I am always surprised at how varied people's religious beliefs are here. we had a lesson with a Muslim woman from Egypt. It was interesting to talk about her beliefs and to see how different they are from ours. While tracting yesterday, we ran into a man who is a practicing Buddhist, which is kind of unusual to find here in the South. One of the members of the ward is meeting with Jehovah's Witnesses as a way to find out what they believe and to strengthen her own testimony. I was confused by that at first, but she explained that talking to them has helped her to understand how to be a better missionary (partly through seeing what doesn't work) and that learning about another belief has caused her to really think about her own testimony and why she believes the things she does and how she knows that this Church is the true church. I think it would be very interesting and informative to learn more about other religions and to compare that to what I believe. I wish I could have learned more about other religions before coming out, there are times where I don't know what beliefs certain religions have and that can make it harder to relate.
I love seeing the ways that the Holy Ghost touches people and softens their hearts. Eric, our French investigator, expressed a desire to come to church to see what it's like and experience it for himself. We hadn't really mentioned coming to church very much, since we are trying to figure out a way to get him and his family (there are 7 of them, and 3 kids in car seats) to church and how we would get translators for all of them. It was really powerful to see how strong his faith is and that his desire to come to church outweighs any concern about the language or transportation issues. Amanda, the investigator who ordered a Bible "because she wants to be Mormon", was out of town this weekend to visit family. She texted us yesterday morning saying that she missed going to church with us and that she would have loved to have found the church earlier in life so that her older boys could have been raised in the church. Iris, the grandmother of our 9-year old investigator is softening to us a lot. She is participating more in our lessons and is more open to the idea of coming to church.
Before I came out, I didn't expect to do much tracting. I knew that it happened a lot, but I also heard that people are moving away from it as much as they can because it isn't always the most effective use of time. My mission president believes otherwise. He believes very strongly in tracting and the opportunities it brings. I am realizing that he is right, we have found some incredible people through tracting. The Lord really does guide us to people He has prepared. One of our appointments fell through so we tracted around the apartment complex. There were still a lot of people gone, but we were able to find a couple people who listened to us and we have appointments to teach them again later this week.
I am also gaining a stronger testimony of referrals. We have had so many investigators come from referrals! Most often media referrals, when they request materials from the church, but not always. Referrals create such a great opportunity to share the gospel. Please give referrals to missionaries, they are so helpful! We were able to find someone this week through a referral who turned out to actually be a member! Darlene had requested a Bible and a Book of Mormon online and we went to deliver them and teach her the Restoration. She had met with missionaries years ago but lost contact when she moved. We taught her and she was really open to our message. I got to invite her to be baptized at the end of the lesson and she told us she had already been baptized. When we asked what church, we expected her to say the Baptist church. Nope! She had actually been baptized into our church! We got her records transferred into our ward and we are going to keep teaching her family so that they can all get baptized, since she is the only member. It is wonderful to see how aware Heavenly Father is of each of us and our needs, no one is ever lost to Him.
I love being a missionary! I get to see firsthand just how much Heavenly Father loves each of His children and how much He wants to bless them. Having this opportunity to serve in this way is incredibly humbling. Every day I recognize things that I need to improve on and that I can do better. I am so grateful that Heavenly Father loves me enough to correct me! The Atonement is so wonderful and I love that I can repent every day and become a little better than I was the day before. I have learned that if you ask God what you need to do to improve, He will answer you so before you ask, make sure you are ready to change :)
I love y'all! Happy New Year! As you make your resolutions, be sure to think about the Atonement. That is what allows us to change and become better, in every aspect of our lives. This time of year is a great chance to reflect on Christ's life and to review our own and to commit to become more like Him in the future.