This week has been one to remember, all for good or at least fairly amusing reasons.
First of all, the mice and cats…Sister Morrison went on a bit of an unintentional killing spree this week. We stay 2-3 nights a week at an old house we call ‘the Maple’ (because it is on Maple Street…at least I think it is) and they have had a bit of a mouse issue lately. So one night Sis. M was walking down to the creepy unfinished basement with the two sisters who live there (Sis. Allen and Sis. Bird) so they could do laundry and she stepped on a mouse going down the stairs. It is likely the mouse was already pretty ill but also likely that being stepped on was what did it in. Not a gory situation, but definitely squishy. I thought it was hilarious but also made sure she sanitized her slippers before walking into our room. Then we were driving back from an appointment late the other night and a cat dashed out in front of us – nothing Sis. M. could have done to avoid it, and she felt terrible, but the fact that she had never even killed a spider before in her life (as far as she was aware) and then killed two animals in the course of three days was a little bit funny.
We have been short on service opportunities in our area so this week we insisted on helping an older couple in the Ward clean out what they call their ‘Hell closet’ – a closet full of stuff they hadn’t really looked at in a long time. Not strenuous work by any means, one of us picked an item out of the closet and handed it to the other who showed it to Brother and Sister H. for sorting. We switched roles periodically and when it was my turn to be the picker, I bent down and realized that the next item was an old pair of men’s boxer shorts, which I didn’t really want to pick up, and didn’t…thankfully Brother H. took care of that pretty quickly. They explained that the boxers belonged to their son, as did the empty cigarette boxes we found and the Playboy magazine. I’m not one to talk about having a junk closet (or room) that isn’t touched for a long time…but none of those items would have been found in my junk room, and the son to whom these items belonged hasn’t lived in their house for at LEAST ten years. After we finished the closet we sat down to eat (using tray tables on the couch which I LOVE doing – it’s been years since I lived with my parents and had to eat at the table but I still find eating on the couch kind of exhilarating) and their dog jumped up on the couch next to me. I looked into it’s eyes (something that usually causes dogs here to back away) and before I knew what was happening it had leaned in and licked me…to be more precise, it had licked my mouth, inside my mouth, which was open as I had been about to speak. Between the Playboy magazine (my first time seeing one in-person) and the dog kiss I got more action that day than I had in almost three months! Totally not the same…
The last amusing story from the week is Sis. M’s favorite. We were visiting Brother E. at a rest home last night. He’s a sweet, quiet guy who seems to be the only man in his home, so he’s VERY popular there. It’s by far the worst of the nursing homes we frequent, depressing and at least one of the residents always seems to be having difficulties. We hadn’t been to see Brother E. in over a month and we felt bad about that because he doesn’t get any other visitors, but he was pleasant and upbeat as usual. Something else to know about him…he doesn’t attend the Ward, but he LOVES Jesus and instead attends a non-denominational church just down the road and even serves as an usher for both morning services every week. I’m not exactly sure why he doesn’t come to the Ward, but yesterday we invited him to come this Sunday (not the first time he’s been invited) and he actually said yes, because he wants to sing in the choir again and he wants to share his testimony! So that was exciting. I was feeling great, but as I stood up to leave I felt a little wet. I looked down at the chair I had been sitting in and saw that the cover/pad looked wet, but I thought they must have just cleaned it thoroughly after dinner. Then to my chagrin I realized the wetness had a smell to it, and it wasn’t the scent of a cleaner. It was urine. I had been sitting in some other human’s urine. For a good 30 minutes. Yep. If you ever have to go to a home (parents – I’m looking at you) make sure you can afford one where they keep their dining room chairs urine-free.
Beyond that, we had some really cool experiences with some investigators and less-active members this week. I can’t remember if I’ve mentioned this one individual before, and if I have, what name I used. Today I’ll call him Douglas. Douglas went online to request a free bible and we showed up at his door about three weeks ago to deliver it. As we talked to him, we discovered that his life has hit rock-bottom, for the second (possibly third time) due to dug and alcohol addictions. He was facing a few court dates and was broke and living with his sister. So, he requested a Bible thinking he might be able to find some hope there. We talked with him about hope and he agreed to meet with us again to learn more about the church. We’ve now met with him six or seven times and he came to church for the firs time yesterday. We were worried that something would come up, that he would bail, that his ride would bail (he lives in the very furthest corner of the Ward boundaries and the man we asked to drive him doesn’t come to church all that much himself) but they both walked in about five minutes before the meeting started. I almost shouted I was so thrilled to see them!
I know it’s a lame missionary thing to be that excited about someone coming to church. But there’s more to it than that. Yes, it is exciting to have someone come to church because it’s something we work to accomplish, it’s inherently rewarding in that sense. But the real excitement is not for the ‘what’ (the coming to church), it’s the fruition of the ‘why’. I’m not sure I really, really believed that the gospel could help people in the midst of their difficulties outside of the really obvious connections I could clearly draw. For example, I can see how many, many peoples’ lives would be improved if they followed the Word of Wisdom and stopped smoking. What I hadn’t really seen was how the gospel could help people who were sad for good reasons that weren’t getting resolved. But despite the fact that Douglas’ life situation has not improved (if anything it might be worse than it was a few weeks ago) he is noticeably happier. He came to church and while he commented on how long it was, he said he got more out of it ‘than anything’. He also said that was the longest he’d ever remembered going without a cigarette (he started smoking at age 9 but he didn’t bring any with him to church because he just didn’t feel right about that). He even read three chapters from the Gospel Principles book between when we gave it to him at the start of Sunday School and the end of church (less than two hours later) AND he said he wanted to go home and look up the scriptures that were referenced in those chapters. He also told his ride that he’d be needing one every week for the next month until he can get his license back, and we didn’t even mention the possibility of his coming to church again next week, let alone for the rest of the month.
All really exciting stuff, but it’s exciting because we can really see how much he’s enjoying what he’s learning and that he really is happier. He was able to let go of enough guilt that he felt okay about entering God’s house yesterday (his words). He feels like he’s here (meaning he’s alive and also in Ohio) for a reason. I don’t really understand how this has happened, I can’t draw a direct connection between something that has been said and a boost in his mood, but he feels some hope where he really had none and that is what matters.
Missionaries, at least in my experience thus far, spend all day every day focused on other people. Every minute of work is invested in people. It’s emotionally-intense work and it’s dependent on the emotions of others which can be so exhausting. When they’re up and making progress, so are we. When they’re down and frustrated, so are we. I was reading in Alma 26 this morning, which happens to be Ammon’s celebration, so-to-speak, of missionary work. They’ve just experienced wild success, "…how many of them (Lamanites they were teaching) are brought to behold the marvelous light of God! And this is the blessing which hath been bestowed upon us…" It struck me that the blessing Ammon was so excited about, the thing which made his heart ‘brim with joy’ wasn’t actually something that had happened to him. It was the joy that had come to those other people. That seems to be missionary life.
Last week at church someone blessed the missionaries in the closing prayer of Sacrament meeting, and I had been thinking about what that meant. I used to think it meant people were praying that the poor missionaries would find someone they could teach so they wouldn’t have to keep walking and knocking on doors. And that’s always a good thing 🙂 But what I think happens when missionaries are blessed is that they are better able to help people. We are in a unique position to help people, for whatever reason people open up to us and seem to be more willing to be helped because we wear name tags. There are so many problems and so much going on that it is overwhelming to know how to help or what to say or do. Missionaries need all the prayers they can get, not so they don’t have to tract or so they don’t get as homesick, but so they can actually help the people who are in their sphere of influence. We really, really, really want to help, so we appreciate the prayers 🙂
Anyway, beyond prayers, letters are always good too. A letter is the one thing in a day that feels like it’s just for me, reading it is a nice little moment of selfishness, hopefully an acceptable one, and I really relish those moments.
Pictures this week….
One is of us cleaning out the closet, the other is a ‘closet selfie’ taken with Brother H. and his daughter and son-in-law who are also in the Ward. They were watching us clean out the closet. Good times.
I was going to add another photo of the big, yellow bruise on my arm – a result of a giant chunk of icicles falling from someone’s roof as they opened their front door – but decided it wasn’t very attractive and would be better left to the imagination.
Hope you’re all well!