Monday, May 26, 2014

Collecting Coins

I had a lot of expectations when I came out here. One of the things I expected was to have six and a half days of hard work, all day every day. What I did NOT expect was to have so much fun doing hard work!

Take yesterday, for example. Here we are, sitting in Relief Society during opening exercises. Sister Ball was sitting next to me, talking to one of our members and quite out of the blue, she shrieked and started laughing hysterically. Everyone turned to look at us! It just struck me as so funny that I started laughing, and of course, because it was embarrassing and inappropriate, I laughed harder. We were both sternly reproved. ;) We both had to stifle our continued giggles all through the hymn and prayer. (It wasn't until much later that I learned that the reason for my companions sudden lapse in sanity was due to the fact that the member she was talking to was carrying around her pet snake in her purse!)

Then, later, we got to pet a chameleon. It got really angry at us and turned all spotty ha ha.

The other night, our district leader called us and one of the other sisters who lives in our apartment with us answered the phone and talked with him for a whole five minutes before telling him that it wasn't actually one of the Ball sisters... We cracked up over that.

And then, of course, there are the myriad of awkward moments that we encounter on the streets while we talk to random strangers. I've developed the habit of changing the hymn lyrics to more missionary-accurate words: "Embrace the awkward moments!" or "Awkward, ever awkward!" Just cause.

My point is that even though the work is hard and never-ending, the Savior's commandment is still the same: "Be of good cheer, and bear testimony of me, that I was, that I am and that I am to come" (D&C 68:6) (And yes, I was just paraphrasing.)

I love living, love loving and I love working. :)

Anyway, my favorite scripture story of the week seems to be the parable of the lost coins, found in Luke 15. In this parable, a woman loses two coins and she searches all over her house until she finds them. And when she finally finds them, she rejoices. 

Unlike the parable of the lost sheep, the coins didn't wander. They were just lost, through carelessness or or something, and they cannot find their way back on their own. That's why I'm out here on my mission: To collect coins, to find people who are lost, even though they might not even realize that they are lost. It makes me look at street contacting in a new light. <3

It occurs to me that the Lord values every soul, far more even than we value our coins. We may think we are worth only a penny, but to our Heavenly Father, we are priceless. I promise you, you are loved! God is far more than the creator of the earth and heavens, He is the creator of your souls. He loves you like a parent loves His child, and He knows you intimately well. He rejoices when you are happy, and he is sad when you are hurting.

Sometimes we're given things that are way more than we can handle, but it is always for our benefit and growth. You are loved all through it, and never left to walk alone. 

And guess what? I love you too! :)

Talk to you all next week!

P.S. I got burnt this last week. Plus, now I'm tan. What is this???? Ha ha ha ha ha.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

So... About the Pineapple...

Our district leader calls us each night to make sure we're safe and ask how our day went. And each night, he asks if he can do anything for us and there never is.
So the other night we were like "Elder Bailey, we really could use a pineapple."
"A pineapple?"
"Yup. Preferably with a straw and little umbrella sticking out of it."
"Okaaay... I'll see what I can do." And then he forgot to hang up the phone before telling his companion that we were crazy. We laughed for a while about that. xD But then at our next district meeting, lo and behold, there was a pineapple! For us! Our district leader loves us, even if we are crazy. :)
And then the other pictures are of me and my companion with our ward Relief Society President. She is awesome. We went to the temple together. :)

The Power of Humility

The sky is blue, the sun is bright, the air is hot (it may or may not have reached 112 degrees this week... ;) and I am as happy as can be!

I had a fun week. I'm starting to feel at home here. The cactus are beautiful and majestic instead of alien and strange.

But I think the hardest thing for me to adjust to on my mission is the fact that I don't know what I'm doing. Really though, my pride has been my biggest obstacle. I'm used to knowing what to do and where to go and how to act and what to say... I came out here and I knew nothing. And I did not react well to that. (insert exasperated face here)

BUT... the good news is that I'm getting over it. I'm starting to remember who I am and why I came out here. My Heavenly Father loves me, and has entrusted me with this mission and this area. He thinks I can do it, and I don't doubt Him.

My favorite scriptural promise of the week is found in Ether 12:23-27. It bespeaks many of the feelings I have felt - awkward, inadequate and weak. But the promise is this: God makes weak things strong.

There is a song called When I Learn by Katherine Nelson. I have listened to it on repeat for two days straight ( I have a very patient companion... ;) only for the chorus which goes: "I can learn to dance, I can learn to sing, I can learn to make my mind conquer anything. I can learn to love, I'll learn to succeed, I can learn to let God make me strong where I am weak..."

That is my determination! I may not know everything yet, or even most things, but I can learn. I can learn to let God shape me into the missionary He wants me to become. <3 Love.

Other random little things:

-Sister Ball took me out to knock on doors this week. Strangely, that was far less intimidating to me than talking to people on the street (presumably because of all the practice I had working with the ward missionaries :) and it was a lot of fun.

-On a similar note, I'm working on my OYMing skills. OYM is Open Your Mouth. That's when you just randomly go up and talk to someone on the street about the gospel. I have a very strong dislike for this practice, but not because I don't want to talk to strangers about the gospel, but because I find small talk distasteful. So I've got to the point where I just skip small talk altogether and just share my testimony with them. I find it better by far. :)

- Did I tell you guys we found a scorpion in the church bathroom at one of our district meetings? Yeah, it was a creepy little bugger. But they glow neon under a black light. ;)

I miss you all! But I love it here. Thank you for all your letters and prayers.

With love,
Sister Ball

Monday, May 12, 2014

Think English, Hear Spanish, Speak Russian

So there was this one time (like, say, four days ago) when I went on exchanges with one of the Spanish-speaking sisters. Guess what? I don't speak Spanish. :) But she taught me a few phrases that I could use in our lessons for that day, including how to introduce myself in Spanish. Well, the time came and I introduced myself... In Russian. Not Spanish. Facepalm moment. xD
But seriously, this week has been great. I'm finally feeling like I might have my feet under me. Sister Ball and I went to a Muslim family's home the other night and if you know, they pray at certain times of the day. We happened to be over at one of these times. We respectfully observed their prayer and afterward their family sat together with us and we discussed religion.
At first it was really scary to be because I was hyper-aware of the fact that I am a missionary now, and my purpose is to invite others to come unto Christ by being baptized. I didn't know what to say to this family, who were so kind and open to us. I knew I was there to share the gospel, but I was so afraid of belittling their beliefs in any way. I didn't know how to act or what to say. 
But then, I remembered that I may be a missionary, but I am also still a person. And as a person, I love people, and I love to learn. So I let go of the image I had of myself being a perfect missionary, and I was just myself. And as myself, we talked and shared our beliefs. We talked about temples, about God, about prayer and about prophets. It wasn't hard to share my testimony with them when I wasn't thinking about it. It wasn't hard to tell them that I loved the gospel because it meant I could be with my family always -  because that's true, and that love I have for the gospel is part of who I am. It's not something I adopted when I became a missionary, it's ingrained into my soul.
So yeah, I feel like remembering who I am as a person is going to help me a lot as a missionary ha ha. :)
Other cool things that happened this week:
My companion and I built three giant cabinents for a garage on Saturday. It was hard work, but they turned out beautiful and I sure felt good about it. :)
I got to call home! If I could ever cry tears of happiness, it would have been then. I love the people out here in Arizona, but there is something about talking with people who really understand you that makes life better. My family really is evidence that my Heavenly Father loves me. <3
Oh, and did I mention that I am now the designated driver of our vehicle, and probably will be for the rest of my mission? And I haven't gotten sick since they put me in the drivers seat! Happy days. :)
I love you all! Life is beautiful and happy. We have hope because of our Lord Jesus Christ, and He loves you. Never forget that. :)
Sincerely, Sister Ball

Monday, May 5, 2014

Sunscreen and Saltine Crackers

Things That Will Happen to You on the First Week in the Field (if you happen to be me)

1) On the day you are supposed to fly to Arizona, you will accidentally set the alarm for 3:30 PM instead of 3:30 AM. You will waken at 4:15 AM - fifteen minutes before the bus leaves for the airport. Chaos will ensue, and consequently you will forget to brush your teeth. But, you will make it to the bus on time and you will look fabulous. :)

2) You will get the most awesome first companion ever! And her name will be.... waaait for it.... SISTER BALL!! As your mission president will put it, "Sometimes revelation leaves a lot of room for humor." Together, you and your trainer will go by The Ball Sisters. Or Ball Squared. Or Ball the Elder and Ball the Younger.

3) In your very first lesson ever, you will invite your investigator to be baptized. And he will say yes. 

4) You will get carsick. A lot. And you will start living off saltine crackers while you're in the car. Because saltine crackers make you not-sick. :) In the meantime, the people in charge at the office will be working frantically to get you authorized to drive because nobody wants you throwing up in the mission cars again. xD

5) The temperature will reach 100 degrees. But to you, it will feel no warmer than 75 degrees. Why? Because the Lord can work miracles, that's why. :)

6) You will somehow avoid sunburns of any kind. Why? See above answer.

In short, folks, your first week will be awesome. Your companion will be awesome. Your life will be awesome. :)

Be happy my friends! This life was meant to be happy. That's why we have the gospel of Jesus Christ - to give us hope, peace and joy. I love you all!