Hey you guys. I think I'll start out with my spiritual experiences first, then go on with the rest of the stuff. :)
We are split teaching a woman with the elders right now. It is proving to be a little difficult because it seems as though she is determined to find everything wrong with what we are saying. But the thing is, the last time we went over, we explained to her that everything that we are saying is exactly in line with everything she has been taught since she was very young. She asked about the three kingdoms of glory and how it doesn't mention that in the bible. But, Sister Bagley was on top of it and had a plan of salvation pamphlet that listed the bible scripture to look up. We read it with her and she just kind of sat there with an, "Oh Shoot" look on her face. I then jumped in and said, "Can I tell you something?" She replied, "Sure." I said, "The reason we are here is not to fight about or convince you of what we are saying. The reason we are here is to invite the spirit and to let you find out for yourself that the things we are teaching are true." She just stared at me. I knew because of past things that she had said that she wasn't receiving answers to her prayers. We taught about the Holy Ghost and how he answers our prayers if we are asking with sincerity. I told her that the answer may even come through a peaceful feeling. I then challenged her to pray and just wait. I explained that, "We have been told a few times out here that when we pray, we often have the habit of getting up too fast and not listening for the spirit. That has a dramatic and unfortunate effect. If we are saying our prayers, and not giving Heavenly Father time to answer them through the spirit, no wonder we aren't getting answers." She responded, "I have never thought about it like that. I will try it."
I think the most amazing thing about missionary work is, you are teaching the same thing to everyone, but if you are in tune with the spirit, Heavenly Father will show you different ways of putting things that will make sense to the specific investigator. That has shown me that not only is the gospel true, but that it is very personal as well.
We had to go get our car inspected on Wednesday. As we were sitting in the lobby, a man came and sat down across from us. After a few minutes, he asked me what my name tag said. I explained that we were missionaries for our church. He said that was wonderful and immediately asked one of three questions people always ask us when they first meet us. That being, "What is your church's standpoint on same sex marriage?" We instantly thought, "Annnnndddddd, strike three." But when we explained the church's view on it, he said, "I couldn't agree more." Then something amazing happened. He shared with us his experiences. He explained that he had been an alcoholic, a drug lord, etc. Then he said one day, he got in his third (I think) car accident from being high. He still doesn't know, to this day, what he hit. He just knows that he didn't hit another car because when he walked out in the morning to look at the damage, it wasn't that bad. He knew at that moment that he wanted to give everything up and change his life. He said that because he turned to God in that moment, he was able to stop everything cold turkey. But there was undeniably a void in his life that he had to fill. So he immediately started going to church and doing everything he could to share Gods message with the world. Isn't that amazing? He was so kind and we couldn't help but extend the invitation to explore our church. Unfortunately, he is in the Gastonia area, so we had to refer him to the elders there. But hopefully they get in contact and all goes well.
This was kind of a fun and spiritual experience. On Thursday, the stake relief society leaders came to our Ward and put on a relief society activity. The theme was - The Amazing Race, it had all of these cute little challenges like Two Truths and a Lie, Cleaning part of the Building, Filling out a pedigree chart, Putting together a puzzle, etc. It was super fun. I had bishop's wife on my team and she is really competitive. I got super excited when I was the first person in the stake to have filled out all of the Two Truths and a Lie correctly. That put us in first place, and it ended up helping us take the victory. ;) I have to bring that idea back to Utah with me. It was adorable. I don't think I got any pictures, but I'll check. Then when we were all done with the "race", one of the stake leaders got up and gave a talk by President Monson, from last October General Conference, "Ponder the Path of they Feet." She talked about the Savior's journey throughout his life and really emphasized one of my favorite things from that talk. That it isn't as important to walk WHERE Jesus walked, but walk AS he walked. It was a really fun activity. I asked the stake leaders where to get all the printouts and information, so hopefully we can put one together when I get home or something. Because it would be sooooo fun!
We were able to volunteer and help with the Habitat for Humanity 5K on Friday night. They expected a lot more people to participate. They had about 100 shirts, and only about 25 runners show up. But hey, I got a shirt and a cowbell. So win win? :) I think the funniest part was the fact that they put us out on the course to show people where they were going to be running, so we got to see different running methods that people use. I think the funniest of all though, was one lady who was walking the entire time, walked up to us when she was on the phone. We heard her say into the phone, "No. Don't wait up on me. I'll probably be another 30, 45, 50 minutes." After she passed us, we had a good laugh about that one, because you could tell that she was just taking her sweet merry time! It was the best thing ever!
We got to go on exchanges with the Alexandriana Sisters this week as well. They are our Sister Training Leaders. I was originally not very excited. I haven't had the best exchanges on my mission thus far, so it's generally not something I look forward to. But this had to be the BEST EXCHANGE I HAVE EVER BEEN ON! Sister Allred is possibly the greatest ever! We are going to be such good friends after our missions. We had so many wonderful lessons that day in Alexandriana, and I truly felt love for each and every person they are working with. AND THEN..... She proved to me that missionaries with my point of view on missions exist! She said that it is really important to work as hard as you can on your mission, but it is just as important to play as hard as you can on your mission. So when we had a little unplanned time before dinner at a member's house, we asked if we could go to downtown Charlotte and take some pictures by the Cityscape, because we didn't know if we were ever going to be back. She said, "OF COURSE SISTERS!" So we stopped at the park across from the Bank of America Stadium where there is an unbelievable view of the Skyline in Charlotte.
It was so amazing and I learned so much from her. She said that she has also been in 2 or more areas on her mission that had really low statistics every week, no matter how hard you worked. She said that she knows for a fact that I am working as hard as I can and that I need to ignore what everyone else may do or think or say and just do the work that I know is the best that I can do and that is the best for the area, and I will be incredibly successful on my mission. That gave me the encouragement and energy boost I have been so desperately needing from another missionary. :) She is incredible.
I think that was all of the main highlights for the week. We did have a baptism for the elders and a baby shower for a member yesterday, but there isn't too much to go into detail about with those. Besides the fact that Sister Grace and I won one of the baby shower games and got a little baby hungry with all of the clothes. But you know... so goes life. ;)
I am so glad to hear that Jared Barbosa's homecoming went well. Charity really is the most important thing that you can possess and exercise as a missionary. But not only that, I would echo that statement by saying that it is also something extremely necessary to possess after the mission as well. I was listening to Elder Ballard's talk from this last Priesthood Session a few weeks ago, and this section of his address really stood out to me:
"I remind you returned missionaries that your preparation for life and for a family should be continuous. 'RM' doesn't mean 'retired Mormon'! As a returned missionary, you 'should be anxiously engaged in a good cause, and do many things of [your] own free will, and bring to pass much righteousness.' Please use the skills you learned on your mission to bless the lives of people around you every day. Do not shift your focus from serving others to focusing exclusively on school, work, or social activities. Instead, balance your life with spiritual experiences that remind and prepare you for continued, daily ministering to others."
That really stood out to me because it is sooo true. We need to remember that we are sons and daughters of an almighty Heavenly Father. It is a blessing to be here on this earth, and we need to always be aware and conscious of how we can help others. Even if it is the simplest of ways.
It is true what he said about the fact that if you don't have Charity and Love for those you come in contact with, nothing else matters. These are our Heavenly Brothers and Sisters, not just some random person that we met on a street. It is our job to bring them home.
I love your words of encouragement mom and dad. You will never know how much it means to hear from the both of you and my sisters. It is the thing that keeps me going. I love you all so much more than you could ever imagine.
I hope you have a crazy fun, busy, and exciting week. I love you to infinity and beyond.
Loves and hugs from NC!