Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Pictures! :D


Fall has hit Arizona! In December! :D


This is us while we were out caroling with the youth. :) Please note that I didn't even have a jacket on. Welcome to Arizona.


This is us, our investigator Mike and his girlfriends kids. We went to the Mesa Temple Lights together this week! :)


Sister Hutcherson and I at the Temple Lights! :)

Monday, December 15, 2014

Gone Postal

So, it's almost Christmas! Not sure when that happened, but suddenly I was like... "Woah. It's ten days away." Probably the weirdest thing about Christmas on the mission is the fact that I haven't heard much Christmas music. It's so bizarre! But one of our members gave us a Josh Groban Christmas CD (yes, that is mission approved) so that's what we've been listening to. :)

Okay, but really,, we have been so super busy. I will now attempt to explain to you what we have been doing. 

Monday was p-day. We chased down the mailman on this day. That's a story worth telling. :) You have to understand, we had written letters and addressed a LOT of envelopes that day, but by the time we were done we figured it the mail had already come and we'd just send them out on Tuesday. P-day ends at 6 PM, so Sister Hutchinson and I packed up and got ready and got on our bikes and opened the gate... and the mailman drove by, going up the street next to ours. The mail had not yet reached our mailbox yet. We looked at each other and unanimously made a decision at the same time: we HAD to get our letters into the mailbox before she came. This involved a mad dash back to the garage, accidentally knocking over our bikes in our haste, impatiently waiting for the garage to open, running into the house, collecting the letters in a flurry, running back outside and getting back on our bikes. We opened the gate... and the mailman drove by again. This time, she was heading for our mailbox. Sister Hutchinson let out what can only be described as a blood curdling war-cry and bolted after the mailman, leaving me in the dust. All I saw was the mailman round the corner, my companion almost directly on her bumper. I caught up just in time to see Sister Hutchinson skid to a stop right in front of the mailbox and breathlessly explain to the startled mail-lady that we had some letters to send off. She took our letters hesitantly and said "You know you can just leave them in the mailbox, right?" 

So yes. Now the postal service people think we're crazy. They're probably right. :)

TuesdayTuesday we filled some plastic bricks full of sand. No, we haven't gone stir-crazy, it was a service project for the city. They have an event at a local riparian preserve and they want to light the walkways with luminaries. So we filled hundreds and hundreds of plastic bricks with sand, so that candles could be put in them and create an aesthetically pleasing environment. :)

On Wednesday, we baked cookies for people. We also went caroling with the youth, which was a lot of fun. And we got hot chocolate. Except it wasn't actually cold enough for hot chocolate on that night. (Rain came by on Friday, and after it rained it got real cold. Like, 45 degrees)

Thursday we had a lesson with Gus, our recent convert and his family. Let me give a synopsis of Gus's story. Gus joined the church in July, met a mormon girl shortly thereafter and married her after 7 weeks. So now it's him, her, and between the two of them they have 7 kids. Which means we're trying to teach a group of nine people which include a recent convert, active members and non-members with varying degrees of interest. All at once. It is proving exceptionally difficult to prepare lessons on their needs in that kind of dynamic. :) But it is okay. It's hard, but I like that I am learning new things and new ways to teach. And I love that family a whole lot. 

Friday, Elder Allen F Packer of the Seventy came and spoke to our mission. He met with us in small groups, according to zones, so we all got to greet him personally and shake his hand. :) It was an incredible meeting and I learned a great deal. He talked about many different things, but what impressed me the most is how he explained that the Spirit has a language and a culture all its own, and whether we go foreign-speaking or not, we are all learning a language on our missions - the language of the Spirit. :)

The things I learned on Friday carried over to Saturday, when I had some deep spiritual conversations while sitting in a members kitchen over chicken pot pie. Suffice it to say... I learned about myself, and what God intends me to be doing for the rest of my life. Big things are learned in small, simple moments. 

Sunday was probably the busiest day I've had on my whole mission. Or maybe I've just forgotten the others, I don't know. :) But we had mission prep at 7:00 AM, and we accidentally set the alarm wrong so we didn't get up until our regular alarm went off at 6:30. Get ready for Sunday meeting in 20 minutes? Check. Then we had church meetings upon church meetings and they all seemed to overlap! After church was a lesson with Kevin, which was immediately followed by a lesson with Mike, which was immediately followed by our dinner appointment (it was much welcome, we hadn't had time for lunch) which then concluded the busyness. The rest of the night we knocked on doors that didn't answer. Real mission life right there. :)

So yes, this is the synopsis of my week. I hope you enjoyed that thoroughly and didn't get too bored ha ha. I love you all... So does Jesus Christ. His hand is in the details of your life. :) Thank you for your prayers, and your letters, and the many birthday and Christmas wishes. I love you all! And I love being a missionary. :)

Until next week, Sister Ball

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Hope

So here be the highlights of my week:

We had interviews with President Nattress this week. This is a good moment in every missionary's life. Well, at least mine. :) He knew just the right things to say to hearten me and let me know that I am doing some good here.

On Thursday, it rained for a good part of the day. Which is the closest thing we're going to have to a white Christmas here ha ha. I like to think of the rain as pre-melted snow. :) It was a busy day and we were literally running from appointment to appointment. We got in contact with some part-member families that we'd been trying to reach for a while. We helped one of our wards set up for their Christmas party. They went all-out. I didn't even recognize the gym by the time it was finished. It was like Christmas Wonderland in there!

We met with Ariana, our recent convert. Learned that she is engaged, to be married in Febuary. Yay! I love weddings! And I love Ariana! This is a perfect combination, in my estimation. :) 

Friday was the ward Christmas party. Sister Hutchinson and I served food and I was happy when I was able to greet almost every ward member by name. :) Saturday was the day we met with a bunch of our ward and stake leaders to talk about the people we're working with. :) 

Sunday, Sister Hutchinson and I sang a duet in Relief Society. We sang "Away in a Manger" from the Children's Songbook. It was lovely, I believe. We got lost on the way to dinner, because the house was in a part of our area I didn't even know existed. O.o Adventures abound, I tell you. We also got to watch the Christmas devotional at our recent convert Gus's house. And we helped them decorate the tree. Happy day! :D

So yes. Our investigator Mike worked this weekend so he wasn't at church, but he's been reading the Book of Mormon every day without fail and he loves it! I just love teaching him. :) But he lives in Tucson, so we're getting the missionaries down there involved and he's probably going to get baptized down there. And we won't be able to attend, but that is okay. I'll just be happy to see him get baptized. :)

So... yeah. I just love Sister Hutchinson. I just love Gilbert. I just love these people and this life. Even if there is no snow ha ha. :)

I love you all... have a great week! :D

Cheerfully, Sister Ball

Monday, December 1, 2014

Thanksgiving!!!

So this might be a hurried letter, but I wanted to give you all an update. 

My new companion is Sister Hutchinson from Twin Falls, Idaho. :) She is 19 and has been out for 3 months. I'm her second companion and this is her second area. :) She's a little fireball and she loves with all her heart. We get along splendidly.

Thanksgiving was fun. We had four Thanksgiving meals. Welcome to mission life ha ha. I never want to look at pie again. :) Oh, and it was like 80 degrees so one of those dinners was a picnic outside. Only in Arizona.

It's December! And we're getting excited for Christmas! We've been showing everyone the new video called He is the Gift. I love it. It brings peace to my overexcited heart. :)

I love you all. Have a great week!

Cheerfully, Sister Ball

Monday, November 24, 2014

Birthday on the Mission! :D

Today is my birthday. I turn 22. :) The members who fed us dinner last night surprised me with a birthday cake. It was especially pleasant because there was this conspiracy where they went all out and got a hold of my mother and asked what my favorite kind of cake was. She told them anything Batman so.... I got a Batman cake for my birthday. :) And it was a complete surprise! They have a lot of young kids and they all drew me pictures. I loved it. Complete strangers threw me a party for my birthday and I loved it. :)

Missionary life. There's nothing like it ha ha.

I am sad to see my companion go. Sister Melling and I got along from the very start, and she has also grown to become a dear friend. The next couple of days are going to be interesting. :) She is with me today until 4PM, when she goes to the mission office for a farewell dinner with President Nattress and the other missionaries. Then I will hang out with Sister Bleak and Reed, the other sisters in the zone. We'll pick her up, she'll spend her last night as a missionary with us and we take her to the airport at 5AM tomorrow.

Then she'll be gone. 

It is a time for her to reflect and assess over the past 18 months, and that has me reflecting and assessing as well. What have I done here? What have I learned? What have I become? Truthfully, I know I've changed. It's hard to define exactly how I've changed. What surprises me is that I've learned so much about loving and respecting myself. I've learned so much from having a companion with me all the time. I've learned I am worth loving, and that I should never settle for less than what I deserve from an eternal companion. Missions... they're the best marriage prep out there ha ha. :)

I'll be in a trio with Bleak and Reed until Wednesday, when I get my new companion. This time, I'm not so nervous to take over my area again. I've done it before, and Sister Melling has taught me a lot of skills. :) I am mostly just excited.

But in other news... my wards are amazing. Last night we ate dinner with these members (they were the ones who gave me a birthday cake.) and when we asked them to invite someone to the Mesa temple Christmas lights, they took it to heart.... and went right then to knock on their neighbors door and invite them!  :) It was AMAZING. I've never had people do that! Their neighbors said yes. Missionary work: it's not as scary as we tend to think it is ha ha. I can learn a lot from them. :)

Also, our investigator Mike is progressing. We taught the Plan of Salvation this weekend and apparently he was up all night just thinking about it. He said it just made so much sense! :D Lessons with him are what I pictured all lessons would be like. He just lights up when he starts to understand. And when we invited him to be baptized, he said - and I quote - "Oh yes, absolutely!"

Basically, he's just golden. :) And I love him and that family.

In a world where there is so much grief and pain and heartache... I am happy for what I have. I feel peace inside my soul, because I know where I come from, why I am here and where I am going. Life makes sense, even when it doesn't. :) 

I am loving life. I miss home, I miss the snow, I miss my family. But I am happy to be here. And I know I belong here. I look forward to the day when I get to see you all again, but I will make use of every day here. I'm changing, learning, growing. Meeting new friends and loving more people. I love it.

Thank you for everything. Thank you for your prayers. I need them. :)

With love,

Sister Ball

Monday, November 17, 2014

The Race is On!

So, here's the story: We got to do service at the Gilbert Days 5k run this week and we got to be race marshals! Which sounds real important, but really, we were just the people who stood in one place and waved all the runners in the right direction on the path. :) It was so fun! They drove us out into the middle of no where and dropped us off, and we still had some time before the race even started... so we took some pictures. :)



7 Month Mark

I hit 7 months yesterday. It's surreal that I now have less than a year left.

Sister Melling and I have much opportunity and reason to discuss going home, since she leaves the mission in like, 10 days. We took her bike apart on Saturday and packed it up. (We had help from our ward mission leader. We also learned that the left pedal is counter-threaded - which means that no matter how hard you try to loosen it the normal way, it will never come off. :) She's packing up all her belongings. Starting today, every day will be her last day of the week as a missionary. These things lead us to discuss going home ha ha.

We've decided that people are wrong when they say your mission changes you, because it doesn't. The choices that you make while you are on your mission is what changes you. Maybe one of the biggest things I've learned out here is just how much I am in control of my fate. I choose what I become. I create myself. :) Which means that when we go home - because we eventually do - the changing doesn't stop. We still have our ability to choose, and the choices we make at home change us as much as the choices we make out here do. :) (For that matter, the changing didn't begin when we became missionaries either.) 

So with my last 11 months, I'm going to take advantage of my environment and make the best choices I can. I created a vision for myself of what changes I want to see and I'm setting goals and making plans to achieve that vision. Somehow, that is trickier than it actually sounds. There's a lot of learning curves involved. But I'm stumbling along the best I know how. :)

Speaking of stumbling along... After Kevin's baptism, Sister Melling and I were faced with the sad reality that we now have no progressing investigators. As much as I tried not to let that bother me, I found myself getting discouraged as the week went on and we had very little to report for our efforts. I started to question myself - is this my fault? Do we have no work because I'm not a good enough missionary? Because I'm not bold enough, loving enough, motivated enough... suffice it to say I struggle with a lot. :) And those thoughts plagued me all week. 

But, the good news is that we have a member who's dating a non-member, and she arranged for them and us to have dinner together on Saturday. This is what we call a golden opportunity. :) We determined to do everything we could to qualify for the Spirit so that we'd be able to know how to best proceed with him. So we went tracting right before dinner. I do not like tracting, and I didn't want to do it. But I know that nothing brings the power of a missionary's calling out faster than an opportunity to testify - so we went and knocked on doors and testified our little hearts out! 

They weren't interested, but that is beside the point. The point is that we did it. And then we went to dinner. And Mike, out potential investigator, unloaded about 20 billion questions on us. And we ended up teaching the Restoration to him. And he loved it. And he agreed to read and pray about the Book of Mormon. In short, he's pretty much golden and ready to hear the gospel. :)

Teaching missionaries are happy missionaries. It's amazing how much that one experience rejuvenated and encouraged me to keep going. Yes, I still have a lot to work on, but I'm trying not to get down on myself. Sister Melling has a quote on her wall that says "God only asks for your best, and your best is different each day." This is true. I can honestly say that I'm giving this my best effort, and it may not be the same as someone else's best - but God doesn't want someone else's best. He knows me and my circumstances, and He doesn't judge the outward results, only my heart. He knows when I'm weak. He knows when I'm strong.

There is just so much comfort in having a God that loves so perfectly. <3

Well, until net week. I love you all so very very much. :)

Cheerfully, Sister Ball

P.S. I turn 22 next week. Weird!

Monday, November 10, 2014

Bike Problems

So I'm getting really good at changing the tubes in my bike tires. And patching them. Here is picture proof.



We Are All Enlisted

So, Kevin got baptized this week. :) It was a very happy moment. His new ward has embraced him with all their hearts and souls. A lot of his non-member family came to support him and they all really loved it, and they thanked everyone for loving and embracing Kevin.

Really though. Friends make all the difference in a person's life.

CPR is missionary lingo for Church, Praying and Reading (the scriptures). That is what revives us from spiritual death and keeps our spirits alive and whole. I've been pondering on the church aspect of that formula. Prayer I understand well enough. That's how you communicate with God, and reading the scriptures is how He communicates with you. These things connect us with the Father of our Spirits. It makes sense.

But church? Why is that important?

So we take the sacrament there, and that once again connects us to God. That is a renewal of covenants, or promises, it is a fresh start and it turns our thoughts to Him. We receive the good word of God there, in classes. But that's often delivered by other people - if we wanted pure doctrine, we could just turn to the scriptures and General Conference, correct?

 But I'm learning that there is more than just that. We have three hours of meetings for a reason. We have auxiliaries and activities for a purpose. My theory is that it is so we do not have to muddle through this life alone.
Friends are so important. Church is a support system. It's a hospital full of people who are afflicted by sin, and we're all encouraging each other not to give in to the disease. We're giving each other hope by sharing methods of healing that we've found work for us. We're reassuring each other that there is hope, there is a cure. We're not alone in this fight.

That is why church is so important. Because human beings were not meant to be alone. God knew that. Just praying and reading is not enough to make us strong, because we're actually still just weak souls. We need each other to rely on. :) Church is amazing!

I watched Kevin's life change because of his friends. His friends reached out to him at school and invited him to church and to learn more about the gospel that was so important to them. He did, and he loved it. And he embraced it, while they embraced him. They answered his questions and helped him along the way. He matured a lot in the three and a half months since I've met him. The gospel has changed him and blessed him so immensely, even at 12 years old. And because of his friends, he doesn't have to make this transition alone. :)

Oh, how I love that kid. And I love being a missionary. I got sunburnt this week, but it's okay. Still worth it ha ha. :) 

Love you all. Until next week.

Sister Bethany Ball

Monday, November 3, 2014

Zone Picture!

This is my zone! Please note that my zone leader (3rd elder from the right) cannot do a normal nice face. He only knows how to be silly. :) I love these people so much!


This is Halloween... Mission Style :)

Okay, so basically, Halloween was the strangest day on my mission thus far. Why? Because we didn't go out to work! I woke up that morning and got down to pray that we'd be able to see... wait. NO ONE. We had no one in our plans for that day.
Never happened before. Probably will never happen again.

I dressed up as Sister Melling for the day. In other words, I wore her nametag and she wore mine. :) We had our weekly planning session and then we got to play games together with our zone. And we carved pumpkins. I carved my face into my pumpkin. It was the coolest. :) And then at 5:00, we went to the temple, which is where we spent the rest of the night. Four and a half hours we were there, which totally blew my mind because I spent that whole time thinking about eternity and exaltation and stuff. It made my brain hurt a little... but I think my spirit was happy.

In other news, Sister Melling and I accidentally set off a member's burglar alarm last night. The details of how we did this are unimportant. ;) But it resulted in us leaving an awkward message on their answering machine: "Um... not to alarm you, but we think we accidentally set off your alarm when we knocked on your door. Don't worry... it was just us. Nobody is trying to break in." Only after we hung up did we realize how funny it was that i said "Not to alarm you" and we spent about five minutes on the church library floor, just laughing.

We were real tired last night. :)

Other things happened... Kevin is getting ready for his baptism. Next week, I will be able to tell you the news that he is our newest member. :) We got a couple of referrals, which doesn't  happen very often so we were very excited. We got to go with Gus and his family to the Pheonix temple open house, which was astonishingly beautiful. While we were there, we invited his son Drew to take the lessons. He said he wasn't ready to... yet. But he does believe the gospel is true, and he does want to get married in the temple one day. So... things will work out. :)

I hope all is well with you. Life is grand and wonderful... and only a small percentage of our existence. Don't forget. ;) Thank goodness that we have all eternity to spend with the people we love the most.

Love, Sister Bethany Ball

Monday, October 27, 2014

Sister Melling and I!

This is us, being goofy and stuff. :) I have grown to love wearing a trucker hat at the end of the day, maybe because I'm just used to having a helmet on my head. Not really sure. Also, pictures of us having a picnic on our apartment floor. :)




Things You'd Never Thought You'd Do...

The following is a small list of things that I never thought I would do on my mission:

- Saran wrap a mattress

- Live in a haunted apartment

- Listen to opera music on a regular basis

- Spend all day in the hot sun building cabinets 

- Take naps on the floor in the church library

- Cook lunch in the church kitchen... on a regular basis

- Have a scripture-reference war with the elders

- Encourage people not to join secret societies. Which is really funny if you think about it.

- Spend hours doing paperwork

- Do housework in a skirt


Needless to say, I have actually done ALL of the above things. Missions never turn out the way you expect ha ha. Incidentally, saran wrapping a mattress is a wee bit difficult.

Seriously though. There are parts of mission life that I never expected. And they are weird when you think about them! For example: I show up in an area, and nobody knows me, but they are all SO happy to see me! And then they sign up to feed me dinner every night! That's weird. And companions are weird... You spend 24/7 with one person for a period of at least six weeks. And then you go to transfer meeting, and you leave that meeting with a whole new person that you must then spend another 6 weeks with. That's weird.

You know what else is weird? Feet are weird. All the weight of your body and whatever else you happen to be carrying rests on two little levers. AND YOU DON'T FALL OVER. Amazing.
(That was random, I know. But the speaker in sacrament meeting said that yesterday, so I had to share it with you all. :)

Anyway. But then there are parts of mission life that I did expect. To a certain extent.

For example, we met with Elysa again this week. I've prayed for her every day, that she will recognize that we are servants of the Lord and that what we are there to share will bless her and her family. Speaking of weird, it's a bit bizarre what missionaries do: We go and convince people to be baptized, which entails giving up a lot of lifestyle comforts and 10% of your income. Now I really cannot sell that to anyone, so that is why the Spirit is so important. Hence why I've been praying so much for Elysa.
She asks so many good questions, like "Why is baptism important?" and "What does the Book of Mormon talk about?" These are questions that every missionary wants to hear. I usually kind of stumble over my answers, not because I don't know the answer but because the answers are very important... and I get really nervous. But I'm very grateful for Sister Melling, who smoothed out my choppy answers and together we could paint a picture of the blessings the gospel can bring to her and her family. Once again, Elysa invited us back. She said she wants to develop a better relationship with God. That makes us happy. :)

Also, Kevin is getting baptized! I'm pretty sure I've told you guys that one before, but this time he really is. He's our 12-year-old investigator from China. He's getting baptized on November 8th. :) I admire that kid a lot. He's quiet and shy, but he knows what he believes and he stands up for it.

Also, I've been coming to know my Savior a lot more. It's funny, but when you spend a lot of time studying about someone it kind of feels like you're spending time with them. And do you know what happens when you spend a lot of time with someone? They start to rub off on you. :) So I'm hoping that some Christlike attributes are starting to rub off on me. 

Actually, this week Sister Melling and I were asked a difficult question. They wanted to know whether a certain course of action was against church standards. Rather than give him the answer, we explained that God gives us agency, knowledge of good and evil to discern right and wrong, and commandments to protect us from anything that would compromise our agency. And then we told him to read Moroni 7:11-17 and Jacob 6:12 and see how he feels after that. :)

It's hard to not just give someone the answer you know is the right one. But I feel like that was a step closer to how Christ would teach, anyway. :)

All in all, it's been a good week. Sister Melling and I have a lot of fun. We had a picnic on the floor in our apartment the other day. And last night we played battleship. You find random ways to entertain yourself on a mission. :)

Life is good and wonderful. I love you all. Thank you for your letters and prayers. I love them, and I mostly love you. :)

Sincerely, Sister Ball 

Monday, October 20, 2014

Boredom

Just a few last things from Sister Taylor. This is her. Sticking quarters in her nose. Please ignore the creeper in the backseat. ;)


These our our mini missionaries! Please note that Sister Newcomb resembles me and Sister Pyles resembles Sister Taylor. :)


Project: Takeover

So, before I tell you all about my new adventures I have to include an excerpt from Sister Taylor's email home a couple of weeks ago. I kept meaning to and forgetting. So here you go:

After dinner on Saturday night we had to go the bathroom, so we decided to go to the church. General Priesthood Meeting was going on so we went to the bathrooms by the back doors. I went in first as Sister Ball stayed in the hallway to fill up her water bottle. We had Mexican for dinner so this trip to the bathroom was extremely necessary. I don't go into the stall right away because I am looking in the mirror admiring my beautiful helmet hair. Ball comes in and I say "I hate when Mexican food makes you bloated." Then I try to go to the back stall which is the one that I usually use. It is locked but I cant see anyone inside. Dumb kids locking stall doors and running away. I go to the stall next to it and look under to see if anyone is in there. I see men black dress shoes.  There is a man in the girls bathroom. I thought about hiding in the stall till he leaves but what is that is his plan. We will end up in the bathroom for hours waiting for the other to leave. Ball is in the stall by this point, so every girl for herself. I decide not to hide in the stall but I cant stand in the bathroom what if he comes out and sees my face. I decide the only course of action is to leave the bathroom and hide in the classroom across the hall. This is what I do and yes I leave my companion in the bathroom with a man. 

As I am hiding across the hall I can hear Sister Ball talking away. I cant understand what she is saying but I know she is talking. At this point I am dying with laughter. Later I find out that she said "I hope you don't get married, so we can be roommates after the mission." She about said "I am so glad that we are comps that feel comfortable talking while in the bathroom together." I am glad she didn't. Ball is totally weird-ed out that I don't answer but she can hear noises in the bathroom, so the logical explanation for the silence is because I am possessed. (We had previously been talking about evil spirits the day before.) The man flushes the toilet, leaves and forgets to wash his hands. I come back into the bathroom after he is gone tears in my eyes because I am laughing so hard. That poor man was probably mortified. He went to have a calm poop but unfortunately went into the wrong bathroom. I would pay to know what this man's internal monologue was during this whole experience. 

I hope that just made your whole day. It was one of the funniest moments of my whole mission when I realized my companion left me alone in the bathroom with a man.

That is probably the last of the Sister-Taylor-and-Ball adventures you'll hear for a while. Why? Because she got TRANSFERRED. Yes, my best friend is gone. But the good news is that my new companion is super-awesome and we get along splendidly. :) Her name is Sister Melling. She's from Tennessee. And guess what else? This is her very last transfer. She goes home in six weeks! :O Now I get to witness what it's like for someone to prepare to go home. Weird. Also, with Sister Melling going home at the end of this transfer, I know for certain that I'm getting a new companion next transfer, and I'm most likely going to be staying here.

So with Sister Taylor gone, this now means that I am taking over the area. This is not going as smoothly as I would hope, ha ha. Mostly, I spend about 40% of my time hopelessly lost and 20% of time looking up addresses and maps. I didn't know this area quite as well as I thought I did. :) Arizona needs a grid system. I object to street names ha ha.

Also.... I kind of feel like I am solely responsible for everyone here now. Not that I am really alone. Sister Melling is very supportive and helpful. We work well together as a team. But once again - she leaves in six weeks. I will still be here. Four square miles full of people who are member and non-member alike - and they are ALL UNDER MY RESPONSIBILITY.

One of our members told us one day that we remind him of the pastors in old-timey shows, where the pastor knows everyone in town and is always checking up on them, caring about them and seeing how they're doing. He says we're very much a part of the community in that way. So yes, just call me a pastor now ha ha. xD

Anyway, Kevin pushed the date of his baptism back due to some complications, and it's caused me some stress. But I laid in bed for a long time after saying my prayers last night and I realized - "HEY. I am not alone. I am not solely responsible for my area. In fact, I'm not really running this area at all. This is ALL in God's hands. He is the one taking care of all these people. Not me."

That was a good moment for me. So now I'm going forward with a different approach. Call it a lot of prayer and trusting in God. :) I feel a lot less stressed.

In other news... Sister Melling and I learned to change a bike tire all by ourselves. :) Well, our zone leader told us how to, but we actually did it. Yay! I feel so independent and stuff! 

Also, here's a funny story: We parked our bikes inside the church one night and went to a meeting with our ward mission leader. We came out of said meeting and our bikes were gone. We had a slight panic moment. But then we found a sticky note where our bikes had been, and this sticky note led us on a scavenger hunt through the church to find our bikes. When we found them, we also had to find Sister Melling's helmet. And my bike seat. It was a very super funny prank. We suspect elders were behind it. We kept samples of the handwriting to compare. ;)

Anyway, that's my week in a nutshell! Change is a good thing, and I love my new companion. Still love my area. Still miss Sister Taylor. But life is grand and wonderful. Have I mentioned that I'm six months already? Weird.

I love you all!

Cheerfully, Sister Ball

Monday, October 13, 2014

Yeah, Halloween

We love Halloween down here in AZ!



Mini Missionaries!

So we got a phone call from the Assistants to the President on Wednesday night. The conversation went something like this:

"Hello, this is Sister Ball."

"Hello Sister Ball, this is Elder Christensen. How are you?"

"Good! How about you?"

"We are doing good. President asked us to call you with a huge favor. Are you ready for this?"

"Um... maybe?"

"Ha ha. Would you and Sister Taylor like to take two mini missionaries over the weekend?"

"GAH! WE'RE GETTING MINI MISSIONARIES!" (This last bit was shouted at Sister Taylor. I may or may not have dropped the phone in my excitement.)

So. For those of you who don't know what a mini missionary is, allow me to explain. They are 16-18 year old young men and women who come and shadow a missionary companionship for a few days. Basically, we have a couple of extra companions. :) Anyway, it's a real honor because you basically give them a taste of mission life before they go on actual missions. They may decide to go on a mission or not depending on their experience with you. No pressure or anything.

So we go and pick them up the next day. Their names were Sister Newcomb and Sister Pyles.  Funny thing: We had them on Friday. Do you know what happens on Friday? Planning. Planning happens on Fridays. We have this big weekly planning session where we set goals and make plans for the whole next week. It takes three hours. And our mini missionaries could do nothing to help us whilst we did this.

The entire planning session my internal monologue went something like this: "They hate me. They hate me. They're not having a good time. They're not having a good experience. They hate me, they hate this mini mission. They're going to go home and tell their parents that missions are the worst thing ever. They're not going to want to serve missions now. They're probably losing their testimonies as we speak. They're probably going to leave the church over this. -.- GAH!! I AM A FAILURE!"

They didn't really hate me. ;) ...I don't think... it was pretty boring though. But after the weekly planning was over, things went uphill. :) Because there were four of us, we split up and each took half of our area. We got so much done this weekend. O.o

A summary: We saw about twenty shirtless men while tracting. Zombie children answered doors. I got licked while we were trying to teach the restoration. On the arm. I sort of accidentally made up a ward activity to invite a non-member to. Oops. Now I need to tell the bishop to make that ward activity happen! O.o We got stood up on all our appointments. We got into a big bike crash in which missionaries and minis went flying. (Well, they did... I just watched and laughed really hard. It was funny. :]) So on and so forth.

But in the midst of all this, we picked up about 4 new people to teach. Three of those are less-actives, one is a non-member we met months ago that we haven't been able to meet with since. Her name is Elysa and she is basically awesome. We met her a couple months ago, not long after I got into the area and she invited us back. We hadn't been able to catch her home - until I brought Sister Newcomb with me! Mini power, yay! :D

All in all, it was an adventure. And I think they had a good experience. It's crazy how much I learned from it. Mostly, I just came to love them. They were both so different. Sister Newcomb is very bright and classy. She wants to study Neuroscience. She has an incredible testimony. She took her mini-mission seriously. She kept us on the straight and narrow. :) Sister Pyles was nervous at first, because she doesn't like talking in front of others. This was a leap of faith for her to come. But she is very fun-loving. She likes to talk to people and make friends. She's going to cosmetology school but is a rebel and doesn't like to dress up. She makes me laugh. They were both friends, so they laughed and joked together.

I just love them. I felt like they were my ducklings. :) Sometimes we would all bike together, and it was like we had a little biking posse. It's not every day you see four bikers riding in a row down the street. ;) I miss them now that they are gone. After we took them home Sundaynight, we came home and saw their empty beds and I just threw myself on them and whined about them being gone.

But it was nice, at the same time. You know how Sister Taylor and I go on a lot of exchanges and it's really stressful? Well, having minis was twice as stressful. And four times as long. It was worth it... but it was nice for things to go back to normal. Kind of like it always feels good to come home after a vacation. :)

And then transfer calls came. And Sister Taylor is leaving.

I'm actually really distressed about it. Sister Taylor has taught me how to be a better missionary, a better person, a better friend. More than that, she's become my best friend. We both knew she was going, but part of us still hoped we could get six more weeks together. But sometimes, Heavenly Father has other things in mind. He actually told me earlier this week, that I needed a new companion in order to prepare me for later blessings. What that means, I do not know.

I'm scared for the upcoming change, I can't lie. But things will be okay. They always are. :)

I love you! Thank you for your continued love and prayers. I miss you a lot. :)

Love, Sister Ball

Monday, October 6, 2014

Conference Weekend, Whoo Whoo!

Okay. So this week I've been learning a bit about how the Spirit feels different at different times. On Friday we went to an investigator's house. Her name is Deborah. She is a very kind, beautiful soul. She's Jewish, so investigating the church is a big deal for her and she's hit a lot of roadblocks along the way. She wasn't in our plans, but we stopped by anyway. We caught her at a weak moment and she invited us in.

While we talked, I felt the conversation being guided by the Spirit. It was weird because I don't usually recognize when the Spirit is guiding me, except in hindsight. This time I could feel something telling me to keep things light and easy, that she needed a gentle friend more than a teacher right then. So Sister Taylor and I listened and talked and laughed and we kept everything very casual. We talked about prayer interwoven with the normal things of life, and the love God has for His children. But everything was just very natural and normal. When we left, she told us what we'd told her had helped her a lot. It was funny because we really didn't say much. O.o Mostly we just chatted.

Funny how the Spirit can tell you exactly what people need. I had no idea what she'd been through that day, but I'm pretty sure our visit helped her in some way. 

And then I contrast that experience with the lesson we had with Tyler last week - that lesson had involved a lot of emotion and testifying of the Atonement. It was overwhelmingly powerful. This "lesson" with Deborah was completely different, and yet I still felt the Spirit so powerfully.

My conclusion? Strong emotions are not the only way you can recognize the Spirit. That is all. :)

So speaking of Tyler... we haven't seen him again, but we pray for him every day. And last night he texted and told us that he was still in deep thought from our conversation last Saturday. That made me happy. Maybe we were able to touch his Spirit in some way after all. Maybe he has some hope. Maybe he recognizes that God still loves him. That alone will be enough to start his healing. :)

So. General Conference. It was amazing. We watched it at the stake center with all the other missionaries in our zone. My bag was full of treats to carry me through, but I ended up not even eating them because I was so absorbed. O.o 

This was Sister Taylor's last conference on the mission. At the end of the two Saturday sessions, she turns to me in a trance and says "I think Heavenly Father is telling me that my next step in life is to get married and start a family. All those talks were about parenthood!" and I was like "WAT. What were you even listening to? That's not what I heard at all!"

CLEAR evidence that General Conference is personalized to each of us, folks! xD

Let me give you a bit of an overview of what conference was like for me:

ELDER ROBBINS: This was the talk for me, reminding me that I represent Jesus Christ to the world.

ELDER JORG KLEBINGAT: This was the talk for Tyler. He talked about how Satan's voice is the one that tells you that you're not strong enough, not good enough, too far gone for the atonement to reach you and not worth saving anyway. And he told us that as long as we listen to that voice, then we will not not feel comfortable in God's presence. But the atonement can help us, and he told us 6 ways to use it. :)

ELDER ANDERSON: This was the talk for Deborah, because he said that spiritual questions deserve spiritual answers from God. You cannot learn truth by yourself, which is what she's been trying to do.

ELDER BEDNAR: This was the talk for Sabrina, so that she can understand why her son is choosing to join this church that has so many rules and standards.

I learned other things -  that God wants to hear about everything I feel and do, no matter how mundane it may seem to me. It matters to Him. He is, after all, my Father. I learned that I can acknowledge and face my weaknesses, and I can accept that I may have them for the rest of my life. But that doesn't mean that I have to be immobilized by them. ;) I learned that the bond between parents and children are unbreakable. That is a very unique and powerful bond that never dies. 

Most of all, I learned that my mission has changed me. I look back over the experiences I've had these past six months I think - "Woah. It's been six months???" But then I think "Woah. I'll never be the same."

So yes. There was nothing about parenting in there for me. It's all missionary stuff. Probably because I still have another year. ;) 

In other news, Sister Taylor makes life happier. :) We have so much fun together. We had an expanded zone conference this week. That's where all your ward council and your youth come to zone conference with you. And guess who they asked to role-play in front of EVERYONE? That's right. It was us. -.- 
We had to pretend to be two ordinary people, and she was inviting me to a church activity. She asked what my plans were for the night and I said "Oh, I have big plans. I'm going to take a bubble bath and watch Phantom of the Opera in the bubble bath WHILE I eat copious amounts of ice cream straight out of the carton." It was real witty of me to say that. xD Everyone laughed. 

Plus, last night, I woke up to discover I had Sister Taylor's pillow in my hand. Not sure how it got there. Apparently I steal people's pillows in my sleep. O.o But then again, sometimes she wakes me up because she's crying "There's an arm on this pillow!" and she's touching my arm on my pillow. And so I'm like "Yeah... that's mine." She's like "oh... sorry." For those of you who don't get why this is funny, she was legitimately scared because she thought the arm was detached. I think she was tired. xD

The other day we went to our ward mission leader's house. He'd helped us obtain supplies for an object lesson earlier that week so we stopped by to show him how we used it. :) And... his dad was there. His dad is a returned mission president. Intimidating? Just a bit. But we went ahead and taught the restoration using the cups, and he was very impressed. He told us that he could tell from the minute that we talked in the door that we liked each other. And he said that that unity we had made our teaching very powerful. :)

In short, I love my companion. :)

The end. 

Love, Sister Ball

Monday, September 29, 2014

Captain Moroni

Sometimes Sister Taylor and I hang out with cool people. Like, for instance, Captain Moroni.


Scrapes and Bruises

This funny thing happened to me yesterday. Actually, a LOT of funny things happened to me yesterday... just one story in particular though is relevant. :) So there we were, talking to this guy on the street who was super nice and had an American Dingo named Drifter. We say goodbye to said super nice guy. We start to bike away... except that I actually fall over into the rocks. 

I didn't fall off my bike I fell with my bike. Just tipped over. I think I forgot to pedal after I pushed off. That's an important step, apparently. :) Sister Taylor just stood there and laughed at me really hard, until the nice guy came to help me up. Then she was like "Oh I think I should go help my companion!" so she came and picked up my bike.

It was SUPER funny because it was SUPER embarrassing! You know how you say goodbye to someone at the grocery store and then run into them two aisles later and it's super awkward because you don't know what to say now? That what this was kind of like. Except... not really. It was more like That Awkward Moment When You OYM Someone And then Fall Over. Yeah... that's more accurate. ;)

Anyway. My point is that my leg is covered in scrapes and bruises. From falling. It is pretty epic.

So... in other news, we had a lesson with this less-active named Tyler on Saturday. My entire world now revolves around him... Well, sort of. Mostly it was just the most heart-wrenching experience I've had on my mission. We shared the mormon message "Hope of God's Light" (which, by the way is amazing. I highly recommend that everyone watch it at least once in their lives.) and he just started crying.

We spent a long time over there talking to him. We cried too. He said "If this life is a test, then I am failing." I've never seen a soul so racked with the pains that sin brings. He wants to be free so bad, but he sees no way out. It hurts my heart. So much. Sister Taylor and I came home and cried that night. In fact, since then I have thought about him every single day and cried for him.

This is what I pictured mission life would be like: Where my heart became so wrapped up around other people that their pains and joys became my own. This is it. I never imagined it could be so hard.

Sister Taylor pointed out to me though that we are getting a small glimpse of how the Savior feels for us. He loves us so much.. He feels our pain, our sorrow, our joys and our triumphs. He weeps with us. He feels happy when we are happy. He wants us to have joy and peace because He loves us so much.

And when we give up, thinking we are a lost cause, it devastates Him.

It's caused me to reflect a lot on personal worth. There's that saying,  "To the world you may be just one person, but to one person you are the world." Truly though, when you love someone they become your world. You can't imagine life without them. We are the world to the Savior - That incredible, perfect love is what made it possible for Him to suffer through the pain and give us the power of the Atonement. Because He loves us too much to let us go.

It has also caused me to reflect a lot on repentance. Tyler says, "I've tried changing. It never sticks. I always go back to the way I've been conditioned to be. I don't want to try anymore - I just keep failing."

...those words just kind of stick in my mind.

Repentance is hard. I've learned that repentance is not sorrow for sin. Repentance means to change - to bring ourselves in line with God's will. Repentance prepares us to live in God's presence, because we have to change to become perfected.
But that change doesn't happen overnight. We fall short. We sin. We mess up. It's part of our condition as imperfect beings. 

We told him to read the scriptures every day, to pray every day and to go to church every week. I think it annoyed him. He was like "It's notworking. I'm stilling sinning." Ha ha. I told him, "Yeah. Me too." 

But I tried to explain this to him - you cannot keep the commandments and sin at the exact same time. The Savior put it, "Ye cannot serve God and Mammon(or the world)" and that is exactly true. In order to walk towards God, you have to be walking away from something else. Any time you are reading the scriptures, you are walking away from sin. Same with praying.

No, sin doesn't stop. But that will keep you anchored to God. You can't walk away from Him forever if that is part of your daily routine. You'll keep coming closer to Him - and eventually you'll become strong enough to leave some of your sins behind. Just a little at a time.

And that, my friends, is the process of repentance as I see it at this point in my life. :) Sorry, I wasn't trying to preach. It's so hard to explain this experience, and there is so much more that we talked about that I haven't even written. (Is this how the writers of the BOM felt?) That lesson is burned in my mind forever. I want to help him. So much. But the thing is that I cannot just impart my knowledge - There are some things that cannot be taught. The Holy Ghost has to touch his heart.

So my dilemma is - how do I help the Holy Ghost touch his heart?

He's leaving on a business trip for a few weeks. >.< So it will be a while before we can meet again. In the meantime... I'll just keep crying. Ha ha ha. But really though.

So... that was my week in a nutshell. Oh, plus, Gus got married. Yeah. That's a big deal. I witnessed a perfect moment at that wedding, when Gus and Sister Taylor hugged each other. TECHNICALLY we're not supposed to hug men. But it was kind of a three-way hug between Gus, Sister Taylor and his new wife Marcia. So it was okay. And Sister Taylor cried tears of happiness. Well she actually kind of sobbed with happiness. And he cried too. It was a perfect moment. :) She was the one who brought him to the gospel, and consequently, to Marcia. He told her he owes her all of his happiness.

That was a good day. :) Weddings make me happy. Even more than baptisms. I think because baptism is the gateway to salvation and marriage is the gateway to exaltation. That would make sense...

Anyway. Good week, folks. I love you all. Hopefully you made it to the end of this letter. It was a long one, I know. :) 

<3 Sister Ball