This last week was one of the most rewarding weeks of my life. None of our days went as planned, but all of them turned out very well and we did our best with what we could do. We worked really hard, and Sunday God blessed us abundantly. It was fantastic. I'll let you know exactly what happened so you can understand. Sunday night we were overjoyed. It was amazing.
Alright, so let's start with last Sunday since last week I ran out of time.
Sunday: We finally had a ward council meeting! We hadn't had one the entire time I was there. 5 weeks. That's a long time to go without knowing who the bishop is or the Elder's Quorum President or any of the other auxiliary heads are. It was good to see. We were able to report what we'd been working on and they were amazed to find out that we'd been updating the records. They had been out to home teach with the stake presidency last week and they were embarrassed when they went out to go visit a family only to find they had moved. They brought that up and we said, "Oh, we know their address. We're updating it after church today. It's right here on our spreadsheet." IT WAS SO COOL!
Sacrament meeting was fantastic. Dan, the recent convert of the other Elders, stood up and bore his testimony. You could tell he was a little nervous. It was his first time ever doing it. But he stood up to the pulpit and said, "I just suddenly gained a testimony of the Gift of the Holy Ghost. I was nervous doing this, but I prayed for strength and suddenly I heard a still small voice tell me it was going to be okay and to listen up. So I testify to you, Brothers and Sisters, that the words I am about to speak are not my own." He went on to deliver one of the most powerful testimonies I have ever heard. He sounded like a general authority. He didn't stutter once. It was bold, clear, and true. I was moved. David and Heather really enjoyed it. David, our investigator, really loves when people share their testimonies.
In Elders' Quorum that afternoon, Dan was ordained a Priest. It was so cool because he wasn't planning on getting the priesthood a few weeks ago, but we had a great lesson about it and committed him to pray about it and then do the necessary things once he got his answer. Looks like he got his answer. He didn't tell us he was going through with it! It was a surprise. What an exciting thing to see! I love Dan. He's so awesome.
Amy and Thomasina weren't able to come to church. Thomasina's daughter, Sara, got strep throat and Laura broke her toe as they were trying to hurry out the door to go to the day of service. It was a hectic day for them. Amy got into an accident a few years ago and as a result of that has occasional flare ups of intense back pain. She texted us during church and asked if we could come over. We agreed to come over that afternoon. Brother Philips came with us. He's such a powerhouse! He has such a way with relating to people and doing so genuinely and with great wisdom. We had an in-depth lesson on the Priesthood and in the end offered to give her a priesthood blessing. She agreed. It was a powerful experience.
After our companionship study, we went to go try some people. We talked to a lady out in the west end. I knocked on her door and said, "Hey. I like you Jesus Saves sign! It's so true!" She said, "Not today. I'm taking a nap." And slammed the door in my face. Apparently the only days Jesus saves people is when this lady is fully alert and not being talked to by Mormon Elders. Classic! haha.
We ended up tracting into a former investigator, a man who is named Ashtrup. He is from Pakistan and he is Muslim. We had a very interesting conversation with him about the similarities and differences of our religions. He accepted a copy of the Book of Mormon and he gave me a copy of the Quran. It was cool. Then we walked to Mohis. We were a little late because our conversation with Ashtrup ran long. When we walked in we said, "Mohi, we just met a man from Pakistan!" He said, "Oh really? What did he say?" Elder Walker said, "He gave us a Quran!" Mohi busted up laughing and then said, "My dear, listen. There are many man made things out there. My great great great great grandfather Propher Mohammad said 'I am the true prophet, and there are none after me.' That is NOT TRUE! God ALWAYS calls prophets! Just like Joseph Smith and Brigman Young. The Mormon is the way! We are by God, my dear!" What a champ! Probably the funniest thing I've ever heard. We did some service for him and helped him hang his pictures. We gave him the pictures that we took last week and he loved them. He gave me a hug and said, "I love you, my Superman." I'm not sure what he meant by that, but it sure sounded awesome. haha!
Monday: We got together with the sisters and we finished updating the digital area book. This thing is finally coming together. It has already been a huge help but it will be perfect once it's done! After that the sisters wanted us to take them to visit Mohi since they had heard so much about him. So we did. We walked in and he said, "Oh, my boys, you did not tell me these fine ladies would be joining with us today! Quick, put cushions on the chairs so they are comfortable. And fetch them some icy cream!" So we had "icy cream" and a lesson about the Plan of Salvation. It was awesome.
Tuesday: After studies in the morning we went to the Salvation Army and washed their walls for them. There's a Ukrainian man there named Constantine who helps us out. He's way cool. He made us the best fudge I've ever had in my life. He's such a humble guy. After we were finished there we went to the West End to visit with some people. We spent time with the Smith family. Sister Smith is not active. She has 9 children, and they are awesome. They love missionaries and they love it when we "do tricks." I juggled for them and they loved that. Elder Walker did the robot and they went wild. It was fun. We had a cool experience after that. We went across the street and talked to these people who were wandering around in the vacant lot across from their house. John, a guy on crutches, explained that he was looking for his wedding ring. He lost it in the grass. We recruited the Smith boys to come help us look. We looked for a good 30 minutes, but it didn't turn up. John and his wife and mother in law called us over (they'd been looking for like an hour and took a break on their porch) and started us asking us where we were from and why we were so willing to help. They were looking to get back into church - they had just watched that History Channel series "The Bible" and loved it. They kept asking questions and eventually it led to us teaching them a bit about the Book of Mormon. They were very nice and very interested. They also asked if we gave out free bibles. We explained that we did but we didn't have extras on us. They gave us their address and phone number and we agreed to make them a delivery so everyone in their family could have a bible and we also told them about the church movies and they wanted some for their son. It was way cool!
Afterwards we visited Sister Neel. She pulled a muscle in her back on Sunday and had been in a lot of pain after church. She came out and sat on the porch and talked to us for a bit. Then she said, "Hold on, I wanna fetch my journal so I can read what I wrote about you in there." She came back and read what she wrote last Sunday. She thanked God for all of the missionaries changing her life. Then she thanked us for always showing up when she needed us most. We were able to give her a blessing and she felt a lot better.
Brother Anderson met up with us that night and we went to visit Brother Ruffell, an elderly gentleman in our ward. He is a lifelong member - he was born in Salt Lake. It was a good visit. Brother Anderson was a life saver because we realized we were all out of bibles (we had given our last one away) and he was in Pittsburgh that day and decided to make a supply run for us. He picked us up a ton of bibles and book of mormons. Then he went with us to drop them off. John's family loved it.
Wednesday: We had district meeting in Waynesburg. We had a discussion on Finding - ways to find people to teach, new ideas to try, new approaches, what didn't work too well, etc. It was very uplifting. Then we went to Subway, but it was too crowded so after we got our food we ate at the chapel. I love our District. Good people in it. I went on exchange that day with Elder Cooper. We stopped by the Evergreen Old Folks Home and did our "pastor-ing" there. We gathered all the old people together and I played some of their favorite hymns on the piano. Then we had a message about the birth of Christ and compared it to the joy of Spring. We emphasized remembering his birth and his life all year round, not just on Christmas. They were all asleep. But after we were done they went wild and said how much they loved it. We said a prayer and then spent time with each one of the residents individually. They really enjoyed the visit. This one lady I ate sandwiches with - I can't remember her name - the only thing she could say was "Hippidy Hoppidy." I taught her how to do arts and crafts with her sandwich toothpicks and she laughed and laughed. She said, "Well, hippidy hoppidy! That's hippidy hoppidy!" It was fun.
Elder Cooper and I were out locating people around the college campus when my "girlfriend" from last week pulled over to say hi. She was with a few friends. One girl in the car started talking to Elder Cooper. "So..." she said. "Are you like, way in to God and stuff?" Her friend in the front seat said sarcastically, "Noooo." Then he pointed to what we were wearing and the scriptures we were holding and said: "This is all a clever joke." The girl told him to shut up. It was funny. We actually had a really friendly conversation and told them to flag us down if they ever saw us around town. They said they would.
That night we had an awesome lesson with Thomasina and Amy. Brother Long took us over there. It was on Baptism. Amy said, "Elders, I have a question. When you get a blessing, are you supposed to feel all warm starting from your head and all the way down into your feet?" Elder Cooper said yes, that's how you know it's working. She said, "Wow. That was unreal. I haven't had any pain since then!" We asked Thomasina how her repentance was going and she said, "Ya know, I feel so much happier now. It's amazing how much I've learned in just 5 weeks or so. I'm like a whole new person. I have a whole different view of life. I'm sad that I didn't understand the church when I got baptized and then I fell away. But now I get it, and that's not happening again. I'm so glad we did that church tour before I decided to come back, because I felt the Spirit when I was there and I wasn't nervous. If we hadn't done that, I probably wouldn't have come back." They had some really good questions about the proper mode of baptism and who has authority to do what. We taught the apostasy again and explained how things had been changed and there was only one authorized way of performing ordinances. Thomasina expressed a desire for her husband to one day get baptized and hold the priesthood. It was cool. At the end of the lesson we invited Laura to be baptized. Thomasina said, "We were actually talking about that this week. Are you going to tell Elder Collier?" Laura got really shy and turned all the way around in her chair so her back was facing me. She was blushing. Thomasina said, "She wants you to baptize her." I WAS FLOORED! Super exciting. Looks like Laura is getting baptized in a few weeks!
In the car on the ride back Elder Cooper and Brother Long said, "That family is unreal! That lesson was awesome! Can you believe how their faith is growing and how well they're doing!? This is a miracle!" We were geeking out. I love missionary work! I'm so proud of their family. They're doing great.
Thursday we switched back. We went out to lunch at Taco Bell. Apparently Elder Walker and Elder Colvin had an awesome experience as well. It's good when you're away from each other for a bit and then get back together to share good news. I love exchanges. After we finished eating, we got a call from a guy named Paul that we talked to on Easter. He and his girlfriend were getting ready to move apartments and we told him to call us if he needed help. So he did! Paul and Alyssa are our age. It turns out, they are friends with a less active member of the ward named Allan who we went and saw two weeks ago. He was telling us about his two friends but didn't share their names. Turns out, they were Paul and Alyssa and we already knew them! Small world, huh? So anyway, luckily our day was pretty open so we were able to drop everything and go help them move. They were moving into our apartment complex! So cool! We helped them all day and they still weren't done. Paul said, "Man. This would've sucked if we were doing this on our own." We had to go to an appointment but we agreed to help them the next day.
We had dinner with Lisa and George that night. They love feeding the missionaries even though they're not members of the church. They love the church, but just haven't gotten around to joining. George and Lisa were married by Bishop North at the chapel and their daughters were both married there. They have member friends and Elders have been coming over for forever, but they just can't give up certain things. But Lisa says, "I do what I can. Feeding the Elders isn't hard, and I get blessed for it so I keep doing it." They're pretty cool. It was a good dinner. I was feeling really sick that night - not from the dinner. Haha! - but like a cold so it was tough going back to help Paul again. But I worked through it and we got a lot done.
Friday: We helped Paul and Alyssa and Allan move all day. We had a lot of fun, but it was definitely hard work. We had to move things on dolleys because they lived just down the street before, so it took a little longer than it would have if we had a truck or something. We spent probably 2 hours trying to move this giant couch. We got it into their apartment (which was a nightmare getting it up the stairwell) but found out the hallway was too narrow to get it into their living room. We tried several ideas but ended up having to move it all the way back outside down that terrible stairwell. Then we took it around back to their balcony and decided to go buy some rope and try to lift it in through the balcony. We got the rope, and I put my Eagle Scout skills to the test. I tied a double half hitch to each side of the couch with both ropes. Then we threw the ropes upstairs. At first we tried pulling them up (we put socks on our hands so we wouldn't get friction burns) but then the couch got too heavy and we dropped it and it ripped holes through our socks and all four of us got friction burns. Then I remembered the Bowline knot and how it was used for rock climbing and how it didn't constrict the one with the knot around him. I couldn't remember how to tie it but I had Allan google it on his phone. We tied Bowlines around me and Elder Walker and so we had what looked like harnesses around us. We put dish towels around our waist to protect us. Elder Walker and I kept backing up further and further away from the balcony while Paul and Allan pulled the couch up. We got it up in like a minute. Such a simple solution when we had been failing for hours before! We all cheered and high fived and then sat down exhausted. It was awesome. I couldn't believe that the knots worked! I DID learn something from scouts! Imagine that. Paul and Allan went to Burger King and picked up dinner and fed us for helping out. We were grateful.
Once we were done we went home and had our weekly planning session. It went really really well. Things are picking up here!
Saturday: We had agreed to help Bob, the quadriplegic member of our ward, clean out his apartment. It had fallen into disrepair since he couldn't clean it on his own and his aids weren't willing to help him. Boxes had just been piling up in his spare bedroom from when he had moved in. We spent ALL day after correlation in the morning fixing up this room. He was having an apartment inspection and desperately needed help. So we unpacked the boxes, sorted them into usable containers, took out the trash, washed the walls and windows, and hung an expensive picture of Christ he had boxed away on the walls. We vacuumed and did much more. It looked like something from HGtv. Bob was really impressed and really grateful. We worked from 11:30 AM to 9:30 PM. We only paused to get picked up by the sisters and to have dinner with the Flynn family. Their family has 4 boys and they are all the same ages apart as the Collier boys. I felt like I was at home. It was a fun dinner. We were exhausted after helping Bob all day, but it was worth it.
Sunday: So, we had spent all week just doing service. We had a few lessons here and there but nothing truly significant other than with Thomasina's family had happened. We were questioning whether or not we were using our time wisely. Then church came around. Right before church we got a call from a guy named Antonio who Elder Walker had invited to church weeks ago when I was in Waynesburg for an exchange. He wanted to come to church! We gave him directions and he agreed to come. We also got a text from Isaiah, a man who had come to church for 6 months straight and almost got baptized and then disappeared when we got into the area. We hadn't met him in 6 weeks! He said he was coming to church and couldn't wait to meet us!
We got to church and a ton of people there. We were having a special stake conference. It was a broadcast from Salt Lake. Elder Hales, Elder Gay, President Uchtdorf, and Sister Wixom addressed us. It was truly powerful. David and Heather came, Thomasina, Amy, Laura, and Sara were there, Isaiah came and brought his son, and Antonio showed up! He got lost on the way and so we had to run out to the main road to flag him down and direct him in before the broad cast started. He got out of his car, said, "Hold up. Gotta smoke a cigarette." He lit up and puffed it real quick and then put it out. He said, "Aight. Now I'm ready for church!" It was so funny. He was dressed really nice. He's from Louisiana and just recently moved to PA. He'd been looking for a church. He really loved Elder Gay's talk.
Laura and Sara and Thomasina and Amy had gone out and bought all new dresses for church. They looked sharp! Everyone in the ward kept coming up to them and saying hello. The Longs invited them to family home evening (which is tonight - we're coming!) and the Philips invited them to dinner! It was really really cool. David and Heather absolutely loved it. David is looking so good. There's life in his eyes! He said, "Sorry we didn't meet up again this week Elders. Hopefully we can this week. But if not, I'll just see you next sunday. At church!" Then he flashed a big grin. He's loving it.
The Warnocks wanted to have us over for lunch. Which was perfect because our meal plans fell through so we were free! So I got to go back to my old apartment in Pittsburgh and have lunch with them and the Sisters. I saw Elder Bartlett and I got my keyboard back. I've been dying without it! Elder Warnock played us a song he wrote called "The Proposal." He's very talented. He played it for Sister Warnock when he proposed to her. It was great. It was then when Sis Urban texted us - letting us know that Mohi had called you guys in Vancouver asking for urgent help because his aids hadn't showed up to take care of him. Then you got a hold of Sis Urban and she texted us. Crazy how that works, huh? A message went thousands of miles across the country only to come right back and find us in Pittsburgh an hour away from where Mohi was. The miracles of technology! Anyway, We finished eating really quick and then drove back to Washington as fast as we could. We got dropped off at his place, hurried to the elevator, got off and hurried down the hall, only to find out he was perfectly okay. He just needed a lamp plugged in. SO FUNNY.
He really likes our family. He said this about mom: "Brother Elder Collier my dear, I spoke with your mother this morning. She is fantastic! My soul in my inner core connected with her. She is a delightful lady - one of profound respect and dignity." Congratulations, mother! You have earned the respect of an 80 year old, world renowned social scientist from Iraq. Mr Aldin is incredible!
After Mohis we went back to the apartment and cranked out some serious work on the area book. We found some quality people who lived in the sisters' area who were open for visits! We made calls and invited Paul and Alyssa to FHE at the Longs. They are planning on coming. Then we called Richard and Tauna - from last week - and they said they wanted us to come over this week! Everything was in place!
After working for 3 and a half hours, the area book was almost complete. We still have a little left to do, but soon it'll be functional and we can make miracles happen! Miracles already have been happening. The Lord has been blessing us abundantly. The biggest miracle came that night when Heather texted us and told us that David had been thinking a lot about what Elder Gay said in his talk, and he had decided that he wanted to do what it took to get baptized. HOW COOL IS THAT?!?!
Man. What a miracle. The church is true! That night I had a great talk with Elder Gerratt on the phone. It was hard saying goodbye. He goes home this Wednesday. I love that guy so much. He's like a brother to me. We saw so many miracles together and really learned how to love each other despite differences. I'm so proud of him for serving honorably! What a stud!
Found out that we are getting a 3rd companion tonight. Not sure what his name is. I'll fill you in on how that goes next week!