Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Tuesday December 17, 2013

Family!

Not sure exactly what time we'll be getting in contact with you guys, but we'll finalize our plans before next Monday, and I'll let you know in my email. It'll be in the afternoon sometime ish, probably. We're going to a member's house where we can both skype at the same time, but there's also a lot of members with apple technology, so maybe we can FaceTime instead? Also word on the street is that President has avoided placing an actual limit on the length of our calls, so long as they aren't "excessive." Obviously I don't want to take up too much of your Christmas (I'll likely run out of stories right quick like), but at least we don't have to stress out about time.
Amanda has back problems, and goes to Louisiana for treatment, which coupled with the fact that her family is there, equals we haven't been able to teach her since last email. Also no real news for R+L, we called them last Wednesday, and he said they wanted us to come over for dinner/ a Q&A, but our member dinner appointment that night turned out to be uncancellable. It was a wealthy older couple that was "quite looking forward to us coming by," and laid on the guilt quite thick when we tried to reschedule. Lame sauce. Instead R was thinking they could feed us on Monday, and he texted us two of his questions so that we could study them out. One was flat out false doctrine, which makes our life easy, the other involved a quotation from the teachings of Joseph Smith and D+C 130:22. That was a very legitimate question. It would appear that he has been researching us quite in depth, which is good and bad. Good, because it showed that he really was interested; bad-ish, because he was delving into deep doctrine before gaining a testimony of the Book of Mormon first. It's really only bad-ish because I have a bunch of scriptures relating to his question to share with him, but he never got back to us about dinner so they have remained un-shared. I don't like leaving people with unanswered questions, so hopefully they let us come by again.

The German ladies are doing a lot better; T just got a job, and the ward helped out with their rent, and food. They are ridiculously grateful, and even came and helped clean the church with us yesterday for our day of service. We're going to start the lessons back up with them this week, and probably set them with another date for baptism sometime in January.

I don't think I've told y'all about F yet, but she's super great. My second week in Mississippi there was a baptism in Oak Grove for R2, who was the Zone Leader's investigator and F's ex-husband. R2 moved to Oloh (little town outside of Oak Grove) to be closer to their kids, and the Elders first met him while he was at work at a member's Christmas tree farm (no joke). He only investigated the church for like a month before joining, and then F started investigating because she was so impressed with the changes she saw in R2. The Sister Training Leaders (that's right, not only do the zone leaders serve in my ward, but so do the STLs. It's the only way that President could keep me in line ;) were teaching her when I got here, but about two weeks ago they passed her off to us, because they travel so much, and she needs more consistent teaching. We had the best lesson with her yesterday, and she's praying about getting baptized at the beginning of January. Their nine year old son also wants to be baptized, so at some point we're going to start teaching him too.

It's been great having more promising people to focus on, but all the people we teach are pretty far away, and we are seriously hurting for miles. ALSO on Sunday all six of the Oak Grove missionaries sat down for an "Area Book Correlation Meeting," where we discussed what to do about a few people being taught in other people's areas/ arranging new boundaries. The STL's live with us (did I ever mention that?), and their area used to be the further out parts of Oak Grove including Sumarall. They determined that their area needed to be worked more, so we basically swapped places. Kinda. I had the idea to give them the area surrounding our apartment, so that they could be a bike area. Now when sisters come for exchanges with them, they can be trained on bikes, which would be really beneficial. They are going to be full time finders in their area, and we'll be the follow-up visiters/ teachers. It's a little weird, but they deemed us "ghosts" for their area. Elders gave us a small chunk of their area as well. Hopefully all this will equal for a busy transfer ahead of me! (speaking of which, today is transfers, and as expected Sister Mongie and I are staying together for Christmas :)
As a fun alternative to normal tracting, now we can go caroling. Ideally we'd sing a song about Christ, then give the family a Book of Mormon as "our Christmas gift: a book that helps you draw closer to Christ." On Sunday we went out with our roommate-STLs to give it a shot, but accidentally went out too early. Talk about awkward.  We discovered that caroling-tracting is best done in the dark, as opposed to normal tracting which is best done in the light (it's weird, but people want to talk about Jesus and his restored church even less in the dark then in the light. Ridiculous). To our rescue came a herd of neighborhood boys that decided they wanted to tag along for the ride. Of course they had a small repertoire of Christmas songs, so we ended up singing Rudolph and Jingle Bells at doors, but it was a hoot. They lead us around to specific houses, and were really sad when we had to leave for our dinner appointment despite the frigidly cold weather. It was the most unexpectedly hilarious caroling experience ever.

Swants sound so cool! Can I have two pair? One ridiculously hideous-sauce one for around the apartment, and one tame pair (grey?) to keep me warm while tracting? They sound oh so fabulous. Do they reach all the way to your ankles--cause I've kinda got long legs... While I'm being outlandishly needy in the Swants category, could you possibly sent a pair for Sister Mongie too? Her mom sent her a Christmas package, and while we aren't allowed to open it yet, we're pretty sure she sent me a present too, so we could swap family gifts :) As for other package requests I'd be down for anything. I got sick of my wardrobe after week two of mission life, so really anything that allows me to mix it up, makes me happy. Also someone sent Sister Cottrell (one of my STL roommates), a really cute picture book version of the Plan of Happiness that could be fun. I'm pretty sure they sell it at Deseret Book, it's called "The Great Plan of Happiness" by David Bowman. I'm basically out of eye-makeup remover, so as for practical things a bottle of that, and mascara is always handy. Thanks so much for everything though :) I picked up a cute little Mississippi gift for y'all today, so hopefully that gets there lickedy split like.

Love you all oodles and boodles!
Sister Markle

P.S. Tell Katie good luck on her paper, and tell CC to stop being such a reverse version of ladies-man (mans-lady, not as catchy, I know).

Monday, December 9, 2013

Monday, December 9, 2013

Dear Family,
It keeps going from t-shirt weather to ridiculously cold here. I've decided that humidity is the worst thing ever invented--it turns heat into hotter-than-hades-melty-death, and it turns cold into frigid-death-glacier-chilly-sauce. Those are real meteorological terms. Look them up. 

We got a double-dose of zone conference; on Tuesday we had the normal one where we stayed in Hattiesburg, and then on Saturday we went all the way down to Gulfport to be instructed by Elder Zwick of the Seventy. Fun fact, Elder Zwick is actually President McDonough's cousin. Say whaaaat. He didn't talk about very specific things to work on besides member missionary work, but he did talk a lot about sanctifying ourselves. He said that we can triple our baptisms in the next year, and that we should each be getting an iPad mini by May-ish. Turns out the South won't be TOO behind the times.

Our dear German ladies (plus son, and neighbor), have been unteachable the past couple weeks. Heaps of trials, so even when we stop by to check on them, they are too stressed to really get much out of even mini lessons. The bishop told us to have them come in for a meeting with him, so if they decide to do that, then maybe things will start looking up. They keep telling us to not give up on them, so we won't, there's just not much we can do right now.

We started teaching a little family this week, and we're really excited about them. Their names are Amanda and B, and they have a six-ish year old. Amanda's main concern is knowing whether God still loves her despite all the trials she's going through, and even though we've only taught her twice, she's really excited about learning more. B works offshore (21 days off, 21 days on), so he's leaving this week--not empty handed though, we made sure he has a nice new copy of the Book of Mormon to keep him company.

Get prepared for the craziest story of the week. Are your ready? Alright. If you say so.

There are a lot of pieces to this story, but I'll try to give you the condensed account (and fail miserably as always). On Friday during studies, Sister Mongie and I decided to start going over the scripture references our mission president wants us to memorize for each lesson. After weekly planning we went to the doctor's for Sister Mongie's back. While there I pulled out a pass-along copy of the Book of Mormon, and opened up to where I had left off from personal study (Alma 32). I got the idea that I should start marking favorite verses, underlining some good things, and that I should write my testimony in the front. All pretty standard stuff for some missionaries, but I haven't marked a Book of Mormon in forever, and the last time I did it was for someone specific. I have never written my testimony in the front of a Book of Mormon (bad girl, I know), but I started doing it anyway because I had the thought that this was going to someone important. 

Fast forward to about 6:00 that night. The guy we were trying to follow-up with wasn't home so when we got in the car Sister Mongie said, "Right, or left?" which signaled that we were going to start tracting. We were in our super rich area, and it was cold and rainy. I said left, and then in my mind remembered this little culdesac that was coming up quick on the next left. I told her left again, and we pulled over to start. First house, nice Methodist lady. Not interested. Second house, no answer. Assumed they weren't interested. Third house, lady got really upset with us for making her get out of bed (she just had surgery). Door slam. Not interested. We were both feeling pretty guilty about upsetting the lady behind door number 3, so we weren't feeling the most enthusiastic while knocking door number 4. That was about to change. 

A young man opened the door, and before we were able to say anything he asked us how we were doing, and invited us in to get warm. His cute wife appeared, and he asked us if we needed anything to eat or drink. We were pretty confused. We introduced ourselves, they introduced themselves (R+L), and he cleared off his dining room table, and told us to sit down. R then told us to give him our spiel; tell him what we believe, and why we're different from the rest of Christianity. Best restoration lesson ever. R asked really really good questions, and would repeat back to us what we were teaching him in his own words to make sure he was understanding everything. He knows the bible really well, so when we gave him the pamphlet at the start of the lesson he flipped open to a random page, saw the words "Melchizedek Priesthood" and "Aaronic Priesthood," and then quizzed us on who both those men. When we got up to the sacred grove he stopped us, and asked, "So is this where the squirrel comes in?" We gave him really puzzled looks, and he said he was sure there something about a squirrel. Evidently there are some weird rumors going around about Mormons and squirrels. That was really funny. Back on topic. He committed himself to reading and praying about the Book of Mormon, and when we tried suggesting a chapter for him to read, he told us that we would read whichever one we thought was especially good, but that he planned on reading the whole thing. He was really enthused by how small it seemed until he found out there are over 500 pages, then he back tracked and said he would read as much as he could. Basically they are the cutest little family (I didn't mention the super cute 2-ish year old son), and when we left I kept questioning whether they were members pranking us or not. It was just too perfect. Our plans had changed at least three times that day but in the end everything came together; you can bet your bottom dollar that we made good use of the scriptures we had memorized that morning, and that that Book of Mormon of mine went to someone really important.

Oak Grove's supply of miracles doesn't seem to be exhausted yet, so keep up the prayers and we'll see what God has in store for us next ;)

Love you all!
Sister Markle

P.S. Tell CC congrats/ happy birthday/ check is in the mail. Scratch out that last part.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Dear Family,

We got roped into cooking Thanksgiving dinner. Ridiculous. In our apartment complex there is this little 82 year old lady named Brandy that the sisters met while tracting one day. Long story short, Sister Parkinson had been taking art lessons from her every P-day, and a few weeks back Brandy proposed a crazy idea. She had been given a turkey, and really wanted to make a nice Thanksgiving dinner for those who needed it. There were only two problems: one, she didn't know anyone needy, and two, she is 82 and physically incapable of cooking the whole dinner herself. Sister Parkinson agreed to the challenge, Brandy got super excited, and so even though Sister Parkinson left on Sunday, Sister Mongie and I still had to fulfill our obligation. We saved most of our P-Day time until Tuesday so we could help pre-make a bunch of the food, and then Tuesday evening we held our feast. We invited a bunch of investigators, recent converts, less-actives, and fellowshippers, and while they couldn't all make it, we still had about 18 people there. It was kind of stressful, because we didn't think there was going to be enough food even with some ward members bringing some too. Last minute we bought two roast chickens, a gigantic can of baked beans, and a loaf of french bread-- all of which ended up completely unnecessary. It was one of those experiences that equals good memories, but will never ever ever be duplicated, because it was exhausting.
For the actual day of Thanksgiving we ended up having two dinner invitations, but they conflicted so we picked the one where we were the only missionaries invited so we could spread the love ;) All six missionaries were invited to eat with the Trussell clan which is a large family that makes up a lot of the ward. The dinner that we attended was with a really wealthy family in our area (more like "families" but they're all related so...). The dinner was held at one of the children's "camps" in Columbia AKA really nice cabin-y place beside their very own man-made lake. Whew. Essentially between the Thanksgiving dinner we threw, and the one we attended, we were at both ends of the social spectrum.

Yesterday our ward had this missionary fireside on the life of Christ (from birth to resurrection then "Living Christ" which was kind of the pump-up, "go and do" part) as a way to start off the Christmas season with the right perspective. Our ward mission leader Brother Arroyo makes commercials, so for the fireside he put together this big production. There were a bunch of clips from the Bible videos that the church puts out, with a missionary in-between each clip kind of summarizing the story-line/ setting the scene. I was on the section "Life of Christ" (right after birth up until before the Garden) so I had to give like a three minute talk. Rest-assured, I actually filled my time, and did not speak 90 miles an hour. There were also like four musical numbers sprinkled throughout the program too; my favorite was one of Brother Arroyo's non-member friends singing "Mary Did You Know" right after we watched Jesus's death, and before the resurrection. She hit notes I don't think have ever been hit within an LDS church :) Overall it was really fun, and we even had our investigator Susan come, and it seemed like she enjoyed it.

I don't think I ever really told you all about my new companion, but Sister Mongie is from Provo Utah, and used to run cross country with Mike. She was an STL for a while, but had to stop due to back problems. Last transfer she was moved to Oak Grove so she could see the doctors here, and she still has to be careful, but she says as long as she doesn't go running, or bend down too much then her back is fine now. Eventually she'll become an STL again, but as of right now they're planning on keeping us together for another transfer. She is ridiculously nice, and super cool, so obviously we get along great ;) hahaha well maybe I don't have the ridiculously nice part... or the cool part... but we still get along great :)

Yay for Katie doing missionary work still! Yay for Kami's contacts! Yay for CC's pin ceremony! Good work family! As far as a Christmas list I'm still kind of oogling the baby sized new edition quads... other than that I'd really have to think on it.

Love you family!

-Sister Markle