Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Thank Goodness for Patience

Hey Everyone.

You are probably wondering how my week went. So am I.

I don't have too much to say about this week. A roller-coaster of emotions is probably a good way to describe things. We began last week with ten investigators. Many did not keep appointments, commitments, and so forth, making them quite insistent candidates for a revision of teaching schedules. Now we have three investigators, two of whom are hanging on by a thread, and the remaining one who is super solid, but doesn't want members to come to her home. I think she's a little bit socially awkward. This does make member presence at discussions with her quite difficult. So basically, one result of being obedient this week is our numbers looking like poop. I guess it's a good thing that Heavenly Father cares much more about the quality of our obedience than the quantity of our obedience! Now I just need to stop being late to things.

Not only did many of our investigators fail to keep appointments, but almost all of our promising potentials as well. We had a "Why I Believe" fireside on Sunday which none of our people came to either. This was a rough week. Perk, it's been cold enough that no mosquitoes are out!

Patience is the one new investigator we were able to find this week. Patience is twenty years old and has two daughters. They are adorable! She and her fiance are a very good team at parenting together, and they are getting married in June hopefully. Just in time to teach Law of Chastity! She is the coolest! We were reading with her in The Book of Mormon about Moroni's promise (Moroni 10:3-5). After we had helped her understand the archaic language phrase by phrase, she abruptly put her book down and said, "Where's a highlighter? I need to mark this!!" I almost burst out laughing in my astonishment! It is so rare to find someone who hungers for truth the way Patience does. I love her so much! We're so thankful to have met her.

Also! This week, we were driving back from our district meeting in Luray, and a baby black bear crossed the road to join two bears on the other side!! Lolloping is an absolutely perfect word to describe how a bear runs. It was lovely!

Love you all! Be safe and well.


Sister Naomi Rapier

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

You Just Gotta Mean It

Dear family, friends, family of friends, friends of family, and so forth,

This week was really long. We had five appointments with investigators and potential investigators that fell through. That amounts to eleven people who we were going to share the gospel with who cancelled on us. The circumstances are various: some investigators forgot to be home, some didn't let us in when we came, some had a trip to the emergency room, and best of all some had an empty house that was awkwardly coughing at intervals between us knocking. It was one of the strangest empty houses I've ever come across, almost as strange as the house we met last week that shouted at us, "Nobody's home!" when we knocked. Some people's houses need to learn manners. Tisk, tisk.

Sister Tait and I have been feeling rather discouraged this week. We've both been experiencing some depression. It's so weird, I never thought I would be the one in my family to deal with depression. I'm the happy one, though not as much and not as easily anymore. I lost it in the car on Wednesday on the way to our last appointment. I felt so raw and tender. I cried until we were almost twenty minutes late. The appointment was with the incredibly sweet family on the hill. When we went in, it was still pretty obvious that I was distressed and had been crying. They all gave me giant hugs except for Harry (he's the only guy). God be thanked for kind people. We proceeded to go through the restoration again, which seemed to be from where there questions continued to stem.When Robyn (the mom) started mildly Bible bashing at us, her daughter Holly stepped up to defend the Book of Mormon and affirmed verbally that she knew it was true! Her mom stopped trying to Bible bash after that. So cool!

I am sometimes puzzled at why we are called  to pass through so much pain and grief, but even more often I'm thankful for the gift of sorrow that I've been given. There is a depth of soul that can only be gained through suffering, and the intensity of your joy can only be as intense as your suffering has been! I wonder how deep Jesus's soul is, that He can swallow up all of our pain and suffering when we turn to Him. Probably infinite and eternal. That would work. I hope to be more empathetic, because I feel like by becoming like Him, I can draw near to Him. So much mercy and peace. I am eternally thankful for my Savior!

Other happenings this week, we have two lovely individuals who are progressing!!! They still haven't attended church, but they are keeping all of the commitments that they make. They haven't committed to come to church yet. Holly and Emmy have both been reading the Book of Mormon and praying. The other night when we were in with them, Holly defended the Book of Mormon like I said earlier.

We were walking out of an appointment on Thursday and Sister Tait felt like we needed to turn around and give a card to a young man we had just passed. She gave him a card with the Elder's number on it and said, "call this number, and good things will happen." He looked shocked speechless and took the card, still looking at us as we walked away. The next day, we were on the porch of an apartment complex chatting with Ashley, Nicholas, Chase, and Mariah when Austin walked up. He asked, "Why did you give me this card?" to first me then Sister Tait. We both replied that we felt like we needed to give it to him. He told us that earlier on Thursday, he had been talking with his dad. His dad REALLY wanted him to go to church, and had been praying for him. His dad told him that he would get a sign soon that he needed to believe in God and go to church. That night was the night he was handed a www.mormon.org card by Sister Tait. Now we understand why he looked so shocked. He expressed a desire to believe in God, but he's afraid to have his hopes crushed if God isn't real. We taught him how to pray and challenged him to read the Book of Mormon.

One of my favorite things I've heard all week was when we were discussing the Plan of Happiness with Doug and his son Logan. We asked Logan if he would open our discussion with a prayer and here's what happened:

Logan (son): "I've never prayed before. I don't know how to pray."
Doug (dad): "The only thing you gotta do is mean it."

I've thought a lot about how true that statement is. Once we know to begin our prayer by greeting Heavenly Father and to end whatever we say to Him in the name of Jesus Christ, all we really gotta do is mean it! It was the most beautiful thing, seeing this father teach his seventeen-year-old son how to pray. Never is it too late, and never is it more worth the time of a parent than to teach their children the doctrines of salvation and the principles that will bring them happiness in this life and in the world to come!! I've experienced so much joy from this one experience of seeing truth being taught! Wow. Just Wow.

Feel encouraged and feel loved!!! Y'all are the best!


Sister Naomi Rapier (:

Monday, May 9, 2016

Sometimes a Cat Will Make Your Day

Hey there family!

This week, we were very sad when four of our investigators who were going to come to church didn't come. Thankfully, it rained! Sister Tait and I both enjoy the rain.

Almaz and Addis are two women from Ethiopia who we started discussing the Gospel with on Monday. The Winchester Sisters started teaching Almaz at her son's house when she was there for the Apple Blossom festival, and they referred her to us because she lives in Woodstock ward boundaries! Yay! When we went to teach Almaz on Monday, we discovered that there's a bit of a language barrier. They speak Amharic, which looks super cool in its written form!  
This is what Amharic looks like
Thankfully, Addis was also there. Addis has been in the states longer from what I understand, and her English is a little bit better. We had a great discussion which was complemented by some very interesting and spicy ethnic food! It was sooo goooood!!! Bet you never thought you'd hear me saying that about something spicy! Due to work schedules, they were going to be able to meet the soonest on Sunday after church... and then they didn't come to church, which is where they wanted to meet us to discuss the Gospel of Jesus Christ more. It was sad.

This week we found a girl named Ashley! We met her on the porch. Ashley is best described as a sweet girl with a sad heart. At 17, she's an anorexic, self-harming, smoker with a very unstable home situation. We have heard several stories from her where she casually mentions that she was hit upside the head by her mom or dad. 
Abuse is a really ugly thing. For the love of Pete, don't take part in abuse! Don't fail to do something about it when you see abuse. Almost everyone who is in a terrible situation that I've met on my mission can trace there trail of tears back to abuse, whether it be physical, verbal, emotional, sexual, or spiritual. The people we meet are children of God, they're worth so much more than to be put down every day. Nothing has been more difficult for me on my mission than to see humans being treated no better than a pair of shoes. If anyone reading this has faced any type or degree of abuse in their own lives, please know that you are not alone in your sorrow, and you can find peace. I've found healing for my pain and peace for my broken heart in my Savior, Jesus Christ. I've watched others do the same. You are loved more than you know, and you can be the cycle breaker. You are loved.
Anyway, Ashley wants change. She doesn't know whether she believes in God yet, but she feels that Christianity can do good things for her. She was so happy and thankful when we gave her her own copy of the Book of Mormon. I wonder how often it has been that someone has given her a gift in complete goodwill. I think not very often. She wants us to teach her whole family, her mom, stepdad, and brother. I pray so hard for her. I want to do so much more to alleviate her pain, but I can't. It's a really good thing that we have a Savior, and I am so looking forward to seeing the changes happen in her life.

Miracles! We had a return appointment with DJ but when we got to the house, he wasn't there. We knocked several times then went across the street and tried to contact some of the neighbors over there. No answer, not interested. As we were walking back across the street back to the car, the friendly cat that had been following us for the entire time caught up with me in the middle of the road and wound around my ankles. 
Imagining DJ
I crouched down to pet him for a minute while Sister Tait climbed into the car to see what we could salvage of our plans for the day, which had all fallen through. Suddenly, a motor scooter putted dramatically over the horizon (the hill at the top of the street). Lo and behold, the passenger astride this valiant motorized steed was none other than DJ! 
 As I straightened up to move out of the street, DJ saw me and said, "Hang on, I'll be right back." Sister Tait and I sat on the porch and read Alma 32 with him. He has a desire to believe! Sister Tait extended an invitation to be baptized, he blinked, and asked her to repeat the question. She did, he said I don't know, she asked what about when you believe, he made an indistinct noncommittal noise which sounded promising to me. It was the coolest! So basically, {failed plans}+{friendly cat}={successful appointment}. Who knew, right?!

We attended an interfaith prayer meeting on Thursday (National Prayer Day) with the large family on the hill who we found when Harry shouted at us. It was a new experience. It reminded me of that scripture in the Book of Mormon that talks about men saying, I have a precept, listen to my precept. Some of the preachers seemed to be closer to God than others, but even they couldn't pass up the opportunity to glean some publicity from the event. Other preachers were more along the lines of building up churches unto themselves. It was strange and very sad to see. We asked the organizing lady if we could speak and add our testimony of Jesus Christ (there was no representative of our faith present). She said no, but later felt really guilty if her body language had anything to tell us. We're pretty sure she'll invite us next year.

At th end of the prayer meeting, we were invited by a pastor to sing at his church. We asked what time and politely declined when we discovered that it would be in the middle of our services. He goaded us, come on, you can miss church just this once. We replied that as representatives of Jesus Christ, it is our responsibility to be at church each week to guide those who attend so that they can learn of Jesus Christ. He stopped trying to get us to leave church. He also invited us to an afternoon luncheon being held next week by his congregation. That should be interesting!

Love y'all always,

Sister Naomi Rapier
[On Mother's Day, we got to Skype with Naomi - ahhh! What a delight! 
You can see how eagerly we are gathered 'round <3 ]

Loved seeing her happy smile :)

Claire is holding the cat in her lap and making him dance the Macarena!

Monday, May 2, 2016

Families can be together forever! Whoop!

Hey Everyone!! 

This week has been an adventure. It was a loooong week, full of many more grumpy people than I am necessarily accustomed to meeting. On the bright side, it was also full of lovely people who I have enjoyed getting to know. It all balances out. (:

I was also shouted at by an old lady! That was a first. She has a curse word for every year she's lived, I reckon. We heard several of them in our conversation with her on Friday evening. Joyce D. was the one who shouted at us. In many ways, it was an answer to prayers. We had prayed earlier that day to know not only the condition of Joyce's heart (we had a pretty good idea of how that was doing), but also of her readiness to progress. Sometimes when you love someone so much and want to see them succeed so badly, a very strong answer in the negative is the only thing that will get through your skull. I think such is the case here. We've both been invited to never come back. We'll be leaving a note in the area book to go see her in a few more months once we're both gone. Maybe she only greatly dislikes us. Maybe we'll never know.

This week, we were invited by the Young Women's leaders to organize and participate in an activity with the youth! It was lots of fun. As we were thinking about the youth, we kept feeling like we're still pretty much youth. We only graduated last year, and here we are, out trying to help others come unto Christ by helping them receive the restored gospel through faith in Jesus Christ and His Atonement, repentance, baptism, receiving the Gift of the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end. 

It's a little bit intimidating.

 We felt ourselves remembering with great empathy the derision that arises from classmates when it comes up that you're a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, that you're a Mormon. Many who attended my school had differing religious backgrounds but shared a profound respect for the beliefs of those around them; among my closest friends were devoted individuals who were Hindu, Buddhist, Muslim, Mormon, Lutheran, and Agnostic. Being around them and growing close to them shaped my perception of the world around me in many incredible ways. Being with them showed me that we are truly brought together across all societal boundaries when we treat each other with the mutual love and respect that each human being is inherently worth. Each soul is so precious, a work of art.

In this spirit, we approached the activity. We asked the youth to submit the questions that they had been asked by friends and acquaintances. Probably my favorite submission result was the question, "Do you have horns?" We are human and therefore we have human DNA; in other words, no, we don't have horns. Sorry to disappoint. Once all of the questions had been submitted, we broke into groups and each groups performed a skit answering the questions divvied out to them. The skits were hilarious! Our purpose of helping the youth to gain confidence in answering the questions of others seemed to be fulfilled quite nicely. At the end, we asked each youth to write their testimonies on a slip of paper. How inspiring to review the convictions of ones who are so young! So cool. Alex was there, and he seemed to enjoy himself. He even participated in answering the questions in the skit! It was awesome!

We had another two discussions with the big family this week. It was really cool. We also met with Doug again, and Sister Tait and I helped to resolve his concerns! It was great!

This week is Mother's day, which is one of the days when missionaries get to Skype home. I get to talk to my Momma and the rest of my immediate family so soon! May I just say that I'm super excited and thankful that we get to communicate twice a year in this way. It seems so surreal that I've already made it to my first missionary skype session with my family. That means that I've been out coming up on four months... yeesh. Time flies when you're working hard and having fun because of it! (: I am so thankful to be on a mission. It definitely makes me even more aware of how thankful I am that families can be together forever through Heavenly Father's plan. Hooray for families!! Eternity will be great because of them. (:

Love you all! 

Love, Sister Naomi Rapier (:

My kind of meeting!