ring out, wild bells

December 28

Merry Christmas everyone! The day has come… and went! And it was beautiful. We definitely had a week of miracles. On Monday we went caroling for FHE. I learned that people like caroling a lot better when it includes more that two people. Also, our valiant FHE coordinators put together little gift bags with a church-produced Christmas DVD and other materials and treats. We just knocked random doors and people loved it! There was one house with two families of little ones gathered together for some festivities. Sister Walker noticed that they seemed really excited for us to come by because the children kept coming to the window. They were our last stop at the other end of the cul-de-sac and after we sang to them, the mom told us that they had been waiting and hoping that we would come visit them. The kids had drawn and written a Christmas card for our little crew with candy canes taped to it. It was so gratifying. Another family said, “When we were in Germany we had Mormon friends, and they came to carol at our house too! We’ll have to send them a picture!”

On Christmas Ing (as I like to call it) we had our mission-wide Christmas devotional. All the missionaries in the whole mission were gathered together in one cultural hall. You may be able to imagine the wildness. If you can’t, remember that we were 3/4 18-year-old boys. Somebody had the brilliant idea to have Minute to Win It games as an activity with zones competing against each other. I don’t know how I missed this, but people love being competitive and especially the part where they see who can yell the loudest. I don’t know. Anyway there was a lot of yelling and I went to go sit at the senior couples’ table because it was a little too much for my delicate temperament. I tried to be a good sport about it though because I know that managing stress can really help missionaries be more effective and it seems like my fellow missionaries got to release a lot of tension through our activity. I don’t know. We also had a mission-wide talent show. I have long had a Christmas wish to get a group of missionaries together to sing the 13th-century French carol, “The Friendly Beasts” and I successfully bullied our district into helping me make my Christmas wish come true. They were such troopers about it. I’m so grateful. If you know the song, my companion and I played the part of the sheep. Our sweet mission president and his wife decided they wanted us to have scarves and so a bunch of sisters in the local stake and whom the Christiansens knew from home and returned MBM missionaries all knitted scarves for us. Are you crying yet? We all got scarves and a Christmas hug and handshake from our dear mission parents.
Christmas Eve was so cozy and sweet and I got to eat kolaches! It was such a tender mercy. We got together with some member families and another set of sisters and they fed us and we played games. Usually we have to be kind of strict and leave dinner appointments an hour after we get there and the members hate that, of course, because we have to be awkward and rushed but as a special Christmas Eve treat we were allowed to linger a little longer and play games and read the New Era on their recliner.
Christmas was a day of magic, as it should be. President Christiansen texted us and let us know that we wouldn’t necessarily be proselyting in the traditional sense on Christmas but that we should find people whom we could bless that day. For some reason this text blew my mind and forever changed my ~Christmas spirit~ I CAN USE CHRISTMAS TO BLESS OTHERS??? Pretty sure everyone else knew about that except for me but I’m finally in on the Big Christmas Secret. In the morning (after we opened presents and watched The Sound of Music, of course) we visited a nursing home with a crew of other Latter-Day Saints to sing to them. This was the beginning of a day full of caroling. I don’t know why, but I have spent almost every day this month caroling. I love it. We went around and sang to everyone in a big group, and the three  companionships of missionaries would linger in the rooms of individuals to get to know and visit with them a little bit extra. One sister who organized the whole thing brought her friendly baby and everyone lit up around the little one, myself included of course. It was so edifying and satisfying.
After that we… went caroling. We decided that was the best way to visit people without imposing on them. We texted our Relief Society president, branch president, and branch mission leader for ideas of who might be lonely or need a little song and visit and we packed up little treat bags and chased the Holy Ghost all around the stake singing to everyone our leaders sent us to. The spirit also advised us to go visit the family of a former investigator. This former investigator had moved out so we had decided not to stop by anymore but we try to be quick to obey the spirit so we went over. They loved it! We loved it! It was an Oprah Day miracle! I mean a Christmas miracle! They told us that nobody had ever caroled to them ever since they moved to that house and that our timing was “profound” because they had just finished their Christmas movie. Perfect. We also decided to visit our investigator and bring her a Christmas present and sing to her a little. She wasn’t home but her sister, whom we have been trying to get in with was! We sang to her and read the Christmas story from Luke 2 and she agreed to start taking the lessons. A new investigator! The best Christmas present in the world! That was the truest Christmas miracle of them all.
We finished our Christmas at the mission home, where we ate a variety of soups and watched Elf. I don’t know. I helped President do the dishes and we got talking about art history and he was like, “Now, who was the artist who was known for wearing pants and breaking into the male-dominated field of artists at the time and she painted livestock?” and I thought, “You are my best friend” but I said, “Rosa Bonheur.” And then we talked about Rosa Bonheur while doing the dishes. A real conversation about art history: the greatest gift of them all. We also got to Skype with the family!!!!! Oh it was magical. I won’t be trunky and go into detail but I’ll just say that if you’re around my family all the time you should be grateful. Finally, you should all know that it was 67 degrees and raining buckets on Christmas. Don’t ask me why.
We spent our Boxing Day at the Visitor’s center which was a delight as usual. One lady came in and asked about the person on the top of the temple. I told her about the Book of Mormon and explained that it was the angel Moroni, who was the last prophet who helped write the Book of Mormon, and that he has a trumpet to symbolize proclaiming the gospel to the world. She loved it and she said, “Where can I get a copy of that book? I want to read about Moroni.” so of course we fetched her a copy posthaste and I showed her Moroni 10:4-5 and marked it for her. You’ll never guess what happened next… yep, I had to leave and go home. Every time.
This week our focus was receiving referrals because we know that we need to be blessing a few more lives than we are. We prayed for help and the Lord delivered. Some examples:
– one day we started talking to a mom and her nine-year-old daughter. The mom wasn’t interested but we asked her whom she knows who might be and her daughter said, “That family over there!” and pointed. We went by and knocked and a young man opened the door. We talked to him a little and shared a preview of our message and he said that he would like to learn more. He’s a student in Baltimore home for the holidays but we got his information and passed it on to the elders there. Great job, 9-year-old!
– we have been helping our members create personal mission plans, wherein they identify a person they would like to share the gospel with (WHO), a specific invitation they would like to make (WHAT), and a date when we can follow up with them (WHEN). We write these three categories on the back of a picture of Jesus for them. For whatever reason personal mission plans historically have been hit-or-miss in my ministry but this week we were able to make personal mission plans with four different members of the branch, all of whom had friends they are excited to reach out to. The field is white! (Make sure to say “white” with the h when you quote that scripture).
– it was the very end of Sunday night, that weird/awkward time range when nobody really wants to see you and you don’t have a good amount of time to travel anywhere but we decided to go visit one other person whom we have never been able to get in with. The sister who belongs to the YSA branch hasn’t been to church in a while but her mom goes to her family ward a lot and loves it. She said that her daughter was already in her ~nightclothes~ and this wasn’t a good time for her. We were about to leave when I asked every missionary’s favorite question: “What can we do to help you out?” and she said, “Actually, I’ve been meaning to organize a study group with these three friends and also bring them to the visitor’s center and one has a daughter who is my daughter’s age and she needs a more positive group of friends so she should start going to church anyway do you want to come meet them next week after church?” Obviously that was exactly what we wanted. As we were walking away, Sister Walker and I looked at each other and she whispered, “Did that really happen?”
In conclusion (?) happy New Year, friends and siblen! I love celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ but I know that this birth is secondary to his rebirth as he was resurrected. Death is one of those Big Scary Things but in Jesus we have hope that death is not an ending but a transition. In addition to a final resurrection, our Savior provides for us a continual renewal of the spirit through His Atonement. This is my favorite New Year scripture: “Therefore, if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” Our is truly a gospel of change. We know that none of us are perfect yet and my imperfections often feel daunting. I know that Jesus Christ is the solution to all my imperfections and is that only way to really change us on a fundamental level. I love it. I love learning to grow and change. Don’t forget to let the Atonement help you accomplish your New Year’s resolutions, and especially the sacrament can be a crucial moment of personal revelation on where you can grow (go read the talk “What Lack I Yet?” for some more spiritual guidance that will be relevant to your New Year).

I love you all deeply! You are so special. I hope you have all had a fulfilling seasonal experience. I would love to hear from you. My address is 5455 Columbia Rd, Apt 213, Columbia MD 21044-5686
Holiday Hugs and Handshakes,
Sister Aslunp (that’s a real one too)
PS: I’m pretty sure my companion is teaching someone she just met near the printer as I write. I think I just heard her explain eternal marriage to this person. I’m so proud of her.

I almost forgot… a Christmas duck and bee, with a reflection of Sister Walker’s planner. Merry Christmas.


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