Monday, July 26, 2010

Wrapping Up the Loose Ends

Hello from Texas!
Wow, this has been an incredible week! Gosh, I love my companions Sister Farr and Sister Fifita. It has been a joy serving and learning from the both of them. Sister Fifita is just loud and proud and laughs like there's no tomorrow, so it really makes everything lighter. So fun. But she and I were talking and we both know that we have totally gained weight these past two weeks. It's hard to try get skinny around a Poly Girl. :) Also, last night, we all took a photo shoot that was hilarious, but I'll have to show those pictures later. Just wait though, they look good.
Oh and small world. The other day, Fifita was watching a video of she and her Poly friends singing with their ukuleles at the MTC and she suddenly said, "What the heck!? That's you, Burt!" And sure enough, there I was in my week 2 of the MTC, standing next to the Poly kids trying to covertly listen to their amazing songs. Haha, it was so funny. Actually, after a few days of knowing each other her, she said, "Holy cow. I know who you are!" Turns out, that we were introduced in the MTC by her companion who was actually a girl, Sister Hawks, who I swam with. Small world.
Well, this week just flew by. We worked and worked and worked some more. Our trio actually has been more like a quadruple because Sister Martinez is always with us to split the work. We call her our "4th companion." We have so many appointments that we just go on splits and two the "companions" will go to the lesson and the other two will go to the other lesson or go contact while they are teaching. It's really fun. I wish I would have done this a lot earlier int he mission. Oh well, you live and learn, right?
Another reason why the week just flew is because I haven't really been counting down the days. It's funny because before Chelsea went to the MTC, she would write countdowns in her letters saying, "Wow, 74 days till I go to the MTC!" Well, I had to tell her that I don't really understand the whole "days" thing as a missionary because just live day to day, doing the same thing. We are the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. So counting things by days is pretty pointless. If we do count, it's in weeks because we are stuck on the "eternal 6 week transfer cycle." Anyways, as the weeks starting coming down, I tried to ignore it. But people kept counting down the days for me (such as, "Wow, 9 days till you come home!"), so it sort of hit me. I still couldn't get myself to count down the days, so I think that I subconsciously tried to avoid the whole situation because in my planner all last week, I just wrote down the days of the week, but not the actual DATE. I guess I'm trying to avoid the inevitable.
It was strange because the branch threw a going away party for me. I was so awkward and embarrassed about it because I've never been one to throw parties for myself. I don't know, but it's never been my thing. I guess I've always just assumed that I'm not cool enough and no one will come. So that's why I just satisfy myself with going to other people's parties. Hey, it's less work (more like no work) and I still get the enjoyment from the party. Anyways, they threw this party and all the details were a huge surprise (even though I could kind of tell that something was going down when we'd get random phone calls from Sister Calvo and Sister Farr would sneak out of the room). Well, it was just so fun and amazing. They decorated the whole church with all these paper flowers in honor of me because I ALWAYS wear flowers in my hair. Apparently, it's my trademark. But it was so cute and then at the end, all the members came up and said all these amazing things about me and I was just shocked. I really didn't think that I had made that much of a difference in the lives of the members, but apparently I had and it was another answer to prayer that the Lord was proud of me and the work I have done here on the mission. It's funny, we really don't have any idea what affect we have as missionaries. Sister Farr even went up and starting crying and told me how much of a difference I have been to her. How much I loved her and how that she has grown more these past 6 months that she ever has in her whole entire life. It was sad to be leaving her, but we'll still be friends afterwards. Also, haha, funny story. After a bunch of people had gone up, President Ramos said some stuff and then no one else was going up and he said, "Well, how about your sidekick?" as he pointed to Elder Arens. Elder Arens and I were sitting at two separate tables, but our chairs' backs were facing each other. We both just turned and looked at each other with a "What the heck" face. Haha. Elder Arens and I are GREAT friends and just joke around and all, but seriously, that's IT. Nothing else. Just friends. Solamente amigos. Nada mas. Haha, we just have the same type of humor and it makes the funny things in life, funnier. So yeah, we got a kick out of that later.
We found a neat family this week of 7 people: mom, dad, and 5 kids who are all of baptizable age! Yeah, seriously! They seem to have a lot of potential and the Sisters will teach them tomorrow after I'm gone. I've actually never baptized a couple or a family on my mission. It's sad, but I have learned to accept the Lord's will in all things. I know that my mission, every person I met, every baptism was because they were the precious souls that Heavenly Father prepared for me. They were active in their church in Harlingen, but two years ago, just stopped going. Now they live in Lyford and within the past year, started praying as a family and reading the Bible and, as a result, have seen SO many blessings. We talked to them for a while and helped them see that they can have even more blessings and even answered Sally's question about "after this life, will we recognize each other?" Only the Restored Gospel can answer those deep questions of the soul.
Well, I guess I'll give one last update on all the investigators you've heard about over the past few months--since this is my last email. Well, Angel (the "good looking" guy) we dropped, but he just kept coming back to church week after week (even though he would sleep and be semi-annoying during the whole thing. One day, he forgot what time the church started and got there at 6:30 am!) Anyways, he's still investigating, but "kicking against the pricks." We're still working on figuring out what his need is because he doesn't believe he needs to be baptized again and doesn't believe the restoration, but he comes still. Teresa actually dropped us last week. She finished the whole Book of Mormon, but he husband came down and didn't want anything to do with it. It was sad because she was learning so much and you could tell she was sad about it, but didn't want to mess things up with she and her husband since they've been split for 18 months. I know that in the future, things will calm down and she'll remember all that she learned and how she felt as she read the Book of Mormon. The "girls" Martha and Jessica, just stopped coming to church and random show up for activities, nothing more. There mom, Belinda, still uses drugs and drinks 34/7. We've even heard that Jessica, who is 11, has started drinking as well.... :(.
Last but not least is JOHN! He's set to be baptized on the 8th of August. I'm sad I won't be there for it, but I am grateful to have helped in the way that I could. He even went up at the ward party and thanked me personally in front of everyone for what I have done and how I have changed his life. He gets really choked up about it and says that he cannot find words to express how grateful he is. Gosh, I could just go on and on about him and his conversion story. He is so different, repentant, understands the scriptures, loves them, and when he came to the church, he described it very interesting. So he used to fight professionally and made a lot of money. Well, he said that before you fight someone, you can sense their "energy and power." You can just feel it. He said that when he came into the church, he felt the energy there. It was just so strong and he felt comfortable there and liked it. Yay. I am grateful that he is going to be baptized. He stopped drinking thanks to the blessing, has lost a lot of friends, but is still going strong because finally he has been able to see the fruit of his faith. It is springing up to the tree of life, which fruit is more desirable that all other fruit. What a blessing. His mom was baptized when he was 7 and he was never able to. Missionaries have come by there home who knows how many times over the past 30 years, and finally, the Lord prepared him to be ready now, when I am here, for me. I know that the Lord works in mysterious ways.
Wow. Not sure what to say. I love the mission. I love my companions. I love this work. I love all the people I've served with. I love who I have become. I know that this is the true church of God. That Jesus is the Christ and that he really did appear--with his Father--to the boy prophet Joseph Smith. Through him, He restored his Gospel in its fullness. We now are partakers of that today.
See you on the other side!
Hermana Burt

Monday, July 19, 2010

The Three Musketeers

So this has just been a crazy week. Well, as I mentioned in the letter that I sent, we got a call last Monday that there was an emergency transfer and a bunch of Sisters got moved around. SO...Sister Fifita is now in our companionship. It's pretty sweet because she is Tongan, but grew up in California. She is the FUNNIEST, most ghetto, black person you have ever met. Like, she talks black and she knows it and doesn't care, and I love it because she's totally her. She's always saying, "Giiiirl!" or "Oh Heck no!" etc, etc. It definitely has made this past week really fun. I get along with her REALLY well (I think she just gets along with everyone, to be honest), but I feel like I am more carefree and fun with her. Definitely more myself. Don't get me wrong, I LOVE Sister Farr to death and will cherish our friendship forever, but I've noticed with all my companions, I haven't been able to 100% click and by myself with them. It's really been a testimony builder for me. Because like I've had random exchanges with a few other missionaries( like Sister Behrman, Fifita, Amitoelau, etc), where the work is just SO much easier because 1) I can be myself and 2) we just click personality-wise which makes a huge difference in the world. I think Heavenly Father is trying to teach me a lesson that, yes, while I can be happy with everyone, I need to make sure that I settle for THE ONE, the one person who I can be 100% me and comfortable. Because eternity with someone where you're always holding back isn't going to be much fun. Because trust me, all of my mission companions have been good and fun and I've learned the lessons I needed to learn from them, but sometimes I wonder what my mission could have been like if I was put with the people where it just clicked and was easy. But, I think that's the point. If it was easy, I wouldn't appreciate the success and now I can leave and apply that to my life. I don't want to have to work so hard the whole time to just "make it work."
Anyways, sorry for the random tangent, but since Sister Fifita has been here, it's just been on my mind. She's super fun and we joke around all the time. I don't think I've laughed more in a week than I have with her. She's just hilarious and a super awesome missionary. At first she seems a bit rough and tough at first sight because she's not a big, happy smiley person. But she's great. We've click and it's sweet. We've stayed up like 4 nights talking till 2 am because we just keep going and going and going. AND, she loves Bollywood movies (Poly's are into Indian stuff) so we talk about that a lot. Sister Farr doesn't really feel like a 3rd wheel though (we've talked about it), we're all super close, but I think it's the fact that she and I have been together for nearly 6 months--stranded in Raymondville with no other contact from anyone besides the 2 Elders--so someone new is exciting. If I knew that I could be with Sister Fifita still, I would stay a missionary for another 3 months because I know that we would just rock it together.
Anyways, the first day that she got here--actually like an hour before, the AC went out in the house. I was so embarrassed for her because we live in this BIG huge house, and then the AC breaks. So, the first night we tried to sleep through the heat (all we had was a ceiling fan), but it was miserable. The 2nd day, we moved our mattresses into the living room and borrowed two fans from people. IT was better, but still hot. Actually, the AC turned back on in the middle of the night, so we all work up FREEZING because we didn't bring anything other than our sheets. But the AC then broke again, so we slept out there. Finally, yesterday the Branch President came with the AC guy (yeah...we need to reteach the "sabbath day" to him), and it's all fixed now. So, no more slumber parties in the living room. I think it's good because Sister Farr likes her sleep, so Sister Fifita and I just talk all night long till we fall asleep, and so sometimes Sister Farr would get mad at us because she was in the middle of our mattresses. So we moved her mattress to the side, which fixed the problem and she could fall asleep.
I've never been in a 3-some before, but I've heard horror stories. If you can get it to work, they will work so good. If not, then it's just bad (drama, one sister feeling left out, etc). But so far we work really well. We had to get used to each other's different styles of teaching, but it's good. Melissa comes out with us and we go on splits--one set of missionaries and then the other with Melissa. So we're able to get a lot of work done. This is my last week and I want to make it the best, so we're going to push it.
Wow, what other news do I have. Sister Fifita was just the big news of the week. I feel like we're the three musketeers. Which reminds me, we're teaching this couple named Patti and Oscar and I don't think Oscar is all there in the head. His prayers are insane and a bit irreverent. At the end of his last prayer he said,"...and all for one, and one for all. In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen." Yeah... it was random, but I had to hold myself from laughing. In another prayer, he said, "And now I'm going to close this with a rap." And seriously had the nerve to start beat boxing right there. They may not be investigators much longer....
But I haven't had time to tell you about John, so I will do that now.
John is our baptismal date for August. We found him WAY back in May. He was teaching Martial Arts to someone at the park. We stopped in the middle of the lesson and found out that he lived across the street and his mom was actually a less-active member. He's 40, divorced, and his life is for his little girl, Emme, who he has full custody of. He has leukemia, so he's just really skinny and in a lot of pain. At first we were teaching him, but we weren't really connecting with him. He also was working on Sundays at his job as a call center supervisor. As we started teaching him, he wasn't too fond of changing and the fact that repentance allows us to wash away all of our past mistakes and sins. He liked holding onto his past because--even though he admitted to doing some pretty horrible things in the past--his past is what made him who he was today. He didn't want to let that go.
Well, after teaching him for a few months, he started changing and being more open with us. He said that he wanted to go to church, so he started to look for a different job that didn't work on Sundays. His current job found out about him possibly leaving, so instead countered him with a raise and a better work schedule! Yay, so at the end of June he was FINALLY able to come to church after weeks and weeks of not being able to. But there was just one problem: this particular Sunday, church was in Harlingen for Stake Conference. He said the he promised us that he would come, so he did and had an amazing experience. Even though he was in pain, a recent convert came up and bore his testimony about how horrible of a man he was and that the Gospel changed him and now he's happy and at peace and has left all of that behind him. John really really liked that and just knew that was an answer to his prayer. That and a ton of other things that happened at the conference really touched him. He was committed to being baptized in July at this point, but still had doubts about the church and if the church was true and about Joseph Smith.
We taught him the Word of Wisdom and he said that would be a problem because he drink 8 cups of coffee and day, and drinks 8 beers a night. He was committed to doing it, but after 3 days of going cold turkey, he gave in because the pain was too much. In one of the lessons, his hands and arms were literally shaking from withdrawls. He kept trying to cut his beer and coffee intake down to 1 per day and was able to do it, until he just gave in and binged. It was sad because I think he finally realized that he had a big problem. Before he didn't care, but he finally realized that this wasn't what he wanted and he wasn't able to do it.
He also had a dream with both Sister Farr and I in it and in the dream, God (or someone) told him that he would find his answers in the book of John. So he started reading there to find answers. I was a bit sad because I thought it would take away from his Book of Mormon reading, but he actually was reading in both (a little bit more in John, but that's ok).
Well, after the big emergency evacuation zone conference, we learned a TON of new things to help us in our work. The very first person we tried them on was John and from that point on, it has made ALL the difference. In that lesson, we just first started talking and asking him a ton of questions about how he felt--especially focusing on church and the answers he's been getting. We were able to really get his feelings out and figure out his needs. Later, we asked him about his reading and he immediately started telling us what he learned in his study of John. "First off," he said, "I learned that we have to be baptized by water and by the Spirit. It's funny because I thought that to be forgiven, all you had to do was say your sorry and just be a good guy and God would forgive you. But here, it says that you need to be baptized." Good, good. "Also, I always wondered why Christians and Catholics sprinkled for baptism, but Mormons put you all the way under the water. Well, the reason is because that's how Jesus was baptized. Excellent, I thought, I should make all my investigators read the book of John. It was really cool to see him learn from the scriptures. Later we really focused on listening and PAUSING when speaking to investigators. That was something that they emphasized in the training. Well, it was cool because sometimes pauses are awkward but we asked him about the good feelings and changes he's been having and if he would want those always. He started talking about it and saying yes, but then he paused and I thought he was done speaking, but something was holding me back and saying, "Just wait." And so we waited for 5 seconds and he bent his head down and said, "Yeah, I really want that." To me, it was the most profound, spiritual, introspective point of the lesson for him. We never would have had that if we just plowed though after he was "done." So yeah, lots of other things happened in that lesson and it was turning point. We walked out of there thinking, "Wow, why haven't we done any of this before?!"
So he got a blessing from the Elders for his drinking problem and hasn't drank since. It really has been amazing. He thought the blessing would be a hit on the head saying, "You're healed!" but after the blessing, he just sat there and said he wasn't quite sure how he felt about it. The next day he said that he felt strength and liked the blessing because it wasn't "immediate", it still required work on his part. He had a LOT of opposition, from friends stopping by randomly to drink, but he said no every time. One time he even was outside and thought, "Wow, a beer would be so good right now" and a minute later his friend stopped by with a beer for him. But he's been super strong and it's great. He's seeing a TON of blessings from keeping the Word of Wisdom. He has been able to go jogging and have a ton of energy for the first time since he was diagnosed. He went to the Dr. because he's going to start chemo again and the Doctor was SO shocked because he's had an irregular heartbeat and a TON of problems, but the Doctor was so surprised because his white blood cell count had shot through the roof, his heartbeat was regular for the first time ever, and tons of other miracles. It was a huge testimony for him about how the Word of Wisdom is true and comes from God.
He's getting Sundays off in 2 weeks and then he'll be able to be baptized in August. I'm SO excited for him, but sad that I won't be there. But it's going to be great for him.
Well, I gotta go, this is my last week and I'm going to make it the best. I know that this Gospel is true and that if we just show our faith and go out with all diligence, the Lord blesses us. He blessed John. He's blessed so many other investigators and recent converts of mine. He's blessed me. To quote the happy Christian song, "God is an awesome God." It's true. He loves us so much and is always there for us. I love this mission and hate that it's the best at the end. I wish I could stay and just do this till Christmas. I know that Jesus is the Christ and I will follow him wherever he calls me.
Sister Burt

Monday, July 12, 2010

A Sharp!

Yikes, can you believe it's another week? Wow, this has been an interestingly slow week, but fast at the same time. Two weeks left and everyone is keen on bringing it to my attention. Even in church, they are planning a "going away" party for me and when they announced it at church, I was sitting by the piano and the second they said it, "I just shrugged down as far as I could go so that no one could see me behind the piano. Haha, I felt like Simba in the Lion King when Mufasa calls his name to give him a talking to and he is standing next to Nala and just sinks as far down as he can into the grass to hide. Yep, it was exactly like that.
So I got an email from "Stephen" and I was so excited because I thought that Steve had written me for the first time on my mission, but then I realized that it was in Spanish and was a bit confuse because it said (in Spanish), "Excuse me for my poor Spanish, but I'll do my best." Then I realized that it wasn't Steve at all, but rather my mission president responding back to my email. Bummer. Hey, I still have two weeks to hope that he writes me! ;)
I have this medallion necklace that Marilyn gave me that has the "Armor of God" on it. I decided to wear it again because I like it a lot, but I just got out of the habit of wearing jewelry. So yeah, I think I may stop wearing it because I've had numerous people (even church members) come up to me and say, "Oh what Saint is that on your necklace?" Oh gosh...I forget at times that I'm in Catholic territory where saints are, well, saints to them. So yeah, maybe to prevent further confusion (especially by people thinking that we actually believe in Saints as well), I may stop wearing it. Oh yeah and that reminds me. A while ago, I got this free sticker at Pizza Hut of this Maria picture (the classic one that you see everywhere) that also came with a prayer sticker to Maria. So, I didn't need it, so what did I do? I put it on the back on the Elders car. It was super hilarious. Don't worry, by the end of the day, they noticed and ripped it off. But they had NO clue who it was who did it. ;)
Wow, this really was the most amazing week. It was the most unique on my mission so far because we--for the first time ever--weren't focused on investigators as our first priority. Instead, we--the Raymondville missionaries--went forth with our plan to just visit ALL the inactives in the branch. As a result, we visited and taught a total of 18 member and less-active lessons. Yikes. But it was really really effective. I've noticed that there are two reasons why people leave the church: 1) they get offended or 2) they just stopped coming one Sunday and that turned to two, and so on and so forth. Reason number 1 is the most common here. It's really sad to see that people let other people come between them and their salvation.
Well, Sister Melissa Martinez has been coming out with us EVERY single day. She's an awesome, eclectic member who has been in Raymondville nearly her whole life. She's pretty amazing because she's an epileptic and has 6 children (5 of whom has disabilities such as deafness, mute, Bi-polar, etc). But she's very devoted to the church. Well, we started talking her out with us to visit other less-actives. In Raymondville, everyone knows everybody and especially more true, Melissa knows EVERYBODY. So it's a lot easier to get into home and less-actives because she's already their friend. Well, literally she would call us in the morning and say, "Sisters. I'm ready whenever you are." And we'd pick her up around 11 am or noon, and then she'd be with us all day until around 4, when we'd take lunch. Then after our little hour/hour fifteen minute break, we'd head straight back to her house to pick her up until 9 pm when we'd go home. She's great. We asked, "Are you sure you want to go out with us this much? You can say 'no' or just tell us to take you home whenever." But she replied, "Oh no! I LOVE IT. It helped me to get away from my kids" (hmm, not necessarily what we wanted...), "because they are so wild that I get so stressed out. But I am SO less stressed since I have been coming with you and my kids notice and they like it." So yeah, she likes getting out of the house because missionary work calms her jangled nerves and she has to take less medicine because of it. Haah, good times. She's great though. I wish I had the camera card so I could attach a picture. Oh well. But she is just a riot because she's crazy (in a cool way). I have so many quote from her, for example, yesterday. She and I were knocking a door while Sister Farr was across the street and this grey parrot was next to us and made his terrible shriek! She immediately said, "Sharp! A sharp!" To which I replied, "You know what note it is?" and she said, "You forget, Sister Burt. I took choir. 7 years of choir." Well, yeah... I'm not going to comment on the Raymondville branch's singing ability, but I just laughed at it. Yep. That's pretty much what our days consist of now.
As I mentioned before, all week, we focused on visiting less-actives and building the branch again. Well, the most exciting, memorable, and successful visit this week was to a member named Sister Mundy.
We've hadn't really heard of her before, but Tuesday night, we had 15 minutes before an appointment. We had been trying to visit less-actives up until this point and weren't having ANY success. I--to be honest--was a bit deflated. People don't' want to talk to us and even people who ARE members of the church don't want to talk to us, I thought. With 15 minutes to go, it would have been convenient to just go to the appointment early. But I then remember a letter I got a few months ago from a RM friend who wrote a random part (prefacing it by saying, "I have no idea why I'm including this random story, but here it is") where she talked about how she gained a testimony of "using every minute" on the mission. She told the story of how they had 15 minutes before a dinner appointment, but decided to use that time instead to work on their goal of meeting everyone (member or less-active) in the ward. By this point she had been in the same area for 10 months, so she already knew all the members and had moved onto less-actives. Anyways, she found this woman who just was wanting to change her life again and come back, to church. Well, this story went through my mind and I decided that 15 minutes was enough to try to find one more person.
We stopped near the home of Bro. Trevino--an elderly man who comes to sacrament meeting, but always leaves right afterwards. The Sunday prior, we tried stopping by his home, and even though his car was there, he didn't answer. So we decided to try again because we never had been formally introduced. Also, apparently--according to the ward list--a "Sister Mundy" (pronounced Mun-dee) lived there. Before leaving the car, I said the prayer and I think I said the most desperate prayer that I have said on the mission. I didn't say my thanks or the "thank you for this day" jazz, I just simply said, "Dear Heavenly Father, please help us to be able to find someone and that they will let us in. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen." It really was a plea for help.
We knock the door and this woman answers and says, "Oh come in, come in, get out of the mosquitoes!" (Because since the hurricane, the mosquitoes have invaded south Texas and it is not a pleasant experience to be outside. We sat down and got to know who she was. She was so nice and open and really the friendliest person I have ever met. She just glows and her attitude is just contagious. Well, we started talking about who she was and she revealed that she hadn't been to church in 3 years. She was originally baptized in Raymondville in the 80s, but then moved to Idaho in the early 2000s and stayed there for 7 or so years. Well, I think anyone can decipher that an Idaho WARD is much different than the Raymondville Branch. She shared so many stories of how much she loved it, how she felt like she was "home" the minute she was there, the amazing story of how the women in the church helped her prepare her for her endowments, etc. But then she said the time came where she had to move back to take care of her father (Bro. Trevino) and moved back. She was so gung-ho to come back and change the whole place and help in any way that she could. But, week after week, she would try her hardest, but nothing would happen, the members would be stubborn and unappreciative, etc and finally, she just decided that she wouldn't come anymore. She'd been hurt too much that it just wasn't worth it.
Well, we shared with her and invited her to come back to church (I'm cutting a lot out of course). Sister Farr said, "We want to invite you to choose to come back to church." and she loved that because she loved the principle of agency and that we really do choose for ourselves. Well, we visited her again and I just loved my visit with her because she really is so special and fun. She committed to come to church and then yesterday...she did! And even before we could come up to her, 5 other branch members beat us to her and gave her hugs. The branch presidency has received some vigor recently and is extending a TON of callings and by the end of church, she already had been interviewed and offered a calling. :) It's really just so happy. She bore her testimony later in class that she always had this scripture come to her throughout her life when she thought that she was alone. When she stopped coming to church, she continued to read her scriptures and go watch talks online while everyone else was at church, she was doing everything except coming to church. She said that two weeks ago, she even stopped reading her scriptures and decided that she was alone, but then just a few days later, we came to her doorstep and she knew that God was watching out for her. And even when she came to church, that scripture (that God had always helped her remember in her times of need) was mentioned in one of the talks. She also left us a message this morning on our phone, thanking us for visiting her and helping her come back to church. It was really one of the greatest moments on my mission. I was so happy and I already have such a love for this AMAZING woman of the church, I'm glad she's back because everything about her is needed to help this branch. She helped me. It's funny because I told Elder Arens about her message this morning and he said, "See? It's ok that you didn't find any investigators last week. You brought an endowed member of the church back. That's like 5 baptisms." Haha, it was funny. But we really didn't do anything. We just came by and visited her. It's really not only about baptisms as a missionary. I've learned and gained a testimony this past week that missionary work is a LOT more that just baptisms.
It really was a great week. This has been the most interesting transfer of my life because the missionary work I've been doing has been so different that what I had traditionally doing in the past. We haven't been able to find very many people AT ALL and only have 3 investigators total...It's sad, but the ones that we do have are great. But at times, I feel like throwing my hands in the air with this place and feel like saying, "I give up. I can't do this anymore." But then that reminds me of two things. One, the talk that Sister Dibb gave in the General YW meeting of conference entitled, "Be of Good Courage." Then I also think more importantly of Jesus Christ. "Remember Him" as President Eyring said in his talk entitled, "Act in All Diligence." He said, "When I find myself drawn away from my priesthood duties by other interests and when my body begs for rest, I give to myself this rallying cry: “Remember Him.” The Lord is our perfect example of diligence in priesthood service. He is our captain. He called us. He goes before us. He chose us to follow Him and to bring others with us." Its true. As we remember the Savior and his patience with us, we are more patient with others and their faults. As we are patient and long-suffering, miracles happen. I know that this is the work of the Lord and that I am literally an instrument in his hands as long as I'm willing and worthy. I have been doing everything that I can daily to improve myself. My time is short, but I still have time to be effective and make a difference.
Well, I love you all. Stay true and faithful.
Sister Burt

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Longest Week Ever

Hey Everyone!
Well, since no one mentioned anything about me and the hurricane, don't worry. I'm ok and safe. Haha. Actually, this past week has been the LONGEST week of my mission. Seriously, last Monday felt like weeks ago! But before I go into the events of the past week, let me tell you some IMPORTANT NEWS that I stupidly forgot to mention last week:
Two Saturday's ago, we had a baptism! Yep, an awesome single mom named Clarissa. It was really special and she was very excited and loves the church. IT was great to see her progress as she first started off as a referral from the Elders in Harlingen. They were teaching her, but she emergency moved here and we continued with her and helped her work through her doubts and accept the Gospel. Conversion is really special and great every time it happens, no matter how many times.
Anyways, now I will go into the events of last week.
Monday: well pday wasn't very eventful as usual. And by this point, no one really wanted to talk to us because of Hurricane Alex. It was still projected at this point to hit south Texas, so nobody wanted to set return appointments because "the hurricane is coming."
Tuesday: Even more ineffective. But that morning, Elder Reilly came over and killed Sister Farr, Elder Arens, and me with a crazy plyometric work out that made Elder Arens throw up and made all of us so that we couldn't sit down without wincing for 3 days at least (But due to the hurricane and the events of the week, my workout plan just failed miserably). We drove around trying to find less-actives, recent converts, and members because everyone was boarding up their homes and skipping town. By this point we didn't really know if we were to be evacuated, so we were just sort of waiting. Our landlord called us and told us that she wanted us to get sand bags for the house and put duck tape "X's" on the windows, so we had to postpone working and get all that stuff done. When we went to go get sandbags, the Elders were there and had found a more effective use of their time: 3 hours of sand bagging. Great fun. We would have stayed and helped but we still had to grab all the stuff for our our house. We already had our 72 hour kits ready weeks ago, so we were set with that. Which was a good thing because the lines at Wal-Mart were crazy and no one had water. Well, Tuesday night we get the call that all the missionaries from the Harlingen and Brownsville zones are being evacuated, and have leave their homes the next morning by 7 am. So we hurried and packed a few clothes that night and then drifted off into dreamland.
Wednesday: Well, we got to McAllen to wait for all the other missionaries to arrive. The sky was dark and grey anticipating the hurricane or storms. I brought a lot of card games and such, anticipating a lot of "sitting around" as other missionaries who were here 2 years prior for Hurricane Dolly, warned me. Two days of just sitting around; yeah, sure, it's fun at first, but after a while it gets pretty boring. Well, to be honest, I was hoping that we wouldn't have to be evacuated because I honestly would rather be working and sharing the Gospel, not sitting around doing nothing wasting time. Well, luckily, it didn't turn out that way. On Monday, our new mission president and his wife--President and Sister Trayner--can in and the Miller's flew out Tuesday morning (those lucky ducks, they left right before the chaos happened. "Here President Trayner, you have the keys now. Good luck!"). The 6 sisters who were evacuated were to stay at the Trayner's home, while all the Elders were to stay in different Elders' apartments in the Mission and McAllen zones. Well, we head over to the Trayner's house around 9 am and all the sisters got to be one of the first ones to meet Pres. and Sis. Trayner. They are great people. One of the first things Sister Trayner said to me was, "Oh I've read your blog. I know you." Oh really? Haha, I guess she was talking to her daughter a month or so before she left and her daughter said, "Oh you get to meet the "famous one"" (referring to me and my blog). Famous? Hahahahah, not even close. They must not see me at the lunch table at zone conferences. Clearly not famous, nor popular. Either way, I thought it was funny. Well, instead of sitting around, President Trayner put us all to work and the two zones that had evacuated had a "Surprise" 4 day zone conference. Yep. 4. Days. Long. 10 am to 5 pm (at least). Apparently, the First Presidency and the Quorum of the 12 Apostles are implementing a whole new system (sort of) for missionary work). I guess at the new mission president's seminar they rolled it all out and told the president's "Ok, so when you get to the mission, you may want to take a few weeks to implement this so that you can get settled in and familiar with the area, your new home, the mission, missionaries, etc." But thanks to Hurricane Alex, it sort of forced President to roll it ou within the second day that he was here: so I'm pretty confident that the Texas McAllen Mission is the only mission in the world that is already putting these new techniques for teaching into effect (well, at least the Harlingen and Brownsville zones). It's sort of a bummer to be getting all this training now, rather than at the BEGINNING of my mission, but I know that it happened the way that the Lord intended it to be. Apparently, I needed it these last three weeks left.
The church released a new "season" of "The District"--a reality show about missionaries doing their job and recording them teaching and working with their investigators (I saw the older one in the MTC). Also, with the new thing, the dress code for Sister Missionaries have been modified. No longer do skirts need to go to "mid calf" or longer, but rather, they need to be just below the knee and cover your knees when you sit down. A LOT more modern, in my opinion (because seriously, it was SO hard to find those darn skirts. So yeah, when I get off the plane, don't be shocked if I'm wearing a skirt that seems "shorter" that what traditional sisters have worn int he past).
Well, Wednesday night we stayed at the Trayner's home and Thursday had training till 5. By this point, the hurricane had passed and didn't do too much damage in Texas (it hit in Mexico), so all the missionaries were okayed to go back to their apartments, BUT the training would continue Friday and Saturday since we already started it. Oh yeah, the church is also getting away with the traditional "6 week transfer" cycle. Apparently, the missionaries are too "transfer" oriented, so they are getting rid of it so that the missionaries can better focus on their monthly baptismal goals.
So that's pretty much what happened this week. It was pretty much the most ineffective week of my mission. ZERO new one at church. But we did have an AWESOME lesson with John, one of our investigators, immediately after one of the trainings, putting into place the things that we learned. It was one of the best lessons I've had on my mission. I would write about it, but my time is low. :( Maybe next week, eh?
Well, my time is up. It was really a rough week, but I learned SO much and am so excited to go out and apply it all. I sort of questioned myself at the beginning of these trainings thinking, "So the first presidency is saying that they way we were teaching and doing missionary work before was, essentially, wrong and not the best. But I've been doing that my whole mission, does that mean my mission was a total failure?" Well, of course not. That was just Satan trying to get me down. Was the old "discussion" way of preaching from the 80s and 90s (and maybe even before) wrong? No, the church learned and improved itself and provided a better way. That doesn't mean that what I did this whole time was wrong, I was fulfilling my purpose, "inviting others to come unto Christ" and it was the way the LORD wanted for ME. That's why I went on a mission a year and a half ago, and not now. If anything, I needed to learn this stuff, to make the last 3 weeks of my mission, the best possible. And even more, to apply them into my life when I get home. I know that however this work is done, as long as it's done the LORD's way, it is his work. I've definitely learned that if you try to do it your own way, then you can't do it at all. I'm grateful that even the church is learning, growing, improving and progressing. What an example for us in our daily lives. If I'm the same as I was a month ago, doing the same things, not progressing, then I need to repent and get better. In church, school, my scripture study, my visiting teaching, my missionary work, my calling...whatever it may be.
I love you all and can't wait to see you. Just help me endure to the end please. I don't want to get trunkie because I'm still not really and I just want to make these last three weeks the best!
With Love,
Sister Burt
P.S. Ok, yesterday the zone leaders and another set of Elders came up and we all played golf. It was a grand old time. We decided to split up into teams (we had 6 playing total) and play best ball. I was on Elder Petersen's team from San Benito (who is an AWESOME missionary, person, golf player, etc) and we won. It was grand fun even though my golf game has gone down the drain these past years. But he has the nicest shot of the tee ever--long and straight-- and then we'd usually play my ball off my irons because my iron game and chipping skills are my forte. Yay for teamwork.