This week’s positive highlight was that Sister Blanchard and I got to see an investigator I used to teach at her baptism. It was a beautiful service, with a wonderful musical number and testimonies and I am so proud of her. She was just glowing. She will be moving back down to Charles Town soon so we get to spend more time with her.
This week’s less-positive highlight was that Sister Blanchard got a bad cold and pinkeye. We weren’t really sure if we should go out and teach while we were walking biohazards so we unfortunately didn’t get to spend as much time proselyting as we usually like to. We also had a fun visit to an urgent care unit, complete with a secretary who had a Mormon son and was way excited to see us. By Sunday Sister Blanchard was feeling a lot better and we went to church as usual. I was doing my normal missionary duties and said hi to and shook hands with everyone in the chapel and was feeling like a great missionary when I sat down and noticed that my right eye was a little itchy. Without thinking, I started rubbing it a little and it started to swell, and continued to swell, and got even a little more swollen until I could barely keep it open. I was quietly panicking when the woman we sat next to that day caught a glimpse of me and nudged my companion. I had been infected. We decided that our best option was to walk right out of sacrament meeting lest we infect everyone else. We texted the elders to come meet us in the foyer and told them about our situation. These wonderful elders decided to alert everyone in order to avert a public health crisis so Sister Blanchard and I were the subject of what must have been a very exciting and unusual announcement over the pulpit. The whole way home Sister Blanchard and I were alternatively laughing and crying because the whole situation is so absurd. I kept saying, “I shook every hand. EVERY HAND!!!!!!!!!!!!!” Being a sick missionary is even less fun than being a sick civilian because there is no good TV, but we sat around for the rest of the day putting together a puzzle that depicts Jesus with many diverse children which I believe is called “Children of the World” and watching The District, which is a reality show about missionaries that we watch for instructional purposes. We also dipped strawberries and read old letters aloud to each other. That is the wild life of a bored missionary.
Our entire Relief Society is totally pumped on essential oils so the moment a sister in the ward found out about our ailment, she called the network and arranged for secret healing potion to be mixed up for us. That is one of the reasons why I love Mormon ladies. They are the ultimate first-response team. Charles Town’s economy is largely based on a racetrack and casino that are centrally located, so we ended up meeting the wonderful sister who brewed our healing balm in the parking lot of the racetrack. This felt a little shady, but on the bright side there was an excellent view of the track and we got to linger for three or four extra minutes to watch a race. Definitely an important rite of passage for any Charles Town resident, also it feels very weird to hang around near a racetrack and casino as a missionary.
On Monday we joined our mini recent convert for Family Home Evening, which is our usual Monday night routine. She is so cute because she loves hosting us and putting together a little program of events for the evening, always culminating in a Book of Mormon skit thematizing their reading assignment for the week to the captive audience of her mother. This week we played a game our li’l convert put together called “Funday Funland” which was a board game she drew herself possibly inspired in structure by Candyland (one of our FHE faves), with detours in the track such as “the apple orchards” “the experiment center” and “slide down a rainbow.” These detours were funny because they were positive experiences (such as apple picking) but they resulted in the loss of a turn. We weren’t sure if we should be happy or sad when we landed on a detour, but such is the nuance of Funday Funland.
In animal news, we met three fat horses on Friday. We had a lesson with some investigators who live way out in the country that evening, so we sat on their back porch watching the sun set and the fireflies come up and their fat horses galloping around. They were talking about the moonshine distillery they were thinking of building (they assured me it was strictly for fuel) and explained the purpose of a burn pit and that tires make for superior burning material. It was a perfect West Virginia evening. The husband in the couple we’re teaching also told us a story about when he used to own a goat, which he later shot and ate because, in his words, “he done ticked me off!” These folks are some of our best friends out here. I just love them.
We have been doing a service experiment where we show up somewhere in our service clothes and jump in without really being invited. We’re trying this because we want to help people out but we know how hard it is to ask for help. Some examples this week included showing up at the church during the church-cleaning hours of the week and asking to be put to work, arriving at a neighbor’s house as she was carrying in her groceries, taking them out of her car, and then putting them away and doing her dishes, and stopping at a local sister’s house while she was mowing her lawn so that I could divert her while Sister Blanchard took over the mowing. I’m going to call these experiences service pranks. Highly recommended.
In a week where our imperfect mortal bodies provided something of a hindrance to the work, I believe a quote by President Uchtdorf is very much relevant: “I suppose the church would be perfect only if it were run by perfect beings. God is perfect, and his doctrine is pure. But he works through us– His imperfect children– and imperfect people make mistakes.” Such as shaking hands with every person in the chapel with their infected hands. Oh goodness. My mission president elaborated on that quote by saying, “None of us is perfect, and the Lord is there to compensate!” which is such an important reminder to me. Sister Blanchard and I were definitely struggling with feeling bad about needing to be out of commission for two days out of eighteen months that we have dedicated to the Lord, but we know that He really is here to compensate when we mess up or when we just aren’t able to teach people about the gospel without infecting them with pinkeye. Our district leader also said something very useful about missionary work this week when he said, “God is not going to let you get between Him and any person out there. This is His work and he just lets us help out.” From the mouths of babes.
Wow, what a beautiful group of people I get to email. I love you. You are exciting and marvelous and you should write me letters because I have no idea what is going on otherwise. My address remains 14 Deerbrook Drive, Charles Town WV 25414
Sister Sparklebritches (as one sister in the ward called me when I wore my favorite sequined skirt this week)