finally, finally, finally i am feeling like myself again
Greetings from Btown!
The holidays are approaching fast! Can you believe that it is already my missionwide Christmas party tomorrow? Ahhhh I can't wait! All the missionaries together in the Tacoma stake center for hours and hours and hours all just hanging out and enjoying each other's company. Yes, please! We will all get our gifts tomorrow as zones. I am pretty sure we are not opening them there but I'm sure some elders might not be able to wait till the 25th. But I can. I have no intention of opening them tomorrow. I want to put them under our tiny fiber-optic Christmas tree that we have in our apt!! The other day we were going through one of the storage closets in our apt and we found this like 2.5ft tree that dazzles all rainbow-y when you plug it in. We also found two WA-TAC woodcarved ornaments and two red stockings that we hung on the wall. All the decorations are on top of a brown, wooden desk so from far away it kind of looks like a little ghetto fireplace! Haha perfect Btown style. Sis Welch bought a strand of multi-color lights at the dollar store that she framed it all with so our apt has a little wall of Christmas spirit. I love how humble and ghetto it all looks. Perfect mission style Christmas decorations. Last night, Sister Graves fed us dinner at her Dad's house who is in our ward and she brought us a nativity display that we put out on the "fireplace." So I will put my gifts under our little tree.
This first week was full of miracles. Finally, finally, finally I am feeling like myself again. Sister Welch is a total Godsend. She wants to work equally as hard and be obedient and we just have a lot of the same goals and desires for the work here. We are really different but we get along great. We can laugh together, which is always a good sign. We have different senses of humor but we find a lot of humor in the same things. She is a really bad speller. Hahah. The other day she asked me how to spell "shadow." Hm. Ok. No big deal.
I guess Silverdale was the land of dogs and Bremerton is the land of cats. I know that I have shared a couple cat stories already but how about another one? Ok so we go knock on this one door. Like most houses here in Bremerton they are old and small and square with 4 foot chain-link fences all around their little yards. We go in and knock on this guys' door. He is huge and old and out of breath. Before he could tell us that he wasn't interested, this giant fat black cat comes darting out between his legs. He starts freaking out because the cat got out and we are just standing there like "uh...so you aren't interested in coming to check out the church?" The cat seriously looked bloated or like it swallowed 10 other cats. It was the largest ugliest thing ever. The guys' daughter comes out. She has like no hair. What little hair she did have was corn-row braided down to her scalp and I know this because I watched her take her wig off to come try to capture the cat. She comes out with a towel to throw over the cat because apparently it was a very vicious and tempremental cat. I have never heard the kind of hissing and screeching cat noises that came out of that animal other than on TV. She couldn't catch it and just began chasing it all around the little fenced off area until she was able to corner it and throw the towel over it. You know in the cartoons when there is a cat in a bag and it tries to get out and it just looks like a lumpy mass all squirming around with crazy noises coming out of it. That's pretty much what it was. Two sister missionaries, one bald lady, one screaming fat dude, and a hissing cat. And a partridge in a pear tree.
Later that night we knocked on this guy Greg's house. I totally have testimony in opening your mouth as a missionary and allowing the Holy Ghost to testify and teach through you if you listen to its promptings. In the span of about 6 minutes we went from totally not interested to him taking a copy of the Book of Mormon and wanting us to come back in one week's time to talk about it. He has read it before but admitted to reading it without believing or hoping that it could possibly be true. We read him Moroni's promise to read with a sincere heart, with real intent and he agreed to doing that. I asked him if there was anything that we could do for him between then and the next time that we would be meeting him and what he said surprised me: "Pray for me. Pray that my heart might be softened to the Book of Mormon." MIRACLE.
That very same day we were driving to an appointment and we had a little bit of time to kill so I wanted to drive Sis Welch through The Villages. The Villages are the projects. Subsidized government housing. Probably one of the saddest places I have ever been. A giant horseshoe loop of the smallest rundown apartments that just exude desperation and hardship. I am not exaggerating when I say that just about every single resident that lives there has either had one or more of the lessons, been on a church tour, or is a lessactive recent convert that was baptized and never came back. We were driving through the neighborhood and I was pointing out some of the members homes that I knew lived there. We were driving down one particular street and there was this hoodrat looking guy on Sis Welch's side of the car. I tell her to invite him to check out the church and we pull over and talk to him. Turns out he was looking for a church to take his kids to. Yes!!!!! We set up a church tour for the next day. ( Funny side note: We go to drive away with the car in park and the most awful screeching noises ensue. Basically rivals the sound of the cat that escaped except this time it sounded like the cat was going through a meat grinder.Embarassing!!) Flash forward to the next day. Its about 40 min before the scheduled church tour and we text Adam to remind him about the appt. He tells us that his mom actually goes to our church and that he will check it out with her. I ask him who his mom was and that she could come along on the tour. Turns out she is a recent convert that has been on my mind of someone to go visit but just had never gotten around to seeing. He starts saying that his life is really crazy at the moment as he just returned from his job in Alaska as a fisherman to find that his girlfriend and mom of his kids has left him. He was just so upset and angry and said he was just trying to look for some peace. I decide to textify. Testify through a text. I told him that the lasting peace that he is looking for only comes through the Gospel of Jesus Christ. That God is completely aware of him and his circumstances. That maybe Heavenly Father placed him in our paths yesterday because He knew that we would be able to help him. His reply: "alright...I'll pick up my mom and we'll be there in 5 minutes." MIRACLE. He came on the church tour, it went great. We invited him to be baptized on Christmas day but he said he would have to think about it but would like to come to church. He came to church on Sunday for all three hours and even brought both his kids. MIRACLE, MIRACLE, MIRACLE.
We haven't had a baptism yet but we have one this Sunday. A 9yr old of a recent convert. His name is James and he and his dad just moved into the ward about a month or so ago. They actually live in the Villages. James' dad was just laid off from work. He got injured on the job, the doctor said it didn't look like he was going to be making a speedy recovery so his company let him go. He seems like he is weighed down by 15 million pounds of pressure, guilt, and worry. Each and every time James says a prayer or answers a question in one of our lessons he makes mention about how he just wants to be able to live in a house and that they can have enough money to buy food and the things that they need. Breaks my heart. I wanted to go home and raid our pretty meager shelves and give them everything. Instead I gave them a box of Reese's puffs cereal that Sister Graves had accidentally left in our car. Made James soooo happy.
Another miracle is Mark. Mark is another wounded soul. He was a referral from our zone leaders. They found him on the west side, in their area, but Mark just moved into a halfway home on the east side, our area. A halfway home is a place where recovering or recovered addicts or those that have gotten out of jail all live together and are trying to get back on their feet and make changes to their lives. Mark is a recovering alcoholic and just the neatest guy you'd ever meet. His heart and hands hang heavy though with the feelings of guilt and shame that he has wasted so much of his life as a slave to this addiction. He wants to badly to change but everytime he has the tiniest slip up he beats himself up over it and slides back 10 steps. After talking with him for just 10 minutes my heart ached for him. Here is a man that needs the healing powers of the Atonement so badly in his life. He said that his whole life he has done it his way and look how far it's gotten him. He realizes that now maybe it's time to do it God's way and that he can change for the better. He is supposed to get baptized this coming Sunday but he didn't come to church yesterday so he fell off-date so we are going to try to put him back on for Christmas day.
We have another baptism on Christmas day! This lady named Karen was a referral from one of the wards in my last zone in Silverdale. This 64 yr old lady was going to be moving from Silverdale to Manette and she has no car and no friends and no family in the area. She has a daughter that is a member and lives in Canada. She called the bishop in the area that Karen was living in and asked him if there were some people that could help her move. Hours later, a fleet of missionaries in white shirts and ties come to her aid and move her out in one day. She said that she had no idea how she was going to move and had no money to pay movers. Her baptism is a biproduct of love and service.
President Weaver wants a white Christmas. Everyone in their baptism whites. So we are having two baptisms and one confirmation on Christmas day. It'll be my first white Christmas ever in my life. Way better than snow!!! I am really loving the holidays out here in the mission field. The commercial aspects of Christmas have disappated and the real reason for remembering the season has come out full force. In Sacrament meeting on Sunday we sang, "Jesus, Once of Humble Birth." So powerful. It was the song I sang in the MTC choir when I was there and brought back a lot of sweet memories as well as thoughts of the Savior and His birth. Hopefully, the Savior's love for each of you has inspired you to be His hands on earth this Christmas and do the work He would do. What a special time of year. I love it.