Hello from the city of Caldwell!
It has been an eventful week, though I always wonder where the time has gone when I realize I am again sitting in front of a computer screen downloading all my thoughts, feelings, and experiences into an email back home. I hope and pray that you are all well!
This week was the last week of transfers. The time I spend in a mission is broken up into 6-week periods called transfers. On Saturday, we received a voicemail on our phone telling each of the missionaries in our zone where they would be transferring to within the Idaho Nampa mission. Actually, Elder Mosher and I received a voicemail informing the Spanish-speaking missionaries where they would be going, but we found out through other English-speaking missionaries that both of us were staying together and in the same area! I know the Lord needs us to be here for at least 6 more weeks, and who knows, it may be even longer than that!
This past week, I experienced a missionary activity called exchanges. My companion, Elder Mosher, is the district leader and so he trains the other missionaries through exchanges. Since there is only one other companionship of Elders in our district, Elder Mosher left me and joined Elder Hendricks in his area. Elder Richardson joined me in our area. We proceeded to have an awesome day even though high winds made it feel like we were making no progress on our bikes! Clear skies though, so it was fun riding from appointment to appointment. We met a nice woman clearing out a gutter near her family's place. They are Seventh Day Adventist and used to live in North Dakota! We had a wonderful, uplifting conversation and she invited us over to share the message of the Restoration! Elder Richardson and I were also trying to find the house of a Church member and stopped at another house to ask for directions. We ended up talking with a nice woman who is a Methodist and who was also willing to hear our message!
We stopped at a member's home to congratulate a boy who was recently baptized. We were talking with the mother and her four kids were running around and trying to get her attention. While they had her attention, I turned to Elder Richardson and said, "10 years and this is you!" He thanked me for the reminder. haha!
We eat at members' homes every evening. This past week we ate with two family's who both had a son/daughter serving in the Rome Italy mission! They are actually neighbors, so that is an interesting situation. They got to call home on Mother's Day to talk to their families! We did as well! It was a great experience and the 45 minutes went by really quickly. It felt really good to hear my parents voices. I know that the families of missionaries are blessed by the Lord with not only comfort that sustains them as their children serve away from them for 2 years, but also with many other blessings!
We stopped by a home where we had a most interesting conversation with one of the gentlemen there. We asked him what his name was and he just laughed at us and got into his truck.
On Thursday afternoon, Elder Mosher and I go through weekly planning which is probably the single greatest test of endurance that missionary's experience during a week. It is several hours of planning out the remainder of the week and the following week. Combined with 82 degree heat in our apartment, it can get unpleasant, but our landlord actually put up a sun/heat reflecting material in the windows, which has helped quite a bit. Anyway, at the end of weekly planning last week, I made a comment that Elder Mosher and I needed to try harder to talk to everyone we see even if that person is in a ditch somewhere. We proceeded to leave and ride our bikes over to a dinner appointment. Along the way, God gave us a test to put those words into actions. There are many people who work in the irrigation business. As we biked to a visit we saw a man working in one of these ditches. We biked past him! The visit wasn't far away and once that fell through, I told Elder Mosher, "We are going back and talking to that guy." We did and had a great conversation with him and gave him a copy of the Book of Mormon. We passed the test, though I learned a valuable lesson in responding immediately instead of postponing the action.
In our zone meeting (a meeting with all the missionaries in the zone), we learned about baptism and confirmation and how it is required to enter the kingdom of heaven. It reminded me of a Bible video that I love. https://www.lds.org/bible-videos/videos/jesus-teaches-of-being-born-again?lang=eng
We met another man this week that had lived in Minnesota for a time and actually had heard of the Golden Gophers! I got to sing the Rouser for everyone in the house. I don't have a great singing voice, but I belted it out loud and proud!
The worst thing about this past week was my gaining an understanding that there are black widow, brown recluses, and other repulsive and horrendous arachnids in this area. I have not seen any yet, but I dread the day. Apparently they have spiders out here that jump. Joy. Elder Mosher found a wonderful scripture for me related to my fear. "The spider taketh hold with her hands, and is in kings’ palaces." - Proverbs 30:28. A wonderful picture.
In more uplifting news, I had an opportunity to play the piano for a baptism this past weekend. I accompanied one Sister missionary in our district who sings opera and is very good at it.
Our ward now has a new ward mission leader who is eager to get on board with all the missionary work being done in the area. It is exciting, though our previous ward mission leader was amazing, but he is now a ward missionary, so it's all good.
I am so grateful for mothers! With Mothers' Day this past Sunday and getting to talk my mom, I felt an increased sense of gratitude for their essential roles in our lives. This sums it up pretty well. We had several opportunities to share the story of Mary, who was Jesus' mother. She is such an example of obedience to her Heavenly Father. https://www.lds.org/bible-videos/videos/mary-the-mother-of-jesus?lang=eng
I know that families can be together forever as they strive together in obedience to God. This earth life is an opportunity for each of us to learn and grow. Families are a divine pattern that God ordained for the benefit and progression of his children before Adam and Eve even come to earth! It is so apparent to me that this is true whenever I think about my family and whenever I enter the home of a family who, though not perfect, are doing their best to come closer to their Savior, who made eternal families a possibility through his Atonement. I know that as we accept His Atonement and try to become more like Him, we will be able to be with our families forever! It is the greatest thing I can think of, to be with those I love forever!
I hope you are all doing well! Please don't hesitate to reply, ask questions, comment, and share your own experiences with me. I have a lot to learn and I am grateful that I can share my experiences and thoughts with all of you!