Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Year Mark!

Good news, friends! I hit my year mark! I am still alive, still a missionary and still so happy. :)
Okay, here's the thing: This week was forever long. We did so much this week. I don't remember all it was, but I'll do my best to give a run down.
Monday: We went to talk to a couple of guys playing basketball in the park. This frightened us. Everything about basketball frightens me, and trying to talk to two random strangers while they're playing this sport? Yikes. But, then one of them dropped the ball and ran over to talk to us. That doesn't happen every day. Turns out, he was a recent convert and he loves all missionaries. That wasn't so scary after all. ^^
Tuesday: We had a lesson with Joe. It is his dream to be baptized in a river. And he's stubborn and doesn't want to settle for less. This is proving mighty difficult for us because, well, it's just real hard to get permission to baptize someone in a river around these parts. >.<
Wednesday: Crofty got real sick, but we had lessons planned so I left her with a member and went out with a laurel to teach the lessons. Yikes.
Thursday: Hey! That was my year mark! Crofty was still sick, but I went on exchanges with another sister missionary, Sister Salyer, and was able to go to the temple and then to lessons later that night. Plus, a member took me out for ice cream. Which was all fine and dandy, except I forgot that Sister Croft was at a members house waiting for me to come back for her. We got back to our apartment and our roommates were like "Hey, where's Crofty?" And I was like... oh no. I forgot my companion. So, that was awkward. But don't worry, we went back for her. ;)
Friday: Sister Croft was back on her feet! :D We got out and biked and talked to ten million people. Every single one of them was nice. :) That was a good night. Oh, and we tried to take a picture with a cow and she licked me. I'm never taking pictures with cows again. -.-
Saturday: Our roommates and I practiced for a musical number we're performing for zone conference. Sister Russell is playing the piano and Sister Junod and I are singing "I'm Trying to Be Like Jesus", half in English and half in French. It's going to be amazing! I'm learning to sing in French! :D
Sunday: Nine hours of church, our lesson cancelled and we got two dinners. (Something about this area, I tell you.... I've never had so many double dinners in my life. -.- This is because all of our investigators like to make us dinner when we come over for lessons. I don't think they realize we eat with members every night. :) We finalized the plans for Amey's baptism.... which is this Saturday! Whoo hoo! She's going to get baptized! :D I'm speaking at her baptism. Yikes!
So yes. That is my week in a nutshell. It involved a lot of last-minute plan changes, some "Yikes!" moments and lots of laughter. Sister Croft and I have a lot of fun together. Even on the days when everything goes haywire... we still laugh. It's the best part of our companionship. :)
I hope you all have a wonderful week! Talk to you soon!
Love, Sister Ball

Monday, April 13, 2015

Pictures!

So, I don't know if I mentioned this, but the apartment we moved into used to be occupied by elders. Not all elders leave their apartments a mess, but this one... well, we spent a while cleaning. I am now almost a pro at using a Rug Doctor. :)


Also enclosed are pictures of us with our investigator Amey, who is getting baptized in two weeks. :) And there's a picture of us holding a paper chain link we made to count down the days till her baptism. Each link has a scripture on it for her to look up. She is just the greatest thing since sliced bread. I love her from the very depths of my soul! :)





Crofty and I sometimes feel like we hold the fate of the whole world in our hands. :)

Also, here are the pictures of the collapsed bunk bed. Note my horrified face. :)





Sometimes, I'm having a bad day so all my roommates come and sit on me and take selfies. xD


Left to right is Sister Russell from Wyoming, Sister Junod from Switzerland, myself and Crofty from Utah. :)



First Sunburn of the Year!

Disclaimer: I am fantastic at using sunscreen. Even so, I have a dark complexion these days (at least compared to my usual skin tone). I think the Arizona sun just has incredible penetrating powers and cancels out any sunscreen. Or something like that. :)
But the fact of the matter is, we had a service project on Saturday. We were helping out at the Special Olympics! :D And we had to be there at 6:00 AM! D: And because we left our house so early, I forgot to put on my sunscreen! Thusly, I was out in the sun for five hours that day, with no barrier to protect me from the sun. -.- But you know what? God really does protect His missionaries, even against silly little things like carelessly forgetting sunscreen. I got home from that project expecting to be fried, but the only burn I got was a little triangle on my neck. And it wasn't even bad. Cue jaw dropping moment. :O
Miracles. They come in many forms. :)
Lots happened on Saturday, actually. The Special Olympics was so much fun. And we had just enough time to eat lunch and recoup for a moment before going out to another service project. The city of Gilbert had a festival going on, celebrating the diversity of culture that lives there. Sister Croft and I sat at a table and stamped people's "passports" for them. (if they collected the stamps from each station they could turn it in for a prize.) It was way fun. We got to talk to everyone and make friends. Usually people aren't that thrilled to talk to us, so it was a nice change! :)
But funny story: We were stationed near the "Religions Around the World" tent (fitting, right?) and we both got so excited when we saw a banner that said "I Love Jesus!" We asked the people there if we could get a picture with it. They seemed surprised, but they humored us. It was only later when we were looking at the pictures we'd taken that we saw that the banner said "Because I'm Muslim" underneath in smaller print. AWKWARD. It's not every day you see missionaries taking their picture with a sign like that! xD
Okay, so I've failed to explain to you the funny situation in our new apartment. We moved in last week and discovered that all four beds are in one room and all four desks are in one room. This is quite different from the typical two-beds two-desks setup you find in a missionaries apartment. But since we're pretty close with our roommates, Sister Junod and Russell, we decided to leave it as it was. Well, that and the beds are too heavy for us to move by ourselves. :) So the four of us sleep in the same room. It's like a big sleepover every night. And guess who sleeps on the top bunk of the only bunk bed there? That's right. It's me. :] And on Saturday, the top bunk just fell down! Fortunately, I was not in it and Sister Junod was not in her bed below! :) That was another little evidence of the Lord's protecting hand in our lives. Had that happened when we were sleeping, it wouldn't have been so funny. As it was, the four of us laughed pretty hard. I'll send pictures. :) I am currently sleeping on a mattress on the floor. It adds to the sleepover-every-night feel. xD
The work is moving along at a steady pace here in our area. Sister Croft and I are picking up new investigators while our current ones are fast approaching baptism. It is the most amazing thing I've ever seen. :) We started teaching this man this past week named Michael. He used to play in worship bands in his past churches. He's very Christian, and vehemently questions the authenticity of the Book of Mormon. But he's meeting with us because he's tired of resenting the "mormons" anymore, and he wants peace in his heart. So he's meeting with us in a sincere attempt just to understand why we belive the way we do. It's a testimony to me that everyone, at the end of the day, wants peace in their heart. And the only way we can find it is through the teachings to Jesus Christ! I'm so impressed with him and his determination to apply the teachings he holds so dear, and to make friends with people he used to perceive as enemies. Lessons with him have been rocky, just because of the many misconceptions he has, but I cannot even believe how much I love this man. Even though we disagree on many things, I feel that there is a mutual respect between us and I sincerely love our meetings.

Hey, guess what? I'm hitting my year mark this week, and it's weird. O_O It feels like not that long ago that I was writing my mission president as a greenie and saying "I finally feel like I'm getting my feet under me!" every single week. Now I'm not really a greenie anymore, but I still feel like I'm finally getting my feet under me. :) Maybe we never really know what we're doing, maybe we never become perfect missionaries. But I have learned and grown so much more than I ever imagined possible. I've changed in the past year. The course of my life is permanently altered because of the choices I've made here, and I am so incredibly grateful. This has been the best choice I've made in my life, and I'm pleased I still have six months ahead of me to continue to learn. I'll be sad the day I have to leave, even while being happy to return to my family. I'm glad the time hasn't arrived yet, because there will be a lot of mixed emotions involved! I might even cry, which is kind of a big deal. My tears ducts don't always function. It takes a lot to make me cry. ;)
Mission life truly is the best. I miss you all, but it's been worth every broken moment out here on the field. Thank you for your prayers and love. They mean the world to me. If you could, please say a special prayer for Sister Croft and her friend Kelsey. She's gotten some rough news from home. She's amazing though, and is determined to see her mission out to the end. I love her lots. :)
I love you all. Have the best week ever!
-- Sister Bethany Ball

Monday, April 6, 2015

Hear the Music

So, this week was just wonderful and fantastic. :) Can I just say I love General Conference? Last April conference, I was preparing to embark on the greatest mission of my life thus far. This April conference, I find myself looking ahead with a determination to grow as much as possible these next 7 months.
One of my favorite talks was by Wilford Anderson. He said that the gospel is like a dance, and the steps can seem so awkward if you can't hear the music. It's so true! From the outside, perhaps what we do seems complex and unnecessary but when you hear the music - when you feel the joy that comes from living the gospel - the dance is incredible and beautiful. Guess what? I hear the music! I know the gospel is true. As is to be expected with every missionary, I've felt my conversion more deeply than I have any other time in my life. I've seen happiness in family and personal lives that I want to be part of my own. And I know following the teachings of Jesus Christ is how we obtain that happiness. :) My determination is to live it every day, every day, every day.
Something happened during conference that sets it apart from any conference I've ever attended. We were at a members home, watching it with them and our investigator Joe. During Elder Hollands talk, Joe kept looking at us and then at his phone, and then at us. He finally handed the phone over and he had his calendar open to June. He said "I'm ready to be baptized. Pick a day."
CONFERENCE MIRACLES. We're planning on June 13th, two weeks before Crofty goes home. He said he just felt so inspired during conference, he knew it was time. We are so excited. It was incredible. Did I ever see this many miracles before my mission? I'm sure I did, but man I am so aware of them right now. Heavenly Father is pouring blessings on us without number or seemingly without reason. Joe is getting baptized! We couldn't ask for anything better!
Basically, life is a beautiful thing. And I love being a missionary still. :) It's weird to think I'm coming up on my year mark in a couple of weeks. People say it goes by fast, but it hasn't felt fast. It feels like it's been a lifetime, probably because there's no way I could fit everything I've learned and experienced into one short year. And I still have seven months left! How much will I learn in seven months? I don't know, but I'm excited to find out. :)
Thank you, always, for your prayers and support. This has been the best decision of my life and I couldn't have done it without so much help from those I love. I love  you all so much. God loves you. Never forget. :)
Sincerely, Sister Ball