As Sister Woods and I were walking down the street this week, I asked her a very sincere and deep question. I asked, really, the question of all questions.
What would my Patronus be?
After a long time of deliberation, she then reverently revealed, a pigeon. At first I was a little offended. I was hoping it would be something cool, like a cougar, or a fox. But after a few minutes I realized, FLAP YES MY PATRONUS IS A PIGEON! I am OBSESSED with pigeons. They may have become my favorite animal. I always stare out the window at the gang who hangs out on the roof across the street. This morning they were all huddled around the chimney top, it was the cutest thing. I also saw a black and white spotted pigeon this week, it was gorgeous!
Oh, and I told Sister Woods that her Patronus would be a Toucan. Not because she has a big nose, it just seemed like a fitting animal for her.
So sometimes as a missionary, you feel like you are really changing the world. You are going out there, you are preaching the Gospel, you are giving those children of God the knowledge of what their life is worth! (If I were saying this paragraph out loud right now I would have done a little grunt right there, so just imagine it with me..)
We had a lesson this week with a man named E from Hungary. He was one of those miracle stories. We were walking down the street and he pulled over, got out of his car, and asked us about the Book of Mormon. Hello Miracle! So cool, we were on cloud nine. He was super literate in the Bible and we could tell he had a lot of potential.
We finally were able to have our first lesson with him this week and it was going pretty good, I really like the guy. What happened is we called him and he told us he was in Freiburg, so we said, okay let's meet in the church in 30 minutes! The Elders ended up joining us in the lesson so that we could make a nice and neat hand off to them.
Well we get through the most part of the lesson, and it's going alright. He talks a lot, but we can see the potential. Big Bad Elder Stuart finally turns the lesson toward the Restoration, and we all felt like the DVD would be a great tool to show him what we're talking about.
We pop it in, the spirit is in the room, and life is just great.
A little while in, right before Joseph is going to see the First Vision, we hear a gentle snoring from across the room. I try and look over, but I had been staring at the screen and the room was dark as the sun went down.
I hear the gentle snoring again and look over until my eyes adjust.
I then see E sitting there, taking a nice little nap.
All four of us look at each other and I'm just trying not to break out in giggles. Elder Kingery wisely picks up the remote and drops it, and E stirs a little bit. The snoring continues and then Sister Woods scoots her chair, and it seems to do the trick as we didn't hear the snoring anymore.
You think you are out changing the world, and you are. But the Lord also just likes to humble us with those giggle moments. Right when you think you have reached the big bad saving your dad missionary phase, I can guarantee the Lord is going to send you a giggle moment and remind you that you're just not as great as you think you are.
Don't worry, we aren't giving up on E. We still love the guy. Actually, I am glad I wrote this because we need to call him today!
Mom, you asked me how I have changed since coming on my mission and I told you it would take some time to think about. I've thought about it a bit and there were three things that I feel like I can identify which have really grown since I started this adventure.
The first is Obedience. Before my mission, I remember specifically telling my friends, "Yeah, I'm not going to worry too much about THAT rule on my mission."
I suppose before the mission, I figured that it's sort of like the frozen yogurt shop where you get to pick and choose your flavors, toppings, and color of spoon to make this delicious frozen yogurt (which you buy from really nice Thai woman named Vora).
Well the fact is, that is not at all what obedience is about. Rules aren't there to be taken lightly. Obedience is more than even just an acceptance of a rule or standard and then following it, obedience is spending every moment magnifying your ability to follow that rule. Obedience is so critical, so important in our lives. We are given rules so that we may refine ourselves and better ourselves. You take away a rule, you take away an opportunity for a person to become who they were meant to be.
If I had truly studied and learned of obedience before my mission, I wouldn't have gotten myself in all of the stupid messes that I wounded up in. Obedience is the cure for stupidity, and the best part, you don't have to be intelligent to be obedient! So, friends and family, take it from a girl that has learned. Stop doing what the flap you are doing that you know is wrong, and be obedient. Stop thinking your way is the best way, because it's not. Sure, the rule that you can't take the DVD player outside of the apartment and use it in a lesson, that's a lame rule. I don't like it, I don't understand why we have it. But it is a rule. And what makes me think that I, a 20 year old girl who has been in the mission field for 4 months, know anything about the origin or the purpose of the rule.
Stop being stupid, and be obedient!
Okay, give me a second, I have to take a few deep breaths.
My favorite thing that I have learned on the mission, is the true meaning of prayer. I prayed before my mission and I had faith in the power of prayer. But since the MTC something really changed inside of me and in my attitude toward prayer.
I think the greatest factor is that I can't call you every day, Mom. I was so used to having someone who loves me so perfectly right there on the other side of the phone. I could call you and chat and talk about anything. All of a sudden I was thrown into a circumstance where that was not the case. Yes, I have always had a companion, but that companion doesn't know you perfectly. Though they love you, they don't have that perfect love that you have, Mom.
One of the sisters in my MTC district, Sister Tolman, would always pray for a really long time at night. I remember wondering what she could be talking about for so long, she did it every single night. I also remembering wanting to be able to pray for that long, wanting to have that sort of a relationship with my Heavenly Father.
Now, I don't suggest comparing ourselves to other people. But one night I started challenging myself to be on my knees longer than Sister Tolman in the MTC. Then when I heard her rustle into bed, I would wrap up my prayer.
Something really cool happened. I started rambling. But it was the sort of rambling I would do when I talked to you. I would just talk with my Heavenly Father. I started talking about everything that happened, everything I was feeling. Yes I asked for things and I thanked him for things, but it was in between just the talking about my day and the talking about my life that I would express my gratitude or my desires.
It's been like that ever since. Every night I am not just praying to my Heavenly Father, I am talking with him. It is a conversation, just like a telephone call with my Mom. He listens to everything, he laughs when I tell him something funny that happened that day, and he gets sad when I tell him why I am sad.
It's like I am a little kid again with an imaginary friend, except he isn't imaginary. He is real. I know He is, and I know He hears my prayers. He has all the time in eternity to listen to me, and so we just chat. Just like me and my mom.
The third thing I have learned so far is just how human we all are. Talking with people, if only we really talked with each other more. And I mean really talking, conversing, asking about fears, faith, problems, happiness. We are all so much like each other. The young man from Pakistan, the old widow from Stuttgart. We are all so human.
If there was any challenge I could give to all of you at home, it would be to just talk to each other. To look each other in the eye and care for each other. Yes I want you to all have the gospel, yes I want you all join this church, I'm not going to beat around the bush and hide it. But even more than that, I wish for all of you to talk to others more, to let yourself love others more. My favorite world in the German language is Nächstenliebe, which is the word for charity in English. At first I thought it meant like "next love" or the love that is more than love. How poetic and pretty.
But in Sacrament on Sunday I realized it means more than that. It means to love your next, or to love the person next to you. To love that homeless man on the bus, or love that haughty wealthy woman in the mall. To just express that unconditional love for every person you see next to you.
If all of us did that, then we would all come into the gospel together, as a family. That is the foundation for this great work, and for the world to understand and accept who they are. Before anything else, we need to love one another. If we don't do that, we can't expect this world to be filled with His spirit and His knowledge.
I am learning so much on my mission, and I am so grateful for it. It truly is such a special time, and I don't think I will truly understand it until it is over. That is the bittersweet paradox of experiences. We can't appreciate them until we see the big picture, and we don't see the big picture until they are finished.
Anyways, I love you all so much! I truly do. I love those of you who are my family, and those of you who are my friends which means you are also my family. I love you and I am sending a big hug from Germany!