Catherine is doing so great, and I finally found out how to spell her name! She's already reading in the middle of 2 Nephi--coming up on the Isaiah chapters! She has some Word of Wisdom challenges that she's working through super well. She sees how Heavenly Father has been helping her overcome her addictions! She also knows that Joseph Smith is a true prophet of God and that the Book of Mormon is true! She shared her experience with us: she was reading the Restoration pamphlet and got to the part about the First Vision, and then prayed and specifically if the Prophet Joseph Smith is His prophet, if the Church has been restored, if the Book of Mormon is true, and if what we've taught her is true. She said she felt a warmth in her heart and knew that that was God telling her that it is all true!
Ciara and Nevea just aren't progressing and they haven't come to church, so we're going to give them more time on their own before we start teaching them again. Heavenly Father knows His children and will direct missionaries back to them when they're ready to accept the gospel and learn more!
Earlier in the week we received a call from a girl named Jasmine whom I met with Sister Campbell. She told us she really wanted to meet with us because of some recent events in her life, so we set up an appointment and went to go teach her! She is incredible! She told us she was having a really hard time and then her friend shared a quote with her: "do your best and the Lord will do the rest". That's the quote that helped me at BYU! Jasmine is planning to be baptized on September 17! She told us in the first lesson that learning about the Restoration helped her a lot and made her feel "enlightened". She then asked us a question that's been weighing heavily on her mind for the past few years: should she look up to God, or see him as an equal? We helped her come to a conclusion and taught her again later in the week and she said every time she learns more, she feels refreshed. I love hearing how non members describe the gospel! Not the typical words members use, but they describe it well! Jasmine also came to church! There's a family that lives down the street from her that has taken her and her brothers a few times several years ago. Jasmine texted us on Sunday morning and said that she wasn't going to come because she wanted to catch up on sleep, but we encouraged her to come and she did!
We are also teaching Brianna, the daughter of the member who called us last week. She's going to be baptized on September 3! She's from North Carolina, so I asked her which part and she said Spring Lake, so I said I used to live around there and I went to Overhills Middle School. She said she went there too! So crazy--what a small world! She's doing super well and knows the gospel way better than we expected!
We had a crazy experience one day when we were contacting a referral. They had a gate around their house. No big deal; lots of people do. I shook the fence to make noise to make sure no dogs were in the yard and nothing happened, so we went in. We knocked on the door and a huge, black, mangy, Sirius Black animagus-looking dog ran around the corner and up the steps of the porch to me. It sniffed my legs. As soon as the dog came around the corner, Sister Gonzalez and I started praying hard in our heads that Heavenly Father would protect us from this dog. The dog stayed by me and we wrote a note to the person and stuck it in the door. Meanwhile, the dog went over to the front of the house off of the porch and laid down. We left promptly, still calling on the powers of heaven, and the dog stayed right where it was next to the porch and didn't bark or do anything, even when we went through the gate and closed it. I am so glad Heavenly Father protected us! It was neat because neither of us were scared throughout the whole experience. Now we plan to take one of our members named Allan around that house, since he's terrified of dogs, and tell him about that miracle!
We stopped by Dena's house and she's going to have the YSA elders here start teaching her boyfriend!
We had a ward potluck on Friday that was organized on Sunday and it went really well! No one would have guessed that it was put together last minute. Catherine came and loved it! We gave her a church tour afterwards. An awesome family brought her and she sat with them, so we were able to sit with Dawn, Alison, and Lonnie. There were white paper tablecloths so I asked Alison to draw out the Plan of Salvation and she did a fantastic job! There were two empty chairs directly across from me and Sister Gonzalez, and they were spotted by a sweet older lady named Sue who brought her nonmember friend! They sat down with us and we started to talk. Her friends name is Shirley, and she is amazing! She has such a strong faith in God and Jesus Christ! She's had many incredible spiritual experiences. I kept talking with her and Sister Gonzalez went over to sit with Catherine. Shirley and I really started talking towards the end, and when it was time to leave I asked if we could plan a time to come back and share more and she was like, "thank goodness you asked! If you didn't say anything, I would have asked you to come over!"
We then taught Shirley after church and Sue came. It went so well! We taught her about the Restoration and invited her to be baptized on September 30, right before General Conference. I feel kind of bad because we completely forgot to tell Sue about what we were planning to do, like inviting her friend to be baptized! My bad. But Shirley is so awesome! She knows the Bible soooo well and it helps bring the Spirit into our lessons! Her solid understanding of it helps her realize why a restoration of Christ's church is necessary. When we invited her to be baptized and she readily accepted our invitation, Sue looked over at us with surprised delight and joy! The Spirit was so powerful during the whole lesson! We called Shirley later that afternoon and she and Sue were reading her assignment from the Book of Mormon together!
A member that signed up to have us over for dinner was actually working in the temple that night, so she invited us to come over to the temple for dinner during her break! I saw one of the members from Foothills working there! I realized something recently: just about anyone can feel an enormous difference when they step onto temple
grounds. They're leaving the world behind to be at a dedicated house of the Lord. But when I step into the grounds, the change is extremely subtle, every time I've been to the temple here. I wondered about why it is that way: am I just not being sensitive to the Spirit? I mentioned it to Sister Gonzalez and she said she hardly noticed a difference either, and then we realized that we feel pretty much the same because we are set apart missionaries of the restored Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints! The Spirit is already so strong because we need to feel his presence in great magnitude in order to fulfill our calling. Honestly, I feel like I'm in the Celestial room nearly all the time! My realization now is just a tiny bit of the appreciation I should have for it. I don't want it to end!
On Saturday morning we took Allan and Anthony out with us. They're twins, and Allan was recently reactivated and Anthony is a recent convert back from Salt Lake City where he had moved with his wife for a few months after his baptism! They are hilarious on their own and crazy when they're together! We took them over to an appointment with their friends that we met a few days before. Before we left, Allan came out of his house wearing a rosary necklace with a crucifix and the Virgin Mary on it. We addressed the issue of him wearing that while proselyting with us in the nicest way we knew how and he stuck it in his pocket. On the way to the appointment, Anthony saw someone working in their backyard and yelled out to them, "Hey, we're the missionaries from the LDS! Can we come talk to you about Jesus?" The guy came to the front and told us that he's Catholic and not
interested, and then Allan pulled out the necklace and asked him if he worships the Virgin Mary. It all went downhill from there, in one of the funniest, most cringe-filled moments in my mission topped only by a lesson we had in an old area where a member told her friend about everything that happens in the temple! The guy's wife came over and said she'd like to hear more about our message, and then Anthony took over and they talked about just about everything on my mental list that should not be mentioned by missionaries, like politics and welfare. Let's just say that Anthony doesn't have the typical Mormon perspective on those topics. The thought that kept running through my head was "oh my gosh, I can't believe this is happening. Anthony, please stop! We need to leave! Ahhh--don't tell her that! That's not true! What are you doing?!" There wasn't much we could do except laugh inwardly, end the conversation as soon as possible, and hope that this lady won't hold anything that was said by our dear members against the church! We still love Allan and Anthony! We're just never going to take them out together again! This paragraph just shows the tip of the iceberg, so ask me about it later!
On Saturday we were about to get out of the car to visit someone in our backup plans and right as I reached for the door handle, my nose started gushing blood. The only other time that happened was in Kingman when we were about to go to the sketchiest part of our area. I knew that the nosebleed was meant to tell us that that house was not where we needed to be, so we went over to the church building to sync our area book apps and saw someone setting up the cultural hall for a 50th Anniversary party for her parents, so we helped out! I know Heavenly Father sent us to her because her brothers who were supposed to help came extremely late, way after we left, and she was really stressed out about this event. She did such a great job planning it, too! We told her about how we ended up coming over and she began to cry and she told us that she needed us to be there!
Church was absolutely amazing! It was ward council and Catherine, Brianna, and Jasmine came! We also found out that a guy named Adrian, who is the father of a recently baptized nine year old named Isaiah, is now interested and wants to take the lessons! Anthony brought his mom to church and she wants to take the lessons too now! And the most surprising for me: Allan and Anthony's aunt named Pam said she wants to be baptized Mormon with her daughter! I'm running too close on time so this is all I can write about it!
Love you all!
Picture: our awesome zone!