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 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 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