Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Splits, Visits, and Lizards

Sister Moody and I at transfers a few weeks ago
Dear Everyone,

I love you!!! So this letter kind of skips through lots of things this week - hope you don't mind the discontinuity!
One phrase that really stuck out to me in my Book of Mormon reading this week was in 3 Nephi 11:23, where Christ is talking about those who qualify for baptism. He describes them as "whoso repent

eth of his sins through your words." That made me think of Alma 32, where investigators are asked to test the word of God, and this will create faith. So then I laid out the process: words -> faith -> repentance -> baptism. I realized that we all contribute different parts - we as the missionaries (with God's help and guidance of course) contribute the words, then God gifts investigators with faith, they choose to repent, and this leads to the great end/beginning of baptism. Thinking of the process this way made me realize two somewhat contradictory things: how crucial are our own preparation and teaching skills and Spirit as missionaries; and how little effect we have on the whole process - it's really in Heavenly Father's hands.
I loved another verse in that chapter that made me think - verse 30 says "this is not my doctrine, to stir up the hearts of men with anger, one against another; but this is my doctrine, that such things should be done away." That immedately brought to my mind the Doctrine of Christ - faith, repentance, baptism, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end. So I was thinking about how those five things are opposite to contention. I realized the connection is that through the first principles and ordinances of the Gospel we become more like Christ. We don't have space in our hearts for the spirit of contention when we are firmly on the path of Christ and our eyes are single to the glory of God. Anyway, the scriptures continue to be super cool. I'm a big fan.
We have an investigator, Jorge, who has been a continual surprise to us. When we blessed him he was drinking and smoking, and we really only ended up going back to him because our other backup had fallen through. He's a 56-year-old Cuban man who works continually for the little that he has. He understands very little about God and religion, and doesn't openly say he wants to change anything about his life. We love him. His mind isn't very open, but his soul hungers. You can just feel that his soul is hungry for the word of God. He doesn't quite recognize the Spirit, but he really feels it. For our second lesson we taught him the first vision and the word of wisdom. His brother came into the yard where we were teaching about halfway through the lesson, drunk. He was quiet and just stood there for most of the time, but wasn't interested in listening to us or talking to us. As we taught the lesson we used a technique we learned from our leaders - identifying the spirit immediately after teaching something, then asking them if they believe it, and why it's important to them or why they should live it. We taught the word of wisdom to Jorge and followed these steps. He drinks and smokes continually - 2 packs a day, and beer cans everywhere. He told us that he believed that the word of wisdom was from God and he needed to follow it. His brother interjected at that point, yelling at Jorge and asking him why he would give up alcohol and tobacco. Jorge turned around and just told his brother that it was because God wanted him to. He's working to quit after habits of a lifetime (and realizing that beer is alcoholic too, not just tequila and whiskey...). The Spirit was amazing.
Sister Sobkowicz, me, Sister Smaellie, and Sister Sheffield
This week two sisters who have finished their missions came back to visit West Palm - Sister Sobkowicz and Sister Sheffield. They are great - they went and basically taught lessons to about six less-actives and got many people to church :) They also came over to our apartment and went through our area book, identifying people they'd taught who might be open to being taught again, and telling us about members who'd helped them a lot.
Freddy the lizard who took a ride on the car yesterday
- he stayed safe in the windshield wiper well.

I had an important re-realization this week, following a short conversation with Sister Sheffield. She told us to always, always have fun. I've thought of that in the past, and worked to enjoy even the hard times, but recently I've forgotten that concept just because it's so different being the senior companion in the area. I've been letting stress over the big picture wear me out, and that effects everything - I'm not quite as cheerful during lessons, or as patient in harvest blessings. It's hard to feel the Savior's love for these people when I'm worried about everything all at once! So basically I'm just going to try to focus on one day at a time, and I'm grateful for a timely reminder from a spiritually sensitive sister. (P.S. This paragraph makes it sound like I've been crazy stressed. I haven't been. Sister Smaellie and I are both fine; this will just help with showing my happiness to people we meet :)
We also had exchanges this week, which was crazy! I went out to spend a day in Royal Palm Beach West with Sister Clayton's trainee and she came here to work with Sister Smaellie. So fun! I loved it, but working in an English area was so weird. Teaching is completely different in English, and the people are just different. I got a little bit homesick for West Palm. Also it was strange having Sister Moody talk about Sister Clayton. I kept on thinking, "that's my companion! What are you talking about, you two did something without me there?"
Anyway, out of time. We're moving forward learning every day, and working to always listen to the Spirit. We are hoping to start using Family History as a retention and possibly a teaching tool; more on that later. We're excited for the miracles to come!
Hermana Houghton

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