This week was incredible! I was praying so hard for the chance to find prepared people so I didn't have to worry about being distracted and bored at the end of my mission, and wow. Heavenly Father was definitely listening. I will be busy the rest of my mission, for sure! Well, not that I already wasn't going to be, but this just secured our plans being filled rather than roaming the streets for people to teach. This surely is God's work, I am sure of it.
It was a busy week aside from the amazing guidance we received. For starters, the Bowens left. :( The Taggarts are wonderful people and they are exactly right to fill in for the Bowens, but they will be greatly missed. Sure love them and I look forward to seeing them again, soon! :) Before they left, a small group of 8 was organized to sing a goodbye song for them and a welcome song for the Taggarts. I was one of the "chosen" and we had to throw something quick together in 2 days. It worked out, though, because those that were selected all had musical background, so we did a nice rendition of "I'll Go Where You Want Me to Go". The Spirit was felt super strong, and it was heart-wrenching to realize it was the end of their run, but at the same time, it was comforting to know that God selected such a special couple that we were able to welcome.
This week was FULL of music! Along with singing to the Bowens and Taggarts, there is a Sister in the district who is setting up a portfolio to apply to the BYU music program because she is finishing her mission soon, too. Well, the other two companionships (including the sisters) in the district are on bike, so we are the transportation. I felt like a "soccer mom" when I was the van driver in Anaheim, but this is a whole new level! We were together in the van driving all over the place every day this week. It was a miracle we were even able to get out and really work. So we were helping her with that, as well as preparing a musical number for "Missionary Sunday" yesterday and teaching music classes on Thursday nights. The great thing is, this whole district has musical talent (besides one of the sisters...she's tone deaf ;)), so it's been a group effort and it's been a lot of fun.
Graciela was confirmed in Church yesterday, and my goodness, after getting to know her even more. She was SO prepared! She has such a strong testimony. After her confirmation, she bore her testimony and it was super powerful! She shared how she was introduced to the church after a member from the ward's father passed away and she saw how strong the whole family was through it. We realized that she wanted that peace during trials and she wanted to be closer to that family. The day of the funeral in the church, she asked the family to invite her back for the church services, and she hasn't missed a Sunday since. She also reads and prays every day and even asks us for reading assignments whenever she sees us. She is super strong and in her baptism and confirmation, she felt the Spirit so strong. I couldn't believe she wasn't already a member. She acted and had a testimony just like any other-well, now she is! She's very powerful and will be a great member and missionary in sharing this gospel to those in need. This ward is very solid right now!
Yesterday was just a great day in general! Five of the people we are teaching were at church, so we were running all over the place trying to keep up with them all. The members are great, though, and did an excellent job helping us out in supporting the investigators and helping them feel the true love of Christ. There is one man named Ramon Gahona that we met last week that really wants to quit smoking. He smokes a pack a day and can barely sit through a lesson with us without shaking and losing concentration because he wants to smoke so bad. It's intense how strong his addiction is. Well, a member that went with us to a lesson with him picked him up and brought him to church. They showed up a little early because we had to practice our song, and we told him we would sit with him in a second after we practiced the song. Well, in the middle of the practice, he left to smoke. He came back and sat down and in the middle of sacrament meeting, he got up and left again. We followed him out and he was smoking in the parking lot. Well....as I get closer to the end of my mission, I have become a lot more direct...still loving, but direct. I grabbed the cigarette from his hand, stomped it out, put my arm around him and told him I love him and want him to stop smoking. We found where he had left the other cigarette from earlier and walked him to the trashcan to throw away the buds. We walked around a little in the parking lot to air out and make a plan with him on how he was going to stop smoking, but, unfortunately, the sacrament room did still smell like smoke... He is still welcome and our brother. The sad thing was, I, too, smelled like smoke. :/ It was awkward...and gave me a bad headache. It made me so stressed out, but one of the members gave me some lotion...well, actually a lot of it, because soap wouldn't make it go away! It's was stressful, but by the end of the meetings, I smelled like a girl...better than smoke! ha He made it 2 hours without smoking! We were so proud of him. :) He had to leave the third hour, but that was a great start. He is going to decrease by 5 cigarettes a day each week. He's going to do it! Stressful situation, but worth it to get him thinking. He said it's exactly what he needed. We have faith it will work!
I would love to tell you about all the people we came in contact with this week, but unfortunately, as you know, time won't allow it. I wanted to share with you one of the most remarkable experiences I have had my whole mission, though. Just for quick foreshadowing, we met this woman Saturday night and there is already so much to tell you, I don't even know where to start. But I'll start with how we met her. Rosa. Let's just say that we were NOT supposed to meet her. We had a set lesson/dinner that we had been planning on for the whole week that was cancelled, and then we had a solid back-up, and they, too, cancelled. Well, we were planning on going to another area, but then Elder Sorensen brought up someone we had been trying to find for quite some time. We went to visit them, and they weren't home either. So, reluctant to just result to knocking doors, we headed back to the car to go visit a member. We were lost, so we kind of took the wrong way...at least that's what we thought. It was no coincidence. Judging by our plans, we weren't supposed to meet her, but yet we were.
We were walking down the street Saturday and we saw her weeding and we thought we should ask her if we could help. She really didn't want us to because we dressed up all nice, but we convinced her eventually. :) She looked at us for a moment, paused, and asked, "you're Mormons." We responded a little unsure of where this was headed (for those who have been in this situation, that question can either be followed by something great, or something bad ha). She explained that she loves Mormons! She shared that she's had tons of great experiences with Mormons! She took a trip by herself to Utah for a Temple Square Tour. She has a Mormon friend that invited her to a wedding. And has even gone on a mini trek in memory of the pioneers. We. Were. Shocked. After talking with her a little more and letting her know that we are willing to come over and help her with her yard and painting the house and finishing her table, and on top of it all, we had an amazing message that will bring her much peace, joy, and comfort, she began to cry. Just minutes before we arrived, she was working along in her garden and just felt the weight of the world on her shoulders. She felt so alone and has so much work to do and was just so overwhelmed, and so she prayed to God to have him show her that he really was there and listening to her. She asked him to give her a sign of the path she needs to take and something that will bring her peace, joy, and comfort. She said that I shared the exact same words that she shared in her prayer. Her prayers were answered. So were mine.
I had been praying for an opportunity to have someone to share the gospel with that will actually be willing to progress. Someone who has been prepared. And secretly, I have always wanted an experience like that. Where we arrive just after a prayer. It was an amazing experience and builds my faith even more that God truly does answer prayers!
As time has gone on, this has been more and more she shared that she has never gotten involved because she thought it was exclusive and she had to be invited in...well we put a quick stop to that understanding! We invited her to come to church and she was hesitant at first because the Mexico game was the same time haha, but she committed to come because she said that she knows we were the sign from God. She is soo awesome and super nice and humble! Later she told us after we left she felt so good she couldn't even sleep. She showed up to church yesterday and absolutely loved it-especially the musical number that all us missionaries and the ward missionaries sang. The EFY Medley "As Sisters in Zion/We'll Bring the World His Truth." She is so excited to go back! Now, on top of it all, she has a son who is just as amazing! (Sorry this is another long one :/)
His name is Vladimir, and we met him last night. He was super open and just as inviting, and he shared with us that he hasn't talked to people about religion in a LONG time. His mom was so surprised he was talking to us, too. We just felt like they were family. We met her two days ago and met him last night, and we are all already super close. They love us and we love them! She shared with us that we felt familiar to her. Like she knew us before. I truly believe that we were friends before this life and we were meant to meet. Just when we both needed it. Well, the conversation got to what we are supposed to do on Sundays, and it was like having a member with us because we had just talked about the Sabbath Day for gospel principles at church and Rosa helped us out. It was incredible. And get this, by the end of the lesson, he had called Disneyland when he went inside to grab something and got all his Sundays off from now on. Once again. We. Were. Shocked. This family is amazing and it has been such a blessing to see the true intentions they have. They committed themselves to be baptized the 27th of July. My last Sunday here and her birthday. :)
I'm blown away by this miracle this week, and I am just 100% positive that this work is true. Like I already said, we weren't supposed to meet them, but yet we were. They are such a strong testimony to me that God is preparing people all over for this message. We just need to open our mouths and speak. This mission is amazing, and I wouldn't trade all the amazing experiences for anything. I have even more I want to tell you about, but I should end it here since this is ridiculously long. Sorry, for those who actually still read these. ;) Love you all so much, and I hope you enjoy your vacation! Take care!
P.S. There was a riot here last week when Mexico won. haha Kept us from going home until 10:15. The World Cup sure is a damper on missionary work. ;) But it sure is great! ha
P.P.S. District Meeting was great this week-Elder Lindsay does an excellent job, and he motivated us to talk to everyone. We feel that played a huge part in meeting Rosa. This is his quote:
"When unsure whether you have received a spiritual prompting, think about this. Either it IS a spiritual prompting, or you are showing God that you are willing to follow promptings. Is either one a bad thing? No. So don't be afraid to follow everything...you are called of God." Boss.