Tuesday, August 26, 2014

August 26, 2014

Dear Family,
Transfers were today, and guess what! I've been transferred again! Psych. I'm dying in Monroe, and that's that :) No, but Sister Newman did leave me. She's going back to Mississippi to take the place of her kid Sister Forbes in Collins (near Hattiesburg). She's had her five transfers as an STL, so she was a little nervous but mostly excited for her next/last six months as a normal missionary again. Sister Parmenter is now in Monroe with me, which is really exciting because she was just companions with Sister Welch, and I'd kinda thought it'd be fun to be companions with her... God is good at granting wishes! Would you like some more exciting news? Well, if you insist. Sister Borja is now an STL on the coast, which makes me one proud grandma. She was in the middle of training a new missionary in Madison, but they swapped her out for the STL she was replacing, so her trainee/my great granddaughter is in good hands. Mission genealogy is still the weirdest thing.
This week has kinda been loco. Good and bad. We'll go with the bad news first. We got dropped by L, and we really only taught him that one lesson. He had to keep cancelling on us, and then told us that he was planning on giving us back our Book of Mormon and Restoration DVD at our next meeting. They were left in "pristine" (his words) condition (DVD still in wrapped state), so clearly he didn't get much use out of them any old ways. I'm not bitter. We determined that he got anti-ed by his family, but hopefully his next encounter with the Church will bring better results. Second bad news, but less totally bad was that Ann (from my cool story last week) had to cancel our appointment this week, and told us she'd "call us." This is typically Southern code for adios, but it's not a complete closed door so we'll see if we can weasel our way in again :)
Good news time! A finally set her date! She will be getting baptized on September 20, which is cool because we met her on July 20, and she set the date on August 20. Too cool. She was really really really really sad to see Sister Newman go (she's never had to deal with this transfer business, so kinda just figured we'd both be there for her baptism), but she's still going strong!
In other news of the good variety, we were biking in the hotty-hot-hades-hottness on Saturday to our tracting area, but then felt inspired to pull over and take a picture at a cool church sign. Why was this inspired you ask? Because it then led to us realizing that we were both impressed by the street before the aforementioned church, so we went back to go tract it. Two hours later, and we were sweat puddles, BUT there was a cool mid-twenties man who told us he'd had a lesson from Elders in Bossier like ten years ago, and ya would actually be interested in us coming back to teach him and his wife. We went back yesterday, and taught K and his wife A, and boy it was something. They're crazy smart, and really know their stuff. He had read the Restoration pamphlet, checked out mormon.org and lds.org, and then some mormon apologist site (never heard of it, but sounds like it covers deep doctrine so I don't think it's church sponsered). We asked if he had any questions, and boy did he ever. He was concerned over our doctrine of "where God once was we are now, and were God now is, we can be" except not the potential to be like Gods part, but that first part about the origin of God, and reconciling that with scriptures. Did I mention he has a degree in psychology, and is in a seminary school? He also had a question from 2 Nephi 25 about our understanding of grace. Wooooo Nelly. He set our return appointment, because he's "really searching for truth," and they should be coming to church on Sunday. They're cool, but it's been like never that I taught a tough cookie that knew their stuff. It'll be good stuff.

Love y'all bunches!
Sister Markle

Monday, August 18, 2014

August 18, 2014

Dear Family,
Looking back, I probably should have told you about the mission blog. That would've been a good idea. We're authorized to peruse it during email time, so while I don't frequent the site, I've known of it's existence/ utilized it to stalk other missionaries (it's hard to keep up with a mission that's so big, with no Facebook you see). Next time I leave y'all for an 18 month mission I'll be sure to direct you to all related sites :)
I went on exchanges with some old faces this week! We double-worked the Magnolia, Arkansas sister's area on Tuesday, and I was companions-for-the-day with the Canadian Sister Orth from my MTC district. We've been pen-pals since forever, so she's a good friend. Next up was El Dorado (pronounced El Door-aye-do because this is the South), Arkansas and I had the lovely opportunity of taking my MTC companion Sister Shallbetter back to Monroe to work with me. Our exchange was cut short by a random phone mishap (they were using our phone to transfer their old phone to their new phone, except their new phone somehow absorbed our phone number instead. Weird) that morning, and Ward Correlation that night, but even though it was short, it was sweet. It was nice to catch-up, and talk about how much she's grown over her mission. Missions are definitely good for that! Zone Conference was the next day so Magnolia spent the night with us, and Sister Newman was returned to me safe and sound the next day at the meeting (she had to wake up at 4:30 AM to come, so she really pulled the short straw).

Oh ya! Here's my rant for the week. On exchanges I challenged someone to create a family mission plan, and they laughed at us. Then told us their mission plan is to be an example. Not cool, man, not cool. The definition of insanity is doing the same thing and expecting different results, thus the work of salvation won't hasten until we change it. Members and missionaries working together is the only way. Rant over.
Ready for the crazy awesome miracle story of the week? Prepare yourselves. It's a good one.
Even though we're technically dubbed the "Monroe Sisters" a more appropriate title for our area would be "Swartz and Stuff Sisters," because we have little or none of the actual city of Monroe. Swartz is right up snug next to Monroe, and is where we live, so it's basically Monroe's slightly more country conjoined twin. While our area isn't as ridiculously big as Greenville's, we still have a lot of country and random cities (Fun Fact: Tim McGraw was born in Start, LA which is in my area, and we visit a part member family that lives on the street that Tim McGraw St grows off of. Sad Fact: the Tim McGraw St sign got stole). Background information aside, on Friday this week we went out to Rayville (just past Start, 30 minutes from Monroe, like I said, nothing compared to Greenville standards, and yet neither of us had been out there to work) to visit less-actives, with a less-active from Rayville that showed up to church the past couple weeks in tow. Cause that's how we roll.
The last person we went to contact was Ann Marie J. From the roster we could tell that she and her husband were in their 30s and were both members. We drove up to the appropriate address, but the dude washing his car out front said that Ann Marie actually lives next door. We walked next door, and a 30-something woman with curly red hair came outside, so we asked if that was her name. She said yes, and let us in. We started to get to know her, AKA pump her for information. She was really interested as to how we knew her name, so we felt a little like the big time stalkers we are. She was super sweet though, and I wondered why she hadn't been contacted before. There was a big family picture on the wall (Mom, Dad, daughter, young son, new baby), and from what she was saying I began to wonder if their 12 year old daughter hadn't been baptized. Yet. Part-member-families are good stuff; the convert brings the incentive/fire to get them going, and the less-active brings the knowledge. Then things got weird. She asked us what denomination we were from, we cleared up polygamy, and she was really curious about random well-known missionary details, as well as prophets. Cue restoration lesson. For the whole lesson we sat there wondering if she was lying to us, had amnesia, or there had been a crazy mistake and someone with very limited knowledge about the church was mistakenly put on church records (weird stuff happens sometimes often). I kept thinking, "Do we invite her to be baptized, even though she's already a member?" We were really confused, but the Spirit was strong, so we just kept rolling with it. Ann Marie was really interested, and at the end told us she felt so special that we came to teach her these things. So weird. But so good. In my closing prayer I prayed for the J family, and after "Amen," she told us that she thinks we had the wrong family, because they are the Cs. HA! The Ann Marie we were looking for was a few houses away. Coincidence? I think not! Return appointment for this week, so I'll let you know how it goes :)

Love y'all bunches!
Sister Markle

Monday, August 11, 2014

August 11, 2014

Dear Family,
Miracle of the week: Once upon a time I've been praying for new investigators, so's when the ones we're currently working with get baptized we're not left high and dry. Cue three unexpected referrals this week from missionaries serving in our zone that met people for us. The coolest referral came in the form of an 18 year old freshly graduated kid. The West Monroe Sisters tracted into him while he was babysitting for his family, taught a "straight out of Preach My Gospel level first lesson," and committed him to a baptism date of September 20. The one problem? He actually lives with his older brother in Monroe. In our area. Holler! Funny thing is Sister Newman and her previous companion actually tracted into his older brother, and gave him a copy of the Book of Mormon. The sisters then happened to find out that one of the Bishop's daughters is friends with the brother directly younger than the brother we are teaching, and she began inviting him to church. He never came, and when we followed up with the eldest brother a few weeks ago, he gave us back the Book of Mormon and said he'd skimmed through a bit of it, then was going to throw it away, but didn't want to be disrespectful. Unbeknownst to any of us, the middle brother was being prepared! We were able to teach him on Saturday with a member, and L's super excited to keep learning. The elect are out there!
Sad story of the week: One of our sisters has been having back problems, and made the decision to go home to heal, then do her utmost to come back out. We got to be her unarmed escort to the airport in Jackson on Friday, which was really cool since Sister Benjamin is my sister! (She was trained by Sister Harker in Shreveport after Harker left Wake Village) I know I said this story is sad, but it was an adventure at the same time, so we were happy-sad to be involved. Sad she's hurting, happy she's going to get some rest, happy we got to have a roadtrip. Life is complicated.
Sister Benjamin's companion had the option of pulling a Sister Markle and chilling with the STLs until transfers, but for some reason didn't want to be a bother because we still have exchanges left to do. I had no problem being a bother, so that probably makes me selfish. Or something. INSTEAD we were able to take one of the Sisters from the Winnsboro trio, and plop her in Bastrup with the newly companionless companion. The funny thing is, Sister Cole (the sister taken from Winnsboro) was actually trained in Bastrup, and was companions with Sister Baker (the one that lost her companion to the back demon) in the MTC. Sister Cole had been receiving revelation this transfer that she wasn't needed anymore in Winnsboro, should be ET-ed, and thought it'd be nice to get to go to her old area with her old companion. What the. It would seem that Heavenly Father prepares his servants in more ways than the expected! Expect the unexpected.
Suffice it to say, Friday involved a lot of driving, so we figured what the hay, we'll just do exchanges with the leftover Winnsboro sisters while we were already at it. I brought Sister Dalebout to Monroe, and it was my first time exchanging in my own area. It was good stuff, especially since Sister Dalebout was one of the sisters I exchanged with when I chilled with the STLs after Mongie was consumed by the back demon. Life came full circle to the fullest.

Love y'all to infinity and beyond!
Sister Markle
Proof that I really did unpack - and, Katie & Kami's huge letters on my wall!

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

August 4, 2014

Dear Family,

I officially peaced out from my area for three days this week; exchanges with West Monroe Tuesday (sadly no Duck Dynasty sightings), and Mission Leadership Conference in Jackson Thursday and Friday. I guess it used to be called Zone Leader Conference until the sister-explosion gave birth to STLs which then lead to a name change for the monthly powwow. It was good stuff, but one of those mission things that you don't really understand unless you've experienced it. Essentially there's a bunch of opinionated missionaries that voice opinions on various policies; a few decisions are reached, and some get tabled for next month. The scripture discussion on preparedness, the other random doctrine tidbits, the musical number, and the departing missionary testimonies at the end were extra good stuff. President committed the leadership to various things, including experimenting with no music in the car for the next month. Luckily Sister Newman and I are both really bad at remembering to turn the stereo back on after prayers/ phone calls, so we've already got a head start on that one ;)

A1 and A2 are both doing well. A2 and her husband have been crazy sick this week, so we couldn't teach them, but they still made it to church :) They both have hulk-status testimonies of the gospel, but there's always the bitter to balance out the sweet, so hopefully they can overcome their health problems. A1 has been really excited about all the changes she's been noticing in her life since we've started teaching her; yesterday she told us she's even stopped swearing, which we never knew was a problem of hers, but by increasing her faith through daily prayer and scripture study, the spirit simply helped her make those changes on her own. They also watched a session of conference (Sister O gets all the DVDS, speaking of Sister O I forgot to mention last week, but she's actually in Utah due to the birth of a grandchild, so she was really only there for the first two lessons. I guess we've only taught them five times, but A1 made crazy progress over the past couple weeks, so it feels like more), and she loved Uchtdorf's talk "Come Join With Us." She said it felt like he was speaking directly to her. Easiest investigator? Elect. She could be baptized this weekend if she really wanted to, but her Mom is planning on coming in town from Texas around her birthday, so our ballpark is mid August. We may have to get creative with things to teach her... Good thing the missionary department has us teach all five lessons before baptism now, so we don't have to get TOO creative ;)

Due to them being out of town for a music camp, this week I finally met the Relief Society President and her first counselor. Scratch that last title and insert "my other ward mission leader." Haha they're best friends, and really funny/ intense about their callings. The first counselor was put in charge of missionary work for the Relief Society, so we had a correlation of sorts with her over lunch Saturday. It was really hard core, and hilarious. They have a theory that if someone has been offended by something small, then they probably can be bought by something small, so they deliver a lot of brownies. When we left I told Sister Newman that I'd be scared if women had the priesthood, because I think we just got a glimpse of what it might be like.

We had a really awesome lesson with a less-active couple this week. He converted in the 90s, and is an Elder, but fell away, then married his wife around 2007, and started coming back a bit, and she got baptized, and then they both fell away. Brother P has a testimony of the church and the difference it's made in his life, but they're currently active in a Baptist church, so he feels conflicted. Sister P seemed anti at first the Sisters said, but has since sat in on lessons with us, and really seems to like us, even though her testimony is still questionable. We were able to answer a lot of really good questions from Brother P (he'd forgotten a lot of doctrine over the years), and we helped him understand the importance of weekly partaking of the sacrament blessed by priesthood authority. The Spirit was there, and at the end of the lesson he said, "I feel like I've asked y'all this question before, with my wife even sitting to this side of me," (their furniture had just been rearranged, so he was describing deja-vu) "but I went through a back-sliding state, so how would I get back in church?" So cool. His wife is still a fan of their new church, but they're making big steps :) When we left I told Sister Newman that missionaries in foreign countries utilize the spiritual gift of speaking in tongues, but sometimes in the South I feel like I'm using the spiritual gift of speaking in Baptist. Ya. Sometimes I think I'm funny. Except it's also true, I'm getting fluent in Baptist.

Love y'all oodles and boodles and zoodles!
Sister Markle