Wednesday, May 29, 2013

May 28 Letter

Good Tuesday!
Oh man, 'twas a fun week, for sure! Except for the stupid, stupid weather. In Utah or Arizona, it seems that the transition from Winter to Summer (what some might call "Spring") was a slow but sure, gradual transition. You know, one day it might be 50, the next day 51, the next day 54, the next day 59, the next day down to 56, but then up to 60 the next. Not here. Here, the transition is more like a deranged, bipolar fight between freezing and hot. It's like 80 for four days in a row, then suddenly we wake up to 40 degrees and pouring rain, which sticks around for three days, and all of the sudden we're in the high 80s again. It's absurd!! Haha but whatever... I guess if that's the low point of my mission, things are going pretty good haha.
But let's see.... What shall I write about...?
Well, the other day, we finally met Brady! Brady is a former investigator who for a while was planning on getting baptized, but had to wait for his probation to finish up. Well, instead, he ended up going to jail for a year. He got out over a month ago, and instantly every missionary who had ever met him was pleading with us to get over and meet with him. We kept trying, but he was never at home and was never giving us a call like we asked his mom to have him do (he is living with her temporarily). He wasn't even responding to any Facebook messages from the missionaries who already knew him. After a while, we kind of set that on the back burner. Well, last week, Elder Ivie, our zone leader who met Brady while serving in Warsaw, ran into Brady outside when Elder Ivie was here for a fireside. Elder Ivie got us in contact with him and we finally met with him this week! He is definitely shy, and isn't an inch away from jumping into the font, but he is definitely down with meeting with us again. Ha there is only one unfortunate part. Since Brady didn't take a Book of Mormon into jail with him, Elder Kitt arranged to have one mailed in to him. And it came! The downer part of the situation is that it was in Swahili.... Haha on the bright side, Brady did keep it, and actually read parts of it as "prayers" whenever his cell mates were upset hahahaha. Hopefully we can get him into a more understandable version soon enough!
We were also able to get in contact with another person we've been looking for ever since I got here. Lee's a less-active member, who was baptized about 25 years ago, and actually moved to Utah for a while at the suggestion of the missionaries who baptized him. About ten years ago, he moved back out to New York, and has been sporadic at coming back and forth to church. Well, recently, he moved from one part of the branch to another, and the entire branch lost contact with him and had no idea where he was. Elder Kelly and I had tried really hard to find someone who knew where he was, but we got nowhere. Well, I was going through our phone the other day, and it turns out we had his cell phone number saved in there from who knows how long ago! I called him, and he pretty excitedly invited us right over! We went out yesterday, and ended up talking with him, his daughter, and two of his girlfriend's daughters for a good hour and a half! We didn't talk about too much churchy stuff, aside from how long he'd been a member and whatnot, but after he'd given us a tour of his house and talked about his job, our families, his dogs, and everything else, he started talking about his girlfriend, who moved in with him last year. "Yeah, she should be Mormon," Lee said. "Well, I should be too. A more active one, that is. I figured that's why you two were coming out here, to yell at me!" Haha we figured that apparently we didn't have to!
After we went to Lee's yesterday, we went over to Amy Vrooman's house. She's a mostly active member, whose husband is an iffier-level of active member, but it's mostly because he just works a ton. We go over there pretty often for dinners and what-not, so it was nothing unusual for us to be with her. What was different, was instead of going over to her house like normal, we went to her parents' house. Her mom and one sister haven't gone to church for who knows how long, and her dad, other sister, and adopted sister aren't members. We went over and mostly just hung out with them, but Amy thinks there's a lot of potential for us to start teaching her adopted sister. Apparently she had a really hard life before Amy's parents took her in, and Amy thinks she'd respond really well to feeling the love and comfort from the Spirit. Then, hopefully if she comes, it would be pretty natural for the rest of the family to start activating themselves again!
Dolly is also making some interesting, yet very exciting progress! It's hard to tell what she picks up on and what she doesn't, sometimes, because she kind of just looks at us with the same face the whole time we talk to her. But a few weeks ago, we introduced her to Elder and Sister Woodworth, who have spent a bit of time helping her clean her house and giving her rides and stuff. Last week, they were taking her grocery shopping. On their way, she asked if they could take her to see the church. They figured she just wanted to look from the outside, but she really wanted to see the chapel. Even more, once they got inside, she asked if they would show her the baptismal font. She asked Elder Woodworth, "If I got baptized here, would I have to come to church here?" Haha apparently we skipped over a small detail, there. It's hard to teach someone in such small little chunks and make it all link together. The point is, though, she's really thinking about this stuff! It's awesome!
Yesterday, we had a Memorial Day picnic as a branch. Not as many investigators came as we had hoped, a few really cool less-active members came which was very good. We had some real good talks with a number of people while we were there!
Well.... I'm kind of at a loss of other things to write about. Hopefully I kept you somewhat entertained! Haha
Oh wait! One more thing! Nick Strollo, a member out here in Warsaw Branch, just opened his mission call last week to the Utah Salt Lake City South Mission, which is really more in Wyoming than it is in Utah - including Green River! Haha so look for an Elder Strollo starting in late July!
I love you, but I don't miss you!
Elder Allen

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

May 20 Letter

I always hate sitting down and writing these, because I can't think of anything that we did. But then, of course, I think of 5,000 things that we did, and end up writing for the next hour and a half. Sooo.... here goes.
It was definitely a week of a whole lot of service. Now that Summer is here, everyone wants to clean out everything from their yards, and therefore we clean out everything from their yards! Haha one of those service projects essentially involved us raking up a bunch of twigs and leaves, loading them into a wheelbarrow, and pouring them out in an essentially identical pile about 15 feet away. We did that for about three hours haha. But, she was happy with us, so what can you do? Haha Monday night was a lot more effective. We went to Dolly's and pulled out a whole bunch of fallen limbs from a small wooded area surrounding her house. We ended up making two piles, each about four feet high. She was definitely very grateful for it, which was good, but the coolest part of it all was that Jimmy, another investigator, was there helping. We had a great conversation with him as we worked, but it was really good for him because he's been through a ton of crap lately. He had actually asked us to let him know whenever we were doing any sort of service, just because he wanted to feel like he was helping someone. I think he was especially impressed when he realized that Dolly wasn't a member of the church. I don't know if my rambling is making any sense.... haha but Monday night was a good one!
We haven't been able to get ahold of the Zieglers hardly at all this week, which has us nervous. On Monday, Tina went to the hospital with chest pains, and apparently was ambulanced over to Buffalo on Wednesday. I can obviously understand why we aren't sitting down meeting with them right now, but we haven't even heard from them since Wednesday. So, hopefully everything is all right there.
Renate is being just about as frustrating as always haha. She has nothing she would need to fix in order to be ready for baptism. Heck, she's been coming to church on almost a weekly basis for 17 years by now. She keeps on saying that she is waiting for that overwhelming assurance from the Holy Ghost, which I wouldn't argue against whatsoever. The irritating part of it is that she won't pray to know! Grr!! Revelation quite rarely comes from nothing! Hopefully she'll understand that soon enough haha.
Well, Friday, we took Gila and Josef to Palmyra! All the sister missionaries were very jealous that we get to teach a Jewish couple! We didn't make it to the E.B. Grandin Building, but did go to the Hill Cumorah and to the Joseph Smith Farm and Sacred Grove! Gila especially really enjoyed it, from what she said, but she definitely has some strange ideas about things haha. She has a very strong testimony of the Book of Mormon and of Joseph Smith's calling as a prophet, now. Buuuuut, now she decided that since there was a number of years in between him receiving the gold plates and the Church being officially organized, that he was actually convinced by Oliver Cowdery, Martin Harris, and others to form a religion. I guess she fully believes that the fullness of the gospel wasn't on the Earth in 1820, and that Joseph Smith restored lost truths.... but those lost truths didn't involve an actual church? She then started talking about a whole bunch of Jewish customs that we don't observe, ranging from Pentecost to eating pigs. I don't know. I don't think I've ever met someone with such a strong testimony of Joseph Smith's calling and such a "testimony" against the Church, itself. But, hopefully we'll be able to sort that one out bit by bit, haha.
Oh! But not only were our Jews at the Sacred Grove! But these guys!

If you don't know who they are, it's the Killers. Haha I didn't get my own picture, because I decided I should be more attentive to my own investigators. So, instead, I just awkwardly looked out the window of the Smith cabin as they walked down the road, and stole one of the pictures from the Sister missionaries. But still, our mission is the best.
Haha yesterday, we went to the Boccichio's for a little party after Veronica's First Holy Communion. We mostly just played games and whatnot, but it was pretty cool to even be invited to it. Pretty much the only people there were the Deacon from the church, a monk from the area, a couple other members of their church, and their whole family. When we got there, Mrs. Bo walked us around introducing us to everyone as her "adopted sons." (Haha I'm really glad she did, because when we first walked in, I felt pretty intrusive and like everyone was wondering who these Mormons thought they were hahaha.) They are just such a cool family! Their three sons are back from college now, so we got to meet them. It's just crazy at how the three sons are all best friends, and then the five girls are as well, even though there's a five year difference from the oldest boy to the youngest and an eight year difference in the girls.
I know I already kind of talked about Jimmy, but he is just awesome. He went to our service project with us on Monday, but then we also had our regular appointment with him on Thursday. We had an awesome conversation about why the Book of Mormon is so important. I don't know if the Woodworth's are just significantly better teachers than we are, or if he's just significantly more elect than anyone I have ever taught, but he picks up on things like no one I've ever seen! It's insane! But yes, we taught him about the Book of Mormon, and how it is much more than just a history of other people who have had a good relationship with God, but it really answers questions that we have. We turned to a list of "questions of the soul" in Preach My Gospel, where it gives a chapter of the Book of Mormon that answers that question. We ended up reading Alma chapter 5 with him, to answer if God really knows us as individuals. What is cooler than the fact that we read there and had a good time is the fact that he went home, he ended up reading for two hours with his girlfriend! Holy cow! Haha it's funny, because apparently as she read, she said, "You know, it really sounds like they're talking about the American Indians." He then came to Stake Conference with us on Sunday, and was very interested in everything. It was a special broadcast from Salt Lake, with L. Tom Perry, Boyd K. Packer, Donald A. Rasband, and a couple others, with some very cool messages. One that I think hit him the hardest was President Packer talking about baptism, and a man who said he wishes he'd had the gospel his whole life. President Packer pointed out that when we are baptized and receive the Gift of the Holy Ghost, we have been "born again" as explained in John 3. So, in all reality, we have had the gospel our whole life--our whole, new life as a disciple of Christ. it was a very cool conference, that's for sure. Then, after the conference, we went to the Woodworth's for lunch, and had another great conversation with him. He started talking about one of his kids, who had died only a couple week old. He said he had heard that kids went to heaven, but hadn't seen anything firmly stating that as a fact. Right away, I pulled out Doctrine and Covenants 137, explained Joseph's story with Alvin his brother and Alvin his son, and then read the section with him. It was so powerful! He's such an incredible guy to teach!
Oh, and then on Friday, we had a fireside with the stake patriarch talking about the history of temples. We got there a little late, since we were coming from Palmyra, but as we sat down, I noticed that Dakota and Ciera Van Ocker were both there. They are the kids of Brother Van Ocker, from the Warsaw Branch, but live with their mom in Bliss, which is in Freedom. The parents have been going through a pretty tough divorce, and Sister Van Ocker, Dakota, and Ciera haven't been to church for at least a year, since they moved. But, about seven months ago, Elder Frost and I started going over there a little bit and built up a little bit of a relationship with them. Eventually, they became more and more elusive and wanted less and less to do with the church. Well, it was their weekend with their dad, and he somewhat made them come to the fireside with him. Afterwards, I went up and started talking to both of them. Dakota warmed up a little as we talked, but was still fairly standoffish. Ciera, though, really opened up. We talked all about school and sports and her getting her tonsils out. Eventually, we transitioned into talking about the church. She said they hadn't made it out because her mom was working on Sundays. We got talking some more, and she finally promised me that she would be at church once she had her driver's license in a few months. (To be specific, she pinky promised. When her dad heard that, he said, "If I'd thought it would be that easy, I would have double dog dared her a long time ago!" hahaha.) We kept talking, and I told her, "Your dad would pick you up in a heartbeat if you asked him. You know that, right?" She said she did, but seemed a little unsure. A couple hours later, when we were back home and in for the night, Brother Van Ocker came to our apartment, thanking me. He said on the ride home, she kind of out of nowhere asked him if he would pick her up for church the next time she had work off. He said after he regathered himself from his near heart attack (haha his kids have been VERY opposed to church the past little while), they had a great conversation about church and everything.
It's cool for me, because I have a relationship with the two Van Ocker kids that no one else in the mission has. I am the only missionary in the mission now who has built up any sort of a friendship with them in the environment of their mom's house. There is one other missionary out here who has met them, but that was at their dad's house, after the divorce, so it was always a kind of contentious setting. It was just neat to be able to carry on work that I started seven months ago in a completely different area. I don't know if I'm making any sense, but it was definitely all very exciting!
I don't know much else to say. It was a weird week. A lot of the people we've been working with a longtime are starting to really plateau, which means these next few weeks are going to involve a lot of finding... yay!! Haha
I love you, but I don't miss you!
Elder Allen

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

May 13 Letter

I was really tempted to just write, "Well, I'm as alive today as I was yesterday, and not much has changed since..." But then I decided I would write a little more for those of you who didn't talk to me on the phone yesterday haha.
Well.... Let's see what I could talk about.
We didn't end up going to Palmyra Friday with Gila and Josef, unfortunately. The weather here turned to crap and it just wouldn't have been a good day for us to walk around in the woods. So, we went back over on "Shabbat" and instead read 2 Nephi 2 and the first half of Joseph Smith History with her. It's crazy at how much she understands as she reads. I really don't know who teaches who more when we go over there. She was also super excited, because last week we gave her a triple combination, and so she was just stoked beyond belief at the idea of a Book of Moses and a Book of Abraham. Oh, and I told the family about this, but I think it's cool enough to retell on here, a couple weeks ago, we were looking over the Articles of Faith, and she noticed the tenth one, that says "Zion (the New Jerusalem) will be built on the American continent." When she asked about it, I sunk a bit, because I didn't have anything to really back it up with, aside from the fall back, "It was written by a prophet of God, so I will trust it." I was then able to find stuff about it in Ether by looking in the Index, but still. But never fear! Gila knows the gospel I am teaching better than I do! She said that in Hebrew, the suffix "iem" is for words that are plural, but connected, like "scissors" or "pants." You'll never have just one scissor, so it gets the suffix iem. Well, apparently, when Jerusalem is talked about after the Second Coming, it often is said "Jerusaliem," meaning two Jerusalems, inseparably connected. Haha she was just so relieved to finally have a book (the Book of Mormon) to explain that phenomenon haha. I freaking love going over there!
Oh, also, I forgot to say, but Elder Kelly got transferred. It was a bizarre transfer, for sure. Even President Christianson said it was his craziest transfer of his whole mission. As of Sunday afternoon, President said everything was set, except two missionaries who were going to come here while waiting for their visas had their visas, so he just had to figure out which two areas to not have trios. (Wow, that was the worst rambling sentence ever... my bad.) When he said that, both Elder Kelly and I were going to stay in Warsaw, one of the APs was going to be released, and it was going to be a pretty tame transfer. Well, apparently all that changed, and the calls didn't even come that evening like normal. Instead, on Monday, EVERYTHING was shaken up, including Elder Kelly being bumped over to Spencerport. So, now I am with Elder Westwood, from a town of almost 150 people called Antimony, UT. He actually came out from the MTC with Elder Kelly, so has only been on a mission for just over 3 months. He's a farm boy, so Warsaw is a good place for him. So far, so good haha.
We had an interesting lesson with the Zieglers on Wednesday. He had said he had a whole bunch of questions, so we said we could have a lesson where pretty much all we do is answer his questions. Well, he really didn't have any questions about what we'd taught him. Instead, he had questions about blacks and the priesthood, polygamy, polyandry, and on and on. We keep telling him he should put at least as much time into reading the Book of Mormon than reading things online about the Book of Mormon. We were able to answer just about all of his questions, and I think he really liked our candidness about things like blacks and the priesthood, where essentially we said, "There's a whole lot of different theories out there, but in the end, a lot of it comes down to the fact that even in a perfect gospel, people aren't perfect, including leaders." Tina asked specifically about why women couldn't have the Priesthood, and I think she really liked when I summarized this quote by Elder Matthew Cowley: "You sisters... belong to the great sorority of Saviorhood... men have to have somethings given to them to make them saviors of men, not mothers, not women. You are born with an inherent right, an inherent authority, to be the saviors of human souls. You are the co-creators with God of his children. Therefore, it is expected of you by a right divine that you be the saviors and the regenerating force in the lives of God's children here upon the earth." After we had talked about all their different random questions, I read them this quote by Ezra Taft Benson: "All objections, whether they be on abortion, plural marriage, seventh-day worship, etc., basically hinge on whether Joseph Smith and his successors were and are prophets of God receiving divine revelation... The only problem the objector has to resolve for himself is whether the Book of Mormon is true. For if the Book of Mormon is true, then Jesus is the Christ, Joseph Smith was his prophet, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is true, and it is being led today by a prophet receiving revelation. Our main task is to declare the gospel and do it effectively. We are not obligated to answer every objection. Every man eventually is backed up to the wall of faith, and there he must take his stand." Hopefully they got the point.
Oh, we've been meeting with Dolly a bunch lately. I think we went over there three times this week, actually. We talked a ton about the Plan of Salvation with her the first time, which came natural because of her health. We talked all about what she'd learned in life so far, and how our learning and growth is the whole reason we are here. At the end, we just straight-up asked her if we could make a habit of talking about what we (Elder Westwood and I) believed in, which she said would be fine. So, we've talked a lot about the Restoration and the Book of Mormon with her, and she committed to praying about it. It was a pretty soft commitment, though, so we'll likely have to keep on reinviting her haha. But she's seemed to be pretty attentive during it all, so far. Hahahahaha!! Oh man, though, she's hilarious. On Thursday, she was all excited to see us there, and scurried off to her kitchen. She came out with a container of some weird, shrivelly something. "Here, now you can tell your girlfriends that you had a date with an old lady this week!" Hahaha, she'd literally bought a container of dates just so she could say that joke. I freaking love that lady hahaha.
I'm now working with a kid who has been coming to church for a few months now, upon request of his girlfriend, who lives up closer to Palmyra who is a member. He had been hesitant to give out his phone number or anything to the Woodworths (the senior missionary couple in Warsaw), but has been actively participating in Young Men and everything. Well, he asked Elder Woodworth last week about what it takes to get the Boy Scout religious award through the LDS Church. I was there, so started talking to him about it. Now we're planning on working through it with him! It goes over all sorts of stuff about gaining a testimony of the scriptures, following the standards in For the Strength of Youth, and becoming a Melchezidek Priesthood holder. Pretty much, it is the best undercover missionary tool of all time!
Shoot, I forgot how long it has been since I talked. If you didn't know Elder Kelly was leaving, you wouldn't know what we did our last night here. We went over to the Boccichio family, where we played some games with them most the evening, had a spiritual thought, had a closing prayer with them, then had treats. Really quickly, we realized that we'd just had Family Home Evening with them without realizing it! We decided that we are going to teach them a little about FHE and ask if we could just make a habit of it! But it'll have to wait til next Monday, because tonight we're planning on doing a service project around Dolly's house. We also have started what hopefully becomes a tradition there. When he left, the family gave him a pack of Rosary beads, so he decided he should give them something in return. So, he wrote out his testimony in a Book of Mormon and dropped it off before he headed northward. Our plan is to keep doing that with any missionary who leaves the area, so that eventually they have dozens of testimony-filled copies of the Book of Mormon!
And we also met with Jimmy and had probably the best Restoration lesson that I've had on my whole mission with him. Jimmy is the most baptism-ready person I've ever met, but is waiting for approval from Salt Lake to be baptized while he's still on probation. Hopefully that comes through... because there's really not much reason to keep him waiting by now. But, who knows. He was actually taught by the Woodworths but now they are having us go back over the lessons since we have to spend time doing something anyways haha. It's very cool, though! He flat out said he is going to get baptized here, and just asks some of the best questions ever!
Welllll.... I've probably rambled on enough. Oh! If you want to be spiritually enlightened by me, then you should go here! If you don't want to be spiritually enlightened, you're probably doing something wrong in your life, and should go there anyways! haha
I love you, but I don't miss you! (It was good to talk to you family members yesterday, though!)
Elder Allen

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

May 6 Letter

Well, another transfer come and gone! (Actually, as of right now, we don't know if I'm leaving or not, but just making some assumptions.)

This week was certainly an interesting one. First, I learned that our God is definitely a God of miracles. Second, I learned that people can be really, really dumb. Haha actually, looking back, there was really only one instance that I can think of someone acting really, really dumb, and another big scare. But both happened just yesterday, so they're fresh on my mind. I'll try to keep things pretty upbeat here, because most of the week was pretty upbeat. I'll then just have one really, really dumb paragraph.

First, we had my birthday party!! Gemma, the 12-year-old, made me a birthday cake, and then the whole family sang and everything. Then, we proceeded playing "Kan Jam" and Bocce the rest of the night. Kan Jam is a Frisbee game where you have a partner, and you throw the frisbee to your partner, who tries to... well, jam it into a big can. Haha the cans are about the size of a garbage can. Wellll.... I don't mean to brag, or anything. But Mary-Bernadette and I had a record of about 13-2. As soon as Kan Jam makes it into the Olympics, she and I are getting back in touch.

We also did tons of random fellowshipping and service, very little of which makes for any good stories haha. We went to Jake Ziegler's track meet, helped at a Boy Scout fundraiser dinner, kind of planted flowers at a Catholic Church, and swept gravel off the road of a woman across the street. Haha like I said... none of those are very exhilarating stories.

BUT! Allow me to tell you some stories that DO have some more exhilaration factor.

So on.... Wednesday maybe? Oh well, really doesn't matter too much. But we were going around Wethersfield, which is one of our far, outlying areas, making our rounds to a few different potential investigators, referrals, members, and less-active members that we have out that way. Annnnnd, not a single one was home. So what we had planned to last about four hours instead took about twenty minutes. We were sitting there trying to think of something to do since our main plan, our backup plan, and even our backup backup plan had all fallen through. Then I thought about a referral that we had in Varysburg! We needed to go contact that referral! So we drove the 15-20 miles to Varysburg (not really a logical place to go as a backup), and got to the Dillon's house. Annnnd, no one was home. Since we were on that road already, though, we figured we'd stop by Jim and Sue's, who are a couple that we met about a month ago that are very cool, but satisfied with their religion so we've never given them too much emphasis. (Actually, they remind me A LOT of the Ludekes.) 

Well, we got to their house and knocked, and Sue came to the door, looking overly surprised to see us. We apologized for just stopping in, and said we were just coming to get their phone number so we could set something up for later. She gave it to us, but then asked if we wanted to talk outside for a little while. Obviously, we said yes. So, she brought us some root beers and we sat out on some benches in the back. Apparently she'd been having some struggles with someone that she rents to, and was getting super frustrated by it. She said about thirty minutes ago, she had prayed, "God, just help me figure out what to do!" Literally thirty minutes ago, we decided to head over to Varysburg! And it just so happens that I have been studying patience for the past week or so, and had all sorts of scriptures to help her out. We read from Alma 32, Ether 12:27, and all over in the Book of Mormon. Ether 12:27 was a cool one, because she instantly started making connections to all sorts of other things she'd been reading lately. It is definitely cool when you are used by God to answer someone else's prayer - especially when they recognize it, too!! We're scheduled to go back there for dinner this Friday evening!

Miracle: Round Two: As in all good stories, all of our appointments cancelled on Thursday night. First the Zieglers, then Jimmy, then all the people we normally would stop by when no one else is available. So we went to the library to do some internet work for a while, deciding that afterwards we'd head over to Linda's house. When we signed off, I said, "Hey, let's walk over to Cathy and Taylor's." "I thought we were going to Linda's," Elder Kelly said. "We were.... but let's walk over to Cathy and Taylor's." "Can we drive, at least?" "Nah... let's walk." And so we did. As we were coming up to Cathy and Taylor's, it was clear that they weren't home. However, there was a lady outside the house right across the street with her dog. Dogs always make introductions easier, because if they don't want to talk to you, you just pretend like you were really there to pet the dog, anyways. So we pet the dog, asked questions about the dog, which eventually transitioned into questions about her life and all. We're missionaries, we get personal pretty quickly. 

So apparently, Maria (haha that's her name, I guess I should say that) used to live in the northeast corner of the state, but moved out here two years ago because it's where her brother and sister lived. Well, her sister died within six months of her moving, and her brother died just two months ago. Now she's really frustrated, but can't move back home, because she is going through a bunch of treatment for an ankle deformity. We talked to her about how frustrating it is sometimes when we get answers to prayers that don't seem to work out, but then reassured her that there's always a reason for our answer, even if it's not the reason we expected. We explained the story of Lehi and his family being lead from their home in Jerusalem. Neither Nephi nor his brothers really understood why they were doing leaving, but the big difference is that Nephi prayed to understand. He didn't pray for the outcome or answer to change, just that he could understand what was going on. Because of this, he was blessed. Maria then said she struggles sometimes because she can't tell what's an answer to a prayer and what is just her brain thinking things. I shared Elder Bednar's quote where he said if we are being "good little boys and good little girls" then our thoughts ARE the Lord's thoughts, because they are lead by the Holy Ghost. Then we talked about how we need to make a habit on acting on small promptings so that it becomes more and more natural. I then decided to share with her the story leading up to us even meeting her. I testified that sometimes, our promptings simply don't make sense; they go completely counter to what you'd originally planned on. But, clearly, they lead to good things. While I shared this story, and even more so when we gave her a Book of Mormon, her eyes were full of tears. Then she asked us if we could come back and talk more, and hurried inside saying she was going to go start reading. It was thrilling!

Ha, I might as well share the low point of the week now, since it fits so well here. When we went back to Maria's the next day like we'd scheduled, she wasn't there. We went back the next day, and she answered the door and apologized for not being there the day before and asked if we could come back Sunday night. Well, on Sunday, there was a note on her door asking us to not come back over again and to please not talk to her if we see her outside. Talk about a freaking buzz-kill. I was soooo frustrated by it all! Honestly, I have zero clue what happened.

Now I'll share a somewhat happy/somewhat completely miserable story. I have told you about Dolly, I believe. She's the 85-year-old with all the jokes. Well, we went back over there yesterday, and she said she was really not doing well at all. We knew she had broker her back not too long ago, and that that gave her problems, and that she had osteoporosis. But yesterday she told us that she also had leukemia, and that it had really taken a toll on her this past week. We are planning on going over and doing service at her house a week from today, and she kept on saying things like, "Well, even if I am not here by then, it will have to be done for whoever moves in." It was heart-breaking! We talked with her for a good hour or so, and shared a whole bunch of scriptures with her, all about what eternity and heaven are like. As we left, we gave her a Plan of Salvation pamphlet, which she said she would read as soon as we left. I don't know... it's an interesting situation for sure. Here's the great thing: We can teach her a much as possible for the next few weeks, and then we know that angels will pick up right where we left off in the spirit world! We don't know what she'd be able or willing to do here, but it is extremely reassuring to know that if she does pass away, our efforts weren't in vain and that she still has a long life ahead of her in eternity. It's like President said to us on the phone yesterday, "This isn't about physical life. As that life comes to an end, you have the opportunity and obligation to teach about spiritual and eternal life."

Well, this should be an exciting week, no question! We have an appointment to teach the Zieglers and then later to help them put in their garden. We are going to do crazy amounts of service tomorrow, followed by an appointment with Renate. Wednesday we're just all over the place. We can finally take a breath on Thursday, only to spend all day Friday in Palmyra with Gila and Josef! Now THAT I am excited about!! Haha Gila is seriously the most fun person to teach, of all time. We can talk about weird doctrines that I don't even fully know how to explain myself, and she is able to back it all up with the Bible. Like the idea of the New Jerusalem being built in America! Apparently that makes perfect sense if you read the Hebrew Bible. Haha It's just great, and I can't wait 'til Friday!

Well, I love you, but I don't miss you!
Elder Allen