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