So, next Monday will probably be my last email. haha. Mostly I'll just be writing for myself because this is my own public personal journal and I need to get my life recorded somehow. There's just not enough time on a mission to chronicle everything you do, and you do so much. I will be supremely grateful for my emails home years from now when I can look back at all of these faith-filled days and use it to gage my progress and recommit myself to the Lord I love so much.
I'm feeling fine about things. Missionaries keep asking me if I feel weird or sad or anxious. Not really. I know that I've done my best and my offering is acceptable to the Lord. I have understood full well what was required of me, and I know what is required of me in the future, so now it is time to go do that. I will be leaving without the feeling of not fulfilling my calling. I did it. It's just like getting transferred - it'll be overwhelming at first and I won't know what to do, but I'll quickly get the hang of it and it'll work together for my good. I'm optimistic about the future. I'm also realistic though - I have no preconceived notions or hopes about who I am going to marry, I'm not dead-set on a career, I've planned some practical things for me to do when I get home to fill my time while still fully realizing that I'll be part of a family again and will have familial responsibilities (like working in the yard, buying groceries, and driving people around), and I have thankfully received news from friends as of late that has painted a realistic picture of what to expect when I go home. I'm coming home with a blank slate, and I'll rebuild from there. I'm going to be different from what everyone remembers me as - a little more serious, a lot more punctual, and a lot more driven. It'll be fun to see how I react to my old environment as a new me.
I go to the mission home next Tuesday night. I'll spend half of the day there with the Elders that I came out with and then stay the night. My flight is at like 8 in the morning, so I'll leave probably around 6:30 AM. I'm flying to Atlanta and have a half hour layover there, and then I'll be flying directly to Portland. Please be aware that I'm going to have a SERIOUS case of jet-lag when I get back. A sleepless night, plus a 6 hour flight, plus a 3 hour time difference = a very tired Elder Collier.
So, I'm gonna give you a run down of my week for journal purposes. Read it if you have a spare hour and a half!
Monday night: I went and did a baptismal interview at the church for Aja, one of the sisters' investigators. It was amazing! Aja is so cool. As I was talking with her, I asked her what the gospel meant to her. She said, "I'm so grateful that the missionaries have been so patient with me. Before I had a testimony of the Book of Mormon I was an atheist. But instead of just turning their backs on me they answered my questions and I got answers. And I prayed. Now I'm not bitter or angry. I am a happy person, and I have the Book of Mormon and my Savior Jesus Christ to thank for that." WOW! She's so awesome!
We went out to the Bob Evans restaurant for dinner after that and had a fantastic evening with Aja and her 3 year old daughter Adriana. Adriana is the cutest little girl. She ate owl pancakes. She started getting antsy half way through dinner and really enjoyed me pretending that my hand was a person and having it walk all over the table and do push ups and breakdance. Cool story: our waitress used to live in California and was best friends with a woman named Liahona. She moved to PA to take care of her dying mother and said it was such a blessing to see Mormon missionaries in her restaurant. She gravitated to our table all night and in the end asked for our numbers and the address of the chapel. Pretty cool.
TUESDAY: We went and vacuumed the chapel for the Salvation Army. I washed their walls. All of the paintings in their church are done by either Arnold Friberg or Simon Dewey, both Mormon artists. I thought that was funny. Anyways, we went home and had lunch afterwards and then waited for the Conklins to pick us up. They drove us all the way out to Prosperity, a half hour drive, so we could visit an elderly lady named Harriet. She's such a pleasant woman! She is really interested in the church because all of her neighbors, one by one, have joined. They were all good friends and the families just started sharing the gospel with each other. She wasn't very interested until recently when her twin brother passed away, leaving her completely alone without any family left. She loved the concept of eternal families and temples. She also loves the missionaries. They've done service for her before. We got to share the message of the restoration with her and answer a lot of her questions. She invited us over for the next week and said she was going to invite her neighbors over so they could hear the lessons too. It was a great experience.
When we finally made it back home, we had dinner and then went to the addiction recovery program. They went over the Serenity Prayer by Reinhold Niebuhr, which is this:
"God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference."
That struck me. After a rough previous week, I was feeling pretty glum. A lot was on my mind and on my plate and I was feeling overwhelmed. So during the class I made a list for myself. It looked like this:
What I can do: Invite people to repent and hear the gospel.
What I can't do: Force them to do it.
What I can do: Improve myself so I am ready to be a good husband and father.
What I can't do: Date, get married, find a wife, or in any other way act upon all the things I've been stressing about.
What I can do: Work really hard.
What I can't do: Not feel tired all the time.
What I can't do: Not feel tired all the time.
What I can do: Go to my appointments, complete my goals, go tracting.
What I can't do: Make time go faster.
I read them to Elder Walker during the drive home and he laughed. He got a kick out of that.
That night we went and visited Mohi with the Sisters. He had requested that we come by. He had to go to the hospital for a week or so, and we didn't know where he was so we couldn't get in contact with him. We left him a message and he called us back once he got home, saying: "My Mormon! My Saint! I request that you come and visit with me! I have missed your presence. Please bring your beloved sainthood into my home!" So we set up a time to see him. The sisters heard we were going and wanted to come with us because they love him so much.
He was really excited that women were coming to visit. He looked like a champion, wheeling around the room and showing them his artwork and all the books he's written. He asked me to "fetch them some icy cream." So I did. We all had peach cobbler "icy" cream which was delicious. At the end of the visit, Mohi turned to the sisters and said, "Are any of you looking for marriage? These fine elders are smart, skillful, and hardworking. Not to mention they are quite handsome! Stick around. Or, if you are leaving, enter into correspondence with them. They would make good husbands. I would recommend them to anybody. Elder Collier. You are quite the communicator. And you have such a good sense of humor! Bless you and your ideals, my dear, and remember the adjectives I have told you. They will help you to lead others to sainthood. You will be a good leader. World power, my dear. Elder Walker! You are three S's... Sober... Sincere... and - uh..... uh.... oh dear.... I have forgotten.... it is another adjective that begins with S. Sober, sincere..... and..... SERIOUS! Serious. You are quite serious. Bless you my boy. I love you." Then he gave us all hugs. I love him so much.
WEDNESDAY: Had an exchange with Waynesburg. We met at our apartment, then ate subway, and then split up. I went to Waynesburg with Cooper. Corrington and Colvin went to Washington with Walker. Waynesburg has been struggling. The area is full of small towns that have had the same families living in them for hundreds of years and most people are bitter anti-mormons. Quite sad. So Elder Cooper didn't have a whole lot of expectations for the exchange. The hardship has been taxing their companionship and the last few weeks Elder Colvin had given up on tracting and Elder Cooper was having to push everyone to work. I went on exchange with him and said, "So, what're the plans for today?" He said, "Tracting. Just like every day." I said, "Okay. Perfect. I wanted to work hard today so I don't die and lose my momentum. Let's go have some miracles." He said, "Sure we will. Sure..." haha. He wasn't very optimistic.
But we did. We found a ton of people who were interested, including one guy (I can't remember his name) who straight up asked us to come back and teach us more about the Book of Mormon. They went back yesterday and it went stellar. Later, we were able to go give a lady a blessing because Elder Cooper felt like we should stop by. She had been praying for God to send her someone to help her. She couldn't get out of bed and it was hard for her to take care of her kids. Her kids have cool names. I liked her daughters' names: Celestiana and Justice. Pretty cool. haha!
We met with this guy named Jeff that afternoon. They met him the week before and he asked them to come back. He pretty much just ranted for an hour about how he had finally determined that no churches held any authority, that there had been an apostasy, that God needed to do something about it, that he needed to ask him personally and be able to get an answer by the power of god, pastors shouldn't be paid, etc etc etc. At the end we gave him a 5 minute rundown of the restoration and told him to read the Book of Mormon and pray about it and get an answer. He was dumbfounded. He agreed to do so. It was pretty cool. I like that guy! He's a thinker and a genius. He just needs to not talk for an hour straight. =D
That evening we ate with the Butcher family and the Williams. It was fun because the Butchers are Bro. Williams' in laws and they were visiting. The williams are in the Washington ward and fed us the week before, so it was the second time I'd eaten with them. Brother Williams and I had a good talk. I'm thinking about getting a job with Consol energy next summer and coming out here to work in the drilling industry as an intern for the summer. I can make 30,000 dollars in 3 months. That would get life off to a great start. He said he'd hook me up with a job. I gotta pray about that one.
Then we went out walking in the woods and tracted Greene Township. All 6 houses. We found a lady named Sherry. She just recently divorced and developed a seizure disorder which put her out of work. She was very lonely and had a lot of questions of the soul. What was the purpose of life? Why did this happen to me? And, most importantly, how do I fix it? We talked with her and she was willing to come sit on the porch swing with us and hear us teach her the Gospel - the 5 principles of happy living. She loved it and asked us to come back! We prayed with her and the Spirit was felt abundantly. As we walked away Elder Cooper said, "You have no idea how amazing that was. I haven't had that happen to me in 3 months." It was exciting.
THURSDAY: We met back up. The other Elders met us in Waynesburg. We drove home which took like 45 minutes. Then we went and had a great lesson with Isaiah about the afterlife. We explained more fully the 3 degrees of glory. He was amazed and he loved it. He's doing so well. Two of his buddies, DJ and Billy, asked us to come back that afternoon to teach them.
We visited Thomasina and had a great lesson about the 10 Commandments. She hasn't smoked for a whole week! We're proud of her. =)
We went back to visit Billy and DJ after that. We got things off to a good start by talking to them about our love for Zelda. Billy has the Owl and the Triforce tattoo'd on his neck. haha. They're huge fans too. Anyway, they had overheard our lesson with Isaiah and wanted to have the same lesson. They had so many questions! They were all good. DJ surprised me. He said, "Ya know, I believe that God is the God of many worlds. He has children just like us everywhere. And I'd like to think that after this life, if we're good, we can help him in the work of creation." BOOM. Needless to say, he loved the plan of salvation. After we taught them, I turned to Billy and asked, "Crazy, huh?" He smiled and nodded. Then I said, "But you like it, huh?" He smiled and nodded and said, "Oh yeah. Awesome." It was cool.
Then Lisa and George had us over for dinner. We love their family. She probably will never join the church, but she loves the blessings she gets from feeding us. She tells us so every time we come over. She calls us and asks to feed us. It's pretty funny. Her grandson told us that when he grows up he wants to be an Elder. Pretty cute.
After that we visited Danielle, a returning member of the ward. She's our age. I was talking to her last Sunday and she said she wants to learn church doctrine more. She doesn't know anything because she'd been away for so long but she wants to become converted so she can raise her son in the gospel. So we went over and shared a lesson with her, her mom, and her sister (both of whom are way active). It was great. We answered a lot of her questions about the plan of salvation.
Then David had us over. We had a great lesson about reading the scriptures. He had questions about prophets, ancient and modern, and wanted brief biographies of each. It was fun. Then we read 2nd Nephi 31: 20 and he loved it! For the first time a scripture really resonated with him and he understood it. He's been reading every night but the thees and thous and ye's and thus's confuse him. I helped him understand them by putting them in terms he understands.
"Thy favorite Hockey team is the Penguins."
"Thous has watched the Penguins lose in the playoffs."
"Thine Penguin t-shirts are cool."
"Ye are awesome."
He laughed and laughed. He really liked that. He told us about a high school friend inviting him out for coffee. He said, "I'll go with you, but I won't be having any coffee." He's so great.
FRIDAY: Weekly planning. Then Elders Brady and Rasmussen drove to our place and we took off in the van for McKeesport. Then we picked up Elders Macintosh and Sheffer and drove to York, PA. I got to see Elder Mouritsen. I miss that guy! We stayed the night with Elder Lubbers and Elder Rudd. Elder Rudd and I had a fantastic conversation - one of the most important and spiritual of my mission. But a more detailed account of that is in my personal journal.
SATURDAY: Went to the Harrisburg chapel where the whole mission - all 240 of us - was gathered. Elder Bednar, Elder Rasband, Elder Smith, and Elder Hamilton addressed us. It was incredible. The way Elder Bednar teaches is divinely inspired. He gave me some personal instruction about my future career. At the end of the meeting I got to shake his hand. It felt good to be able to look an Apostle in the eye and know that I was doing what I was supposed to be doing and I was okay. A more detailed account of this event is in my personal journal.
We had a boss road trip after that. Went to a pizza buffet called infinitos. On the way home I had several requests to hear my epic story about my dating life freshman year of BYU. It has become famous around the mission. When we got back Elder Brady and Elder Rasmussen went with us to go visit Thomasina because she requested that Elder Brady come and visit her. While we were talking, Laura told us that when she grows up she wants to be a sister missionary. How cute is that!?
SUNDAY: Church. It was great. After church Elder Walker and I got into a pretty bad argument. Why? We don't know, other than we were both really tired and grumpy haha. We worked it out and it brought us closer together. It was over in like 20 minutes, which was good. I'm grateful for the gospel, because without its teachings it would be very hard to forgive other people in this life.
After that we got picked up by the sisters and went to Thomasina's BBQ. Loved it. We pushed all the kids on the merry-go round. Laura and Sarah were actually talking with us! Normally they are dead quiet, but this time they were carrying conversations! They finally have gotten used to us. Laura asked me, "So......... what's your favorite food?" I said lasagna. She said, "That's mine too." I asked if she liked it with meat or without meat. She said, "With meat." I said good, because without meat it's not lasagna, it's just noodles and sauce. Then she said, "Mmhm." And ran away. =)
We had a lesson with James at the church. We found him a few weeks back. He's been calling and texting us off and on for answers to scripture questions but he has been too busy to meet with us. He started by telling us about his journey through life and his search for spiritual truth. He has had the Spirit guide him from denomination to denomination, and everywhere he went he found what he needed but couldn't find everything. And the Spirit kept telling him, "no, not this one." He's been baptist, catholic, everything. The whole time he questioned, "What's up with this trinity doctrine? And where are the prophets and apostles." HE LOVED THE MESSAGE OF THE RESTORATION. He met the sisters after his church tour and sister cohen said that the church wasn't very fancy but it was nice. He said, "The true church isn't the building. It's what's inside." WHAT A BOSS.
It was a great week. Running out of time on this computer. I got in a boxing match with a 7 year old at a dinner appointment and he beat me.
Then we spent the night at Mohis with the sisters and we took pictures with him. I love that man so much. He told me about his "majestic mansion," or the things he loves so much about this life that he hopes will be there in the next. He has a table set up in his home that represents what would be in his majestic mansion. It has his favorite items on it that make him happy: sparkling cider, Chocer chocolate, the book he wrote, a fancy napkin, an American flag, a stack of books on the sciences, and on top of those books a copy of the Book of Mormon. That touched my heart.
It was a fantastic week! Full of incredible experiences.
Can't wait to see you guys next week! Wow. Kinda weird saying that.
Soon to be Zach