Monday, July 12, 2010

A Sharp!

Familia!
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.
Love,
Sister Burt

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