Hello Wonderful Family!!
I was so sad to hear that you didn't get my email last week. It was a pretty good one, if I do say so myself. :) Unfortunately I can’t remember everything I wrote. I can tell you that I really appreciated your emails. I’ll remember what I can from last week as well as adding new to how this last week was.
So, from last week ...
I was able to go downtown New Orleans last P-day to the French Market. It was awesome! It was the first time I’ve been able to go downtown. The Market is right on the Mississippi river so that was really neat, and it really is just that - a market. A big one that has everything from alligator heads to voodoo dolls to bags and T-shirts to junk. It was bustling and quite large. It’s really an historic downtown type area, and boy, is it a different world!!!! I’ve seen that down here in general, but it is crazy. It’s really touristy and there are lots of carriage rides, both by horse and bike. We drove down one of the main streets of downtown and the HOUSES that are there! There are good classic looking southern homes with the pillars in front, and then there are castles! Seriously, I don’t know how to explain the architecture, it’s awesome. There was a legit HUGE Jewish synagogue and there were these houses that looked like monasteries. Super neat. It was just fun to get out a bit and see some more of the culture. And the closer you get into NO the more homeless people you see, and just really hard circumstances. I could see why they don’t want sisters serving downtown. It will be fun to go back someday, it would be fun to try some of the food and music and stuff, maybe take the ferry. Actually, if I ever serve on the Westbank (which I probably will because they opened a Spanish sister area there) then I think sometimes you have to take the ferry!
Conference was great! Each of you mentioned Elder Holland’s talk. I always love his! I really loved that he said that the crowing characteristic of love is loyalty. Really makes one stop and think how loyal we are to the Lord (or what we do to show we love Him) each day through how we live.
One of my favorite talks was from Elder Ballard. I really loved the analogy of the bees. They work so hard throughout their entire short lives, without individual recognition, just to produce 1/12 of a tsp of honey after their whole life. It made me stop and ask, what is the 1/12 that I contribute each day? Service is the essence of our religion, and it’s so important to LIVE it.
I really loved President Uchtdorf’s talk as well. It hit me when he said that people “often hold business as a badge of honor”. So true, I know I’ve been guilty of that. We often look forward to the end of things. I know I do it with Spanish. I tend to think that things will be better or easier WHEN I know Spanish. But I know I am so much happier when I enjoy the process, although it does take work. So, Erika and Garrett, remember, don’t just look forward to WHEN the season is over, or WHEN you’re done studying and have taken the test, or WHEN you’ve graduated from High School, when, when, when- whatever it may be. Instead, remember to enjoy the process. Work hard each day, in your prayers and in your actions, to live up to your potential, or who God intends for you to be.
On another note, Dad, do you remember how we used to joke about having a driving class for those “special” drivers out on the road? Well, in all seriousness, there needs to be a class for anyone who drives in Louisiana. I wish I would have taken one! I think they love to just do everything different possible here, and so the same with driving. I mean, lights are turned horizontal on the poles, you can turn left on some streets except for between the hours of 7-9 pm and 9-11 am or whatever, and there's the whole canal U-Turn thing.
However… on to this week! We are on bikes this week!! Now we just have to hope we don't get hit (that happened to an elder a month or so ago). We're on bikes as "our consequence" but we're kind of excited. You keep a mile log and receipts and stuff with your car and after the last day of the month, you have 5 days to send them to the office. They have to be there by the 5th. Well, since I'm a new trainer and all, I was never shown how to do it. We thought we did it right and sent it off on the 1st of the month. But low and behold there were some papers that were supposed to go in there that we didn't include. So, the consequence is no car for a week. I felt bad that we messed the office up, but oh well, it was an honest mistake.
Hermana Ward and I continue to get along well. To answer your question Dad, missionary life is… yeah I guess it is what I expected. Well, yes in some ways, no in others. It's draining, but not in a way I know how to explain. It's draining in a wonderful way! Like as a missionary, you're not a normal person because every part of you is taken up with the welfare of the people in the area that you have stewardship over. It's part of the reason I can't sleep sometimes. You're constantly thinking about what you can do to jump start the ward, strengthen the members, find investigators (talking with everyone is difficult - another reason why bikes will be great this week), and the investigators we do have? Oh man, we are constantly thinking/praying about what they need. When it comes to people, we know that we see only the tip of the iceberg, but their Heavenly Father knows the rest of it (that's in PMG... hint hint for FHE, Garrett you should teach the lesson!! I think the iceberg thing is in chap 10 :) and so our job is to figure out what that is and what Heavenly Father would have us do. It's as though you literally don't matter, I could care less about what I need because I feel that if the people get what they need, then I'll be happy!
On top of all this, trying to figure out those needs and show love to those people in Spanish … I didn't expect that part. It's hard. I can't do it in the language much, but by my actions. Like at the potluck between sessions of Conference, instead of helping set up tables (normally what I'd do) I went into the kitchen and offered to help and the sisters in the ward taught me how to form and make tortillas. They laughed at me because I was so bad at it, and I had to do like a 100 of them, (it was really funny - I have a pic to send) but there was an appreciation there that I was trying. That's something that President Wall taught me last week at specialized training. WHO I am makes the biggest impact on people. My life, testimony, personality, and love will make a difference and the rest of it, Spanish and all, truly will come.
We have moved forward on the scripture study class a lot. We won't start this week, but next. A lot of it has been talking to lots of people (and we're having a positive response!) and then in RS yesterday we passed around a sheet to get an idea of the best day of the week for people. We've taken over teaching the English class on Tuesday nights and we love it! Most people who come aren't members, so it's a great service and a finding activity. After that, there's a bunch of people, members and nonmembers, who come play futbolito in the gym and we give a mini lesson before they play.
Yeah, overall I handle the city well. Sometimes it gets to me, but I just figure I'll enjoy it while I'm here. I've certainly learned how to navigate my way through interstate systems because they're crazy here! Yup, this is my "part" of the world now. It feels kinda weird to think that sometimes! And yet, I feel like I've lived here forever. We are all far away from each other physically, but there are no words that can explain the peace that come from being an eternal family, sealed for time and eternity in the temple. The peace that brings can never be taken away from us. When we keep our covenants, Satan is bound, and there is nothing that can be done to take the peace away from being a forever family. :)
Ok, this is turning into an epistle. But here's the miracle for the week:
3 weeks ago we went to a former investigator's house and knocked on the door. They didn't live there anymore but a couple did named Estefani and Yerandi. They're really happy, go with the flow people, and they invited us right in and we taught the Restoration. It was especially powerful when I gave the first vision, the Spirit was there. We left a Book of Mormon. They have a crazy busy schedule, work 7 days a week like most people here, and he commutes. So we kept trying and trying to go back with no luck. Finally, last Sunday we drive by them (they live on the way home) and actually were in our parking lot (we were supposed to be changing to go do some service) when we decided we needed to go over to their house one more time. We did so, and they were home!! And with big smiles, invited us right back in. There was another man there (by the way, people never seem to believe in wearing shirts here, what's up with that? Well, it is hot I suppose...) in about his 60's. He wasn't saying much but I introduced myself and it turns out he is the sweetest man. He name is Jose, and he is Yerandi's uncle, and is out of work so he moved in with them. He had picked up the Book of Mormon and just started reading it. And he is eating it up!! Wow. A lot of people are skeptical, but some just have their spiritual eyes open and ready to identify the truth as soon as they see it. But they really don't know they're looking. We went back for another lesson last night, and he kept talking about Joseph Smith. He wasn't there for our Restoration lesson, so we were a little confused. We asked him about it, thinking maybe he'd talked to missionaries before he came to the states. In fast Spanish, he explained. We gathered that he only knows what he's read out of the introduction, and the testimonies of the 3 witnesses, and the testimony of Joseph Smith. Wow. So we are very excited to keep teaching those three. Each have agreed to baptism, but not a date. It'll be wonderful to watch God's plan for them continue to unfold.
Seek to strengthen your testimony in the Savior every day. Elder Bednar taught us in Conference that in these last days a testimony won't be enough, so strive to be on that path to continuing conversion each day. I finished the Book of Mormon again this morning, and without a doubt I know it's true. I wouldn't know how to live my life without it. I wouldn't be on a mission without it. I said a special prayer this morning telling Heavenly Father that I know it's true, but to please allow the Spirit to impress its truth upon my soul and heart even more so that I may with more power, testify of its truthfulness, so that others may come unto Christ. It's hard to do through an email, so I'll just leave it in simple language. I know the Book of Mormon is the word of God. I know Christ came and ministered inthe America's in His resurrected and perfected state. Because of His life we may each have eternal peace, progression, joy and peace. I love you all.
Transfers are next Wednesday, so I am in week 5 of training.