Friday, April 20, 2012

April 17th, 2012 still happy in Star Valley

Hello everyone!

This week has been one of the most memorable weeks of my mission so far. We taught more lessons than I've ever taught before AND put 3 more people on date for baptism! But there are a lot of other contributing factors to the week than just that.

When I got into the area, we started teaching this lady named Wendi. She's in her 40s and has had some health problems stemming from a bad back and mild diabetes. She's been awesome to teach - she lives with her husband and they live in extremely humble circumstances. When we first met her she was outside smoking, but she immediately told us she really wants to quit. So we began teaching her the Restoration of the Gospel and there was almost a visible light in her eyes as the Spirit filled the room and touched her heart. We tried to commit her for a baptismal date 3 weeks away, but she hesitated. She said she wouldn't commit for a date until she learned more, and although we told her we would continue coming by and teaching her until she WAS ready, we couldn't stick her with a date. For the next few weeks she was very difficult to get a hold of - appointments fell through, and we struggled to teach her again. Last week we finally met her at her home, and she came out on the doorstep to talk to us. We were prompted that we should talk about baptism.. and we did. She had been going to church and reading the Book of Mormon, and felt that she had learned a lot. Sound in her understanding and knowing that the Spirit had communicated to her that it was true, we committed her for baptism on April 28th. We were thrilled for her and I just knew that she was gonna make it. That was on Wednesday. But on Saturday, we received a phone call from the Relief Society President. Elder Billmire answered the phone, talked for a minute, and hung up. He then told me the news - "Wendi died this morning. She was feeling fine last night but just never woke up." That freaked me out. How could she be gone? She was only 40 years old. What would happen to her? It was just unreal that a person that I was coming to love and teach was just all of the sudden gone. A scripture came to my mind, and it kind of gave me a sense of drive and purpose. Alma 34:33 says "And now, as I said unto you before, as ye have had so many witnesses, therefore, I beseech of you that ye do not procrastinate the day of your repentance until the end; for after this day of life, which is given us to prepare for eternity, behold, if we do not improve our time while in this life, then cometh the night of darkness wherein there can be no labor performed." I never thought that this would be something that would occur on my mission, and it's kind of an extreme example - but it's really shown me that the Lord's work is done on HIS time and not on ours or anyone else's. If Wendi had accepted the baptismal date in faith the first time we came in contact with her, then she could have received the remission of sins that came from baptism and the overwhelming peace that comes from the Gospel of Jesus Christ. As a result of this experience, I have had kind of a new awakening within me. Everyone needs to hear the message that we have to share, and although we may not know it, we may not have all the time in the world. I now realize that we need to strive to work our absolute hardest each and every day for the people we teach. Because just like that, they can be gone.

Another experience I had this week was going to Zone Conference yesterday. It's only the second one I've been to, but it was just amazing. We have a lot of giants in this mission; true examples of amazing leadership that I can look up to as a pattern of what I wish to become. Some of the missionaries going home this transfer bore their testimonies, and it was incredibly powerful. One of them, when he stood up, I wasn't sure what to expect. He was one that didn't necessarily have the greatest reputation throughout the entire mission, but I'd served around him and he seemed like an incredibly intelligent and bright young guy. I couldn't figure out why everyone judged him the way they did because I didn't see that in him at all. So when he stood up, he straight up told everyone that the one bit of advice he'd give to missionaries is NOT to talk down on other missionaries. He was well aware of the judgments that surrounded him, and it soon became apparent that none of them were true. They were hovering judgments of things he had done at the very beginning of his mission, but because no one ever took the time to know him and just accepted gossip as truth, his entire growth and development as a missionary was stunted by false preconceived notions and unjust criticisms. After his testimony, the mission president stood up and publicly apologized to him, as he too had believed a lot of what was said. It really pained me to see this amazing guy who's mission may have been terribly affected by something that was in the past. He also spoke about repentance and forgiveness - he had worked so hard to overcome his weaknesses and shortcomings in the sight of God, and God had forgiven him. So why was it so hard to gain the forgiveness and acceptance of everyone else? We are supposed to be the Lord's servants; and yet, all of us are still imperfect people who are continually trying to do better. It was an incredibly spiritual learning experience for me.

Wow, that was a lot of learning experiences for one week! Want to hear a funny one? So last week in one of the wards it was fast and testimony meeting, which as I have come to learn on my mission, can either be REALLY good or REALLY.. well, different. So this particular Sunday we had 3 investigators in church, which is awesome for one ward! The meeting was going fine, and I was just praying that no one would get up and drive away the Spirit, to put it lightly haha. That sounds so terrible! But I'm SURE that everyone who reads these who has been to an LDS testimony meeting knows what I mean. Well.. Unfortunately for our investigators and for us, we didn't turn out so lucky. A lady got up and talked for TWENTY FIVE minutes about.. Well, not a whole lot. She was basically rambling about her life and how much she loved her visiting teacher. But at one point, she was yelling from the pulpit: "I.. I just wanted to hurt the world so badly! I wanted to hurt everyone! Hurt hurt hurt hurt!" She was jumping up and down and everything and yelling into the microphone.. It was one of those times that I wished the bishop would take a stand and take her aside. But that was our investigator's first impression of what an LDS church meeting is like! So that's going to take some corrective action to fix.. Hahaha.

One more fun experience that happened last night. Well it wasn't that fun at the time, but looking back it was pretty funny. To go to zone conference we had to get up at 4:00 AM to get ready and leave by 5:00 AM. We went and picked up the other Star Valley missionaries, and began the nearly 3 hour drive to Logan. We made it on time and zone conference was from 9:00 AM to 4:00 PM, and it was an awesome experience all around. We went shopping afterwards because I haven't been in a Wal-Mart since I came out on my mission.. (Tremonton and Afton are both pretty small!) and began the drive home. Well we have a limited number of miles every month, and driving to Logan takes a HUGE chunk of our allotted miles. So on the way back we elected to take a 40 mile dirt road that saves both time AND miles and ends up right at our house. Well we hit a patch of deep snow on that road, and.. We got stuck. Thoroughly stuck. It was extremely packed snow and we had barely any tools to do anything about it. Luckily the Star Valley car is equipped with a small military-esque shovel that kind of digs snow okay. And we found some sticks. And used our window scrapers. All four of us spent nearly 2 hours whacking away at this stupid mound of snow, and also carrying gravel with our hands to try and give the car some traction. We got out okay, and it was actually a lot of fun. Sort of. Hahaha. All in all I was up for 20 hours yesterday, and waking up on time today was very difficult.. Zzzzz.

I guess the gist of my letter just goes to show that I love it up here - I dread the day where I get transferred into the city... Because honestly most of our mission is in the city. I've just been fortunate enough to be dealt a different hand. The Afton Stake is also getting a YSA (Young Single Adults) ward which draws from the whole valley, so our teaching area is more than doubling, so that's going to pile on the workload. But I know that Heavenly Father will guide us with his Spirit, and the work will be fulfilling and everlasting.

Mom - I'm sorry to have offended Mrs. Kim with the cat story! I thought it was awesome though and I knew it was something that had to be shared. As for the iPod shuffle, I don't think that it would fit all of my music. It's too small, sadly enough. And even if it did fit all of it, there's no way that I could add more when it got to me. The new nanos are VERY basic, and they'd actually have enough memory to support a music library that consists of more than 200 songs. So that's a thought. The 16GB is equivalent to my touch's memory, so it would have a similar capacity for music, and definitely more when you disregard the need for apps or internet. That would be my recommendation (red would be nice :) ). I'm glad you got to spend some time with the Hopkins, and I dread the day when I have to travel with you again.. Hahaha. We cover 9 wards and now a YSA ward, and they're.. average size? I don't know.. Haha. I didn't grow up in a ward, remember? In terms of pictures of the corvette, he just says.. Well as many pictures as you feel like sending. Engine, car, anything. I don't think he'll mind. Also - did Kim Kelly ever finish/send me my white temple pants? I remember she was hemming them for me in November.. :) I hope you enjoyed the "Fourth Missionary" talk!

Dad - You didn't ask a single question this week! *High five* I wish I could have been there to see Aunt Kim's face. I've never pulled off a surprise of that magnitude, and I'm sure you were giddy with the results. It sounds like your running and walking is also looking a LOT better than mine! My asthma REALLY bothers me when I run around here... When we got stuck last night I ran ahead to scout for more snow patches, only to discover that 7600 feet is EVEN worse for my breathing than Afton's 6100 feet. Get to work on that bathroom! I can't believe you punched a hole in my wall. How dare you. Good luck at your medical conference!

I love you all!

- Elder Tyler Grant

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