Thursday, September 17, 2009

Greetings From Albuquerque

Wow! I’m in Albuquerque! I have to admit, it was a little bit of a culture shock to be in subdivisions, drive on highways (with lots of cars), and have a map so detailed you have to go to Kinkos to blow it up! But it feels a little bit like home here in Albuquerque, aside from the adobe architecture, I mean. Nonetheless, it is weird getting used to living in a new place!

Sister Lamb is a wonderful new missionary. She doesn’t even act new at all! I am very excited for this transfer, because she’s a hard worker and a good teacher. I think we will get to see miracles this transfer!

We cover two wards here in Albuquerque. We had four “official” investigators at church on Sunday, and another non-member that one of our investigators brought with them. Hopefully we’ll get to start teaching her soon. But let me just think abut this for a minute…FOUR investigators at church on the first week of the transfer…before we even know how the area works ourselves! It was super exciting.

Most of our investigators are sincere in their desire to learn. They aren’t just too nice to tell us not to come back, or intellectually curious, or lonely. They aren't crazy either! They actually have been searching for the truth and have a hunger to learn! These are the kind of people I have been hoping to teach my whole mission…and even when I was still contemplating the decision to serve, I hoped I'd find people like this. I am so grateful to be here.

As I said last week, I have been seriously considering the Lord’s declaration that the field is white already to harvest. He has promised that there are people ready for the gospel. Before I even left Bloomfield, I prayed very hard that the Lord would prepare people here in Albuquerque to receive the message, and that more importantly, we would recognize each other. I find it fascinating to see how many church headquarter referrals were generated during that same time I was praying. And we have gotten three member referrals this week as well. Once again, it is clear that Heavenly Father really does hear our prayers!

President Anderson always tells stories about how through the Spirit, missionaries can have a profound influence even when we think we’re failing. I always love those stories and hoped that I could have similar experiences. Well, I had one this week!!

There is an amazing recent convert in our ward. Our ward mission leader told us about her and told us how at stake conference a few weeks ago, President Anderson and the Temple president had both invited her husband to take the missionary lessons. Well, naturally, that made our ears perk up, so we stopped by the house on Saturday afternoon.

Her husband opened the door, and we chatted with him for a while. He told us that his wife wasn’t feeling well, so we said we’d try back again another time. As we walked back to the car, I remember telling my companion about how I got the impression he wasn’t too excited to see us there. Oh well. We’ll keep trying, I thought.

Then on Sunday, his wife bore her testimony about how her prayers are beginning to be answered and that her husband is taking an interest in the church. She said that after we knocked on the door, he told her that there were new sister missionaries and that they seemed very nice. Then later in the day, he asked if she could get out her DVDs on the history of the church. They watched them together all day. And he asked her what she thought about them. She bore a simple testimony and turned the question back to him. He said he thinks they are very good, and asked that they watch more of them after she got home from church.

I realize, that we didn’t really play a role in this…she had been praying for the past few months that this would happen, and that so many other people have played a role, the Holy Ghost being the most important factor. But I appreciated that she mentioned us. Even missionaries need encouragement sometimes!

Then, oh my goodness! We went to see one of our investigators! We went to visit her, and she told us her whole conversion story, about how she was raised Catholic and came to a point where she knew it wasn’t quite right. She didn’t believe in the Trinity so she started attending a non-denominational church. Gradually, she brought her husband and family along with her to this church. Then a few months later she started reading the Book of Mormon. She read it in about a week and knew it was true. It filled in so many pieces, she said! She’s read the Book of Mormon twice and has read the Pearl of Great Price and is now in Section 80 something of the Doctrine & Covenants. She knows so much about the church and loves it…but wants to bring her family along with her. She said she’ll point out bits of Mormon Doctrine, but she doesn’t want to freak them out by making them think she wants to switch religions every few months. So she said it will be a gradual process, but she isn’t afraid to be the leader! Amazing! Some of her extended-family has expressed some anti sentiments, and she deflects them off and defends the church even though she isn’t a member…yet. I hope we get to see a miracle in this family’s life this transfer!!! I hope they develop a curiosity of their own. This woman says she tries to attend the LDS church once a month (she wants to join) but at the same time, she loves attending church with her family. The church they attend together has a rock band and is very new age, so her teens seem to like it. She said the LDS service is very different from that church. Our services weren't as emotional, but “do you know what it was?” she said. “It was sweet. It felt like home.” When she imagines what it would be like to be with God, she imagines that it would be very much like home, and peaceful. I am so excited to be here!

These are just two examples of the people we’re working with! I didn’t even talk about the people who DID attend church this Sunday and who have already expressed a desire to be baptized. The list could just go on and on. As the mother in our lesson last night said, “I feel that God just has a pitcher full of blessings waiting for us, and He’s just wondering when we’re going to start!” She too, feels like she knows the Book of Mormon is true and she hasn’t even read it yet. But when her family started dissing on it, she was amazed at how passionately she defended the book! She said “I don’t get passionate about ANYTHING really, besides my family, so I feel like there must be truth to this.” Her husband has a light in his eyes, and you can just tell he absorbs everything he learns.

THEN… There’s a sweet 20 year old girl who has been searching for the past three years. Wow! I keep thinking of other stories I could share, but I am seriously going to run out of time!

This is the best time to be in Albuquerque. The Balloon festival is around the corner, and it’s chili season. We helped one of our part member families peel green chilies on Saturday. And I am converted to all things spicy! They grew up in Santa Fe, and told us about all the festivals and folk legends that are happening there this time of year. So it was a super fun day. I'll have to tell you about the Black Arroyo, and Zubrona (sp?) later!

Before I left Bloomfield, two of our investigators gave me the sweetest gifts. One of them gave me a book about the Navajo creation story, and wrote his testimony inside. WOW! I am amazed at how much he knows! He said, read this book as a conversation starter, but don’t believe it! Because it’s silly. The other investigator gave my trio matching Navajo necklaces. So sweet of them!

I miss you all a LOT!

Gotta run. But have a wonderful day!

Transfer News

Well, you may have thought the day would never come, but I am being transferred out of Bloomfield. President called us on Saturday morning, and I will be training another sister fresh out of the MTC. I hope she is as good as my last “greenie.” Sister Lotulelei hardly needed training in the first place. I think new missionaries have such an enthusiasm and spirit about them that I actually LOVE to serve with them. There is even more motivation to work hard. Some people dread training, and yes it’s a little stressful, but I didn’t mind it this last transfer. Although I loved the trio I was in this transfer (it was a ton of fun, and I absolutely adore these sisters), I think it will be a LOT easier to train when it’s a normal companionship…fewer ways to get distracted.

I am a little nervous about my new area, but President said it was a good area, and that he received the impression we would do well there. Where am I going, do you ask? Should I finally get to the point? Ok. I am going to Albuquerque! I will be covering the Paradise Hills Ward as well as the Bandelier Ward. This is in northwest Albuquerque, just outside of Rio Rancho. We are opening the area to sisters, Elders have served there in the past. I loved opening Bloomfield, so I’m excited about this, but also…Bloomfield was just a tiny town. A greenie and I now have to navigate the city! I bet this will make for lots of good stories. I have felt a LOT of peace with going to Albuquerque. I feel like this is where I am supposed to be. As a result of our Zone Conference, I decided to pray and then fast yesterday that Heavenly Father would prepare people to receive the gospel, and that we would recognize who they are. I’m excited to see what happens. Albuquerque was the ONE place that I dreaded going. Sisters who have served in other parts of Albuquerque all told me that they had almost NO investigators and would tract at least 5 hours a day. Which is quite an adjustment from being in Bloomfield, where you don’t have to do much tracting. I like to tell people I am terrified of going to Albuquerque…but really…. when I think about it, I’m not. Like I said, I had a strong feeling that things would be good here.

The Elders said that Albuquerque is booming right now, and that it should be a good place to find people to baptize. They also said that President Anderson sometime attends those wards, but I don’t know about that, maybe they were just trying to scare me.

I’m driving down to Albuquerque tonight. It’s amazing how much more “stuff/clutter” or whatever you want to call it, I have collected. When I got here, everything fit into my suitcases…and now I have no idea how I’m going to carry everything to Albuqerk. I think I’ll just throw everything in the back of the truck.

Ok in other news…well. Transfer news is kind of the biggest news and everything else pales in comparison.

We met a lady who has a Pit Bull, a Doberman and a Wolf in her yard. Yes, people in New Mexico sometimes keep wolves as pets. How crazy!

One of our investigators attended a baptism with us on Saturday. I think he really liked it! Another of our investigators came to Church for the first time yesterday. It’s amazing how excited we get at little baby steps like that. The ward was super nice to him, I just hope it didn’t make our other two investigators who came to church jealous! Those two investigators are starting to progress beautifully and attend church regularly. Which is a first! Usually investigators attend church sporadically. I am so excited for these families and will miss them.

But I am excited for a change!

Love you all dearly!

Asdaan To (The Navajo nickname one of our investigators gave me. Apparently, translated it means “lady water.” I think I’ll miss her nicknames.)

Thursday, September 3, 2009

What Would You Think If You Were Interviewed by a General Authority?

This week was one of my favorites so far!

In my weekly e-mail to President Anderson last week, I mentioned that we have an investigator on probation, and that we’d have to wait for him to get off before he could get baptized. President immediately called us and let us know that if our investigator would meet all the qualifications for baptism, he would personally write the First Presidency and ask for him to get baptized. He has had about 4 people be approved so far. Well, we ran over to tell this man, and he was SOO excited. It gives him the incentive to really prepare himself for his baptismal date…which is October 16th. He picked the day himself because:
1. It will give him enough time to get ready, and
2. It is his birthday and he thinks it is symbolic of being born again!

We are so happy. He recognized that he has a big opportunity here and has prayed everyday. He is even helping us teach another investigator about the gospel, and he likes to talk about how he came to know the Book of Mormon was true. He said something to the effect of, “I really want to get baptized, I prayed about it, and this is my biggest dream.”

Other exciting things:
  • Crystal said she would accept a calling when she gets baptized.
  • One of our part member families broke out the Book of Mormon this week.
  • We taught a 1st lesson to a woman who said she was super curious about the restoration!
Also! Since President gave us permission to get creative in our work, Sister Boisselle came up with an idea to get the members into missionary work. We found this HUGE rock, and painted it hideous gold and orange. In blue lettering, we wrote “The Book of Mormon Rock.” In the ransom note, it says that “this monstrosity will stay in your yard until you successfully give away a Book of Mormon to a non-member (friend, neighbor, enemy, whatever). When you have completed your mission, place the rock in another member of the Bloomfield 2nd ward’s yard. Be quick and have fun.”

Who do you suppose got the rock stuck in their yard first? Yep. The Squirrel Meat Family. They totally had it coming.

Also, I had investigators and less actives try to set me up at least twice this week. SUPER awkward. Ha ha.

Also. Yeah, I’m leaving the best for last. I was interviewed by a General Authority yesterday. We had our general authority tour yesterday, and President Anderson selected several missionaries to be interviewed, and lucky me, I fell into that lot.

In my interview, Elder C. Scott Grow asked me if I had any thoughts or questions that ran across my mind when I found out he would be interviewing me. I told him: “I was basically terrified to death.” He just laughed and laughed and laughed. He asked why I was terrified (I think being interviewed by a General Authority needs no explanation as to why it invokes fear.)

He told me I reminded him of his daughter in law. (Which always gets me curious…) He asked about my family, and their callings. And he mostly just asked me what I learned from Zone Conference which I will relate below.

He talked about section 76 of the Doctrine and Covenants. Joseph Smith said that the same visions are available to EACH member of the church according to their desire, faith and purity. He asked us to expand our visions.

It became clear to me that there are literal miracles waiting to happen. I need to have the faith to seek them, and work for them. I often get in the mind set of just Do. Just Work. But there is so much more possible, if I but FIRST learn to seek inspiration. Ask to see where to go! This takes time.

My whole mission, there has been an emphasis on NOT dropping investigators. Elder Grow made it clear that there are elect people prepared. We don’t need to waste time with those who aren’t willing to progress. Simply leave them and go back later. Find those who are ready now. Have the faith that they will be prepared. I talked to Elder Grow about this in my interview, and I told him that not having a baptism was very discouraging, but that there are some specific things I can do to increase baptisms. One of them is to leave those who don’t progress. Another is to have more faith in the goals we set.

He told us about when he was a Mission President, there was a new elder who felt like he could have 23 baptisms in the transfer. The elder said he had prayed about it and felt like this was a good number. President Grow was a little bit shocked at this. The missionaries senior companion didn’t see it really being possible, but the young elder had the faith that if the Lord said 23 baptisms were possible, then it would happen and people would be prepared. In his interview with the mission president, he said “we didn’t meet our goal. We only had 20 baptisms this transfer, but three more people are being interviewed this afternoon.”

Elder Grow also told us that the Lord often takes His Prophets to a high place to show them visions of the world and of the Plan of Salvation. Look at Nephi, Moses, etc.. The lord tries to reveal the same vision of the Plan of Salvation available to each of us in the temple. I hadn’t thought about it that way before.

I better run, I’ve only got ten minutes to write a letter to President Anderson, but I love you all dearly. Thank you SO much! Have a wonderful week.