Okay y'all are probably gonna think I'm lying when I tell you the stories from this last week, but it is amazing and I have been super blessed in every way. This is the most amazing work out there and I am so glad to be a part of it! On Monday we got up bright and early at 2am to head for the airport, miracle number one: we actually made it to Atlanta, and then New York without dying or passing out or having our luggage sent to Peru or all of the above so that was cake. I met a lady on the plane from Atlanta to New York. I think she totally would have read the Book of Mormon, I'm so mad I didn't have a copy! I talked to her about the Plan of Salvation and gave her a pamphlet. It was a good practice round for Fearlessing (street contacting) on the streets of Queens haha. We got to the mission home at 4 and had a dinner and fireside. President Calderwood is an amazing man and cares so much about the people here. He did like 1-minute interviews with us so he could determine where he should put us. The next morning we woke up and did our studies and exercises like usual. At 10 we left for the mission home and got there at 11. It's 10 miles away so if that tells you anything about the traffic....haha. We got there and they had AMAZING NY pizza for us...it's as good as everyone says. Anyway, this leads me to the greatest part of this whole story....my area assignment and companion!
All the new missionaries stood in a line facing the trainers and we stepped out one by one when our name was called and received our assignment. It was like when you're picking teams to play a game...of course I'm the homeschool kid that was gonna get picked last #storyofmylife. First was Sister Wang from China...I'm like freaking out here but then President called my name second and said that I would be working with the beautiful Sister Morgan Myers (Cosmo) serving in Belle Harbor!!! I didn't know how cool this was at the time so I just went along with her freak out, hugging and questions. Little did I know, Belle Harbor is like the most amazing area area aside from Bermuda, we actually call it Bellmuda. We have this cush pad that is right across the street from the ocean. What really slays me is that for our work outs in the morning we can go run the beach. Oh except we don't need to because somehow we have a gym membership to the YMCA a couple buildings down. It is seriously the nicest gym I've ever been in. So yeah, it's frighteningly delicious to be a missionary here.
Don't let all this riff raff get in the way of the most amazing part about this place, because the best thing about being here is the people. We took my bags home and immediately went to work visiting members and less-actives. I LOVE THEM! There are 6 missionaries all assigned to this branch/area, the APs, Durkin and Jensen, and myself and Sister Myers. I love the African Americans, Peruvians, and million other different nationalities that are represented here. Church is held in a building that is supposed to be a house. It is TINY. There is an average of 50 people who come to church each week. People here just have a hard time because they are all soooo busy with life that they have a hard time leaving space for God or putting Him as their first priority. Our main job as missionaries is to fellowship and build up the branch. We visited a lady and her husband who are active in the church. He is from OK and she is from Hati. Her mouth fell open a mile wide when I told her there are 10 kids in our our family. She seriously couldn't believe it haha. On Wednesday we did service for this older lady, she has a house that she doesn't even live in but she wanted us to redo her yard. What a janky dump eh, that place was like the secret garden before they fixed it up. It was like a spider and mosquito-infested swamp. So we are getting eaten alive after 2 hours so she comes out with this spray cause Durkin is allergic to Mosquitos so she DRENCHES him with this "off" spray and we all get sprayed down. She goes back to the front and we go look at this rank bottle of stuff. It's not human mosquito spray, it's like this crazy air mist for your yard. The bottle reads: "do NOT get in contact with clothes, skin, or food" so Durkin and Jensen FLIP OUT and we sped raked the rest of the grass junk up and left as fast as we can get to the shower. We all itch so bad haha.
On Wednesdays we go play beach volleyball on Rockaway Beach. Because of Sandy we are sponsored on a team with some other people because people in Belle Harbor LOVE us after the help they got with Sandy...and it is a great way to talk to people. We have gotten quite a few people from it. Durkin was/is on the BYU volleyball team so he kills it and that might be why they like us as well haha I talked to a Jewish lady (Revelations 2:9) on our team and she was able to tell me a little about what they believe. She was super cool and friendly, but I guess almost everyone here is from my experience. I also talked to a guy Steve, he really takes care of the missionaries, even though he is Roman Catholic. He calls me and Myers "Cosmo and Blondie (or Reno, depending on the day)" He is a spiritual guy and believes in God but doesn't want to be Mormon. Someday hopefully? He gives us food like 10 times a week and takes us to really nice restaurants cause his kids don't talk to him so he feels like we are his kids (the Elders and Sis Myers and I). On Sunday he came to church, bore his testimony, and then left. It was a riot I think he cussed like 4 times on accident, but he loves the Mormons and only had good things to say. Apparently we go to his house on all the holidays and his wife cooks for us. Oh that is another thing, the members feed us all the time and it is AMAZING. The cheesecake is like divine manna sent from heaven. We have had some quality food here that's for sure. Whenever we go get food somewhere people are open about asking after the church and what we are doing. I gave a Book of Mormon to a guy in the bagel shop on Thursday! A lot of people listen because they are in awe that we would take time out of our lives to share the gospel. I don't think of a mission as a sacrifice anymore, it is an amazing blessing that I can share my testimony so often in one day, it strengthens me so much.
We went to the temple Friday with 3 people from the branch going for the first time. I was able to be an escort! It was so cool to see how happy Natasha was, and it reminded me of my first time. I thought she was gonna rip my had right off, she held it so tight the whole time. Manhattan was CRAZY. It took 2 hours on the train to get from Arverne to Manhattan and the train was super janky I'm glad we didn't die. This crazy guy got on and was yelling and doing weird things and then he went to one of the doors and stuck something to it?? Cosmo and I were sure it was a bomb and this was it for us, but we're here so it's all good eh?! On the way back it was us, the APs, and the DLs Durkin and Jensen. We were Fearlessing on the train and talked to some ah interesting people. We gave out pass along cards. Well, they gave our pass along cards. I tried 4 different people and they all just looked away or down or anywhere else it get away from me hah. Better luck next time eh?! So we took the train to the mission home and then the APs drove us home...another near-death experience...we were horizontal on a 6-lane road trying to get to Wendy's because we hadn't eaten in 10 hours. Aaaand we almost got hit twice. I couldn't deal.
BUT. We are all alive and the work is moving forward.
Saturday was like a roller coaster. Marsha was supposed to get baptized in the ocean on Sunday but she kept being wishy-washy and it was really stressing us out :( so it was kinda a bad day but we went to look up some referrals and found 2 new investigators! That turned our day around, they seemed super excited about our next lesson. One was in a really janky part of Far Rockaway, and we're walking out of the house and we pass this totally gangster dude so we smile and say hi and he says hi back and then says "y'all look good too" in this black guy voice. Prolly cause he was black? After the day we had we just got back in the car and started DYING laughing. It shouldn't have been that funny except he walked into the house of our new investigator! I'm telling ya, it's the little things like that.
The work is going phenomenal, the Branch President's wife is getting baptized on the 15th with two other people, there is a family of 8 who are all setting baptismal dates for the next month. They became interested in the church because the Branch President's wife bore her testimony of Joseph Smith and the church to them. I think they think she is a member but it'll be funny when the get baptized on the same day hah. There are 4 more kids who were adopted that are all getting baptized on July 5th in the ocean. Too bad all 10 of us couldn't have gotten baptized in the Ocean on the same day. The struggle is real. The Lord is preparing people to receive His gospel and it is amazing to be able to be a part of their discovery of a relationship with their Heavenly Father. There are so many people who need the gospel, and it is difficult trying to help them see why. Many people have nearly everything they could ever want in life, and don't see the need for religion, or if they do they don't see the importance or feel the need to commit. I hope we can find a way to convey the blessings of the gospel to them in a manner that will help them understand, and fill a hole in their lives that they aren't aware is there. It just rips the fur right off my cat when people can't understand how much the gospel would help them. Cosmo and I have been going around visiting members and trying to get them to church. Most families come every other week. We share a scripture and try to bring the spirit into their homes. I think the most effective thing we can do is expose people to the spirit so that they learn how to pray and talk to God for themselves. In my opinion, nothing happens in conversion until one learns how to receive revelation for themselves.
Well, I absolutely love it here and wouldn't trade these experiences for anything. It is hard caring for so many people and seeing them make decisions you know will hurt them. However I feel so blessed to be a part of this incredible work. The Lord puts words into our mouths in hostile venues when we would otherwise be confounded. He takes seemingly insurmountable problems and turns them into lessons and ways to experience growth. He knows my needs and the needs of the people here. Thank you for your prayers on behalf of the missionaries (PMG pg 94 is amazing, check it out). I know that we fulfill our prayers by our own actions, and that if we pray for something we often have to do some sort of work in order for The Lord to answer that prayer. We answer our own prayers by our actions. We are blessed most when we are obedient, and I believe The Lord will help us as we strive to keep His commandments, and follow the rules of the mission "Our faith is made perfect through works, our love is made whole through obedience."
I know that God works in us according to our faith (Moroni 10:7) and will give us the righteous things we desire. Thank you Dad and Mom for your amazing example of missionary work in our ward, I am constantly telling people about you and your commitment to the gospel. You are so busy doing The Lord's work, within and outside of your home. I am so lucky to be in a family that values the gospel teachings and lives by them. Thank you for your support and love, I think of you and pray for you every day and thank my Heavenly Father for the blessing of families. Keep it up, I think you bless a lot more lives than you think.
Love you always!
Ps I've had Katy Perry stuck in my head all week (Revelations 3:15).