Good morning, everyone!
Yesterday was a fantastic P-Day. We went to the ZOO. The Little Rock Zoo, to be exact, which is not quite as popular as the Memphis Zoo. We had a fun time, nonetheless. Some members of the ward took us because they already had season passes. It was fun to see the penguins and the reptiles and the elephants and the monkeys. I took a lot of pictures and a few videos.
One crazy part was when we entered into the indoor exhibit where they let birds fly around freely around you. There was a large spoon-billed bird perched high above me, and as I was taking pictures of it, it swooped down right over my head! It came within two inches of hitting me. I got a picture of it closing in on my face.
Not much else happened for the remainder of the day since it was Labor Day, but I was very exhausted by the time I got to climb into bed.
So I've got news. I am now... a District Leader!
For my last transfer, I get to watch over two other companionships. Our district used to consist of Jacksonville, the Cabot Elders, the Cabot Sisters and Lonoke, but Lonoke has been pushed into a different district. Now it's just the two Cabot sets and us.
I'm giving my first district meeting today, and I'm feeling pretty good about it. It's easy to share two years-worth of experience to a bunch of relatively new missionaries. Sis. Jardine is training, as is Elder Chapman. I can tell their new greenies WHATEVER I WANT, and they'll automatically believe me! Think of the possibilities! Heh, kidding. It is interesting to note, however, that several of my missionary friends have asked me if I've made myself a throne or had my district members refer to me as Overlord or something like that. Awwww, where would they get the idea I'd even do that sorta stuff?
I'm excited to have two new missionaries in my district, though. One is Sis. Hubbard, 19, from Idaho, and the other is Elder Duron (pronounced dur-OWN), 18, from Arizona. They're both eager to be missionaries and do whatever they can to see miracles. I'll do what I can as a missionary to teach them what I've gained in my two years. I get to teach three district meetings this transfer, instead of only two that occur during a usual transfer. Don't remember how that played out exactly, but I'm excited for it.
I'm going on exchange with Elder Boyer today. Faith will be interviewed for her baptism this Saturday. She's excited to be baptized, but not too excited to be interviewed, especially by someone she doesn't know. Elder Boyer will warm up to her, though. He's chill like that (little oxymoron).
Elder Merrill and I are still striving to bring others into the gospel, but no one has been clinging on lately. Once Faith is baptized, we need someone else to really focus on, but we can't determine who. Faith's family has been the only family to even come to church since I've been here. I've gotta do some Preach My Gospel studies about inviting people.
Two Sundays ago, I gave a talk in church. The topic was on member missionary work. I shared my own missionary experience about Brianna, and again, I shared my dad's experience about his efforts as the ward mission leader in El Dorado Hills. I will just share here briefly what I shared in my talk, along with a few ideas I'm willing to flesh out now.
When I got to West Memphis, there was a girl, Katie, that had been baptized the month before I arrived. She was so gung-ho about the gospel. She loved every minute that she got to go to seminary, church, mutual and any other activity.
I'll honestly say that I was a bit jealous of Elder Kowalk; that he was able to find and baptize such a wonderful spirit. Miracles came about because of Katie's baptism. I hoped at the time that I would be able to find someone as prepared to hear the gospel as Katie was, as well as someone who needed the gospel as desperately as she did.
I have a testimony that God calls certain people to certain places at certain times for a reason. Otherwise, I would not wish to ever return to Pocahontas, Arkansas.
When I arrived in Pocahontas, the missionaries were in process of working with the Rasdon family to bring them into the gospel. Three of their six family members had been baptized at that point. After about four weeks of in my new area, we found out that a seventh family member would be returning home. Her name was Brianna, and she had her own share of problems and doubts.
One of the first things she told her parents when she got settled in at home was that she did not want to go to church and she did not want to learn about whatever religion they were studying.
Then Bro. and Sis. Musick happened. They went over and watched the Restoration DVD with the whole family. Brianna cried. She wanted to learn more.
I don't doubt that Brianna had found peace and comfort in her life as she took the missionary discussions, but most of her change did not come before her baptism. Elder Whetten and I asked and asked and asked before she finally agreed to give a closing prayer to one of our discussions. She had a panic attack after we left because of it. What she did have, though, was a willingness to listen to our message, a willingness to act for herself, and a willingness to understand that the Spirit was testifying to her that these things were true.
She and her younger brother, Zac, were baptized April 6.
As I said, Brianna felt the Spirit and was willing to change. A lot of it was more internal than external at the time. Her true change, though, came after her baptism.
She was playing around on her little iPod Touch one day. I think we were having dinner with the Rasdons, so there wasn't a formal discussion going on. But as she played with the iPod, I'm sure that it was an impression that came to me and said, "Tell her about the Gospel Library."
I helped her download it to her iPod right then and there. She spent the rest of the day reading the Book of Mormon. She spent hours the next day reading it. It took her only a few days to reach 2 Nephi. It was at that moment Brianna began to really be converted.
Now she uses her conversion to strengthen and bear testimony to others. Several of her friends are now taking discussions. She knows her purpose in life and her divine potential. She loves God, and has become a huge inspiration to me to know that no matter what happens in your life, you can always find God's love if you seek it. I found the person on my mission that received their own pearl of great price.
Brianna, of course, is one of many miracles I have seen as a missionary. I am so thankful that God has used me as an instrument in His hands. Eternal happiness does not come from personal achievements. For me, it comes by helping a brother or a sister home. It comes from the small smiles you bring to someone's face by showing them love. It comes from the knowledge that you have friends and God by your side to lift you up.
I think that we're called to lose our lives for Christ's sake because it requires us to become more Christ-like to those around us as we strive to serve them. That was one little piece of wisdom I picked up recently.
I hope y'all have a safe week, and don't neglect a person whose hands need to be lifted and whose spirits need to be strengthened. Miracles may happen.