Monday, July 21, 2014

Stalkers, Bungers, Balance and . . . Baptism?!?

Now that I've got everyone on the edge of their seats, let's finish last week's email that I didn't get to.

Zone conference. Well, we were meeting in the Arad building and I was talking with some past missionary friends when dun, dundun, duuuuun! Up pulls the President's car, and in walks not President Hill. I remember almost having a heart attack, and like everyone is standing up straight trying to look super professional. So President Ivory starts shaking everyone's hand, and I'm sweating, I'm so nervous. I wipe my hand on my skirt so I don't freak him out for a first impression, and he gets to me and shakes my hand and squinting at my name tag says:  "I haven't memorized everyone's name yet. Don't leave your tag home next time."  Lol I didn't forget my tag, but I had put a jacket on over the top and... it was embarrassing :)

Anyway, the Ivorys are super cool and they love Harry Potter so they're even better. We had zone conference and President Ivory has taken a new approach on the work here, that instead of putting a major focus on contacting, we've started a 'balance approach' between less active visits, member visits, and investigators. He's also started a "most positive mission in the world" trend and it's booming like fireworks. At least, for me it is :) What's nice about all of this is that I'm not really doing anything different, but the outlook has changed and suddenly things start progressing really well.

Last Friday we went to Simona's civil wedding, it was the first time we met her but she knows who we are and it seemed like she appreciated the support.  Just so you know, Romanian weddings aren't all that exciting or different. It was in a church, the brown one I sent you a picture of, and we just sat there while the preacher talked for an hour about love and God. Then the couple kissed, and released doves. There is one tradition that's mostly in western Romania that is unique though. After the ceremony, everyone gets into their cars and drives to the after party. Normal. But here everyone's car is decked with ribbons and flowers and the wedding line honks all the way to the party. 

Weddings usually are Saturdays, so it's normal to hear car horns constantly going off all day long. I'd take this tradition home, but...

We went to a farm on Monday. It was Daniel's Uncle and he breeds his own fruits and animals. He has these weird cross-breed chickens and spike-less blackberries he pretty much created himself. Crazy. But the family was super nice, the aunt and their child. They fed us ciorba and these ham sandwiches they made from their own pigs and chickens... haha honestly they were a little weird. But we played songs for them on their piano and it was a nice trip.  

The problem with Daniel is he got way too attached to us way too fast. In other words, you were right haha. It was a nice trip to the farm, but afterwards he started calling us every morning multiple times to invite us out with him here or there and for late at night events and we turned down every one of them. Eventually we had to tell him thanks for his friendship, but not to call anymore. It's too bad, but at the same time I'm a little relieved to not have to worry about him anymore.

We had exchanges on Wednesday, I was with Sora Merrill and we had a blast. She is one group ahead of me, and she's great and likes to sing. For part of the exchange I introduced her to "sing contacting" in a bloc, and we started out by asking if we can sing people a song and we actually were told no... like, three times :) So we get in front of this one door and I say, "Okay, changing tactics. Here's our note, we're just gonna sing as soon as the door opens."  Well, the door opens, and it's a man who is hiding behind his door because he's clearly naked . . . We didn't just start singing, instead we quickly left.

We met with Sora Florita, and we tried talking about paying tithing in a very nice and careful way, but she got very defensive and it didn't really go anywhere. We tried talking about how God always provides ways to keep his commandments, and she said she believed us, but she just couldn't pay her tithing. After a solid hour of trying to help her, she just wouldn't agree to even praying to find a way she could pay her tithing.  It's sad because we know she could be so blessed, and she knows it too, but she's not accepting it. Agency, I guess.

We also got bunged a couple of times, but we scheduled a ton of lessons so we did get quite a few in :)

We met with another LA (less active), Alexandra, and we role played Sora O'Brien being an investigator and Alexandra was my companion, and we taught the restoration. I've come to learn it's a nice tactic to see how much the LA remembers/believes. It went really well, until the closing prayer... we had the lesson in Mcdonalds because it suddenly started pouring buckets outside, and on the opposite end was a meet Ronald Mcdonald thing going on that we were ignoring. Well, I'm saying a quiet, hopefully unseen prayer in closing when I hear a "louder!" so I start praying louder when I open my eyes, and Ronald McDonald and his posse of little children are holding hands, singing, and parading right through the middle of our prayer. We couldn't stop laughing for a good five minutes. Then I started over and I learned my lesson.  Clowns and the gospel don't mix.
We also met with Mihaela again, and her mom recently had surgery in Timisoara for her ears. It was just us and Mihaela, and we were going to review the restoration but both of us feel prompted to talk about the plan of salvation instead. After the first five minutes, she opens up to us and tells us about how she's not sealed in the temple, and that she's scared it's too late and her family who is all active and are good people will never get to the temple.  And I'm like, ahhhhh! "It's never too late!"  We talked to her for a while and had a really sweet heart to heart about how we know her and her husband want it so bad, and if there's a will, there's a way. The spirit was so strong and Mihaela seemed very encouraged over our discussion.  We talked to the Timisoara sisters to go see Mihaela's mom in the hospital, they went and sang for her and her friend was there (the same friend that came to church) and Mihaela's sister who lives in Arad and now is showing interest in the church that she's never shown before. It was way awesome!
On Sunday, Ioana came to church again for like the fourth week in a row. (She's the 18 year old English student). No one else was there for Gospel Principles or Relief Society, so we talked to her about temples and eternal marriage. I don't know why, but I just felt really prompted to talk about it. She already knows about the restoration and plan of salvation. But she loved the idea of being a family for forever. We talked about any and every question she had, what she liked, what she didn't like, why she was coming to church, etc. etc. and at the end I offered her a baptismal commitment....

...and she said YES!!! OHMYGOSH a year out on my mission and I'm finally getting to progress someone to baptism! I'm so excited, and nervous because I'm trying not to get my hopes too high :) Ioana is so great. She started reading the BOM all by herself and loves every bit of it. She came to church the first time without being asked and she loves it. She has been meeting with us and she loves it. She told us that it's just so different than anything she's ever felt and that she feels everything is true.

Anyway. those are the big things. We had a really good week.

I'm nervous that I hit my year mark in just a couple of days. It's like, I'm not ready to be there yet! There's still too much I have to do!

Well, I don't know what much else to write now that I have all the time in the world this week. I guess I can talk a little about what I've been studying lately. It's kind of a weird subject but it'll make sense.

I've been studying about the Sons of Perdition and the Holy Ghost. It started with the Bible dictionary definition of "earnest", which when referring to the Holy Ghost essentially means that his accompaniment is a foretaste of the joy we'll feel in the presence of our Heavenly Father. Well, as we know the Sons of Perdition are those who deny the Holy Ghost.

Also we know in our church that the definition of "hell" is more so a state of mind lacking the presence of God whether in this life or after. We read in the scriptures that in outer darkness there will be a "weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth", and this is the "hell" that hasn't a spark of light. I remember a story someone told me a while back when they prayed to ask what it felt to not have the Holy Ghost with them, and it really was a form of hell. They immediately prayed for his presence again, and feelings of peace and joy ensued. We also read in the scriptures that the fruits of the Holy Ghost are all things good, so it makes sense that without the Holy Ghost, the absence of all things good leaves nothing but bad.
I read an interesting article in the Liahona that put the Holy Ghost into a new perspective for me (sorry, can't remember which one it was). It talked about how even the little thoughts popping into your head, "Don't forget your car keys before you leave the door!" can be promptings from the spirit.  I also read an article in a Liahona, sorry I don't remember who or which issue, but it was by a member of the 70 who participated in a disciplinary council and was exposed to such evil acts that the person committed that the 70 had to excuse himself to settle his thoughts. He describes the feeling as though there was a giant pit with a covering over it, and that there was a small opening in which he saw into the depths of what evils and sins exist in this world and how overpowering and overcoming they are, and he wondered how in the world can we overcome such evil?  And then the scripture in John came to his mind where Jesus says, "I have overcome the world" and suddenly, every drop of darkness had been replaced by a light that was greater.

That's kind of why I've been studying the Sons of Perdition. I personally can't imagine being so overcome with evil that one would deny the sun shining right in their face for their own gain. But, at the same time, it also illustrates the opposite, that the peace, happiness, and joy in the world to come are more than anything we can imagine right now. We have an idea, thanks to the presence of the Holy Ghost, but it's the tip of the iceberg. And it is all possible thanks to the everlasting atonement of Jesus Christ, who has overcome all the evil in the world that we cannot comprehend, and has handed to us the opposing joy if we so desire it.

So yeah, that's what I've been studying. There's a lot more to do with the Holy Ghost and "earnest" and a talk by Elder Richard G. Scott, but maybe I'll get to that another day :)

Have a good and restful week!

Sora Smith
Some musicians we watched

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