Wow, your plans for the Utah trip sound like so much fun! I know Dad has it planned to a tee. I can't wait to see pictures and hear about it.
I am so proud of Wendy for keeping up with her bee hobby. I am dying to visit her and all her beehives! I'd love some of her honey if you can send it. Tell her I love and miss her and her family.
We weren't able to visit John and Suzie this week again, which was actually a big let down for me. I have been praying for them and studying hard to determine what exactly to teach them next, and they were never home when we stopped by. I felt the same feeling I did in school when I'd work really hard on an assignment, just to come to class the next day and find that the due date had been pushed back. It's frustrating, but we're looking for a good opportunity to teach them some more.
Last P-day after we emailed at the church, we did our usual runs to the 99 Cent store and Wal-mart for groceries. As we walked out of the 99 cent store with our bags, Sister Cook reached in her bag for the car keys. When she couldn't find them after a few frustrated minutes of rummaging through her things, she looked up at me with a panicked expression. She looked in the driver's side window to see them laying on the seat. Great. Locked out of our car with no spare key, and loads of groceries. I had us gather everything and head back into the store to figure out what to do. We called the mission home to see what we should do. The hardest thing was that we were all the way out in Havasu... 3 hours from Vegas. What were we going to do?? It took about 30 minutes, but finally a woman at the mission office called an emergency help business to send someone out and open our car door. So we sat and waited until they showed up. Sister Cook was pretty upset because apparently she has a history of locking her keys in the car; I just tried to make a joke out of it and lighten her up. We always have to remind each other, "We're on an adventure!" Haha! The good news is, it didn't take too long to get in our car, we didn't have to pay for it, and it made for a great picture :)
|Getting locked out of our car... new day, new adventure!|
One thing I am quickly learning out here is how to love all kinds of people - people I probably normally wouldn't associate with. I remember my MTC teacher Sister Thayer telling me that the greatest key to her missionary success was praying long and hard to be filled with charity, and when it came, the rest of her mission flew by. So I've been specifically praying for that: the ability to love - really, honestly love - those I come in contact with. For the first time, I have really felt that love enter my life and it has been remarkable. In particular, I am growing close to and developing relationships with the recent converts in our ward. There are SO many of them (like I've mentioned before, the Crossman Peak ward has been on fire with missionary work this year) ! One of the new converts, Toni (whose baptism was the first weekend i spent in Havasu), is really special. We visit with her each to teach her the new member lessons, and each time we're there we feel such overwhelming love and peace. It's amazing to see the change that comes into people's lives as the accept the Restored Gospel of Jesus Christ. Toni really loves and truly believes the truths we teach: We have a very real and loving Heavenly Father, who is deeply involved in our lives; He WANTS to help us and bless us; He gives us guidance and counsel and direction both personally and through a living Prophet, which helps us understand the bigger picture, eternal perspective, of all things; The Book of Mormon, along with the Bible, is evidence of His love for us - it is a gift that changes us and enriches our lives as we abide by its teachings. I have these truths confirmed to me again and again and again, especially as I get to know the new members of the ward and hear their testimonies. I am so lucky to be able to serve with such faithful people!
Another experience with a recent convert, Sister Cawthra. She is a single woman in her early 40s I think. One day this week, Sister Cook and I got a call mid-morning from a younger, less active woman who we'd been praying for, Deanna. We answered and she was in hysterics, sobbing, and trying to explain how she'd just been fired from her job and she didn't know what to do or who to call but us... she has two young boys she has to take care of and she just couldn't drive because it wouldn't have been safe with how hard she was crying. We told her we'd be there in a minute. Sister Cook began packing up her things to head out the door when I said, "Sister, we need to bring someone with us." I couldn't exactly say why, but I knew we needed to. We tried calling Brother Houck, the ward mission leader. Then his wife, then Sister Mundy.. no one was answering. Finally we thought of Sister Cawthra. She said she'd be right there. We met Deanna outside the restaurant where she'd been fired and she just sobbed with us. "I feel so scared and alone... I don't know what to do.." She was just uncontrollable. Sister Cook took control of the situation and firmly said, "Deanna, it will be okay. From here on out, you have us 2 at your side, and a whole entire ward of 200 people here to support and help you. You don't need to worry." Sister Cawthra showed up and offered the same encouragement. Apparently she'd been in a similar situation once, and knew exactly what to do. We took Deanna to the Interagency Food Bank in town and signed her up to receive food for her family and additional counseling. Sister Cawthra said things to Deanna that we couldn't have said because we had never been in that kind of situation. It was a miracle for a few reasons: 1. We had been praying to know how to help Deanna and bring her back to church. In fact, we had scheduled in to pay her a visit just around the time she called us to come help her that day. She kept saying, "i know this is a sign that I need to come back to church. I have just lost that connection with Heavenly Father and I need to get it back. I'm just so lost right now." She showed up to church yesterday with her 2 boys and her fiance, who is also a member. & 2. Sister Cawthra was the perfect person to have come with us. We didn't realize it till after the fact, but there probably wasn't a better person in the ward to help.
And a third experience. Nancy is a older woman who got baptized in the spring. She's not married, and has had lots of health issues lately. My first encounter with her was quite the experience. I'd heard so much about it from the leaders in the ward - that she's a great woman, but a little crazy. We decided to go pay her a visit so I could be introduced to her, when we drove past her on the side of the rode on the way to her house. She was with her friend Roxanne (another recent convert), loading up furniture into a big truck in the middle of the day in Havasu (meaning, it felt like 200 degrees outside). She was dripping in sweat - and I mean DRIPPING - and she just wrapped us both in her arms and lathered us up with love. She gives these great big hugs and then pulls back and looks you right in the eyes with her big, crazy smile and tells you how much she loves you. I mean anyone who'd meet her would know she's just different. Anyways, that was a few weeks ago and I hadn't seen her since then. Well she wasn't in church last sunday, and she called us later that night to apologize for not being there; she was sick in the hospital, but she'd be okay. We arranged to get some Priesthood over to give her a blessing. We went to her house night when she was home from the hospital and brought Brother Mundy with us. She's not married, and lives in a home with like 5 other random people, old and young. The house was a mess and smelled severely like cigarettes, but we were welcomed in and invited to sit down on the couch. Nancy came out of her room and she looked like she'd been put through the wringer. She just looked so sick and withered. We sat as she explained her situation: she'd been on heavy medicine for a while to help with some health issues she'd been having (I'm not exactly sure what - she seems to have been through pretty much everything), but apparently her body is allergic to the medicine and had been reacting in scary ways (i.e. she'd sleep for 18 hours a day, she'd wake up drenched in sweat, etc), so she was finally taken to the hospital, but in Kingman (a town about an hour away), not in Havasu. There they told her she needed to be taken off the medication because it was killing her and her body was allergic. So now they're in the process of weaning her off of it, but it's a drug so strong, that going off of it is like cutting off a heroine addict from heroin cold-turkey. She said she feels like she's being put through hell; she can't imagine anything worse than this. "I now understand why people commit suicide," she told us in tears. 'They just can't handle the pain." It was a heavy meeting. I had never been exposed first-hand to that kind of pain before. Brother Mundy gave her a Priesthood blessing after we talked with her for about an hour, and we left. As we drove home, Sister Cook said to me, "You know, that was one of the most spiritual experiences I've had on my mission, Sister. For a brief, fleeting moment I felt these words during that blessing: 'You two are clean and pure. This is what you're here to do.' It was a small glimpse into the power of our calling, and then it was gone. But that is exactly what we're doing here: ministering to the sick and afflicted, strengthening the weak, and building up His kingdom." Some days, it really feels like we're touching heaven.
|Breakfast with Sister Wheatley, a less active in the ward.|
One night this week we had dinner at the Kalauli family's home. They're home is so warm and inviting; it feels just like home in Texas. Mom, Sister Kalauli decorates EXACTLY like you.. the same colors (she even has a blue wall!), style, decorations. And her food is so much like yours... just everything about their house reminded me of you. They invited the Houcks and a new family, the Goodmans, over for dinner too, and it was one of the best meals I've had on my mission. Brotwurst, steak, the most amazing salad, watermelon, potatoes, and homemade cookies for dessert. Sister Cook and I left on cloud 9, to say the least ;) The ward takes such good care of us.
So a few quirks I've noted about being a missionary:
1. We're not supposed to chew gum in public. So we devour mints all day long. My Altoids disappear quick!
2. Anytime we back up our car, the missionary not driving has to stand behind the car and direct the driver. It's a little ridiculous, but mission rules have to ensure that we're overly cautious. So even when we're in a wide open parking lot, I have to get out and direct Sister Cook as she backs out. It makes me laugh.
3. We have such minimal entertainment, so whenever we get to watch some sort of movie or video, we are in heaven! Haha so we've watched the Restoration video a dozen times, we've recently started showing some Mormon Message videos in lessons on member's iPads, and we watch the District every night as part of my 12-week training. We loooove the District :)
4. We notice every single little blessing, hahaha. "Oh what a blessing!" is a frequently used phrase. I think we expect most of what we do to be hard, so whenever something just goes our way, or we come in contact with an extra friendly person, or we're just in an especially good mood... we count our blessings!
5. Hymns are ALWAYS stuck in my head. Nothing but hymns and sometimes Christian music. I constantly find myself humming "Savior, Redeemer of my Soul" or "More Holiness Give Me" or "Nearer My God to Thee" or "Be Still My Soul", etc. Occasionally Taylor Swift comes back to mind, but I'm finding it's sometimes hard to remember lyrics ( :(((( ).. haha Sister Cook calls that "Mission Brain"
I hope everyone is doing well! I miss you all so much, everyday. I heard from Sarah and Zoie this week and I was just jumping out of my seat in excitement. It's quite the experience knowing I have so many close friends out doing the exact same thing as me every day.
Stay safe this week driving to Utah! Roll around in the plush green grass for me.. I'm forgetting what green even looks like out here in the desert! And give Tenley daily hugs and kisses and snuggles from me, too!
I love you with all my heart!
|Many of the people in Havasu have quite creative mailboxes. I'll try and send a new one each week!|