A quick clarification regarding Hannah's abbreviations:
WML is the Ward Mission Leader--the member who is in charge of missionary work for that particular congregation.
AWML is the Assistant Ward Mission Leader
LA is a less active member of the church
PMG is Preach My Gospel, a study guide for missionaries and well, everyone. If you don't have one, I can give one to you. It's an awesome tool for understanding the scriptures and the doctrine of Christ.
Gator is an investigator.
And keep in mind that Hannah uses nicknames for the people she serves. I have no idea what M#3 means but some of the other nicknames give us glimpses into their personalities so I love it. :)
This week, man. We ran some spiritual marathons this week. You might see an over-arching theme in this email of people being jazzed and excited while we're there and somehow the novelty dissipates by Sunday......
1st Mile: FINALLY set a date with Murphy!!!! For August 2nd! Can he make it there?... yes, if he comes to church and keeps the commandments. Right now, for whatever reason, despite knowing the good from the evil, he's still hanging out with evil. It breaks my heart because I know we're gonna get a call from him later this week that's all "oh no this bad thing happened, Sisters, what do I do?" and I know-- he knows too, we've told him many times before-- that if he would just keep the commandments, he would receive blessings. I guess he will have to learn the lesson over and over and over and over and over and over and over again...
2nd Mile: We finally found our brick wall concerning our member missionary work. Our game plan as 4 missionaries is called "D&C 121." We have to a) reinforce their testimonies-- making sure everyone is studying hard-- b)love and encourage our ward members gently along and train them how to be good missionaries c) work with what we've got. I'm going to come back to that thought later. But I've been feeling that we really need to love and serve our members. So I've been praying fervently for opportunites.... and they found us!!! YAY!!! I love Heavenly Father's hand in all things. As we've been obedient, we've seen so many blessings!!
3rd and 4th Miles: I love teaching softer hearts. I love it when it's slightly easier.... We got 2 new gators this week, M#3 and Teddy. I love teaching them because they respect us and they go into our lessons not seeking to prove us wrong or stump us, they're not there because they feel forced into it, but because they're curious and genuinely interested. As we start explaining blessings and the why's we have a certain principle, their eyes light up. In M#3's case, she said "oh, my son needs this. I want him to have this." She recognized that we have what makes people strong and tough. **side note: has anybody taken a look at our history, I mean really looked at it? Our people are the toughest people around. We make some pretty hard-core people and launch them into society. The church is kind of awesome. End note**
5th Mile: Wonderful is back on the map! She's stabilized to the point where we can share more than just a scripture and a prayer!! YUSS. This week, we'll be setting her date and teaching her more and more! Meeting with her is always an adventure though... a couple of weeks ago, a murder attempt was made on her life and then a couple days ago, she told us that her husband was murdered and she had to clean it up and now she has insomnia.... I definitely used that as a segue to inviting her to church. Dude, she needs some calm. Come get some calm on Sunday. And she was all ready for it! We got her a ride!.... and then the ride fell through.... Technology can be just as much a pill as agency sometimes.
6th Mile: THE JOKER HAS A TESTIMONY. I REPEAT. THE JOKER HAS A TESTIMONY. The EKG has stopped flatlining and we are getting the smallest pulse imaginable, but dude, it's a pulse!!!! I was bouncing off the walls, telling everybody I could find! We're in the lesson and after reading a scripture, I say "so, what are you thinking?" He was silent for what felt like an hour (which makes me think that Ammon's description of King Lamoni's silence might've been an overstatement) and then said "I get it." we were like "wha...." and he says "I get the point of you guys coming over here. I recognize the spirit. Scriptures mean something to me, that's why I highlighted this! Some days, I get in my car and I'ma ctually happy. I think 'man, I could do anything!."
My jaw promptly fell to the floor. I wanted to jump up, shake him, shake his wife, shake my companion, and tell the whole world!!!
7th Mile: And I'm literally the only person in the whole ward missionary committee that cares. We brought it up to everyone we could see and the only person excited was Awesomesauce. Because... dude, she's made of awesomesauce, what do you expect. But our WML didn't even notice. The Assistant WML didn't notice....
8th Mile: all they could see was that none of our investigators were at church. So we sit down to Ward Coorellation and after our WML says his schpeel, our elders say "our gator came to church! and that's all we got!" he turns to me and says "kay, what about you?" I hand him a full front-half back progress record STUFFED with Investigators and LA's we've been teaching, explain our problems, our game plan to fix them and then excitedly share the highlights. Well, our WML, apparently having a bad day, took out his frustrations on member involvement, told me I was too involved, didn't care that the Joker has had his glimpses of light and truth, glances over the INCREDIBLE changes that have happened since I walked into this area and culminates his rant on me and all the problems I have yet to solve (which... let's face it, are his duty to solve) with this line: "your stewardship ends at 18 months... consider your time management."
Sliced open, gutted like a fish, nobody stood up for me (and we had more than just the set-apart missionaries in that room) the AWML quoted PMG at me in a kind of "I second what the WML says" kind of thing and I was 5 seconds away from going postal.
Sometimes, not gonna lie, I want to just break into Eminem rhymes whenever I see WML. The line "I can't tell you what it really is/I can only tell you what it feels like/and right now it's a steel knife in my windpipe" comes to mind. I have a really bad habit of not getting sad, but mad. So there's a lot of me flipping my hood up and glaring going on. But because I'm a missionary, I didn't get to do that.... I got to smile and say "okay, we'll work on that this week."
Okay, so, maybe we ran 8 miles this week. But that's fitting because I just mentioned Eminem in my above (apostate) paragraph. But this week was all about learning lessons and receiving blessun's. I just wish somebody could learn their lesson and receive those blessun's. Oh wait, the Joker did. Haha :)
ANYWAYS. Have a great week!
Love, Sister Gunson
Tuesday, June 24, 2014
... SO hide yo' Catholics, hide yo' Baptists and hide yo' Methodists, cuz they baptizin' everyone in here!
Frank and apparent apostasy notwithstanding, it's been a pretty cool week. I just have a bunch of stories I'm gonna vomit onto this digital page. Wonderful imagery, don't you think?
Interviews were this week! And they were INCREDIBLE. I ended up having an hour and a half of studies and they were centred entirely around a lesson we would be having that night. We taught a 7 year old, Lilo (and her mom, Stitch) about Heavenly Father and our relationship to Him. I kept thinking about Moses 1. But I kept batting it away and thinking "no, that's in the Pearl of Great Price, we don't use that..." But it kept coming to my mind so I said "fine." When Sister Kuli and I got together to set the lesson, she said "okay, so I kept flipping to Moses 1... why?" Turns out, in her desperation born of not knowing where to go, she was opening her triple over and over. And each time, it landed on Moses 1. So we used Moses 1 and I'm glad we did. We explained that in our lives, we have to tell Satan that we truly are daughters (and sons) of God and that there is no reason to worship him (Satan). There is an understandable desire to fear when he starts throwing temper tantrums, but lets face it--there's nothing more pathetic or unattractive as a teenager who's mad because he's not getting his way.
We're starting in on teaching a part-member family. The wife, when we first stopped by, was vehemently anti. Well, two days later after Super-Awesomesauce-Member talked her down and into meeting with us, we were kneeling on her floor in a circle as she begged us to say a prayer for her. She's been stressed out of her mind. We and the Super-Awesomesauce-Member bore powerful and real testimonies of the Book of Mormon, using phrases such as "little tiny sunbeams coming out of your body!" and "being bundled up on a cold day when the wind's howling outside and you're snuggled under heavy blankets". I think she connected well to it.
Also, the gift of tongues is incredibly real. Fort those of you who don't know, I took 2 years of French in high school. Yes. 2 years. For those of you not familiar with sarcasm, I suck at French. I can't even speak good English half the time. And yet... we were street contacting and we met this man hanging out under a tree. We went over to talk to him and he tells us that he only speaks French. Well. Armed with the spirit and 2 years of French (who am I kidding, I didn't even pay attention in French class) I managed to introduce ourselves as missionaries and present him with a card. I wasn't so much able to speak French, but I understood everything he was saying. He told us that he has a hard time believing in modern-day prophets. Then he told us to get married because without marriage, we were "incomplete messengers of God's gospel because we hadn't received all the blessings, such as children."...... moving right along.... He was interested enough to let us come back, but we brought a french-speaking member with us this time.
We got a phone call from our elders inviting us to a memorial service for one of their investigator's wife. We sat in the back and the whole time, I wanted to grab the mic and say "DON'T YOU PEOPLE GET IT. FAMILIES ARE FOREVER." At the end, I didn't want to pass cards to people... Even though I knew the gospel would help, I just... I couldn't proselyte. I asked myself the age old question: "what would Jesus do" and Sister Kuli and I ran around giving everyone hugs and telling them it would be okay. That felt like more effective missionary work than throwing Plan of Salvation pamphlets.
Sunday was just funny. I wish I had more time to tell you all the funny stories, but I'll just end on one: I really really really wanted chocolate. I didn't have any chocolate. It was dumb, and it was stupid, but while praying in my heart, I said "Heavenly Father, if you want to know what I want... I want some chocolate." I felt calm. I went through the rest of the day thinking "I don't know how, but I'm going to get chocolate." Sure enough, our dinner appointment had to cancel the appointment part of dinner, so he brought over an elaborate paper-sack lunch. In the lunch sack, there were 2 chocolate coins. I got my chocolate. Because, like I was saying last week, God is our Heavenly Father. We called our dinner appointment afterwards and told him and he started laughing.
This is the same member that seems to answer all of my inexpedient prayer-question-wants. He's been doing it on a weekly basis for 3 weeks now.
God loves us. Bless y'all a thousand times!
Love, Sister Gunson
Sister Kuli quote of the week: We're trying to get one of our investigators to break up with her dysfunctional boyfriend... so I said "okay... how are we going to get her to break up with him?" and she thinks for a minute and says "oh! We could kill him!" I thoroughly enjoy working with her.
So, we had zone conference on Tuesday. In it, they told us the secrets of weekly planning. I love President so much because he shows up and starts streamlining everything. President Sagers taught us to work hard and President Ames is making us so dang efficient!!! He cuts all the fluff and mystery away and shines light on shadows that don't need to be there. He broke planning down to 7 steps and when we applied them that Thursday... holy cow. It was the first planning in a year where I haven't been stressed and frazzled out of my mind. I would share these secrets with you, but I'll wait for the spirit to teach you ;)
We're teaching The Boy That Lived again!! Getting him ready for his July baptism!!! He's such a spiritual kid... but he has a hard time communicating. He was trying to explain to us how he felt about Christ's atonement, but everyone was confused. Except for me. I fully believe that the spirit of tongues involves understanding kids and I was the only one who understood what he was trying to say. Not even his mom understood! I'm telling you-- it's the spirit!! We explained the priesthood to him and told him that it helps people who are in pain. He said "my mom needs that!" (his mom has arthritis in her spine). and then he said "when I'm baptized, can I give my mom a blessing?" He's 10 years old folks, say hello to a future apostle.
I made Sister Kuli do some old-fashioned walking this week! IT FELT SO GOOD. Last week we were running from place to place and this time we had time to knock some doors, do some potential hunting and wear out some soles! We walked past a Tongan methodist church (yes, that's a thing.) and they were getting ready for a Luau or something because when we walked past the church's "backyard" (for lack of a better word) they were roasting what must've been 20 whole pigs. WHOLE. PIGS. It smelled so good, but I got Lord of the Flies whiplash...
On the way home from church, we were talking to a LA (less active member) who grabbed us after Relief Society and begged us to come over this week and teach her daughter about Heavenly Father. There's no man in that household and her daughter is feeling it hard. I imagine the level of plea in her eyes was of the same strain as the man who begged Jesus to heal his son. We figured a time and then she gave us a ride home. On the way back, she unloaded on her week. Her venting was punctuated by testimonies of how she knew God was her Heavenly Father. She pointed out details of her trials that she pinpointed as evidence of "only a father could have divinely set that up." We pulled up to our apartment and as I looked her in the eye, I told her "I cannot believe in anything other than a literal Father in Heaven." She started crying again and said "neither can I."
Heavenly Father has dealt me so many tender mercies to let me know I"m doing fine. I mean, of course God loves me, He hasn't struck me with lightning yet....
I'll leave y'all with a quote from Lion king that has SUCH eternal truths....
"You have forgotten who you are and so forgotten me. You are my son and the one true king."
Let us not forget Whose we are... lest we forget who He is.
I LOVE YOU DADDY. You're the best earthly dad I could have!!!!
Love, Sister Gunson
Monday, June 9, 2014
And here... we.... go.
The actual definition of "true grit" is not to be found in Rooster Cogburn-- though I admire him with great fervor. Anyways. The actual definition of 'True Grit' is when a woman so brutally attacked with opposition and all the unfair things in the world walks confidently into the waters of baptism, leaving the shady life of the underworld she was born and raised in and becomes a disciple of Christ. I told y'all, there's a reason for her nickname being what it is. There's so much I can't say over email but if you ever met her (and I hope you do because Mama, you'd get along great with her!) it would be like meeting Alma the Younger after he woke up from his angelic-reprimand-induced coma. There will be a day when I will tell you all she's been through and then you're gonna say "oh there's no way the church is NOT true."
So yeah, True Grit done been dunked!!!! The entire time, she was crying and saying "I'm ready I am so ready for this!" I'll be honest, when someone's getting baptized, I can't help but watch their face when they're saying the prayer... You see their inherent nobility, who they really were before they came to this "tabernacle of clay." Sister Morrill was also able to be there!!! I had all my kin there! My daughter (Sister Kuli) and my step-daughter! (Sister Morrill).
Sister Kuli's first day here, we met a woman, we'll call her Pathway. In a 5-second contact, we managed to get her information, explain our purpose, and invite her to church. Well this sunday, she came!! And then she told us that she wants to get baptized!!! And then she sent us this text: "Thank y'all so much for what y'all are doing for me and my family. I was praying that God would take the wheel and guide me and believe it or not, that's when y'all showed up!" It's so good to know that I am, in fact, doing the works of my Father because for a little bit, I started to feel like I was making too many mistakes. I felt like I was wasting God's time because I wasn't moving fast enough because why has Euless not been translated yet, it must be my fault, y'all know how the vicious cycle goes... A missionary's joy is found primarily in watching others come into the fold. But there's another ecstasy that comes from being your very best and having Heavenly Father use you in His glorious work.
Eloquent segue into my similar and concluding thought:
Last night we went to a fireside President holds every month for the whole mission and I saw 2 of my old investigators and a member from 2 separate, previous areas.
The investigators came up to me and gave me a huge hug and we all started crying. They told me they were being baptized in 2 weeks. As we talked, they kept saying that I had done so much good for them, taught them so much. As I stepped back from that moment, my worries about whether or not I had done "enough" good in the world on my mission dissolved. Sister Heap and I found them, Sister Christensen and I taught them... and now, thanks to some stalwart Elders in Fort Worth, they are being baptized. I was able to see that just because I personally would not be there to see them all the way through, doesn't mean I didn't do my job. I had laid the stone in their foundation that the Lord asked me to and I was so thankful to see that come to a realization in front of my eyes. They had spiritually grown!! They had light behind their eyes!!
The member I saw was from my first area. She was (at the time) a 16 year old Laurel who went on XC's with us ALL THE TIME. I kept encouraging her to go on a mission and when I left, we've stayed in good contact. several months ago, she started seriously contemplating a mission and quickly emailed me her thoughts. Not only that, but when she was talking about a mission with her dad, he said 'well, what would sister gunson say?"
I don't care anymore that I have not (yet) changed the whole world by now because I've impacted at least a couple of lives.
"And if it so be that ye should labor all your days and bring but ONE soul unto me, how great shall be your joy..." am I right?
There's so much more I want to say but there's not enough time and not enough gigabytes for storage on this email...
This last message came in another email just before she got off the computer:
HEY GUESS WHAT ELSE GUESS WHAT ELSE REMEMBER THE TWO GIRLS WE WERE TEACHING IN JUSTIN, PEYTON AND TORI? YEAH WELL THEY GOT BAPTIZED AND THEIR DAD IS CLOSE TO JOINING THE CHURCH TOO!!! WHOOOOOOOOOOO
Monday, June 2, 2014
Guys. Sister Kuli (my mission-daughter/new companion/greenie) is from the Marshall Islands. HOW COOL IS THAT?! President asked me to help teach her English. It's pretty good, but she's got a thick accent and some funny grammar. She makes me laugh so hard every day! She's supportive, positive and hard-working. We were doing some organized tracting (cleaning out our potential records) and she was saying "oh yeah, my brothers killed a shark once."
".... Sister, your brothers did WHAT?!"
"They killed a shark! We were swimming in the water and they saw a huge one! Bigger than that car *points to a pick-up truck* and they played with it and then stabbed it with that thing...what do you call it?"
"Yeah! that's it!"
Also, her 2 older brothers broke her boyfriend's leg because he made her cry... So Enzo, Rocky, step it up.
In other news, miracles were busting out all over. I'll be honest, I think I forgot that they could happen with such magnitude. I was used to working my butt off for one small miracle. But then... the Lord decided to give me a break or something! Okay, here we go.
Miracle #1: the first day/a surplus of gators
My first day in the mission field was rainy and we tracted all day with no success. Sister Kuli's first day, we cleaned out an entire apartment complex's potential record and got 3 return appointments. The next apartment complex we went to, we got 3 new investigators. The lessons we taught were powerful. We invited everyone to church and everyone to baptism. They all said yes. Of course.... nobody wanted to set a date, but hey, when God gives you miracles, you don't really haggle haha.
We ended up helping the AP's out with one of their investigators. She lives in our area and wanted to talk to "the girls." So even though we're teaching her, we're trying to get her to go to the YSA ward. It's really cool though. It proves to me we're all doing the Lord's work. And it doesn't matter which vessel the Lord uses.
Got to meet with Murphy, he's looking for a July baptismal date. We picked up 2 teenagers from Liberia, Libe and Ria are 16 and 17 and they just ATE the gospel right up. We talked about the Plan of Salvation and they were all for it. We're seeing them tonight!
Miracle #2: The Ward, Ward Council and Ward Mission Leader
Usually when we teach a lesson after dinner, we spend a lot of time trying to get people to want to do missionary work and finding a "baby step" they can take to get to a larger goal. Well, we had 2 dinner appointments come to US and say "hey, I need your help with something..." and then proceeded to tell us--WITHOUT PROMPTING-- about what they're trying to do, who they're trying to work with, and where their problems are. I'm sorry if my jaw dropped to the floor, lemme just pick that up, oh wait I can't, it's still there because this past Ward Council was one of the best ones I've ever had. Missionary work is speedily picking up. And then our WML made me feel really good by applauding our work for the week. He told the elders we split the ward with that we were on fire and that we're not gonna slow down. Not to brag-- because it's not our sparks we are encompassed by, but our Father's-- but it's just nice that somebody other than Heavenly Father can see all the work we go through during the week. And appreciates us and says "good job."
Miracle #3: True Grit is getting baptized this saturday. Sister Morrill gets to come back and speak at it. I got to fill out her baptismal form (because her interviewer had to run after the interview, so he let me do it). As I was filling it out, True Grit said "do you know how many missionaries wanted to fill this form?" I was incredibly humbled. She's been through 6 years worth of missionaries from 2 different states. And I, some punk picked off the streets of Santa Barbara, got to watch her sign her name at the end of it. I heard the chorus of a million angles singing in triumph. It was unbelievable.
WE CAN DO ANYTHING GOOD!
Have a great week!
Love, Sister Gunson