Monday, July 19, 2010

The Three Musketeers

Wow,
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.
Love,
Sister Burt

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