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

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