I'm glad to hear you had a fun camping trip. It would be nice to sit around a fire with all of you, laughing and relaxing and having a grand old time. The other day, we were talking to a man that was smoking some meat outside his house. He wasn't super interested in the gospel but I loved talking to him because I was able to bask in the smell of firewood burning. When we got back to the car, Sister Itri was like "gross, I smell like smoke" but I was thinking "mmmmmmmmm ... it has been too long since I smelled like campfire." I'm sure Sister Itri loves a good campfire too, just not while she is a missionary.
We got exciting news from Sister Kunz on Saturday. We don't have to wear nylons! Not from June 'til August anyway! We still need to wear them to church, the Trail Center, and the Temple, but otherwise we are nylon free! You should have seen the sister's faces when Sister Kunz made that announcement; everyone was beaming with shock and excitement. The funny thing is, I feel so comfortable in nylons now that I'll have to get used to not wearing them.
On Tuesday, we met Sioux City missionaries at a training for the Council Bluffs and Sioux City Zones. So, we have two new sisters, Sister Evans and Sister Myers. Sister Evans has also been serving for about nine months so we will probably go home together. It was a great training, all about teaching people, not lessons. I needed that reminder because it's easy for me to teach the same lesson over and over without adjusting it to the person's needs. Asking questions and listening are the keys to getting to know our investigators needs, interests, and concerns so that we can address them with a gospel principle. Basically I need to be a better minister and not just a teacher.
Sister Itri and I were talking one night about how great it is to have a companion with you all the time. It's nice that we are never alone. There is always someone there to motivate, encourage, inspire, strengthen, protect, and converse with. And really, this is the only time of our lives that we will have this experience of constantly having a companion with you. It led us to realize what a blessing it is to have the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost. He is literally with us all the time, as long as we are living worthy. What a great gift from our Heavenly Father! Servants of the Lord are never alone. We can always turn to and rely on the Holy Ghost to guide us through life's obstacles. I cannot say enough how grateful I am for the gift of the Holy Ghost.
Cute little Tara made us laugh quite a bit at church yesterday. I wish I could have taken a picture of her "singing" the hymns with her mom, Beth, during sacrament meeting. It was so cute to see her smiling and making her own little sounds as her mom pointed at the words. Then, in Relief Society, I gave Tara my gospel principles book and she found the picture of Christ ordaining his apostles. She put her hands on her head and said "My mom do that!" with a big old smile. I smiled back and whispered "Yeah, your mom got confirmed. She has the gift of the Holy Ghost!" She catches on really quick for a three year old. I decided then and there that Sister Worthen and I need to come back in about a year and see Kevin, Beth, Grace, and Tara get sealed. I can't picture anything much happier than that!
We've started teaching a black man named Anthony. He's been through a lot in his life. But he's dug himself up and out of these awful situations so that he can one day live what he calls "a normal life." He wants to get married and have a family and a nice little house and be happy. We told him that that's what Heavenly Father wants for him too, and that as he lives the gospel, God will bless him. He doesn't want to come to church and be the only black man, but Sister Bender told him how welcome he is and that he can sit with her and her family. She also was able to share how much the gospel has improved her life. Our whole lesson just showed me how much the gospel blesses families and that because of our Savior, Jesus Christ, we can change. We don't have to be stuck in the same situation or life-style that we grew up with, we can improve and progress. I am so grateful for the hope that the gospel gives me. I asked Anthony how he felt after hearing Sister Bender's conversion story and he said "content." I would also say that the spirit helps me feel content. Instead of feeling empty or hungry I am filled with peace, love, and hope. I feel certain that everything will be okay, even when I have no idea how that is possible. I love hearing people describe how the spirit feels for them. I love helping them learn to recognize and act on it. One of my favorite things as a missionary is to hear people describe the spirit or to see their eyes light up and their faces soften as they feel the spirit. If I was only allowed to teach one lesson, it would probably be on how to recognize the spirit. That way I'm not just feeding them a fish, but teaching them how to fish.
11 year old Meredith is excited for her baptism on Saturday and so are we!
By the way, Sister Itri took "a cute little family from Provo" on tour at the Trail Center sometime last week, and they turned out to be Dr. Lewis and his family. He is the chemical engineering professor at BYU that I did research for two summers ago. It was weird to see someone I knew at the Trail Center, but exciting all at the same time. It reminded me of those times when we ran into Mr. Nelsen and his family on Spring Break. Fun, fun.
Thanks again for the email. I came up with one more birthday gift idea: church music CDs. I hope you all have a great time on vacation!
Sister Bailey Mortensen