Wednesday, April 15, 2015

This is a Story of How I Died (as a missionary)

Name that movie.

It all started when we were at the mission home, about to start our journey to the airport. Originally they had told us to be ready by 7am for breakfast, and then to leave by 8am for the airport.

Well, it didn't entirely work that way. One of the drivers that was planning on driving some of us to the airport accidentally locked her keys inside her car, and some of the missionaries didn't have everything packed up so we ended up leaving around 8:40ish instead. AHH!

But wait, it gets better.

We pack into the car like sardines, and we coast to a stop behind all of this traffic. I started freaking out a little bit due to the fact that we were supposed to get there no later on 9:55am because our flight was at 10:55am, and it was going to start boarding at 10:35am. I knew that there was going to be traffic from serving in Atlanta for six months, and I also knew for a fact that there was no way that we were going to make it in time. I was looking at where we were in conjunction to the MARTA exits, and how far away we were. This is a time to panic!

There were two highways I-85 and 1-285 running parallel alongside one another, and they were both creeping along. It was really funny to see a white car illegally off roading on the grass so they could get on the highway that was going faster (not ours).

As we were inching along, we were able to approach the scene of the accident, which I later learned that looked something like this:

The SUV fell 15 feet off I-285 which ended into a fatal accident. We immediately pick up the speed, and then missed our exit because it was blocked off due to the accident. As we finally got to the airport around 10:20am we had to practically throw off our luggage and clip them together to get our bags checked in.

In that process of time I happened to painfully break a nail while the employees at the airport told us to come with them because we were so late to make our flights. There became an issue on whether or not our luggage was already paid for, which shortened the time we had to get screened and to run to our gate.

I was lucky and got a nice man who believed our story that they were already pay for, so I started to run for security, although I felt so bad for leaving Sister Stone behind since we were going to be on the same flight.

As I got to the security checkpoint, I showed a woman my ticket where I was supposed to go, and she told me that was my baggage claim ticket. I got really confused and I wasn't sure if the man who helped me gave me my ticket or not, because the AP's were giving out ticket information to the missionaries, although I had never gotten mine. I started to turn back and saw Sister Stone running, so we asked the woman again. Turns out it was the baggage claim PLUS the ticket, so we ran to expedited screening since they knew we were short for time. I didn't have any room for my Book of Mormon in my purse, so I gave it to Sister Stone to stash it in her purse for a mere moment.

But of course, I was chosen to be tested for every single thing under the book. They swabbed the palm of my hands to check for explosives. (A sister missionary looks SO threatening to the TSA.) Originally you wouldn't have had to remove anything, but one of the TSA employee was telling me that she didn't think my shoes belt, watch, or lastly, my name tag would pass the screening. I was feeling flustered as I went into the full body screening, and after I got out I grabbed my accessories and liquids from the conveyor belt.

As we were running toward the tram, I kept hitting myself with my suitcase because I was doing a half rolling, half carrying feat with my suitcase. I later found out over half a dozen bruises because of the hurrying to get on our flight. When we got onto the tram to make it to A-25, it was approximately 10:45am (10 minutes till take-off). I was still putting everything back on, and I was missing my name tag and I was struggling to put my liquids back into my suitcase. We were sweating like sinners at church as the tram came to a stop, and we started booking it toward A-25.

Sister Stone and I finally get to the gate around 10:53am telling them that we're sorry we're late, we got stuck in traffic. She called and told us that there was only seat left, and we had to chose who would go. Sister Stone and I looked at each other, and agreed that she would go because her layover was only 30 minutes, whilst mine was 2 hours longer than hers. I then realized that Sister Stone had the Book of Mormon that I put into her purse, and I felt naked not carrying anything around with me.

I was directed to a desk that would help me get on another flight, and I was asked to pick up a phone to explain what happened and why I missed my flight. The airport was so loud, the phone was so quiet, and I couldn't understand the woman's accent. I found out that there was no other flight that could get me to San Jose around 4pm (my original time to arrive), but a direct flight leaving at 7:30pm. I was shocked and I teared up wanting to cry because that meant I had to wait 8 hours to get on a flight that was an additional 5 hours. She asked me what my email address was so she could send the ticket information to me, but I told her I didn't have access to one. After that she said something incomprehensible, and hung up the phone on me.

I was dumbfounded, so I talked to the woman at the desk about what had happened, so she printed out the ticket for me.

 I asked where the payphones were at and she told me that there wasn't any. I moped until she told me that I could use one of Delta's phones. She told me to press 9 first, and then to dial the number. I did as she told me, and prayed that I would remember my Mom's cell phone number because it's been so long since I've used it. I kept getting beeping noises as I tried to dial the entire number. We switched phones, and I asked her again. Apparently I forgot the '1' in the phone number, and I felt really dumb for forgetting. (Later I found out that me not dialing correctly that many times gave my Mom time to walk into the room that had her cell phone in. If I had done it perfectly the first time, I would have missed her.)

I dialed the number and I hoped that she would pick up because she was at work. As it rang a few times, I heard her say 'Hello?' and I started to cry pitifully saying, "Mommmm, I missed my flight." After I reassured her I had money for both lunch and dinner (thank you Cindy!) we got off the phone, and I started go back to the security checkpoint because I wanted my name tag back! Little did I know, I had to get rechecked all over again, so I started to go through multiple stores and people watched before I had to start the process all over again. But I found my name tag! Hallelujer!

As I got back to terminal A, I realized that I served in Atlanta but I never bought myself a Famous Frosted Orange Shake from the Varsity, I got me one of those while I was waiting for my flight.

I people watched as I was waiting at my gate, and it was adorable seeing the little toddlers interact with one another. I was able to catch up on part of my journal, and watch the planes go by. As I was waiting I noticed Elder Marriott wait for his flight to Arizona, so it was good not being lonely for a minute. Going from a companion for 1 1/2 years to none was a bit shocking. His flight to Arizona was one of the four flights that departed from my gate- Florida, South Carolina, and I dozed off during the fourth one. It was nice to have a friendly face for 10 minutes or so until I had to face many many hours ahead of me.

Around 5pm I started to get hungry again because all I really had for breakfast was some fruit and bacon, and then a frosted orange for lunch (thank you body for being lactose intolerant). I don't really get all that hungry because everything has dairy in it. I started to traverse the airport from terminal to terminal trying to see what would look good for me to eat. I stared at every menu possible in sight, but nothing sounded appetizing, and I shuddered at the thought of how expensive things were going to be. So I ended up buying a cup of fruit that wasn't even good, not worth the price I paid.

I sat back down waiting, dozing off every now and then, and I was amused by this:

Since I'm proud myself to have been able to call Atlanta home for 6 months as well! :)

Finally we started to board around 6:45pm, and I was sitting in between two guys (my missionary bubble!) who wouldn't have been my two top picks. As we were waiting for takeoff, there was some difficulties in fueling up the plane, so instead of taking off at 7:15pm, we took off at 8:15pm.

As I was bored out of my mind, I noticed a sweet smell coming from somewhere. The guy sitting to the right of me has been acting unusual for quite some time, until I realized that he was smoking hookah. It didn't help that he kept ordering coffee time and time again which made me feel sick.

I was very grateful for the fact to get off of that plane, it was approximately 9:50pm when I landed, almost 5 hours later than originally!

After I got off the plane, I happened to make a little vlog right before I met my family. :)

Right after I got done with my vlog, I started to run so I could finally embrace my parents once again!

(Ignore the awful quality of this photo, I was running)

Reunited at last! <3 

Of course, it doesn't end there. We had to drive all the way home, and we didn't arrive until 12:30am Friday. So I left Thursday morning for the airport, and arrived home Friday. Not many people who served in the states, and lived in the states could say it took them that long to get home!

Total time being awake? 23 hours. I woke up 5am on Thursday, and I didn't go to bed until 4:20am Georgia time.

Monday, April 6, 2015

The Best!

Happy Monday! ♥

What a surreal moment.  I never thought this day would come (I want to be a missionary forever, why would I want to type up my last email as a full time missionary?) But I figure the more I procrastinate writing this email, the less meaningful and more short it would be, so I suppose I should start writing it now.

I'll briefly talk about what happened this week, and then go from there. Flo. was able to receive a priesthood blessing for her knee surgery, and now the Relief Society is taking her meals so her recovery won't be so stressful. The blessing was so powerful, and she was bawling the entire time. We were able to teach her more about the Godhead with Brother Montana, and I love Flo.'s faith so much. She originally believed that they were just one being, but after discussion and bringing up a few scriptures such as Christ's baptism, she believed it instantly. She's doing well, and we're going to talk to her about her baptismal date due to the fact we don't know how quickly it'll be due to her recovery.

Ci. was able to take us out for Japanese food (the first time that I had it) and she came to the first session of General Conference! If you don't remember who Ci. was, I don't blame you. She was one of the first people I ever met here in Covington all the way back in October. Sister Stewart and I went out tracting as we parked the car at the church. Ci. and > were the last doors we knocked on, and they drove us back to the church because it was getting dark, and we were unaware that we walked through a not so safe neighborhood. We've been in contact with Ci. this entire time, but she's been really sick because she's gone through chemo and radiation. But since it was warm enough she absolutely loved conference, and how we emphasize the importance of families so much. We gave her a church tour after, and she was so impressed on the fact that we have seminary Mon-Fri for the high schoolers. Ci. told me she's practically already a Mormon because she voted for one, but there's just a few things holding her back (tea and coffee). I told her to pray about it, so I'm really hoping she'll get baptized after I leave.

Today we found out that Covington is no longer going to have sisters for a brief period of time because of the lack of sister missionaries currently serving. They'll open it up again eventually, but for now Sister Buhler and Sister Ramirez are going to remain in Conyers, and they'll become STLs. I'm so excited for them because I predicted that to happen. I guess the spirit told me! ;) I'm really worried what's going to happen with all of our investigators and some of our less active sisters, mainly because the elders can't really go to them without a member. But I know God's timing is perfect, and it'll all work out for the better!

This has been an amazing journey- a journey that I could have never thought to imagine for myself, with the priceless stories, spiritual filled experiences, and trials of faith and patience. I am so grateful for the opportunity I had to be able to serve the Lord with all of my heart, might, mind, and strength. My testimony of the Son of God, our Savior Jesus Christ has been strengthened one hundred fold, and I cannot doubt my testimony of what I know.
I love my Savior, Jesus Christ!  I am so glad I could teach his gospel full time in the Georgia Atlanta Mission!
One of the things that I was able to learn from the very beginning is gaining a true and strong testimony that the Christ's Church has been restored to the Earth once again, along with the power and authority of God. I know that God is our loving Heavenly Father, and that he speaks to us through chosen prophets to receive revelation on our behalf so we can return to live with him again. They have that power to baptize, perform miracles, and to preach the gospel. I know that Christ did establish his church through the foundation of apostles and prophets, He gave them authority to continue on His Church, although it didn't happen that way. As the patterns of the prophets have repeated itself time and time again, God called Joseph Smith to be a prophet of God, and promised us that we will never again have Christ's Church be taken from the Earth. I testify this to be true with all my heart, and that I know that the Book of Mormon to be the word of God. Many plain and precious truths were lost during that time where there wasn't a prophet to guide the people after the apostles' death. But through the Book of Mormon many plain and precious truths have been restored for us. I invite everyone to pray and read the Book of Mormon every day. I loved learning that the word 'Mormon' means 'more good'. If it truly is another testament of Jesus Christ, wouldn't everyone want to hear more good about our Savior Jesus Christ?

I've been able to learn so many different things as a missionary, especially to learn how to rely on Heavenly Father, and his timing and plan. Putting in my papers to serve a mission was a leap of faith, but I never really knew how much we as missionaries had to do that each and every day! I testify and know that God has a plan for each and every one of us, and although we may not always see the whole picture of why certain things had to occur, it is for our benefit and growth. I understand that this life is to be able to feel comfortable in God's presence, and that His commandments are for our physical and spiritual safety. He does not give us any commandments just to see us struggle- they are for our benefit entirely. Commandments are also not like toppings on a fudge sundae, you can't pick and choose what you will keep. If we love God, then we WILL keep His commandments. You only make a decision once, and it's up to you if you keep it.

As this phase of my life is coming to a close, I've loved listening to General Conference with the future in mind. I was really able to recognize the teachings of not becoming casual or lukewarm in the commitments and covenants that we have all made. We must live each day like Christ was coming tomorrow, because the Second Coming is at nigh. I was able to learn more about our Savior, Jesus Christ. I loved listening to many passages of scriptures intertwined throughout the talks, and being able to pinpoint where certain scriptures were. Without the mission, I wouldn't have been able to do that. The emphasis on families and why they are so important was such a huge part of conference. If we didn't have families, the world would be in greater calamity than it is today. I have a great desire to have a Christ centered home where the gospel is being taught throughout each and every day to strengthen my future family. I know that Christ lives, and that He died for us.

I figured that I would save 'THE BEST' subject title for last. :)

I love y'all so much!

See y'all on the other side. ♥

-Sister Sudweeks [for the last time (as a missionary)]
P.S. Here are just a few of the amazing people I've grown to love in Covington!  A piece of my heart will always stay here.  

Sister Traina, my previous 'landlord'. She took us out to Cracker Barrel for lunch last Tuesday, and bought us some goodies for home to share! 
The Trusts!  
Shelly Holmes :) 

This is part of the Reynold's family. Their kids remind of the daughters in Despicable Me :)

This is Bella, the Reynold's dog.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

A Drug Dealer, A Sticky Note, and a Part-Member Family

Happy Monday!

I was at dinner with the Hanson's yesterday, and it was the first time I was able to say that I was going home 'next week'. My stomach practically dropped to the floor, and it's really weird thinking that next week I'll be in California, say what?! This is my last full week in Georgia, and I'm slightly panicking, but only slightly. :P

We enjoyed banana splits at a member's home.
This week was wonderful as a trio, minus the fact that I got both of my sweet companions sick as well. Whoops! I got to chill with one of the Conyer's members and sleep at her apartment on Wednesday while my companions were tearing it up on Conyers and getting 10 lessons with members all in one day. Shoot dang, being in a trio is awesome because we're so effective! :)
On Tuesday we got a referral from the elders for a woman named Fl. who lives right by the church. It's so funny because I've tracted so much of that street, and I deemed it unfruitful because I never got a potential there in my entire time in being in Covington. She went to stake conference two weeks ago, and she absolutely loved it because she felt at home, and felt comfortable being there since we are modest. I've been so grateful to be studying the Bible recently because I was able to pull out multiple scriptures that explained how prophets were called, and about the Great Apostasy in greater depth. Such as Numbers 12:6-8 to explain that prophets are called by visions or dreams, being spoken to mouth to month. I especially love reading Acts and Ephesians because it's so clear to me that Christ established his church, and he didn't want it to end. Fl. had a lot of interesting beliefs that will be cleared up once she reads the Book of Mormon so certain doctrine won't be interpreted in different ways. Fl. was taking notes with all of the scripture references that I was using, which is so precious because I haven't had that happen to me in a LONG time. She accepted to be baptized on April 11th (really hard because that was the first baptismal date we extended which is after I'm home), and she said yes. But she's going into knee surgery on the 4th so we're not entirely sure if she'll be healed by then, it's more like the 18th.

Sadly enough, we were planning for Va. and Sha.s wedding and baptism, but it's not going to go through because they just don't have enough money to afford a wedding right now. It made me sad because I really felt that I was sent to Covington for this family to live the gospel 'as a family'. I wasn't entirely sure if this was Satan trying to dissuade them from going through with the wedding, but then again I'm not sure if this is God's Timing or not. But we're still going to continue to teach them, and to help Sha. get another job so they're not so tight on finances. It was fun because we were able to review the Gospel of Jesus Christ with them and we played Jeopardy, which is probably one of the funnest things to do as a missionary with a few investigators. :) They get so competitive haha!

We were able to go to C.'s baptism on Friday in Covington. She doesn't even live in this mission. We got special permission to baptize her in our ward because she was a member referral, and she's been so integrated into this ward. After the baptism I told her how I  remembered the first time I met her, and she replied that she remembers meeting me too. C. explained to me that because of me welcoming her right when she came in, she felt so welcome, with warm fuzzies all over, which made her start liking this church in the first place. That gave me warm fuzzies all over, and now we're back to where we began! She's such a strong member, and I love her for who she is. :)
This is C, who was baptized in Covington last Friday and a member of our ward--Brother Faulkner
So in Conyers we had a total of four baptisms for the entire ward. Jo. and Ma. was baptized, and so was a woman named Sa.. Sa. left a sticky note on the church door asking to learn more about the church, and the zone leaders baptized her less than 3 weeks later, which is insane! Talk about golden investigator. Then D. was also baptized, and he's a former drug dealer who decided to change his life around when he heard more about the gospel. Isn't it great what the restored gospel can do to a person? The baptism went amazing, and the spirit was just so strong. I love how Jo. and Ma. completed their family so they can be sealed as a forever family by Elder Zwick in just 10 months! It makes me giggle that we helped Jo. and Ma. have a desire to be baptized by relating the gospel to Pokemon. By being baptized and confirmed a member of the church, they get to evolve and level up as a person. :) Who says you can't relate the gospel to anything?
Ma and Jo on their baptism day.
The entire family are now members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints!  Elder Zwick said he would seal them in the temple in ten months.  That will be another red letter day! 

Ma. and Jo.'s Mom works at a bakery, so she made this just for the baptism. :) The  Doctrine of Christ -- whoop whoop!
Sister Buhler and I went to part of sacrament meeting in Conyers with Sister Ramirez so we could hear the confirmations, and then we jetted over to our own ward so we could be there for my last "real Sunday".... -cough---  Fl. was told incorrect directions on how to get there, so she was late to church as well as Ri.'s family in Conyers. Both of them landed up at the wrong church and we had to redirect them to where our church was. I'm so glad Fl. once again loved church, and the Primary sang Gethsamane in Sacrament Meeting. After it was over she wanted to know if they sung every week. :) It was absolutely precious! Fl. was planning on coming to the Cottage Meeting to talk more about the Godhead because she loves the Trinity, but she had to be in August at 6am this morning to make sure she was ready for her pre-op so she was unable to attend. But we're seeing her this Wednesday to see how she's doing. Ri.'s family didn't stay for long because they promised others that they would go to their church as well. Church hoppers :( Hopefully we're see them this week too.

I'm so excited for today's P-Day because Ci. bought us gift certificates to get a pedicure for all of us, how sweet is she?! She took us out to lunch again last week, and we're going to have Japanese food on Friday for lunch because we're now allowed to be in Conyers haha. She still doesn't really talk much about the gospel, but I'm really hoping I'll be able to bear my testimony to her before I leave, and that will help her progress in the gospel.

I enjoyed being able to go to General Women's Broadcast last Saturday after the baptism. It was comforting to know that we as sisters were all watching the same broadcast at the very same time, although in different time zones. :) I enjoyed the story where the grandma didn't know how many grandkids she had, because she's considered a grandma to everyone. Our circle of influence and love should exceed more than our immediate family and friends.

Love y'all!

-Sister Sudweeks

P.S.   Sister Ramirez now has a goat named after her as well! Alex! :) Except he's a boy, but minor detail :P