Monday, March 30, 2015

Because He Lives

So, the church came out with this new little Easter Video this week. It's similar to the Because of Him video they came out with while I was in the MTC (almost a YEAR ago now, holy smokes) and I absolutely love it. It's called Because He Lives and the day we got it I watched it on repeat for about ten minutes straight. There's nothing earth-shattering in there - it's the same message we celebrate every Easter. But every Easter, every year, every day you appreciate the Atonement differently than you did before. You see the different ways you are blessed. Lately, I feel so blessed.
Because He lives, we have hope. As terribly lost as this world may seem, we have hope. Like it says in Ether 12:4, "Whoso believeth in God might with surety hope for a better world". Hard things don't last forever, and every wrong will be made right.

Because He lives, love will never end and goodbyes are never final. Our relationships with one another can last forever.

Because He lives, there are no lost causes. None of us are beyond His reach, even when it seems the tomb is closing over our own souls. We are still not lost. Death has no sting, hell has no victory. We are never beyond His reach.

Because He lives, we never have to be alone. When times are bad, He cries beside us. When times are good, He rejoices with us. And, He is there for every moment in between - a witness to our lives and our very most caring friend.

Without Him, every one of us would be irrevocably lost. But this is not the case. He lives. He is here. We have every blessing extended to us! :D
So. The moral of that whole story is Watch That Little Video. It will bring you peace. :)
In other news, Sister Croft and I are staying together this next transfer. Whoo hoo! This is the first time in 4 transfers that nothing has changed for me! :O (Except we're moving to a new apartment. Minor details. Actually, I'm mainly blocking that uncomfortable ) I am so excited! Crofty and I have lots of fun together. It's our hope that we stay together until she goes home in June, and so far, things are looking promising! :D
We did an Easter Egg hunt for some down syndrome kids from all over the valley on Saturday. It was so fun! Our job was to play with a parachute. We had this giant parachute and a bunch of missionaries were holding on to the edges and lifting it up and down, up and down, while the kids ran around and giggled and danced underneath it. SO MUCH FUN. Plus, a huge arm workout. xD
We've spent nearly every night this week in Mesa for the Mesa Easter Pageant. It's a giant pageant put on at the temple grounds every year. The whole life of the Savior, summed up in an hour and fifteen minutes on stage. It's amazing. We took Amey one night, Erica one night, Joe the next night... we're going again a couple of times this upcoming week. By the time this is over and done with, we'll be able to quote it beginning to end. :)
So yeah, this week was good. Next week will be even better. :) Miracles abound, every day and in every way. I hope you all are seeing them too. :)
I love you all!
Cheerfully, Sister Ball

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Cactus Spikes and Separation Anxiety

So, this morning Sister Croft and I had this genius idea that we were going to go to a nearby cactus forest and take some pictures. Let's just say those cactus spikes are very sneaky little buggers and I spent a good amount of time afterward pulling them out of my body. Now I know why I don't see more people taking pictures in the cactus forest. -.-
And if that isn't enough to make you laugh, I will now proceed to tell you of a little event that happened this week. It started with another brilliant idea, entitled "Let's Go Green-Heart-Attack People in Honor of Saint Patricks Day." We cut out a bunch of green hearts and gold coins, wrote little messages on them and armed ourselves with tape. Our first victim was our beloved investigator Erica. Crofty and I hid around the corner of her house and put the tape on the back of all the hearts. And then we taped those hearts to ourselves and snuck up to the front door, where we proceeded to transfer those hearts from our arms to the door. Then, Crofty was like, "Should we ring the doorbell and run away?" This is what we did. It was going to be a beautiful getaway, except for one minor problem: Crofty ran left and I ran right. I looked back just in time to see my companion disappear around the opposite corner of the house.
This presented a major problem, because Erica's cousin Rex opened the door right then and I had no choice but to stay hidden. While separated from my companion by A WHOLE HOUSE. There I waited for what felt like a decade. I was terrified that the neighbors would see me, a lone missionary, crouching creepily in the shadows by a house. To preserve the churches good name, I removed my nametag.
Eventually Rex back inside and I went and found my companion hyperventilating behind a car. Turns out, we don't do well with separation as missionaries. The moral of the story? Settle on an escape plan BEFORE you ring the doorbell. xD
To top of the funny events, we also had some amazing lessons this week. One was last Monday, with Erica herself. She's caught fire since we first started meeting with her. We came over and almost the first thing she said was "What am I learning about today?" We taught the Gospel of Jesus Christ - faith, repentance, baptism, Holy Ghost and enduring to the end. But she still wanted to learn more! So we read the Book of Mormon with her. And she read and read and read and asked question after questions. I've never experienced anything like it. It was incredible. As we sat there on her back porch, reading scriptures, I honestly couldn't think of any place I would rather be. :)
And then last night we met with Amey. She's the one who's been investigating the church for years and has finally decided to be baptized. We taught the Plan of Salvation, and there was surprisingly a lot she still had never learned. Good thing we're required to go through all the lessons no matter how long they've been taking them ha ha. :) But it was very neat - her daughter Sarah was there, and she isn't necessarily interested but she is very supportive of her mom's decision. As we talked about the power of the Atonement, Amey, Sarah and I learned that we shared some similar life experiences and because of that I was able to testify so personally to them. It was so tender to me. It was the first time I feel like I've been able to help an investigator personally, not simply because of my role as a missionary but because of who I am and my own experiences. It was the first time I feel like I've been sent specifically to someone. It's a very sweet feeling.
All in all, it's been a good week. Adventures, lessons learned, tender moments, learning to follow the Spirit, gaining a greater understanding of who I am... it just doesn't get any better than this. :) I know Christ lives. He loves me, He loves you. The Atonement is real, and its power never ends. Happiness is attainable for all. There is no one beyond saving, no one beyond His reach. The price was too high for anyone to not be covered by it. :)
I love you all. Have a fantastic week. :)
Love, Sister Ball

Blessings Pour from Heaven

Hey everyone! The work here continues to move forward with a speed and intensity that I have not experienced before this area. Kolton, the 15-year-old who finally received permission from his mom to be baptized had his long-awaited baptism yesterday. It was a joyous occasion. He was grinning so much and hugging everyone in sight. It was a unique experience, teaching that kid - he's been attending church since he was a child and has gone to seminary for two years now. He knows all the lessons as readily as we do, so going through the lessons was just a formality. We taught them all in one night. In an hour and a half. I've never done that before, and probably it will never happen again. :) Now he's baptized and confirmed and man, seeing him smile at church on Sunday just melted my little heart.

We have three more people on date to be baptized in April. I'm so excited. Erica and her boys just fill my whole heart with love every time I think of them.  She didn't make it to church yesterday due to family complications, but she texted us and asked if we could meet an extra time this week to make up for it. She just has this vast, insatiable desire to learn. She has no history of God in her life, but right now she's drinking up everything we're teaching her. She just has this insatiable thirst for the Spirit and her son Zay was the first to say he wanted to get baptized. It made her cry. Which in turn made Crofty cry. And I probably would have cried, if that were my reaction to the Spirit, but it isn't. I just was so overwhelmed with love and happiness. :)

And Amey, she's been wanting to be baptized for so long and is finally making it a reality. She announced it to our whole Gospel Principles class yesterday and just got teary eyed because she is so happy. I love to watch it. I love to see these lives changing as people embrace Jesus Christ and the gospel. I never expected this to be so rewarding. I mean, you hear it all the time, but until you actually experience it you cannot truly understand. I love these people. With all my heart. I've never felt like my life had such purpose.

All this and the miracles in between, I'm just bursting with happiness. I can't figure out why the Lord is blessing me and Sister Croft so much (because really, none of this is to our credit) but I'm so grateful. I know the success of a missionary has never been measured by outward signs, but on the change from inside - but to be a part of so many life-changing moments makes me beyond pleased. I'm so happy to be where I'm at. I wouldn't trade this for anything. My dad got married on Saturday - I was picking lemons for a service project at the exact time the ceremony was taking place. I remember taking note of the time and knowing what was happening at home, but still feeling so content. The experiences I had that day, and this life I've chosen, was a fair trade. I'm happy for my family, and I'm happy for where I'm at. I couldn't give it up for anything. Knowing what I know now, I could not change the decisions I've made.
This is missionary life: the ups and downs, the frustration and grief in sharp contrast with joy and contentment. I am happy. I hope you are all happy too. We have the greatest blessing on our hands. We have a Heavenly Father who loves us perfectly. Thank you for all your prayers and support... I love you all. Keep growing, praying and serving. :)
All my love, Sister Ball

Monday, March 9, 2015

Erica, Joe, and Mud Kickball

So this is our investigator Erica and us with her closet that we helped clean and organize. :) It's nice to be sister missionaries - we get to help with all those fun kinds of things.

Us, with our investigator Joe. He was sad one day so we brought him chocolate. 

And our zone with another zone, after a rousing game of mud kickball. Most fun I've ever had in my life. xD

Quick Update

It's a beautiful day! And it's been an incredible week! I'm short on time today, so I'll just give you some highlights:
- Last Monday, it was raining like crazy. But we missionaries wanted to play kickball. So we played kickball in the mud. :] It was the most fun p-day activity I've ever had. If you friend the Arizona Gilbert Mission on facebook, you'll see pictures! :D
- Our newest/former investigator Amey is just amazing. Sooooo she may not be baptized on March 21st after all, she's thinking more like right after Easter. Still. That's not far. She's been investigating the church for 14 years! And I'm just so happy and I feel so blessed to be part of her journey now, when she's decided she's finally ready to take such a big step. She's amazing. I just love her already. :)
- We helped our investigator Erica unpack and organize her closet. That was the most fun I've ever had on a service project. She is just a kind hearted soul, and we laughed and talked as we unpacked and organized. She's never had God in her life, just a vague belief in Him. But she's starting to get excited as she learns. It's incredible to see her catching fire as she's been praying and reading from the Book of Mormon.
- Our bishop called us Thursday night with another miracle: A 15 year old who has been wanting to be baptized for years finally received permission from his mom. Since he's been attending church every Sunday and attending seminary for two years, he's already practically a member. Now it's just time to make it official. He's getting baptized this very Saturday, the 14th. Another baptism has fallen from the sky! Once again... I'm just so happy to be part of his journey at this time.
Heavenly Father's hand in all things is clearly visible. I can hardly believe the outpouring of miracles my companion and I have seen in this short time. I'm happy and excited. I love being here. Summer is already starting - it's warm and I can smell the grass. I love it. I love Arizona, and I love missionary work. This is going to be an incredible week, I can just feel it.
I hope you all are just having the best week ever. Know I love and pray for you. Thank you for your support. I'll talk to you soon. :)
- Sister Ball

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Rewards for a Prison Escapee in a Tropical Paradise

Once upon a time, Sister Croft and I bought some gold medals for the winners of our dodgeball tournament.... and then forgot to hand them out. It was just as well, they were too small to fit over an average sized head ha ha. So we wore them ourselves, to congratulate ourselves for surviving. :)

Please note that the place I am serving in looks like a tropical paradise sometimes. :)

Also, I just thought you should know that my companion looks like a prison escapee when she's in the middle of washing her makeup off ha ha ha.

Baptisms Fall From the Sky!

Okay, so here is the recent news from My Little Area in Gilbert Arizona:

At our first planning session two weeks ago, Sister Croft and I prayed and decided to plan a baptism for week 5. We wrote it in pen in our planners: a baptismal service at 7 PM on Saturday, March 21st. We did not know whose baptism this would be, but we felt strongly that someone would be baptized on that day. We've been inviting each of our investigators to get baptized then, but so far nothing had panned out.

But then last night, our ward mission leader called and told us that he had an investigator for us - her name is Amy, and she's actually a former investigator who has been attending church for years and has known all along that it was true. But she hasn't been baptized because her kids were against it. Well, at church yesterday she approached Brother Law and told him that she was ready to get baptized. She wanted to get baptized on March 21st.

When he told us that, Sister Croft and I about screamed our heads off with excitement. Don't worry, we maintained our dignity while still on the phone. ;) But then we celebrated afterwards, and said a fervent prayer of thanks. MIRACLES HAPPEN! This baptism seems to have just fallen from the sky. It was nothing we had done that prompted it, just the Lord's timing working out. I am just still in shock and awe. This truly is the Lord's work! I've always known it, but sometimes that just seems so clear!
Miracles happen. For all that I've always known it to be true, I still find myself so amazed every time they do. :) God is real. I can't prove it with tangible evidence, but I can see the way He has His hand in my life. Everywhere I turn, I see His little tender mercies. I have so much to be grateful for! It's raining like no other outside and I love it. I feel His love in the rain. In the scriptures. In the words of other people. He's there - I can see it, every day.
Sister Croft and I have fun and work hard every day. Friday we were out biking and we talked to everyone we saw. Just so you all know, that is one part of missionary work that I don't think I'll ever really get used to or comfortable with. But we did it anyway. And we met this nice guy named David - he talked to us for a bit, but told us he wasn't interested. Yet the conversation continued, and we gave him a Book of Mormon. All of the sudden he opened up with questions about things he'd heard and he said his wife had several too. WE were able to set up a return appointment to meet with them both. Miracle? Yes, I think so. New investigators fall from the sky, too. :)
Oh yeah, remember how we were planning a huge stake youth dodgeball tournament? Well, we pulled it off and it was a huge success.
Picture this: a church gym divided in two sections so that two games could be going at once. 300 youth packed in this small space, ages ranging from 14-18. A high strung energy laced through the air. Yelling, shouting, laughing, talking. This is what we experiencedWednesday night. And you know who was solely in charge of this whole deal? Sister Croft and myself. I about died of sheer overload.
But it's okay! Still alive! The kids had so much fun and asked when we were going to do it again. (It might have to wait a while. Until I'm transferred away at least.) There were lots of non-members there and I got to meet a few of them - that was my favorite part. One-on-one interaction is far more my strong suit than harnessing the attention of ten million people. (it feels like 10 million is there's more than 15) And if nothing else... we've earned the respect of all the youth leaders for sure. :)
Funny moment for the week: Sister Croft and I were cleaning apartment Monday night. She was vacuuming when out of the blue, the vacuum started making this horrendous noise! She flipped it over and I examined the spinny brush things. I pulled out some hair and a few paper clips. Then I got up and brushed off my hands, (feeling very proud of myself for knowing how to pull paper clips out of a vacuum) and I told my companion to turn it on. 
Please, you have to understand that Sister Croft and I are both exceptionally blonde. Neither one of us thought to flip the vacuum back over before we turned it on. So when she flipped that switch, HA-WHOOSH!!!! The vacuum exploded dirt and dust all over the living room and right into my companions face. She about died coughing. I about died laughing.
There you go. Hope that made your day. You'll be happy to know that we had the elders fix our vacuum next time. xD
All in all, this week has been splendid, and a far better one is coming on the horizon. You all are the very best, and I love you to smallish pieces. May your days bring laughter, joy and tender mercies from the Lord. :)
All my love, Sister Bethany Ball