Jenni let me know about Harrison getting the job and also sent me some more wedding pictures! I was so happy for both. Elder Gerratt and I have been praying every night for Harrison to get the job. You're right - prayer definitely works. I am so happy for him. He's going to be fantastic and will be a great asset to their program. The wedding pictures were great - I love the one of Jonny and Sammy looking super grossed out while standing on either side of Harrison and Jenni kissing. TOO FUNNY!
This week has been absolutely amazing. Probably the best week of my mission. Elder Gerratt and I have become really good friends. He reminds me of Harrison so much. I am really grateful for everything he has taught me. He's definitely whooped me into shape, which has been a very good thing. We just had a blast this week working hard and teaching a ton. All of our investigators are doing great! Jessica went on a trip to Seattle last week to visit her sister and only smoked once in 5 days! She sent us a really funny text last night - she said she wanted to move her baptism to October 20th, but that she was setting a goal to be smoke free by October 8th. She said this: "You guys are too nice! You need to be harder on me!" I said, "Okay, I'll work on my mean, furious face." She said, "I don't think that's possible. But I demand that you spend 20 minutes every day practicing it in the mirror so that I can quit smoking!" It was really funny. I love Nick and Jessica so much. They are such wonderful people, and I will miss them when I get transferred. Luckily that won't be for a long time.
Monday last week ended up great. Elder Gerratt and Brother Match Taught Luis and Guille about the law of tithing and I sat there and listened. haha. Then we went and had dinner with the Miracles. Their kids are so adorable. We have a lot of fun every time we visit them. After that we visited Jose and Marco, two spanish cousins we met on the street a few months ago. It was kind of spur of the moment - we called the night before and they said they wanted us to come over - so we did. They had really heavy Mexican accents (I find I understand people from Ecuador the best) so it was really hard for me to follow along, but I followed the lesson okay. They spirit was really strong as Elder Gerratt taught the restoration. It was the best I'd ever heard him speak. By the end Jose and Marco said, "You've answered pretty much every question about why we can't find the right church for us. We want you to come back. We'd come to church, but we work Sundays, but we will work on that." They work a ton - they came here from Mexico to make better money for their families back home. We committed them to read the Book of Mormon. It was then that I felt impressed to share my testimony in Spanish. It just came to me. I didn't say much, but I said it perfectly, and Elder Gerratt's head snapped at me and he looked shocked. I said, "I can't speak spanish very well, and I don't know much. But I do know that the book of Mormon is true. I want you to know that it is true." They promised to read and we said a closing prayer. It was incredible!
As we were walking out to the car, the Spirit was so strong. Elder Gerratt said, "Holy cow elder. That was the best I've ever spoken. You did a good job too. The gift of tongues is a real thing." It has been such a blessing having him as my companion. It definitely takes a special kind of missionary to be able to learn another language and then use it to teach the gospel. Elder Gerratt is a beacon of spiritual strength.
We drove to North Side that night (the other side of Pittsburgh) and met up with the North Side and Pitt 3rd Elders. I went with Pitt 3rd back to their area. I spent the night with Elder Yates and Elder Greenwood in their apartment and Elder Gerratt stayed with Elders Jones and Espionsa, both spanish speakers. The next morning we worked at the food bank with the Methodists. They love the missionaries so much. When we walked in they just said, "Oh! There's our boys! And you brought another one with ya! Good to see you!" They're wonderful people, and we had a lot of fun unloading boxes. I was really sick Tuesday - I had developed a cold on Monday and it was awful when I woke up, but I was diligent and got to work anyway. I slept away my lunch break and before we went out to work, I asked them for a blessing. Elder Yates and Elder Greenwood have both been out for under 6 months, so they hadn't had a lot of experience giving blessings. But let me tell you, they gave me a blessing with such simple faith that it moved my soul. They are wonderful Elders and I love them. I haven't been sick since Tuesday at lunch time.
The exchange was fantastic. We taught some incredible lessons to their investigators and then went tracting in the rain. Not a single person answered the door. But we were happy and optimistic anyway. We went to Pizza Hut for dinner and we ate a family sized buffalo chicken and pepperoni pizza, 20 breadsticks, 10 cinnastix, and 10 hershey chocolate dunkers. It was pretty impressive. We were starving. We had a meeting with their ward mission leader after that and then turned in for the night. We had a great conversation about how much the church means to us and how grateful we are for the things that we know. It's such a miracle to me that you can get three 19-20 year olds together and have them not just pray or read scriptures, but have them expound and apply them for an hour just because they believe it and have had actual experience with the subject matter. I love my mission. It means everything to me.
Wednesday we drove back frantically. I had taken the Upper St. Clair car to their area to save them miles (since we have unlimited) and they left their car in north side. But we had to make it back before 8:30 AM or they'd get a ticket - the street sweeper had to sweep the street that morning. We got stuck in traffic and were all freaking out, but we made it just in time. It was great. Elder Gerratt had an awesome time with Elders Jones and Espinosa. Elder Jones reminds me so much of Daniel Drake it's ridiculous. haha. I miss that kid. We had Zone Training all day after that. I had to shave in the bathroom at the church because we were running late. President had an inner ear infection and said he wasn't going to make it, but we prayed for him in the opening prayer and then he showed up. Small miracle. Elder Deaton and Elder Nelson taught about the atonement. I had a really powerful experience learning from them and it made all the difference for me. I feel free as a bird out here, and I'm happy. We all ate peanut butter and jelly sandwiches together as a zone and then Elder Gerratt and I took off for a lesson.
We taught Shayna on her porch. She's a single mother of three little kids and she's just fantastic. We taught her about the restoration and she loved it. She accepted a copy of the Book of Mormon and we are meeting with her this Wednesday. We tracted for a while after that and then snagged dinner at this taco cart down town. Two dollar tacos! They were delicious. I taught the Book of Mormon class that night. Lots of people came. Justin also came. He's so cool. He drove all the way from Greensburg after a full day of classes to come. We learned about Alma and Amulek's experiences in Ammonihah. He told us after, "Ya know, I really didn't want to come tonight. I was tired and I wanted to go to bed. But I'm so glad I came. I got a lot of answers, and I can really relate to that Amulek guy. I feel like I've been called a bunch of times but I just haven't answered." Justin is so cool. Elder Gerratt and I are in agreement that we're all going to be lifelong friends.
Thursday morning the Match family had us over for breakfast and helped Elder Gerratt with his Spanish. We had a really crazy day. All of our plans fell through after breakfast within 15-20 minutes. We decided to pray about it and go to work anyway. Our day suddenly filled up - we called people, people called us, we met people on the street - and we taught 5 lessons. We met with Nick and were able to help him with some things he's been going through. Justin called us up and wanted to meet at 8:00. Kris and Eric wanted us to come back over. Sister Gyles wanted to read a chapter with us. It was all fantastic. I think my favorite events of the day were with Kris and Eric and then with Justin.
Kris and Eric are such a cool couple. We knocked on the door and Kris answered. She said, "Come in, boys! We're washing our baby!" It was so funny. We just talked to them about life for twenty minutes while they gave their infant son, Mason, a bath in the sink. It reminded me of when Jonny and Sammy were little. We watched The Restoration movie and explained more about the Book of Mormon and what its purpose is. Kris and Eric have definitely been searching. I asked Eric, "How would you feel if there really was a prophet and twelve apostles on the earth today?" He said, "I'd feel really left out because nobody told me about it." I said, "Well, we're doing the best we can!" He laughed and then said, "I'd hear them out and then, if they were true, follow them." Incredible. I turned to Kris and asked, "What about you?" She said, "I wouldn't believe it." Everyone laughed. Then she said, "I'm super skeptical about all this. But that book came from somewhere. Where it came from, I don't know. But I'm going to get to the bottom of this." She reminds me of Willard Richards when he joined the church. He said, "Either God or the Devil had a hand in writing that book, and I'm gonna find out which!" Well, he did, and he became an apostle of the Lord.
Kris said something really funny about that Toddlers in Tiaras show. She's such a firecracker. It's so funny. She's a bubbly kindergarten teacher, but man she is tough. She said, "Those poor kids. They don't stand a snowball's chance in [heck] when they grow up because of their crazy parents!" Too funny.
We had to drive all the way across town after that to teach Justin. We only had a few minutes to teach him a bit of the plan of salvation. We just taught about pre-earth life. Elder Gerratt asked him, "What do you think the purpose of life is?" he said, "To be tested, to grow, and to learn how to be truly happy." Whoa. I asked, "Well, a lot of people focus on life after death. Do you think it's possible that there was life before birth?" He said, "Oh yeah, I already believe that. We probably lived with God before we were born. Do you think he let us be born at this specific time for a specific reason? I dunno, I've thought a lot about that. You look at history, and this seems to be the most epic time in the history of the world." We were shocked. We taught him the principle, and he said, "I'm diggin' this, guys." He said the closing prayer and we drove home. As we were driving home he sent us a text that said, "I just wanted to tell you guys that I'm so glad you came tonight. I don't know how, but it all makes sense now. All of it. And I'm in." Justin is SUCH A BOSS! I love this guy. He's brilliant.
Friday was absolutely nuts. There was a big ward activity that night called Cookie Wars - it was a speed cooking competition involving, you guessed it, thousands of cookies. We were requested to help set up. So we did that. Then after that we met up with Brother Match and helped Guille and her family move in to their new house. We helped them out all day. Their new house is amazing! They got a huge deal on it. It is 4 floors. It's bigger than our house, Mom. Absolutely incredible. The wood work in there is antique and just looks fancy. They were so excited. They've been saving up for a long time ever since they came to the states - just living in small apartments. Guille was so happy to have her own "casa bonita." Cookie wars was super fun. We had some people show up. We ate a lot of cookies. Then we had Brother Match come out with us but our appointment fell through. As we were going back to the car, Elder Gerratt just gave somebody a card - nothing special. But Brother Match flipped out and said, "THAT WAS INCREDIBLE! I forgot you guys do that! Man. That brings back so many memories of just testifying and teaching people in the streets. AH! SO AWESOME!" It was super funny because we totally take that for granted. It made me reconsider what I'm doing out here and made me want to be more grateful. Because let's face it: my life is awesome right now and I love it. We had nothing more to do and didn't have a lot of time, so we just drove him back to the church and went home and were in by 9:15.
I can't explain it, but I've been on this spiritual and emotional high all week. I've been so happy. Saturday, we had absolutely nothing going on. But we made it work. We tracted forever in Upper St. Clair, but it flew by. Then we decided to have some fun with street contacting and we taught a few people the Word of Wisdom and the Law of Chastity. We got a couple return appointments. We were just fearless, and it felt good and we got a ton done. The Whitings had us over for dinner that night and Brother and Sister Whiting taught us life lessons and gave us marriage advice for when we go home. I took good notes. Brother Whiting also gave me some fantastic advice that I've been praying for the last few months. "Some missionaries get scared about going home," he said, "Because they are afraid of going home and being who they were. Don't be afraid. Replace that with faith. God set the example, so be like him. What is he? Check it out - Genesis. He's a creator. If you want to have a great future, create it. If you want a happy family, create it. We are put on this earth to act and not to be acted upon. If you find yourself slipping into your own ways, you're being acted upon and you need to go out and own your life. Once you get that in you, follow the next commandment in Genesis: Be your brother's keeper. Take care of your family, your friends, and your community, and your life will be perfect." It was a godsend.
He came out with us after. Brother Whiting is such a cool guy. Guille wanted us to come over and teach her family. She was running late (coming from the old apartment), so we talked to her neighbors. We met this couple - Brian and Valerie. They were really nice and talked to us for quite a while. Brian said, "Every time I see your commercials, I just go, '[Dang], Mormons are so happy!' I wanna know why." Brother Whiting told them what was up and we set up a time to go see them. Then we had a great experience with this kid named Andrew. He wanted to talk to us longer but then a really bad storm rolled in and we started getting rained on, so he just gave us his phone number and ran inside. Guille got home and Elder Gerratt taught her English while Brother Whiting and I read 1st Nephi 3 and 4 with Estella. She said, "Man, this is getting interesting!" We had fun.
Justin called us that night. He was really down in the dumps. He had just spent the day at a wedding and reception. "Guys, it's hard living the Gospel. I realized today that drinking is no fun. It's not fun being around drunk people all the time." He then told us about how he pretty much broke up with his girlfriend and said goodbye to his friends and dropped everything for the gospel. He said, "That's why I'm calling you guys. You're the only friends I have left." AH MAN! I just wanted to cry for the guy. I definitely know how he feels. It's the loneliness of discipleship. It comes to all of us at certain points. We just had a good talk. Elder Gerratt gave him some really good scriptures. Justin is such an example of strength and sacrifice. He just knows what it takes and he gets it. At the end of the phone call he said, "I'll see you tomorrow at church." It was incredible.
Church was fantastic yesterday! Nick and Jess came and Justin came as well. The hymns were awful - it was one of those Sundays where they pick songs that no one knows - but it turned out okay. Nick said, "Now you know how I feel every week!" So funny. I taught gospel principles class since our teacher was sick. We had a great lesson on the atonement. Pretty much the entire elders' quorum invited Justin to go either fishing or hunting with them. It was pretty funny. He didn't know what to do, so he said yes and is going out with Brother Whiting and Brother Adcock at some point this week.
After church we had a lesson with this girl named Melissa. She met us in the park. She's Harrison's age. We sat on a park bench and she pretty much criticized us for living standards. She said, "I'm here to live my life. I'm here to do me, and that's the end of it." We told her about the atonement of Jesus Christ and how that blessed us in our lives, and she said, "What's up with all this focus on Jesus!? You're not even living your life. You're just living someone else's! You're living HIS life!" I was about to disagree with her, but then I received an incredible epiphany: she was right. And Elder Gerratt had the same thing. And we just turned and both said, "Exactly." She was taken aback and said, "...what?" And I had the most incredible joy in my heart as I told her with 100% confidence, "You're right. I'm living a Christ-like life. Why? Because when I live my life any other way it doesn't work. So I choose to live Christ's life." Then we had a sacred experience where the Spirit told us exactly what we needed to say and it changed everything for the better. It was a breakthrough. Really cool experience.
We tracted and no one talked to us because the Steelers were playing. Oakland beat them. We did meet a wonderful lady on the street though. She had a ton of questions for us and legitimately wanted to know more. We pretty much taught her the first lesson on the street. She said, "I'm busy, and I don't think I can meet in the near future. But I want to read this whole book. And I want your phone number to call if I have questions." It was fantastic. She reminded me of Sister Clanton - she just wasn't a member. It was cool.
The Budd family had us over for dinner. And Justin too! They got his number at church and invited him. Wow. We finished the plan of salvation lesson and had Korean food. It was just a fantastic evening. A great way to end the week.
Elder Gerratt and I tracted in the dark. Not effective. People get really upset when it's dark outside and you knock on the door. haha. Good thing there's a scripture in D&C that talks about that. Can't remember the reference offhand, but it's something like, "Trouble the inhabitants day and night, and when the night comes, do not let them slumber." SO funny. We had faith and placed some book of mormons. Then I raced elder gerratt up the hill to our car.
Mom, this week was like the best week of my life. I love god. I love people. I love my companion. I love my family. I love the people I'm teaching. I love my ward. I love pittsburgh. And I finally love myself for who I am. It's the greatest. Thank you for all that you do. I love you guys!