Monday, June 23, 2014

Rejoice

Something happens to you on a mission. You start to love people. Like, a lot. :)

I can tell I'm finally getting used to missionary life because I'm starting to act like my own weird self again. For a while here, I was all bent out of shape trying to be the missionary I thought I was supposed to be. But becoming a missionary is kind of like learning to speak a language. (it's a rough analogy, just go with it ha ha) First you have to learn things like alphabet and grammar and words, of course. But language is more than the sum of its parts, and once you practice and start to become fluent, you can begin to express yourself and it becomes more than grammar and words. It becomes the way you communicate with people. It affects everything you do.

So, in essence, I'm starting to become a fluent missionary ha ha. I'm less worried that I'm doing things "right" anymore, I'm just doing them. Missionary habits have become my habits. I'm expressing myself as I work, and it makes me a better missionary. Because I can love people - I could before my mission, and I can now. :)

Anyway... I attended my first baptism as a missionary this weekend. Our investigator, Erin, came home from girls camp with just enough time to shower, get ready and come to the church building for her baptism.  I can honestly say it was the most joyous moment of my mission so far.

Joy is different than happiness. It's different than being cheerful. Watching Erin get baptized caused me to feel an emotion so deep and profound it felt like I might burst - that was joy. I am so proud of her. She is a truly remarkable 14-year old. I love her and her whole family more than I thought possible. :)

Chris also attended the baptism and was able to meet members of the ward and feel the Spirit. Typical of him, he kind of scowled when he told me that he felt "good energy" when Erin was baptized. I love that guy too. :)

I love the members where we serve. Erin's ward is amazing. Even though half of them had an exhausting week at girls camp and were drained, mentally, emotionally and physically, they all came to her baptism to show their love and support, not only to her but also to her family. Even though her parents and sister haven't chosen to get baptized, the ward has adopted them and love them dearly.

I repeat what I said last week: love changes lives. It's changed me, and I'm watching it change so many other people. The love Christ has for each of us is pure and unending. It will always be there for you. Once you start to use His atonement, you begin to feel His love. It changes you. I know, because I feel it every day. <3

All my love,

Sister Ball

Two Month Mark

Out here on our mission, we have "birthdays" on our month marks. Since I left of April sixteenth, I have a birthday on the sixteenth of every month.
Do you know what this MEANS??? I am now officially two. :) Ha ha.
Guess what? This week was great! We found a new investigator. Actually, he kinda found us. He came to church with a family he's very close to and asked us if we could teach him. Apparently he borrowed a Book of Mormon from their daughter and had been reading it. Talk about people to teach falling right out of the sky. :) But alas, we had to pass him off to the elders over the singles ward because he was in that age group. I'm okay with it though. He's a great guy, and he understood things very well. I feel like he's going to progress in the gospel and it will bless his life very much. :)
Lately, I find myself reflecting a lot on why I came out here. I came out to be obedient, and I came out because I knew I was supposed to. But I think what it boiled down to is that I love the Lord. I love my Savior, Jesus Christ, and I could not say no when He asked me to come out here and serve the people of Arizona. I just couldn't. I love Him too much. I know that my Heavenly Father loves me, and with that love comes a lot of trust. I just want to live up to that trust.
Love is a funny thing. It it the most powerful motivator I know. It is far more powerful than fear, or greed, or the promise of pleasure. I think that's why, is D&C 121:41-42 we read that no power or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of the priesthood, only by persuasion, bylong-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned, by kindness, and pure knowledge.
See, God knows that love is the most powerful motivator, the most powerful influence on humanity. We never have to douct that His love for us will ever fail, because we are His children. He knows what we are capable of becoming and He loves us too much to let us settle for anything less. That's why He makes us grow so much, even when growth is painful. :)

Love unfeigned is, right now, what is keeping me here in Arizona. I love the Lord, too much to let Him down. I love my family, too much to come home now. I love the people here, too much to leave them.

Love changes hearts. Love changes people. Love changes the world. So love yourself. Love your family. Love your neighbors. Love strangers. You will never know how much it will mean to them. <3
Thoughtfully,
Sister Ball

Monday, June 9, 2014

The Day I Ran the Area

So this week, we went on exchanges again. But this time I stayed in my area (by the way, have I ever mentioned that my area is actually in Mesa? Yeah, I'm serving in Mesa right now. It's the only tiny section of Mesa that is actually in the Gilbert Mission! Funny right? Anyway...) and the STL (Sister Training Leader) came out with me. Do you know what this means? It means that I ran the area! I was in charge! No longer could I count on my older and wiser companion to know what was best to say and do and where to go... it was all on me.
I was absolutely terrified.
I didn't sleep. I woke up at 5 AM and fretted about our plans for the day. We had a lesson with Chris, and lessons with Chris always go out of control. He just likes to talk a lot, and he has a lot of questions, and concerns, and I never know what to say or do. So that was worrisome. Plus we were going to be contacting people in a part of the neighborhood that I didn't know very well. So that was worrisome. So that was worrisome. And we had to go out and OYM for an hour, so that was worrisome. (Let's just assume that OYMing is always worrisome ha ha) And all this weighed on me until the alarm went off at 6:30 when I got up and prayed and realized... hey. This is not on me. This is not on me. The Spirit will show me where to go, what to do, and what to say. I'm not in this alone. :)
It was a crazy day though, to be sure. But I learned so much.
1. I learned that I can do this.
...
Actually, that pretty much sums that day up. Yup.

The best part is that my mission president came to my lesson with Chris. Yeah, I didn't even know that President Nattress even comes to lessons with missionaries sometimes! But apparently he does! And of course he came on my first day running the area to a lesson with my most difficult investigator...

But you know, I'm glad it happened that way. President Nattress showed such faith in me and my abilities. He reminded me that I when I was set apart, I was given power and authority to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ. So in that lesson, I testified and I felt the Spirit. Chris accepted the invitation to be baptized. His faith is growing, and that's all that matters.
So now, I remember the other lessons I learned that day:
2. I learned that President Nattress trusts me.
3. I learned that Heavenly Father trusts me.
4. I learned that the Spirit testifies when I testify.
Okay, yes, that pretty much sums that day up. Ha ha.
The rest of the week was good too... My companion has been kinda sick. Funny/sad/miracle story: One day she was really sick, but didn't want to stay in all day so she got ready to go out anyway! I tried and tried to convince her to stay home and rest, just for the one day, (I was worried she was working herself to death) but she refused. So I prayed that she would change her mind. My prayers were answered! But not in the way I expected. I got sick! Sick enough that I had to stay in! -.-
Funny way to get your prayers answered... But she stayed in, and by that night I was miraculously feeling better! :) The next day some elders gave her a blessing, and she's doing fine now. :)
In other news, I've been here for almost a whole transfer now! Six weeks, can you believe it? We got transfer calls this morning and Sister Ball and I are both staying together, in our area. Yay!!! :D 
But we're moving to different apartments, closer to our area. (We live thirty minutes away from where we serve, so this is a good thing. :) Change is intimidating and weird, but I'm okay with everything because I'm learning that everything is okay. Heavenly Father trusts me with this mission, so I'm just trying my best to live worthy of His trust. <3
Love, your favorite and maybe your craziest sister missionary,
Sister Ball

Monday, June 2, 2014

Delighting in Fatness

So I ran across this phrase in scripture the other day that made me crack up. In 2 Nephi 9:51, it says "Let your soul delight in fatness"!

It sounds funny, but really, the scriptures here are talking about spiritually feasting, and that's what I feel like I've been doing out here. Every day, from 8:00 to 9:00 I get to do some personal study, which is like my own personal bonding time with the Spirit. I'm taught so much during that precious time. I love it. I love to learn. an hour is never enough. :)

Please, allow me to share some of the delicacies I've feasted upon this week:

Mosiah 18:19-21 
These verses describe my calling as a missionary, and how I should be working with my companion. <3

D&C 136:32-33 
Did you know that humility is essential to learning? :o

Alma 58:10-11
We can pray for strength to support our families and friends, in any way, and God will give is that strength and bless us with hope.

Also, did you know that whenever the scriptures talk about happiness, gratitude is also mentioned? Happiness and gratitude are closely linked! I invite you to look it up. ;)

Also, in a similar way, "love" and "virtue" are also spoken of together in the scriptures. It makes sense, because I know that when my thoughts are clean and whole, then my ability to love others is increased. :)

In short, I just love the scriptures, and I love the works of the living prophets. I studied President Uchtdorf's talk from this last general conference this morning, and it has changed the way I look at gratitude in general. (and remember, gratitude is connected to happiness! Look up that talk, it is amazing!)

I love mission life. I didn't hit the ground running like I hoped I would (in fact, I kind of fell on my face a little) but I've certainly felt the Lord pick me up and dust me off. Now, He's teaching me to walk - little baby steps of progression, because I have to master walking before I can start running. <3

But one of our investigators is getting baptized! She's fourteen years old and has such amazing faith. As we've taught her, I've been amazed by how well she grasps the concepts in the gospel and I am so proud of her. I love her family too. They all love each other very much, and I admire their patience and faith. They are supportive and happy for her, even if they haven't chosen to be baptized as well. I just love that family so much. :)

Also, we're teaching a man named Chris and he is hilarious! We've been teaching him about prayer and the blessings that come from it for so long, but he just never really wanted to pray for himself. 

Well the other day, Sister Ball and I ran into him outside while he was smoking his cigarette. We talked to him for a while and asked if he'd prayed yet. He said he had! I was super excited. So we asked him how it went and he gave us a scowl and said "It was weird."

We asked why and he said "Because... I felt happy. Like I actually wanted to be alive or something!"

His reaction to it was so funny, and we laughed, but then told him that that was the Holy Ghost! Because the Holy Ghost gives feeling of peace, love and joy! He just kind of harrumphed over that, but promised he would keep praying. I have high hopes for his continued happiness. ;)

So, time to tell you of my funny moments. One, I shot my zone leader in the stomach with an arrow. 

...

But don't worry, it was a safe, padded arrow. ;) We were playing archery tag on P-day! SO. MUCH. FUN. I loved it! And I was surprisingly good at it! But Sister Ball the Elder is a cheater and, instead of shooting me with an arrow just chased me around with it and tapped me on the shoulder. She's a stinker ha ha. :)

So I'm really bad about losing my pencils. I came out here with four pencils. By last week, I'd lost every single one of them. So Sister Ball lent me an extra pencil. I lost that one too. NO MORE PENCILS.
But yesterday, we were leaving church and I was kicking pebbles across the pavement when I saw a pencil. And I was like "hey... that looks like my pencil. WAIT. That IS my pencil!" 
And sure enough, it was my green pencil, just chilling in the church parking lot! Well, chilling probably isn't the appropriate word... it was melted. Yes, melted. Welcome to Arizona folks, where the sun meets the black pavement and creates a roasting ground for poor lost green pencils. But guess what? It still works! :D So now I have a total of one pencil, but it is my lucky pencil and will stay with me forever. I hope. :)

Life is grand. Sometimes I choke on my water. Sometimes I choke on my words. Sometimes I just have to laugh for the sake of laughter. But life is grand. I love it. :) And I love you!

Till next week!

Love, Sister Ball