Monday, July 18, 2016

Week 39--Forgiveness

 Morning Study Time

Awesome news! Romero is getting baptized on 7/30!

This week was really crazy. We learned a LOT. Late Monday evening we got a call from our District Leader telling us that they were actually changing the Trainer/trainee meeting this transfer so that it would be in Quincy, instead of at the mission home in Yakima. Yakima is only 2 1/2 hours away, but Quincy is almost 6! So we ended up on Wednesday afternoon getting a ride with a member up to Yakima and spending the evening/night there with our STL's Hna. Luevano and Hna. Harston. It was so fun! We got to go to a lesson with some of our recent converts there, la familia Martinez-Farias ( I sent you a goodbye pic with them a few months ago when I left Yakima) It was so great to see them again and also to see Presidente Moreno, and WEIRD to sleep in my old apartment. It brought back a lot of memories. Hna. Luevano begged us to sing a song so Hna. Harston could hear our voices, and it was so fun because Hna. Hull has the voice of an angel! We love to sing together, especially "Jehova mi Pastor Es."

To Yakima!

Three Generations! 

Hermana Harston being adorable, as usual. She's from
Texas, so obviously that's why she's so cool!

Thursday we woke up super early, and the Calls (mission staff) drove us and two other companionships who are serving in Yakima, to Quincy (another almost 3 hours in the car.) The meeting was really, really good! I was so tired though. It was fun to see Sis. Hirsche and her new companion, and also a few other missionaries I have met through the months.
Mama and Papa Abken came and picked us up in Yakima after the Calls drove us back there from Quincy, so we ended up spending almost 8 hours in the car on Thursday. It's really boring when you have literally nothing to do--we were going to plan or study or something, but I was getting car sick....

Nice views in the northern part of the mission.
Reminds me of Royal!

Then Thursday when we got home around 7pm, and that's when all the craziness started. We grabbed some food really quick and rushed out the door because we had an appointment at 7:15, and on our way out the door we started hearing some yelling and stuff coming out of one of our neighbor's apartments. We got a little concerned, but we really needed to get to our appointment, so we just left. Then as soon as we left the appointment we went to our neighbor’s house to see if there was anything we could do and to make sure she was okay, because we had a bad feeling about it. She didn't answer the door or her phone. But her car was there, so we were getting worried. We decided to call the bishop, because he knows her and it was our curfew. He came over to her house to see her.

The next day was weekly planning and we were a little distracted and just feeling like bleh because of being in the car for eight hours the day before. So we decided to call up Miranda (our awesome 18-year-old member who is putting in her mission paperwork soon!) and see if she could come out with us to see some former investigators and less-active members. She said, “Of course!” (because she’s awesome) and we stopped by a few people’s homes. No one was home and I was thinking "Man! I wish I could help these two girls to have a good missionary experience today. We need a challenge." So we decided to go to our neighbor's house and see how she was. We called bishop to see how their meeting went. He said it was a really good thing we had called him, because "she shouldn't have been alone right then" and that it would be good for us to visit her. So we took Miranda with us and talked to our neighbor for a while. It was a good conversation about prayers and faith and being a good neighbor, because she's going through a LOT right now.

Then suddenly this van pulled up and a lady rushed up to us. As soon as our neighbor saw this lady was here, she said, "Oh, gotta go!" and then the lady came up to us with this strange phony smile and huge wide eyes and started up a conversation with us. First it was all good, like, "Oh it's so sweet you all are trying to be good neighbors. That’s just what Jesus does! etc. etc." And we were like... okay, well this seems pretty good, but we had a weird feeling. Then she just started RIPPING INTO US! All with a big smile on her face and those same wide eyes, she was saying stuff like "You Mormons are a cult," and other things. So I was kind of dumb, and instead of just walking away I tried to have a conversation with her. She kept ranting about everything I tried to say, and finally she said, “It’s my job to tell you girls the TRUTH!!!”

So…anyway, long story short, it was just bad. We got back in our car and Hna. Hull just started to cry. I felt so bad I was like... man there is such a fine line between fulfilling my purpose of testifying of Jesus Christ, and engaging in a conversation where someone just wants to bash. All I did was testify of what I know to be true , I didn't fight back, I didn't tell her she was wrong, I didn't pull out my scriptures and use them as a weapon of theological warfare, nothing! But it still made them really upset and I think I engaged just a little too much.

So I thought, well, I have a brand new missionary and a future missionary here with me. The best thing I can do now is use this as a teaching opportunity. So I said "Sisters, did any of us feel the Spirit just now with that lady?" and Hna. Hull was like "Definitely not! I felt personally attacked!!" I said "This is why, when we are talking to people and sharing what we know with people, that teaching with the Spirit is so crucial. If we don't, people are just going to feel like we are preaching at them."  That's how the situation with that lady had seemed. She just literally ran up to us, preached at us and bashed our most cherished beliefs and ran away. I said, "She said her "job" was to help us and to teach us the truth, but what she did just now was not teaching and definitely not helpful. All she accomplished was making us hate her. That's why in Preach My Gospel in the section about how to begin teaching, it says to never say anything bad about that person's religion. Religion is something very deep and very personal, and we're not here to take away the faith that they already have. That's not our purpose. Our purpose is to build on what they have, and help them take those steps to be even closer to God." Then Hna. Hull said, "That's so true, I think if she hadn't mentioned anything about Joseph Smith or Mormonism is a cult or anything like that and just shared what she knew, I would have been a lot more open to listening." It's so important that when anyone is trying to share their beliefs with someone else that they come from a place of love and genuine care! A good missionary knows that it's not really you that does the teaching, you're just a tool in God's hands to help the Holy Spirit touch the hearts of those you meet. The Holy Ghost is the real teacher.

After we talked for a while about all of these things, and I shared a bunch of scriptures with them to answer all of the questions that the lady had fired at us (I didn't want any faith crises or unanswered questions bothering them), we dropped Miranda off and headed for our next appointment. We were going to go visit the “L” family, a sweet Hispanic family in our ward, because their mom is going to have a surgery soon. We wanted to see how she was and invite them to a baptism that was going to be on Saturday in the Dalles. Our investigator, Romero was going to be there and they could fellowship him since they speak Spanish. So we talked to Sister “L” for a while, and she said, "Oh yes, we would love to go. I will rest all day tomorrow so I will have the strength." Then she started telling us a story about a time at church when she said something really bold to another lady at church and then she felt horrible when she got home because she realized it had crossed a line and been really hurtful. She prayed about it for about three months before she felt better.

So then we went to Romero's house for his lesson. He is actually engaged to a member of our ward, named Maria, who has been less active for a while now. She loves to sit in on the lessons, because she is making steps to change her life and come back to church. The lessons are a nice "refresher course." We ended up actually spending a lot of our time there talking to Maria and getting to know her more. She told us she hasn't been coming to church for about two years, because once when she was there another member said something so horrible and mean to her, and she just didn't want to have the chance of that lady cornering her again. We talked a lot about forgiveness, and Maria said that she didn't want to be a victim anymore. She didn't want to be afraid of this sister and let a bully get in the way of her having the spiritual experience of going to church and feeling happy. So then a little later on in the lesson, Hna. Hull said, "Oh, hey! There's going to be a baptism tomorrow in The Dalles. Ya’ll should come so Romero can see what it will be like when he is baptized!" Their faces lit up and they were like "Yes, definitely that would be so fun!" And then Hna. H was like, “We invited a really sweet family from the ward, too. They are the “L” family, and they are awesome! They speak Spanish too, so you can be friends with them!" Then Maria's face dropped and I was thinking, “Oh no...... no way,” and Hna. H's voice started to trail off. Maria’s voice got all quiet, and she said, "That's the lady who was mean to me. I don't think we can go to the baptism tomorrow, I would be really uncomfortable there." In my mind, I was thinking, "NOOOOOOOOOOOOO," and we honestly sat there in silence for probably two full minutes. I was praying so hard in my mind "Heavenly Father! Please give me the words that Maria needs to hear right now!" Then I said, "I would hate to see this problem with Sister “L” perpetuate. It would be so sad for you to continue being re-victimized again and miss out on such an amazing spiritual experience of seeing someone get baptized." Then we pulled out the Liahona Magazine, which just happened to be in my bag (miracle!), and shared with her a few lines from "The Healing Ointment of Forgiveness," a talk from General Conference this past April. WHEW! It was intense. We left not knowing for sure if they would actually come to the baptism or not.

Well, long story short, THEY CAME TO THE BAPTISM. It was a miracle for sure! When Felix went under the water I glanced over at Romero, and he was grinning ear to ear! He was so happy and it was SO CUTE. The Spirit was SO strong, and even though Sister “L” and Maria were both there in the same room, Maria said she didn't feel any anxiety or anger! We went back last night and had another awesome lesson. We shared with her our experience with the lady at our neighbor’s house, because we realized the similarities. We had harbored up a lot of resentment in our hearts towards that lady, even in just the couple of days since she had verbally attacked us, and we realized that it wasn't doing us any good. It doesn't help anyone to keep the hateful feelings going! It isn't bothering that lady at all that we feel bad. If we let the resentment stay and eat away at our hearts, all it's doing it harming ourselves, and it's a huge burden! We bore our testimonies to her about the power of forgiveness, and then the three of us all knelt down in prayer together and individually asked for Heavenly Father to help us forgive the lady and Sister “L”. It was honestly one of the most spiritual moments I have ever had on my mission.

It was the perfect way to end the first half of my mission.

I love you all!

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