Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Duane's Baptizm

Disclaimer: Duane and his girls' baptism was my favorite day of my mission thus far. So I reserve the right to talk all about it now. :)
It was the most spiritual baptism I've ever seen. Did I ever mention that his 17-year-old daughter, Sabrina, was absolutely terrified of getting baptized? Well, she was. Our very first lesson with them, we talked about baptism and I told them that baptism symbolized the death, burial and resurrection of the Savior. Well, Sabrina (who has some handicaps) just caught hold of the word "death" and ever since, has been convinced that she will die when she is baptized. She would always ask us: "When you're baptized, are you still alive?" As much as we explained it to her over and over again, she couldn't get over the image in her head that she was going to die.
In spite of all this, she knew what the spirit felt like and knew what we were teaching was true, and she knew she needed to be baptized. So she went forward with it. Her sister Tiffany went first. When Sabrina's time came, she was so afraid but she squared her shoulders and announced to the room: "That's it. I'm going to do it everyone." And she did. Timid, shy little Sabrina has more courage and faith than most people. I've never seen her so happy as when she came out.
Duane, as you may recall, only has one leg. And he couldn't wear his prosthetic into the water. So it required two men to help him into the font. And he had to trust them completely to lower him under the water and then back up, because he certainly couldn't do it himself. That was my favorite part. It is so symbolic of our completely dependent nature on the Savior - not a single one of us can lift ourselves back up once we die, physically or spiritually. We need Him. Just like Duane needed them.
He was so content. So happy. All three of them were. And my soul has never felt so full. I was nearly bursting with all the emotion I felt - joy, peace love. My favorite little family were all baptized. The next day, they were confirmed in Sacrament meeting and received the Holy Ghost. Afterwards, Sabrina came up to us with her eyes shining. She said she felt the Holy Ghost inside of her. To hear her pure spirit testify that the Holy Ghost is real touched my heart so deeply.
And do you know how I feel right now? I feel like a parent whose child just graduated from high school! I watched this family - Duane especially - grow from spiritual infancy to spiritual maturity in a matter of two short months. Being a missionary is very much like being a parent. I taught him, corrected him, encouraged him, watched him change and grow... Then, suddenly, he is baptized. And he doesn't need me anymore. In gospel principles they asked him to share his conversion story and his testimony. I was listening and slowly the realization came to me - he is like a child who is entering adulthood. I raised him, and now it is time for me to step back a little and watch him apply everything I've taught him. I'll still be a part of his life forever, but it's different now.
People need the missionaries to come unto Christ by being baptized. They cannot go any other way. Now he is baptized. And I feel like a mom watching her kid go off to college ha ha. Did I teach him enough? Did I raise him right? I can't reverse time and change anything now. That time is past.
And I just wanted to pitch a fit and cry and say it wasn't fair. But I didn't. Because I was in Gospel Principles surrounded by mature adults and that would have been awkward. So I just prayed my little heart out that night and begged Heavenly Father to take care of my beloved little converts and make up for all the mistakes I made while teaching them ha ha.
Well, now I've really just laid my soul bare. I hope you enjoyed that ha ha. My point is that I love that little family. As missionaries, we still continue to go in and teach regularly for at least a year. But there are a few things that shorten that time for me: 1) Transfers are in two weeks and I might leave the area and 2) They are moving within a month. Either way.... my time as their missionary will soon be coming to an end. And I am very sad.
But, not discouraged! ;) In spite of my emotional roller coaster with all these new and exciting landmarks, I am very happy. Possibly the happiest I've ever been as a missionary. We picked up two new investigators yesterday, two brothers who have questions about latter-day-prophets. The work keeps moving forward. The sun still shines. It's usually about 110 degrees outside and I honestly don't even notice the heat. Miracles happen, folks. :) Every day, they happen.
I hope you have a lovely and splendid week. I love you all.
Sincerely, Sister Ball

Monday, July 20, 2015

Dishwasher Avalanche!

Funny story: Sister Taylor (right next to me in the picture) has lived the majority of her life in Japan. Guess what? They don't have dishwashers in Japan. So Sister Taylor did not know that you couldn't put regular old Dawn dish soap in the dishwasher and then run it! The result? Sister Fairchild and I walked into our apartment in the middle of the day to find our kitchen flooded and bubbles all over the place.
Our apartment was taken over by suds, folks.
Unfortunately, we didn't think to take a picture of the actual disaster, but we ran the dishwasher later that night to rinse the remainder of the soap out. If you look real close you can see that suds were oozing out of the bottom of the dishwasher. it was like something out of a horror movie! xD One of the funniest things I've ever seen. Probably because we were all tired and anything would have seemed funny... but still. :]
Right to left in the picture is Sister Fairchild, Sister Hendrick from New York, Sister Taylor from Japan, and me. :)

Always Moving Forward

Dearest friends and family.... by the time I email next Monday, Duane and his girls will be baptized and confirmed members of the church. :) Teaching them has been one of the greatest privileges of my life. When we first met, their lives were strained by bitterness and loss. But I've been able to see that change into peace, love and acceptance of God's will. They are so near to my heart these days and I can honestly say that the sum total of all the sacrifices I have ever made to be here as a missionary now does not outweigh the blessings of knowing and loving this one small family. They say I changed their life, but they changed mine.
I know God lives. I know He loves each one of us. I was reading in 1 Nephi 17 earlier this morning and Nephi was talking about how Christ was a pillar of light leading the children of Israel through the wilderness. He was there with them, day and night, painstakingly guiding them to where they needed to be.
He is still that for us now. He is our light in the wilderness. He is with us day and night, painstakingly guiding us to where we need to be. We may be asked to forge new paths or do hard things, but we do not have to do them alone.
He is with us. He always has been, always will be. His love is there. We do not have to qualify for it. It is simply there. I know it is.
Thank you for all your love, support and prayers. I feel them
Love, Sister Ball.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Monsoon Season Strikes

Once again, I'm realized how much my mission is coming in full circle. Monsoon season has arrived with all the vengeance and suddenness that it did last year. Last year, I didn't appreciate it as much as I do now that I haven't seen rain in six months. :) Well, okay, it hasn't actually rained yet... just a few sprinkles here and there. But you know it is monsoon season because you can see this great big purple mass of clouds on the horizon constantly, and it feels humid. Oh, and when you unexpectedly get overtaken by a dust storm while you're out riding your bike, that's a good sign too. (Don't worry, we took shelter quick. ;)
Ready for some good news?? Duane and his girls are all getting baptized on July 25th! :D I'm so excited I can hardly even stand it. Teaching him sometimes means going around in circles and hitting walls and trying to get him back on track when he wanders off in the boonies of doctrine.... It means telling him time and time again that I don't have all the answers, but God does. It means tears of frustration too.
And what it comes down to is that it it means immense joy. Because Duane and Tiffany and Sabrina have become so dearly beloved to me. And I love sitting in gospel principles class and listen to him bombard the class with all his concerns and watch them scramble to answer his questions - while I just sit in the corner and smile because hey, that's Duane for you and God loves him deeply for who he is. :)
I feel myself identifying more and more with Ammon when he rejoices in his mission in Alma 26.
Verse 9: "For if we had not come up out of the land of Zarahemla, these our dearly beloved brethren, who have so dearly beloved us,would still have been racked with hatred against us, yea, and they would also have been strangers to God."
Verses 27-28: "Now when our hearts were depressed, and we were about to turn back, behold, the Lord comforted us, and said: Goamongst thy brethren, the Lamanites, and bear with patience thine afflictions, and I will give unto you success. And now behold, we havecome, and been forth amongst them; and we have been patient in our sufferings, and we have suffered every privation; yea, we havetraveled from house to house, relying upon the mercies of the world—not upon the mercies of the world alone but upon the mercies ofGod."
Verses 35-36: "Now have we not reason to rejoice? Yea, I say unto you, there never were men that had so great reason to rejoice as we,since the world began; yea, and my joy is carried away, even unto boasting in my God; for he has all power, all wisdom, and allunderstanding; he comprehendeth all things, and he is a merciful Being, even unto salvation, to those who will repent and believe on hisname Now if this is boasting, even so will I boast; for this is my life and my light, my joy and my salvation, and my redemption fromeverlasting wo. Yea, blessed is the name of my God, who has been mindful of this people, who are a branch of the tree of Israel, and hasbeen lost from its body in a strange land; yea, I say, blessed be the name of my God, who has been mindful of us, wanderers in astrange land."

I've just never heard such beautiful language and more emotional expression. It's only one small piece of a testimony to me that Joseph Smith couldn't have written the Book of Mormon himself - he didn't know how it felt to be a missionary. But Ammon did. He knew what it felt like to be depressed and want to turn back. He knew what it felt like to rejoice when you see the people you've come to love so deeply change and enter into a covenant with God. He knew that you reach a point on your mission where you have nothing left to do but sing God's praises - because it was never you that did any of this, it was always His hand guiding you. Every step of the way.
I'm glad I didn't turn back in the dark moments, because I never would have reached this point. <3
Someone told us in church yesterday that a testimony is like a triangle with three sides. And those three sides are your feelings, yourknowledge and your experience. Your testimony grows through those three things. Maybe that's why your testimony grows so much on your mission. You feel so deeply, experience so much and you increase your knowledge every day. My goal in life is to always be growing my testimony - because it is never the same from day to day. And I'd much rather it be stronger tomorrow than it was today, than the other way around. :)
Have I mentioned yet that I love you? Well, I do. Thank you for staying tuned while I sing my joy over here. :)
Have a fantastical week, friends. Fight the good fight of faith! (See 1 Timothy 6:12)
Love, Sister Ball