This week was pretty wonderful!
On Tuesday we had members with us all day, and the lessons went awesome. Well, there was also a lilbit of a situation that is hopefully under control. We were teaching this 60+ year old man, and things were going pretty good, we soft-committed him for baptism. He often has random questions about our beliefs, just has all these crazy things that people have told him about us, but we weren’t quite expecting this one…"All right now I have a question and you all have to answer straight up," so we told him to go for it, and then he gestures at ME and says "What if I wanted to take her out to dinner?" AHH hahaha. AWKWARD. We just panicked a little and then told them about our call as missionaries and the member Sis. Hansen said we don’t date, however, other women at the church do…haha. Sis Hansen is an awesome team-up. She will never let me live that down though.
Next we saw Jerry Ogle. He calls us "my Mormon Sisters". He is an older gentleman we found tracting and before we had taught anything, he said "I’ve always been fascinated about you guys. I mean, did it really happen? Did Joseph Smith really translate from gold plates?" Apparently he had a Book of Mormon 15 years ago and read from it but never met with missionaries. So we read 3 Nephi 11 with him and talked a lot about the Book of Mormon. He is a history guy so he had a lot of good questions about what was happening in different areas of the world at the same time. He stopped me in the middle of a sentence and said "Now wait a minute… How is it possible that anyone could say this was all made up? Does the world not realize how miraculous this is?" So he is really excited to read it but has eye problems. We prayed his eyes wouldn’t hurt. Before we left he said "One more thing…" and pulled out the cigarette pack that was in his shirt pocket. "I need help getting rid of this so that I’ll be able to do God’s will." Who is this guy? This only happens in the Ensign! We are so pumped for him.
One night we were with Sister Alexander in Sweetwater and our appointment fell through so we were kinda going places and nothing was working out but by then we only had 20 minutes left. So we prayed and Sis Mickelson said we could go to a previous investigator, Jasper. On the way she said "I know who we need to see! That family we met the first day you were here!" They live in the same housing so first we tried Jasper and he wasn’t home, so we went back toward our car, and that family, Katie and Casey, had just pulled up. We said hi and they invited us in and it was late so we only had a minute but they invited us back. We’ll see what comes of it!
We have so many members come out with us on team ups, we had 12 member-present lessons in one week! In LaFollette we were lucky to get over 5. I was sitting in Relief Society yesterday and just looking at everyone and I am amazed at what great characters we have in the Athens ward. Like, they are all hilarious and wonderful. I am amazed that so many of them are converts from within the last 10 or so years. I love that we get occasional "Amen!"s from Sister Youngsma during Sacrament Meeting and the excitement they have, combined from their Baptist/Pentecostal backgrounds and their love of learning the restored Gospel. I love hearing all the stories everyone has of finding the church. Because so many of them are converts, they have a real love of going out to teach with the missionaries because not too long ago, they were the ones being taught. I’ve gotten to know Bishop Laing a little better too…it is weird because we were so close to the Branch President/Smith family in LaFollette but I still hardly know members besides those that go out to teach with us. Since the Elders have the Athens are and we are in Madisonville, we don’t get in members’ homes as often as we’d like.
So I am a terrible human being/missionary. On New Year’s Eve we were supposed to be done proselyting at 5 unless families really wanted us to come teach them, so we didn’t cancel our appointments and worked all night and later realized we probably should have taken a break and had a little fun. As I was falling asleep it just made sense in my head that since we worked on New Year’s Eve "too much," that we deserved to not exercise and sleep til 7 that morning. Sis Mickelson had joked about us doing that earlier. So I changed the alarm in the middle of the night, thinking Sis Mickelson would love the New Year’s present I gave to her….and then we woke up and I felt really bad haha. I just took away her agency and made her sleep in on the first day of the new year! We’ve been laughing about it all week. (p.s. I repented.) On New Year’s Day we went to the Robinson’s and had black-eyed peas and hog-jaw (for good luck??).
Kay Hebert has set her baptismal date for the 17th of January. We feel really good about that, and Sister Hansen has invited her to her house and is taking it on herself to make sure Kay feels welcome and comfortable. If I never learn how to be a good missionary, at least I am learning how to be a good member when I get home. It is so easy to help out, I didn’t realize that before.
I feel like I leave out all the most important details, like how there are dead possums everywhere and also the general missionary day-by-day grind. We talk all day and that is weird. We talk and make phone calls and walk and drive. haha. We walk around and try to figure out non-awkward ways of getting people to stop and talk to us. Yesterday we had a lady take a picture of us while she was on a walk and then ended up speed walking a mile loop with her after a whole day of fasting so that we could get to know her and try to teach her. Whenever we try to teach high school boys they just look at us with a stupid grin on their face the whole time. what else…..oh! Sister Mickelson is teaching me how to do jump rope tricks in the mornings. She was on all these jump rope teams and I feel like an elephant when I try but I’m getting better!
This transfer has been really good to me. I have learned how important humility is. Proverbs 13:10, "Only by pride cometh contention." I think about all I have learned from my mission, and humility and prayer seem to be the most meaningful to me at this point. It takes humility to be a good companion. You always have different ideas and perspectives. I think about all the many times I hear people say pretty rude things about their spouses, and I hate that, it makes me so sad! People could be so much happier and enjoy their friends/family so much more if we could be more humble and let things go. It takes humility to pray. The invitation/commandment to "pray always" is actually how God wants us to live our entire lives, every day. That is how we change. That is how we remain constant, forgive easily, repent quickly, and learn to change our desires. "The purpose of the gospel is to change human nature."
Thanks for all the prayers! Love you all.
– Sister Hale