Monday, April 28, 2014

We Looked Like Drowned Rats!

Happy Monday!

Last Monday was just go, go, go!  Sister B. loved getting free Moe's nachos, and getting into the aquarium for free. We also saw N. (our angel in the windowsill contact) and her daughters X. and K. and taught them the Restoration. It was so cute because they were taking notes the entire time. We were able to commit them to be baptized, although the girls were going out of town so none of them came to church. But they've been praying about Joseph Smith and reading the Book of Mormon.

Even on P-day, we carry a Book of Mormon.  You never know who might be interested.

Sister B celebrating her birthday at the Georgia Aquarium
On Tuesday it was just AWFUL. Monday night I couldn't fall asleep because I was just so used to sleeping in the day because of being sick with the stomach flu for three days. I was up till 2:30 am going back and forth from my desk, to my bed in hopes that I'll fall asleep. I was so desperate and praying that I'd fall asleep but I couldn't. I wrote out my thoughts and did everything I could think of to fall asleep but it didn't work. I ended up getting less than four hours of sleep. I wanted to go back to my apartment so badly and sleep, but I had to decide for myself if I wanted to ignore God's will and do what I wanted to do. I prayed so much after District Meeting, since I tried to sleep during our lunch hour but that too failed. After much crying and praying I decided that I'll test the powers of heaven, and use the Atonement because I know that Christ has felt exactly the way I did. I was able to pray and gain strength because I knew that since I was doing God's work, He would have to give me the energy to make it throughout the rest of the day without rest. It was amazing on how I could see the difference after I prayed. We walked toward the train and it started to rain. The other sister missionaries ended up picking us up and we did a blitz and tracted the same neighborhood. It was perfect since I knew that all of these events had to happen so we could meet this wonderful A. family. We taught them briefly, and set up a return appointment for the next day, although I would be on companion exchanges. I was so excited to see the blessings from enduring restlessness, and that God really does know where each and every one of His children are. 

After a sleepless night and rainstorm, the sun came up and what a view of downtown Atlanta!
On Wednesday I went on exchanges up in Smyrna.  I have never left Atlanta before in the almost six months that I've been here! It was so weird to see nice buildings, and the differences were such a shock. It was cool since Sister McF. and I met a sweet couple who lived in Utah, went to BYU and SVU and aren't members. We got their number and they said that they'd have Sister McF. and her companion over for dinner sometime. It turns out that Sister B. knew the husband because she hung out with him, and the rest of the BYU Rugby team- which is why he decided to go to BYU in the first place. While I was gone, Sister B. didn't know how to get to places on MARTA, since I am the one who always followed the directions and looked to where we got off. They ended up missing our appointment with the A. family and a few others that we set up that day, and we haven't been able to get a hold of any of them since. It's so sad but I know that if God needs us to get in contact with them again, we will. 

Sister B. met three women-- C., D., and P. while they were lost on MARTA, and they are so ready! They accepted to pray about a baptismal date, and the next day we taught them most of the Restoration. They were so sincere, and asked questions that they really wanted the answers to. P. asked about what the Holy Ghost is because she notices others screaming and shaking and moving around when they feel the spirit. We were able to answer her question about how the Spirit is a still, small voice, and brought up Galatians 5:22-23 about how it feels peaceful, joyous, and other positive emotions.

We invited them to church and be baptized and they accepted May 17th for their date. D. has previously been meeting with the Jehovah Witnesses and committed to go to their church. But she told us that she really, really wants to go to ours!  She said that she'll go to ours next week. We invited all of them to come to the baptism on Saturday and C. said she was busy. That day we called them and asked if C. was coming because the other two don't have phones. She said she didn't know, so we told her to pray about what God wanted her to do and we'll call her back in 30 minutes. Thirty minutes later she told us that she didn't get an answer. Since we wanted to teach her the importance of the Book of Mormon, we told her (over the phone while I was driving) that it'll give her answers to everything. We told her to pray silently, and then pick a random page, verse, and read it. She ended up picking Mormon 2:8, which is all about carnage and war! We asked her if she got her answer, and C. said no. So we told her to keep on reading and Sister B. and I kept on praying she'd get an answer. She practically read the entire chapter out loud to us, pausing to ask if she should keep on going. At the end we asked what she learned from the chapter. She paused and said that we should always make an effort to do the things that God wants us to do. We asked what God wanted her to do today and she replied, "I'll be at the baptism." So she and P. with her adorable little boy were at the baptism! They enjoyed it, and P. was at church yesterday as well.

One of our ward members-- Brother M., was finally able to bring his fiancee to Georgia from Ghana. We call her S., and we began to teach her the lessons. The problem is, she speaks French and hardly speaks English. She understands a little bit, but we managed to get her a Book of Mormon in French later on in the week. She is so amazing, she prayed (in French) and thanked us for taking time out of our lives for proclaiming His work and gospel, and that she'll be able to read and understand the Book of Mormon. Now she can look at both of them side by side, and learn English while she reads. She made us the most delicious African food I've ever had in my life. I found it so fascinating to see how different our cultures are as we were talking to both of them and helping her get more comfortable with us. 

I've never eaten Ghanian food before.  This was delicious!
See Mom--My taste buds ARE growing up!
Sister B. ended up not coming to church, (and none of our other seven people that promised us to come to church too, we had nine set up!) but we had a really good lesson with her. I was praying during personal study that I'd gain revelation for our investigators, and I ended up reading page 113 in Preach my Gospel about the Book of Mormon. It talks about how we should care more about what God thinks about us than anyone else, and we should be baptized even if your family doesn't approve. I wanted to ask her to be baptized so bad but the spirit told me not to. 

K.'s family has continued to be sick,(he's the man who takes care of his elderly parents, daughter, and grandchildren)  but he's been watching BYUtv almost every day. He loves watching General Conference because he says that he feels like he's being talked to, not talked at. I really wish we could modify that rule that you have to be at church twice before someone can get baptized, since his testimony is growing each time he watches!

On Sunday C. (our recent convert) was out with us and we stopped at his work so we could print out the first two lesson pamphlets in French. The further we walked away from his work, the harder and louder the lightening and thunder hit us. We weren't prepared for rain at ALL. We got soaked to the bone and since we were on MARTA we couldn't just go home and we kept on going to each of our appointments and try to dry off. It was raining buckets and I was so distressed that we looked like wet rats getting drowned in the pouring rain. When we got home Sister B. was pretty dry, but my dress material wasn't drying at all! I've really learned this week to peservere through whatever God puts in front of our path, and He will bless us for enduring it well. While we were walking to our last appointment I was splashing in the puddles and twirling around in the rain since I figured that I'd hopefully never get into an experience quite like this again! It was great, and I'm glad that we didn't turn around and go home. Doctrine and Covenants 121:7-8, always remember to endure things well!
Aren't we a sight?  I think we need to invest in waterproof mascara! 
-Sister Sudweeks

PS:  The field is white and ready to harvest! 

Monday, April 21, 2014

Someone Broke In!

Happy Monday!

So I don't have a lot of time to email. We're going to the aquarium today because it's Sister Br's birthday and she gets in for free! Of course nothing went right this morning so email time is cut down, lunch is no more, yadda yadda yadda.

But this week was better! For the most part. [= We had a lot of good lessons with some of our investigators, especially K. and Sister B.. K. has finally asked us some questions that haven't come up before concerning the Plan of Salvation. He's big on equality, and he doesn't really believe that EVERYONE will have the chance to hear the gospel, although he knows about the spirit world. He's like one of Sister Br.'s former recent converts who had a big issue with the priesthood. We've been trying our hardest for him to get a priesthood blessing, but Satan is getting in the way in coordinating that with the N's--the missionary couple serving in our ward! Hopefully this week.

Sister B. came to church once again for Easter! We went to the B home and Brother B. had tears in his eyes, saying sorry over and over again for making excuses for not coming to church. Saying that his back hurt, or he doesn't have a black jacket so he wouldn't fit in with the rest of the ward, or any other excuse. He vowed that he's never going to miss church ever again, and it seems like they are being true to their word. They can't sit in hard chairs for very long so they only come to Sacrament, but it's better than only coming every 4 months. I'm so happy that they're coming! We talked to Sister B. about Maintaining an Eternal Perspective, and then another lesson about baptism. She LOVED what Sister Br. said about baptism. Later on when we were there she grabbed her Book of Mormon without asking and she told us that she has been reading, being very proud of herself. I was just BEAMING. We're thinking about inviting her to a baptismal date in one to two weeks because of it. The only complaint I have about that family is Karma, their very naughty dog.... Tsk tsk. She bit my foot (but didn't break skin) and I now have a bruise on my foot because of it.

We found out on Wednesday that someone broke into the N.'s apartment. I was so upset because these are the sweestest, most kindest, senior missionaries that I've met here. They don't deserve to be broken into! They took the TV, their kindles, laptop, flashdrives, but ironically left Sister N's jewelry which was worth more than everything combined. They don't have any mission pictures now and they've been out for a year already. Hopefully in the future I'll be able to go through my pictures and send them the ones I have with them. On Friday we went out of our area to help them move to another apartment across the street that's not so hidden in the apartment complex. It was sprinkling when we first started, but then it ended up raining as we were going back and forth bringing boxes to the new apartment. (I have a few battle scars from it, too.)

Last Sunday we met a guy named T.. C. (our on-fire recent convert) was walking us home since it was dark, and T. randomly just came up to us and asked us if we would pray with him. We said yes, and we talked a little bit about the Plan of Salvation. We got his address and number, and didn't think much about it. Later on, we set up an appointment and called MARTA to get directions to get to his house. We actually thought he lived out of our area, but the member with us looked his address up just to make sure the MARTA assistance was correct, and it wasn't! We almost skipped his appointment because of MARTA's mistake. We taught T. and his Dad, R. They were SO receptive to the Restoration. They were even looking up the scriptures, highlighting them, and writing down notes in the pamphlet we gave them. It was so cute, and they said that they would be baptized, but we didn't mention a specific date. The next day we went over again to talk to them about the importance of the Book of Mormon. R.'s wife and T.'s Mom- N., came out of the room and kinda started to attack us that churches are all the same, what makes ours different? We tried to explain to her, but she wouldn't listen to us. The spirit was completely gone so there was really nothing that we could do about it. She left and went back into her room (she can't leave the house, since she's on oxygen and things like that) and T. closed the door and apologized. We asked them if they believed what she believed and that we're not different from the rest of them, and explained a little bit more about the Restoration and the priesthood. They shook their head no, and so we continued to talk about the Book of Mormon. T. said he would be baptized on May 10th, and R. had a soft yes for the 10th.

On Friday we started to get really sick. Turns out we both had the stomach flu! We stayed home all day on Saturday, and I had a pretty bad fever. We slept almost all day, and we literally did nothing. Sister L. the mission nurse said we could go to church if we weren't throwing up, so we pressed forward and went to church. I am so glad we did! We had 10 people at church! We had some less actives come, some investigators come, and some less actives boyfriend's come. It was a great Sunday. Then of course we went home because we felt sick, and slept some more. We went out around 6:30 because we wanted to see N., the amazing tracting miracle from last week who has angels in her windowsill. We've gone by a few times to see how they were doing because of heath problems, but we're teaching them the Restoration tonight since we have a solid appointment with them. Cross your fingers that everything will go well!

I had a realization this week about something one of my MTC teachers told me- "You're an almost missionary if you think about yourself." (give or take). I've noticed I've been thinking about me me me more often than usual. "Poor me for being so tired. Poor me for not having enough energy. Poor me for not being able to sleep well. etc etc" When in reality, missionary work isn't about me. I'm 'serving' a mission for eighteen months. I'm supposed to be serving 'others' for eighteen months. Not myself. I'm not supposed to be expecting gratitude for every act of service I do. That's not the point in missionary work. I'm a missionary so I can help the work of salvation hasten and usher in the Second Coming of the Messiah. Now that I have a different mindset, I can see missionary work in a different light, and I'm so astounded that I've been out in the field for 5 1/2 months already! I'll only have a year left if I take the early transfer so I can find a job, or 13 months left if I don't.

So, always remember the reason why you're serving others, it'll make a huge difference. I hope everyone had a marvelous Easter, and to always remember He lives!
Sister Sudweeks

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Evil Flying Insects of Death While Tracking!

Happy Monday!

This week has been full of ups and downs of success, failure, with a splash of miracles here and there! As I read back on these e-mails, I don't have a desire to hide my weaknesses, struggles, and hard weeks. I'm not going to pretend to be strong every week when in reality no missionary is perfect, and I'm far from it. 

These past few weeks have been a struggle, Satan has influenced my thoughts more than I could ever imagine. I was able to turn to a priesthood blessing last Monday that was quite humbling. It talked about how our trials are given to us to help us grow, and it specifically said I was given these trials to become a better Mom, and church leader. All of us can use the Atonement in our lives when we have weaknesses, sickness, and disappointments. The blessing told me to study the Plan of Salvation, and the Atonement of Jesus Christ so I can better apply it to my life. I've been studying the Atonement in depth for this past week thanks to the book True to the Faith, Preach my Gospel, the scriptures, and many, many footnotes. I am so grateful that Easter is coming up so quickly, so I will be able to express my love and gratitude for the atoning sacrifice that Christ so willingly performed in our favor so we have the opportunity to live with our Heavenly Father again.

Like I said, it's been a rough week. We got rejected a lot on Tuesday. Door after door after door. It was so humbling, but I know that every effort is a gain, no matter what the outcome is. It made me realize that success truly is given to each and every missionary, no matter how obedient one may be. C.  was out with us Tuesday so he was able to lift our spirits with Taco Bell and Krispy Kreme doughnuts- we were walking all day, I say we deserved it! [=

Zone Training on Wednesday was pretty awesome. I caught President Harding juggling with three water bottles with my camera. My mission president is so cool, as well as his family. We were reminded to ask "Who Do You Know" to everyone, since if they actually accept the gospel, missionaries know right away who one of their fellow-shippers should be. President Harding promised us that if we had enough faith, we would find a family to teach.  
Our April Zone Conference.  Sister Harding urged us to smile while she took our pictures.  I listened and obeyed!

C. also came out with us after zone training, and took us out to pizza since Sister B. can't have gluten, and he said he knew a place where they had gluten free pizza. He had promised us this before he took us out on Tuesday. In the end he didn't look at the prices beforehand, and he spent a LOT of money on two gourmet pizzas.  Oops!  But he chose the place, not us, heh.  We went to go see some investigators, and after our appointment we didn't know where we should go.  Sister B. and I had different ideas so C prayed on what we should do.  Right as he started to pray I knew (along with everyone else) that we should go tracting near our last appointment.  C. said we should start from the back of the apartment complex.  Our first door we chose was because it had angels in the windowsill.  We knocked and it turned out to be one of the other sisters' former investigators from last June/July!  Her name is N. and she has a problem with high sugar levels.  She lost contact with the missionaries because she's always at the hospital trying to keep them down and she has a lot of allergic reactions to the medication they give her.  She's read about half the Book of Mormon and wants us to teach her again.  She has about four or five kids, and so we're going to be teaching her again.  It's so awesome because I know the spirit guided us to knock on her door.  To top it off for the night, C. went to work and he got a tip from a regular customer that was almost twice as much as he paid for the pizza.  Coincidence?  I think not!  =D  

Sister B and I after the Zone Conference
We've been tracting a lot recently, and can I say that God had such a sense of humor when he decided that he wanted me to go to Georgia? It has the 2nd highest levels of pollen in the United States (or something) and you get pollen on your clothes, shoes, and everything just by walking. My allergies have been killing me, and allergy medication is my best friend. Since there's pollen everywhere, you have to realize that there's bumblebees and hornets EVERYWHERE. Occasionally people are sitting outside and they're literally watching and laughing at us hesitantly creeping up to the doors trying to avoid flying creatures of death that want to attack us because of the bright colors that we're wearing. (Sister Bradford has also been wearing buns a lot recently so we joke that they want to land into her nest of hair.) It makes me so anxious because I've never been stung before and I don't know if I'm allergic. But I laugh at it every time I think about us knocking on a door, waiting a few moments and then running away because there are so many hornets! Why did God have to create hornets? They look so evil. Don't even get me started on my curly hair and humidity as another reason why it's so funny that I got sent to Georgia! =P

W. (one of our newer investigators who LOVES Family History)  worked on Family History with his fellowshipper Sister E., and he told her that he's been reading the Book of Mormon. I'm so happy that he's progressing, and that he even stayed for all three hours of church! Another miracle was that Elder and Sister N. had a stern talk to the B. family about them not coming to church since it's hindering the progress of Brother B., and so they were at church, too! They only stayed for sacrament, but it's a great start! T. (another investigator) dropped us right after we emailed last week, and I'm going to continue to pray for those that have stopped wanting to be taught. 

I've noticed a lot throughout this week that when our plans fall through, we're always led to those that need to hear our message. I've loved being able to just listen to those we're speaking to, having no idea what I'm going to say but not worry because I know those thoughts will pop up into my mind on what to say to them through the spirit. It's such a cool thing to witness because I can be confident that I'm really speaking through the spirit! Sister B. had a really cool analogy during companionship study earlier this week. When you're watching someone play an instrument such as the saxophone, you don't think to yourself, "That's such an amazing saxophone!" You think to yourself, "That's such am amazing saxophone player! He's really talented." I just think to myself that I really am privileged being an instrument in hastening God's work to all of His children that He loves so very much. Always remember that you are loved by me, and Him. I hope that all of you think about Jesus Christ and his atoning sacrifice this entire week, not just on Sunday.

-Sister Sudweeks