It was great to see pictures of Jonny and Jordan at his baptism. I am so proud of the both of them. That's what the gospel is all about! They're a great looking group of kids. I'm so happy for them and can't wait to see them. Kind of crazy that Elder Boswell knows elder Gerratt! Isn't it cool that I'm connected to a missionary that changed your lives back home through one mutual friend? Pretty cool. Also, do you remember Sister Plater? She was reading my mission blog before she came out and you told me to look for her and I picked her group up from the airport? Well, at Zone Training this last Wednesday she said, "Hey, Elder Collier. I got a letter this week from Kennedy Rushing and she says to tell you hi. She and I were great friends at BYU." How nuts is that?! I love being Mormon. Like I told our investigator Isaiah this week: "Being Mormon is like being in the Mafia - only you've got better connections, nicer associates, and you do good things instead of bad things." We all laughed. It was great.
That's also good to hear about Cory. I love that guy. He and i were starting to get pretty close before I left for my mission. We had some good talks about the church. He told me the week before I left that he was going to help "unawkward me" when I got back by locking me in his car and blasting heavy metal music. =D I greatly prefer him coming to my homecoming talk and then getting some food with me after. =) He's a great guy.
Alrighty, well I'm about to tell you about my week. I'll be honest, it's really hard for me every week to type these thigns out. It's like a big brain drain every monday. haha. Only 4 more letters after this one. I can do it! Mind you, if half way through this letter it looks like this:
I fell asleep on the keyboard and my forehead is pressing the keys.
Here we go!
MONDAY: We went and had a good lesson with Dan at Subway. He's doing okay. It's just a tough change for people who join the church. When you first hear the gospel, it's the greatest thing ever! It's new, it's exciting. But then after baptism you realize that now you've gotta live it. And sometimes that can be difficult. But the good thing is that it's always worth it. Always. We read Elder Bednar's talk with Dan about Testimony and Conversion. He really liked it. We also bought a dozen Subway cookies and ate them. They were tasty. I like Dan. He's doing a good job despite the difficult change. He'll make it.
After that we walked to the hospital to give a man a blessing. It was Brother Hixon. The Waynesburg Elders texted us and asked us to go and visit him since he was from their branch. Let me tell ya: awesome guy. He joined the church in the 60's and has been active ever since. It was cool talking to him and hearing him explain how much the church has grown out here over the last 50 years. He said it is truly miraculous to see. He knew lots of people I knew because he used to be in Uniontown Branch. It was cool to be able to relate to him. We gave him a blessing and then said goodbye. Elder Brady and Elder Walker are getting the hang of the missionary thing. I love it! On our way out, in the hallway, we were stopped by one of the doctors. He said, "Elders, how ya doing?!" We were taken aback. Turns out, he's a member of the bishopric in the Monongahela ward. It was cool to be able to meet him.
We walked home. It was dark. On the way back we saw that Blair's front door was open and he was inside with his family. We waved. He ran outside and said, "Hey! Family! Look! It's my Mormon friends! Get in here guys!" He introduced us to his family. He said, "They didn't believe me that I had Mormon friends! Talk to them. Tell 'em you guys are cool." We had a great interaction with his family. At first they were nervous but then they lightened up. It was funny. Then Blair gave us each Mountain Dews. His mother in law said, "Wow, Blair. You must really like them! You never give out your mountain dew!" It was really cool. He said we were welcome in his home any time. They have a wonderful family.
TUESDAY: Tuesday Morning we walked to the salvation army, where we helped them with their big yard sale fundraiser. Nancy kept digging through the clothes and finding me all these high end, fancy, brand new clothes. She gave me 5 nice, pressed, designer dress shirts. She said, "I know you can't wear them on your mission, but you go home soon! Wear them on dates!" Then she gave me a really nice pair of dress shoes. Then she paid for them. What a wondrous lady! She's a legend. I love Nancy. We helped them clean everything up once the sale was done and put the tables away. It was nice.
After that we went and bought flowers. There was a lady we tracted into a few weeks back who was pretty antagonistic at first until we found out we were Mormons and not another denomination. Then she was really nice. She just explained she wasn't feeling well. We had a great conversation with her and let her go back to bed. We came back the next week to see if she was feeling better but she wasn't - it was actually more serious than she thought and she had to have surgery! She had actually just gotten back from the hospital. So we've been praying for her all week and we decided to go drop off flowers because mothers' day probably wasn't the best for her this year. We opened the door and gave her the flowers and she cried. She said it was very kind of us. We said you're welcome and told her we hoped she would get feeling well soon. We felt good walking away.
We went and had a lesson with Sister Neel about how to have a happier family and how to invite the Spirit into her home more abundantly. It was pretty good. After that we started walking back home to meet up with the Sisters, but they decided to throw us a bone and come to us, which was nice of them. So they picked us up out in the West End. Sister Romero was driving - she was with Sister Thatcher and Sister Butler for the day. It's funny because there's now enough Sisters for them to go on exchanges! Sister Romero is currently serving in Oakland (Down town Pittsburgh). I was her Zone Leader when I was in Altoona and I've served around her quite a bit. We go home together. So it was fun for her to be on exchange with our gang, which is already really fun.
We drove out to the Hansen's home for dinner. Thomasina and her two daughters were also invited over for dinner as well as the Philips, who are Sister Hansen's parents. Sister Hansen made us all individual pizzas out of home made dough and allowed us to make our pizzas however we wanted. They were excellent! Thomasina's kids loved it and thought it was fun. The Hansens have 2 little girls as well, and Laura and Sarah made friends. One of the Hansen girls came up to Sarah - who initially was feeling out of place - and said, "Sarah, come swing with me!" Then she just grabbed her hand and took her to the swing set and Sarah was beaming. It was adorable. We had a lesson after dinner on the Savior's visit to the Nephites. We watched the clip from The Testaments where Christ heals Helam. Then we talked about the importance of the Book of Mormon and how the Savior is proud of us when we make good choices. Everyone loved it. It was a really great evening and was very beneficial for Laura, who is getting ready to be baptized.
WEDNESDAY: We woke up and got ready, and then the Sisters came and picked us up and drove us to Pittsburgh. We had Zone Training. President Topham trained us on setting goals and making plans and reaffirmed His vision of the mission: Finding the Way the Lord Wants us to Find, Teaching in the Savior's Way, and Rescuing Souls by Helping Them Endure. It was awesome. Then Elder Parker and Elder McDowell trained us on using our planners more effectively and using time wisely. It was good. I got to see Elder Bartlett. He filled me in on some things that were going on in the 5th ward. Apparently Brother Trout has been active still since I left! I love that man! I sent him a picture of he and I and Elder Bartlett says it's on his fridge. Also, a miracle happened. Brother Trout was really having a hard time paying his tithing. We promised him that if he just did the best he could, and really made the sacrifice and effort, God would bless him. So he'd been doing that. Guess what? Something turned around in his life and through some crazy "coincidental/lucky" events, he is now making much more than he was before. Like, MUCH more. He said, "THE ELDERS WERE RIGHT! I'm paying my tithing forevermore!" I'm so proud of him. The Lord works in mysterious ways.
It was a good meeting, though I was feeling really sick. I had had a headache since Monday night and by Wednesday I was having severe stomach pain as well. Not fun. After the meeting we went to the office and got some materials (book of mormons, bibles, pamphlets, childrens books). Then we made the drive all the way back to washington. We got in around 4:30 PM and that's precisely when Brother Baker picked us up to take us to their place for dinner. They live out in the country. It was a nice drive. We had a pleasant dinner with them.
Afterwards, he dropped us off at 6:30 PM which was precisely when Brother Long picked us up to go to Thomasina's house for a lesson! So we were just hopping from car to car. It was crazy. So we went to Thomasina's and had a lesson with Laura on baptism using her story time version of the standard works. We took stories from the Old Testament, New Testament, Book of Mormon, and Doctrine and Covenants that all showed baptism and its importance. Then we taught her the process and symbolism and how God is the same yesterday, today, and forever, no matter where you live in the world. She loved it. It was also a good lesson for her Dad, Michael, who isn't a member. He sat in for the first time and loved it. He accepted a copy of the Book of Mormon after the lesson.
We had an awkward thing happen after the lesson. So, something happened to Thomasina's records. Whether they weren't inputted after her baptism or they were shipped somewhere they weren't supposed to go, we're not sure. All we knew is that we'd been working with the Membership Clerk for 3 months trying to find her membership records and we couldn't find them and Salt Lake couldn't either. But everyone in the ward knew she was a member because they remembered being at her baptism. Anyway, after talking with the Bishop and Pres. Topham, we decided it would be best to invite her to be rebaptized. So we pulled her aside after the lesson and explained the situation and informed her she'd have to get rebaptized. She was REALLY excited! She was so happy and said it was a miracle! She took the news really well. We invited her to be baptized the same day Laura would be baptized. So the situation got cleared up and we headed home.
No joke. Seconds. Seconds after we walked through our apartment door, Brother Altman, the membership clerk, called us and told us they found her records and Salt Lake sent them in. hahaha! Worst. Timing. Ever! So we had to call Thomasina back up and explain. It was pretty embarrassing but she was cool about it and thought it was funny. =D
THURSDAY: I was feeling terrible. Really sick. I went out and worked anyway. Brother Philips picked us up and took us to Romain's house. We had a lesson with her outside on her front porch. The weather was really nice. The lesson went okay. Brother Philips is so awesome. He has such a strong testimony. We just weren't as unified in teaching as we could have been and the lesson was pretty scattered. We don't think Romain really understood it. She wanted to meet with us again though, which is a good sign. Walking away from that lesson we promised to all prepare better next time. We also got called out in the car. Brother Philips said, "Ya know, Elders, just a suggestion because I've seen it work when I was bishop. Always make sure you ask people for referrals after you teach them." OUCH! haha! We had set a goal the last week to be better about that and we'd done nothing. Then Brother Philips, pretty much the coolest guy ever, called us out on it. Boom! God is awesome at holding you accountable, isn't he? =D
After that we walked all the way over to the Old Folks home and played some rousing renditions of hymns for the old people. We spent time with each one individually and got to know them. Mary, Ella, Rita, Kati, Lois, and Thelma. What a crew. =D The workers there are really softening their hearts towards us. Also, there's a less-active member of the ward there and she talked to me for quite a while. She said, just like all the other members of the ward say, that I look like Elder Griffiths. I hope that's a good thing! it sounds like it. He was the Elder that baptized Sister Seibert, this employee at the old folks' home.
We had a good experience with Blair that afternoon. He pulled over as we were walking and said, "Yo! I be pullin' ova fo my Mormons!" He invited us to stop by his house in fifteen minutes. So we did. He's pretty defensive when it comes to talking about religion so mostly we just hung out with him and got to know his wife and his daughter (who is hilarious! she's the most fiery 1st grader I've ever met!). It was cool though because as defensive as he is, he agreed to let us have family prayer with them before we left. They never do that! Baby steps. =) He's such a cool guy.
We went home and took dinner after that. Then we walked to Subway and had a great lesson with Isaiah. Isaiah has been trying so hard to change but he's running into difficulty. He didn't have a very good upbringing and he's trying to change his friends and his job and everything so he can be a better dad for his son. He's such a cool guy. Elder Walker led out in the lesson. He had a great lesson plan. We went through the life of king david and talked about how he took down Goliath and how if you are obedient, God will protect you and remove large obstacles in your life. Isaiah loved it. After Elder Walker finished, I said, "but wait, that's not all!" I then compared Isaiah making it to baptism was like taking goliath down. But after that, his life was just going to get better and better, like David's life did when he became king. Elder Brady nodded in satisfaction. Then Elder Walker, who totally missed the point of me adding that, kept going on with the story: "Yeah, David's life was great as king. Until one night, he went out onto his balcony..." and he started in on the Bathsheba story and the fall of David. Definitely NOT something we wanted to share with Isaiah in a pep talk. haha! Elder Brady shot me a mortified look and I said, "....and he looked at the stars and felt grateful for all God had given him. Great story, huh?" Isaiah said, "yeah! Great story!" It was hilarious. Then we compared heaven and all God will give us to that part in Lion king where Simba is on Pride Rock and is told that all the sun touches was his. Isaiah said, "funny you bring that up. Lion king is MY MOVIE! I LOVE THAT MOVIE!" He rolled up his sleeve and showed us his tattoo on his arm. He has a tattoo of Simba! The little lion drawing Rafiki makes on the tree! haha how funny is that!? It was a great lesson. Isaiah is awesome.
FRIDAY: I felt even worse. We had weekly planning. After we were supposed to go out, but I couldn't do it. I was so nauseous. I slept for 3 hours instead. Straight through. Then the hemmis family had us over for dinner. Then we went and visited Sister Myers' neighbor, Steve, who is 102 years old and has a second wrist bone growing out of his wrist. It was interesting.
SATURDAY: Incredible lesson with Roy McKnight! He loved it and said that once he knows the Book of Mormon is true for sure, he'd get baptized! We taught in perfect unity and it was exciting. He disappeared after the lesson into his back room and came out and gave us each a 70 year old glass chalice that was made by the Washington Glass company which no longer exists. He said, "Here are some heirlooms. It's the least I can do." WHAT A COOL GUY! I love that man.
After that we walked home and Brother Whoolery picked us up. He recently had a stroke and needed help around his yard. We invited Astrop, our Muslim investigator, to come with us to help because he wanted to go do missionary work with us sometime. So he came with us. I worked with Astrop in the front yard. Mostly he bashed the concept of Jesus Christ at me for 2 hours, but we had a really spiritual moment together at the end. He asked me, "How can you believe that?" and I said, "Because sometimes, God tells you things that are true. I can't explain logically why I consider you a friend and why my heart is full of love for you, and why I enjoy our conversations Astrop, but I do. And no matter what, I consider you a friend and I'm grateful for you." I didn't know what to say except, "Thank you. You are my friend too." And then things got better from there on out. Love is the answer!
After that we had dinner. Then we went and visited Mohi. We met his new girlfriend. She has a beard. It was interesting. We helped him out around his place. On the way home for the night we were stopped by a man in our apartment complex. His name was Jay. He said, "You guys live around here?" We said yes. He said, "Awesome. Good to see missionaries." We said thanks and asked if he was a member. He said, "Yep. Born in the covenant. Served a mission in Argentina. I've been battling intense periods of inactivity. Maybe you should text me sometime and try to get me to come to church and in return I'll take you to lunch." It was hilarious. We swapped information and are planning on seeing him sometime this week. He recently moved here from texas to work the oil rigs.
SUNDAY: Church was great! Isaiah came, Thomasina and Laura and Sarah came. It was great. Laura is getting baptized next Sunday and everyone is gearing up for it! really exciting! After church everything fell through, so we went to visit Sister Stroop, a less active member. Ended up helping her Brother In Law move for 2 hours. That was awesome because he has always been pretty antagonistic towards the church, but we helped him move anyway without any payment and without preaching at him like he always assumed we would. It was positive.
The Smiths had us over for dinner that night - us and the sisters. It was delicious. Then we came home and had personal and companionship study.
Great week! Miracles still happen! I'm really tired but I love everything about my life. I'm feeling better - my comps gave me a blessing and I was fine after that. The Priesthood is real!