This week we had a great Zone Conference in Golden! I always love those! For lunch we had a picnic outside on the grass. It was nice and warm, beautiful weather. Then we came back to Frisco and it's been snowing all week!
That was on Tuesday. After that we had a fantastic week! We kicked it off with District Meeting in Leadville. We had set some goals as a district, with a punishment affixed to eat a habañero pepper for not hitting the goals. One companionship came ONE number away from ONE of the three goals. But alas, they didn't hit all three. No one did. So we all ate a habañero pepper. It was so awful. Soooo hot. I tried to swallow my pepper, and my body literally rejected it and wouldn't swallow. Then I cried for 10 minutes and put dirty snow on my tongue to cool it off. Okay, it wasn't that dirty, but how clean can snow really be?... And I didn't cry from the pain, c'mon. It's just, you know... like the reaction to the heat. I can feel you judging me for crying... You would have cried too! So anyway, we ate those peppers and my resolve to hit our goals was really strong after that. We added another goal, raised them, then made the agreement to hit 2 out of 4. That seemed a lot more plausible. And we did!!! No habañero for me this Wednesday!
An excerpt from a letter to Dad...At Zone Meeting on Tuesday we ended with testimonies. They were pre-determined. Elder Handley got up and said, "We'll now end our Zone Conference with some testimonies. If we could have the following Elders and Sisters come up and share their testimonies in this order: Sister Aulner, Sister Donald, Sister Hancock, Sister Keavali, Elder Belding, Elder Jacobson, Elder Rhodes, and Elder Rogers. Yup. They wanted dying testimonies from all of the missionaries at their last Zone Conference. No more Zone Conferences for me. I cried when I bore my testimony. I guess you could consider it a dress-rehearsal for next transfer when I give my real dying testimony. Eight short weeks left. But I'm finishing strong! "Work, work, work! There is no satisfactory substitute, especially in missionary work!"
That day I was on exchanges with Elder Handley, one of our Zone Leaders (who did not have to eat a pepper, so E. Ramirez will have to eat his this Wednesday). We had a great day up there in Leadville! We taught a nice older less-active lady who we see every time we go up there. Then we went and knocked doors in the trailer park. We had only knocked on a few, when a kid answered and I realized I had already talked with someone who lived in that house (I recognized the interior). So when the kid went and got an adult, I recognized him. I said, "Hey! How's it going? What's your name again?" It was Kevin. Then I said, "Oh yeah. Hey, so we were just in the area, so we came to share our message with you!" He said okay, and let us in. It's so funny-- the slightest variation of words can change a whole situation. A lot of the time we say, "We're just passing by to see if it's a good time to share our message." And they tell us they're busy, and it's not a good time. So instead of telling Kevin we were there to see if it was a good time, I told him we were there to share our message. And we did. And he understood it! That honestly has to be one of the most frustrating things-- people not understanding the Restoration. But he got it. After we had taught it, he was excited to hear about a prophet on the earth "who actually has authority from God!" He said, "I've always wondered about these pastors and priests and things, and where they get their authority from. So this makes sense." Yes, it does, doesn't it?
I forgot to tell you about something that happened on Tuesday. I was with Elder Handley, who doesn't speak any Spanish. We were knocking doors in an apartment complex that has about 99% Hispanics. We talked to this one lady on her doorstep who said she didn't have time right now, because she was about to go to a meeting with the pastor from her church in another apartment. she invited us to come! So we went. We thought it might be a good opportunity to get some contacts and maybe get to know a little more about where these people are coming from. It was a Pentecostal church meeting. I talked to the pastor for a little bit before the meeting started, and he said he used to live in Mesa. He said, "You have to be careful when you talk around white people down there, because there's so many Mormons and they all speak Spanish." Then he looked at Elder Handley and said, "You don't speak Spanish?" He said no. "Then you're not a Mormon." Haha!
Well, anyway, it was quite the meeting. They started by reading a chapter from Isaiah. The man reading the chapter used his outside voice; I'm not sure why. Then they all prayed vocally in their outside voices different things. Some were crying, and they were all speaking Spanish. I think Elder Handley was a little freaked out, because to him they were just shouting mumbo-jumbo. But luckily I could tune into one of them and tell that they were just praying really loudly. They sang some songs, and then let me share something. I didn't know exactly what to share.... Because I wanted to make sure they respected missionaries and would talk to them in the future, but I still wanted to teach them something. They knew we were Mormons, as they specifically mentioned our presence in a room of about 20-30 people. So I decided that if nothing else, I would leave them with no doubt regarding our belief in Jesus Christ as the Savior of the world. So I read a scripture and bore my testimony about that. I'm not sure if sharing something else would have been better, but that's what came to my mind on the spot. Then we heard a sermon from the pastor and left with some plates of food. It was definitely different, but it's good to get an idea of where they're coming from.
On Friday the only lesson we had was with a man named Luis and his wife. They were former investigators from missionaries past. Elder Ramirez had taught them once on exchanges a few transfers ago. They are Seventh-day Adventists, so they know their stuff when it comes to the Bible. Because they actually read it. We started to teach them (mostly Luis) about the Restoration, and then got on a HUGE tangent about the Bible. He was adamant that the Bible was 100% accurate and that anything and everything should be based off of it. We shared that "we believe the Bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated correctly." And he just wouldn't have it. He was basically polite, just very adamant about his belief in the Bible. So, seizing an opportunity to teach about the role of the Spirit in confirming the truth of the Book of Mormon, I asked him how he came to know the Bible was the word of God. He said that growing up his parents and just told him over and over again that it was, and he had always believed it. I asked, "So you've just always believed it?" Yup. We explained about God answering prayers through the Holy Ghost and he responded that God answers our prayers through the Bible. He explained that the 72 men who compiled the Bible checked every book against the five books of Moses. In those five books were the Law, and if writings didn't conform to the Law, they weren't canonized. I had pretty much heard enough to know he was completely closed off to anything we had to say, so we didn't even go into who checked the five books of Moses. It was basically just a circle that kept coming back to the Bible. And the validity of the Bible should be determined by the Bible. He just got onto the idea that we consider the Bible dung, which we clearly explained we do not. It's the word of God. It should be revered as such, studied from, and lived by. It's just not translated 100% correctly, nor does it contain all of the doctrines necessary for salvation. So finally I said, "Vamos a tener que estar de acuerdo de no estar de acuerdo." (We'll have to agree to disagree.) I think it was a lot funnier to say that in Spanish, because I don't think it's a saying. So they thought that was funny. They had a copy of the Book of Mormon in the house, so we urged them to read it and to ask God if it is true. We ended on a good note. I think his wife silently saw the invalidity of her husbands argument and agreed with the doctrine of answers to prayers through personal revelation. Hopefully hearts will soften and testimonies will be gained.
The next day we went back to Leadville, where there was a foot of snow on the ground, after the foot that had already come and melted the day before! We taught some good people, including Kevin and his girlfriend/wife Luz, and sister-in-law Cynthia. We taught about the importance of baptism, and they all agreed to be baptized on May 30th. The biggest challenge, I think, will be getting them to church. Kevin and Luz have a newborn son, and it might be a challenge for them. But I'm praying for them! In the process of that lesson we draw a little picture with two pathways: one that leads to destruction, and one that leads to life (as in Matthew 7:13-14). In Spanish, the word for flames and the word for llamas is the same. "Llamas." So before the lesson (not during) I drew for Elder Ramirez "las llamas del infierno," or "the flames of hell." But I just drew some llamas with fire behind them. Like, the llamas of hell. I guess you had to be there. It was funny. Actually, he didn't think it was funny, but I really did.
So that's the week in a nutshell! It was a really good one! I got to share my testimony at zone Conference, and let me just say that I'm glad to have a testimony. I know this is the Lord's Kingdom on earth. It is the only true Church on the face of the earth. We have a living prophet! How cool is that! Read the Book of Mormon, it's so true.
A Thought from Mom:
"The Church continues to grow steadily and to change the lives of more and more people every year. It is spreading across the earth as our missionary force seeks out those who are searching for the truth."
~President Thomas S. Monson
P.S. Here's a shortened and edited version of an email I received from Ashleigh in the Singles' Ward:
Thank you so much for your email! It made my week. I love getting them. They are the highlights of each month. I know I forgot to respond last month and I do apologize. Things got really crazy and after I had to put my dog down, I kind of slipped away for a little while. BUT I’M BACK, and stronger than ever!
Things in Sand Creek are good. Everyone is starting to come back from school. Most everybody should be back by the end of next week!! A TON of missionaries came home last week and it’s amazing to see them. They just have this presence of pure good and love and it brings such a strong sense of peace and amazing light into the ward. I just feel bad for them because they all say the same thing “I feel great, but this doesn’t feel real. I still feel like I should be on my mission.” But I know things will calm down for them. It just takes time and some getting used to. It takes 6 months to break a habit. They will get there.
Things in my life are not so great. But it’s okay because I know that I have Heavenly Father on my side always. I also have a great support system with the Church so that helps. And here’s the plus side! The past few weeks really helped me to strengthen my testimony and remember that no matter what, the Church is true.
I am still the ward greeter, but I am also a ward missionary. Last week, I didn’t just make the cards, I put together (with a little help from Peter, Kimberly, Angela, and the Elders) FAITH kits. They are kits with:
A pencil to start your story
An Eraser to erase the mistakes
A pen and notebook to remember the little things
Faith band so you can ALWAYS wear your Faith
A picture (of Jesus) to always remember you’re never alone
Glow stick to light the way
Paper clip to hold everything together
Chocolate for the bad days
It was such a Blessing to be able to make them. It not only helped me remember my Faith, but to help me remember to hold on to it. I told someone not too long ago, to “build your Testimony and hold on to your Faith, because as you grow, they will grow and you have to hold on to that forever” and I just can’t stop thinking about that. I was writing to them, and I don’t know why I wrote that, but it made a difference in my life and I hope to always hold on to that.
Elder Pikula is crazy. But I love him. I’m going to yell at him for NOT TELLING ME that he saw you! I miss you and Elder Rosequist (who I actually saw not too long ago). You guys really did make a difference in my life and I am forever grateful. You guys are amazing and your strength in the Gospel is so inspiring. I love it. You might not think you guys did much, but you did. You guys believed in me and helped me to believe in myself. You guys showed me the truth in the Gospel and you guys helped me strengthen my Testimony. I cannot thank you enough for all that you have done for me, and continue to do. You may be forever away, but getting your emails every month helps me even more than you can imagine. Especially the ones that you send out with the weekly updates. I love hearing your stories. Honestly if it wasn’t for the both of you, I don’t think I would have chosen to go on a mission. Seeing how you guys have changed so many lives, has made me realize that I want to do the same.
I am definitely going to look up that talk! It sounds AMAZING! Elder Holland always knows what to say. I loved his talk at General Conference. You were able to watch it right? Whose talk was your favorite? I’m stuck between three, but I unfortunately only got to see Sunday’s sessions. I really need to step up and start reading the Book of Mormon again, and reading talks again. UGH I’ve been slacking. I’m in competition with Elder Jenks (new to the area) to finish the Book of Mormon before him.. I’m losing.. Badly.. BUT I WILL WIN!
As for my Mission. I don’t know. I’ve been talking with Bishop and he really wants me to put my papers in on September 1st and I was totally on board with it, but then I got braces, and we don’t think that I will be able to go with them on. So he is looking into it. If not, then I will probably move to California until I can go (which would be sometime at the end of next year). I really want to go on a mission. I can’t really think about anything else. I think a mission will be good for me, and I want to be able to help people find the true Gospel. It’s hard, especially here because everyone has such a wrong view of the Church and they don’t want to listen. I can’t imagine how frustrating it can get for you guys. I have such major respect for missionaries and all that you guys do.
I can’t wait to see you in June! I’ll take you guys out for dinner and we can have a lesson! Then you’ll be home and we can talk more than just once a month! haha. But seriously you and Elder Pikula can decide on a place you guys want to go for dinner and I will make it happen (:
Thank you again for writing!
Stay true to yourself and what you know!
Stay true to yourself and what you know!