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