It's been a big week with big events and big drives to big places.
The week itself was decent. We taught some people, and there are a few progressing, but there's something about keeping commitments that people just don't like. We're trying to change our lesson habits so that commitments seem more like connecting with God rather than doing homework. Slow progression is being made, though, so no complaints.
Friday, we left Pocahontas with Elder and Sister Musick, picked up the Elders in Paragould (the area next door), and shipped off to Little Rock for the biggest event this mission has seen in a while, if ever. We were about to hear from Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve, Bishop Gary E. Stevenson of the Presiding Bishopric, Elder Richard J. Maybes Of the Presidency of the Seventy and Elder Bleuth, an area seventy. Every missionary in the mission was on their way to the North Little Rock stake center to hear these four inspired men.
Everyone was getting nervous. I was fasting myself.
We arrived in Little Rock on Friday night. This was my first time back in Little Rock since I left the transfer meeting for my first area in Collierville. That was 16 months ago. Elder Whetten and I brought bedding to sleep over at the other missionaries' apartment. As we got there and socialized with the other two Elders, more missionaries popped through the door. Then more. Then more. A total of ten Elders stayed the night in that apartment. We shared mission experiences and had a great time. I'd never realized how therapeutic it was to just share stories until I came on the mission. I slept on a few pillows that night.
Saturday morning came. The ten of us hopped in and out of the bathroom, and the apartment exploded into white shirts and ties as we anxiously prepared to meet an apostle. We had been asked to be seated by 8:30 in the stake building.
I walked in to find, to my delight, GENE JONES sitting on the back row. I was so happy to see him there. Anyway, we all sat there, reading and praying to have questions answered. Then they announced that we would be taking a huge mission picture before the meeting. We all shuffled into the gym area and got into rows. I was looking towards a couple other missionaries when the room suddenly got kinda quiet.
I looked up, and Elder Bednar was walking straight towards us. I just stared at him. He looked more gray and old than I had remembered. He said good morning. We all said good morning to him. We took the pictures. He stood up, and with a light-hearted voice, saying, "Well, let's go to church", we went back into the chapel.
Elder Bednar began his portion of the meeting by saying that he had lived in Fayetteville, Arkansas from 1980-1997, and he loved it. He loved the Bible Belt. He loved all the anti-Mormon sentiment and the Bible bashers. He loved Arkansas. And he knew our struggles. We immediately fell in love with Elder Bednar. He even shared with us a moment where he called his friend a Pharisee for being so tied to the written word and not believing in the revelations of God. The room was in awe.
I won't tell much more of what he said, but I received much revelation for the work that is to be done in Pocahontas. It will take a long time to apply all that I've learned, but I will apply one principle at a time.
After the meeting, everyone got to shake the general authorities' hands. I looked straight at Elder Bednar and he looked straight at me. I thanked him. He thanked me back. But in that instant where he thanked me, I didn't feel it was him thanking me. It was as though Jesus Christ was thanking me. Thanking me for my sacrifices. Thanking me for my work and my progression. Thanking me for trying to live His will. It was a gratitude of love.
After the meeting, I was so happy to see Elder Kowalk. We just gave each other a big hug and laughed. Then we went to speak with Gene, and it felt like we were right back in Gene's living room. I had true friends around me.
Later Saturday, Jerzie Crowther was baptized! Her great-grandfather baptized her.
On Sunday, we had stake conference in Memphis. Yes, we drove all the way down to Memphis the next day. Elder Maynes was presiding, and spoke to us.
To put the cherry on the cake of the whole weekend, though, it seemed that the entire West Memphis branch came to the conference. The Barnetts, the Allens, JT, the Oreys, the Sotos, the Jones, Kattie, Sis. Kitchens, the Masons, Bro. White, Bobby and Kristin Rains, Gene -- everyone. I was beaming. I saw my mission family.
This weekend was a wonderful weekend. One I'll never forget. I learned a lot from an Apostle of the Lord, taught in the way Christ would teach. This is what the mission is about. Learning and loving. I love my mission!