Monday, June 17, 2013

Teaching in Hollers

Happy Father's Day Daddy! I gave a talk in Sacrament meeting on fatherhood - I have to watch out for these parental holidays!  (I spoke on Mother's Day in Ashland, and now Father's Day also! I think the Lord might be trying to tell me something.... Mom and Dad you are both AMAZING parents! I am so thankful for the righteous parents you are and for you love, support, and encouragement to serve valiantly! Thank you!

This week my companion and I counted the average number of times that we pray every day, and then we multiplied it by the average length of each prayer, and we discovered that we pray about 40 times a day, which totals to almost 3.5 hours of prayers each day! Whew! I love being a missionary! It is great to talk with Heavenly Father so many times a day.

Earlier this week we went to visit one of our investigators who is struggling. She wasn't home so we decided to tract her holler. About mid-holler we knocked on a door and a man came around from the back of the house (which is very common, nobody uses their front doors in the hollers). He was very willing to talk with us, and we made a return appointment to teach him the next day. When we returned the next day he was ready to learn! He had a pop in his hand and he was sitting on the porch, with a chair set up for each of us. We began getting to know him better. He told us about his family, his job and especially  what he believes. We began the lesson with a prayer and an introduction of the Holy Ghost and his role in testifying of truth. We taught the first lesson and it was wonderful! He was asking questions and the spirit was definitely there! As I was preparing to quote Joseph Smith's first vision, his wife came home (she walks up and down the holler every evening for her exercise). We were thrilled to meet her, and we invited her to sit with us. We were very surprised at how coldly she responded. She told us she was Christian, to which we responded, "That is great! We are Christian too!" But she looked at us sternly and said, "No you're not." Like most people she thought that the Book of Mormon replaced the Bible, and that we worship Joesph Smith. We testified and attempted to simply explain the truth, but she continued to shake her head and just say, "No." It was terrifying. The spirit had been so strong, and it was scary to feel it disappear so quickly. Not only was the spirit gone though, we could literally feel Satan's power gripping and clawing at the air. It was the scariest feeling I have ever had. We knew that it was a bad situation so Sister Ostler and I testified and commended this woman for her faith in Christ. It was difficult to praise her and to commend her when I was feeling so scared and heavy inside, but we did it with smiles on our faces and with confidence. Yikes.

However, she said that we could continue meeting with her husband. When she went into the house, and I continued the lesson by quoting Joseph Smith, the spirit came back, ten times stronger!! It was so important for him to feel that contrast. He was apologetic for his wife, and happy about meeting with us again. I see potential in him, and we pray every day that his wife's heart will be softened.

A mission is hard work!! It is difficult to feel the immediate hate that many people feel toward us when they see our name tags, but for every one of those who hate, I know that there are hundreds of softened hearts, waiting for our message! We just need to find them... that may be the hardest part of the whole conversion process - being found!

 I have grown very close to the term "Godly sorrow" as I have experienced what that may be like. When our investigators relapse into smoking again, or fail to keep their commitments, or we have to push a baptismal date back, I am filled with Godly sorrow!! However, the more that I feel this sorrow and grief, the greater my love becomes for these people and the greater our joy is when they pray, when they feel the Holy Ghost and recognize it, and when they keep simple commitments. It is a remarkable love to experience! It reminds me that there must be opposition in all things, for the greater sorrow there is greater love, and that love is worth every bit of disappointment!!

 I love the hard work, nothing has ever brought more joy to my life than serving people and spending each moment thinking about those people and thinking about my Savior. I love studying! We have 3 hours every day to study and train, and it is not nearly enough! I wish we had more, but we must devote the rest of our day to finding and teaching! A mission is SO GREAT! I love having a companion all the time; Sister Ostler is amazing! We laugh all the time, and we love the work!  We support each other in everything, and our companionship has grown and developed in unity and in every other aspect! It all feels absolutely perfect! I know that I am exactly where I am supposed to be because every day feels so right.

The culture is absolutely HILARIOUS here! I love it! One of the funniest things that people do here is park in the middle of the road. I don't know why!! Instead of parking in a nearby parking lot, or on the side of the road, people love to park in the turning lanes or the yellow-line medians in the middle of the road! It is the weirdest thing! They just stop their cars, get out and walk away! So weird... It is also popular to stand in the middle of the road, where there is no median. Instead of holding signs on the side of the road, homeless people or people who are having a garage sale or fund raiser will stand on the yellow lines in the middle of the road, sometimes grouping close together like a little island of people. It is crazy. It is also very common for people to burn down their houses so that their insurance companies will buy them new stuff. There are fires all the time because people will take all their meaningful items out of their house, hide it somewhere (like in a storage unit or in a friend's house) and they will light their house on fire! Then they get a whole new house from the insurance company! 

I have come to learn that talking to anyone who lives here is like playing ping pong with two ping pong balls - it is crazy! The people here take their conversations all over the place! If we are talking to two people they each have their own conversation with each missionary, as well as having a conversation with each other, and also talking to a person who is walking by,...all while taking care of a child or a dog or a cat ...and smoking. It is insane! Their ability to focus on so many things at once is incredible.

We had a massive storm this week! Storms roll in without any warning here. The sky turned black within a matter of minutes, and rain just started hammering the ground. It is the coolest thing,... you can literally hear the wall of rain approaching, and then all of a sudden it just overtakes you! This storm was incredible, the thunder and lightening were vicious, and the wind felt like it was going to rip off someone's roof! I love storms here, we have one at least every week. We also have fireflies!  I missed seeing fireflies so much, and now we just have to look out our back door (into a forest) and we can see billions of bright fireflies. They are magnificent!

A mission is by far the most humbling thing I have ever done. I have never been so challenged in my life, but I have also never ever been so happy. Every day I am FILLED with gratitude for all the blessings in my life, especially being a missionary in Pikeville, Kentucky. I love it!  This week Sister Ostler and I could feel the Holy Ghost guiding us in everything we did. We were able to find and contact some former investigators who were eager to learn about the gospel. Our plans would not have enabled us to find those people, but because we prayed about our plans, and heeded the promptings of the Holy Ghost, we were able to contact these great people. It is amazing to witness the blessings that come from the Lord as we obey with exactness and strive to have the Holy Ghost with us at all times. I love it!! This gospel is incredible, I can feel myself growing every day as I study and learn from the Holy Ghost and from my companion. I LOVE BEING A MISSIONARY!  
I was studying D&C 121 the other day, which talks about leadership. As a missionary this section has incredible meaning! My favorite verse says, "Many are called, but few are chosen." My goal as a missionary in this new flood of work is to not only be a missionary who is called to the work, but to work so that I can be a chosen missionary by the Lord. I know that it will require faith, constant improvement, diligence, exact obedience, and especially humility, but I know that the Lord will help me become the best missionary that I can become, and that with His support, I can invite and help others come unto Christ. 

  I love my Savior and I love how close I have grown to him these past few weeks. We are a blessed generation, and the Lord expects a LOT of us. We are doing our best to do His will and to assist in the hastening of this work; it truly a marvelous thing to witness. I LOVE BEING A MISSIONARY!!
Sister Shumway

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