Monday, October 10, 2016

Of Lazy Cats, Laundry, and Stinkin' Adorable Cousins

Dear Everyone,
I've been struggling to find a common theme in my week other than naps with my marathon-status napping cat, who has become my napping buddy. He wins our 'longest nap' competition every time. It's so great to have a sleepy cat!
This week has been an eclectic collection of experiences! There are so many moving pieces. If I had to characterize my week with one phrase, I think it would have to do with watching.

Everyone in my family seems so similar to how they were when I left, but they've all changed subtly, growing brighter as they work to help their talents become refined. My little sister has discovered within herself a proclivity for the dramatic and a great love for dance. The dramatic part wasn't a surprise (at all), but the dance part was! I've watched her practice in astonishment. She's a very talented, very expressive dancer, complete with on-point facial expressions. Since when does Claire dance?! Apparently since I left.

Almost every day feels like another preparation day (which feels bizarre) other than the part where I can watch t.v. again (which is even a little more bizarre). I've been enjoying the BBC series Sherlock. It makes my thinking brain happy! (:

Pop quiz: What do missionaries feverishly do every preparation day?

What is: Laundry!
Old habits die hard, I guess; each day when I arise and prepare without donning a classy skirt as part of my outfit, I feel a compelling urge to do laundry. It's been cracking me up. I'm pleased to report that the laundry room is now roughly four loads short of empty! Good thing everyone in my family has been too busy to do their own laundry lately. I might be a little bit lost otherwise. XD

A general health update: I feel well on a more consistent basis when I take naps every day! I still have my dizzy and shaky spells, but they happen less frequently now which is good. Last Monday was my first doctor's appointment since being home, and it quickly became apparent that they're hungry for data! They looked at the information we already had and then ordered a ton of new tests. They still have no idea what's going on. My return appointment (I love using that phrase! Missionary status for life.) is about a week from today, and the physician's assistant said that we should have enough data at that point to decide where to look next. From what I gather, they're deciding between sending me to a gastrointestinal specialist, an allergist, a nutritionist, a neurologist, and a rheumatologist. Fun, fun. I watched the phlebotomist gather my blood for more tests as the PA handed a box of vials to my mom with the request that I go home and gather samples of my exhaled breath for yet another test.

Hmmm. Are these doctors dementors, or vampires? I'll let you know when I decide which.
Okay, now for the highlight of my week!!!!
Aunt Holli (my look-alike Auntie)
 My sweet Aunt Holli reached out to me and asked if I wanted to come hang out with her, my uncle, and their three kiddos for a couple of days. Sure thing! My Aunt Holli is a little ray of sunshine and my cousins are most aptly described as pleasantly precocious and downright adorable. I can hold children again! I sat on their living-room couch last night and watched sweet baby Felicity on my lap. She bobbled back and forth, a little off balance as her little muscles worked overtime to keep her steady. No surprises! If I had eyes that big, I think I would have trouble holding my head up straight too!! (:
It got me thinking about the scripture in Alma about how very small and simple means are often the way that great things are brought to pass (I think it's Alma 37:5-6). There were times when Felicity was so off-balance that she wriggled like a fish (a really cute fish) and got really hard to hold on to! Her tiny major muscle groups are still learning their roles, and sometimes they over-correct or don't engage on time, making it necessary for her stabilizer muscles to engage in order to keep her upright. Stabilizer muscles are so small, but so essential to help a body remain steady! I got thinking about all of the small and simple things that I do in my life that may seem to the untrained eye to make no difference. For example, reading my scriptures each day or smiling often at random people or brushing my teeth each morning and evening (you got me - you only need a nose to detect the difference there). Despite the low visibility, the simple things are truly so important in helping me (and everyone around me who has a nose) stay healthy and happy!

The moral of the story? Small muscles and simple daily actions are often the most important factors in keeping a body upright.
Anyway, I love y'all!!
Hope you have a fabulous week and sunshine in your souls! (:
Lovelovelove,
Naomi








Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Home!

Hellooooo, Everybody!

It's Monday. It's Monday, and I don't know what to do with my little non-missionary adult self yet. 

Open scene.

It's Wednesday. 

You trip out of the airplane, too excited to remember not to step on the hem of your skirt. You are, after all, still a missionary. You're still wearing a skirt. Right. 

You walk out and look for your companion in a momentary panic (where did she go? President is going to kill me!) before you realize that you're not actually a missionary for much longer; you flew home alone, and you don't have a companion to keep tabs on anymore. Right. 

You wonder whether you should text your family and let them know where you are. You realize you don't have a phone. You wonder why it doesn't bother you that you don't have a phone, then you remember! You were the designated driver the last two transfers, you companion always had the phone. Right. 

Carefully you proceed alone and without a phone into a crowd of strangers. They all had to pass airport security to get in here, right? They can't be that dangerous. You look both ways more carefully than you ever did when you were jay-walking in the streets of Baltimore. Oh, the irony. An airport in the Sunny Valley, more threatening than Baltimore? Yep, definitely pre-post-missionary confusion. 

Remember, you're still a missionary. It's not post-missionary confusion yet. 

You look past the tall guy with the flowery travel pillow around his neck and notice the signs pointing to the Celestial Kingdom? No, just the baggage claim. Sounds like heaven to me, heaven is wherever my family is. 

Note to self: you really need to sleep when you get home so that you can read words properly again. 

That flight was so long, but the flight was done in no time compared to the excruciatingly slow descent down the escalator. You see your family for a split second before they spot you. They spot you, and you quickly remember why you're the quietest one in your family. Your mom scoops you up almost before you get off of the escalator, who knows where your luggage went and who cares?! Hopefully one of your siblings took it, and not the guy with the flowery neck pillow.

There is a hurricane in the Salt Lake City Airport, and you are in the eye of it, the world moving so quickly around you that you can barely keep track of it all. You get the best hugs and you feel a pang that your dad isn't there to hug you too and you grin and laugh as your 6'1" little brother sweeps you clean off of your feet into a bear hug and you try to be happy that your little sister is taller than you (you are now the runt of the family), and you feel a crazy combination of elated, exhausted, ecstatic, and homesick, because your heart is held very much captive by the beautiful people at the departure end of that 747 you just disembarked. Home will never be just one place again.

One thing they don't tell you about is how tired you will be. Your legs tremble to support your weary frame as you embrace the last uncle. Your fingers fail to grasp strongly the hand of your stake president as he thanks you for your service and tells you to take off your name tag by midnight. 

Close scene.








I still feel like I'm walking in a dream.

I don't know that I have many helpful thoughts to share this week. 'Don't die' is always a worthy admonition! We'll go with that.

When I got home, I didn't know how to deal with life. Still don't. What I can't tell you could be formed into a list so exhaustive that I don't know anyone who would read it. 

What I can tell you is this, that God looks out for us and wants us to experience joy. 

General Conference was this weekend (#ldsconf), and I heard no more frequent message than "you are loved, it will all be okay," and "you can have joy in the now no matter how hard the now is."

Anyway, food for thought. It's a good day to be happy! (:

Love you all,

Naomi

Monday, September 26, 2016

Crime-Scene Tape & a Veil of Forgetfulness

My dear family (both legally related and unofficially adopted, I seriously just love you all to death),

A few weeks ago, Sister Botchway and I saw a dead body in the streets of Baltimore. Not quite what you were expecting? Not what we were expecting either. His eyes were still wide with adrenaline, limbs frozen in a running form. The tendons in his neck were still straining as if to look behind him as he stared blankly into the evening sky. He was resting in a puddle. It hadn't rained that day.

We were shocked.

Who wouldn't be? This young man, this child of God, had seen a sharp end to a short life. A  police officer stood a short distance away, jaded. He poured his strained weariness into a cold plastic walkie-talkie instead of into a rescue effort. As far as he could tell, the young man was gone. No pulse. As far as the world is concerned, this young man only exists as a memory, a gruesome statistic, and as a cold corpse lying in a dark grave. They've forgotten the hope that we all once knew.

In the face of yellow crime-scene tape and a veil of forgetfulness, I have no right to remain silent. God's plan for His children does not end with a bullet to the back, nor does it end with an insidious cancer or heart failure or a grizzly bear attack or a still-birth.

Our Heavenly Father's plan for us doesn't end in death!

When we got home that night, my mind was called to deep reflection on the constitution of my life. What have I been doing? Why have I been doing it? If I died today, what would be left behind? A gargantuan pile of unsorted school papers? No. There has to be more to Naomi Rapier than that.

I've been pondering on what I want to leave behind in the world when I die, and more recently, I've been pondering on what legacy I want to leave in my stead as a returned missionary.

I can't think of a better legacy to leave than happiness. I'm happy! I'm happy, and I want the people around me to be happy always, not because there aren't challenges, but because they know who they are and what they stand for. I have never been happier than I am when I'm helping other people to develop their happiness in this lasting way, which I've had numerous opportunities to do while serving as a missionary.

When people understand why they are on this earth, where they came from, where they're going, and what to do along the way, they're happy. Working diligently to fulfill a righteously purpose that you have confidence in makes you happy! This is the trend I've seen.

The reason I mention the dead body in the streets of Baltimore is because it reminded me of my purpose. I'm here on earth to learn! I'm here to grow, and to love people, to help them grow, and to be happy. That's what Heavenly Father wants for us, because we are His children. If you want to know more about your purpose on earth, check this out: https://www.mormon.org/beliefs/plan-of-salvation


What can I say right now? My emotions are running high and my time as a consecrated missionary with a tag is running out. Tomorrow, I'll have been in the mission field for nine months. Due to an unsolved health problem involving shakiness and fatigue that prevent me from doing my work as a missionary, I'll be returning from my mission this week, right after my half-way mark.
Saying goodbye to Sister Carpenter
Even though I'm coming home, but I've discovered that I like writing! The adventures never end! I may keep up these blog posts. I won't be offended if you ask me to take you off my list. (:

Signing off as a missionary with a tag, and love you always,

Sister Naomi Lydia Rapier (:

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Oh, to Forgive and be Free

Dear Family,

There is such a peace in moving forward, as Elder Robert Gay has said, in the Lord's way.

For as long as I've been able to understand the world, I have sought to forgive my father, who seemed to act in a way that hurt me at every turn. He died a little over a year ago, and the weight of the burden I've carried with me these many years has become apparent.

I've struggled with it.

Yesterday, Brian, a recent convert of the BYSA Elders, was in considerable distress. He was experiencing serious doubts and fears. His faith was struggling. As I heard his words of pain and confusion, my heart felt drawn out of me to comfort him. I testified concerning the mercy of our Savior - how he's always there for us.

As I begged him to give himself a chance to grow before giving up on himself, the words came from my lips seemingly of their own accord. I told of my struggle to forgive my Daddy and of the empowering effect of Christ's mercy in helping me to do so. I found myself telling him that after all of these years, I had finally been able to forgive my father. I was surprised by these words, but searched myself and found them to be true.

Oh, to be free of this burden after so long and to feel my full love for my Daddy - unblemished by my ugly grudge! I feel as if I could fly.

I exhorted Brian to please not give up on himself and to trust that he will someday recognize all the growth he's already made. He truly can do it, if he only puts his mind to it and believes.

Oh, to be free. What a wonderful gift.

Sending all of my love and a joyous declaration of our Savior's love,

Sister Naomi Rapier

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

"What's Different About Your Church?"

Dear People Who I Love,

I love public transportation. I meet some of my favorite people through public transportation!

We taught a man named JT this week. He's from Winchester! We walked by him sitting in his car on the way back to the bus stop from an appointment that fell through, and then had to turn around and go back to the house because I accidentally left my water bottle there. As we passed his car, he stuck his head out and asked, hey, are you Mormons? We said yes. He said, where are you going? I (rather sheepishly) explained that we were going back for my erstwhile forgotten hydration canister (not in those words, I'm paraphrasing pedantically, potentially purposefully). He asked what was different about our church and what he would gain from being a member. He explained that he was already Christian; so what makes the difference?

I love it when those words come out of someone's mouth.

We began discussing how God is his loving Heavenly Father, and how He wants for JT to be happy. JT agreed, sharing with us his strong belief that God does look out for him. He said that right now, he's desperately in need of money to support his little family. He asked how we would advise him on this matter according to our system of beliefs. I almost started crying. Such a tender and genuine love I saw reflected in his face as he spoke of his wife and little boy. We opened up the scriptures with him, but then I couldn't remember where I was when I read the answer to his question. So I closed my scriptures and paraphrased for him the words of the prophet Jacob found in The Book of Mormon:

"Think of your brethren like unto yourselves, and be familiar with all and free with your substance, that they may be rich like unto you.

"But before ye seek for riches, seek ye for the kingdom of God.

"And after ye have obtained a hope in Christ ye shall obtain riches, if ye seek them; and ye will seek them for the intent to do good—to clothe the naked, and to feed the hungry, and to liberate the captive, and administer relief to the sick and the afflicted."

Jacob 2:18-19 (https://www.lds.org/scriptures/bofm/jacob/2?lang=eng)   (I found it after the fact)

We talked with him about how having a living prophet on the earth today with the priesthood authority to act in God's name and to guide God's people enables us to more fully seek the kingdom of God, because modern revelation from God allows us continued insight on how to build God's kingdom despite the challenges of today's world. We testified that as long as he put God and his family first, God would always provide a way through things. We also invited him to find out for himself by reading The Book of Mormon.

I love pleasant people!! We asked if he'd like to have missionaries came see him and his family, and it turns out that he wasn't particularly interested in exploring another faith tradition, he was just curious to hear our take on things. He thanked us for stopping to talk to him and told us to be safe. It made our day. (:

Sister Botchway is awesome!!!!! She has been so kind as I've been sick the past few days and not able to do much.
Thanks so much to everyone who has written me letters and emails! I'm not super great at responding all the time. Just know that you make my week all the brighter (:

Love always,

Sister Naomi Rapier

Monday, August 29, 2016

Peanut Butter and Brass Knuckles

Hi Family and Friends!!

Hey guess what?!!

STAYING IN BYSA FOR ANOTHER TRANSFER WOOOOOO!!!!! I am so excited! My new companion will be Sister Botchway.

We've been working hard all week. Sister Tripple has that somewhat lengthy list of things to do before she goes home; we've been busy to say the least.

One of the things I like best about being busy is that it means that we get to ride public transportation a lot!! It probably sounds weird, but I love public transportation. There are so many wonderful people to talk to!

Last Wednesday, while we were on the bus, we met this awesome lady! Her name is Andrea. She's Catholic by background, and her husband just left her and her seven-year-old son. My heart was really sad to hear that story. We were talking and she expressed how helpless she's feeling. She said, "I've done everything right. I got a college degree, I got married, I stayed faithful and tried to make things work, but now he's left me and I can't find a job, I feel so helpless and frustrated. What did I do wrong?"

I was familiar with part of that feeling, the 'what did I do wrong' part. I struggle with thinking I have to be perfect and sometimes clinging to unrealistic expectations for myself. As I watched her earnest eyes start to tear up, my heart went out to her; I asked if I could share a scripture that helped me through some of my hardest times. She graciously agreed, so I flipped open my worn scriptures to this passage:

"And when I had said this, the Lord spake unto me, saying: Fools mock, but they shall mourn; and my grace is sufficient for the meek, that they shall take no advantage of your weakness;
 And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them." (Ether 12:26-27, page 510 in The Book of Mormon)

I testified to her that this is true, and that God truly does support us in our weakness. Her countenance changed, the worry lines around her eyes and on her forehead softened. It warmed me so much to see that one of my favorite scriptures had boosted her above her desolation of despair. I can only imagine what she must be feeling with all that's going on in her life right now. 

We asked if she would come to church with us, she said yes if she could bring her son along. She almost laughed with relief when I explained that the family congregation that she would be attending is very friendly to children of all ages. My bus stop approached. I gave her a copy of the Book of Mormon and the phone number of the Sister Missionaries who work with the family congregation (I work with the young single adult congregation). 

I turned back after I got off the bus. My last sight of her was her holding the book with great respect and contemplation written on her face, seeming to be wondering if it was as precious as I had told her it was. I keep flashing back to that image over and over again in my mind. You have no idea yet, Andrea, but you'll know soon. The words in that book will make you rich in happiness and resplendent in an everlasting peace. Just keep reading.


Wanna hear about our adventure this week?!

Church has never been so interesting as it is every week in the Baltimore YSA ward.

As of 5 p.m. on Saturday, we didn't have any investigators planning to come to church. Just four hours later we found ourselves in a much different situation:

- A local gang member got in touch with the Elders and asked if they were the LDS missionaries. They said yes. He asked if so-and-so was a member of the congregation. They said yes, and asked why. The guy said - good, I have some unfinished business, and stated his intention to come to church. The missionaries asked the guy who he was. He identified himself as an old friend of so-and-so and a member of this local gang. And then he stopped replying to their texts.

- We heard from an investigator who we know carries a concealed weapon at all times. He had decided to come to church.

- Another investigator, who is a college athlete, let us know he would be coming with his NCAA-approved security.

- A "back to school" themed munch and mingle was scheduled for after church. We learned there would be a peanut butter and jelly cake.

- Then we realized - we weren't sure if any of our investigators had a peanut allergy.

Do you see the problem here?

Three people planning on coming to church. With guns. One of them possibly planning to kill a member of the congregation. All of them possibly with a peanut allergy.

What?.......

I must say, I never have considered the possibility of having three armed investigators attend sacrament meeting until Saturday night. That would definitely be a first!

Sunday morning rolls around. We got to church, and Elder Peery was joking around and asked Sister Tripple if she might need some pink brass knuckles. She said she was okay and suggested that he give them to me instead! Elder Peery said, and I quote, "No, that would be like giving a bunny rabbit a hand grenade." That made me laugh. A lot. He didn't know that I heard XD

Sacrament meeting was uneventful; no one who said they were coming to church actually came! Disappointing, but also a relief. 

Near the end of second hour, we got a text from our college athlete buddy saying that he and his security were both here. We went and found them, welcoming them into their final class! I was super relieved; the athlete had been joking about NCAA approved security, he had just brought one of his friends with him. Phwew!

Now, I know that you're all wondering. Did the gangster come to church? And, perhaps more importantly, did he have a peanut allergy?

I am pleased to report that neither gangsters nor severe peanut allergies appeared at church! And the cake was delicious. :)

Prayers truly are answered!

I love you all dearly, and if any of you are wanting a copy of my favorite book, you can get a free copy here: https://www.mormon.org/free-book-of-mormon

Have a lovely week, my people! Much love (:

-Your Sister, Naomi Rapier


Sister Tripple's last week

Monday, August 22, 2016

Christ Can Make us Whole Again

Even when stunted by mistakes, we can find new growth in Christ.
I've met several sister missionaries who have personally been affected by pornography addiction. The stories vary - it was was an ex-boyfriend, an ex-fiance, an ex-brother-in-law - but the result is always pain and suffering.
Pornography burns the possibility of growth; it renders a person to be as a burnt-out stump. Pornography drains the life and vigor from relationships. Oh, the pain this plague inflicts on our families and communities.
Addictions consume. Suffering ensues. 

Where would we be without the redeeming hope of Jesus Christ? 

The atonement is real. Christ can remake a burnt-out stump into a healthy tree should the tree be desirous and willing to work for the gift of miraculous healing. Christ can sooth and comfort the loved ones of an addict. Christ can heal us and make us whole again. 

Love you,
Sister Naomi Rapier

Monday, August 15, 2016

Serve God and Do Good

Howdy, Family!

I don't hear "howdy" too often. Too few Southerners 'round these here parts... XD

I am so super stoked about this week.

Miracles!!!

We met with a girl named Carlee yesterday. She was referred to us by the Alameda Elders, who met her on a bus ride to downtown. She expressed that she wanted to learn more, and they sent her number to us. She is a doll of a human being, short (like me!) and with one of the most kind and long-suffering spirits of anyone I have EVER met!!!! When we called for the first time, it became quickly evident that she loves God and that her greatest desire is to serve Him and do good. We asked if she had any concerns in her life that we could study for and help her resolve. She thought for a second, and then asked, "Could you help me get baptized? I want to get baptized, and I've never been able to." Ummmm yes!!!!!!! That is, after all, our specialty: we are here to invite people to come to Christ! We're here to help them prepare for and make sacred covenants, beginning with baptism by immersion by someone with the priesthood, or the authority to act in God's name. A covenant is a two-way promise between an individual and God, so it's serious business. To help someone prepare to make this baptismal promise with God is one of the most beautiful opportunities I've had in my entire mission. Seeing first Chong, then Ruby enter the waters of baptism was awe-inspiring. The joy is so real, and I'm so excited to experience it once again.

More about Carlee: She's 18. When her father found out that she was a girl, and therefore not a boy, he left. Her mom recently decided that she didn't want to be a mom anymore and disowned Carlee. Carlee's been robbed, thrown onto the streets, and had to drop out of high school to take care of her Aunt, who needed hospice care and couldn't afford it. She's been living in rough neighborhoods for her entire life, and she loves to serve the people around her, though they often abuse her generosity. She still serves and loves everyone in her path. Wow.

All of the neighborhood kids in the look up to her a ton!! For many, she's the only consistently kind adult in their lives. So many people said hello to her while we were teaching her yesterday on her porch! Carlee amazes me, straight up.

As we were in the midst of talking, she testified of God and His goodness and mercy. She told us that she knows that He loves her. She knows that He's proud of her that she wants to better her life. I will keep you posted on my remarkable friend Carlee, but I have to go now.

Love you!

Sister Naomi Rapier

p.s.-woke up on Sunday morning and our car was gone from our apartment parking lot... we still aren't quite sure what happened that they decided to tow us, but there you have that! XD

Where's our car, dude?!
Got our car back!

Monday, August 8, 2016

Out and About in Townson

Hey family and friends!

This week was pretty good, more than a little nutty. 

Towson is a suburb of Baltimore; our area is about 20 minutes from downtown Baltimore. It is a super interesting place. I've never been in a big city for an extended period of time, let alone lived in one! Good thing that I'm used to driving in nutty traffic, like we always had to drive in to get to school. That's pretty much how driving is all the time here, and this is the first time I've driven in six months!! It's a little bit anxiety provoking. Aaaaa. 

The people in Baltimore are all very proud of who they are! I love that most people here don't put on fake faces. How do I know this? Trust me, you can tell. We were taking the light rail to district meeting last week and there was this guy sitting behind us, just rapping away. On the light rail. To himself. It was pretty funny.

Exchanges happened this week, and they were HEAVEN SENT. Being with Sister Hokafonu was so good, she is AMAZING. She's a Polynesian from California, and her testimony is rock solid. She loved me and listened to me and we got to do some good work together! She is one of my angels on this side of the veil, I think. We found a new investigator for the Jones Falls Sisters; a sweet, eccentric lady in her 50's.

Sister Tripple often says random things that she's thinking about which don't necessarily relate to what's going on. I guess it's about time I got a taste of my own medicine; usually I'm the one confusing everyone else! XD Some funny Sister Tripple quotes that brightened my week:

(Scene: walking in from working for dinner; Sister Tripple is kicking off her shoes and setting down her bag.)
Sister T: "Flirt to convert."
Sister R: "Oh, who are we flirting with today?"
Sister T: "Just myself."

(Scene: Sister Rapier laying on the floor writing in journal in living room. Sister Tripple quietly boiling sweet potatoes in adjoining kitchen.) 
Sister T: "Not today, Satan!"
Sister R: "What?"
Sister T: "I like talking out loud to Satan to let him know that I know he's there."
Sister R: "What's he trying to get you to do today?"
Sister T: "Oh, nothing. I just wanted to tell him that he's not a part of my life today."

I laughed so hard after each of the conversations!!!! Best. quotes. ever. (:

If any of you have favorite scripture passages or encouraging quotes or thoughts I would love to hear them! It's been a bit of a hard week and I need some extra positivity in my life.

Love always,

Sister Naomi Rapier

Exchanges with Sisters Tripp, not sure, Rapier and Hokafonu
Hanging with the Sisters


Tuesday, August 2, 2016

The Glow of Understanding

Hi Family!

Aren't you lucky? You get emails in the middle of the week!! (:

We found an investigator this week!!! Her name is Morgan, and we thought that she was a young single adult. Young? Yes! Single? Yes!! Adult?! ...Well, not so much... sophomore in high school... whoops. Anyway, she's currently our investigator and soon we'll be turning her over to the Jones Falls Sisters.

Morgan is AWESOME!! We were trying to go see a less active sister in the ward one night when we walked by. She was sitting on her porch, just chilling, and we started a conversation. She's been looking for the truth! We arranged to come see her another day because it was pretty late and Baltimore is sketchy in the dark hours (don't worry, we weren't in the city proper).

We went back to see her in the early evening later that week. Morgan walked out, smiling that big happy smile of hers, and warmly greeted Sister Tripple and me with big hugs. We went out and sat on her favorite bench, and she started talking. She told us about her day at school, about her friends, and about how she had always wondered what more there was to the universe. We asked her about what role religion had played in her life to this point. She responded quickly, letting us know that though she's only been to church approximately three times in her living memory, she knows some things about the Bible and she likes what she knows. She expressed a great desire to learn more and to get answers to all of her "why" questions. We were grinning so much, you wouldn't believe it.

Do you know how good it feels to have the resources to help someone find the answers they've been anxiously seeking for quite some time? I do!! Often before my mission, I felt joy when I would tutor and learn with a frustrated, confused student and would have the privilege of watching that marvelous glow of understanding spark to life in their eyes. I would sit back quietly as they labored over a problem similar to the many we had done together. The brow furrows, the mouth frowns, the face clouds over with concentration. This moment is the critical moment. Will they finish, or will they falter? Children are so often stubborn enough to push through. Finished! Bright eyes are anxiously hopeful as I check the work. The moment of truth comes: the math is good!!!! "See?" I exclaim, "Long division isn't that hard after all!" The triumphant grin that inevitably follows each acquisition of insight I will never forget, for each of these memories fill me with joy!

I do have to say, however, the rush of happiness I feel when math tutoring is nothing compared to what I' doing now; it is far outshone by the joy I experience each time I teach the truths of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, even though my memories of tutoring are no less significant to me than they were a year ago! I am perpetually filled with wonderment as I reflect upon this singular situation. What joy may lay just ahead of me that I cannot begin to comprehend? I must conclude that it will just keep on getting better. The majority of society tells me that I'm stupid for coming on a mission to talk with people about God, that I should be going to school and living the college life, tasting and experiencing all that the world has to offer. My response is, so what? So what, that I'm not out partying with my graduating class? Do they find any exceedingly great and enduring joy where they're looking for it? I don't think so. What I have tasted in the service of God is delicious, sweet. It fills the empty corners of my soul, patches the holes in my heart. It is delicious to me.

My time runs out. Long story short, Morgan was astounded by the story of Joseph Smith, for it reflected her own feelings. When we presented her with the first vision, her eyes filled with tears. She was smiling, grinning like she couldn't contain herself.

https://www.mormon.org/beliefs/joseph-smith

Love,
Sister Rapier

Monday, July 25, 2016

New Area and No Mission Call

I have been super struggling to email today. My little brother was supposed to have gotten his mission call, but he didn't! Super distracted.

Miracle! Sister Whipp, who is less active in Hampstead, is now doing personal progress and got a priesthood blessing from her home teachers within 24 hours of us suggesting it. We have truly seen the spirit work within her heart. <3

My first week in Towson has been alright. It was really frustrating to start, we only had a ward list from like a year ago. Singles wards have incredible rates of change of membership. We spent over 50 miles chasing ghosts... it was certainly an experience. Good thing my companion and I both have a lot of energy! :P


Until next time,

Sister Naomi Rapier

Monday, July 18, 2016

Goodbye to Hampstead

Hi Everyone!

This week has been really good! Many updates on lovely individuals are to be had!

First update, I'm being transferred from Hampstead! So bittersweet. I'm super thankful that I got to have a transfer being Sister Gudmundson's companion, she is stellar. I'll be serving in the Baltimore YSA (Young Single Adult) ward with Sister Tripple! Sister Tripple was serving in my zone during the time I was with Sister Bartschi, I love her already, this is going to be lots of fun!!! So many good things lie ahead! We shall work hard and it shall be awesome. (:
Sisters Rapier and Gudmundson with Sister Taggart

Another update, we went to Sister Taggart's house again this week. She is such a doll! Her smile was so big when she saw us, you have no idea how great it is to visit someone who's really happy to see you! We had a really great discussion about faith, hope, and the Atonement of Jesus Christ. We were just starting to read Moroni 7 when the phone rang. Sister Taggart ignored it, but soon enough Chris walked up the stairs holding a handset, the call was for Sister Taggart. We were more than a little bit apprehensive, but what we saw set us at ease. Chris had a completely different attitude. He was very polite, hesitating greatly to interject. When he handed the phone to Sister Taggart, he gave us a timid smile, and then quietly slipped away. After Sister Taggart had taken the call, she told us that she had talked to Chris and had reminded him that it's a blessing to have someone who's willing to come into a home and to help a family understand the scriptures. 

From observing his demeanor when we saw him on Tuesday, I'm guessing that he had absolutely no idea how harshly he had come across until his mom told him. When we saw Sister Taggart on Sunday, she came bearing a message of thanks from Chris and Kay for the Tait cookies we had left on Tuesday. 

It made me feel good to know that they liked the cookies, and also ashamed about how I had reacted to the whole ordeal a week ago. In that moment of feeling so attacked, I forgot one of the most important and fundamental truths of the gospel, which is that God loves everyone regardless of who they are and what they've done, so we are to love everyone, no matter what they've done or how badly we feel they've hurt us. For are we not all children of God, and do we not rely on him for every breath and each tender mercy of life? We are, and we do. 

Heavenly Father must have unfathomable love for us and a great sense of humor. Watching me each day must be to Him a little bit like watching a small child try to get dressed, pulling her pants onto her little head. Endearing, especially when the child decides to turn and ask for help. Perhaps that's why it's so important to Heavenly Father that we pray, so that he can help us when we need it, which in all honesty is pretty much always. I don't know about you, but I haven't a clue how to do life half of the time. So many unexpected twists and turns. Ah, life. This experience has been a testimony to me that repentance is real! People truly do change their views of themselves, others, and the world, and they do it all the time! I cannot tell you how extraordinarily grateful I am to have had the opportunity to recognize my error before leaving Hampstead. Chris is, after all that's been said and done, a good man with human foibles who is willing to change. It's never too late to put on the dinosaur costume the right way. (:

Anyway, much love, I must scurry.

Sending sunshine in your general direction,

Sister Naomi Rapier

Naomi with Sister Cindy
Naomi, Cindy, and Sister Gudmundson


















Outhouses are real!
Cat on head,..why not?
















P. S. For any of you who like the Book of Mormon, timelines, advanced color coding, projects that take a long time to complete, or all of the above, here is a Book of Mormon timeline that Sister Gudmundson made, comprehensive and with scripture references for everything! May I just say, that's my companion!!!!! I am seriously so wow-ed by this, it took her a year to make. I was her companion when she finished. Coincidence? I think not! It must mean that you all need a copy too!


Jaredites Timeline: 1 of 7
Jaredites Timeline: 2 of 7
Jaredites Timeline 3 of 7
Jaredites Timeline: 4 of 7
Jaredites Timeline: 5 of 7
Jaredites Timeline: 6 of 7
Jaredites Timeline: 7 of 7


Tuesday, July 12, 2016

A Change of Heart and a Korihor

Hola Family!

I have no idea where to begin. This week has truly been a week of miracles! Especially dear was an incredible change of heart that we got to witness!

Sister Taggart is a sweet older Hispanic lady who hadn't been to church in fourteen years. We met with her for the first time last week, and we taught her the doctrine of the sacrament from 3 Nephi 18. She expressed sincere desire to return to church, but she feared that she would not be well accepted by those in the congregation who knew her and that her lack of memory of gospel truths would be starkly evident. She was so open and so full of hope, so I asked her if she would kneel with us right then and there to ask God, the Eternal Father, if it was His will for her to go to church. She knelt. We knelt alongside her. She humbly began her prayer and asked Father if He wanted her to go to church. No sooner had these words left her mouth than she started weeping softly. When she closed her prayer in the name of Christ, she looked up with tears streaming down her face. Her smile shone, even through her tears. "I will go to church this Sunday," she said, "I will go to church."

She had a marvelous experience at church! I had the privilege to witness her first moments in the church after fourteen years. She stood, unsure of where to turn. Suddenly, an older man in the ward who looks like Santa Claus, Brother Bowen, saw her and his face lit up. He walked over, calling her by name, and engulfed her in a bear hug. She slowly relaxed as they caught up on the times and exchanged news. She beamed as she entered the chapel. I was stilled with awe as I observed the care and reverence with which she picked up the hymn book for the opening song, like it was a newborn child. I was moved to tears during that fast and testimony meeting as I watched her cling to each word with rapt attention. I was astounded by the difference as I watched as she was filled with brilliant light. She glowed with joy, she was effervescent with contentment. I so easily forget what a blessing it is to live with a perfect brightness of hope, having never intentionally removed myself from the feeling. What a difference I see in her eyes!! She looks up now, and her eyes are bright. Sister Taggart is a very strong woman.

We also had a run in with Chris, Sister Taggart's less-active anti-Christ son. It was legitimately parallel to the description of Korihor's teaching in the Book of Mormon, just in more modern terms. I felt sick to my stomach as he ranted on about how he believes that Christ came, but not to save the world, and how he believes that technology can bring us to God if we keep building its capabilities at this rate. Tower of Babel syndrome much? I thought so too.

It was terrifying to watch as this seemingly nice, ordinary man transformed as he talked about his beliefs into a man with a crazed look in his eye, talking so quickly and so loudly that spittle accompanied his sharp words as he sent them flying at us. He put down my faith, calling it blind idiocy. He denied Jesus Christ. We wept that night for the desolate state of his soul.

He had so much hatred for everything that testified of Christ (including us), and the most heart-breaking thing about it all was that he spoke all of these disparaging words in the presence of his son and his mother. It was heart-rending to watch the tears of earnest love, concern, and hurt roll down Sister Taggart's face as she looked at Chris in a silent plea for peaceable company. Equally saddening was the shame that crept across his son's face in blotchy red as he intently studied the ground. Chris has broken his mother's heart and lost the confidence of his son, because of his bad example before them.
This is Sister Gudmundson's account of our run in with Chris:

"Thursday night we went over to teach Sister Taggart and we met her less-active son named Chris. He's been in the Navy and has since strayed from the Gospel path. We talked to him, or rather he talked to us for about half an hour. He told us what he believes...it wasn't good.

"Although he said that he would give his life for the church, he didn't believe in it. Instead he relys on technology and thinks that "supreme beings" have created us. He told us the reasons he believed these things. For example, he mentioned how the pyramids were made by the Egyptians long ago but man can't figure out how they were made and can't recreate them. He told us several things that were very outlandish. He said he believes Joseph Smith was "downloaded" and that's how he knew where the plates were and could translate their ancient language.

"He posed the question, seemingly in an effort to stump us, of how do we believe the Egyptian pyramids are possible. I mentioned that what he was saying reminded me of Nephi building a boat. He, the son of a prophet, didn't know the first thing about building a boat. Even his brothers, Laman and Lemuel, refused to help him build a boat because they thought Nephi was foolish. But, through revelation from God, Nephi was given the knowledge and understanding needed to build a boat. That is the only answer one can give to the marvelous creations of man in the past and in our world today. Through the power of the Holy Ghost one can know the truth of all things. God knows everything and he gives us knowledge of how to do things through the Holy Ghost. 

"Before I could tell much of Nephi's story, Chris interrupted me and went off again. While Chris (a 55yr old man) talked, he spoke so quickly that it was hard to get a word in. I could tell that he just wanted to debate and confound us. The Spirit was not there and I could see that his only desire was to cause contention. At several points in the conversation, this servant of Satan winked at me....it was gross and I felt even more disgusted. During his rambling he denied the existence of God and even the Divine role and lineage of the Savior. He denied the Christ! Chris who had been baptized into the church and covenanted to take Christ's name upon him, had strayed so far from the path that he'd turned into an anti-Christ.

"I could see those around me, Sister Rapier and Sister Taggart, crumble emotionally and physically as Chris continued to deny the Christ. I could feel myself crumble as well. The spirit wasn't there. Never before on my mission was I so close to standing up and telling Chris in the name of Jesus Christ to be still and to stop talking. It was very bad.

"Sister Rapier finally asked Chris to either join us for the lesson or leave because half of our hour appointment was gone. He walked away.

"After Chris left, his words echoed in all of our minds. My mind felt so frazzled, my thoughts raced in a fractured frenzy. I didn't know what to do. I could tell that Sister Rapier and Sister Taggart were feeling the same way. In an effort to welcome the Spirit into the room, I asked if we could say a prayer. We did so and I could tell the Spirit came into the room just a bit, but not enough. Sister Rapier turned to 2 Nephi 22 and we read it together. Trying so hard to teach, I commented on the last two verses. I scrambled to know what to do next, my mind so fractured. In one of the verses, I saw the word "sing" and without thinking, I asked Sister Rapier to sing "I Know that My Redeemer Lives". Sister Rapier stood and her beautiful voice broke through the barrier between us and the Spirit.

"The Spirit filled the room undeterred by Chris' anti-Christ words. The spirit was so strong that I began to cry. It was such a contrast! There really is opposition in all things. As any mother would, Sister Taggart, expressed her worry for her son Chris. I was reminded of the story of Alma the Younger. We ended up reading his story (Mosiah 27). The passage that stuck out to me the most was verse 31. In this verse Alma the Younger is testifying after he's been born again. "Yea, every knee shall bow, and every tongue confess before Him (Christ). Yea, even at the day, when all men shall stand to be judged of him, then shall they confess that he is God; then shall they confess, who live without God in the world, that the judgement of an everlasting punishment is just upon them; and they shall quake, and tremble, and shrink beneath the glance of his all-searching eye." I know that Chris will someday confess that Jesus is the Christ, the son of the Living God. 

"The following day I read the story of Korihor found in Alma 30. As I reflected back on our experience with Chris, I came realize that many of the things Chris had said were very similar to what Korihor professed in 76-74 B.C.

"I am so grateful for the Gospel and the peace that can be felt from the Holy Ghost. I know that Jesus is the Christ and is the Son of God. I know that He atoned for my sins and the sins of all the people that have and are and will be on this earth! It is marvelous and I am so grateful for my Savior and Redeemer! I know that He lives!"


That night, after our experience with Chris, a spirit of comfort accompanied us as we sobbed. As we prayed for peace, we each felt the tender care of those who accompany us on the other side  - a clear indication that we are under God's watchful care. Peace filled our small basement apartment as we asked God for his spirit to attend us. I slept soundly that night for the first time in over a week. God truly does watch out for us, and I know that my Redeemer, even Jesus Christ, lives.

Love you always,

Sister Naomi Rapier

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

A Birthday Baptism!

Hi everyone!

This week has been nuts. I do NOT think that the adversary wanted Ruby to be baptized, we were hit by just about everything that could be thrown at us. Not in chronological order, these trials include physical maladies, multiple doctor's appointments, exhaustion, an emotional roller-coaster, a semi-defective water heater at the church, a completely defunct baptismal font key, a broken down car on Sunday morning, and Monday morning mildew in the washing machine (I'm not from a place where mildew grows. My reaction: What is this gook?), making all of our clothing smell like armpit with a hint of spoiled broccoli. Lame.

However much the devil was in the details, I saw God in the details even more. Ruby experienced a decline in memory in the middle of the week that we felt pretty worried about. On Friday, we were just praying that she would rebound to her normal self. On Saturday morning (the day of her birthday and baptism) when we called to wish her a happy birthday, she told us that she felt this incredible peace and had a sense that she didn't need to be afraid of the water. She was completely back to her normal level of memory retention when she walked in with Sister Edwards, her member friend. I almost cried right then, but I knew that I didn't have time to cry because we had to go boil more water to put in the font. Even though the water was a little chilly, Ruby went down and came up glowing. She had such radiance in that moment, and it only increased the next day.

Ruby had her birthday dinner in Baltimore with her son, but his car broke down so she had to stay the night. His car still wasn't fixed in the morning, and sweet Sister Edwards drove all the way to Baltimore to pick her up. They were only twenty minutes late to the second hour of church, which is truly remarkable considering the traffic blockage. According to the handbook, confirmations are only to occur during a sacrament meeting. Bishop Burciaga decided that we would have a special sacrament meeting after the normal meetings were finished. We filled up the first five pews on the far left of the chapel, right in front of the sacrament table. After the opening prayer was said, Ruby was invited to sit in a chair which had been brought to the front. As she stood and walked to the chair, I felt the great weight and sacredness of the moment. Ruby sat, and commented that she needed a blessing, thank you. That made us all chuckle. Five worthy, wholesome men who are holders of the priesthood, the power to act in God's name that we talk about so much, gathered around Ruby and gently placed their hands on top of her head.

As Brother Glunt spoke the words, receive the Holy Ghost, shivers went up and down my spine and I cried tears of joy. Heaven felt so close, like the boundary that separates the living from the dead and the angels of God was no longer able to hold the enthusiasm of our unseen companions back. I felt such joy, and I knew that those on the other side of the veil were rejoicing with me. I also felt my Daddy very close. He's proud of my hard work, and he shared in my joy, so close I felt as if I could almost hug him. Someday I will again, but for now, it was enough to know that he was there with me and he is watching out for me still. What gratitude I feel to my Father in Heaven, who has allowed my Daddy to be one of my guardian angels on this journey.
Ruby's blessing ended, and she was effervescent. How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of those who publish peace! Ruby shone and Ruby glowed as she partook of the bread and the water of the sacrament, renewing her covenants with God for the first time. An astounding peace settled over me, and I knew that it was good. Ruby was baptized on June 25 and confirmed a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints on June 26, and Heavenly Father was pleased with her decision. I went home utterly exhausted and full of exuberance, which makes for a strange combination. I ended up sleeping through lunch and woke up still carrying the good feeling with me. What a day!

Anyway, I better let you go. Check out https://www.mormon.org/beliefs/jesus-christ if you want to know more about baptism and the Gift of the Holy Ghost, you have to scroll down a little bit, but it's there!

Love you always,

Sister Naomi Rapier
Ruby Baptism: After

Ruby Baptism: Before
Ruby Confirmation Day


Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Words of Wisdom

Dear family and friends,

The work is rolling forward in the lovely area of Hampstead. This week has been ridiculously busy! We're preparing like mad women for Ruby's baptism, and working hard to keep all of our plates spinning.

Ruby is doing just grandly! She's going to have her baptismal interview tonight, which is going to be so good! We went over all of the questions with her yesterday, and she has nothing to hold her back other than her trepidation about being underwater. She is such a deep thinker. Every time we ask her about the Word of Wisdom, she goes off on a beautiful soliloquy about what wisdom means and the importance of having it. Listening to her is really quite impressive, her response has been completely different each of the three times we've talked with her about the Word of Wisdom without first clarifying that we're referring to God's health code for us. She has amazing faith. When we went over the baptismal interview questions with her, we realized that we hadn't introduced her to to the name of the prophet on the earth today. Knowing of her unwavering testimony of how God's church was restored to the earth by Jesus Christ through the prophet Joseph Smith, we explained how the same priesthood power and calling from God that Joseph had has been passed from prophet to prophet. We testified that Thomas S. Monson was called by God and is His prophet on the earth today. She listened intently, and after a short pause she nodded and expressed her conviction that Thomas S. Monson is God's prophet on the earth today. It was a neat moment. Her sweet, tender faith brought tears to my eyes and a smile to my face that didn't leave for a long time.

Earlier this week, we taught a woman named Beverly and her granddaughter Bella the message of the restoration of Christ's church to the earth (https://www.mormon.org/beliefs/restoration). Beverly was intrigued as we shared the account of Joseph Smith's first spoken prayer. She was so eager to know what church it was that had been restored through him. We explained that we were members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. She told us we were devil worshipers and invited us to leave and never come back. We wished her a good day, and that was that. It was a sad moment. We worship Jesus Christ, plain and simple. She must not know very much about us, to think that we're devil worshipers. I know that Jesus Christ is my Savior, and as such I'll give my life to serve Him. She also must not have read our name tags when we knocked on her door.

Funny story really fast: Elder Wright (the mission housing coordinator) asked us to join the Hampstead Elders and the Westminster Spanish Elders in cleaning out the Hampstead Elder's old apartment. Sister Gudmundson and I had just finished vacuuming the floor when Elder Eilason, who was intently cleaning out the fridge, came over to the edge of the carpet and shook the crumbs out of the crisper drawer he was holding. We just kind of looked at him, and he said with a triumphant grin, "It hasn't been vacuumed yet." He must have been cleaning the fridge more intently than we had thought to have not heard the vacuum running. As we stifled our surprised laughter, another elder (Elder Barnes) made a gesture showing, "Don't worry, I'll take care of it." I couldn't help but notice - he was not very efficient with a vacuum. He unwound the vacuum cord one laborious loop at a time. Then he scooped up the nest of cord, dropped it next to the plug and started searching for the plug end of the cord. When he found it and plugged it in, it took him another minute to untangle the cord enough for the vacuum to reach the spot of carpet where the pile of crumbs sat. Sister Gudmundson and I were in silent stitches by the end of the whole spectacle. It was really funny!

Anyway, much love to everyone! I must scurry.

Sister Naomi Rapier


Monday, June 13, 2016

Hampstead with Sister Gudmundson

Naomi cut Sister Gudmundson's hair :)
Hi family of all sorts,

Today, I cut Sister Gudmundson's hair. It went quite well! I had never cut anyone's hair but my own. It was an adventure. Happily, she quite likes her haircut! Take a looksie! 

There was a lu'au. The Elders got excited about it!
Naomi's new companion - Sister Gudmundson
This week has been super awesome! I cannot tell you how much I love Sister Gudmundson. She is incredibly sweet and kind. She reminds me a bit of one of my best friends from grade and middle school, which is fantastic! She has a way of asking questions which could be touchy with such innocence and love that no one can take offense. It's very impressive. Her testimony is beautiful. I do believe that she is one of the most charitable people I know. 

Hampstead, Maryland is also pretty cool! I'm still getting used to the bumpy roads, they're in the middle of a bunch of roadwork on the main road.  Wheeee! The best thing about Hampstead is the people. I have been here for just a few days and have already met some exceeding kind and quirky people. It's awesome! My favorite was when a Sister in the ward (who we were trying to help set up a yard sale for the next day) turned around, opened her freezer, and pulled out a bag of frozen spaghetti sauce. Granted, this is not an entirely uncommon occurrence, but it was such a non sequitur that I came away from the experience chuckling. Apparently I'm not the only one with a rollercoaster rather than a train of thought. 

Ruby is a sweet lady who will be getting baptized on June 25, which will be her 81st birthday. She's from Jamaica, and she was the first black female editor for the New York Times. Needless to say, she has some remarkable stories! Ruby is afraid of water, which makes the idea of baptism quite scary for her. If you have a moment this week, say a quick prayer for her! Elder Eilason and Elder Barnes gave her a priesthood blessing of comfort and encouragement at the end of church on Sunday. I find myself filled with renewed gratitude each time I'm able to be a witness of such a blessing. The spirit felt so strong as Elder Eilason spoke words of hope from our Father in Heaven and promised that she would be okay. I've almost never felt the spirit so intensely before, the air fairly crackled, like when lightning strikes nearby. God's presence was truly near. Ruby, when the blessing was finished, sat still for a moment before expressing that she felt a great release, that the fears which brought her near panic had fled; they were no longer keeping her captive. It was an absolutely remarkable experience. I am so humbled and thankful that God restored the priesthood power to act in His name to the earth. I don't want to imagine a world without this comforting knowledge.

I must fly. Love you, and have a good week!

Sister Naomi Rapier

Monday, June 6, 2016

Adventure is in the Eye of the Beholder

Dear people who I love,

This week, I have been thinking a bit about the mundane versus the exciting. With transfers happening this week, everyone has been all a flurry in a whirlwind of emotions. I think that the members feel even stronger feelings of anxiety about transfers than we do in some cases! This week, President Christiansen's email talked about how we don't need to experience great anxiety about transfers because anywhere we go, God's work is the same; the most important work we do is to uplift and guide one person at a time. It's probably obvious by now that I am one of those who gets overly anxious about transfers... so yeah. That letter is what some of the youth in the Woodstock ward may dub "supes helpful." That being said, I have come to the conclusion that adventure is in the eye of the beholder! Anything is mundane when you don't care about it, when you're not working for some greater good. No wonder so many people in this world experience apathy and a lack of natural affection; without a loving God who has a Plan of Happiness, there's not much to work for. Food for thought.
Enjoying the beauty of Woodstock...and getting a drink??

This week, we found five new investigators and were dropped by two of them, Vilda and Leroy. What a couple! They're both 92, and in better shape than most people in their 70's that we've met! They're also exceedingly adorable, they just celebrated their 73rd wedding anniversary. Life goals, right there! We had two really great discussions with them about Jesus Christ and His church being restored to the earth again today! They decided they had had their fill when we invited them to be baptized, they are apparently quite happy to remain United Methodist. I also got ambushed by Leroy. While walking us out, he gave me a great big smacking kiss... on my EAR. Maybe he was aiming for my cheek and his vision isn't that great? Who knows. May I just say, it was an experience. Sister Tait tells me that I looked extremely uncomfortable. I was.

Probably my favorite part of this week was looking around and seeing how much all of those whom I have come to love have grown! Sister Tait talks. A lot. That's new! Elder Abraham is very kind now! That's also new! Elder Burgess continues to be pleasant and patient, and he has done an incredible job of handling the stress of serving in his hometown. Elder Robb and Elder Mason are super cool too. I don't know them quite as well, but they're both stellar missionaries and are very good at listening to the spirit. This week, our district meeting topic is going to be setting expectations, which is really good, because Patience has told us not to come back if one of us leaves. She likes people just fine when they randomly show up though... soooo Sister Tait and Sister Madsen will likely be paying her a visit after transfers. Inspired topic for a district meeting? I'll say! 

I know that even though times get hard and things are frustrating often, Heavenly Father's love doesn't fail. I have felt more comfort than I can adequately put into words as I've turned to Him in prayer. As I've been able to recognize how many great blessings I have in my life that I've been overlooking in my efforts to keep up with the daily grind, it has been so much easier to lift up my head and walk. Gratitude is a game-changer, that's for sure. I had forgotten what it feels like to see the world in a positive light. What a beautiful gift forgiveness is!

A note from a member of the Woodstock ward: We do love the Sisters and Elders. They have helped us in many situations. The knowledge of the gospel and being in tune with the promptings of Heavenly Father has the messages they share in perfect timing with our needs.. We love Sister Rapier. She is an amazing person.

Additionally! I'm being transferred to Hampstead, Maryland! I'm going to miss Woodtock, but I'm excited for a new adventure!

Also, we sheared alpacas this week. Sorry that I don't have a picture of that! Or of my legs after we were done catching the alpacas to shear them... I had a run in with a puddle of mud that was really actually mushy sheep poop. Whoops. :P

Much love! I hope everyone stays safe this week, happy summer!!

Sister Naomi Rapier

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Sunburns and Other Colors

Hey familea mea!

This is the last week of the second transfer Sister Tait and I have been together. Weird. Our ward mission leader almost started crying in correlation last week; he said that he sensed a change coming. Then I almost cried! It has been a really good two transfers here in Woodstock.

Woodstock is a vibrant place! We've been walking for the past few days due to the end-of-month shortage of miles, and it's been really good! My tomato-red sunburn on the first day was only a small splash of color amid the vibrant spray of personalities we met and experiences we had. A perk of walking in the really hot sun at midday is that people are quite sympathetic. We were invited by several kind souls to step inside for a minute and refill our water bottles.

One afternoon, we met a woman named Lee working in her front yard. If she were a color, she would be chartreuse; she's bright, spunky! She makes me laugh. She was one of the kind ladies who invited us in for a drink. While we were sitting around her kitchen table chit-chatting and drinking our newly acquired water, she said,"So. What message are you ladies sharing today? Let's have it." It was so cool! We talked with her about how the Church of Jesus Christ has been restored on the earth today and that she can know for herself. She told us a lot about her religious background and her family. Her son is really struggling right now. He's a bright kid with high potential, but he doesn't like doing his school work and he's fallen in with the wrong crowd in school. It's heartbreaking to watch someone struggling and worrying so much about a child they so dearly love. We asked her about church and families. She told us how they once went, but since she got divorced, things have been a bit crazy. We testified to her that through the atonement of Jesus Christ, her life and her family will be blessed as she continually turns herself to Him. She wants us to come meet her again and talk more next Tuesday. I'm excited!

This past Saturday was the day that Nicholas was going to smoke his last cigarette. We saw him smoking again on Sunday. It was a little bit sad. He knows it's slowly killing him, he wants to stop, he just hasn't stuck with stopping yet. We keep hoping! We don't know that he'll be able to progress anymore until his desire is high enough to make that change in his life.

This week, we had zone training. I was in charge of playing the piano. I don't know how to play the piano. My saving grace was that is was an electronic piano which can play most of its own music. Whew!

Something amazing happened this week! Austin (the boy who Sister Tait handed a www.mormon.org card to and said, "Call this number, good things will happen") called that number and good things are happening! We saw him on Monday when we were driving to play a game of ultimate frisbee  with some of the youth in the ward. We invited him, but he wasn't interested in frisbee. We asked if he had called the number, he had forgotten. And then, who should we see at Subway the next day talking with the Elders... yep, it was Austin! He was grinning wider than I had ever seen before, and he looked so happy! We freaked out. He's coming to church on Sunday! Woohoo!!
I'm out of time.
Love you all!!
Sister Naomi Rapier