Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Mission Log, Stardate 7/31/2013: The Sour Patch Kid

Hey y'all!

So, you know that commercial for Sour patch Kids (the candy, in case you didn't know) where it says "First they're sour.... then they're sweet." Yeah, agency is a lot like that.

I like to think I'm a patient person. Especially coming out into the field. The only person I've been frustrated with was me and my problems. Until a couple days ago. A couple days ago, we tried to teach a Spanish gentleman (who refused the Spanish Elders we brought) lesson 3. He didn't want to talk about faith, repentance, baptism by immersion and enduring to the end. He wanted to argue. We'd testify-- very strongly, by the way-- of the truth and divinity of the Book of Mormon, Christ's Atonement, Joseph Smith's validity and calling. He would come back with "Well, you know, like I was saying, there's been a lot of scandals with the Catholic church..." or "Well, you know, like I was saying, a lot of people don't believe in Mormons..." yes, I know a lot of people don't believe in the Mormon faith, I know that there were a lot of wars started over religious beliefs and I don't want to know about the catholic fathers going off the deep end. But dag-nabbit, the church is true! I told him "People may reject us, but that doesn't mean we're not true. People rejected Christ."

Agency, you're such a headache.

The mission is such a high-stress job. We had several heart-attacks getting Delores and her daughter Samaria into the baptismal font and confirmation chair. I felt like a rubber band being stretched out, inch by inch. The other elders in my ward kept teasing me as I paced the hallways, waiting for them to walk into the church. Although they had made it to their baptism, we weren't sure if they would come back the next day to be confirmed. I'm pacing back and forth during the opening hymn and Elder Kaelin says "huh. Sister Gunson. You look kinda stressed." I almost decked an elder. Sarcasm is funny and all, but not in these situations.

I felt like an umpire. They sat back in the pew after being confirmed and I felt like standing up, looking over at Satan (who was probably moping outside the door) and yelling "SAFE! SAFE. SAFEY SAFE SAFETY SAAAAAAAFE!"

Obviously they're not. Because agency is such a pill. But it's nice to know that we have a ward whose Texan hospitality knows no limits. They flocked to this duo like Mormons to General Conference. Within an hour of being confirmed, they had been given much-needed clothes and dinner invitations. Texas. You should try it some time.
In my personal studies, I read (for the thousandth time) Jacob 5:75.  For those of you who don't know how I ended up in Texas for a year and a half, lemme explain.... no, there is too much, lemme sum up.

5 years ago at EFY, I read this scripture and I heard the smallest of whispers say "You're going on a mission." The spirit has the remarkable ability to whisper, but pierce the heart to its core. Over the next 5 wild years, I have never forgotten that impression. I knew that somewhere up there, it had been decided a long time ago that I was to serve a mission. I find myself in the heart of a ghetto in Hurst, Texas, signed up for 18 months, and while others might think:  how... did I get here?" I know exactly how I got here.

Agency. Freaking agency. I CHOSE to sign up, I flippin' ASKED for this, I practically BEGGED. Despite the next roller coaster I went through-- where I wasn't always a bright and shining example of the believers--  I have been found worthy to lift where I stand. And I get the wonderful privilege of watching others make good choices. I watched Delores and Samaria go down into the water and come back up; I watched them be blessed; I watched them take discussions; I watched them accept what their souls knew was true.  I get to watch Alvin (yes, ALVIN) be baptized on Saturday. From May to August, we've toiled and trialed over how to help Alvin gain the unshakable resolve that he's now enjoying. The man that wouldn't come to church, that wouldn't give up drinking, that couldn't decide to be baptized now goes through Ensigns in a day. You wanna know how that happened?

Agency, you Sour Patch Kid.

Love y'all!
Sister Gunson

Monday, July 22, 2013

Mission Log, Stardate 7/22/2013: Quasi-Qualified

Something that is often passed around missionaries is the sage advice that "The Lord doesn't call the qualified, He qualifies the called." If you had to be perfect to be a missionary, we'd have like... 2 elders and 3 sisters in the field and I would not be one of them. D&C 1:23, am I right?

But lemme tell you something. No matter what anybody else says (YOU LISTEN HERE, YOU LISTEN TO ME) the Atonement is REAL. And it WORKS. For missionaries like me, for members like some of y'all, and for EVERYBODY like YOU. I watch it work everyday, so keep that in mind.

I've got two baptisms coming up this week! Dolores and her daughter Samaria!!! Nothing makes me happier than seeing a family be together. Having been a part of a family that is under the covenant of an everlasting marriage, seeing a mother ask "can my daughter be baptized too? I want her with me too." kind of makes my eyeballs leak.

Next week, *drum roll please* ALVIN'S GETTIN' BAPTIZED!! And I know he is because I've watched his resolve strengthen and firm to the point where he tells Heavenly Father in his prayers that he's going to church. You can hear the rock solid in his voice.

Preach My Gospel tells us that as missionaries, as we obey, will be recognized by the people we meet as servants of Christ. To recognize, you must first have a knowledge of it, right? So it's the coolest thing to me to be identified as a "church lady." Cooler still is when people get excited that we're there. We have 2 instances of that this week.

Noezi, one of the most prepared investigators I've ever met, lit up like the 4th of July. I'm not kidding. He was moving his brother, so he was carrying a box upstairs to his apartment when we called out to him. He turned around and I think his face split in half, so wide was his smile.

We also started teaching the Spanish Elders' neighbors, John and Paula. They make me laugh. When we walked up to their apartment, John jumped up and said "I GOTTA GET ME A PICTURE, THEY'RE REAL!" He had been calling us "UFO's" to the Elders because he didn't think we would come by. BUT WE DID.

Some missionaries might think that, because they're not epic teachers, they're not doing a good job. At the beginning of my mission, I felt this way. To quote "Into the Woods," I "[wasn't] bad, [wasn't] good, just nice."  Amidst our imperfections, I think we forget the kind of power we CAN and DO actually have. 2 Nephi 23:3: the Lord commands his sanctified, he calls the mighty. He may be working with imperfect tools, but he's not painting with bricks! I like to think that we're "quasi-qualified" because if we were completely inadequate... well, the missionary field would be scarce. If you've got faith, hope, charity and love with an eye single to the glory of God, I don't know what else you need. You're qualified enough.

I wish I could bottle this Texas heat and make you sympathize with me.
Love, Sister Gunson

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Mission Log, Stardate 7/15/2013: Challenge Accepted

'Sup Y'all,

Miracles happened all over the place this week!!! After years of mental exertion, I've finally been able to understand the Isaiah chapters in 1 Nephi! Not only that, but I taught a lesson to a woman while a movie was playing in the background and her 3 daughters (the equivalent of one Rocky Gunson each) were climbing all over my companion that culminated in the acceptance of a baptismal invitation AAAAAAAAAAND the anti-ed investigator we lost last week CAME BACK.

But first, a quick story.

We've got a new president now. His name is Ames. And he's a man on a mission (har har, aren't we all....). We were able to have a "get-to-know-you" conference where he gave us this challenge: DOUBLE IT. Take the numbers of last month and double it. He sounded a little like Spencer W. Kimball when he said it too. He said "I have had the strongest impression that we are going to have to double the numbers of baptisms in this mission."  Me and my companions looked at each other and went "kay.... how are we gonna do that?"

It begins with tracting in 108 degree weather and famous Texas humidity.

It continues as the severely ADHD-diagnosed, almost-3-months-old sister missionary attempts to teach the Gospel of Jesus Christ (Lesson 3) while 3 incredibly high-maintenance girls (ages 3, 5 an 8) clamour for my companion's attention. They were so loud I couldn't hear myself think! The Mask was playing in the background and although we asked our investigator to turn it down, Jim Carrey is a distracting figure. NEVERTHELESS, I have prayed oft and come off conqueror! I haven't said that I kicked ADHD, though. I still have struggles keeping focus during my personal studies. But let this be a witness to the world that when God wants something done, it darn well gets done. And God uses anything He's got. He had me-- He used me. Questions and words I don't remember came out of my mouth. I think they said something like "will you follow the example our Savior set for us and be baptized by someone who holds the proper authority so that you can have the blessings we've talked about?" I think that's what I said because she said "yes, I would like that. Can I have my daughter baptized too?"

It starts to wrap up with a second miracle. Last week I talked about how awful it was to lose a soul. Well, this week I'm gonna talk about how I know what the father felt like when his prodigal son came home. You do not care about the harm someone has done to you when something like this happens. You cannot forget how it feels to have someone call you and say "I missed the spirit you girls brought to me. I know I made a mistake. Will you still teach me?" There aren't words in this or any other earthly dictionary. So when we got off the phone, this trio dropped to their knees in humble prayer. Sometimes, that's the only reaction to give to situations. I'm just thankful it was a humble prayer of joy.

And it finishes with a promise. The third miracle of the week was when I finally understood 1 Nephi 21-- and now I no longer hate Isaiah for making seminary difficult. Was I scared when President told us to "double it?" Not gonna lie, just a little bit. But did I doubt that it could happen? Of course not. V. 8 says "In an acceptable time [the Lord] have heard thee, O isles of the sea, and in a day of salvation have I helped thee; and I will preserve thee and give thee my servant for a covenant of the people to establish the earth." In this verse, the Lord makes a promise to the entire world: He will send somebody to get them. To save them. In verse 18, He says "Lift up thine eyes round about and behold; all these gather themselves together and they shall come to thee."

When Joseph Smith was martyred by a cruel and ignorant mob, the tormenting murderers dispersed when they heard this phrase: "the Mormons are coming!" Well guess what, my privileged and peculiars? We are. We are coming to double, we are coming to triple, and we cannot stop. The Lord has promised the earth that he will send some punky 19-year old kids to change your life. If you haven't already figured it out, when the Lord wants something done, it gets done. The only thing to decide is if you're going to be one of the Lord's "covenants" that he sends to those waste and desolate places.

I'll finish with one of my favorite scriptures. Alma 29:6. "Now, seeing that I know these things, why should I desire more than to perform the work to which I have been called?" If you know that the Church is true (which you do or you wouldn't be going to church for 3 hours) then you have no excuse to not be preaching it by word, by deed, by thought.

Do ALL the things!!
Love, Sister Gunson

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Mission Log, Stardate 7/8/2013: What Missionary Work is (Actually) Like

Hey y'all!

My companion declared today to be National Missionary Day. Y'all gotta wear a white shirt and tie, go a whole day without hugging a member of the opposite gender, and carry your scriptures in a dorky case on your arm. And then, someone has to throw an egg in your face. Afterwards, we'll give you a popsicle of your favorite flavor.

This is the single best summation of missionary work you will ever get. (If you want to celebrate it Texas style, go stand outside in front of a space heater while a baptist or JW argues with you).

Missionary work is exactly like getting an egg in your face and then eating a yummy popsicle. This past  week was sort of the.... epitome of that.

EGG IN THE FACE: Our most promising investigator dropped us.

She sent us a text at 3 in the morning, saying that she's decided to not join the Mormon faith and that we should never contact her again. After some serious prayers and studying it out in our brains, we sent her a text, testifying of the truthfulness of the gospel and our love for her. We then tried to go about our day, doing the work, fighting the good fight, as if nothing had happened.

Except she decided to text us some "unsolicited advice." Based off of what she texted us later that day, we think she was anti-ed. Anti-Mormon Lit, first of all, is entirely fabricated by people who CLEARLY haven't actually studied our beliefs. If they had, they would know how devilish and hollow Anti is. We get an awful lot of Anti out here in Fort Worth. I think it's one of the hardest parts about being a missionary is loving somebody that hates you that much because of lies that they've heard.

It's a far more heart-wrenching experience to watch someone's spirituality die. I'd rather watch the EKG flatline... If you read Mosiah 28:3 or p. 195 of Preach My Gospel... you'll know why.

One of the reasons I love being in the mission is that I don't have to watch the destruction of some of my closest friends. (It's a very shallow and selfish reason, so it's not the one that gets me through the days.) When you love someone so much you'd do anything for them, watching them be incredibly stupid and betray the truths they know is like... watching someone being burned at stake.

Please, my friends, I exhort you with the capacity of sister: If you feel like your life is not where it should be, if you're hurting, CALL THE MISSIONARIES; THEY CAN HELP.

BEST DARN POPSICLE IN THE WORLD: The Broadcast!!  (Interjection from Janet to those who don't know what she's talking about:  the church leaders had a mission conference and broadcasted so that anyone who wanted to watch could.  It was really very moving and profound and exciting.)

HOW ABOUT THAT BROADCAST!? If you haven't seen it, go watch it online. Actually, everybody, go do it now. Even if you were there in the Marriott centre, do it again. The missionary work is progressing!! It's boldly going where no Mormon has gone before!! HOW DOES THAT NOT GET YOU EXCITED?! It's awesome for me to see the work progress, especially in my own family-- my cousin entered the MTC this past week!! I AM SO PROUD OF YOU, SISTER SHERRATT!!!!! It's really cool to be doing the work yourself and knowing that you're helping... but to know that it's a family effort... watch out, world, we gonna find you ;)

President Uchtdorf said that "people will look back on this time to see what we did" during such a monumental moment in history. Well. What will you be found doing? I will assuredly be found with my boots on, gloves off, still standing after round 3. It's not enough to pin the tag on your shirt every morning: brand it into your life. Our probationary period is far too short for us to not be anxiously engaged in such a cause. HOW GREAT IS MY CALLING!!!!

I'd just like to close with something I came across in my personal studies. Psalms 46 is a pretty good chapter out of the Bible. There's a lot of encouraging things in there. It gave me the knowledge that the same God whose voice can melt the earth (it literally says that-- "he uttered and the earth melted") loves me. He knows me by name He knows all of us by name. He created me and He LOVES me. Unconditionally. Whatever did I do to deserve that.

But my favorite verse (and favorite scripture for the week) has been verse 5: "God is in the midst of her, she shall not be moved; God shall help her."

It's been a rough week. But a darn good one. Missionary work is all work and no play and I knew that. I did not come out here to goof off and kill some time while I wait for a husband or career to catch up with me. I came out here, gritting my teeth and rolling up my sleeves. The day may come when the courage of men(read: sister missionaries) fail-- but it is not this day. There is no excuse for sitting down when such a work is going on around us.

Alright, I think I've been nerdy enough for one email. The church is true, the work will move forward, "and I must obey."
Make it a good week!
Love, Sister Gunson

Friday, July 5, 2013

Mission Log, Stardate 7/1/2013: Crazy

Janet's note:  feel free to send Hannah little notes with anecdotes about your missions or favourite scriptures, etc.
Lacey's note: I'm so sorry for posting Hannah's blog late this week, everyone! It's been busy. Have it now for your reading pleasure.

When I was a small child, struggling to put myself through 1st grade whilst in the throes of some pretty severe ADHD, the children I shared a classroom with called me "crazy." When I decided to hike up a mountain (read; a rather large hill) while pulling a handcart, dressed in pioneer garb, my friends called me "crazy." When I told my mother I had decided to do 5 shows and take 16 credits at the same time in one semester, she called me "crazy." Now, I may have been able to grow a lid and a filter to keep my spastic ADHD tendencies under control. I may recognize the need to slow down in my educational rampage. But strangely enough, as a missionary called of God with powers and authorities to rival that of kings (spiritually speaking), I am still labeled as "crazy." It's probably because I tract in 106 degree weather, and that's NOT the heat index.

But it may also be the sister trio I'm in. We attempt to stuff 3 sisters that all need to eat, sleep and study in a tiny, one bedroom apartment. We have barely enough room to have two desks. I don't know how we put 3 twins in there, but we have. Our kitchen resembles those that Fisher Price makes for 2 year old, eager home-makers. That's a little crazy.

It may be all the crafts we do as a companionship to wind down on stressful days. I've made a rainstick, a pinata, a dream catcher and I just wrapped up a carton of confetti eggs. Don't worry-- it's all after planning and before bedtime. But the amount of confetti in my hair is a little crazy.

I think every missionary needs a bingo of things they see while tracting. Because I think I would have hit the Bingo jackpot with knocking on a door and having some late-20's male answer in nothing but a dish towel. That was more uncomfortable than crazy though.

Crazy is knocking on a door, not suspecting to witness a miracle. Pamela, my favorite progressing investigator, is a living witness that God hears and answers our prayers. We went over to teach her Lesson 1 and then again to teach Lesson 2. We ask her every time "Pamela, do you believe what we're teaching is true? Do you believe the Book of Mormon is the word of God?" We've been meeting with her for just barely two weeks. And without taking a moment to think, she always-- and I mean ALWAYS-- says "Of course it's true; I know it's God's word!" We invited her to be baptized-- she said the best answer to that invitation I can possibly conceive of: "I need that." She came to church with us and loved the service. We stop by every now and again to see how she's doing or when we're having a rough day and need the spirit. She may not be a member, but her soul has already converted.

Crazy is witnessing a miracle... but watching the other person not realize what's going on. We've been working with a headache--excuse me, investigator--named Alvin since I got here. We have exhorted him to our wit's end, we have given him everything he could possibly need. He even knows the Book of Mormon is true and he studies it regularly! He takes notes and highlights that book of scripture the way I do! And that's saying something, I'm a huge literature note-taker if you didn't know. And yet... for all the spirit he's felt from us bearing witness, to studying the scriptures to receiving an incredibly powerful priesthood blessing that strengthened my faith in the priesthood... he still won't come to church. I think that's crazy. If you know it's true, you've seen it happen, then why can't you make 3 hours out of your Sunday to worship the God that has given you such things?

If my brothers complain about church while I'm in the room, they're getting smacked with a copy of True to the Faith.

I think that, on some level, you have to be crazy to be a Mormon. Because no average 19 year old would want to give up 18-24 months of their life to tract and tirelessly proselyte, working such a thankless task. But then, you have to examine the kind of history we possess. No normal person would agree to selling their house, farm, belongings and cross an entire country to a desert. No normal person would suffer the endless persecutions of mobs and the pervasive, ignorant jeers of those who simply don't understand. As a rather rude lady called me crazy and slammed the door on my face, I stood there and busted up. I mean, I was doubled over on her front step just... in tears of mirth. Because you cannot insult a crazy person. You cannot hurt someone who's mind is on a separate plane, who's knowledge and understanding extends far beyond anything this world teaches. I have no degree, I have no worldly merit that says I have any authority to know. And yet I do. I have since I was 8 years old, I think. And that's... that's a little crazy. But why should that ever be a bad thing?