Thursday, August 27, 2015

God Knows Us

So, I has a little story to tell you all. :)
Week before last, Sister Fairchild and I were tracting and we met this girl named Amber. She told us she was agnostic but that she was willing to listen to our message. I had a good feeling about her during out very brief encounter and I looked forward to our returning appointment.
However, experience has taught me that people we meet through tracting don't keep their appointments. So when we knocked on her door Wednesday night, I very much didn't expect her to be there. Surprise: She was there. She remembered. She was anxiously awaiting our arrival. She let us in, and we proceeded to converse and learn about her entire life story. In short, she's had a difficult life. I was very moved to compassion as she spoke. And then she told us that just a few days before we knocked on her door, she had an experience where God answered a desperate prayer she'd been pleading. He let her know He was there, and that He was listening.
When we knocked on her door that day, she knew immediately we were sent from God to help her answer her many questions. That's why she invited us back, and that's why she is meeting with us now.
We tell this experience to the people in our wards when they ask how the work is going, and no matter how many times I share the story I am still just amazed at how merciful our God is. I cannot even adequately explain because the feeling that existed in Amber's living room as we spoke cannot be described. All I can tell you is that I know Amber is a daughter of God. He loves her so much, and He has been with her every step of the difficult path she's been called to walk on. He always knew where she was and what she needed. He knew when she was ready to listen, and He sent two young sister missionaries to help her find the way to true happiness: through the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Basically, Amber means a lot to me. When the call came, weeks ago now, that I would be staying in my area I immediately knew there was someone else for me to find here, and I think I found her. I love her so much already. :)
I never cease to be awed by the miracles I see. I know God lives. I know He loves us. There are evidences of it every single day. I have learned that He almost always answers our prayers through another person. My very most favorite part of being a missionary is the part where I suddenly realize that I was on the Lord's errand - without even realizing it, I was exactly where I needed to be visiting the very person that God wanted me to see.
That is a very blessed feeling indeed.
We talked to Duane on the phone yesterday. He went to his new ward and found it to be considerably less friendly than the one he just left. It saddened me to hear about his challenges. But then he told me that it didn't matter - he knows what it means to hold on to the iron rod. And he will never let go of that, no matter what challenges he faces.
That is also a very blessed feeling, to hear your recent convert say that.
Friends, I have been very blessed. I am so grateful to be here. I am grateful for every moment, the good, the discouraging and the in-between. God is in the details of our lives. He always has been. He loves you, and He always will. I know that for certain. :)
I love you.... have a very wonderful week. 
Sincerely, Sister Ball

Monday, August 17, 2015

Faith: A Principal of Action

Yesterday one of our recent converts in the area taught our Gospel Principles class in church. She was baptized back in December - before I got here - and is an absolutely amazing human being. She taught about faith, and rather than spew all the information she knew on the subject she encouraged a class discussion where all of us could share our thoughts and experiences. It was very uplifting. I left thinking deeply about faith and the profound effect it has had on me - on my mission and throughout my life.
Faith in its simplest definition is found in Alma 32: "Faith is not to have a perfect knowledge of things; therefore if ye have faith ye hopefor things which are not seen, which are true." Or in other words, faith is believing in things you cannot see. We believe in Christ, though we don't see him before us.
But faith is also more than a passive belief. Faith is the power to act because you trust in what you cannot see. We do not simply believe that Christ is there - our belief in Him and trust in Him compels us to move forward and become better human beings, to follow Him to the best of our abilities. I believe that that faith is strengthened by an understanding of how powerful His love is for us. We do not have to earn that love, it simply exists, beautiful and unchangeable. That love He has for us draws us to Him, because we as human creatures all desire to be loved. He loves us, we love Him, we follow Him and trust that we are redeemed through His incredible sacrifice.....
Okay, I could discourse on faith all day. My heart is so full this week. Let me explain: I had an opportunity to go back to my first area, the very place I started my mission in. While I was there I felt like I could see myself as I was 16 months ago, compared to how I am today. I was nearly knocked off my feet with the strength of awe and gratitude I feel - because I have been changed! Over and over I've said it, but this mission has never been a sacrifice, but a gift from God to me. This week I saw it so keenly - how He has shaped me to become better than I once was.

I embarked on a plane last April and my heart was racing at a hundred miles an hour. I never told anyone how terrified I was. I still remember how desperately inadequate I felt and how I thought about turning around and leaving right then, quitting before I began so I wouldn't have to fail.
But I didn't leave. I stayed. And it wasn't that I had some incredible faith, just some tiny hope that this was going to be okay. From that small baby hope has sprung amazing things! I still feel like my faith is small and childish most of the time. I have profound moments but most of the time I feel like I'm desperately reaching in the dark and hoping to find what I need. I never know for certain that He's going to pull through. But He always does! 
I understand better now, not perfectly, but better what faith means. Why Christ says that if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed then you can move mountains. You don't always see the mountains move all at once. I didn't. But they move. Gradually, over time, your mountains can be moved.
A desire to believe is enough.
Simple faith works miracles.
Faith-filled obedience - obeying even when you don't completely understand or see the end result - brings blessings.
The Lord is anxious to bless you, but He requires your faith, no matter how baby it may seem.
I am still floored by these things I've learned this week. I am still amazed at the hand of God in my life. If I could cry happy tears, they'd be flowing. My life is forever changed. I'm not firm and unshakable, but I have a testimony  of the truthfulness of the gospel. And I know how to stay true. That's all I need. That's what I intend to do, now and forevermore.
So. There you go. Those are my words of wisdom to your for the week. :)
Other news: I learned why no one in Arizona drives old junker cars. It was something I noticed a few months into my mission: everyone has newer cars. Weird. I never understood.... until the A/C went out in our car this weekend.
(Insert dramatic music here.)

It was 11 AM, 112 degrees outside and after 3 minutes without A/C both Sister Fairchild and I were dripping with sweat. I have never sweated so much before IN MY LIFE. Not even while I'm biking in said 112 degree weather! We couldn't take it, so we hurried and pulled over into a gas station and got out of the car. Stepping out into that 112 degrees felt like walking into an air conditioned building! X.X
I am not exaggerating. That happened, exactly as I said. And that, my friends, is why you drive nice cars in Arizona. 
Don't worry. We got the A/C fixed. ;)

We're going ice skating today with our zone. I am super excited, partly just to pretend like I'm in cold weather ha ha. We also have a lesson tonight with David and Christina, our good friends who ran across anti material a while back and say they will NEVER join the church... but that we can still come and teach them. So, I'm a little nervous about that. But hey... I have faith. ;) Ha ha. It's a real thing though.
I will write more next week! Thank you for all your love, prayers and support! This has been the best experience of my life. I would never trade it for anything. But I do miss you and can't wait to see you again. I love Arizona, heatwaves and all! And the gospel is true. :) Talk to you next week!
Love, Sister Ball

Monday, August 10, 2015

The Best Investment

Transfers. They happen and pass, quicker than you realize. Time seems surreal when you count everything by six-week increments.
This week:
Duane moved. He never let us know exactly when he was leaving. We simply biked past one day and saw the moving truck, loaded up and ready to go. It was kind of sad. Okay, very sad. But, he came to our ward one last time yesterday and it was good to see him and his girls. He received the priesthood. Sister Fairchild and I got to be there for that. It made me happy. He seems so content. He knows he still has much to learn, and he looks forward with faith. I am so proud of him, every day.
We picked up a couple of new investigators, David and Christina. I met them when I first got put with Sister Croft (six months ago, crazy!) and we've been trying to get in to teach them ever since. We went over this week and Christina told us that she'd done some research and what she learned she thought was very false. But, she said she wanted us to come and teach them anyway, so she could hear from us why we believed as we do. I feel such hope in that. They are some of the nicest people I've ever met on the planet. So I eagerly look forward to our further meetings. :)
We met a couple of less-active families we've been trying to see and set up returning appointments with them both. Yay! :)
Our roommate, Sister Taylor from Japan is training a new greenie. Her name is Sister Drummond, from Oklahoma. The funny thing about this situation is that Sister Taylor is the music coordinator for the whole mission (a big job, I tell you) and my companion is kind of her assistant. The result is that we've been going on exchanges almost every day while they work on that stuff, so I've essentially been co-training Sister Drummond. Yikes! Training a new missionary is a big responsibility, I tell you. It's a lot of fun though. Sister Drummond is a fireball. I can hardly keep up with her ha ha.
Also, I spoke in church yesterday. I didn't know I was going to be doing so - we just showed up to Brighton ward and the 2nd counselor stopped us and said "Our concluding speaker is very ill... can you fill in for him today?" So it was with little advance notice that I stood in sacrament meeting and shared all my thoughts on the Book of Mormon and its power. Fortunately, I've been doing that very thing for the past 15 months, so it wasn't even hard. :) Adventures of missionary life, yay!
That's all for now, folks. The work rolls forward whether we hop on board or not. I read the talk again, "The Fourth Missionary" which, in simplest terms, explains that the only way you gain anything from your mission experience is if you give your whole heart and soul over to the Lord. I only have a limited time available to me, so it is will utmost willpower that I want to strive to do that very things. After all, what I can make of my heart and soul is nothing compared to what the Lord can make of my heart and soul. Since I want this mission to be my best investment, I must put in as much as possible, and that's what I'm going to do. That, I believe, is the solution for all happiness in life. :)

I love you all. I hope that life is going well, and even if it seems that it's not, I hope you are trusting in the Lord. He has it all handled. :) Have a faith-filled week.
Love, Sister Ball

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Transfer #12

Transfer news came in last night. Drum roll please........ I am STAYING!!!! And so is Sister Fairchild!
Honestly, nothing could have POSSIBLY surprised me more than that news. I fully expected to leave. I've been in this area for six months now - my longest area - and because Sister Fairchild goes home at the end of this transfer, I will have to stay one more transfer. Which will be my last transfer. Which means I am going to end my mission in this area. And did I mention that this means I will be in this area 9 months?? That is half my mission.
So, that is all the shock that went through my brain at the news. But you know what is awesome?? That means Sister Fairchild and I get another transfer together! I was very sad because I thought I would leave her, but this is not the case. We're staying together, folks. I'm sending yet another missionary home. This brings my total up to 4 missionaries I've sent home. Please note - that is a record in this mission. xD
Anyway,  now let me tell you about other news. Duane and his family are moving, the same day as transfers. I am very sad to see them go. But, something incredible happened this week. Duane has a good friend Shelley who has sat in on a few of our lessons over the past couple of weeks. It turns out that she used to take the lessons with her sister, months ago. And she was very close to a senior couple in our mission who I was very close to as well. So we had a connection, and she began to open up slowly to us.
And since Duane has been baptized and she's seen the remarkable change in him, she's made sure she comes to every lesson we teach him. This week, she gave us her address and phone number and asked us to send the missionaries to her house to teach her again. Miracle! Sister Fairchild and I were so happy, because we'd been praying for that very thing. :)
Duane has actually been causing lots of lives to change since his baptism. He has no problem telling everyone in the world what has brought him so much happiness over the past several weeks. His oldest daughter, though not interested herself, asked if he would take his grandkids to church with him. And he had a friend from back in Massachusetts ask how he could get missionaries to come teach him.
So much good is being spread out to the world by his influence. I watched his life slowly change as we met in his living room, week after week. It has brought me so much joy. But I never even realized the possibility that those little life-changing meetings could reach out an influence people far outside my own reach.
Missionary work is an incredible thing. And it is a joy to be a part of.
Folks, I know this work is the work of God. I cannot doubt it. I've seen too many miracles. I've seen the gospel work. I've seen it change men who thought they were too far lost. There is no one on this planet who is too far gone. The Savior descended below all things, so He could lift each of us up. Our lives can change. We can change. We do not have to be victims of circumstance. And it is all possible through the Atonement of Christ.
I am so grateful for it. And I'm grateful for each of you.
I love you.
Sincerely, Sister Ball