Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Reconciliation

Possibly one of my favorite parts of being a missionary - strangely enough - is teaching on Sundays. I really love to teach. The dynamic of a classroom is a lot different than teaching an investigator one-on-one, but I love it when discussion takes off and suddenly everyone is sharing their insights and everyone is learning. I love it when that happens.

Yesterday, Sister Croft and I were teaching about the fall of Adam and Eve. We ended up talking about the three pillars of the gospel - The Creation, The Fall and the Atonement. And I realized that everything in life hast hose kind of stages - a beginning phase, where everything is beautiful and paridisacal. Then a fallout, where you realize that things are imperfect and things seem to crumble a little. Then, a reconciliation - where you learn to work things out and make them stronger than they were before. The creation, the fall, the Atonement. Without the Atonement, we would all be stuck in "The Fall" stage. There would never be any reconciliation, never be working things out. Once a relationship crumbled or a mistake was made, it could never be fixed. But how blessed we are! We do have a Savior, and He gave us the Atonement, a chance to make things better and stronger. It was all part of our Father's perfect plan to begin with. 

How much I love it. :) He made it possible for broken things to be fixed. Good thing too! Because I don't think a single day passes that one of us doesn't madke a mistake and want to make it right. Guess what? It can be made right! Through the Atonement.

This week was a fun one. Well, mainly our baptism for this weekend cancelled. He changed his mind, said it was coming too fast and backed out. I was very sad, but then I realized - this is the first time my entire mission that someone has backed out on their baptism, and I have been out for 13 months! Really, I've been so blessed. And he still wants to get baptized.... Just probably later in the summer. :)

Then, we had a less-active in our ward text us and say she had a friend who wanted to take the lessons. So we went over the next night to meet him. His name is Paul. We asked him a few questions to get to know him and asked "What is it that you want to get out of these meetings with us?" Without hesitation he replied, "Baptism."
I think my jaw might have dropped. Usually, that isn't how our initial conversations go. xD

So yes, now we are helping Paul prepare for baptism. He said he wandered away from God for a while there, and God has slowly been guiding him back. He feels as though this is the best course for him to take. He's pretty cool, I like him a lot. He lives outside of our ward thought, so we probably have to pass him off before he gets baptized. Still, I'm happy to be part of this. :)

As if that wasn't cool enough.... Our recent convert Amey, we've been visiting her and helping her get ready to move. It's a bittersweet thing. She's excited, but we are so sad to see her leave. We've become so close. She has her daughter, Sarah, moving with her to Florida. Sarah has sat in on the lessons since we started teaching Amey, but she told us she would probably never join herself. Which is okay. But oddly, she continued to sit in on the lessons - and she read the reading assignments. And she stopped drinking coffee. And she came to church every Sunday. She has been every bit as involved as Amey along the way, while still maintaining that she wasn't going to join herself.
Well, we were over the other night laughing our heads off (this family could be a comedy show, I tell you. They are hilarious. They don't try to be, they just say whatever is on their minds. And usually, it's pretty funny. We spend so much time laughing. xD) It was just Sarah and her son Michael with us and suddenly, out of the blue she says, "So I've been thinking about getting baptized before we leave."

This was another jaw-dropping moment. Please note, they move in a mere two weeks. We assured her that yes, she could be ready for baptism by then. She didn't seem so sure, and changed the subject shortly thereafter. But now we know - Sarah may not be far behind her mom in joining the church. :) Whether it will be here or in Florida, I don't know but I don't really care. I am just so excited for her. :D

Okay, here is a really neat story: On Monday, Sister Croft and I had visited everyone we'd planned in already and we still had an hour left to work. We were trying to figure out where we needed to be when suddenly, a piece of paper fell out of her bag with a name, address and number. No, I'm not kidding. The answer to our question "Where do we need to go?" literally just fell into her lap. It was my handwriting, and I recognized it as a referral for a less-active family I'd received while on exchanges about three months ago. I'd lost the piece of paper and thought I would never find it again. Clearly, Father in Heaven had been holding onto it until it was time to visit them. ;) We went to visit them. The dad answered and was nice, but assured us that he was not a practicing mormon and his family had no interest in changing. But he did say we could come back next week. So on Thursday we have an appointment to meet the rest of the family and I'm excited. Heavenly Father obviously wants us to come into their lives at this exact time. 

It's just been such a good week, you know? Sister Croft and were talking the other day about how we have seen so many miracles while we've been together. More than I've ever seen before. I just feel so blessed. Really, none of this has been because of our own work. Literally, baptisms have fallen from the sky. :D

Your funny story for the week: We were reading from the Book of Mormon with our recent convert Joe. We were explaining how the Lamanites were typically the people who were more wicked because they didn't have the gospel and didn't know God. He interrupted with an impetuous "Yeah, hence the lame. Lame-anites." We busted up laughing. He's been baptized all of two weeks and already he's cracking mormon jokes! He brings us such joy. Sometimes, as a missionary, you just feel like a proud parent. ;) 

Another story: We were heading home from a lesson at 8:45 Thursday night and discovered that a cop car was blocking our way home. No worries, we just looped around to go a different way... except that road was blocked too, for no apparent reason. Eventually we figured out it was because of high school graduation - we share the street with Highland High School, and that night they blocked off all incoming traffic so that the crowds could get out relatively quick. It was a good idea, except we had no way home ha ha. They finally opened up the roads at 9:50ish and we made it home just before 10! Close call, for a missionary's curfew. That night I had dreams about driving around in circles, surrounded by cop cars ha ha.

All in all, it has been a wonderful week. The weather here is still cool. Only in the 80s or so. Crazy, right? Arizona doesn't know what to do with itself when it's cool in May! 

I love you all and I hope you have a great week. I know God loves you and he is looking out for you. He knows you better than you know yourself. He's always on your side. :)

Till next week!

-- Sister Ball

Monday, May 18, 2015

Time Is Too Short

So, we're pressed for time today. This will be a short email, but I wanted to let you all know I love you. :)

It rained this week. And got down to 60 degrees. In the middle of the day. This is freak weather for May in Arizona, folks. Everyone here is just appalled. Me, I was thrilled to death. :) We were out traced when it started pouring and we got drenched. We just laughed, figuring someone would take pity on us and let us in - but, no one was even home. Oh well, we had fun. I love the rain. :)

With Joe and Amey baptized, we suddenly find ourselves with very little teaching going on. Then, BAM like a strike of lightning a 14 year old kid who has been attending church for years decides he wants to get baptized. Yay! :D

Also, we've been getting several return appointments from people we talk to on the street, which isn't terribly common. We have three appointments today, which will hopefully lead to three new investigators. We're very excited. 

Sister Croft and I see the Lord's hand in our lives every day. This is an amazing time of our lives. Someone pointed out to me the other day that in Ether 12:27 Christ says that if we come unto Him, He will show us our weaknesses so that He came make them become strong. As missionaries, we're closer to Jesus Christ than we've ever been in our lives, so it stands to reason that we see our weaknesses so clearly. And I see my weaknesses often.
But, we have grace in our lives too. And grace is not the absence of God's high expectations, but the presence of His power. I know that through Him, we can overcome all obstacles before us. Even if those obstacles come from within us, our own selfish natures.

God did not send us here to earth to fail, but to succeed gloriously. And I am grateful every day. :)

I love you all. Have an amazing week!

With love, Sister Ball

Monday, May 11, 2015

The Unexpected Happens

So let me begin this email by informing you all that transfer calls came last night and - dun dun dun - Sister Croft and I are staying together! AGAIN! :D This is the first time I've stayed with someone for more than two transfers. I am so excited! Also, she goes home this next transfer so, once again, I will be sending a companion home. I'm becoming professional at this whole sending-people-home thing. xD 

But we're happy to stay together, if very surprised. We had to call the zone leaders to make sure they were being serious and they were. It will be a good thing. Lots is happening in this area. Joe was baptized on Wednesday! :D He was one happy duck at his baptism. He invited all his friends, most of whom were non-members, and a good part of whom actually live in our area. So we have a lot of potential investigators that way. Even better, Joe keeps inviting them to church and has sent missionaries to a few of them living outside our mission. This guy is already being a missionary! He even talks about serving a mission after he retires. He is just so great. :]

But wait, there is more! Amey, who got baptized end of April, is selling her house and moving. :( That wasn't the happy part. The happy part is that she has a grandson who lives with her and has never shown an interest in learning more all through the years that she's been taking the lessons. But, we went over on Tuesday night.... and he sat in on the lesson with us. :O Then we went over on Saturday to help them pack stuff up and hold a garage sale. While we were there, se invited him to church. he was pretty non-committal about all this, but come Sunday afternoon..... there he was at church! :O It is one heck a miracle here, folks ha ha ha.

I've loved watching change happen in peoples lives. One of the elders in my zone recently said that the best part of being a missionary is that you get  a front-row-seat in watching the Atonement make changes in people. I have to say I agree. Being a missionary is hard! Harder than I knew it would be. But every moment, every broken moment, has been worth it. It's been worth it to see Michael change, to see Amey change, to see Joe change... Kevin, Erin, Natalie. So many people. All of them have more happiness than they did before. I don't feel like I did much - it was all them, all their choices, but I love that I could teach them in some small way what choices to make. My testimony has grown just from watching them. I know that living the gospel leads to a better life.

I know my Savior lives, and that He loves me too. His roles in our life is what enables us to be happy, and for that I am eternally grateful.

Life is good, my friends. Life is very good. :)

I love you all. Have a fantastic week.

--Sister Ball

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Pictures Exchange

Exchanges on Saturday with Sister Haycock! :D We had some good times. We practiced riding our bikes with no hands. I hold the record with a total of 5 seconds ha ha. xD 





Amey's baptism! :D As I mentioned before, she has been investigating for a long time so she's had a lot of missionaries involved in her story. A couple of the elders who taught her in the past were able to come! One of them is from Ukraine and I wanted SO BAD to practice my Russian with him... but I didn't remember enough to even try. -.- Tragic. That is what that is.

We got a picture when she "passed" her interview. :)

And then we got a poetic little picture of us watching the font fill up. xD



More pictures from our exchange! :)
This is what we look like after a long day of biking ALL DAY. :)


And this is what it looks like when the sun sets in Arizona while a storm is approaching. :D


Friday, May 1, 2015

Love Changes Lives

Okay, this week has been simply fantastic.
First off, Amey got baptized this weekend! :') It was simply the most beautiful baptism I've ever been privileged to be a part of. I don't know if I've ever told you the full story, but Amey has been attending church for 6 years. She started coming not long after her husband died, and wanted to get baptized then - but her kinds insisted that she wait, because it was too big a decision to make so soon after her husbands death. But she always, always wanted it even though they never, never supported it. (With exception of her one daughter, Sarah, who lives with her.) Only a couple of months ago, her resolve strengthened and she decided now was the time. So this baptism day was a long time coming. :) She was so nervous. And when she came out of the water, she cried into her friends shirt for just a moment. She is so happy. And I am so proud of her. :)
She hasn't told her kids yet. She says her plan is to take them all out to a nice restaurant for dinner and tell them then after they order their food - "I was baptized on April 25th. And if any of you make a fuss about it or try to make me feel bad about it, then you are paying for your own meal."
Ha ha ha ha ha Amey just makes me laugh so hard! She is full of spunk. :)
Later that same day, we met up with our investigator Joe. We were helping him move because, sad news.... he is moving four miles away, which happens to be outside our mission boundaries. :( We've known it was coming for a while, and he requested that we still be the missionaries to teach him and that he'd still be able to attend the ward he's currently in. At least until after his baptism in June. This kind of decision requires a mission president's authorization, so we'd talked to him and received the sad verdict: We could not keep teaching Joe for that long if he lived in another mission. We needed to pass him off. (We sat on the kitchen floor and cried after hearing this.)
So, we told him this news as we were helping him move. Joe is stubborn and said "Absolutely not." We tried to explain it to him, but he was adamant that we had to be with him when he got baptized. Finally, he said "What if I got baptized before I move?"
Please note, he is moving in two weeks. So, the result of all this is that Joe is, in fact, getting baptized the day before Mothers Day. Right before his move is final. Cue jaw drop. We never saw that one coming. :D
So, as if all this good news wasn't enough, let me tell you one more really awesome thing: Do you remember Michael, our investigator who used to be a wee bit anti mormon? Here's the latest on him: He has completely changed since we met him four weeks ago. Our first meeting, he absolutely terrified us. (Stared at us through sunglasses and made no indication of how he felt the entire time we talked.) In the beginning, he seemed intent on disproving everything we taught him and he was adamant that he had no intention of changing his own beliefs.

But this last meeting we had, on Friday, he was no longer that way. We've developed a good relationship by now. He didn't argue with us once and we've come to learn that our beliefs are more similar than they are different. :) Even when we taught about the three kingdoms of glory, he explained how it was closer to his own personal beliefs than anything else he'd ever heard. It is the neatest thing, to see his change of heart. I love him with all my soul, what can I say? I hope I never get transferred from here, just so I can keep meeting with him. :)
So, last night we had a lesson with Joe (with his baptism date moved up so dramatically, we have to fit in the last of the lessons real quick!) and he asked us a question that everyone asks at one point in their lives: "Why does God allow innocent suffering? Why is life so unfair and difficult?"
It's a hard question to answer. It really is. I feel like I understand it, but to try to explain it proved near impossible. But as I was studying the story of Job this morning, I came across I quote I love and I will now proceed to share it with you:
"Is there not wisdom in His giving us trials that we might rise above them, responsibilites that we might acheive, work to harden our muscles, sorrows to try our souls? Are we not exposed to tempations to test our strength, sickness that we might learn patience, death that we might be immortalized and glorified?
"If all the sick for whom we pray were healed, if all the righteous were protected and the wicked destroyed, the whole program of the Father would be annulled and the basic priciple of the gospel - agency - would be ended. No man would have to live by faith!
"If joy and peace and rewards were instantaneously given the doer of good, there could be no evil - all would do good, but not because of the rightness of doing good. There would be no test of strength, no development of character, no growth of powers, no agency, only satanic controls.
"Should all our prayers be immediately answered according to our own desires and limited understanding, then there would be little to no suffering, sorrow, disappointment or even death, and if these were not there would also be no joy, success, resurrection, nor eternal life or godhood." - President Kimball
To me, this quote explained perfectly what I could not find the words for. God is a zealous protector of our agency, our right to choose our own destiny. His plan for us here is perfect, even when to us it seems unfair. The Atonement is here to right all wrongs. Because of that, we are enabled to grow beyond our current state. :)
I love the gospel, and the peace and understanding it brings. I love being here in Arizona, even when the forcast for the coming week is 102 degrees. :) Wouldn't trade it for anything. Although I admit I am grateful for such things as popsicles and ice cream.
I hope you all have a wonderful fantastic week. I love you more than anything. :)
Cheerfully, Sister Ball