So, I have all of my courses planned and I know which ones I'd like to take, but unfortunately today was not my actual registration date. I went on to register and it wouldn't let me. Turns out, today is the first day of registration, and it goes to graduate students and those with 145 credit hours or more. I have 51, so I won't be able to register until next Monday. Hopefully I can get the classes I need and they won't all be full! I promise I'll get everything done. haha.
Okay, so the following will outline my last week in Hanover, Pennsylvania.
Monday was fantastic. I was a little disillusioned after planning out classes on the BYU website. I guess it finally hit me that things are winding down out here in the vineyard. Elder Mouritsen went to Adam's house to work out and all I did was sit there and think. haha. I figure if I get the awkwardness out now I won't be so shell shocked when I go home. I am excited to see all of my friends and family, but there's so much that I love here. I was filled with gratitude then that God has given me the ability to love wherever I go.
The Cook family fed us dinner that night. We had noodles and chicken with some sauce. Hannah made it. Afterwards, Brother Cook came with us to visit Nikki and her family. We met Nikki last week. She had met with Elders before and was really excited and happy to see us. She invited us back without delay, though we had to wait a week because she had strep throat. When we went to visit her, we met her daughter, Corissa, and her son, Colton. They were super cool! Nikki is a corrections officer at the county prison. She's about 5 feet tall and is SO full of spunk and energy. She asked us three, "So, is it a requirement that you have to be good looking in order to be a Mormon!" It was so funny, considering she's in her fifties and we are young enough to be her sons. She only met with the elders a few times before they stopped coming over. She had some family issues - medical and emotional - and had to delay. That was 7 years ago. She said the Elders were a huge help then and she's always had a positive view of the church. They had a lot of questions for us. Their church recently shut down due to inactivity. That's the sad thing about Pennsylvania. All of the churches are dying. The good news is, ours keeps growing. They know members of the church and Brother Cook and Nikki actually had a friend in common. It was cool. We focused mostly on the need for prophets, what the gospel is, how it blesses families, and the nature of God. Nikki said, "You know, you guys just taught that so simply. I've always wondered what he was actually like, and nobody in my church could explain it to me like you just did. I've been going to church my whole life." At the end of the visit we knelt down and Corissa said the closing prayer. It was beautiful. Then we said goodbye and they said they were excited for our next visit. It was a good experience. Great way to start the week.
Monday night I had a remarkable dream. Afterwards I couldn't sleep until I acted on a spiritual prompting. I'll tell you more about it in a not-so public correspondence.
Tuesday morning we got a call from President Topham. He was meeting with the Assistants and he informed us that we would be getting doubled out. We were crushed and it put a damper on our day. We were grateful that all we had planned were service activities that day. It helped get our mind off of things. We went to the Powell Lunch (a soup kitchen) and washed dishes for about 2 hours. We got to use an industrial sized dish washer and a dish hose with water the temperature of magma. Afterwards we went and helped out at New Hope Ministries, a food pantry. We stocked shelves and cut boxes. I worked with a lady in her 40's, though she looked no older than 20. She had some mental issues. Apparently she was in a car accident when she was younger and it threw her out of the vehicle. She had severe head injuries which stunted her growth and her mental capacity. She said, "It frustrates me, because I know what I could be, and then I look at myself and see what I am. It's hard. I can't hold a job. So I just come here to serve because I want to be useful somewhere." We had a good talk. We laughed because she has no depth perception and she was trying to put peaches into fruit bags and she kept missing and I'd have to pick them up off the floor. It was a good time.
Jesi wanted to meet with us that afternoon. We met at the Royal Farms. Her friend Ben came - his nick name is Chuckie. I don't know why. I love that guy so much. He's full of one liners. I asked him, "Hey, Chuckie, what're you up to?" and he said, "Oh, about 5'5"." He gets me EVERY time! We read 3rd Nephi 11 and stressed how important it is to continually learn about the savior and the principles of the gospel.
The rest of the evening we did area book work and prepared the apartment and stuff for new missionaries.
Wednesday morning we typed up information about the area and made a tutorial/guidebook for those we were teaching and how to work with the ward, etc. We also updated our membership records. Brother McIver invited us over and we had a good lesson. He's been struggling this week with his depression and his health. We had a good lesson about the power of prayer and the importance of scripture study and staying active. The Shanahan family had us over for dinner after that. We had pizza in their apartment - they live in Maryland still, but they attend our ward because they are remodeling an apartment in Hanover and will eventually be living in it. It's really nice. Brother Shanahan is a lawyer. His wife is the sister missionary that got him to take the lessons and be baptized her last transfer out. haha! I asked, "So, how did you two meet?" and she said, "Well, I taught him the gospel!"
After that we had our best Book of Mormon class yet! We had 12 people there - our highest attendance yet. Everyone brought snacks to share and just talked for the first 15 minutes while we set everything up. I had hand outs and diagrams. I taught the apostasy in the context of world history: walked them through the deaths of the apostles (using the last chapter of John where the death of Peter is prophesied by Christ and he is commanded to follow Christ and how courageous that was), outlined the rise of the great and abominable church, the loss of plain and precious scriptures and the changing of ordinances and doctrines, then took them through the renaissance, and then we turned to 1st Nephi 13 to read about how the stage was set for the restoration through the translation of the bible, the discovery of the Americas, the revolutionary war, mass emigration, the afflictions of the Lamanites, and the establishment of religious liberty. We ended on a cliff-hanger. Next week will be about Joseph Smith's experience. It's a fantastic class. I was bummed that it was my last one. We filled Sister Varga in on the news and prepped her to teach class next week. She was really sad and got teary.
We met up with Munoz, Jolley, JP, Jen, and Jesi in the cultural hall to re-enact the baptism since we didn't get pictures of Jesi and Elder Mouritsen in white before the baptism. We had a fun time. The pictures are funny. Such a good group of people.
When we got home, Brother McIver called us and said, "You know. I really enjoyed Book of Mormon class tonight. I'm learning so much and the people there are just awesome. If it wasn't for you two, I don't know where I'd be. Without that Book, I'd have no hope in my life. I'm so grateful that you two have changed my life." After that, Brother Kerns called. He started first by asking us to help his son move on Saturday. Then he said, "You know, Lynne called me. She told me how impressed she was with you two. You've really had an impact on Adam. He's been reading the bible and has a different outlook on things. I always thought my son in law would be a tough egg to crack, but you are having an impact. And you're changing my daughter's life as well. Thank you, boys." We called that night and told President and the Assistants that we couldn't get doubled out. There was too much work going on here.
Thursday morning I woke up and I felt off. So did Elder Mouritsen. Our studies were awful. We had district meeting. Elder Munoz had us watch the BYU devotional from Brad Wilcox entitled "His Grace is Sufficient." I'd read the talk before, but I'd never seen it. It is delivered powerfully. It helped us get through what was shaping up to be a terrible day. Afterwards we went to Olive Garden and had our last meal together. Elder Jolley is going home since his 2 years are up. Our waitress was really rude. We left, and were on our way to the church for Elder Mouritsen to do Spanish study, when I realized I forgot the phone on the table so we had to drive back and pick it up. That wasted like half an hour and was frustrating. Then we took Spanish study and I worked on the area book and completed it. Then our appointments all called and cancelled. We were bummed. But then we had Al and Jesi call us out of the blue to say they'd like to meet at precisely those times we got cancelled on! We were excited. So we went to our appointment with Al at 5:00. He was in such good spirits. He said he'd been feeling great that whole day. But after we started the lesson, he brought up all of the problems that had actually been going on that week. Then he had a complete mental breakdown. It was the craziest thing I've seen since Sister Baker in Brookville. He claimed he was the illegitimate son of Albert Einstein and had been switched at birth, that he knew where the tree of life was (it was in one of the Civil War battefields, buried beneath the earth) and he had to go dig it up so we could all live forever, and that he was El Shaddai (Hebrew for God Almighty). It was absolutely NUTS. We'd never seen him like that before. He just had a complete emotional and mental breakdown. We told him, "Al, you've gotta calm down." We knelt down and said, "Let's have a prayer." He knelt down with us, and I said a prayer, then Elder Mouritsen offered one, and then Al said the most profound prayer I've ever heard him say. At the end of the prayer, he was crying, but he was calm and at peace. The Spirit was strong. He looked up at us and thanked us for coming. He really needed our visit.
It was really strange. I feel so bad for Al. He has so many health problems. You name it, he's got it. Heart disease, diabetes, a pace maker, sleep apnea. It makes it impossible for him to work. He just moved to hanover a year or two ago and has no friends. He has a masters degree in psychology and he can't use any of his knowledge. So all he does is sit at home in his apartment and sleep or watch TV, and he doesn't have cable so he can't watch anything interesting. So he just thinks himself crazy. We made plans to get him out of the house.
We were excited after that because we got a media referral sent to us! Turns out, it was a joke referral. :\ Classic.
Sister Resh, a recent convert, was in charge of the Relief Society dinner that night. She had called the night before and asked me to play Jesus in a Woman at the Well sketch. It was fun. I've never been Jesus before. When we got there, though, they had a musical number planned and it fell apart, so they asked me to learn this ridiculously hard Sally deFord song in an hour. I learned it well enough so that someone could sing along to it, but then they just decided not to do it. Kind of frustrating, but I'm glad. It would've been a train wreck. But nobody who attended even knew the musical number was planned so the dinner turned out great.
We drove to Gettysburg after to meet up with Jesi. We had to meet at a McDonalds because the library was closed and she couldn't come to the church. So we tried having a lesson, but Jesi was distracted the whole time because one of the workers was sweeping and kept moving all of the metal chairs and making RIDICULOUS amounts of noise. It was awful. Probably the least effective lesson I've ever taught. Looking back, it's pretty funny, but at the time, man, it was frustrating.
We came home that night drained, frustrated, and exhausted. It was a terrible day.
Friday was a little better. We had weekly planning. We also found out that we weren't getting doubled out. Elder Mouritsen was staying and I was leaving. We planned for the upcoming week. Then we went and visited Rose Marie. She accepted a return appointment for Sunday night. Then we felt impressed to go visit a family we hadn't met, the Rummels. They do not attend church. When we arrived, Bro. Rummel opened the door and said, "Honey, it's the Elders! Come in!" They were super happy to see us. We didn't know this, but apparently Sister Rummel is bed ridden and has a lot of health problems. That is why they do not come. They have family home evening with their son and grand children every Monday. Their son joined when he was a teenager and then worked for 3 years to save up enough money to serve a mission. They were baptized when he was gone. When he came home he was sealed in the DC temple. Sister and Brother Rummel have not been sealed because of her health problems. She can't leave her hospital bed, which is set up in her living room. They expressed desires to us of their wanting to learn more about the temple. We shared a lesson with them about it and then proposed that they be taught temple prep classes in their home. They accepted. We told the bishop and he agreed that that would be a good idea. They hadn't had elders stop by in a few years, and they said it was a very welcome and needed visit.
Then we had a stellar visit with Trudy. She had questions for us. She said, "When I attended church with my son, the Bishop, he bore his testimony in Sacrament Meeting. He looked me right in the eye from the pulpit and said, 'Because of the Book of Mormon, I know that Jesus Christ is my Lord and Savior.' He said it so powerfully and with such confidence that I wondered how he knew that. I mean, where did he get that witness?" We told her we knew exactly where and how he obtained it. We read her the introduction of the Book of Mormon and Moroni's promise. Then she asked, "So, what is the Holy Ghost? Just a feeling?" She was cynical. Then we asked her how she felt when she held her first child in her arms for the first time. She said, "I felt such a peace. I was full, I was accomplished, I was happy." We asked her if she had ever felt that way any other time. She said, "Yeah, in special moments in my life." We said that's the peace that comes when you get an answer. Then I said that sometimes people hear a voice in their mind and in their heart. She perked up and said, "A voice? Really?" My first thought was: oh, crap. haha. But I stuck to my guns and said yeah. She said, "That's happened to me before." She then told us of a very tender experience when she was a young mother and was feeling very discouraged and alone. She said a prayer and got an answer. "I said, 'Why am I not shown enough love from others? I feel like I give but don't get.' Then I heard a voice, or maybe imagined a voice, but it was powerful and gave me hope. I imagined what God would say to me in that moment. Or maybe he actually said it. But it was in my mind and heart and he said, 'I love you. Get that love from me.' And that was all I needed. I was loved." I said: THAT'S the Holy Ghost! Then she understood. She said, "Oh, okay. I'm starting to get what you mean. I've gotta read this Book." It was a nice, short visit. She's coming around. =)
After that we met up with Brother McIver and he followed us to the Matson home. They fed us spaghetti. Bro Matson has his own recording studio that he runs. It was cool talking with him. It was very nice of them to let Brother McIver come with us. He needs friends and he said it was a very good visit.
After that Lynne and Adam had us over. We introduced Adam to the Bible Videos website. He loved it! Then we watched a video about the plan of salvation and introduced the concept. We ascertained that he didn't pray on his own about anything, let alone the Book of Mormon. We invited him to pray regularly, and to do it in a quiet place where he could be alone and to see if that would bless his life. He agreed. It was a good visit.
Saturday morning we had correlation with Brother Coy, our ward mission leader. His wife made us Thai food since she served her mission in Thailand. I love the Coys. I'm really going to miss them. He was relieved to find out that we weren't getting doubled out.
Afterwards we helped Brother Kern's son, Leonard, move. It took a few hours. Adam was there along with Lynne's son, Camden. The Lamberts had us over for dinner. Their youngest son is so adorable. He just learned how to blow his nose (he's 1 1/2) so he was showing us. It was funny. Afterwards, all of our plans fell through yet again. People stood us up. That's when we got a call from Al's sister. He had gone in to the hospital the night before and was in a lot of distress. She was worried about him and asked that we go and visit him. We showed up and talked with him. He really needed to get out of the house. He had no food, no money, nothing. So we told him we were taking him grocery shopping. He got dressed, got in his car, and told us he'd follow. As we got in the car, we decided we'd take him to Target since he always goes to Wal Mart. On the way to target, we passed a JC Penny and decided to stop in and have some fun with Al. He followed us into the mall parking lot, where I drove around in circles like a mad man and he followed me. I looked back in the rearview mirror and he looked really confused and scared. Then I waved at him and smiled and he laughed because he realized I was messing with him. Then we parked and got out.
"This isn't Wal Mart..." Al sounds like Eyore and is 62 years old. Keep that in mind.
"Nope. It definitely isn't!" Elder Mouritsen said. "We're gonna go have some fun, Al!" We walked into the store.
Al said, "I can't afford any of this stuff."
"Neither can we!" I said. "But it doesn't mean we can't try it on!"
Al perked up. The thought had never occurred to him before. We just started grabbing all different kinds of clothes in his size and our size. Crazy stuff he'd never wear. He said, "This is nuts. This is crazy. I've never done anything like this. You guys are nuts!" It was funny. We all went into the dressing rooms and changed and then took pictures in our different clothes. We made Al wear shorts and a fedora. It was funny. I'll have to send the pictures one of these days.
Afterwards he said, "Wow. That was fun. My life has been far too serious. I don't think I've ever had that much fun in my whole life." Then we took him to Target. We got out of the car and he said, "This isn't Wal Mart."
Elder Mouritsen said, "You're right. It definitely isn't! This is the rich man's wal mart!"
We walked in (this target is hip looking - it's brand new) and Al said, "You're right. Holy cow. Wal Mart is so trashy compared to this!" Al looked like he was on top of the world. 62 years old, and the only store he's been going to for the last few years was Wal Mart. He was livin' it up! We bought him groceries. Then we bought 2 nerf guns. He said, "Why are you getting those?"
I said, "So you can defend your home from invaders. We're going to test your skills. You better have your gun cocked and loaded every time we come over, or we're gonna shoot you, Al!"
I said, "So you can defend your home from invaders. We're going to test your skills. You better have your gun cocked and loaded every time we come over, or we're gonna shoot you, Al!"
He laughed. "You guys are crazy. You guys are nuts." After that we went to Ritas, this Italian Ice and Frozen Custard place. I'd heard about this place my whole mission but never had the time to go. So it was my first time and Al's. Al loved it. I did too. I got a Gelati - it's frozen custard covered in flavored Italian ice covered in frozen custard. SO GOOD. Al thanked us and said he'd be at church the next day. He said it was the most fun he'd ever had in his life.
Even though it was out of the ordinary, and wasn't your typical missionary work, we were both very happy that our schedule had opened up to allow us to help Al learn how to have a life. Sometimes you have to show people how to live the gospel and to live it well. Fun and enjoyment are indispensable parts of the gospel. "Adam fell that men might be, and men are that they might have JOY!" It amazes me that some people don't know how to have joy. I'm glad we were able to have joy with Al.
Sunday was incredible. We had a surprise stake conference. The York and Harrisburg Stakes were both invited. Elder Whiting and Elder Gerard of the 70 were in attendance. During the course of the conference, they formed a new stake and readjusted the boundaries of the old ones. Now we're in the Chambersburg Stake, the Harrisburg Stake, and the Lancaster Stake. How cool is that! A new stake hasn't been formed here since the 80s.
Elder Whiting said something I thought was pretty profound:
"Since the beginning of this church, Satan has always been out to stop it in any way he can. When Joseph first shared his experience, Satan put it in the hearts of men to slander and discredit the boy. Yet the boy prevailed. When the work gained momentum, Satan changed his tactics. If he could take the boys life, the church would be put down. So he put it in the hearts of men to do so, and they did. Yet the boy prevailed. Later, he turned to the fruits of the Prophet Joseph - the Book of Mormon. He has slandered that book, attacked it, ridiculed it, and put it in the hearts of men to attempt to disprove it or destroy it or ignore it all together. He has failed, and the Lord's church has prevailed. In recent years he has shifted his focus yet again, but this time he is taking a different approach. He is attacking his family. And brothers and sisters, sadly, he is making some inroads there. This should not be."
He gave a masterful talk about the importance of focusing on the family and creating an environment where the spirit can dwell in the home. He brought up David O. McKay's quote: "No other success can compensate for failure in the home." He then made note of how the Book of Mormon begins with the story of a dysfunctional family. He then shared a story where someone asked David O. McKay what constituted failure in the home. David O. McKay responded: "Failure in the home is when you give up." He then noted that to his deathbed, Lehi did not give up. And though certain sons continued in wickedness, half of his family continued in righteousness, and many of his posterity were saved.
"Brothers and Sisters, we cannot give up," he said. "Will you have ears to hear? Will you have eyes to see? Will you have courage to act?"
It was awesome. After church everyone said goodbye to me. I guess people really liked me here.
We had studies after church and then visited the Gaylord family since we left our Mormon Message DVD at their house last week and needed it back. We walked in and they said, "YOU'RE LEAVING!?" We hadn't told them. We asked how they knew. Sis Gaylord said, "I ran into Adam at Wal Mart. He told me!" Elder Mouritsen said it was funny that when they get together they talk about the Mormon missionaries. She said, "Yeah, it's pretty fun that we're all learning!" I got pictures with them. We stopped in at just the right time because Brother Gaylord was about to leave for sniper school for the SWAT team. He had all of his gear out. It was pretty cool. It was nice to say goodbye to them.
The Collins had us over for dinner after that. They are really cool. Brother Collins is a convert. He plays the piano for the primary and he and his wife are working on getting sealed. They live in a pre-civil war era house. It's beautiful. We had a fantastic dinner - meat loaf wrapped in bacon! Then we shared our lesson about the Spirit and committed them to follow spiritual promptings and to make time to meditate and listen for them. It was cool.
After that we visited the Darago family, who aren't active. I'd never met them before. They let us in. The wife is inactive, the husband isn't a member. She stopped going to church when she was 16, though all of her family is active in Baltimore. Somehow the topic of September 11th was brought up. It reminded us of a Mormon message that we had on one of our DVD's. We watched that. Then it led to a fantastic lesson about the importance of families and focusing on the things that matter most. It was cool. They talked most of the time about how they were touched by the message. In the car after the lesson, Elder Mouritsen said: "When we were making that DVD, I had no idea why we put that one on there. I've NEVER used it. I KNEW it would come in handy!" It's not every day that you get into a deeply spiritual discussion about the impact 9/11 had on the survivors and how members of the Church responded to it.
Anyway, the week ended well. It's sad to leave Hanover, but I'm ready to go. Apparently I'm getting doubled in to the Washington Walk area and I'll be a district leader and trainer. I'm leaving for Pittsburgh this afternoon. We got 6 inches of snow last night, so hopefully I'm safe on the roads! I'm staying in the AP apartment again. haha. It's funny that my last area is Washington, PA. After Washington, I'll be headed to Washington!
I love you,