Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Me and My Mustard Seed

Oh My Glob.

By the time Pday comes, I'm so exhausted, I don't even know how I type. Sometimes I just want to write bullet points and close with a testimony and a prayer.... Cuz that's the only way I know how to close things.

IN lieu of *Zack's absence (and now he doesn't even text us back, what, are we not good enough for him?!) and Bradley's incarceration, our investigator, Briana has SKYROCKETED. She's gone from calling off her baptism and our discussions a couple weeks ago to inviting her previously anti sister to dinner and bearing testimony of how the gospel has changed her life. AND doing that missionary thing we do where we point out that other people have felt the spirit before! She's gone from being shaky on the doctrine to going visit-teaching with her member friend, Sister Elmer (the member that introduced her to the gospel!). She set her own date-- AND THEN MOVED IT UP HERSELF WITHOUT US SAYING ANYTHING. And yesterday, a miracle happened.

Now. I used to think that I had faith. And I do. I have the faith to endure, to wake up in the morning, to go on. But as it turns out, I did not have the faith to ask for miracles. That aside...

Briana texted us late at night, saying that she wouldn't make it to Sacrament Mtg because a sick co-worker called in and she had to cover his their shift. This means that she wouldn't make 830 or 11 am church... But we still had the 130 window!! She's have to get an hour early off... Dear sweet Sister Heap informed me that we would be praying for a miracle. That's when I told her that I didn't know if I could or not because I didn't think I had faith enough to make it work.

I had been praying for blessings for my investigators, but, as I told her (while looking down at my toes in shame) I'm too scared to ask for a miracles and have it not come to pass.

My companion told me that we ask for miracles in this area and I better get on my knees and join her in prayer. I told her that she's better say that prayer then and she told me that I would be, actually. I think I understand the phrase "help Thou my unbelief" nigh unto perfection... In that prayer, I testified to myself that God, in His power and glory, could do a small thing like help Briana make it to Sacrament. And then I asked if He would make a way.

About 20 minutes later, Briana texted us back saying that she had been able to get off work an hour early and come to the 130 Sacrament with us.

Sometimes, you guys, God does make us go through the trial of not having a miracle. And sometimes, He knows you're about to break and He gives you a small little miracle. Because it's not just the small miracle of Briana coming to Sacrament, but it's the big miracle of Sister Gunson exercising a mustard seed of faith.

Bad days are okay. Expected and planned for, even. But gosh darnit, if nobody else gets this, at least I get it, but God is a God of miracles! And He is my Father!!! Miracles have never ceased-- why should they ever? His power is back on the earth! Everything He has, He wants to give to us! I need to stop standing in the way of my own testimony....

Well, me and my mustard seed are gonna go teach some people and cry repentance and salvation, now.

Love you! Sister Gunson

PS: Another bitty miracle! I've been missing the guitar lately... and so the Lord has allowed me to teach one of our investigator's nephews how to play!! I'm so glad I get to give some service like that!! I"ve been hoping I'd get that opportunity... I'm so excited to teach guitar!! And drag the spirit along! ;)

*Sister Heap and I like to make Star Wars jokes about Zack. Whenever somebody bring shim up, we usually yell "YOU WERE THE CHOSEN ONE! YOU WERE LIKE A BROTHER TO ME! YOU WERE SUPPOSED TO BRING BALANCE TO THE FORCE!!!!" Because that's the only way to deal with a runaway 'gator.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?

Notes from Mama Gunson:
Yesterday (Monday): Hannah and her companion live with an LDS couple, the Leonards.  I am SO grateful for this adorable picture and note from Sister Leonard!  I'll send along Hannah's email if she ever writes one this week.

"And the library is closed, so these two sweet sisters can't email today.  But they are doing very well, they both refused my offer of the home computer, because they are righteous mission rule keeping girls.  So expect to hear from them later in the week!" 
--Sis. Leonard

Today (Tuesday): Yay!  Glad I didn't have to wait a whole week to hear from her!  She's in the same area with the same comp for another 6 weeks.  Her address is still as follows:
231 Oakview Dr.
Double Oak, Texas 75077
Hey y'all!

There's a certain stigma in the mission that follows the last week of the transfer... Either it goes really swell, there's little to no trial and you feel like you've beaten every enemy. Or you have a week of mayhem and sadness where everything goes wrong in a cataclysmic meltdown and you're in shock at how suddenly, everything took a turn for the worst... Lantana's Week 6 was the latter of the two.

So... Sometimes, your most progressing investigator runs away. Zack Owens left the Van Patten home and is, apparently, living in some hotel. I didn't know that was on the list of oppositions. When we found out, I was in shock and couldn't process the information. There's no course for this in the MTC! It threw us off so bad... We managed to get back in limited contact with him... but his fire for baptism has all but died away. According to the member family he was living with, he wasn't sincere in our lessons. He behaved so differently during lessons than he did at any other time that the Van Pattens were confused and pretty concerned... while we were blissfully unaware. Sister Heap and I had to deal with the thought that, perhaps if we were better missionaries, we could have seen this coming. We felt the need to apologize to the Van Pattens... I have since analyzed (probably overanalyzed) every lesson... and found through retrospect that, as we taught him, he did not possess the light of someone who's turning around and facing the Son. We felt cheated on and lied to. I have a bad history with Zack's. They're not too good for my achy breaky heart.

Bradley Privette, however, does have that turnaround! Within 24 hours of us teaching him of the Atonement, he was all smiles during the next lesson. he was practically teaching us! He told us that the Book of Mormon validates the Bible (yes, it does!), that you need someone called of God to help lead the church (you sure do!) and that fellowship is an essential part of a successful church congregation (yes it is!!). He said "I feel like Jonah in the whale... I just got spit out! But I'm still wiping slime off. And I'm gonna smell like fish for a while. But I know that through God, in this life or the next, I won't smell like fish anymore." When we texted him later on in the week, we asked him if he was reading the Book of Mormon. He said "It's going great! How could I have thought for a second that God left me?!?!" He even asked if he could bring friends to his next lesson! That there is a man trying to find his Father.

 But sometimes, your second most progressing investigator has to go to prison for a couple of days for some unpaid speeding tickets.... Of course he would, it's Week 6.

So, I totally failed to talk about Youth Conference for the Lewisville stake... The program was basically a three-day mission experience. On Saturday, we, as an entire zone (that's about 17 missionaries) taught 270 youth how to teach a gospel message. We divided into wards (so we taught our youth) and basically did a one-hour MTC! Then... in just about an hour... they taught over 130 lessons to member's friends and neighbors. All of them were non-members. This was a MASSIVE success! They really enjoyed it and it was amazing to teach them all!! They were so enthusiastic... I hope they all go on missions. They all came back with nothing bad to say, glowing with the spirit... These youth are incredible. I've never seen a finer bunch. We texted them all afterwards, asking "how did it go?!" and they all texted us back, saying stuff like "I'm going on splits with y'all now!" and "I'm going on a mission!" Man... SO jealous of that Youth Conference, but holy Toledo... It was an amazing honor to teach them. Even more so, in this instance, I realized how much these youth loved us. They gave us full undivided attention and treated us like respected peers.

I love this ward.
I suppose you have to take the good with the bad in all things. Keeps us humble. BUt frequently throughout the week, Sister Heap and I would turn to each other and say "O Brother, Where Art Thou?!" because we've been trying to find Zack and bring him back into the light and Bradley needs to make some better decisions to help his gospel-applying situation out... But the one Brother I need never ask for whereabouts for is Christ. If I have learned anything from this week (and this transfer), it's that Christ is always right next to us. The only way He leaves is when we push us. But like Bradley said... He has never left. In Sacrament Meeting, I was overwhelmed by the stresses and trials of the week and started praying... Immediately, I had the sweetest feeling overcome me. It felt like an arm around my shoulders. I just felt so much love from our Heavenly Father and Elder Brother.... It was pretty emotional week.... I almost died.

By the way, I'm not getting transferred. Neither is Sister Heap. THANK GOODNESS.
Have a great week!
Sister Gunson

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

At Any Cost

Hi y'all!  Hannah's address:
231 Oakview Dr.
Double Oak, Texas 75077
Well, this week was difficult, but a different sort of difficult... looking back on it, I realize that it was a "leveling up" of sorts. It was a different difficult because I needed a different difficult to grow stronger. How many times can Sister Gunson say "difficult?" In more ways than one...

We're dealing with a couple of immense frustrations. We've asked a Part Member to "help us practice teaching" in the hopes that he will be able to listen to the spirit and begin an interest of real intent. So far... he looks forward to it, but he hasn't registered why (it's called the Spirit. Testifying of truth. Just a guess.)... Not only that, but he makes teaching-- even just practicing for the sake of practicing-- a great struggle on patience and charity. As much as we love him, it's a very stop-and-go with him critiquing things that just don't matter, like how the pamphlets are written and why we chose that scripture in particular. Sometimes, no matter how many times we explain that the Book of Mormon is a separate text from the Bible and takes place in the Americas (and tried relentlessly for what must have been 10 minutes straight), he doesn't understand. And then his member wife says everything we said in 2 minutes and he says "oh, I get it now." It's very frustrating... because I want to be humble and accept his advice but I am so agitated by his attitude and what come across to me as pride in his English lit degree that it's very hard to plaster a smile on and say thank you. HUMILTY IS HARD.

It brings up a lot of previous struggles I had in Justin. I wondered there if I would matter to anyone. And sometimes, I feel invisible. Perhaps its just a skewed perception. But Satan can create very powerful illusions.

Nonetheless, we have been EXTREMELY blessed with our newest investigator, Bradley Privette. He's such a humble man. And I know with a surety why Christ spent His precious time with "publicans and harlots." They are the ones who are willing to listen and learn and put in the effort. He spent time in prison and 4 years ago, his baby daughter was killed in a drunk-driver-driving accident. When we taught him the first lesson, we ended up stopping at the Savior's Earthly Ministry. I felt prompted that we needed to go deeper into the Atonement. So I bore testimony of the things I knew the best: Repentance is CHANGE. It's nothing scary. Maybe a little hard, but nothing we can't achieve. His rough past has allowed me to feel the spirit of my own testimony as I saw hope and thirst of the spirit shoot out of his face. I invited him to be baptized and with tears in his eyes, he said "At any cost, I want my relationship with God back. I didn't have a father growing up, God's really the only father I have. I've lost connection with Him and I need it back." We got out of there and I started crying(look out, got a sensitive sister over here). I've never been so touched by any of my investigator's acceptances.

Zach Owens remains, as ever, as "steady as the beating drum." He's going to Youth Conference, he's excited for baptism... Bishop pulled him up during Priesthood and announced his baptism for the 24th!!! WE ARE SO EXCITED FOR HIM!! He and Bradley are in the same boat. I've explained before that Zach has also had a rough upbringing. He deals with a lot of demons... but his head is screwed on straighter than mine. Teaching them both has been one of the finest honors I've been given.

It makes me think of how blessed I am to have grown up with this knowledge and hope. Literal, actual light has been present throughout my life, always within reach of taking. It humbles me to see people do whatever it takes to get what we offer. And so very rewarding. After a long week of people being frustrating... It's nice to know that the work is, in fact, progressing. And it always will.

Have a good week!
Love, Sister Gunson

Monday, January 6, 2014

"If I Ever Go Inactive, Punch Me In The Face"

Note from Out Of My Box Blog Management:
Sorry that the posts have been delayed until today. I have been diving into the chaotic depths of wedding planning. Please read Hannah's last two posts before you read this one so you're all caught up: December 26 and December 30.
Posts will (hopefully) resume as normal. Assuming I don't lose my mind before Hannah gets home.
Carry on.
My companion has a certain proclivity for golden one-liners the way Christ has the tendency to teach in parables.

This week was a bit of a roller coaster. Brianna, one of the most epic investigators I've ever had in my life decided to call off her baptismal date and stop meeting with us. We asked her member friend to invite her over so that we could talk with her for just 10 minutes. Thankfully, she agreed to that... And 10 minutes turned into an hour of whittling away her concerns. We got down to the heart of it all... Turns out she had stopped reading and praying every night so when the doubts came around, she wasn't able to fight them off and succumbed to it. Is there a correlation between scripture study, prayer, church and stability?! Hm, I just don't know... Why don't you try it for yourself? We were able to pump her back up, help her see blessings, and most importantly, she understood how much we loved her. That's the hardest thing is to love somebody so much while they believe you view them as a number... THAT'S NOT HOW THINGS REALLY ARE. She's back on track, meeting with her regularly! She hasn't reannounced her date yet, but... She'll get there :)

The week ended on a good strong note when we taught Zach Owen. As you might remember, last week he blew us away with his immediate testimony of the prophet Joseph Smith. Well this week, when we taught the Plan of Salvation, he rendered me absolutely speechless when I asked him "What do you think is the purpose of life?" It's okay, not a lot of people get that, I know I didn't really grasp Alma 34:32, what 18 year old does? Well... Zach got Matthew 28:19-20.... He thought about the question for a minute, looked up and said "I think it's to teach people the gospel. So that everyone knows the truth."

.... Who is this kid? And why are we teaching him?! Just hand him a Preach My Gospel and then he can call us when he wants his baptismal interview. Like, SERIOUSLY. I feel SO unqualified to teach him.... He blows us away at every turn. He set his date for January 24... that's in a couple weeks and boy oh boy he will get there. Wow.

It's days and times like these that testify to me that I cannot go back. I literally know too much. I have seen too much of the goodness of God to ever deny it. I watch Christ take ordinary men and turn them into powerful beacons. I watch the Spirit teach the people I love and help them turn their lives around... Geez. I'm reminded of how often the angels tell people "Marvel not." but I just can't help it!! The power of God is no small thing. It's just no wonder we say "I stand all amazed." My mortal mind can't form a cohesive enough thought process when I think about everything He's done for me and for the world.

Speechless. Absolutely speechless.

Love, Sister Gunson

Treat Every Day Like Christmas

A brief reminder: Hannah has a new address!
231 Oakview Dr.
Double Oak, Texas 75077
Guys, I love Christmas. And this was kind of... the best yet. I got to focus entirely on the "reason for the season" as the catchy phrase goes. It was the most spiritual of all Christmases and I sailed on through without any homesickness at all. (thank goodness!!)

This week was also-- not surprisingly-- miracle week. We gained another solid investigator. his name is Zach and he's never felt loved in his life. He's been passed around from relative to relative until he finally landed in a member's home. They made him go to church and he's soaking up the spirit like a sponge. We taught him Saturday night and he is IN IT TO WIN IT. He loves church, loves the home he's in now. We've got a return appointment for tonight and we're probably going to invite him to baptism.... 5 bucks he says yes!! :D

We also taught a wonderful woman named Rhonda who was a former member!! Her life is basically Les MIserables in that everything bad happens right in a row. Almost without ceasing. Trials after trials. BUT. In that time, she has completely opened up! We taught her the Plan of Salvation on Sunday and every time we dropped a "bomb," she'd agree and say "yeah, that's what I'm talking about, I totally agree with ya, ah-huh!" She has a super boston accent. It's really fun teaching her. She asks US to pray! She understands prayer!! HALLELUJAH.

That's kind of the theme this week, actually. "HALLELUJAH!" I know why people are driven to those shouts of acclamation! And that's why I'm going to miss Christmas in the mission field. Hopefully, I will be able to stay as far out of the commercialism as I can, but there's nothing I can do to stop the rising tides of societal stress... But it's in those times that I think we are the most thankful for the peace we might be able to feel on Christmas Eve. Sister Heap and I were walking down the street on Christmas Eve... it was cold, everybody was getting fat (okay, we have been too...), families might have been fighting or watching Elf or enjoying some sort of chaos and we realized that we were some of the only people that were swept up in this kind of joy right then. It finally felt like peace on earth.

The wonderful thing about the gospel and about Christ is that it's timeless! It's not bound to any particular season! I hope every day feels like this. It probably won't, we get bad days. But I imagine that if we treated every day like we treat Christmas, we'd want to sing the song of redeeming love... forever. Because why stop after you die?

I think that's why Buddy the Elf is so happy. Christmas does that to you.

Love, Sister Gunson

There's Room For Everyone On The Nice List

So sorry I lost track of time this week.  I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas spreading Christmas cheer!!  We were able to talk to Hannah yesterday (no skype for her, unfortunately) and she sounded so happy!!!!  Her companion got on the phone and yelled "I love your daughter!" so that made us feel great. She has had some pretty powerful experiences with the Holy Ghost and has matured beyond my comprehension.  My favorite is that she hasn't lost her (very) quirky and FUN personality!
Love, Janet
Christmas is seriously the best time of year. It's going to be the highlight of my mission! Because I feel like this is when I finally got what Christmas is about. I've grown up reading Luke 2 my whole life, but this was the year when it all fell on my like a bag of rocks. And as soon as it did, I joined the angelic chorus in spreading the glad tidings of great joy!!! Well.... I started back in May. But.... you get it.

We saw some fantastic Christmas miracles this week!! We were finally able to meet with a woman named Danielle who's been investigating the church for quite some time. We haven't been able to get a hold of her, but one night we decided to text her anyways and throw doubt to the wind. Not only did she text back, but she invited us over for breakfast the next morning!! So, the very next morning, we were able to have a good long chat about her investigating history. She was very open... and now we know every complication and hang-up as to why she hasn't been dunked yet. Because she's begging for it, she's desperate to join the church!!.... But.... Guess who's not?

Y'all know how I feel about other people's agency getting in the way of other people's salvation. Y'all know how much I detest that. Well... her husband, while a very sweet and kind and wonderful person, has attached some incredible baggage onto the church. not the doctrine, mind you. In fact, their household runs like an LDS house! He just can't get past all the negative side-effects that would "surely" come his way.

Not only that, but another investigator's mom threw up a stink about her coming to church. So even though she promised to come up to the night before.... she was a no show.

The worst thing I've seen, though, was in a Less-Active's grandson(Dakota). His mom left him when he was 5 and all the side-effects are showing themselves. He's full of a lot of anger and hurt. The grandma told the story about how his mom asked for a kiss goodbye and then drove away. He chased the car down the driveway, and for the life of him, couldn't understand what he had done to deserve this. She left the room for a minute and Sister Heap and I had 5 seconds to cry and then pull it together.

I don't understand how people can be so cruel.

On the flip side. We've been listening to Elder Holland's talk "Make or Break." And he describes the Atonement in such a way that it healed us. Well, duh, biggest understatement of the millennium, but... It's very calming to know that Christ knows how Dakota feels. And that it's all gonna be okay in the end.

And that's what it's like for all of us. I think, sometimes, in God's eyes, we're all a little snotty 5 year old that doesn't understand why we have to go through trials. Sometimes we understand, but it's still hard. You guys, this has probably been the best Christmas I've ever had because I've never had a more complete understanding of the "reason for the season." And to think that it's only gonna grow from here? Merry Merry Christmas indeed :)

I love you all!! Please, go be good people. Not just the 25th, but on every day of your life!! Can't wait to call mi familia in a couple days! ;)

Love, Sister Gunson