December 30, 2013

Christmas Week in the Field

Dear Mom,

So I'm going to use your card to buy myself some new gloves today because my red ones are so worn out that my hands go numb pretty much immediately, is that okay?

I like that thought about the light of Christ, and I'm glad you and Dad had a good time talking about me, haha. 

This week was completely ridiculous. Seriously. There were a lot of good things, but mostly it was just like, "...what???"

Monday was good. We tried really hard to meet our goal of talking to people before Val's lesson, and it was a testimony builder of how setting realistic goals can be motivating. Then we went to see Val and Tracy, and they had a questions about the Book of Revelations, since there was a documentary on it the night before on TV. So I got to bust out my Grade 10 Seminary notes in the margins. Brother Cartier seriously prepared me for a mission more than any other teacher at Church. It was really awesome. I think Tracy was impressed by the interpretation, since it was very different from what her church taught, but (obviously) made a lot of sense (because it was true). Then we went to see Charis. She reminds me of Luna Lovegood SO MUCH. Teaching her is always hilarious. We taught the Restoration and it went over really well, we could tell she was feeling the Spirit. But when we invited her to read the Book of Mormon and pray, she didn't want to, because the Elders who had taught her last had confused her on a number of points. Her main concerns being having to wear a skirt, birth control, and the Law of Chastity. So we cleared up some misconceptions. And then I remembered that I had placed a copy of Elder Bednar's talk on chastity from the April conference in my bag earlier that day, thinking it might come in handy some time. (Yay for the Spirit!) So we left that with her and committed to read it. We left the lesson to find a text from the Saint Stephen sisters – the whole town of Saint Stephen had no power due to the freezing rain, so they were coming up to stay with us that night. We decided to get gas on the way home even though it was late, just in case the power went out here and we couldn't get any later. So they got in at about 10:30 and we had a rather late night.

Tuesday was a bit crazy with four sisters in the apartment. We called all of our meal appointments and made sure it was okay to bring twice as many people over. First we went to the McKenneys and had breakfast. They had waffles with Cool Whip and raspberry sauce, so that was pretty awesome. One of their friends is Melissa, who the Elders tried to pass off to us once and it ended up causing drama, and they had her over, so I felt kind of awkward, but none of the other sisters knew her, so that covered for my awkwardness haha. After that, we went street contacting uptown, because they'd carpooled up with the Elders, so we only had one car between the four of us. Sister Jarvis and I ran into this guy who was all like, "The Book of Mormon doesn't testify that Christ died on the cross, so it can't be true!" I ended up taking my quad out right there on the street and leading him through 3 Nephi 27, 1 Nephi 11, etc. He was totally confounded. It was awesome.Then we went to drop off a Christmas gift to a less-active. A sister in our ward wanted us to drop it off because she lives on the other side of town and didn't feel comfortable driving in the snow/freezing rain/ice combo that covers all the roads. She wasn't home, so we left it in her screen door and went to a lunch appointment with the Spraggs, a really awesome young couple. They made tacos, at my request (because Mexican food is practically unknown in Atlantic Canada). During lunch, their power went out, so we lit some candles and got some flashlights out of our purses (we'd been carrying them around just in case) and finished. Sister Echols pre-empted my spiritual thought with her own, which bugged me a bit, but whatever, and then Sister Jarvis in her closing prayer asked for the lights to come back on, at their request. They texted us about half an hour later to say they got their power back, so that was cool. We parked at the church, checked our letters from President, and then started walking to a referral to follow up on. The sidewalk hadn't been plowed, and then the bumpy snow had frozen, and then inch-thick chunks of ice had fallen off the trees and frozen into the snow, so it was basically the most ankle-twisting frozen tundra I've ever walked on in my life. We got lost on the way to the referral and ended up stopping by some potentials and formers, but none of them were home. So we walked back to the church to go to our dinner appointment. Sister Sandberg used to be a professional-level gymnast, so she was really sure-footed on the ice and way ahead of the group. Sister Jarvis said the terrain made her feel like she was walking into Mordor, so we dubbed Sister Sandberg Aragorn, Sister Jarvis Pippin (because she kept tripping, falling, and generally being accidentally hilarious), Sister Echols was Samwise Gamgee, and I got to be Legolas, because I was in charge of directions. (I was pretty pleased they let me be Legolas.) /nerd

So we drove up to Grand Bay and had Christmas Eve dinner in the dark. They cooked curry on a wood-burning stove and spring rolls, chicken balls, and rice on the barbeque. (They boiled the water on the barbeque). It was surprisingly good, although I found all the people there overwhelming. I'm pretty sure my increased ability to be around people is a gift of the Spirit, because I don't have it when I'm not proselyting. Then I played the piano while we sang Christmas carols, and then Brother Cosman kept wanting to do parts, so I found out that I can sight-read some alto lines and play the piano at the same time. Then we took turns sharing what our Christmas traditions are, and that brought a really great spirit. Then we went home, and Sister Echols had to do her laundry because she had NO clean clothes, so we did that in the evening.

Christmas morning we opened our presents. They were pretty great. Sister Coleman's mom had sent me a really funny stocking with all sorts of random things, many of which became more useful than expected later in the week. (Foreshadowing). I think I thanked all of you for the presents already but thank you again. Then we had the Christmas conference call, and the Zone Leaders shared different spiritual thoughts. That was probably the best part of Christmas. I think my favourite was one about how we really looked forward to Christ coming to earth, but what it must have been like for Heavenly Father, to see his firstborn son come to earth, knowing what was ahead of him. Meanwhile, the Saint Stephen sisters managed to find out that most of Saint Stephen had power, so they went back that morning, which was a relief. I really love both of them, but they didn't have a car and didn't know the area, so it was pretty much just babysitting the whole time, and it was really stressful because suddenly I was in charge of 3 missionaries relying on me instead of just one. Then we had breakfast at the Stake President's house, and then we went to the Hofmann's to skype. They had been out of town for long enough that the snow and ice had frozen over their steps in a perfect slope, so we had to do a bit of mountaineering to get in. We also did laundry there, which took longer than the two skype calls, so we basically got to hang out, alone, in a house. It felt really great. Weird pleasures as a missionary. Then we went to the church, where the Cosmans were having Christmas dinner, because their power was out. The appointment was for 5, but due to some craziness on their end, dinner wasn't served until eight forty-five at night. Meanwhile, we played the slowest game of Phase 10 ever. Seriously, 4 hours later, we were only on phase 5. It was one of those experiences where I think to myself, "This will be hilarious 5 years from now, so I might as well just be amused now too." We scarfed down our Christmas dinner, shared a hasty message, and got home a bit late. Then we called the Elders to fill them in on what they missed. (They bailed after a few hours to skype their families and didn't come back.)

On Christmas Eve while talking to Sister Echols I had this epiphany about how the ward needs help, and how maybe I should seek the Lord's direction and do something about it instead of just letting it impair the work (duh). Fasting is awesome. More on that later. We had a Sisters' conference call at 9, which we were told would be via Skype, so we drove all the way to the church, only to find out it was via telephone, so we basically wasted 16 k's. Then we had a lesson with Shauna, and then we drove back home to study and have lunch, and during 12-week, Sister Jarvis decided she wanted to study chapter 13, about working with the ward. Well, we got to the President Hinckley quote on the first page, and then it was like, REVELATION!!! It was pretty sweet. We realized we could incorporate it all into the 3rd hour combined lesson we were teaching, so we worked on that for a bit. After that, we were going to go store contacting, because it's Boxing Day. Boxing Day sales occur on Boxing Day, right? WRONG. Apparently, in New Brunswick aka the Twilight Zone, the entire city is basically shut down on Boxing Day, and Boxing Day sales are the day after Boxing Day. So we went to Shopper's to talk to people, and I bought some nail polish with my gift card. (The shade is called "just married," which almost made me not want to buy it, but it's just a really pretty shade of pale metallic pink). So we went to Tim Horton's, which was the only other place open, and had some good conversations there, and then we went and shovelled people's sidewalks until our dinner appointment. The Elders were also at the same appointment, and Elder Jensen kept trying to convince me of his theory of where the Book of Mormon took place, which I was mainly arguing against for the sake of annoying him. After that, we had another lesson with Val and Tracy, but it turned out just Tracy was there. It was an awesome lesson. When we first met her, she was all like, "I'll never read the Book of Mormon!" And then we came in that day and she said, so I started reading your Bible the other day. It was pretty awesome. After that, we had a couple of great street contacts, and then we went to try to de-ice the Hofmann's steps for them a bit as a thank you.

Friday was skype interviews with President Leavitt. He told me the same story twice during the interview, which was pretty funny. We then continued to do our weekly planning at the church, and then the Elders came and we met together to organize the lesson we were teaching on Sunday. After that, Brother Cosman called and asked us to create a sepia-toned pedigree chart that could be printed poster size for this family history project he's working on. All I had to work with was Microsoft Paint and Open Office Draw, so that was just ridiculous. After that, we were supposed to have a DA, but their power was still out, so instead, her brother took us both out for Chinese food, which was super awkward. And THEN, just as we were getting ready to leave at the end of the awkward restaurant appointment, MY NOSE STARTED BLEEDING. Fortunately, I had a mini pack of Kleenex from Sister Coleman's mom. It was pretty much the most awkward thing ever, but it was also hilarious. Then we went to Staples to print the poster, and none of the files on my flash drive were showing up on their computers! So we went BACK to the church, where my flash drive appeared to be working perfectly, and we basically confronted technical difficulties until it was time to go home. So Friday was pretty much a gong show.

We were supposed to have a lesson with Shauna on Saturday, but she didn't show, so we went to teach Courtney, the member we're re-teaching the lessons to. We had a great experience where we really helped her recognize the Spirit (she'd just been taught the "burning in the bosom" and wasn't getting it, so she was pretty frustrated about that), and then we went back to the church to meet with the Elders again and perfect our presentation. We were all REALLY tired that day for some reason, so it was pretty much the most unproductive meeting ever. After that, we went searching for a rock (to make a "prayer rock" for Kiera), but obviously everything was buried under a couple feet of ice and snow, so that was unproductive. We went to a DA with the Spraggs, and it turned out Sister Spragg collects rocks, so that worked out. Then we had a lesson with Charis. She was being even more talkative and off-topic than usual to avoid the whole "law of chastity" thing. After about half an hour, I honestly didn't know if there was a way to save the lesson. But I prayed about it, and somehow we ended up having a really good lesson. We tied it in to building a strong, eternal marriage and used D&C 130:20-21, and the Spirit was so strong. It was probably the biggest turnaround I've ever seen in a lesson. 

On Sunday, we had a lot more people come to church than we expected, due to the fact that it was supposed to be stormy for the third Sunday in a row. Val came, and Sandra, and it was awesome. We taught our third-hour lesson, which was basically about how we all need to personally convert ourselves every day in order to be prepared to do missionary work, and it went REALLY well. Then we did 12-week after church, which ended up taking a REALLY long time because we ended up studying the doctrine of the Plan of Salvation really in-depth. Then we went contacted a few potentials and shoveled someone's driveway before our DA with Sandra. She actually told us that the lesson made her want to become an active member again, which was AWESOME. I started feeling pretty sick at Sandra's though, so we stayed there for a bit and then we went knocking for a bit before we turned in. 

I found it really interesting when Dad asked if I'd like him to call President about coming home the early transfer, because I remember being home for that semester was really important to me before I left on my mission, and I had to really make the conscious decision to be okay with not coming home the early transfer. But when he asked that, I realized that I really didn't want to miss out on a whole month of my mission, and the depth of that feeling really surprised me. It was such a 180 from how it had been previously. So that was really cool.

Sister Olson

Ice Storm

"Stay classy, Saint John."

"Stay classy, Saint John."

Ice Storm

Christmas Eve

Our Christmas presents

Sister Echols

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