Pardon the header. I'm trying to be less light-minded. But come on, that was clever!
It really has been a great week. I think it's important to indicate that the harder we work, the better the week is. So that is where the growth comes from. We are exhausted. We've had back to back exchanges, back to back trainings, back to back meetings and lessons, but it has been so fulfilling. And it has really helped us stay focused. The Lord has blessed us with so many prepared people to teach and with, what seems like, an added amount of time to accomplish everything we need to get done in a day. My companion, might I add, is incredible at staying focused. She goes home in three weeks and she hasn't talked about home once... WHAT.
Before I testify of the joy and gladness that was this week, I just want to preface one of the attached pictures by saying that we definitely taught the Okie-est lesson I've taught on my mission to date. It's up there with the time I taught a lesson sitting on a stack of tires. This time, we taught it sitting in rocking chairs in Choctaw, Oklahoma on a man named Phil's porch. We watched traffic and explained gender equality and the priesthood. He offered us Ginger Ale. Heaven knows why we declined. It only would have added to this momentous occasion. Also, I accidentally said the following phrase when his wife came home. "Would you like to join us? We were just fixin' to say a prayer!" Ohhh no.....
This week I've been particularly aware of the individual love the our Heavenly Father has for each one of his children. I'll give a few examples.
Sister Hirschi and I have been planning a training that we'll be giving on St. Patrick's day, and we were planning on providing lunch at the end of it, but we weren't sure how to do that since we're the ones giving the training. We were kind of stressed about it, but we have a while to think about it, so we set it on the back burner, then we both felt impressed to go visit a sister in our ward, Sister Goolsby. Sister Hirschi had never really met her, and when I introduced myself to her my first Sunday here, she was kind and inviting, but we didn't have much time to chat.
As we were at the Goolsby's home, she expressed how lonely she had been, and how grateful she was to have visitors. She said her home teachers had visited her the week prior and that it meant the world to her. She's beginning to lose her sight and so she can't go out with the missionaries like she used to love to, but she still shares the gospel at the grocery store, and everywhere else she goes. Then she told us that she used to love to prepare meals for the missionaries in the mission home, but she hadn't been able to do it for a while because of some conflicts with her and her husbands health. Sister Hirschi and I looked at each other with lightbulbs over our heads and said, "Sister Goolsby, we might need your help!" We asked her for recipes, and she laughed and told us that she wasn't going to just give us recipes, she was going to come and provide and prepare the food for all 16 of us! Fearful that it would be a large, overwhelming task, we hesitated, but she began to cry and explained that this was an answer to her prayers. That it was an assignment she missed dearly, and that this project would help her have purpose and serve missionaries, the way she always loved to. We all walked away with glad hearts and joyful feelings. I love knowing that the Lord can answer three peoples' prayers with one simple event.
Something that impressed me most about Sister Goolsby was her desire to serve others. Lately, I've been studying Real Intent, something that Sister Goolsby has a lot of. The concept of Real Intent is one a missionary gets well acquainted with as we tell others that the only way they can know if Joseph Smith really was a prophet, or if we still have prophets today, or if the Book of Mormon is true, is to pray about it and expect a response. And expecting a response with the intention of being willing to change once you do receive a response. That change comes naturally to a lot of people when they recognize that Christ's church really has been restored. They automatically want to align their will with God's because they recognize they are more susceptible to God's promised blessings and bettering their lives if they do!
But Real Intent takes one a whole new meaning as we consider that we much act to receive each blessing we pray for!
I remember when I was in Enid, the branch President of Alva (a tiny, tiny city on the border on Kansas) has a wife who loves sharing the Gospel. She's constantly finding people for missionaries to teach through her own efforts. One morning, she brought us breakfast, and we helped her study Spanish (so she could expand the amount of people she could share the Gospel with... yes, she's that amazing). As we were finishing up, she pushed herself away from the table and said, "Well, I'm going to go write a letter to the prophet." We laughed and asked her why. She seemed shocked that we were shocked and said, "every day I pray that President Monson can feel the love and support of the members of the church. And if I'm gonna pray about it, I have to do my part!" Then she packed up her belongings and marched out the door.
Sister Johnson, that was her name, was an excellent example of Real Intent. It means nothing to pray that we'll find new investigators to teach, or a new job, if we aren't out there looking and diligently trying to find them. Talking to everyone, networking, et cetera... We can pray that we'll get a good grade, but it means nothing if we don't study. We can pray that we'll have a good day, but if we approach it with a sour attitude, we won't get very far. Yet EVERY DAY, we hear people say "I prayed for ____ and it didn't happen, so I'm questioning if God exists." Trust me, no, trust God. He exists! But he gives us agency to make ours lives into what we want them to be. He's not going to force us to live the Gospel, which is why we need to make decision that will help us live the Gospel. It is vital that we pray for the spirit to help us with out day-to-day tasks. And as he accompanies us, we must then heed his promptings. Then we will see the blessings we've requested. Real Intent means out intentions are pure, and we are willing to be obedient in exchange for blessings and to indicate our love for our Heavenly Father.
I apologize if that was incredibly long-winded. My hands hare cramping, so it might have been. Conor is getting baptized on Saturday! Also, last night, the Bishop interviewed him to receive the priesthood and he is SO excited. Also, yesterday at church I said, "Conor! Are you excited to go to OU?" and he said, "my whole life I have been... But now, not so much." I jokingly retorted, "because you want to serve a mission, right?" he looked at me and said, "actually, yeah. That's exactly what I want."
I love Conor Johnson with my soul. He is ecstatic to go to the temple. He has been counting down the days to his baptism. He's already invited his entire extended family and his friends. And it is a blessing to see the changes the Lord has made in his life. The Gospel changes people, makes them better than they were before. And it is because Heavenly Father wants us to feel even a taste of our full potential.
I love where I am. I love being in the service of my Savior. I love all of you for your relentless support. Go scatter sunshine!
The photos, as described. Phil's home in Choctaw. Yee-haw!
And Conor, reppin' his "I am a Child of God" sticker.