beautiful, bright millennial deluge

Last Monday we experienced some of the greatest Baby Animal News of them all when we attended the aquarium in Baltimore!!! Oh, it was magical. Some highlights:

– touching live jellyfish and other sea life (all silken and graceful)
– a display of many different species of jellyfish under black lights
– a room with many tropical birds and a sloth, for some reason
– watching employees swim around in scuba gear feeding the fish
– a GIANT sea turtle with three fins
– a dolphin show. so cute/acrobatic
Also all the adorable school groups. So much fun.
Tuesday we had ~zone training~ which is a variation on the many, many meetings missionaries get to enjoy. Sister Walker and I instructed on the relationship between our nightly planning sessions that we have at the end of the day and the idea of being “instruments in the hands of God.” We invited an elder in the zone who is good on the piano and his companion to do a “special musical number” during our instruction in which one of them played the piano and the other one sang, but they each performed at a different tempo, all to illustrate the importance of good timing and following the spirit. You’re not a true missionary until you’ve done an object lesson in an instruction, right?
That night we had a pretty amazing lesson with a brand new investigator (to us). She has been affiliated with the church pretty much her whole life because her best friend is a member and has gone to Primary, Girl’s Camp, on Trek, etc. She has always wanted to join the church but her parents didn’t agree with it and minors need written permission of the parents in order to be baptized. She told us in our lesson that she had once contemplated forging a note from her parents so that she could be baptized. Fortunately, things have changed. She is 18 and lives on her own and supports herself. We met with her for the first time on Tuesday and it was amazing. After she basically taught us the Restoration, we invited her to be baptized. She nearly jumped out of her chair and said “YES!!! Can I pick who baptizes me?” Of course she could. We proposed a baptismal date to her and she said, “Can I get baptized the week before?!!” Of course she can. She is someone who reminds me not to take for granted the blessings of the gospel I have in my life. To add to the joy, she invited her parents to attend her baptism and they agreed to.
In Baby Missionary News, I got to go on exchanges with another Greenie this week. She’s a champ. We had a great time and I learned so much from her courage and boldness. For example: we were tracting around a trailer park and I mentioned that I really needed to use a bathroom. This is a common missionary struggle because we spend many hours away from a building we would have any kind of ownership over. She said, “Don’t worry, Sister. I’ll get you to a bathroom.” I figured she meant that we would go find a gas station when we were through tracting, but instead the next person we saw she said, “Is this your trailer here? Is it ok if my friend uses your bathroom?” I started to panic slightly because this person was a man and we are not allowed to be alone in a house with a man and without another woman. I had no idea what to do so I just prayed real hard. We walked in and there was his wife! Oh blessed day. My brave companion talked to them about Brazil (where they were from originally) while I used their bathroom.
Pretty much the only disadvantage to serving in the YSA is that you don’t get to be around kids as much, but during the exchange we got to eat with the cutest young family. The kids were hilarious and so much fun and one of the boys was named Isaiah. We were asking them questions as part of the lesson and Isaiah gave the right answer and I said, “Great are the words of Isaiah!” They kind of chuckled and I realized that they have probably heard that one at least weekly since he was born. Oh well. We were talking about baptism and receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, which is the second half of being baptized. I asked, “Kids, what happens after you’re baptized?” and they kind of gave me a blank stare and I said, “You get a special gift….” and I got some more blank stares so I said, “It’s the gift of the Holy Ghost!” and the youngest one finally piped up and said, “Or you could get a pony!!!!” Classic.
We got to teach an investigator who we love so much and whom we have been working with for some time, which was great except for two hiccups: 1) when she started brushing her dog’s teeth in the middle of the lesson, and 2) when her dog backed right up near her and farted right in her face as we were bearing our testimony. We eventually got the spirit back despite all the distraction. Some dogs just don’t know how to be reverent.
On Friday we had another amazing and miraculous lesson. We were taking an investigator who began learning last week and her mom on a tour of the church. This was her mom’s first time learning anything about the missionaries so we didn’t know what to expect, but she was fantastic and she loved it. We were walking past the offices of some of the leaders and as we were explaining that we have a lay clergy one of our very own lay clergymen walked out of his office and introduced himself warmly. As soon as we said the prayer and began teaching, Sister Walker and I both felt the Holy Ghost completely take over the lesson. We didn’t do anything but open our mouths when were needed to and act as voice. It was amazing. We showed them a painting of Christ from the Book of Mormon and shared the account of Him administering the sacrament on the Americas. They loved it. Then we showed them a painting of Christ and Sister Walker shared the sweetest personal experience of how her little brother is choosing to be baptized next week. We took them by the baptismal font and the best friend of our investigator told the sweet story of her own baptism and the joy she felt that day. We then invited them to be baptized when they came to know that our message was true and they both started nodding before I finished the question and said yes. The mom seemed to take herself by surprise by her own answer. Such was the power of the spirit in that building that day. Finally we brought them to the chapel and reminded them of Christ administering the sacrament. We read the sacrament prayers and everyone present bore simple testimony of the Savior. We were all crying. We then knelt in prayer together in front of the sacrament table. On our way out, our member friend took them by the plaque with her missionary brother’s photo and told them about his mission in California. It was perfect.
All the great opportunities we have had to teach this week have taught me a lot about joy. Joy is where peace and euphoria meet. The more we develop our personal character, the more we increase our capacity for joy. As I have been on my mission improving as a person through the Atonement, I have been able to feel joy in ever greater measures. Here’s what joy is: opening your mouth and hearing the pure words of the Spirit walk out. Joy is watching people change before your very eyes through the power of Christ. Joy is knowing that God trusts you, imperfections and flaws and all, to bring His word and His love to His children. Joy is the reason for which we were created and when we feel joy we are fulfilling not only our purpose in this life but our eternal purpose.
Sunday was another miraculous experience. We had two investigators at church who both loved it, and two other individuals arrived, one of whom has had a long association with the church but hasn’t been baptized because her family has been so opposed (much like our other investigator) and her boyfriend. Sister Walker worked with this wonderful sister in a past area and she just moved here. We set up an appointment with this sister and her boyfriend and we have high hopes for both of them. After church it was a beautiful, sunny day and we decided to walk around the park and talk to people. I really don’t enjoy street contacting too much because people are so often rude and because it feels futile at times, but Sister Walker was helping me feel motivated. We were finally returning to our car when my companion turned on her heel and started charging in the opposite direction. I chased after her and found the family she had been compelled to speak with. They were already in a conversation about religion and had many questions for us. We taught them a few basic principles and got their information for the Spanish missionaries to teach. She is a champ at following the Spirit. Later that night, we were visiting a former investigator in order to ask her for a referral. She wasn’t home but as her mom came to the door I whispered, “We need to ask her mom for a referral.” When we did, she pointed to a row of eight houses. “All of them,” she said. It was nearly time to go home so we planned on coming back another day to contact these individuals but after sitting in the car for a minute Sister Walker jumped out and said, “We need to go knock right now.” We did and three of the eight families we had been referred to were interested in learning more. Of course, none of them were within our YSA demographic but their local missionaries were very pleased to get a phone call from us.
I love you friends! I love missionary work! I’ll just stay here forever if that’s ok. You can always write me, though, at 5455 Columbia Ave, Columbia MD 21044
Love you friends!!!
Sister Astroturf
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