, so I filled in, which is my favourite. Except I'm singing alto in this ward's choir, so I was actually kind of disappointed because I've been enjoying improving my harmonizing skills. Then we had lunch at the church, which turned out to be pointless since we had to run back to our apartment anyways to get something for ward coucil, and then we had to drive all the way out to Grand Bay for a dinner appointment, before rushing back into town for Ward Council. So Sunday basically turned out to be a lot of meetings. We had appointments set up, but they all cancelled on us in the evening, but as we were on our way to one of them, we met three random guys on the street. They totally did not look like people who would be interested, but they ended up being super interested! One of them grew up in the church, but his mom left when he was really little, and the other two had some really great questions. (I love it when people ask "Well what makes your church so different than any other church?" because they think it's going to stump us, and we're like, "That's exactly what we want to tell you about!") They identified really strongly with the idea of asking questions and gaining a knowledge for yourself. So, we set up an appointment to come by on Wednesday, so that's exciting.

Today is the rainiest and windiest day I have ever seen in my life. It's supposed to be gusting to 80 km/h!

Sister Olson

November 11, 2013

Heartbreak Hotel

Dear Mom and everyone,

Carmen's day at work sounds pretty cool. as does pretty much everything else this week.

This week...Monday was pretty chill. I don't remember anything exciting happening. We went grocery shopping since we had money again, and we did in fact buy milk. We'd been buying the bagged milk for a while, since everyone was insisting it was cheaper, and then we actually checked out the prices, and it's like a whole 30 cents. So we were like, whatever, we're going back to jug milk. Haha. After P-day, we basically stopped in on a lot of people, and also went around putting up posters for the musical concert that's coming to Saint John on the 23rd. Then we went knocking. The first door we went to, the guy talked at us for about 45 minutes without taking a breath, just about random stuff. It was like being back in Newfoundland. Actually, I mentioned I had served in Newfoundland, and he kept telling everyone who passed by that I was from Newfoundland, and that he could tell I was a Newfoundlander as soon as I started talking because of the twang in my accent, etc. The whole time, he's making off-hand anti-Alberta comments. It was pretty funny. After that, we kept knocking and got a return appointment for the next day, and also found a former who had moved, who had pneumonia, but was really happy to have us come back when she was feeling better, so that was cool.

On Tuesday, we went to see Heather, one of the LA's, in the morning, and we had a really great lesson about the enabling power of the atonement. Then we stopped by Samantha, who was "just about to go out," so we did 12-week in the car before going to Shelly's, the appointment from the night before. Total 180 on her interest level -- she had seemed REALLY interested on Monday, and that day she was basically just like, "Never come back!" I don't understand people. Haha. Then we went to Lancaster Mall to put up some more posters before going to correlation at Brother Cosman's. It turned out to be a ridiculous use of time, since he was preparing for a business trip and didn't actually have time to correlate with us, so we were just stuck in Grand Bay until dinner was ready and we could leave. Elder Davidsen and I had fun playing the piano together, but it was SO not a great use of time. Haha. After that, we had a lesson with Val, which was great as usual, and then we had a lesson with Muzammil. He's in his 20's, is an accountant, and is another Muslim we'd found. He'd looked up our beliefs on before we came and had a little book of notes all prepared for our lesson with us. (Muslims make the best investigators when they're interested. Seriously, all of them do this.) There wasn't a language barrier, since he as born in Canada, so we learned a LOT more about how Islam works and it was really great. He said, "I figure this will either strengthen my faith if I'm right or weaken it if I'm wrong. Because I believe that my religion is right, but if there's a path that's more righteous, I want to follow that one." 

On Wednesday we went to our re-scheduled appointment with Samantha, and she didn't answer, so we dropped her. Then we went uptown and basically walked around all day, street contacting people and putting up posters and contacting and whatnot. We also stopped by this lady named Karen. She'd called us on Tuesday evening and said she wanted us to come over, and she had some people she wanted us to help come to church. We were like, sweeeeet! So we stop by. Turns out she's an excommunicated member who's a paranoid schizophrenic and isn't accountable. But she honestly loves the church so much and is like, "I'm just trying to be good until Jesus comes back and I can get baptized again." Then she was asking us about the kingdoms of glory, because she wanted to know which one she'd get to raise animals in. I was like, "Celestial. You should definitely aim for that one." Haha. Then she said, "I just want to be in a kingdom where I can be a princess and be a special daughter of God." Heart MELT. Then she gave us referrals to all her friends and family. After that, we basically wandered around the south end looking for some potentials the elders gave us, which was a bit sketchy, and then we were supposed to have a lesson with Jackie, but she called because she's sick, so we kept contacting until dinner. After that, we went and knocked on the east side for a bit. The first house we get to, the guy says, "Just a sec, I need to put some clothes on." Then he opens the door and says, "Oh hey. I shouldn't have put my clothes on!" *eyeroll*. People think they're hilarious.

Thursday was Elder Jensen and Elder Davidsen's year mark, so we went uptown and had Thai food. I had this AWESOME green curry that was SO spicy, and naan bread, which I haven't had in FOREVER. They also had deep-fried ice cream, which was great because it was ice cream, but not as exciting as I thought it would be. After that, we visited another LA, also named Heather, who suffers from severe migraines and finds that they get triggered by the rug shampoo at the church. We had a good visit with her, and then we stopped by to see Veronica, so we decided to go knocking. Well, at the beginning of the street, it was lightly misting. By the end of the street, we were knocking in a torrential downpour. And I hadn't checked the weather forecast,so I was wearing my peacoat without a hood. By the time we were done, I couldn't have been more wet if you'd dunked me in a pool. It was pretty awesome. I actually enjoy moments like that because I feel like a missionary. Then we went to a DA, where they made tacos, which was the best thing ever, and then we went home to get some dry things before Mohammed and Amina's lesson. We focused a lot on the Book of Mormon and it went pretty well.

On Friday we did weekly planning, and then we went to go visit Sandra, another LA. Her doctor said she's not allowed to eat any more sugar, but she'd bought a TON of on-sale Halloween candy, so she was like, "Please eat it!" and I was like, "I will help you bear this burden as long as it is yours to bear." (Bonus points if you can name the movie reference.) Then we visited the Hurtados, another LA family, and invited them to come to the family history workshop and to games night. We then went back to knock some more. We got into a house with these two people, Chelsea and Daniel. Daniel is Chelsea's boyfriend, but they don't live together, he just happened to be over there. They're both Christian and you could just tell they're already really good people and had a strong faith in God. We taught the BEST Resto ever -- got to know them, How To Begin Teaching, Opening Prayer, simple lesson with scriptures and inspired questions, introducing the Book of Mormon using the introduction, testifying, closing prayer, the whole 9 yards. It was awesome. And the Spirit was SO strong during the First Vision. And then, they said they thought they didn't need it and tried to give the Book of Mormon back and wouldn't set up a return appointment. It was so disappointing. We tried to resolve concerns and everything, but they just weren't having it. I actually think Daniel was interested, but Chelsea wasn't. Although, she did say the lesson took away a lot of judgement she had towards Mormons, so hopefully we planted a seed or something. After that, we had Val over to Sister Raeburn's for a DA, and then we were supposed to go to games night, but she decided not to come -- she psyched herself out over meeting a bunch of new people. So, that was disappointing. We went to games night anyways and a few other less-actives and non-members were there, and I learned how to play Risk. Risk is great. We're playing Risk when I get home.

On Saturday we had the family history workshop. Only the Hurtados came, out of all the people we invited, but it seemed to go over well with them and so I guess it was a success. After that, we went knocking a bit and tried to contact some referrals, and then we stopped in on Jackie. At first, it was one of those awkward standing-in-her-doorway situations, since her granddaughter was coming over, but then she let us in and we ended up having a short lesson anyways. It was really good, and I think we discovered some of her questions and interests and helped her to realize that she could have more of the Spirit in her life. Then we went to a DA with the McKenneys, a really awesome member family. They just got sealed a few weeks ago and they're so cute together. Then we had another lesson with Muzammil. Muslims really have trouble with the concept of Christ as the Son of God, because they see it as shirkh, which is basically like denying the Holy Ghost in their religion. So we tried to resolve that. They also basically believe that a doppelganger of Christ was crucified and he was just translated. So Muzammil was like, "Where does Christ say he's the Son of God? Where does he say he was crucified?" and we whipped out the Bible and it was like, EVERYWHERE. Haha. It was a great lesson. It went SUPER long though. 

On Sunday VAL CAME TO CHURCH!!!!!!! It was great! Except the first talk was one of THOSE talks...rambling on, really hard to follow, talking about the 2nd Coming and signs of the times a little too much, etc. But everything else was great. She kept introducing herself to everyone she could see, "Hi I'm Val, I'm new." It was great. We were going to start teaching a member missionary class that day, but the gospel principles teacher wasn't there, so I taught an impromptu lesson on prayer, which was good. Relief Society was also really great, and Val kept participating and reading quotes out of the manual and sharing life experiences, which were mostly relevant, so it was great. After church was choir, and then we contacted some referrals before going back up to Milledgeville and going through the formers. We got into this one former, Barry, who seems like an eternal investigator, but he also has a lot of potential and is open and wants to follow God. So, we'll see how that goes. Then we had a DA with the Hofmanns, which was one of those DA's where you're not really hungry, but you just want to take more food anyways because it's soooo good. And she served us brownie pudding, which I haven't had in forever! (And in case you're wondering, I still weigh the same as I did in the MTC :P) Then we went knocking a bit, and then we had another lesson with Mohammed and Amina. Heartbreak hotel, population: us. They were all like, "No, the Coran is true and the Book of Mormon isn't." Mohammed was like, "But all the good things in the Book of Mormon are already in the Coran!" and I bore a really powerful testimony on how the BEST thing in the Book of Mormon is its testimony of Christ, but they weren't really having it. So then we focused  lot on prayer and praying to know which is true, but they really just don't have the faith or understanding of prayer. So we're going to have one more lesson with them to talk about that and see if it goes anywhere.

Sister Olson

November 4, 2013

This week in St. John

Dear Mom and everyone,

Your letter just leaves me with so many questions. For some reason, it totally did not click in my mind that Steven would be applying to universities. Which ones is he applying to? Which one does he want to go to? Does he think he'll go to a year of college before his mission? Also, what is Chloe's science fair project on? What are the obscure topics? 

This week was a bit frustrating because it felt like a lot of stuff was going on that kept us from actually going out and working, but overall we had good experiences and I was really surprised last night to add up the key indicators and look back over the week and realize how much we'd accomplished after all, so that was a pretty cool experience.

On Monday we did laundry, which was pretty much the highlight of P-day. After that, we had a DA with a member family, where they made really good ginger beef (Chinese food here is usually pretty gross), and then we had a lesson with Val. We went over the baptismal interview questions with her and hit a snag on tithing. We talked about it for a while and tried to resolve concerns. She felt like it was being presented as "You have to pay money to prove you love God," and it was hard to get her to see the distinction that our love for God motivates us to keep all His commandments, including tithing, but it's not like "proof." She really has a lot of faith though, so we left the lesson with her committed to pray about it, and we felt pretty good about it. After that, we went knocking, which was pretty run-of-the-mill, except for the one guy who just totally cussed us out. I actually thought it was really funny, because he was trying SO HARD to ruin our day, and our day really just can't be ruined by people like him. I really appreciate being able to have the confidence that we're totally, 100% doing the Lord's will, so no matter what anyone says, we can just feel good about it anyways.

Tuesday was Zone Conference. We were doing REALLY good on k's for the month, until the Zone Leaders called us on Monday and informed us that we'd be driving to Moncton and back the next day, effectively chopping off 350 of our 1700 k's at the very end of the month. Ha. So we picked up the Elders (who are always out of k's despite the fact that they cover the exact same area and have the exact same allotment as us) and drove to Moncton. It was a really great Zone Conference. It focused a lot on faith and works, and how just as our faith is dead without works, our works are dead without faith. In other words, even if we're doing all we can, if we don't have faith, it's not going to profit us anything. We also talked a lot about charity, and how if we don't have charity, we're nothing again too! (Now that I think of it, that Zone Conference could have been horribly depressing if you weren't willing to put off the natural man and develop faith and charity.) The thing I got the most out of it though wasn't anything that was really said in the trainings. It just occurred to me that sometimes I feel like I'm having trouble putting my heart into the work, so I keep thinking about my feelings and my priorities and desires and where those are and I can't identify the problem or the solution. But what's really going on is I haven't been putting my mind into the work. My mind is focused on the work, but it's not engaged in the work, because after spending basically my whole life in situations that don't challenge my mind, I've basically trained my mind to never shift out of first gear, because usually when I do that I get terribly bored by whatever's going on. So I've been trying to focus on that and really getting the most I can out of everything we do, and it's been going great! I totally feel better about the work, and my personal studies are awesome. I just wish I had more time to study. I've ended up making a list of things to study, and it just gets longer every time I study instead of getting shorter.

Zone Conference was also really fun for the social aspect. President Leavitt always tries to have some entertainment, so Elder Skinner (who is a champion athlete) demonstrated the top level of our 5BX exercise program (which isinsane), Elder Hunt played the Bumble Boogie on the piano, and I played Fantasie-Impromptu. We also got all our letters and packages from the mission office, and Mason's family had sent me a birthday present! It's a long-sleeved t-shirt that says "Sandpoint At the Lake" on it. It was totally unexpected and made me really happy. After Zone Conference, the District Leaders had an extra training, so we drove Elder Davidsen home with Elder Goeders from Saint Stephen, and Elder Jensen and Elder Steed stayed for the training. The idea was that Elder Davidsen and Elder Goeders would work in Saint John for the evening, and then the other elders would drive through Saint John on their way to Saint Stephen to exchange back. What actually happened was Elder Davidsen forgot to bring the keys to the apartment and car, so we drove to A&W's and had dinner while we waited for the Elders to get back. It was pretty funny. After that, we had a lesson with Sharon, where we basically tried to resolve concerns about that verse at the end of the Book of Revelations and modern-day prophets. The lesson went really well and we pulled out scriptures and doctrine I didn't even know I knew, but it also went SUPER late – turns out I epically fail at reading analog clocks, and so it was 10:15, not 9:15, when we left. I felt so bad, but it was a totally innocent mistake. It really just didn't feel like that much time had passed. Fortunately, she lives pretty close to us, haha.

Wednesday was correlation/breakfast at the Cosman's, which went super late, so we were REALLY late to our lesson with Phoebe. It was actually a really good lesson, but then her dad came in the middle of it and you could tell she was SUPER stressed out that we were there, so we left as quickly as possible and didn't get to recommit her to coming to church, which was frustrating. Maybe it was a blessing in disguise though because that's an obviously huge concern that we hadn't managed to get out of her. After that, we went to a lesson with the Dallings, which we didn't have because they dropped us. It was sad. Then we had lunch and studies (since we had to miss them for correlation) and realized that we were at EXACTLY 1700 k's and we still had a day and a half left in the month. So we got picked up by Sister Hillman to go to a lesson with Jackie. That was a REALLY good lesson. We were reading in 3 Nephi 27 and she totally received personal revelation about the importance of Christ's church vs. man's church, and how she needs to know if this is Christ's church. She's still not convinced she'd need to be rebaptized, and she feels like the church focuses too much on Joseph Smith and not on Jesus, but her real intent is building and as long as her lessons keep being so personal-revelation-y, I really think we could get her baptized. After Jackie, we had a quick dinner at McDonald's (Sister Coleman's totally-not-her-boyfriend sent me a McDonald's gift card to buy her blueberry pomegranate smoothies in case she got "unmanageable," which was totally manna from heaven since Wednesday was way too crazy to go make dinner). Then we had a lesson with Val, where we followed up on modern prophets and tithing, which were her two main concerns. It was a pretty good lesson again. I honestly don't remember a lot of what we said, but at the end she said, okay, I'll try paying tithing for 6 months after I'm baptized and I'll see how it goes. She really has the kind of faith to just do what the Lord asks even when she doesn't understand or it seems hard, and it's great. Then we spent the last hour and a half of the day walking home, which was surprisingly enjoyable.

On Thursday we had service at the hospital, so we got a member to drive us uptown. When we got there, this little organ in the bowling room was on, so I started playing that and they liked it so much that I played the organ the whole time while Sister Coleman helped with bowling. It was kind of hard because the keyboard had a really limited range and it was hard to find stuff I could play, so I started playing hymns from memory. It was awesome. After that, we walked to a visit with Sister Martin, a less-active member with hoarding issues. Did you know broccoli can turn purple? Neither did I. Then we powerwalked for an hour across town to a lesson with Carey, only to find that she wasn't there, so we sat down in the middle of a park in the sketchiest part of town to eat lunch. We ended up talking to a guy walking a beagle/doberman cross, and that dog was like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Seriously, he was like a cute little beagle with doberman colouring, and then all the sudden the doberman took over and he randomly started trying to attack us, so he left before we could give him a pass-along card. Haha. Then we saw Carey driving home, so we stopped in on her. She didn't have time for a lesson, but we set one up for the next day. Then we walked to the post office to pick up a package Sister Coleman's mom sent her. She gets the most hilariously random packages from her mom. There's always a lot of food she doesn't like (which I'm always happy to eat) and she includes the SAME hat every time. It's one of those hats that are really lacy and are mostly holes, so it's completely useless, and I think she has like three of them now. It's great. This package was especially funny because her mom had sent her insoles. But, someone poked a hole in the package, pulled out a package of insoles, took the insoles, and then took their own gross insoles, put them back in the wrapping, and put it back in the package. It was so funny. The only disadvantage was, we had to carry around the package all day. We walked back uptown to stop in on Michelle and Veronica, but they weren't home, so we walked all the way home for dinner. My feet were SO sore. We had dinner, and then we were just supposed to stay in our apartment after dinner for Halloween, so we watched the long version of the Joseph Smith: Prophet of the Restoration movie. At 8, we had special permission from President Leavitt to go to Mohammed and Amina's lesson, so we walked through some pouring rain and taught them. It was a really good lesson. We focused a lot on the Fall and our need for a Redeemer. It was really interesting how they have pretty much the same beliefs about the Fall as us, except it's basically a much more watered down version, and all the parts that point towards the need for an Atonement seem very meticulously taken out. Sister Coleman did a great job of bearing personal testimony and it really made a difference. Amina drove us home afterwards, which was great, because there was a serious rainstorm going on by that point.

Friday was weekly planning, which we interrupted to go to Carey's lesson with Sister Woodruff. But then Sister Woodruff had to push the lesson back and then Carey's dad came to pick her up and we basically introduced a couple of the commandments without being able to really teach her about them, which resulted in her dropping us the next day. Sad panda! But when we got back, we checked the mail, and I got the pajama pants you sent (thank you!) and a birthday present from Mason, which was a large pack of Mini Eggs, an oragami flower, and a poem. Chocolate, flowers, and poetry. I don't know if he did that on purpose, but it made me laugh and I was really happy. (I may or may not have had mini eggs for lunch). After that, we went to check on some referrals and stuff, and then Sister Coleman bought a winter coat, since it was the last day they'd keep it on hold and she really had to decide one way or the other if she was going to get it. Then we had a DA with Sandra, a less-active member, which was really great. She had SO much Halloween candy. SO MUCH. It was awesome. Then she started telling pregnancy stories. Candy and pregnancy stories are like kryptonite for my time management, we totally spent too long there. So then we stopped in on a few potentials and did some knocking, but nothing really useful happened.

On Saturday we went to the library to burn a DVD of President Monson speaking for our lesson with Val, which ended up taking FOREVER because technology is frustrating sometimes. After that, we dropped of a Family Proclamation at Sharon's, and stopped in on some less actives. We were supposed to go see a member, but before that we stopped in on Veronica. She let us in, and it was turning into a GREAT lesson, so we cancelled on the member and taught her. It was awesome. Everything she said she wanted was basically the Restoration, so we testified of that, emphasized that it's really important that she know one way or the other, and talked about how she'd like to be taught from this time forward. She was taught in the KV ward YEARS ago, and she wasn't too impressed by the missionaries' scriptural knowledge. So I promised to bring lots of scriptures, hahaha. We really feel like her only major problem is she wasn't taught well the first time she investigated. After the lesson, she gave us potato chips and cookies, which ended up being our dinner because we had to go teach Val. We brought Bishop Ross to the lesson, but it was a total gong show. She was just SO tired and kept falling asleep. It was pretty funny. There were some really good points in the lesson though – for instance, she'd been praying about tithing and modern prophets, and was feeling much better about both of them, which was AWESOME. And then at the end she randomly turned to Bishop Ross and was like, "So you're the one I'd talk to about being a homosexual?" He was just like, "...yep." It was really funny. After that, we went and knocked, and we found a really cool potential. His name is Muzammil, and he's another Muslim. He was super interested and asking really great questions (we couldn't come in because there was no third sister), and our knowledge of Islam from teaching Mohammed and Amina really impressed him. At one point he said, "That actually really reminds me of..." and Sister Coleman interrupted with, "The Coran, right?" and he was just like, HOW DID YOU KNOW? Haha. So we have an appointment on Tuesday and we're excited.

Sunday was church, which was great as usual. Brother Cosman asked me to play a piano piece in sacrament meeting to convince the members that the missionary concert coming to Saint John in a few months will be really quality and something worth inviting friends to. So I played "How Great Thou Art," and it went really well. The only bummer is that Val didn't come to church, when she said she would, and we haven't been able to get in touch with her yet about it. After church, we went and followed up on some potentials, and then we had a lesson with Sharon, where she dropped us. She's been reading and praying, but focusing most of her study on what the Bible says about our church, instead of the Book of Mormon. We tried really hard to resolve her concerns, but she just wasn't having it. We feel like she's kind of a sign-seeker – she really needs to see "proof" before she'll believe, and that's getting in the way. So that was disappointing. After that, we had dinner, and then we went knocking and contacting referrals. We ended with a lesson with Mohammed and Amina, which was the bright spot to our day. It was a really good lesson, where we tried to focus a lot on the Book of Mormon and where it came from. All of their reasons for believing in the Coran are equally true of the Book of Mormon, so we're trying to really emphasize that either one is true or the other, and we CAN'T know just based on their logic, so we need to ask God. We're also trying to help them see the need for Christ, because the Coran is really clear about him not being the Saviour, so that's their only concern, basically. It's kind of interesting to teach them because most of their questions are exactly the opposite of what we usually get asked. For instance, we usually get "Why do we need works when grace should be enough?" but they ask, "Why do we need grace instead of just works?" (Islam basically has this point system where the reward for doing something good is 10x as great as the punishment for doing something bad, so that's how you get to heaven.) And usually people are like, "The Bible should be enough for you!" and they're like, "Why isn't the Book of Mormon enough for you? Why do you need the Bible?" It really makes me think about things I've never had to before.

Today we have money again, so we're going to go shopping. It's pretty exciting.

Sister Olson