Thank you so much for the packages, letters and pictures! I never realized how much missionaries love mail! So thank you for all the amazing mail, you are the best! I have been so thankful this week for the support of the Ashland ward. I have received letters and thoughtful notes and emails from so many members of our ward whom I love so much! I can feel the support and love of my ward family back home and it is an amazing blessing. Please give the ward a huge "thank you" for me!
This week the Assistants extended a committment to me. They challenged me to recite Joseph Smith's first vision three times before the week was over. I have quoted the first vision in many of our lessons, and it is a POWERFUL aspect of the first lesson. I was excited about this challenge and for the next few days I literally recited the first vision to almost every person we came in contact with. Sometimes it seemed super random; I quoted it to a man on his doorstep, and to the guy cleaning our carpet, and to nearly any other person I saw! But in each situation the Spirit seemed to rush into the room with undeniable power and force.
At the end of one of our lessons, I told our investigator that I wanted to remind him of Joseph Smith's experience by quoting the first vision (He is having a hard time gaining a testimony of Joseph Smith). His 8 year old son has ADHD and every time we teach Dad, the son is bouncing off the walls, the tables, the couches and every other surface! The moment I began quoting Joseph's words, the son sat down next to my Companion and was completely still, intently listening for the first time that day, as the Spirit powerfully testified of the truth of those words. It was a remarkable experience to witness his sweet spirit recognizing the truth that was being taught and the presence of the Holy Ghost.
I hope that I was able to help these people understand the gospel a little better, and to understand that God loves them, but my testimony grew immensely through this experience. I KNOW that Joesph Smith's prayer was answered in that grove of trees, I KNOW what he saw, I KNOW that God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ did appear to Joseph that morning, and I have felt just a little tiny bit of what Joseph felt as he recalled that experience and recorded it. I love quoting the first vision. The Spirit cannot refrain from testifying powerfully of the truth and divinity of the gospel as you say those meaningful words.
This week we got our carpet shampooed! However, our landlord did not tell us that we were getting our carpet shampooed, so the carpet cleaner unexpectedly knocked on our door during our morning companionship study! We hurriedly moved all the furniture and attempted to study as he cleaned the carpet. Soon he ran out of soap and had to wait for one of his co-workers to bring him some more. We gave him some water and he sat in our living room waiting. Our apartment is covered in pictures of the Savior and pictures of temples and quotes from General Authorities, so he began asking who we are and what we do (our study table was covered in scriptures and notebooks and other religious materiel which seems to be unusual around here). He was very intrigued by our role as "missionaries" so we began explaining what we do, and telling him about the gospel. We ended up talking with him for over an hour about the gospel!
He asked many questions, and we taught him ALL of the basic gospel principles. He also asked about many of the not so basic gospel principles. We showed him our General Conference Ensigns and taught him about the Prophet and the Apostles and the organization of the church, that we have the restored gospel of Jesus Christ, the same gospel that He established during His earthly ministry. We taught about the restoration of the gospel, about Joseph Smith, the Priesthood, baptism, the sacrament, the atonement, tithing, church, and so many other great principles of the gospel! He said that he had been searching for religion, he had never been baptized before but he wanted to follow God. We are teaching him this week and we plan to commit him to baptism. We are excited! I guess if we aren't led to those who are prepared to hear the gospel, the Lord will lead them to us!
There is an organization in Georgia that sets up a Vietnam War Memorial in various locations. They travel with this transportable memorial wall with all of the names of those were killed or MIA in the Vietnam war. They also had some other exhibits like helicopters from the war and other memorial exhibits. Sister Ostler and I had heard a lot about the memorial from nearly everyone that we taught or met, so we decided to go see it. The wall was amazing. It was a very reverent place to be. I was able to find a Shumway on the wall! His name was Geoffrey R Shumway from New York.
I love the work here! This week was busy and filled with the Spirit! I love being a missionary, I don't ever want this to end! I came out on a mission with the hope that I would become a great person. I have learned not to focus on that! As I channel all my efforts, studies, and energy on the people we teach and on the people here in Pikeville, I know that the Lord will allow me to naturally become the person He wants me to be. You cannot be selfish and be a successful missionary! I have a testimony of that! I love the people we teach, they have influenced my life in an incredible way. I love feeling such love for people who I have only known for a short period of time, and I feel so blessed to be here in Pikeville with these people specifically. I love the gospel, and I know that this is the fullness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ!
I love being a missionary, and I am so thankful for all of your love and support from home. I have never been happier in my life!!