good tidings of great joy

December 21

What a week we’ve had! After poor Sister Rowley had the arduous experience of packing up everything she owns with an unhelpful (sleeping) companion and we shared a “deconstructed rocky road” ice cream experience with some of our fave members (try it, seriously) we took the now-short journey to transfer meeting. I don’t know if I’ve ever described the transfer meeting experience before, but for a refresher all the missionaries gather together in the stake center nearest to the mission office and sing “Ye Elders of Israel” but we change the opening line to “Ye missionaries called of God” to be more inclusive :’) and then as we stand and sing they march the greenies in and set them in the front row. The new missionaries, now scared out of their wits, sat on the front row to tremble while they await their turn to stand up and bear their testimonies. They were then united with their trainers who hugged them (the elders advised specifically not to embrace each other violently from the pulpit as has happened in the past) and brought them to their pews.

Afterward the outgoing missionaries bear their testimonies one at a time. This round saw seven sisters whom I love dearly one and all heading home– half of them I was in the MTC with during round 1 and the other half I have been on exchanges with. Pretty spooky. There was also a lone elder. Somehow I guess it was too weird to rope a lone elder in on the musical number, so the sisters all sang “Savior, Redeemer of My Soul” while the Lone Elder sat by himself in the choir seating. As they sang he began to look sadder and sadder and then he began to weep, and then he began to sob. It was one of the saddest things I have ever seen. Because of the strict social norms between elders and sisters it would not have been appropriate for me to comfort him, but it was terrible to watch this poor outgoing elder sit by himself and bawl. Terrible in a beautiful way. After the musical number the sisters all sat in the choir seats with the Lone Elder and they cried together while the mission president gave a rousing speech. We close by singing “Called to Serve,” including the special edition MBM third verse. Afterward we all wander around trying to figure out which is our bike and which is our companion and then we go back to work. It’s a very emotionally exhausting experience. A roller coaster of sorts.

After transfer meeting I took my brand-new (to me) companion to meet our investigator and to teach her the law of chastity. This investigator has an accent that takes a little getting used to so my poor companion spent most of the lesson in the dark while the member friend and I taught and addressed concerns. We are working on establishing a baptismal date with this investigator because we all feel that she is ready and so we were reviewing potential dates and I said, “We could hold the baptismal service next Saturday! Or even that Friday, the 25th!” … because I forgot about Christmas. Don’t worry, I was swiftly corrected and we are not organizing a baptismal service to be held on Christmas Day. That would be kind of fun, though. Afterward Sister Walker and I went on splits with our awesome members. We had received a referral from the headquarters whom Sister Walker went to go teach with our relief society president. We assumed that this person would be a YSA-aged potential investigator but she was actually a member of the church with grandkids. Oops. We made sure to let her bishop know to send the visiting teachers.
I went with two sisters from the branch to teach our other investigator, who is also doing great. One of the most intense and wonderful things about being a missionary is that you love your investigators so much. As soon as you teach them they become like a family member and you care so deeply about every aspect of their life. This investigator is especially learning how to use prayer and the Book of Mormon to receive revelation and during our lesson she told us that she recently stayed up half the night listening to the Book of Mormon and praying and that she finally received direction for where to go to college. This is someone who just a few weeks ago told us that she didn’t feel much of a connection with God. He really is just waiting to be our best friend as soon as we open up to Him.
We had two visitor’s center shifts this week. The second one meant that we had to leave church early, miss the Linger Longer (a fate worse than death), and move several appointments. I was just praying and praying that I would be able to see how these sacrifices were worthwhile and my prayers were answered. A fellow came in (wearing a Santa hat) and told us that his visit was long overdue, and that he had always wanted to see the temple up close. We showed him around and he absorbed everything we taught him. When we showed him the scale model of the temple and photos of the rooms inside he said, “Ohhhhh it’s like the Taj Mahal!” Finally I gave him a referral card and said that he could fill it out if he wanted the missionaries to visit and teach him more and he said, “Yes, that is exactly what I want!” and we got his information. It was such a privilege to work with someone who was so prepared.
My new companion, Sister Walker, is wonderful. We know each other from the MTC and I was thrilled when I heard that she would be my companion. She is a great missionary with a strong sensitivity to the spirit and great integrity. I admire her a lot already and I appreciate her willingness to put up with me. She rolls with the wackiness very well.
Something I have learned on my mission that I have been reflecting on lately is how much better rejection feels than regret. I spent much of my mission shy about talking to strangers and shy about inviting them to learn more. I was scared or rejection. However, every time I am rejected (which is many times per day) I feel so much better than when I don’t make an invitation at all. When I don’t give people the opportunity to say yes or no, I feel a sense of regret knowing that the person I just passed may have had a strong interest or desire for the blessings I’ve been sent to offer. Though rejection stings, it is satisfying to give people the opportunity to learn about the restored gospel no matter what the outcome is. I wish I had known this sooner because it would have helped me with my missionary work, both as a member and as a full-time missionary.
Sister Walker loves traroling and we have been knocking daily on the festively decorated houses in our area. This week we were eating with a member after being dropped off by another member. We failed to mention that we didn’t have a car with us and when our member told us that she had a date right after dinner I realized with a sinking feeling that I had taken no thought to how we would get home. We excused ourselves to go traroling around the neighborhood, awkwardly trying to make ourselves inconspicuous when this member and her date drove by us. Fortunately, our members are amazing and someone came quickly to pick us up but we also had the opportunity to knock many doors and sing many carols. Although everyone in that neighborhood seemed satisfied with Catholicism, one family gave us each a Christmas cookie. Oh, the tender mercies of missionary life.
I feel that I should close with my testimony of the Savior whose birth we are celebrating this week. I don’t know how his birth, life, ministry, and Atonement were possible but I know that they were because of the impact they have had on my life personally. I know that Jesus Christ lives because I know Him personally. He is my friend. He has changed me and He has changed my life. As a Christmas gift back to Him I would invite you to share your feelings about the Savior with those who might need them.
I love you, my siblen and I hope you have a memorable, loving, and sacred Christmas experience this year.
Sister Aslan

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