Sunday, February 14, 2010

Hello February 02/01/2010

Hello Family!

This has been a very long week. A lot of our appointments cancelled, but I guess that’s the life of being a missionary. We’ve gotten the opportunity to go “finding” a lot this week, and have actually had a couple of good experiences.

We also decided to try to contact a few former investigators this week, and that’s how we met “Tavern Guy.” As we approached this house, he came outside to meet us, and after talking on the doorstep for a while, he invited us in. Now, why do Sister Allred and I call him “Tavern Guy?” Well, it’s because as we were talking with him and his friends, we came to the conclusion that they remind us of people sitting in an 18th century tavern, talking politics, smoking, just down to earth. Tavern Guy has a very strong Jersey accent, if that helps you picture the situation better. He told us how he has studied the Bible and gone to a lot of different churches, but doesn’t feel like he knows which one is true. So as any missionary would, we tried to explain a little bit about the restoration of the gospel. Tavern Guy asked us a few questions and after a while, it just became contentious, almost borderline argumentative. I’ve had my fill of bashers on the mission, but for some reason, this guy was making me really angry. Suddenly I hear myself burst out “Don’t you tell me what I believe!” I was a little surprised at myself, but even more surprised at their response. Tavern Guy said, “I like this one! She’s cool!” Still, I apologized for being out of line. I don’t get upset with people very often, but when I tried to apologize, all three of them turned their heads almost in unison and said “Don’t Apologize!” Instantly, I had gained their respect, and the environment changed from one of hostility to one of respect. Not very often does abrasiveness gain that kind of response, but I guess my instinctive remark to defend my beliefs must have been so unexpected that it was taken well. Towards the end of our conversation, I went to apologize once again, and Tavern Guy had had enough of it. “Did Jesus Christ ever apologize for who he was? Did He? Hmm? No. Did he apologize for what He believed? See? So don’t go there.” Fair enough.

We also met another guy when we were tracting that I can’t decide if he was cool, or really off the rocker. He has studied the Bible for 37 years and knew it very well. He talked to us for about an hour, getting very metaphysical, and deep, yet at the same time telling us that he had died before, and that he had gotten the chance to re-live life. That he had met us before and that this conversation had all happened before, but that he had been given the chance to be more polite and respectful this time than last time. He showed us another passage from the Bible that he said, explained Déjàvu. He reminded me of some character out of a book written by someone like Earnest Hemingway, “Old and Lonely”. We must live life, and enjoy it! Studying the Bible is good, but I think there is a truth in that staying cooped up can make one go crazy.

As we were knocking doors on Saturday, we came across a house with HUGE mean dogs. We could see them through the window, so I thought we were safe and I went to approach the door. Suddenly we hear a woman yelling, “Get out! Get out!” My companion looks at me and says, "We’ve got to go!” So we both start running. I’m not sure if the woman was yelling at us, or if she was yelling at her dogs, and trying to send them out the back door to come and get us. But as we go to the next house, we hear the door open and the woman scream, “I’m Atheist!!!!” Wow, I think she must have felt stupid when there was no one there. We didn’t even knock on her door or anything. People are so crazy.

But for the most part, people have been very good and kind. At church yesterday, we heard the line “when evil is made invisible to you.” I wouldn’t be surprised if that is a blessing we’ve received as missionaries, because this was really one of the first few mean people we’ve come across. Knocking on random people’s doors every day, you would think you’d run into more rotten people, but really I feel like I will come home and say there is more good in the world than bad.

Well, Sister Allred and I have had enough of being lazy on Preparation Day, so today we’re going to Bernalillo, another little town in our stake boundaries, and hopefully we’ll find something cool to do. We might look into visiting a few local attractions.

Hope all is going well back home. I love you all and miss you tons.

Sister Waters

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Catholic Nuns? No, Mormon Nuns. 01/25/2010

Hello Everyone!

I can’t believe another week has gone by. It’s true what they say, the days go by like weeks and the weeks go by like days! I’m sitting here in the library, and as I begin writing my weekly email, I notice that someone is staring me down. I look up and this man says, “Your little badge confused me.”

“Oh!” I respond, hoping that this might be a great missionary opportunity. “We’re missionaries…”

“I understand that,” he said. “I just thought you were Catholic nuns.”

I’ve heard a lot of things on my mission, but I don’t think I’ve ever been mistaken for a nun before. But I guess I can understand that. The title “Sister” must throw some people off. But anyway, no inspiring gospel conversation grew out of that encounter. Such is life.

Speaking of Catholic nuns…we met a former nun this week when we were tracting. Heavenly Father certainly answers our prayers to be able to meet those who are searching for truth. This particular woman opened the door, and I didn’t expect her to be interested, but surprisingly, she let us in, and explained her life history. She was a cloistered nun in a convent in Hollywood, California. I didn’t understand completely, but it sounded as if her convent did a lot of penitence for the sins of Hollywood. Gradually, she came to the conclusion that it is only Jesus Christ who can suffer for the world’s sins, and she fell away from the Catholic Church. She told us that she has been praying very hard to find the truth and that she was hoping she would run into some Latter-Day Saints. Her daughter-in –law, whom she lives with, is a Jehovah Witness, and the day we tracted into this woman, her daughter-in-law was out of the house, otherwise there was no way we would have been able to go inside. I’m finding more and more that timing is so crucial in missionary work. Our former nun friend, said that she believes that there are other holy records out there, and wanted a copy of the Book of Mormon and any other literature we had. She asked us a few questions, and told us that she was learning about the Baha’i faith, and she agreed with some of the things that they taught, but that she was still very open and searching. I really hope we’ll be able to see her again soon.

This week was a kind of “day of reckoning.” Over the past few weeks we’ve tracted a ton, and found so many potential investigators. Our goal was to “pester” each of them until we could narrow this pool down to people who were sincerely interested in learning, and eliminate those who were just trying to be polite. It has been going well, and on Saturday, we were able to nail down three return appointments. Our area is still a little slow, which is frustrating, but I do feel like heavenly Father is pleased with our hard work.

I was studying about Mormon and Moroni out of the Book of Mormon this week, and it struck me that they were some of the most obedient ministers of the gospel ever, yet they had absolutely NO investigators. The people of their time were engaged in some of the most horrific activities that people can be involved in, but their efforts were still important to our Heavenly Father. I think I’m finally internalizing what it means when they say you can’t measure a missionary’s success by outward signs of success, such as baptisms. While I have certainly been blessed to see a few baptisms on my mission, I’ve also had those periods of dry spells. But it’s ok. I really think the work will pick up. One of our new investigators came to church this Sunday (she’s engaged to a member), and filled out a new move in form…so hopefully that means she feels at home here.

We made a very comprehensive map of our area when we first got here, plotting out all the less actives that the Bishop said would be good to visit, and all the potentials that the Elders left us. We were looking at that map yesterday, surprised to see that we’ve tried almost every single person on that map. I want to start on another updated one.

We visited a lot of less active families this week. It surprises me how often, if you invite them to come to church, they accept the invitation without much hesitation. I think people may think it is intimidating to invite less actives out to church, but it isn’t that scary after all! One of the couples we visited is hilarious! She was talking about how the church doesn’t want you to write church headquarters for complaints, and how you’re supposed to send them to the Bishop first. Her big complaint is that all the hymns are too old. They are all from 1820, 1843, and 1890 she complained. She always tells the Bishop about this, and he always tells her not to send a letter. I told her that she sounds just like Gladys Knight. Despite the boring music, they’ve come to church for two weeks in a row now!

Preparation day is going to be pretty low key again. I don’t mind at all. Sister Allred and I are pretty boring, and enjoy writing letters and sleeping on prep day. It’s great.

I love you all and hope everything continues to go well. I’ve gotten a ton of mail this week. Thanks to everyone.

Love You Tons!
Sister Waters

Friday, February 5, 2010

Blessing of Having to Rely on Heavenly Father 01/19/2010

Hello Family,

Our second week in Rio Rancho went very well. It’s still a difficult area in some ways, but I know with all my heart that Heavenly Father is helping us find people to teach. My negative attitude from the initial shock of having almost no investigators has been softened as I have realized that this may be a blessing. We really have to have a lot of faith, and rely on Heavenly Father to find people to teach, whereas before, people were already provided. I am really trying to ask Heavenly Father and then look for the answers. It seems like almost every day, we find someone who invites us to come back. They seem pretty genuine in their invitation too! While we are still trying to turn these potential investigators into real investigators, I think the work will come along. It’s a lesson in patience, faith and perseverance. I continue to trust in the promise that the field is white.

Some of the exciting developments from this week:

It was exciting to get a phone call from one of our potential investigators this weekend. We stopped by her house, and were greeted by a very clearly disinterested husband. She gave us a call and said that she would still like to set something up with us, when her husband isn’t around, so hopefully she’ll get back in touch.

We also visited a part member family that is wonderful. Her husband is Amish! Crazy right? But amazingly fascinating. She said that they realize that their children need religion, but that an Amish lifestyle just won’t work. I hope that she’ll get back in touch with us as well.

Then we went tracting on Saturday and met a woman who is friends with a less active woman that we’re trying to meet with. It was a cool lesson, because she is looking for a church, but hates how many different translations of the bible there are, she was pleasantly surprised to hear that the Mormons use the King James Version of the Bible. Towards the end of our visit, she even made the comment, “I wish I was a part of your church”. I think she still has some concerns and a lot of issues, but it was a good experience.

Funny story of the week:

We met an 82 year old less active member our first week here. She is hilarious. There was a dog barking as we were trying to talk to her at her doorstep. Sister Allred made the comment that those dogs were scary looking. Without missing a beat, Pat responded: “Well, the way I see it is that some people are pretty scary looking too.” Later in the week, the High Priests went to go visit her, and when they told her that they represented the High Priest group, she responded, “Well that’s impressive.” It’s hard to believe she’s in her 80s.

One of the less active members here grew up in a pueblo that is within the stake boundaries. He invited us to come see a dance ceremony with their family. This is a very rare invitation, because in order to enter a pueblo, you must be invited in by someone who is a member of the community. There are only a few times during the year that guests are allowed to go in. We’re hoping that we can get permission to go with their family. Missionaries in the past have gone, but we want to be sure that it’s ok with the mission, since the church’s standing with the pueblos of New Mexico is on very unstable ground. I wouldn't want to cause any more tensions. The Yazzies were telling us about different festivals, feasts, dances, and traditions that occur in the pueblos. For example, whenever a new governor is elected, the family of the governor throws food, household items, and basically everything, off the roof as a thank you to the community for choosing their son. The members of the pueblo all gather round to catch the gifts.

I didn’t get to go to the baptism, but it’s ok. President read one of my letters in Zone Conference this week. It relates to this period of my mission when I have to miss baptisms. Back in October, I wrote:

“One thing that I have known for a while, but really hit me yesterday was how much work went into preparing this area for us. Not only was Heavenly Father preparing the area, but there were some really good missionaries who were persistent in their efforts, but never got to see the fruits of their labors. Having been on the other side of this situation when I was in Bloomfield, it makes me wish I could write some of these Elders and let them know how much good has happened because of their diligence. I know firsthand how hard it is to pour out your everything into an investigator and then never see any immediate success. It can be heart wrenching! But because of their efforts, I get to reap the benefits! I only hope the people I left behind will progress the same way.”

That’s how the mission goes. It’s a tag team effort.”

Thank you for your letter Dad, I needed to hear what you said. It meant a lot.

We’re doing well. Thanks for all your love and support,

Sister Waters

PS As I said, we didn't go to the baptism, there is a policy in place that prevents us, which I understand and support, but as a result, I feel that we were directly blessed that day. We got to teach more lessons that Saturday than we usually do. The Lord understands our "sacrifices." If that is even the right word.

I love you and hope the weather starts to warm up! I love you tons and tons!

Sister Waters