On Monday we had dinner with our ward mission leader and his family, the Tews. They're a fun, loud family. On Tuesday we were eating our lunch at the church when a member asked if she could swing by and bring us something. She arrived with about four bags full of groceries for us! We were so shocked and grateful, as we had both run out of money for the month (don't worry though, we hadn't been about to starve or anything near that. Our cupboards are chock full of food.) We went to Sister Steele's home where she had invited sweet Doloris over, who is a less active member. We had a lesson and made peanut brittle together, which she gave us to take home. For dinner, we ate with the Ferris's who made an incredible Southern style meal for us. Sister Saunders said the family opened up to us during dinner in ways they hadn't before, so that was neat.
Wednesday was the CHRISTMAS CONFERENCE with this half of the mission!! It was absolutely wonderful! We received some training, shared miracles we've seen, read scriptures on the birth of Jesus Christ, listened to musical numbers- I was one of four Silent Nights, haha- then had a fabulous dinner, each district performed a skit- our skit actually didn't bellyflop and was actually pretty funny! We acted out different scenarios of missionaries skyping with their families- one with a missionary that had just come out to the field, one where they and the family cried the whole time, one where everything had changed at home, and one where the missionary tried to teach her family a lesson. Many skits were so funny! It was good to see my friends from Fort Walton. We also played minute-to-win-it games. Such a fun time! I love being a missionary!
Since the conference ended fairly late in the evening and it was an hour and a half from Crestview in Pensacola, we stayed the night in Gulf Breeze with the sisters there. It was super special for Sister Saunders because that was her first area and we stayed in her first apartment. She was so happy! In the morning we woke up early and ran to the dock nearby, watching the sunrise. On the way home, we stopped to see a family Sister Saunders knew, and it was amazing to see how they were able to help each other. We drove home, saw a sweet member named Shirley who recently went to the temple, had dinner, then went to see a sister in the ward whose husband is at a rehabilitation center from an accident. After we sang them some Christmas hymns, we went to the next room over where two patients were visiting, and sang for them, too. One of them was friends with Shirley, who we had seen just hours before! She is interested in meeting with us when she has recovered!
On Friday, which I call Christmas Adam, we raked leaves at a members' home, then went to the baptism of a members' granddaughter. We had dinner with the Fetters, who invited us to come to their home for Christmas morning! We also met an awesome man named Buddy who told us his life story. On Christmas Eve, we delivered treats (compiled from the abundance of treats that people have been giving us the past two weeks) to some less active members, and had dinner with the Curdy family, which made me so happy. They had ham and funeral potatoes for dinner, pecan pie for dessert, and for their Christmas Eve tradition, they read "The Night Before Christmas," which is what my family reads on Christmas Eve!
Our Christmas miracle was this: on Christmas Eve, Sister Saunders and I met a man named Willy who told us about how God has helped him overcome his challenges in life. He is one of the ministers at a Pentecostal church, and he has always wanted to go to Utah where he has a friend, and he loves the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. He was very open, and when we invited him to come to church on Christmas, he said he would come. We sure hoped that he would!
Christmas day was so wonderful! At 7 am we went to the Curdys to watch their four kids open their presents, which was the most entertaining thing. Then we went to the Harts for cinnamon rolls, and they so generously gave us some gifts. We went to church for sacrament meeting. We called Willy, who said he was one his way!!! But he wasn't there when it started, and he wasn't there halfway through, either, though he kept texting us saying he was almost there. Finally, 40 minutes into the meeting, with just 20 minutes left, he showed up!!! He left in the middle of his own church service and his car had overheated, but he came anyway and felt the spirit in sacrament meeting!! And now we're meeting with him on Tuesday, and he is very interested in our unique message. Best Christmas present ever!
We had lunch with a family, then I got to skype my family!! That was actually the best Christmas present!! It was a very happy time, and my best friend Camie surprised me by showing up, too! It was a very uplifting time with lots of laughter. That evening, the Crestview missionaries gathered for a devotional and white elephant exchange. It was so joyful to be with so many families during the holiday season. And although the Christmas season has passed to the world, we can and must continue to remember Jesus Christ every day and to celebrate His birth and His life by the way we live our own lives. I love you all!
Christmas morning with the Curdy family!
Sister Saunders and Sister Jamison
Nicky's new dress for Christmas
Oh Chrismtas tree!
The night before Christmas!