First off, Natalie you are going to the mission that my companion is from!!! That is so awesome and I am super excited for you! When do you leave?? I'm pumped to hear your stories and excited that someone will understand all the Chilean slang I am picking up from Sis. Soza!
Second, I'm proud of my siblings being beasts in sports this week! I'm excited to watch your games again next year!
This week has been rough. We ended the week with 16 canceled set-appointments-with-members. The only doors that opened were people that wanted to scream at us to tell "the person in charge of us all we have cards and if we wanted you to come back, we would call." On Thursday, we went to our appointment with a lady and after we had said the prayer, she said "I'm sorry to hear about what happened in Chile."
Her: "The earthquake, you know, don't you watch the news?!"
Me: *Explains that as missionaries, we don't actually watch the news...*
Her: "Yeah, there was an earthquake. It was an 8.3"
S. Soza: "Yeah, the one 4 years ago?"
Her: "...No, last night. There are already 7,500 reported deaths."
S.Soza: "What city?!?"
Her: *Says a city that is right next to where all of Sis. Soza's family lives*
Well, needless to say, Sis. Soza started bawling but held it together enough that we were able to share the scripture and bear our testimonies about the truth of the Book of Mormon and Bible working together to testify of Christ. I was extremely impressed by Sis. Soza. Seriously, as she talked I was dumbfounded by how well she was able to focus on the situation. After the lesson, we called our mission president to try to get more information but he was on a call with Salt Lake. Obviously, Sis. Soza was not in a condition to knock so we took our dinner break early and drove back to our house. Long story short, we were eventually able to get a hold of our mission president who told us that there were only 25 reported deaths and they were much more north than Sis Soza's family. That was a HUGGGGGEEEE relief for both of us, but especially for Sis. Soza. We are praying for the families of those who were killed in Chile this week.
So yeah, this week has been a rough one with lots of rejection in all its forms and sickness and varying forms of discouragement. During one of my personal studies, I found a quote my mom had sent me earlier from Elder Holland. He did a Question and Answer session with Harvard students and said:
"A mission has shaped, and formed, and fashioned, and underscored everything that has happened to me since that hour...We simply ask them to put everything on hold: put education, put professional opportunities, put marriage, put whatever for 18 months, and and go volunatrily and pay your own way and have the experience of a lifetime. Obstendibly, theroetically, and truthfully, it is for the church, it is service to the kingdom and religious principles, to spread Christianity. But in fact, I would do it and I would institutionalize it, and I would include and encourage everyone to go , if not a single solitary person joined the church. If not one joined the church, I would still say do it, simply because of what it meant to me. They're supposed to go give service; they're supposed to go love people where they are. If they join the church, fine, but if they don't, fine. If they can do anything, anything they can do, any single solitarily Christian decent worthy thing they can do, they are supposed to go do. And if people join the church, great, and if they don't missionaries have left a nation, community, or a family, or a person better than they found them. And that is our call as a missionary."
I re-wrote this quote and put it on my wall where I can see it every day. I want to make a pretty drastic public announcement: My goal as a missionary is not to be the highest baptizing missionary. It never has been. My hope for my mission is that I will bring the love of Christ with me where I am. I hope when I go home people will know I spent 18 months doing my best (of course falling short) to represent my older brother. And when I am home, I will continue to strive to represent him in the same way I try to do every day here in Miami.
As I thought about that, I thought about the week in a different light. On Tuesday, we interrupted our knocking session to use our GPS to help two men figure out where they were and how to get to their destination. On Wednesday, I was able to talk to a man about how our religion encourages questions and invited him to check out Mormon.org. As we walked away he said "I've never been so impressed by someone who belongs to an organized religion. Thank you." On Friday, I was able to bear my testimony to another man about the way in which religion and science work together. It is man, and not God, that attempts to create the distinction. And Sis. Soza also pointed out to me that in the past 2 weeks we have found out information on almost 90 people that the ward did not previously know about. None of these things will lead to a baptism in the immediate future, but I believe that God is happy that all of those moments took place.
I am proud to be a representative of Jesus Christ for this short time in my life. I hope that I can have the humility to let this experience change and shape me while remembering that the challenges, questions, and doubts that I have faced in my life allow me to do God's work in the way that he needs me to do it. I am incredibly grateful to be on a mission. I have already seen God's hand in my life just by being out here, and I know that it will be a long, long time before I understand the full effects of these 18 months.
This morning during personal study I read two other talks. The first is titled "Shall I laugh or Shall I Cry?" by Sharon G. Samuelson. I am soooooooo grateful for the ability to laugh! We have to laugh in life! We are here to enjoy everything around us and humor is seriously the greatest thing ever. I also read a talk by Elder Wirthlin where he said "What is mortality if not a long process of learning to walk?...Our Father in Heaven does not wish us to cower. He does not want us to wallow in our misery. He expects us to square our shoulders, roll up our sleeves, and overcome our challenges."
So guys, this week, laugh. A lot. Enjoy life and remember God is aware of you and what you are doing. He is proud of your efforts and he knows where your heart is.
I love you all and miss you tons!