HAPPY THANKSGIVING MY FRIENDS AND SIBLEN! We had a roller coaster of a week, starting with a somewhat last-minute Thanksgiving potluck that ended up being next-level successful despite having no mashed potatoes. We had so many members there whom we hadn’t seen in a while and have been missing and some non-members as well. They set up all those giant long church tables in a huge square with round church tables covered in food dishes in the middle so that we could all shout across the cultural hall to one another and watch which is everyone’s favorite kind of pie. I love the YSA. This was my first of six Thanksgiving meals because our branch loves to take good care of us.
After District Meeting on Tuesday we had an exchange with the Hermanas. There are only 6 sisters in the mission who are assigned to labor in Spanish so most of them have been companions with each other more than once. I was with Hermana Mangum, who is a fellow Provo girl and who is six feet tall. We had a great time in the YSA cruisin’ around and trying to bring souls to Christ and whatnot. She’s a fantastic sister and she’s going home in a few weeks. I know she’ll do great things with her life. I’m so glad we got to be companions for a hot sec because now I have another friend forever!
On Wednesday we had Zone Conference and the mission doctor over the five or so missions around here came and reminded us to eat fiber and not play contact sports. We also just talked all about planning and teaching and being more effective missionaries. So fun. Missionaries just love to be instructed because the chance to just listen quietly is such a nice break from teaching and talking all the time. And we have important work to be doing so we can use all the help we can get.
Thursday was the reverse miracle of the loaves and the fishes. Seriously. Let me start by expressing my gratitude for the members who invited us over. This was a direct and literal fulfillment of the promise that we won’t have room to receive the blessings that the Lord has waiting for us, in particular the blessings of turkey that God sends through His saints. We didn’t even have time to go everywhere we were invited because the members are SO GOOD. We had a breakfast appointment of ham (with pineapple glaze. what the heck.) and biscuits, then an hour or two later the more traditional Thanksgiving fare began. We ate with a family where the mom and grandma spoke German so obviously we spoke German together and had the most fun time, and then grandma (who is from Korea and speaks like 4 languages and was wearing sparkly barrettes and is my actual hero) insisted that everyone sang a song. Me and mom obviously had to sing a Christmas song in German. We then had what we referred to as our “main” Thanksgiving dinner because this family had been the first to sign up. It was excellent. I said, “This is probably the in the top three Thanksgiving dinners in the branch, right?” and the hostess said, “Probably.” She knows the talents the Lord has blessed her with and she shares them. Love it. After that we visited a family who had a very structured Thanksgiving schedule, which they had texted to us ahead of time. We guessed that we would not be hungry by that point so we strategically visited during the designated clean-up hour to help tidy. The elders had been invited and they arrived a while after us so we traded places with them. Afterwards we headed over to the mission home for pie. One of the biggest perks of serving in this part of the mission is that we get to spend lots of time with the mission president and his family, who are some of my favorite people ever. They have six daughters and two of them are here in the mission who are our best friends. The elders were off playing basketball so it was just a bunch of us sisters lounging around their living room talking about all the missionaries who have gone home and gotten engaged. President was in the corner in his recliner on his iPad wearing no shoes, no jacket or name tag, and an apron his daughters made for him and occasionally offering sassy comments. Sister Christiansen said, “Honey, isn’t it so nice to just be around so many girls?” and he said, “Yep, feels like home.” So cute. He out-dads himself every time we see him.
Saturday morning we had a lesson scheduled with our investigator. We arrived and tried to buzz in (we found out later that we have been using the wrong code this whole time, awkward.) and then tried calling her but she didn’t answer. We had returned to our car, feeling defeated and determined to get lunch at a place near the local Wal-Mart emporium. Suddenly our investigator walked out! We chatted with her for a moment and then her eyes got big and she said, “My bus! It just drove away! I must go buy something at the Wal-Mart!” We felt pretty guilty for making her miss her bus but also sad that she had scheduled an errand party during our would-be lesson but our awesome member (who is a recent RM and who just gets it) said, “Can we come in and talk for a few minutes and then I can give you a ride? We’re headed that direction anyway!” So we did!!!!! English isn’t her first language so we have to teach extra-simple to accommodate the language barrier, which is especially challenging because she is super smart and deep and likes to ask questions such as, “Can we still be resurrected if our dead bodies get eaten by animals?” Well… yes. I didn’t know what else to say.
On Saturday we also had yet another exchange. I’m so tired. I got to be companions with Sister Emery, who is just a fantastic sister. I want to be like her when I grow up. She’s also going home in a few weeks so I wanted to both help her not be trunky and prepare her for her future non-mission life. It’s a hard balance but on the bright side, I got to do service with her new investigator who is pregnant and therefore became my best friend. The perks of being a doula. Poor Sister Emery had to hear all the horror stories which I of course love, but after we left she said, “I’m never having a baby. Never.” On Saturday evening we went to go visit a less-active sister who the sisters had just felt prompted to go see. She had been very insistent that we arrive at 6pm on Saturday and at no other time. When we got there, we knocked on the door and heard singing inside. We walked into a worship service that this sister was hosting for the church she goes to now, and she just thought we would love to be part of it. We did! We also felt a little out of place, but we did our best to sing/clap/dance along. They wanted us to make comments and read scriptures so we just rolled with it as best we could. The church was called the “Winner’s Church” and was based in Liberia. Definitely one of the memorable experiences of my mission.
Sister Emery serves in the “headquarters” ward with the Christiansens and a lot of the senior couples and the next day I got to visit their ward. It was awesome to be in a family ward with GOOD BABIES to look at the whole time. Wow.
After we exchanged back we taught an amazing lesson with our investigator and with Sister Christiansen and an awesome member. To be honest, I was a little intimidated to teach in front of the mission president’s wife because she is honestly one of my heroes but in the end I didn’t teach anything because the Holy Ghost came in and did all the work. This investigator has a giant, beautiful border collie that kept trying to eat my plan of salvation cut-outs but the spirit was major anyway. There’s probably nothing I like better in the mission than teaching investigators. That’s really the highlight. Probably the highlight of my whole life, actually. Another great miracle on Sunday night happened when we visited a family in our ward. The dad in the family is a member but the mom is Hindu and their daughters weren’t raised strongly in either of the religions. We thought the older daughter might be interested in learning more about the church so we have been stopping by ever since I arrived. We finally came by when they were home and it was amazing! They were so sweet and fed us samosas and grape juice in fancy stemmed glasses and the dad bore a really beautiful testimony and the daughter agreed that she would be interested in learning more about her father’s faith. I love seeing the gospel bring families together!
Something I have been thinking about a lot on my mission is the role of gratitude. Gratitude is a cure-all. I have yet to find a wound or a problem that gratitude doesn’t help. In particular, not just feeling but expressing gratitude. If you’re already thinking of New Year’s resolutions or maybe new day’s resolutions, here’s a good one: write more thank-you notes. It won’t fail you.
Okay team… I think I’m still alive after all the wild things that happened this week. Let’s see if I survive another one. Until then, I hope to receive lots of beautiful Christmas cards and other letters from your cute selves. My address is 5455 Columbia Rd, Apt 213, Columbia MD 21044-5689