I am so much Greatful
I know I'm a day early, but... Frohes Erntedankfest!
Oh boy, this is going to be quite an email so take a seat. I'll try to share things chronologically as they happened but I forgot my notebook so I make no promises. This week has been quite a week to write in the books. It has been one that I'm not entirely sure if every missionary here or in the field has experienced.
So last week my district was able to go to the temple. We aren't able to go today because it's closed for the holiday. We're all pretty bummed out. Last week was spectacular for this reason though. I hadn't realized I had missed the temple so much until I couldn't stop smiling the minute I walked into it. For those of you who don't know, temples are a bit of heaven on earth. To be able to enter into it one must be a member of the church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It doesn't stop there though, one must be worthy to enter into a temple and be able to partake of making sacred promises with God. For those of you in the DC area, the Washington DC temple will be closing pretty soon for 2+ years. When it reopens, there will be an open house for EVERYONE to come and see what the temple looks like inside. I invite each of you to keep this in mind so that when it does reopen, you can go check it out for yourself-- and it's all free! (:
On Friday, my district and I entered into a whole new level in our relationship with our teacher Bruder Penfold. A brief background, Bruder Penfold was the one to welcome all of us on our first day here at the MTC. He's from England and served his mission in Germany. He had been quite reserved with us up until Friday. So on Friday, Sister Johnson had brought up Pico de Gallo and how good it is. Upon hearing this, I added to her comment by saying I love Pico de Gallo. Bruder Penfold slyly commented that Pico de Gallo is "just okay." I was quite astounded by his remark so I said "That's like saying biscuits are just okay, or saying that "scones are just okay." He chuckled at my remark, but then it got interesting. Sister Johnson commented after I did by saying "Fish-and-chips are mediocre at best." Bruder Penfold then said that Fish-and-chips are quite tasty with curry. Sister Bates said in a Simon Cowell voice "That's a no from me." And the whole room was dying of laughter from what had just happened. None of us had ever seen Bruder Penfold laugh as hard as he did that day. His face turned tomato red and his forehead vein looked like it was about to pop. Since that day, bruder Penfold has been cracking jokes with us and he even shared a picture of when he proposed to his wife. Gentlemen, your expectations have been raised immensely. He proposed to his wife in Germany, at a castle, on a bridge, with a waterfall in the background. I think it speaks for itself.
Sunday was a day full of tears for me. The spirit was immensely strong. I'm going to be butt honest, I have been struggling with staying focused. It's as if the minute I entered the MTC, everything that causes my heart to ache came back. And it had been frustrating me greatly. I'm on my mission because I want to serve others, and the fact that I haven't been able to devote myself entirely to God's service irritated me a lot on Sunday. Not knowing if creeping thoughts were of God, Satan, or me frustrated me even more. That night I knelt on the floor and said a sincere prayer to understand the who and why. I laid in bed and the lesson that had been taught that day came into my mind. "God is our loving Heavenly Father, and we are His children." So since we are His children, why would he give us anything that causes us pain? God gives us challenges and trials so that we may grow. This life is meant for progress. Sure we may feel pain as we experience trails, but that pain is not permanent. When it becomes permanent, it is of Satan. I know this because God would not torment His children. Our Heavenly Father wants us to be happy. He does not aim to hurt us. I know this is true. With this knowledge I have been able to simply ask God to take away everything that is not of Him, and since then I have been extremely comforted and focused.
I also bumped my head on the ladder of the bunk bed while walking in the dark before getting in bed, and managed to completely miss my mouth when drinking water in class. That night some Sisters and I did toothbrushing squats. We were all in a line in the bathroom and as we were brushing our teeth we decided to do some squats. It was quite a sight to see since we looked like whack-a-moles popping up at different times. Those were probably the best moments of the day haha.
Some clarifications to make: my branch is composed of ASL, German, Albanian, Hungarian, and Turkish speaking missionaries. I think I left a group out in my last email. We said goodbye to our Albanian missionaries; they left on monday. It's strange to not see them anymore. Also, Elder Parrella is not an apostle haha, big whoops on my part. He is a general authority of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Still a man of God though!
Sister Lay and I finished teaching our first investigator, "Erika." Our last lesson was a pretty big bummer. We had hoped to extend the invitation to her to be baptized, but as we had taught her we didn't feel prompted too. So our last lesson with her was primarily trying to help her gain a testimony of Jesus Christ. It wasn't awful but it wasn't great either. We relied heavily on our lesson outline in German and I think that's what prevented the Spirit to be felt. We started teaching "Stephan." We met him yesterday and it went really well. We couldn't stop laughing though. I couldn't take Brüder Penfold seriously in our lesson. It was a rough start but when we got the ball rolling, the spirit was so strong. Sister Lay and I didn't use any notes, and we relied heavily on the German we did know. Though it was probably the worst German structure ever, we were able to teach Stephan about the power of prayer and being able to talk to our loving Heavenly Father. We did not plan on giving this lesson. We in fact planned on teaching him about the Book of Mormon. However, as we spoke to him and as we were inspired to ask specific questions, we soon learned that Stephan did not know if God was present in his life. We shared with him a message about God loving his children, and that through prayer we are able to talk to him. We bore testament of God loving him and caring about him. I know God loves each of us, we're his children and he is mindful of all of our needs.
Monday and Tuesday were extremely tough. One of the Sisters in our district was experiencing some health problems and it got really scary. It was one of those moments when you question why bad things happen to good people. It wasn't until a couple months ago that I learned of my capacity to love, and let me just say that I love this Sister sooooooooo much and I have only known her for two weeks. While things where going on, the Sisters in my district and I got together and fervently prayed throughout the day. I testify of the power of prayer. God listens to his children. He has comforted us immensely throughout everything that was going on. All is well now, and it will be well. It's in His hands. I don't know why bad things happen to good people. But I do know that we are never left alone. I do know that through Christ, we are able to take on more than we think we can. I know that there is good in every day, you just have to find it.
As we approach thanksgiving, there are many things I am grateful for. I am grateful for Christ's atonement. Were it not for his willingness to take upon him the sins of the world, none of us would ever come close to being able to enter into the kingdom of heaven to live with our Father again. It is through Christ that I have hope for better days and lovely moments when times are dark. I am thankful for my Faith. 6 years ago my dad was killed in a car crash. Were it not for my faith in the gospel of Christ, I would not feel peace as I do now. I know that families are eternal, they do not end after death. I know that God's plan of happiness for us is true. I know we lived with him before we came to this earth. I know we are here to be tried for Faith and obedience. I know that there is life after death. I know that I will see my dad again because of the sacred promises we make in the temple. I know families are sealed for all time and eternity, not until death do us part. I am thankful for the Book of Mormon. I know it is another testament of Christ, and I know that through it we can all learn about his ministry, atonement and doctrine. I know that the Book of Mormon and the Bible work hand-in-hand to fortify faith in Christ. I am thankful for my Sisters. I didn't meet these young women until two weeks ago, and I can't imagine what my life would be like without them. They are everything I have always wanted. The bond we have created is so spiritual and strong. I know each of us are meant to be here, in the same district. They have been the biggest blessing God has given me.
In this season of giving thanks, I invite each of you to ponder about what non-materialistic things you are thankful for. What have you been given that has changed your life profoundly? How can you give back?
I love you all. I miss you all. Thank you for being in my life. And if you ever have any questions about what exactly it is I'm doing, or any questions about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, shoot me an email (: