Monday, March 31, 2014


This week has gone by so quickly, just like this transfer has flown by. Sister McNeece and I will be staying together for another transfer here in Easley. I'm glad I get to stay; I wasn't ready to leave quite yet, and Sister McNeece and I are just starting to really figure out how to work together. 

A lot of our investigators are getting to the point where they're not making much progress, and it's getting to the make it or break it point with a lot of them. I think that's one of the hardest things I have to do as a missionary. It's really hard because I care about these people so much, and my companions and I have put so much effort into teaching them.  And it's not like they're unwilling to meet with us anymore; they're just not willing to do anything to find out for themselves if this is true. So many people want to get their answer and then come to church, or live the Word of Wisdom, or commit to a baptism and confirmation date.  But it doesn't work like that; our Heavenly Father expects us to experiment on the word and use our faith to act, and then the confirmation comes. A lot of people don't understand that, and it's hard because when they have that attitude then there's nothing we can do for them. It's hard to know when we've done all we can, and when it's finally time to just walk away and let other missionaries go back later. But I think we're about at that point with a lot of people. But that just means that there's more people out there who are ready to accept the gospel who we need to go find. Now our big question is how we're going to find those people. Hopefully it will be through the members. That's the best way to find those who are prepared. 

The general women's meeting on Saturday was so great, I loved it. There weren't that many women at the church; since it's available online or on BYUtv, most of the members end up staying home to watch it. But there was a good amount of women at the church, and it was great because the member who gave us a ride told us afterward that before the meeting she really hadn't wanted to go.  But we asked her to take us so she came, and she got lots of answers to questions from the talks. So it was good to know we helped someone in some small way. I couldn't help thinking that it would have been a a little more fun to be with mom and grandma, but I know that that can wait till next year and for now I'm grateful to be here in Easley serving the people here. 

Thank you, Dad, for what you said about my mission not being confined to South Carolina. It's always amazing to see how our actions and decisions have such a wider impact than we realize. I'm reminded that we are surrounded by people who are prepared to receive the gospel, and we never know who they are until we reach out and ask. Members are such a big help to investigators because they give them that person to turn to, and the investigator knows that they're acting out of sincere love, and the investigators can see by the members' example how much the gospel can bless people's lives. 

I'm so grateful to be a missionary and for all the things I am experiencing and learning. And I'm grateful that I'm in the middle of my mission, where I have experience to rely on and also the knowledge that I still have a good bit of time to continue to improve and serve the Lord. Thank you all for your support; it means so much to me. I'm glad to hear that everything is going well at home, and I'm looking forward to all the exciting things I'll get to hear about in the next few months. I hope you all have a great week, I love you all! 

P.S. Sister McNeece and I went to a cemetary last Pday. The pictures are from there, one is from a memorial for the confederate dead. 

Monday, March 24, 2014

Intent to Act

It's been a pretty crazy P-day. I'm writing this at the library in Greenville. The Easley library's internet has become so outdated that we can't use myldsmail on it anymore. We can read emails but we can't send any. So we ran up here to Greenville and the elders were nice and gave us their cards.

We've had a very good week although it's been pretty unusual. We went on exchanges with our sister training leaders on Wednesday and Thursday. I went to Simpsonville with Sister Paxman. It was nice to be there when I wasn't sick. We had a good day; we were really busy. We had a few great lessons with less active members and some of their investigators. My goal for the exchange was to bear my testimony more, and I was given lots of opportunities to do that. The last lesson we had was with a 17-year-old guy who the sisters just started teaching. He was raised Baptist but recently decided to be Buddhist. Sister Paxman and I both just basically bore our testimonies to him the entire lesson. 

We talked about why we were willing to give up so much to share our beliefs with other people and how we had come to know that what we believe is the truth. We promised him that if he would sincerely read the Book of Mormon with the intent to act on whatever answer he received, he would come to know, just like us, that what the sisters have taught him is true. I love that about the Book of Mormon, that we can with absolute surety promise people that if they will read it and sincerely pray about it, Heavenly Father will tell them it is true. It's something I've been thinking about lately, why some of our investigators have gotten that answer and why most of them haven't yet. And the conclusion I've come to is that Heavenly Father waits to answer most people until they are doing all they can to learn for themselves, that they're reading every day and thinking about the Book of Mormon and are willing to give up whatever it takes to get that answer. And most of our investigators right now just aren't being very consistent about it. They have a sincere desire to know and to learn, but that desire hasn't translated into consistent action yet. So we'll have to figure out what we can do to help several of them become more consistent, earnest studiers.

A collage Sister Rudy works on in her spare time

We've been able to do a lot of service this week for one of our investigators. She's in a really bad position right now financially, and she's trying to get her life back on track. For as long as I've known her, she's been talking about sorting and selling her things so she can get enough money for a car and move out of the trailer where she's living now, taking care of her mom. And this week it's finally started to happen. We've been helping her sort through her things. It's been a pretty rough job, mostly because they're having a rat problem in their trailer, and rats have gotten into a lot of her things. And she has a lot of stuff to go through: two rooms full of boxes. But we've made a big dent in it. And it's been great to see how she has begun to progress. She's reading all the chapters in the Book of Mormon that we give her and then some on her own. She doesn't fully understand the importance of what we share about the Restoration, but she's getting there. And her mom has also started to read the Book of Mormon.

We had an amazing miracle last night. We had about an hour left and we went to go see one of our less active members. He's a convert and used to be very active in the church, but became less active and then got divorced and has just been really depressed ever since then. But we leave him sticky notes on his door occasionally and go by with a ward missionary when we can. Last night when we saw him I think he was the happiest I've ever seen him. He told us he's planning on coming to the church for general conference! We had mentioned conference on one of our last sticky notes, and he said he's decided to come. And he's also been starting to read his scriptures again. I was surprised, but really happy that he's starting to get out of his funk that he's been in for the past couple years. It seems like the people that I least expect to change are always the ones that actually do change. It just goes to show you can't ever judge people.

Transfers are this coming Wednesday, April 2. I'm not really expecting to leave, but we'll just have to see. I can't believe how fast this transfer has gone by, time is passing too quickly.
I love you all, have a wonderful week!

Spring blossoms

Monday, March 17, 2014

St. Patrick's Day

If the people around me in the library are any reflection of the rest of the state, then South Carolinans are not big celebrators of St. Patrick's Day. Basically no one is wearing green. Sister McNeece and I celebrated by making Irish bread (we found it at the grocery store) and the hats you sent were great as well. 

We've had a good week. A very interesting week. It's been really windy here lately, particularly on Wednesday. Which was also the day that we decided to walk the most. It wasn't the best combination. We had a little bit of a hard time keeping our skirts down; the things sister missionaries have to deal with... 

Our new member is doing really well. She's been a member for two whole weeks now, and it's been so fun to see the change in her. She's so happy and friendly to everyone she meets at church. She gives everyone a hug. And she's not afraid to wave across the chapel at someone in the middle of sacrament meeting. She's so funny. She reads the Book of Mormon all the time, and she loves the Book of Mormon study class we have on Wednesday nights, and she's started asking questions, but only when the elders aren't in the room. They still kind of intimidate her, although she calls them boys. It was very inspired that it was sister missionaries who knocked on her door. 

We had a great meeting on Thursday with Elder and Sister Zwick of the Seventy. Half the mission was there, so I got to see Sister Bell! I was so happy to see her. It's been three and a half months, and I've missed her so much! She's doing well; she's liking her new area a lot.

Elder Zwick talked to us about a lot of different things, but basically it all centered around being changed and converted to the gospel. He talked about the importance of change, being truly changed by the gospel, rather than just going through the motions and treating the gospel like a checklist of dos and donts. He and his wife shared a lot of stories from his mission and when he was mission president in Chile, talking about how they did a lot of things on their missions that they never expected to do and that the only way they were able to do them was through relying on the Savior. I could definitely relate to that. My mission hasn't been anything like I expected it would be; I've done things that I never imagined I would have to do. But I've been able to do them because I trusted in the Savior and let him guide me in what I did, what I said and where I went. When I think about the hard things that I've done, or the people that have come back to church or joined the church I can't claim any responsibility for that success. It was all the Savior; He did everything, I just let him use me. 

Sister McNeece and I have been trying to work more with the members and it's been helping us a lot. We spent about three hours the other day with one of our ward missionaries going through the ward roster, having her tell us about all the people that we don't know and calling the ones that had phone numbers. It was an incredibly productive three hours and now I feel like we have some idea what less active members to focus on, and how we can help them get back to church. I love the members in this ward, they are such a big help and they do so much for us.

Thank you for the letters, I appreciate knowing what's going on back home, since I can't be there to be a part of it. I'm very blessed to be here in this mission at this time, and I'm trying my best to use every day well. I love you all, have a good week. 

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Sunny South Carolina

It's been a long week. We haven't been getting as many teaching appointments as we normally do and that's making time go by a lot slower than usual. Most of our investigators are kind of in a rut right now, either they're choosing to not make much progress or their situation is keeping them from progressing. I think we'll stop visiting a few of them in the next week or two if something doesn't change. 

But, the lessons we did have were all very good. Our new member is doing really well, although she was sick this weekend with the flu so she didn't make it to church. But the first time we saw her after Sunday, she just kept going on and on about how she felt after her baptism. One of the older couples in the ward have started teaching her the new member lessons. They gave her a copy of Preach My Gospel, and she's been reading it. She's super excited to be a visiting teacher, so hopefully she gets that assignment soon. 

We met this cute old couple. It's actually really funny how we found them. We had just been to visit our new member, and we decided to take a few minutes and knock around in an apartment building. Well, the first door we knock on opens and there's one of the members of our ward. We were both pretty shocked to see each other there. He does some kind of health care insurance stuff, and he was there doing a home evaluation. The wife thought we were the nurses, so she invited us in, and it wasn't till we'd been there for a few minutes that we were able to clarify who we really were. And they let us teach them about the Book of Mormon and they've agreed to read it. We're going back tomorrow, so it worked out well. The husband is 91 years old; he served in WW2, and he still goes dancing with his wife every night. He said he'd been to some Mormon services when he was in the military; he served in the Pacific. So, I'm sure that will be a good lesson tomorrow. 

We were also finally able to teach another one of our investigators again; I think at this point he's our most progressing investigator. He's willing to do everything we ask him to, like read and come to church, he's just been busy and gotten distracted lately. But he recommitted to making more of an effort to find out for himself. The great thing about him is that he's able to recognize when he's feeling the spirit pretty easily. He's not expecting some dramatic sign to tell him this is right, so I think once he puts forth the effort he'll receive an answer and get baptized. 

Our mission's goal for baptisms each month is 100, but that goal has never been reached, and President Holm really wants to reach it before he leaves. So all last month and this month everyone in the mission has been praying twice a day for our mission goal. So far we're at 29 baptisms, which is well above average for this time of the month. There are so many people who are preparing to get baptized later this month. It's been amazing to hear all the miracles about people coming to church or eternal investigators who are now ready to make the commitment. 

Yesterday, Elder Callister of the Seventy came and spoke to our stake. He gave an amazing talk about the Apostasy, which would have been perfect for a few of our investigators, but unfortunately none of them were there. People really don't know what they're missing out on when they don't come to church. But it's ok, Sister McNeece and I took good notes so we'll just go over it with them in the next lesson we have. 

The stake president asked Sister Titus, one of the 3rd ward sisters to bear her testimony in the meeting. She's going home at the end of the transfer; it's so sad. I don't think she'd said two sentences before Sister McNeely (her companion), Sister McNeece and I were all crying. So I got out my tissues and started handing them down the row. It's really strange and really sad that missionaries that I know are starting to go home. I'm going to miss Sister Titus so much. But she's staying as positive as she can. The other day when we were talking about it, she said she's just thinking about the fact that soon she'll be able to email us and all the people she's served with, so she'll be able to stay in contact. It's great to see that members really do keep up with missionaries that have served here in the past, so even though they're home they're not forgotten. 

PS. Our weather's been absolutely beautiful this week. Sunny and in the 70s!

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Hump Day--Downhill From Now, and Up and Unexpected Turns

I highly doubt that the rest of my mission will be downhill from this point on, but it seemed like an appropriate expression to use. If I only know one thing about missionary work it's that missionary work is an emotional roller coaster, with lots of ups and downs and very unexpected turns every week, if not every day. It makes life very exciting, going out the door every morning not knowing what's about to happen. 

Our investigator was baptized and confirmed this weekend. It was wonderful. Everything went so well. Sister McNeece and I made it a point to pray and ask Heavenly Father who needed to participate in the baptism, who needed to be given that opportunity and who Kathy needed to get to know better. We ended up asking our Gospel Principles teacher to baptize her, and it was the perfect choice. He's a young dad, and he told us so many times after the baptism and on Sunday how grateful he was to have that chance to baptize someone since he hadn't done it since his mission. 

Both the talks at the baptism were great; Kathy's already got visiting teachers and an older couple will be teaching her the new member lessons starting this Tuesday. The ward really has just come in and embraced her. And Kathy is so happy. She told us as she was driving home on Saturday she couldn't stop crying; she just felt so good and so different. And she got up in Relief Society and bore her testimony, even though she's scared of getting up in front of people. I'm so proud of her. Now for her husband to get baptized... 

Today has been a fun P-day. We got a new car, a Toyota Corolla. Elder Fenton let me pick the color, so it's red. He and Sister Fenton brought the car up to us and then they took us and our elders out to lunch at Olive Garden. It was fun to see them and talk with them, it was kind of like being back in my first district. I've missed them; I'll be sad when they leave in June. 

Friday night we went by to see a less active member who was very hurt by something a member said to him 30 years ago. We were out with Sister Looper, and she wanted to meet him so we went by. Sister Rowley and I had gone by in the middle of December a couple times and he wanted us to give him time to pray and heal before coming back. Well, he told us that he'd prayed. And after he prayed what came to his memory was the way he felt when the incident happened, the way he's always kind of felt treated by the church- like a number, a statistic. He [had a similar feeling with us] when we asked for a return appointment even after he'd expressed he needed time to himself. And he felt that if he came back to church now he would feel the same way, like a number, and that he wouldn't be doing it for the right reasons. So he feels it's not his time. While I respected the conclusion he came to and was glad he was honest with us, I was disappointed and it bothered me. 

Rejection in any form is always hard for me to shake off. I couldn't stop thinking about it. He sincerely believed that God had answered him, and so for me to tell him that those impressions weren't from God would have been calling into question his whole relationship with Him. I didn't feel that it was my place to do that, because I don't know what his relationship with God is like, and I can't receive that revelation for him. In a way, I was thinking "God, why would you let that be his answer?" I wasn't feeling at peace about it, and I felt I hadn't said everything I should have, because I got so emotional when he was telling us all this that I started to cry a little and I couldn't speak.  I couldn't express to him that I wasn't crying because I was disappointed in him but because I was sad that people in Christ's church could have been so un-Christlike that they caused him to feel like nothing more than a number. 

When we got back to the apartment, I read some of Jesus the Christ, where Christ tells the parable of the wheat and the tares- Matt. 13:24-30. And I realized something. I, as a missionary, am sometimes a little too overzealous to get rid of the tares. I want, even expect, people to be willing to get rid of all their bad habits and weaknesses all at once, and completely live the gospel. This member is not yet at a point where he is ready to fully heal and return for the right reasons. He has made a choice, and we have to respect that. Trying to push the gospel on him anymore at this point would be like trying to weed out the tares when the wheat is young, we'd end up pulling up both in the process. I believe that Sister Rowley and I planted the seed of forgiveness, but it's going to take some time and nourishment for that seed to grow. 

James E. Talmage comments that one of the great lessons from the parable of the wheat and the tares is that patience, long-suffering, and toleration are attributes of our Savior that we all need to have. When the bishop gave me a blessing awhile ago, one of the things he blessed me with was an ability to be patient and have insight into people's long-term needs. What I had wanted to hear in that blessing was how to help people move past their barriers and progress more quickly. But instead Heavenly Father showed me that this was going to be slow and steady journey. After Friday night I'm beginning to realize how important patience and long-suffering are as a missionary. They're essential qualities, really, because we have to teach to people's needs, and sometimes people need to move slowly. All progress, even slow progress, is good. It's only when we become stagnant that there is a problem. In the parable, as long as the wheat continued to grow and mature, it was ok for the tares to be there. But if the wheat ever stopped growing, or the tares started to overcome the wheat, then they would have to be removed. 

It's the same with us. As long as we are growing more like our Savior, it's ok that we still have weaknesses. But when those weaknesses start to get in the way of our progress, then we've got to get rid of them. Sister Looper will keep stopping by and building a friendship there and as long as this member continues to try to forgive the members who hurt him, that's good progress, and it's ok that he's not going to come back to church immediately. Not that it wouldn't be great if he did come back, but if he wants to move at a slower pace that's ok.