February 10, 2014

Late Nights

Dear Mom,
Monday was pretty good. We taught Sister Porter, a less-active who's recently returning, and then we had a lesson with Stephanie. We were supposed to teach the Gospel of Christ, but then she hadn't been reading the Book of Mormon. Sister Vera didn't realize we needed to stop and address that concern and jumped right into the pamphlet, which frustrated me for a second, but then I just decided to focus on the importance of the Book of Mormon the whole lesson. It was so cool. Did you know the whole third discussion is about reading the Book of Mormon? Neither did I, but apparently it is. It was a real testimony builder about how our focus affects our teaching. I'm going to try that with "baptism" from now on, haha. The best part was at the end, in her prayer she apologized for not reading the Book of Mormon and committed to do so, so she repented right in front of us! Which is the whole point of the Gospel of Christ lesson! Sweeeeeet! Then I came home and called the Amherst sisters' district leader to report on exchanges. It was kind of frustrating. I don't think they...s'entendre...very well, and his perspective on their problems was a little less understanding.
On Tuesday we had district meeting, which was pretty good. Then we went and taught Ashley, following up on tithing, which basically became a lesson on faith. Our member who was supposed to come with us cancelled at the last minute, which was a bit of a bummer. Then we had lunch, and then we went street contacting at the University. We apparently stumbled into this weird parallel universe where people wanted to have meaningful, in-depth conversations with us, which was awesome, except I was like, "I don't have the vocabulary for this! I've never gotten this far!" Hahaha. Then we went to stop by an old media referral, since President Leavitt wants us to re-contact all the old media referrals, under the logic that at one point they were interested enough to ask for us, so we should see what's up. Well, this lady basically thinks we're a cult and just wanted some pamphlets to read up on it. It was pretty funny. Then we had dinner, and then we were supposed to have correlation with our WML, but it got cancelled, so we went knocking some more. Also, by the way, at some point in the last week, we had homemade Venezuelan meat/rice/beans, which was basically Cuban Black Beans, which actually made me kind of homesick, haha. And then the next day we had homemade empanadas with the leftovers. It was awesome. Then on Tuesday evening we had call night with Sister Broadhead. (See if you can note a pattern of "not going to bed on time" throughout this week.)
Wednesday morning we actually got to have full studies, which was unusual, and then we went street contacting on Main Street. It was pretty great. We bumped into this one guy who's an Apostolic Christian, and we had a really great conversation with him about the Restoration, but what it really came down to was that he didn't want to change. He was all like, "If God wants me to be Mormon, He'll call me to it," and I was all like, "IT IS NOT MEET THAT WE SHOULD BE COMPELLED IN ALL THINGS AND ALSO THAT'S WHAT HE'S DOING RIGHT NOW AND ALSO WHAT HAVE YOU DONE TO SEEK OUT HIS WILL IN YOUR LIFE????" (except more politely that that). But he still wasn't interested. Thennnnnn we stopped by some less-actives, none of whom were available to visit, and then we had a member visit set up, but she cancelled because her kids were sick, so I think we might have gone knocking for a bit before dinner. After dinner we taught Stephanie, where we read 3 Nephi 11 with her, and it was so cool because she's TOTALLY had awesome experiences with the Spirit her whole life, and now she gets to put a name to them and see how it all fits together and she really loves it. Then we were supposed to have the Zone Leaders come for "visits" where we go out as a group of 4 to find and teach for training purposes, but it turns out they cancelled their visits without telling me (#frustrating) so we went knocking without them. We found a great potential, Louise and Emery, and set up a return appointment, and then we had a lesson with Tyler and Heidi. Their son, Wyatt, was sick, so we basically ended up teaching the Gospel of Christ twice, separately, but it was really good because we got to really teach to their needs and strengthen their faith. I think they're getting more of a testimony of the importance of changing their lives, which will be GREAT for teaching the Word of Wisdom soon.
THEN on the way home we got a call from the Zone Leaders. We were having a zone leadership conference in Moncton the next day, but we were getting a wicked snowstorm, and they were worried the PEI missionaries would get stuck in PEI, since sometimes they close the bridge. So the Montague sisters had to drive from Montague to Moncton IN A BLIZZARD and stay the night with us, instead of coming the next morning. Which meant I had to stay up and wait for them until 1 am. And the whole time, the Montague sisters weren't answering their phone, which I knew was probably for some totally innocuous reason (it turned out to be bad reception), but the ZL's were freaking out. And I couldn't go to bed because I didn't want to sleep through the door buzzer and leave them stranded. So I used that time to make homemade shepherd's pie with some of the leftover meat from the Venezuelan food. It was awesome.
Thursday was the leadership meeting, which was AWESOME. In the morning, Sister Leavitt called and was like, "Sister Olson, can you please go to the grocery store before the meeting and buy 4 bottles of pop, ice cream sandwiches, cookies..." hahaha. So Sister Broadhead and I went store contacting, and then we had the best meeting ever! When I saw it was scheduled from 10 to 7 I was NOT excited, but it was awesome. We talked a lot about training, and how to effectively role play. President Leavitt did an object lesson where he called for volunteers who had never been taught anything about how to play the piano. He called the first one up, Elder Wolsey, and after playing "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star" once, asked him to play it. Obviously, he couldn't do it. Then he called me up and got me to play the first couple bars of "Fantasie Impromptu" and said, "See, that's how it's done. Now, play Twinkle Twinkle." Haha. This went back and forth for a while, then he said, "Okay Elder, you've been trained. Now teach Elder Jensen to play it." He then had Elder Jensen "train" Elder Roberts on how to play it, and then talked about how "When the blind lead the blind, they both fall into the ditch." Basically, if we don't know what we're doing as leaders, we can't help the people we're leading. Then he sent me to go teach them how to play Twinkle Twinkle while he repeated the object lesson with various other skills. Then we all came back and watched people play the piano, write with their left hand, juggle, etc., after only 10 minutes of good training. It was a really powerful lesson. Then we did some roleplays, which were actually about how to effectively roleplay and not about the things we were roleplaying themselves. It was so great. At one point we were roleplaying meeting with the Bishop about less-actives while President and Sister Leavitt observed, and
 when I asked "Bishop Evanson" about less-actives, he said, "Well, I'm really worried about the Leavitt family." He then proceeded to go on and describe their "struggles." It was so hard to keep a straight face.

After that, we discussed some more organizational principles of leadership, like getting numbers and doing call nights and exchanges, and then we were supposed to have a question and answer period about challenges we face as leaders. But nobody had any questions right off the top of their heads, so President Leavitt said, "While you're thinking, let me pose this question: why aren't we seeing an increase in baptisms?" Well, that resulted in a LOT of discussion, and while everyone had great insights, it became increasingly clear that we didn't know the answer. Things started getting a little out of hand. Then Elder Skinner suggested we pray. So we all knelt in prayer, and it was one of the most sincere and supplicating prayers I've ever heard. You could really feel that our faith was so unified and it was awesome. Then President Leavitt told us to all disperse throughout the chapel and ponder on it for about 10-15 minutes. When we came back, I thought it was so amazing to notice that every single missionary had brought their scriptures with them in order to seek revelation. We then continued to discuss, and the Spirit was so strong. We determined that we really need a focus on baptisms -- that often we do a lot of good things, and feel complacent with that even though we're not baptizing anybody. We also determined that the four factors that would influence baptisms were (1) Our skill (2) Our faith (3) the skill and faith of the members and (4) a change of heart in the people of Atlantic Canada. We really got a lot out of it. It was such an amazing experience and was clearly what needed to happen, even though it was completely unplanned. President Leavitt also noted that while many missionaries perceive this to be a low-baptizing mission, we're actually at the average for baptisms/missionary in the North America East area, and above the average for baptisms/member, so that was interesting.

After the training, I started feeling SO SICK from all the junk food we ate, and I decided I needed to be reasonably near a bathroom for the rest of the night, so Sister Vera and Sister Broadhead talked to people in our apartment building and actually got a few potentials, and Sister Sharp and I had a really good discussion about how faith related to her area and the potential for baptisms in it.
On Friday we had "visits" with the sisters. In the morning, Sister Vera and Sharp went together, and Sister Broadhead and I went store contacting, since Sister Broadhead is the master at store contacting. We managed to get a potential and a referral, and it was awesome. Then we were supposed to meet up with the other sisters to sing hymns on Main Street, but we talked to so many people on the way that we didn't actually have time to sing. One guy we talked to was totally nuts. The second I saw his fuschia nailpolish I knew it was going to be interesting. He was really into numerology and had all these crazy theories and basically wouldn't let us talk at all. (At one point he was talking about the number 7 and started talking about how there's only 7 musical notes and 7 colours and I had to work SO HARD to bite my tongue on the science he was missing out on there.) It was pretty funny. Then we switched companions and Sister Sharp and I went to our appointment with Louise and Emery, which fell through, but it was okay because still had to call people to get rides for our investigators to the concert. Then we came home and had lunch -- Sister Broadhead and I bought Sobey's sushi -- and then we went to the church to pick up Sister Jarvis, since Sister Echols was up for the concert and she was supposed to work with us for the afternoon. We went to Walmart and tried to sing and advertize for the concert, but we got kicked out, and then we tried to split up again, but we basically ended up running errands and it was pretty ineffective. (Concert days are such gong shows.) Finally, we went back to the church for the Children's Concert, which was AWESOME. Ashley and Stephanie both came, and they loved it, which was really great.
After the concert, we were supposed to bring 3 sisters back to our apartment to stay the night. Sister Davis had informed me that they would each have a small overnight bag and a blanket, which would totally have fit. Turned out, they each had a suitcase, multiple blankets and pillows, sleeping mats, and musical instruments. Haha. There was not a square inch of room left in the back of the car. It was hilarious. Then on the way home, while stopped at a red light, we saw a CRAZY car accident, and of course they were freaking out since they couldn't see it since their stuff was in the way. We made it the rest of the way home, got all the sisters settled in, and got to bed late. (We're 5 for 5 so far on the late nights.) We actually didn't get to do daily planning, which I felt really bad about.
On Saturday, Elder Widdup convened a district meeting to create a district vision for baptizing families, which was awesome. We decided we're going to fast for it on the first and third Sundays of the month, and in the next four months, each companionship will baptize a family. We were pretty pumped. It was the first good "district planning" meeting I've been to, which was good, since I was SO tired and I think if they'd been the way they usually are, I would have lost it. After that, we had weekly planning, since we were busy on Friday, and then games night at the church. Ashley came, which was awesome! And then we went and taught Stephanie. We taught the Sabbath Day and Law of Chastity in the context of the 10 Commandments. When we got to "Thou shalt not commit adultery," we just started by asking her opinion of it, and so she told us, ending with, "...and that's why I've decided to wait for marriage." SWEET. So we had a little more general discussion on all that it entails and on resisting temptation and then committed her to live it. I thought we were home free until she brought up the homosexuality concern, since her uncle is gay, but we resolved it surprisingly easily. Then we went to a less-active visit, Melodie. It was the first time we visited her, and we were still on a spiritual high from Stephanie's lesson. So we ended up being super bold -- basically doing How To Begin Teaching, where we learned that she feels confused about the church. But as we talked, it became clear that she thought her confusion was a lack of testimony, but she actually DID know it was true; the confusion was just the result of not having the Spirit. So we pointed that out, and then shared a thought about the verse in Isaiah where "though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be white as snow," and then committing her to stop smoking. TOTALLY not the thought we'd planned, but it was TOTALLY AWESOME. Then we came home and had a call night to review exchanges with Sister Broadhead over the phone after planning. (6 for 6!)
Sunday Sister Vera and I had decided to fast about becoming more skilled in teaching together and speaking the language (she's still working on English too), plus both of our bodies completely crashed from the crazy week, plus we were sore from volleyball on Saturday, so we were SO TIRED. But church was really good. Tyler and Heidi had the flu, but Ashley and Stephanie came, as well as Sister Cormier, an excommunicated member that the sisters were apparently working with but who we haven't been able to visit yet. After church, we went street contacting. I was SO tired and I honestly didn't feel like I had the brainpower to think of things to say to people, but Sister Vera was like "We just have to do it!", so we did (Eventually). It turned out being really great and we had some great conversations, even though we talked to fewer people than usual, because apparently not being able to think of all the things I usually say means the Spirit can give me what I'm actually supposed to say. Then we stopped by a recently reactivated family whose boys are recent converts, since she'd made us a lasagna to take home, and had a really great visit. Then we had dinner, and then we went and stopped by formers and potentials, and one of the formers was interested! Then we went knocking. It was such a gong show. My filter gets slightly less filter-ey when I'm tired. Haha. We had the following conversation at a door:
"We're missionaries, etc."
"Not interested."
"Do you mind if I ask why not?" [big smile]
"Well, I'm Catholic."
[more smiling] "Well, that doesn't mean you can't be interested!"

Fortunately the guy managed to realize I was teasing, but Sister Vera was like, "I think you need to be more warm and friendly, and less genuine." Haha. (President Leavitt always talks about the need to be warmfriendlyandgenuine with people.)

Then we were supposed to have a visit with a less-active family (French people from France! I was so excited to understand everything) but they cancelled, so we stopped by some less-actives and then we called people. Then we came home and planned, and then I had the Zone Conference call for reporting numbers (7 for 7!) Pretty much every area in the Zone was having a hard time. So when it was just the ZLs and STLs discussing what message to email to the zone tomorrow, Elder Evanson was like, "A lot of these missionaries just need some encouragement because it was just a bad week, but others need to repent and work harder, but I don't know what to say to both without offending or making complacent!" and Elder Roberts was like, "It doesn't matter, everyone just needs to suck it up and try harder!" and Sister Broadhead was like, "You can't just say that though!" Haha. Finally I was like, "There's a scripture that expresses this concept in a kinder way..." and we managed to get to bed.
I love you all!
Sister Olson

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