Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Mission Log, Stardate 8/26/2013: Semi-Educated 19-year-old vs. 32-year-old Emotionless Objectivist

I've often remarked to Sister Chantry that what I miss the most about Hurst was the regular sighting of crazy people. My favorite story (from Hurst) has been Melvin Price, who, in the span of 2 weeks had emergency catheter surgery, buried his father, was evicted from his apartment for his enormous amount of "recreational" pot and called the cops on his friend-- who had just shot his girlfriend 5 times in the head in a drunken stupor. But Justin never ceases to surprise me... In the words of Melvin, 'Man, you would not believe me if I told you the things that have happened to me, but.... Ima tell choo guys anywayss."

You may have been wondering about the email title? Well. Sister Chantry and I decided to call former investigators. And we call this guy up and he's at first pretty excited... but then he says "I love discussions! I'll have to get my notes together!"

Apparently, this dude has studied Metaphysics and Episcopology and a bunch of other big words and sound agnostic and scary. Not only that, but he begins to ramble about how he believes in Ayn Rand's school of thought, known as "Objectivism." In case you haven't guessed, this guy is not exactly... about us. About God, rather. THEN he starts asking questions like "How do you reconcile your faith in God with your ability to reason logically?" and "Can you explain the logical paradoxes of having a both vengeful and loving God?" But before he asks me these questions, he says "Now, before I ask these questions, I'm going to assume that you're, what, 20? Maybe 21 years old. And you've probably had some schooling done... so as a Semi-Educated young woman..."

Semi-Educated? SEMI-EDUCATED?! The things I know about religion would BLOW YOUR MIND UP, SON.

 I didn't, however, say that.

Instead, this conversation happened:

I asked him to read the testimonies of the 3 and the 8 witnesses of the Book of Mormon and Joseph Smith's. He gives me this response:

"You know... I don't believe in subjective evidence. It didn't happen to me and I've read them before and it did nothing for me, so I'm not going to."

To which I said: "Sir? May I speak boldly with you?"

"You can speak as boldly as you want! If you offend me, I'll give you a hundred dollars!" he said.

"Paul, you got nothing from those testimonies and will continue to get nothing from anything we say because your heart is not open. Quite frankly, neither is your mind."

From his tone of voice, he basically said "Who do I make the check out to." But what he actually said was:

"Actually, I do have an open mind. But you're right, I don't have an open heart. Years of air-force and being in Iraq has hardened me like cement. I've seen what happens when emotion clouds judgement and when people make decisions on "faith" so, no, my heart is not open. I don't believe in emotion."

I bore testimony one more time and then told him that we were here to teach people of Christ. I'm not here to debate and discuss, I'm here to find, teach and yes, baptize. I am to testify of Christ and bring hope to the hopeless, life to the spiritually dead, and help people become eternally happy. If he is closed off to that message, then we will not be meeting with him.

I have no certificate or other piece of paper that gives me religious credit, but I do have a Ministerial Card that allows me to preach. I do have a letter signed by the president of this church and prophet of this world that declares me worthy and able to teach.

Joseph Smith was Semi-Educated. When you consider what that man has done for this world... makes you think twice about using the world's standard of measurement.

Semi-Educated? I think not.

Mosiah 2:41, brothers.
[And moreover, I would desire that ye should consider on the blessed and happy state of those that keep the commandments of God.  For behold, they are blessed in all things, both temporal and spiritual; and if they hold out faithful to the end they are received into heaven, that thereby they may dwell with God in a state of never-ending happiness.  O remember, remember that these things are true; for the Lord God hath spoken it.]

Love, Sister Gunson

PS: I went on a "Zebra Exchange" with an Hermana. My accent totally makes up for my lack of vocabulary, so THANKS MA.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Mission Log, Stardate 8/19/2013: Somebody in Texas is praying for cool weather -- and they have faith to move mountains

Hey y'all!

A missionary will classify things differently. A good week will never be measured by accomplishments and fun will never be measured by how many times you felt happy or laughed. By missionary standards, this week was a good, fun week.

This week was good because we worked hard. It was fun because of a 20-year-old evangelist.

Sister Chantry and I have this thing where we don't really take no for an answer. We do a lot of tracting because of the low investigator count, and so with each door, we ask 3 things: can we share our beliefs, can we share a scripture and a prayer with you, do you know anybody on this street that has just moved in... Obviously, I'm generalizing, but that's the situation. Joseph Smith said to his brother that if they wouldn't let them talk, then they would write their testimony down and paste it all over their doors and windows. Obviously that's illegal in this day and age, but that is the kind of attitude the Justin sisters have adopted. You may not want to know about what we believe in, but you're gonna know that I believe.

My convictions about the doctrine that we preach were put to this test as we tried to teach, what I call, a "lazy Christian." They believe that they can't do anything for their own salvation, God's done it for them already. Now that just bugs me. Mostly because James 2:21, but also because it just doesn't make sense... If Christ gave His life for me... why in the world would I allow myself to be lulled into complacency and hide the devotion I have? I know I am an unprofitable servant, BUT Heavenly Father has given me the opportunity to glorify and serve Him. Knowing all that He has done for us -- and continues to do, I might add -- what makes you think sitting on your butt is what He wants you to do?

I just don't understand some people.

It's been fun, it's been good, it has been so real and it is flippin' AWESOME and the best thing I could ever do. Go team go!

Keep on keepin' on!!
Love Sister Gunson
Note from Mama Gunson:
I asked Hannah what "Justin sisters" are and she said that's the name of their area.

And in case you missed it, her new address is:
8299 Small Block Road #622
Roanoke, TX 76262

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Mission Log, Stardate 8/13/2013: Duty Calls

Hey y'all!

Remember last Monday when I said I was going to Lewisville? Well. Have I got a story for you. Wednesday (transfer day), I made it safely and soundly to my new area, a tidy place called Flower Mound (we call it FloMo for funzies). Now, my last area, Hurst South (River Trails) was a complete ghetto. I killed 4 cockroaches that found their way into the apartment that smelled like cigarette smoke (which, by the way, drenched my clothes in that smell, so as I get into FloMo, my companion says "Sister, why do you smell like a casino?") and I was used to people being interested in talking to us only because they figured they could get some money from the "church ladies."

Flower Mound is the precise antithesis thereof.

Every neighborhood is like Montecito and Beverly Hills had a baby in Texas. The homes are huge, my apartment is nice (I have a gym and I don't have to kill cockroaches). I can't tell you the kind of shock I experienced after my first lesson teaching a wealthy woman.

Now here's where it gets twisted.

Friday (my second day in FloMo) I get a call from President Ames. Lemme tell ya, getting a call from the mission president is like driving by the cops. You may not be doing anything wrong, but you're still apprehensive, checking yourself, making sure you're perfect.  Undaunted, I answer the phone:

"Hello! This is Sister Gunson!"

"Hi SIster Gunson, this is President Ames."

"Hi President, what can we do for you?"

"Well, this is kind of an interesting call for me to make. Sister Gunson. this call is for you."

Not gonna lie, I thought he was going to tell me Enzo had died.

"Alright President, what do you need?"

"Sister Gunson... You're being transferred. To Denton."

"..... Transferred?"

"Yes. To Denton."

"... Denton, huh?.... Sounds great!"

Out of respect for the situation that called me out to Denton, I won't say much more than duty has called on me to be a slinky. This one year at Girls Camp, the YCL's had a cheer to remind us to be flexible. It  went: "BE. A SLINKY. BE-BE A SLINKY!" Just to remind us to bounce back from whatever adversity we're in the midst of in that moment.

They say you're not called to a specific area -- rather, you're called to be a missionary and you get put wherever you'd do more good than damage. There's an awful lot of peace knowing that the Lord's will is being done. As I've said before, all that's left for us to do is to decide whose side we're on.

I now serve in the Denton zone, Justin Ward area. It, too, is a drastic change from the neat and spacious homes of FloMo. It is pure country. To get to anywhere, we need to first cross fields upon fields of wild sunflowers and pastures. I saw a cow and excitedly moo'ed (because my mom does that and I decided to keep the memory) and it was quickly made apparent that if I moo'ed every time I saw a cow here in Denton, I wouldn't have time to teach. We technically live outside of our area, right next to the Texas Motor Speedway and every Friday, I'm going to go to sleep listening to the soothing sounds of "VROOOOOOOOOOM VROOM VROOOOOOOOOMMMMM." I teach in everything from trailer parks to rancher mansions and I never thought I'd say this but I am RIGHT AT HOME. For whatever reason, I'm in love with this wild country.

This goin' be fuuuuuuun.

Be good!
Love, Sister Gunson

PS: I'm in the same zone-ish thing as Elder Mann. *fist pump*
Hannah's new address is:
8299 Small Block Road #622
Roanoke, TX  76262

Monday, August 5, 2013

Mission Log, Stardate 8/5/2013: Girl, Look At That Testimony

Hello friends and family of Sister Gunson,

Her letter this week was a bit disjointed and came in spurts spanning several emails because she was in a rush to go play volleyball.  So I’ve cut and pasted and attempted to smooth it out some.  And I have to say, as a returned missionary myself, I am SO happy she is out having fun on her preparation day!  So I forgive her apparent contradictions and free use of slang and encourage you to do the same :)

Now, from Hannah:
Hey y’all!

Okay, so, I got boots today. And I was deciding between the red ones or some more conservative camel coloured ones. And I thought, “Which one would Mom agree with?" and I knew you would have agreed with the red ones. :)

 I don't have my address though..... Boo.

We’ve been working with Alvin since we got here. That was in May. That was at the very beginning of my training. Now, 12 weeks later, I watched him be baptized and confirmed, knowing full well that he was aware, ready, and excited to take this new step. He bore his testimony to our District Leader, Elder Weaver, and talked about how he felt like he was joining a new family. He's very lonely (he lives by himself) so you can imagine what it would mean to us to hear him say "I know I'll never be lonely with the Spirit."

I remember hearing Mom talk about one investigator she taught and how she saw his countenance literally change. Alvin is just like that. When we met him, he was skittish, didn't like church, didn't understand what we were saying, and there was a time when we thought we would have to stop meeting with him. But now, he's making my District Leader cry, affecting an entire ward with his spirit, and reminding me exactly what eternal life means to people who have never heard this message before. One of the things that'll stick with me till the day I die is the way he said "Celestial Kingdom... that's where we wanna go... And people will be able to learn in the Spirit World, right?" He looked like... a child. A child that, on the first day of school, looks up at his parent and asks "You'll be here to pick me up, right?"

We think that, perhaps, he's lost someone. Someone important to him that he can't wait to meet on the other side. Alvin is a darn good reason for me to be out here. I've never seen somebody smile as big as he did when he came out of the water. His face near split in half.

Well folks, the church is true. And there's nothin' y'all can do or say that'll make it not!

In companion studies this week, we've been talking about how physically working out is incredibly similar to spiritually working out. We like to think that we're personal spirit trainers for our investigators. Little do they realize, however, that we're in the process of training ourselves. Now.

So last week I mentioned that I thought I was a patient person.  I realized I’m not.  In fact, one of the most infuriating things I've had to deal with has been my lack of patience. I don't like waiting at stop signs or red lights, I hate long lines at Disneyland, and I get frustrated when I can't run a 3k in 10 minutes after only a week of training. Strengthening my faith and growing my testimony (and the ability to teach) is incredibly similar to working out in a gym in order to strengthen and grow my muscles.   And my trainer (God, for those of you who might have been wondering) put me through the workout of my life this week.

First, you need resistance. You need to literally tear your muscles so that they can build back up. Then you need consistency, cuz you can't do 10 pushups one day and call it good for the week. You need discipline to do the hard things, diligence to get through discouragement, and then you can see results.

So. Everything kind of went wrong this week. We had lessons turn into fiascoes; we had people ask us questions like "do Mormons eat babies?" and the weather is steadily getting hotter and more humid. I had an investigator start ranting and raving about how awesome Twilight was too. I thought I had good self control  back home when I didn't "accidentally" ram Priuses on the road with my big, red truck, but the fact that I kept my mouth shut during her tangent proves that God works mighty and unthinkable miracles.

The weirdest thing happened to me this week too. After 11 strong weeks of getting up, exercising, studying, planning, and then working from 11am - 9pm.... I got up on Thursday and was hit by a 13-foot wave of apathy. I didn't even know that could happen!! I was so confused and frustrated with myself and the things going on in my mind could only be described as a knock-down, drag-out steel cage death match between me and Satan. He wanted me to quit and I just couldn't.

It was also really hard because to finish my training, I had to check my progress on a little number chart. I went through it and felt like I sucked. I was like "this needs to be worked on...I'm not always doing this...I'm bad at this..." I looked at the chart and thought "man.... I suck." This was the same day that Monster Apathy hit me so I was... less than effective during our planning for the day. At lunch, feeling rather defeated, I sat down at my desk with this progress check and thought "Kay, well, if I suck, what then must I do?" So I went through the list and wrote down everything that needed to be improved upon. I've added this to my personal study every morning where I pick one and work on it every day. Monster Apathy has been held at bay, so I think it's working!

After a while of doing the same workouts, in order to get better, you gotta switch things up a bit. So I'm being transferred from Hurst South to a zone called Lewisville. I don't know my address yet, but as soon as I do, it'll be given and then I expect mass amounts of letters and care packages because I assume y'all love me. Or something.

I get your letters (from friends, family, home ward members) and I think about how great it would be to write novels of thank-you's and personal replies. But quite frankly, on my “day off” (which ends at 6pm) I'd rather be beating the elders into oblivion in sudden death matches of volleyball. I pray for you all by name at the end of the day and I send love and best wishes to you all. Please don't think I'd forgotten about you when I don't write you back. Y'all can see me in 15 months (who's counting?)

Be safe, love your neighbor, eat your vegetables, burn everything but Shakespeare.
Love, Sister Gunson

From Janet:  Can anyone explain that last part to me? Burn everything but Shakespeare?  Whaaaat?
Oh, and it took me a while because I’m slow on the uptake, but I finally figured out what her email title means.  It’s like what one friend would say to another at the gym about someone’s muscles...only, not... Anyway, I’m sure you all got it.