WELL, that is so cool, mom, you emailing the news reporter and informing her about things we believe, you were sharing the gospel NATURALLY AND NORMALLY like someone counseled in our last general conference. And so exciting that Sarah has gone up to school. I just got a BIRTHDAY PACAKGE from her, that's so cool. I love that Sarah girl a lot. I tell my companions she is the apple of my eye. HAHAHAHAHAHAHHAH.
Well, today was a lovely week, Sis Pete and I had lots of fun adventures. Tuesday night we had dinner with the family of the 15-year-old girl who has been coming to church for the past couple of years. It was lovely, Mexican food, lots of fun stories, got to hear all about how 15-year-old girl and her fam went to Juneau and met the fam of the boy that the 15-year-old girl has had a nice friendship with since two youth conferences ago, and her parents were very impressed with him, and his parents. We taught the commandment "follow the prophet" afterward, the Spirit was strong, I shared my testimony of how I came to know how President Monson was a prophet, for the first time sharing that story I didn't cry, hahaha. I love love love that girl, she told us her parents are gonna allow her to go to seminary this year!!!! She got SO excited to tell us that, she started jumping up and down and nearly hyperventilating and her face turned pink. She said her mom is also CONSIDERING letting her get baptized at age 17 instead of 18 because she wants to go to BYU.... From what we gather, the mother of the 15-year-old girl has an anti-mormon sister who is the real obstacle to them getting baptized, she lives here in town. Small town = difficult to change religions without everyone knowing it, that also might be hard.
But, this girl has such a desire to do the things that other Mormon girls take for granted. On the wall of the Young WOmen's room at the church is a poster listing all the girls and their progress on their ,haha, personal progress. Her name is up there with all the others. She loves doing it. She reads the Book of Mormon every day. She has a notepad and takes notes in church. She is dying to go to seminary, she is dying to be baptized. She plays the hymns in her Young Women's, and when the branch pianist was outta town, she was asked to fill in during sacramnet, and now the branch president is considering calling her to be part-time pianist for church. She is just stellar.
I just love her.
We started teaching a former investigator, a girl who is 23 and who has a crazy life. Unstable childhood, trust and abandonment issues, her mother is dating an alcoholic, she moved back to Petersburg to be a role model for her teenage sister. She told us when she was being taught in the winter time, she was thinking about jjoining the church. She has a cat.
Um, we were walking up and down Main Street Tuesday night and when we were getting in our car to go home, a young guy our age walked past and we said hello and we started talking to him, he was very friendly, asked if we were new in town, told us his grandpa is the retired preacher of the First Baptist Church here in town, said it would be cool for us to meet him. He told us a little about himself, wants to the next Eminem (a white rapper) but that none of his friends think he'll ever even be successful, we told him to follow his dreams. Hahha. We told him that he's a child of a Heavenly Father who loves him and he should have confidence in himself and be able to do the things he loves. He thanked us sincerely for that. We chatted a bit more, he asked us where we lived, um.....I told him "over there." He told us about these Wednesday dinners at the Baptist church and said we should come the next day, we asked if that would be weird? He said no they had missionaries all the time (hmm). Then he asked us for our number. Hahha. Like he was gonna ask us on a date. We whipped out our planners, that took him back a bit (we'rd old school) and then took HIS number (we showed him our hockey puck phone too). He started getting a LEETLE flirty and I just up and told him that while on the mission we don't date and if we ever "hung out," we would want to teach him the gospel. Hahahaha.
SO, we felt weird about going to this dinner, and we called our Branch Mission Leader, he said---now this was twenty minutes before the dinner was sposed to start on Wednesday---that it might be really nice interfaith getting along stuff, getting our faces out there in the community, he said if anything got contentions we should leave. He told us he knew the previous pastor and he was a nice guy but didn't know this one, and said the Baptists have not always been our "allies." Well, we called the Next White Rapper and he told us he had just told his grandpa we wer coming, and he goes, "And my grandpa was all like, 'Why are those Mormons coming, they're trying to infiltrate our church.' " We asked him if he still thought it was a good idea we come. He said he didn't know. Sis Pete said she felt okay with just introducing ourselves to this grandpa, I felt weird but didn't know if I was just nervous, and we asked the Next White Rapper if we should just introduce ourselves to his grandfather, and he said "All right let's get this over with."
Oh my heck.
SO, we go to this church, we walk in, there's a community room downstairs. Spaghetti dinner. The people looked suprised to see us walking in, several said hi very brightly and kindly to us, but we definitely felt awkward. We met The Next White Rapper's grandmother, super nice woman, she told us to grab some plates. I felt so nervous, I didn't know why, but I was trying to act cheerful and natural. The Next White Rapper brought us over to his grandfather who was polite and not overly cheerful but not unpleasant whatsoever, we sat down to start eating, he asked us where we were from, and then this man in perhaps his early 60s walked over and introduced hismelf as the current pastor. He asked if he could speak with us two for a moment.
He pulled us aside into a hallway and asked us if were there as representatives of the Mormon church or as individuals. I knew what he was asking. I said, "Well, we are always representatives of the Lord Jesus Christ. But we are not here trying to proselyte." (That's a mission rule anyway, we're not allowed to proselyte at or near houses of worship.) The pastor disagreed with that statement, I guess to him we were proselyting with our mere presence, and told us that if we intended to stay here at this dinner, he would have to ask us to remove our name tags.
This dark feeling came inside me. I told him i wasn't sure we were even allowed and we would probably have to make a phone call first. He told us he needed us to remove our name tags because he didn't want his people here to think he was putting "a stamp of approval on the Mormon church." I felt that dark feeling, but I also felt this strength come from the Spirit, like I knew exactly who I was representing and a strong resolve never to forget it. We walked outside (the Next White Rapper followed us into the lobby, feeling horrible, we told him not to worry about it and we just needed to make a phone call). Outside, we called the Assistants, Elder Lawson and Elder Adams, and Elder Lawson told us any place that didn't want us to wear our name tags was not a place we should be.
SO, we left! And man, it was a crazy experience. We had no bad feelings toward that church. In fact soon after we left, we heard sweet singing, a chorus of voices, hymns, coming from that church, and it was beautiful. We have no bad feeligs toward that man. But our testimonies were strengthened of always maintaining our identity, always representing the Savior, and a deep appreciation of those who do accept those of other faiths and welcome us into their homes even when they are not interested in converting. I had a deep appreciation for those in our church who welcome visitors of all walks of life with no judgment and no cold shoulder. I know that this gospel is true, I know that we are Christians. I know that the Bible and the Book of Mormon are the word of God, I know that I am a representative of the Lord Jesus Christ. I know that Heavenly father answers our prayers---be honest in your prayers. Pour out your heart to your Maker. I know that the Spirit supports us and bears us up during moments where we are tested. I felt like Alma and Amulek, or the Sons of Mosiah, for a sliver of a minute, back there in that hallway, and knew that to face down direct opposition isn't all that difficult, because I am on the Lord's side and he is always there to support us. I know that none of those people were bad, or evil, they just are misguided. They do good, Christlike things the rest of the time, I am sure.
But I am so proud to be a missionary of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
LOVE, SISTER ASH