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

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