bowling for fruit

October 12

Last preparation day we discovered one of the most amazing local wonders in town called the Fruit Bowl. I had seen this little market (which, sidenote, is what everyone calls grocery stores out here) many times in passing and didn’t think anything of it until somebody said they have the best candy selection anywhere. My beloved siblen, this promise was absolutely true! I have rarely seen so much candy! I was in heaven! They carry anachronistic and obscure candies in bulk and a lot of locally produced items. Because the candy is sold in bulk, I got one of everything that caught my eye. I have promised myself that I will only eat one piece per week. It’s like early “trickle treatin'” (another feature of the delightful regional dialect) I’m sure you will all find yourselves in Cumberland one day and you absolutely must visit the Fruit Bowl. One of our favorite members, who is a former Mennonite (before he became a Mormon) and a former truck driver (before one of his eyes got injured) used to “drive truck” for them.

In baby animal news, this week I had a wonderful visit with a less-active member of the ward who had invited us over. She has one giant puppy and one tiny puppy. I like small animals so I patted my lap and called for the little one, but instead the giant puppy jumped his front legs onto my lap, clearly thinking of himself as the same size as his brother. I petted him instead but the tiny puppy came to sit next to me on the couch. These brothers just wanted to chew on each others’ ears so badly (is that a thing that puppies do all the time?! I’m not well versed in the world of puppies yet) and they were “rastlin'” away on my lap. Slowly the giant puppy got his left hind leg and then his right hind leg on my lap too. There was probably and equal amount of human and puppy on that couch and I was on the bottom. The other delightful feature of this visit was when our hostess said, “This old world’s gettin’ to be a mahghty crule place anymore” and for a small moment the spirit of Dolly Parton was present in the room. This was all supplemented by the craterlike coal mining site visible through the window. Mahghty crule indeed.

Our other very exciting less-active member/baby animal event was when we FINALLY got in with a sister who has been wanting to come back to church for some time (according to our records) and who lives just about a mile away from us. We’d been trying and trying by and finally she opened the door and welcomed us in warmly. Best of all, she had five kittens in a playpen who were VERY frisky and playful. and had kind of sharp claws. This area is overrun with feral cats, and she explained that she semi-adopts all the local feral cats, gets them fixed and vaccinated, and feeds them as they live in her back yard. She’s the third member of our ward I’ve met who does this, except that the other people keep the cats inside. I like her system because it’s less sneezy. As we were leaving the appointment, I said, “Sister Madsen, she has the trifecta: location, desire, and kittens.”

In one of our many miracles that we see every week, a highlight happened on Wednesday. We had been advised to seek more referrals from our investigators and as Sister Madsen and I were about to leave our apartment for a lesson with one of our investigators, the thought came in to my mind (spoiler: inspired by the Holy Ghost) that this investigator knew someone whom we should teach. I said to Sister Madsen, “We need to remember to ask for a referral today.” Toward the end of our lesson, I remembered that I had intended to ask this investigator for ideas of friends of hers we should teach, but before I could say it she said, “You know, the other day my neighbor asked me if I went to church and I told him that I do. He said that he is looking for a church and asked if my church was good. I told him it is very good and that he should come to church with me.” Sister Madsen and I made very unsubtle eye contact trying to communicate telepathically (as every missionary tries to do with their companion) and we left with a really solid referral. There is nobody you should obey more strictly than the Holy Ghost.

I have decided to start ponderizing scriptures that would be relevant in teaching situations because I’m trying to be better at using the scriptures when I teach. The very first principle that we teach is that God is our loving Heavenly Father and to that end, I discovered Malachi 2:10 “Have we not all one Father? hath not one God created us? why do we deal treacherously every man against his brother by profaning the covenant of our fathers?” I like the one because it has such wonderful words as “treacherously” and “profaning” and also because it is a great reminder that when we understand the divine heritage that we share with every other person we should have no reason to treat each other badly. Or rather, we should have a reason to treat each other well that would override any desire we might have to “deal treacherously” with our siblen.

Another scripture that has stood out to me this week is 2 Nephi 2:2. 2 Nephi is kind of a hidden gem. 1 Nephi mostly consists of a very compelling narrative and 2 Nephi is kind of the ~moral of the story~ if you will. For a little background, after trekking through the wilderness for a long time in search of the promised land, Lehi (the patriarch/prophet) is talking to a son of his who was born as they were traveling and after reviewing all the struggles they have had as a family says, “Thou knowest the greatness of God; and he shall consecrate thine afflictions for thy gain.” I LOVE this one and relate to it a lot. During my mission sabbatical when I was hoping to go on a mission but was not sure if my mental health would allow it and was just waiting and unsure and everything was confusing and hard, many people would tell me one of two things: a. that my “wilderness” if you will was a blessing in disguise from God who had important lessons/work for me previous to my mission, and b. that the delay in my missionary service represented an attack from Satan who wanted to prevent me from doing God’s work. These are both valid theories and they are also complete opposites. I didn’t and I don’t know who or what was behind the time that delayed and interrupted my mission but I do know that as I turned to God, he was able to consecrate my afflictions and this time of affliction has definitely been for my gain, and more importantly for the gain of those loved ones who I was around then and am around now. Looking forward with faith was key to letting God consecrate my afflictions.

I love you all. I hope to hear from you. I hope to write you really good letters. My address remains 923 National Hwy, LaVale MD 21502.

Hugs and Handshakes,

.5 of Team Madsplund

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