Monday, March 31, 2014

Many Prayers Were Answered

Happy Monday!
Sister J. left last Tuesday, and it was really hard. We wrote in each others journals and we saw a lot of members before she left at 5pm. I was crying like a kid who had their toys taken away on Christmas morning and I had to go with the other sisters to their appointments. I haven't heard from her although she is an hour ahead of me in Brazil. Hopefully next week she'll email me back.
So, my new companion is Sister B., and she's from Washington, DC! She's been out for 15 months and only has two transfers left. She has been praying her entire mission that she would be able to serve in Atlanta, and the Lord has finally delivered! I thought I was a hard worker when it came to missionary work, but she takes it to the next level. I am so drained by the end of the day, I don't even have time to think. I'm the new designated driver, and I haven't driven in almost 5 months. I was pretty anxious the first day considering we do live in the city, but I haven't managed to kill anyone yet, miracles!
Missionary work is exhausting but this past week it's moved to a new level. 
During transfers, it's tradition that whoever is going home that transfer gets to speak. President Harding asked, "Did we miss anyone? Unless anyone else wants to go home you can get up here." I faked getting up and there was a few laughs as I sat back down. I'm not going anywhere!
C. our recent convert is doing great, and he loves going out with the missionaries. He wants to come out with all of us 2-3 times a week, and he also has a calling! He is being welcomed into the ward and doesn't even sit with us anymore. Which is great, because we want him to get attached to the ward, not us! He texted me last night saying that he was so grateful for Sister J. and I teaching him. We and the church have been a great and positive influence on his life, and he prays that I will have joy and happiness throughout my live. Those texts from recent converts make hard missionary work so worth it!
Since we haven't had anyone to teach, Sister B. and I have literally been out all Thursday, Friday, and most of Saturday trying to find people, and Heavenly Father answered our prayers! Thank you for your prayers on our behalf, also.  We've given out all of our Books of Mormon except 2, gave out all of our Restoration pamphlets except 3, and we have two investigators on date, and 14 new investigators. Our numbers have shot up like crazy. My best part of the week was the day we got the best numbers ever and the assistants to the president texted us saying that we're not allowed to use steroids on the mission, haha!
As we were tracting (yes, tracting. Something now I actually don't completely HATE doing,) a lady asked us if we're Jehovah's Witness. We said no, and she asked if we were Mormons. We said yes and she scoffed and said, "CULT!" and drove away in her car. We actually went up to her house but didn't leave a card. Sister B. and I tried to explain that we aren't a cult since she believes our God and Jesus Christ differ from hers. She even shared this pamphlet about 'Christianity and Cults" and we were on there. They quoted 2 Nephi 2:25 correctly, so I guess she doesn't want her/our God to have joy? We knew we weren't going to get anywhere, so we just walked away from her accusations. I found it entertaining.
K.'s Mom isn't doing well (he’s the one that takes care of his ill parents, daughter, and grandchildren) and she's been going through dialysis, so we haven't been able to teach him. It seems like the adversary is working hard on him, so I know that we need to try even harder to teach him! We'll be teaching his daughter Ch., and she said that she would start reading the Book of Mormon although she has difficulty reading it.
We were able to go to the Women's Broadcast and I thought it was awesome. One of my favorite lines from the meeting about our inner beauty was, "You're royalty, so act like it." We are literally descended from our Heavenly Father who is King. The same applies to "You're Christian/disciples of Christ, so act like it." So as we go throughout our week, we should always remember to act like royalty. Except for the fact we shouldn't be prissy like some royalty. 
I'm worried for R. (another recent convert) since he hasn't been able to come to church. He calls us occasionally to explain himself because he feels misunderstood. He told me how much he's going to miss me and how much he misses Sister J. now that she's in Brazil. He probably gave me one of the greatest compliments I've ever received in my life. He said that if anyone should gain their full potential from God, he prays that it's me because he knows that I have and will do great things for God as a missionary and throughout my life. I'm so privileged to be a missionary to have the opportunity to influence others for good and change their lives for the better.
B. and N. two of our long time investigators dropped us, and that wasn't such a shock. I'll continue to pray for them that their hearts will be softened, and I know that's all I can do.
It's been a great week overall, and I was so excited to hear that Jennifer had her baby yesterday! She's going to be named Marie, after my middle name right? ;) I hope that we always endure to the end, because there are so many blessings in store for us as we endure our trials well. Always remember that Christ has felt what we have gone through, and we can always turn to him for support.
Have a great week, and always read your scriptures!
-Sister Sudweeks

Sorry I don't have a picture of my new companion, I'll get that to you next week!. 

Monday, March 24, 2014

I Met Obama!

Happy Monday!
Last Monday we were trying to get gas but our mission gas card declined. Found out that we were a victim of fraud, and someone stole over $750 from the mission! We had to destroy our card completely and get a new one. That was a fun P-day!
Over the past few months, Sister J. has done a great job in scaring me. So this week I decided to get back at her for all of the times she almost scared me half to death. :) The first time I scared her it was unintentional. She was in the bathroom with the light off, and I was in the living room. I turned off the living room light since I assumed she was going to turn on the light in the bathroom so we could continue to get ready for bed. After I turned off the light she screamed 5 seconds later and I had no idea why! I turned the light back on and she said that she brushed up against the bathroom door very lightly, and she thought it was someone. I laughed so hard my stomach and cheeks hurt!
C. (our amazing bus contact) has a theory that people are always afraid of monsters from their childhood. So if someone is unaware of a person grabbing their shoulders and yelling, "MONSTER!" they freak out completely. So that's exactly what I did later on when she was about to change into her PJs. She screamed once again.
C. was talking to us about how he was doing with his scripture reading, and he was surprised that someone could kill a person with a rock. He then proceeded to say, "That's what you get from choosing scissors, brah!" That was pretty amusing. He's in Alma and is continuing to love the scriptures more and more as he reads them. 
We tried to teach L.'s friend, JA. She has a Book of Mormon and we read the Doctrine of Christ (2 Nephi 31) in the Book of Mormon earlier. She refused to come out to listen to us teach L., so we know that she's no longer interested in learning more about our church. Which is sad, since our teaching pool is diminishing greatly. But L. showed us his kittens that were born on his birthday about a month ago. They are getting so big and adorable! We named them Simba, Gramps, Lil Bit, Furball, and Scaredy Cat. 
Sister Sudweeks holding Simba...or is that Scaredy Cat?
We taught a guy named M. part of the Restoration. He was one of the potentials from a while ago. We were just reaching the part about the First Vision, when he found out he had to leave. M. said that he feels like Joseph Smith--he doesn't know which church to join. He said he'd read the rest of the Restoration pamphlet but we don't know if can read very well. On Sunday he texted me asking if he could tell me something. He made me promise not to tell anyone or get mad. (I crossed my fingers since OBVIOUSLY I'm going to tell Sister J.)  I found out he likes me and wants to get to know me. Awkward. He said he wants to learn more about me AND the church, since he doesn't want to mess with the Lord. I'll be going over there with my new companion saying that our area got moved around so the elders will have to continue to teach him.
I found out this morning that I am indeed staying in Atlanta! I'll be getting a new companion Wednesday and I won’t be training. 
C. got baptized on Saturday! As we were waiting for him to arrive one of the sisters in our ward called us asking if we knew that we had a flat tire. WHAT?! So her husband and Elder E. were able to put our spare on so we could go get a new tire after the baptism. Apparently there was this HUGE blade in our tire, and there literally was no pressure in our tire whatsoever. We're wondering if we ran over it because there's so much construction going on around our apartment.
We were worried that C. would make some smart comments after being baptized, but thankfully he just stood there and looked at us, then walked out of the font. Later on I asked him how he felt. He paused for a moment and said that he felt serene. But unlike R’s baptism, the water was way too hot. Hopefully we'll get the right temperature soon heh! It's so amazing to see how much he's changed in such a few short weeks. I know that due to Sister J’s and me praying in faith and asking for Heavenly Father to help us find someone to teach that is prepared to hear the gospel, we were answered and we had the privilege to teach him. Miracles will never cease to happen! (Mormon 9)
C's Baptism Day--March 22, 2014
A lot of the rest of our investigators are at a standstill, I don't know what's going to happen with them in the next few weeks. A lot of them have scheduled appointments, but they just happen to reschedule. None of them came to church.
On Sunday it was a very special sacrament meeting. Since Sister J. is leaving, (and also Sister B., who’s been in the area  now 10 months) all of the sister missionaries besides me spoke. There was a special musical number after Sister J.’s talk, dedicated to her. Three of the RMs in the ward that went to Brazil sang Called To Serve in Portuguese. I was crying throughout all of sacrament meeting when the talks were being given, but Sister J. and I really bawled when we heard that hymn sung in  Portuguese. I'm really going to miss her, and I hope she doesn't underestimate how great of a missionary she truly is. We had dinner appointments every day last week and we were able to sing for dinner. We sang in English and Portuguese, mostly God Be With You Till We Meet Again, or a song that they preferred. I've learned a lot from her, and I can't wait to see what my next companion teaches me!
God Be With You Till We Meet Again!
All of the missionaries in the ward were invited to Ward Council last Sunday, one of the first times we were EVER invited! I am so excited that we finally get to go and know what they talk about although we have to be there at 8am instead of 9am. But it's worth it if we get more trust from the auxiliary leaders otherwise! But one of the sad things about it is that I left my hymn book since we had to leave for our 9am meeting. It was originally in the Young Men's room, and I didn't realize I had misplaced it until the 3rd hour. I checked all of the lost and founds, and asked one of the guys in the Young Men's presidency and they didn't see it. So I waited an entire month for that hymn book and it's already gone. I wish I had put my name in it!
All 10 missionaries that serve in my ward in Atlanta!  There used to be 14 of us!  Maybe that's one reason why we haven't all been invited to Ward Council before.  We take up half the space! 
C. was also ordained a priest, and I don't think I've ever seen anyone so excited to get the Aaronic Priesthood. We had assumed that they taught him what he can and can't do with the Aaronic Priesthood, but apparently not. He even put one of his hands on my head and 'blessed' me that I would get along with my new companion and other things like that. I laughed since I thought he was joking. We had to teach him later on and he was pretty bummed when he found out. C. asked what powers he had now that he has the priesthood, and Brother I. told him that he has telekinesis, and he can kill a yak from 100 feet away. Turns out, C. believed him. He also has a really long name, and his real name isn't even C, so he now wants to be called Brother   _______.  (Think about a character in Lion King and that will give you an idea of his sense of humor.) We'll see if it catches on or not in the ward.
I took advice from my Dad this week about how if I really want to know an answer to something, I should fast. The past 4 months I've been questioning how to recognize the spirit better, and to gain confidence on whether it really is the spirit, or am I just questioning myself. I've been praying the entire time I've been out here, and I really haven't gotten an answer. It really is best to fast for one specific thing instead of multiple things at once. So I finally fasted and I was able to receive an answer to my question on how the spirit speaks to me. I'm so grateful for fasting and if you really want an answer to your question, seek it out and the Lord will provide. Now I just need to have the courage to act when the Spirit is trying to guide me to do the Lord's work! Learning how the Spirit works through you is really important in life, you don't want to miss out on how our Heavenly Father is trying to use you as one of his instruments in life.
I hope everyone is doing well, and always remember to pray!
-Sister Sudweeks
P.S. Obama wasn't much of a talker... But he did accept my Book of Mormon!

Monday, March 17, 2014

Cars Break Down at the Worst Times.....

Happy Monday!

So I'm going to be honest, C. (our bus contact) completely took over our week, but then again he's progressing and is getting baptized 24 days after we met him, and he DID have a lot to learn! Our week pretty much fell through when it came to a lot of our lessons.  One of the reasons why our week wasn't the best is because we are in dire need of investigators. Two weeks ago we were hardly on MARTA due to all of the meetings we had, and no one was really interested last week so if you ever need someone to pray for, pray that we'll be able to find investigators who are ready because we literally only have C. on date to be baptized right now.

C. took us out for ice cream on Monday and we had to read all of those Wikipedia articles about Mormonism. I'm pretty impressed, a lot of it was actually correct except maybe two little details. So thumbs up for Wikipedia! Later on that night he texted us saying how much he appreciated all that we've done for him, and that we're superheroes in his book. Best compliment I've received from an investigator/recent convert besides being called an angel? I think so! He's also in the book of Alma the last time that we asked him about it, he's reading it like crazy. Mosiah is one of his favorite books, and he thinks that Nephi is absolutely the bomb! We gave him a few cards to pass out to his co-workers and guests at where he works at. We actually had to give him more a few days ago. He passes them out to everyone, and a Jehovah's Witness actually accepted one yesterday. He'd be a great missionary!"

We saw Sister B. only once this week, and we taught her how to recognize answers from prayers through the spirit. We asked if there was any question that she wanted to know the answer to, since she claims that she's never gotten an answer to a prayer. (Which is a COMPLETE lie considering there has been SO many miracles that has happened in the past 4+ months.) We asked her if she wanted to know if what we were teaching her was true, and she said yes. I asked her if she would lie to pray right now with us, and then just wait for an answer and we could help her discern her thoughts and feelings. She did not like that, so she literally walked out of the room saying that she's not into this right now, and needed to check up on her 50 year old son J. Brother B. told us that she has been thinking about baptism a lot more now, but it's literally her family holding her back. They call her 3-4 times a day asking if the missionaries are over, and basically smack talking about converting to another religion. It makes me so sad, and so baptism is such a touchy subject for her now. I don't know what to do besides pray. Neither Brother or Sister B came to church yesterday because they always talk about how sick or sore they are.

K. told us that he was going to come to church no matter what, and we were so excited since we've been teaching him since July, and he's never been to church considering he takes care of all of his family. He said that he told his sister that even if she's not there by the time he needs to leave for church, he's leaving anyway. Sunday rolls around, and he doesn't make it. We called him after church and he told us that he was driving to church and his car breaks down in the pouring rain! He left his phone at home, and so he had to walk home. K. is so close, I just want to transport him to church or something. 

The other sister missionaries moved out this last Thursday, and it's really weird because there aren’t many crazy stories anymore. It's so quiet in our apartment, and it's so CLEAN. I've missed the cleanliness of our apartment, but I do sometimes miss the noise.

C. had his baptismal interview last week, and it was literally the longest baptismal interview I've even experienced- 2 1/2 hours. Thankfully he passed, and he wants Brother I. to baptize him, and Brother I. fees so honored since he never went on a mission.  I think he's excited. Sister J. and I both practiced the piano during the interview and she did language study; since you KNOW language study got real ever since she found out she got her visa! She's hoping that she goes to the MTC for 2 weeks of intense language study but no word yet. I'm hoping that I'll improve my piano skills within the next 14 months. Since Sis J is leaving I'm pretty sure I'm going to have to play the piano for District Meeting and whatnot. That night C. told us, "I would have never guessed that God was Mormon." He says the most interesting things at times. He was also so sure that Mormons have a vault in the mountain in Utah, where we're all going to go if there's a zombie apocalypse, or the 2nd Coming. But this week C. was the only investigator that came to church, N. and D. keep cancelling their appointments on us, so they're not really progressing much either.

One of the things I really thought about as I was partaking of the sacrament this week was one phrase of the sacrament prayer. "They are willing to take upon them the name of thy Son." What does that phrase mean to you? In a way, I think about how I have a name tag that says my name, and then Jesus Christ's name underneath it. I am a literal representative of Jesus Christ, but in a way we all are as we are willing to become more like Jesus Christ. That covenant we make as we take the sacrament isn't something we should forget about after church is over, but it should carry on over day after day because we should be striving to be more Christ-like each and every day, and repent of our sins daily. Which ties to another thought that I had this week is that since we are disciples of Jesus Christ, we have to forgive one another. I have hard times when I don't want to forgive people, but then I remind myself that it isn't my job to judge someone. No matter what one person does to hurt me, I need to let it go and move forward.

I hope everyone is wearing green today, don't get pinched! [=

-Sister Sudweeks

P.S. Here's a random picture of Sis J and I with a 2014 Corvette. I wish I could joke and say this was our new mission car, but I don't think anyone would believe us! Also, we both got matching Georgia shirts. Too bad all of these are before I got my haircut this week!

Our dream Mission car--or maybe this is what K. needs to get to church!

I'm seriously going to miss Sister J! 

Monday, March 10, 2014

Jesus Take the Wheel!

Happy Monday!

Last Monday Sister J and I had the privilege of trying to go see a less active that we thought lived close-ish to our house. Our appointments always fall through on Mondays, but I hope not tonight since we're teaching C. (our bus contact) the Law of Chastity. Fun, fun, fun! We missed the bus, so we got directions from the other sisters and started to walk in the freezing wind. We quickly realized we weren't dressed for cold weather and walked about 6 miles total. I kept telling myself, "I feel like a real missionary!"

On Wednesday, we went to zone training, and we were able to go to the temple and it was great. We were almost late to the temple but we barely made it on time! I love how I've been praying this entire week, and I'm getting more realizations and having certain statements just 'click' in my mind. It's really nothing profound, but it's helping me more as a missionary, and how I've grown throughout my life and what I can do differently. 

Sister J. and I in front of the Atlanta, GA Temple.

I love going to the temple!

I wish I could tell you all that I learned in zone training, but right when it was about to start President Harding talked to Sister J, and she burst out in tears. I was predicting it this entire transfer- she got her visa. She's leaving on the 25th of March so I'm probably staying in Atlanta once again. We cried with each other, and had a hard time concentrating about being better planners. My Mom saw a picture of me on Facebook at the Zone Conference. You can't tell that I was crying, but with Sister J it's a bit more obvious.

Holding back the tears at our March 5, 2014 Zone Conference
I'm going to miss Sister J. much!  She's been an outstanding trainer!

I taught C. (our bus contact) with Sister B. about the Word of Wisdom Wednesday night since both of the sister companionships had to talk to the Relief Society President Sister R. about less actives. He knew we were going to talk about the Word of Wisdom, and so I prepared myself and bought him mints, and he gladly accepted them. He opened up to us about some sad stories that he or his friends have experienced in their lives.  He knows that he should change, although it's really hard. He accepted that he wants to be baptized on March 22nd, so we're thrilled! One last baptism before Sister J. leaves. I didn't know that it was standard for an investigator to be clean 2 weeks before his baptismal date, so I MAY have forgotten that detail! After I found out I texted him explaining what happened, and that we don't want to rush or push him to do something that he feels like he can't do. He replied and said that he thinks it's possible, and now he's been clean since last Saturday. [=

I was on exchanges with Sister W., and we taught K. (the man who takes care of his bedridden parents, adult daughter with health challenges and four grandchildren) with Elder and Sister N., (the Senior couple assigned to my ward) and Elder N. was AMAZING when he explained the priesthood and how we're the only church with the proper authority from God. I thought K. was never going to understand, but he did. I wrote down some scriptures so I can try to imitate it when we have other investigators struggling with the same thing. I asked him if he would also be baptized on March 22nd, but he said no. I was so irritated but I'm trying not to let it get to me because I know Sister J. has been teaching K. from the very beginning and she would love to see him baptized as well.

Sister W. and I were driving to see more less actives, and as we were turning left on a green arrow into an intersection, we saw a truck just coming straight towards us! I wanted to scream, but something told me not to. Sister W. was inspired to almost floor the pedal, to go straighter and then a hard left so we didn't run into the curb. I honestly thought that huge truck was going to hit the back of our car, t-boning us into a spin right in the middle of the intersection. We had to stop and park for a while to get our heart rates down, but thankfully we weren't hurt.

We saw Brother and Sister B. three times this week, and they bawled so much when we told them that Sis J. was leaving. We brought it up when we talked about Proverbs 3:5-6 and how we need to trust in the Lord with all of our heart, might, mind, and strength. Sister J is absolutely terrified because she doesn't know Portuguese very well since she's been out for 9 months and hasn't had to use her Portuguese since leaving the MTC. We tried to bridge that to Sister B.’s baptism, but that didn't go very well. We feel like she doesn't have the desire to be baptized, and although she may know it's true, she doesn't want to act. I'm trying to keep my optimism but Sister J and I really can't do anything when it comes to someone's agency. We don't know what's going to happen, but we know that she won't be baptized on the 22nd either.

But R. (our soft-spoken homeless investigator) was baptized on Saturday! We had to call baptismal coordinators for our ward because of convert and member baptisms. We're still trying to fix all of the kinks in it working out since whoever filled the font did NOT do it right. The baptism started late because the baptismal coordinator's daughter was getting baptized with R. and they had the programs and also A. their daughter. The water was absolutely freezing so A. was crying when she went in because it was all the way up to her neck. Roy grimaced at the temperature when the prayer was being spoken, and all three of us, (Sister J., Sister E.[the member who referred him to us], and I) knew that they didn't say his full name! So he had to go down a SECOND time. Oh isn't he special?! He told us although it was freezing, he still felt warm after. R. was talking about how different he felt, but it was a good different. We had to race to make it to see Elder Quentin L Cook on time, so we didn't stay around after.

R on his Baptism Day--March 8, 2014
R. with some of his ward family.
For those who may have seen picture on Facebook of all the 270 missionaries in the Atlanta, GA mission, Sister J. and I are right in the middle. We're in the line of the only girls standing in front of the elders. I'm wearing my leopard print cardigan and Sis J is wearing her turquoise striped shirt. My mom emailed me the picture and I can barely see ourselves, but we're there! We had to stand there for over an hour before Elder Cook got there. We were able to shake his hand along with Elder Piper and Elder Parker. They talked to us on how to become better missionaries. They taught us that we should have lessons with our investigators based off the questions that they ask us, because that's what they need at that moment in time. When they asked us questions based off of scriptures, we should make them more pro-active in finding the answers for themselves. Then we'll have them teach it to us, and the spirit will testify to us as missionaries that what they're teaching us is true. They were talking about how missionaries are assigned to specific people, mission presidents, or a place that will influence their life in the future. Now I'm wondering why I was assigned here! Who knows?

Come Listen to a Prophet's Voice....

C. came to church on Sunday, and he loved it. He said that priesthood was AWESOME and he's so glad he came. He does his research on-line by wikipedia-ing everything, so now we have to read all of these articles to tell him if they're true or not. Most of it is, but some small details are wrong. It's funny since when he said that he was clean all of Saturday, he asked what time his baptism was because he's invited his family to it already. Apparently his brother thought he was punking him, and his sister in law said that'd she'd be in class. He told us that their lack of faith in him is disturbing, but he's glad he has an awesome support group like us. People are very surprised on how much he's changed, and he has so quickly! I'm so proud of all of the positive changes he's made in his life so far.

One of the quotes that I've enjoyed this week is some that Brother B. told C. over the phone when he cancelled us earlier this week. "Don't look back into yesterday, think about what you'll do tomorrow." C. told us (he didn't know he was on speaker phone) that this is what he's been looking for all his life. I agree completely that we shouldn't ponder on what we did wrong yesterday, but to learn from it so we know how we can be better people tomorrow. I hope everyone is having a great week, and praying for missionary opportunities!

-Sister Sudweeks