Oh... hey there :)
First, who needs Logan Canyon?? My whole mission looks like the Spectrum right now!! I'm just going to be pretty sad when we go from the crazy green from a month ago, to the million colors around now, to the complete barren, snow-covered wasteland that is to come...
Well, one of the major focuses of my last email is completely voided now, because we didn't end up making it to Palmyra this weekend. BUT, we had a crazy past half week, so you're in for a good one today!
Before I get to the super spiritual stuff, I want to share a quick story that will make you laugh. I tried cooking! Hahaha you are probably already laughing... Well, as soon as I started, I found out we do not have any tablespoons in the house, so I had to go on a crazy chase to find someone who knew how many teaspoons are in a tablespoon. Thank goodness for Sister missionaries! Haha I ended up having to call up Sister Schank and Sister Brown from up in Buffalo, and they were there to save me. Before I go on, whoever decided to make three teaspoons in a tablespoon is an idiot! What a random number! Anyways, I kept going, using three teaspoons for a tablespoon. Well.... as time went on I had a sudden flashback to kindergarten where I learned all this measurement stuff.... sigh...... a little "t" is a teaspoon, not a tablespoon... three times too much salt ends up being noticeable.... I didn't know a mission would be this hard!!!
On Thursday, we went on splits with the Owens brothers again. I don't know why we always seem so significantly more successful on exchanges, but we both came back with some awesome stories! First, for Elder Inkley's story:
He and Ryan Owens went over to Justin's house. We had planned on Justin being baptized this past Saturday, but had figured that probably wasn't going to happen because he was still smoking ten cigarettes a day, hadn't been to church in over a month, and had only actually met with us once since I've been here. Honestly, I'll admit I wasn't especially optimistic about him, and was nervous that this was going to end like the other three times he'd taken the discussions. But Elder Inkley made some ridiculous ground with him last week. Justin had been reading the pamphlets, and he'd just asked Elder Inkley a simple question about how the Spirit World was going to work or something. I don't know the whole story, but somehow one thing led to another and they were in a full conversation about the entire Plan of Salvation, especially aiming at eternal families. Somehow, no one had really explained to him what it meant to have a family for all eternity in the past few times of teaching him, so that really opened him up.
Then, they started talking about his smoking. He talked about how hard it was to quit smoking, and this is where Elder Inkley was able to work his magic. Elder Inkley told him about his own conversion story. Even though he'd been raised LDS, he stopped caring or going to church in high school, and got into a lot of undesirable crap. He then told Justin about what it was like for him to give up his old lifestyle, and that he knows it takes a lot of work. This really hit Justin hard, because he said that all the other missionaries who had taught him before hadn't ever really been addicted to anything and would cry repentance to him without any understanding of where he was coming from. We don't know Justin's full background, but we do know that he used to smoke weed as well, has a couple "thug life" tattoos, and came from Buffalo in high school and was known as one of the rougher kids in the area back then. But according to Elder Inkley, Justin didn't stop smiling from the time Elder Inkley shared his own story on, and you'd have to know Justin's personality to understand how amazing that is haha.
Even more incredible, when talking with Justin and his wife, Tanya, who is a member, she started talking about her mom. Apparently she is now looking into the church, and--get this--Justin has been the main missionary for her!According to Tanya, her mom really hates change and is afraid of having to quit smoking, but last week, she said Justin told her mom, "You know, I hate change too. But I will quit smoking, and I will be a Mormon!" Who'd have thought!?
Then, while Elder Inkley and Ryan were over with Justin, Nate and I went over to Matt's house. Remember, this is probably my favorite family I've met since coming out here (if I'm allowed to pick favorites...?). Matt is currently in China on a work trip, but we wondered if it would be easier to bluntly bring up the gospel with his wife, Krissa. We went over and just talked to her for a little while, when out of nowhere, Nate said, "So, what do you know about Mormons?" Krissa answered that she really didn't know very much about any religions. Even though she definitely believes in God and even in Jesus Christ, she only knew vague aspects of what that entailed. Now here's the start of the crazy part! She then continued to say that when she'd heard us talking to Matt about the Church before, she started doing a little bit of her own research, and was starting to learn a little more about Joseph Smith and temples, in particular.
Nate, a freaking all-star, moved right into talking about the Book of Mormon. I asked her if it made sense to her that God would only give His gospel to one small region of the world, she was like, "I always wondered about that!" Hahaha I almost couldn't respond I was so happy about that answer haha. But we started talking about what the Book of Mormon really was, and that it gave Christ's same gospel, only to the people of the Americas. Then, I realized I completely failed, and didn't have any Book of Mormons on me to leave with her, so instead we left a Restoration pamphlet and said we would come back to talk about it and give her a Book of Mormon on Saturday night.
Well, obviously we did. She had read the whole pamphlet and was just loaded with questions! But, I can't even describe how well the conversation flowed. A lot of times, even when the discussion goes well, I feel myself getting into unnatural-missionary-mode. This was just like a normal conversation, though! We kept on going, and everything was just falling into place. Then, she made the perfect comment: "You know what I really liked about the booklet? The 'How to Pray' section. It's embarrassing, but I never really learned how to pray. Also... I think you are the only church that I've heard of who asks you to pray to know if what they are teaching is true. Why is that?" Ha... we couldn't really come up with an answer about why it was. But, we showed her Moroni's promise in the back of the Book of Mormon that we'd given her, and she agreed that she would read the Book and pray to know if it was true! Holy crap I am so excited to see what happens with them!!
Oh shoot, and I almost forgot this part: KRISSA IS ALSO WORKING AS A MISSIONARY! Haha, some lady at her work was talking about looking for a church, and apparently Krissa started talking to her about the two Mormon boys who keep coming by her house and how much she and Matt have come to like us. Haha now that lady is looking into the Church!
Earlier Saturday, we got a call from Sister Duncan. Patti, a convert of about a year, had just broken her ankle, and was in the Olean hospital. She specifically requested us to come and give her a blessing. Now, Olean is actually outside our mission, but President Christianson gave us special permission to leave the mission to visit her. As the results of the X-rays came in, we found out she'd broken both her Tibia and her Fibula. She would need surgery in a week, and would almost definitely need pins in it. What was incredible to see was the way the Freedom Branch worked together to make everything work out. Sister Duncan had driven with her in the ambulance to Olean; Sister Forster came to pick her up; Sister Becker opened up her house to take care of Patti while she's so immobile; the Branch Presidency rushed to figure out how to help her while she is out of work, especially because her insurance ran out yesterday. What an incredible place I'm in!
I know I've shared this in letters to a couple of you, but if you are one of those and you actually end up reading this, just know you were special enough to get it first. Really, though, it's too fitting for this past half week to not share with everyone. First, go read Luke 24:13-32. Really, go read it, or this whole thing is going to make zero sense. Now think about that statement: "Did not our hearts burn within us?" The Spirit felt at so many of these experience I've talked about, and numerous ones I haven't shared was SO ridiculously strong. Whether it was the way Elder Inkley and I, or either of the Owens boys felt, or the way that the people we are talking to felt, there is no way to say that our hearts weren't burning within us. There have been real miracles. The people we've come in contact with, the conversations we've had, the questions we've asked and the stories we've shared could NOT be coincidental. There's just no way. I still doubt myself all the time, but I love this scripture because it's such a slap in the face at the end. Did not my heart burn within me? There is one thing God can NOT do: lie. My heart as burned within me, and my prayers have been answered, and this could not be the case if this wasn't where I was supposed to be.
I have been signing "I love you, but I don't miss you" the whole time, with varied levels of sincerity. This time, no question about it:
I love you, but I don't miss you,