This week I was spoiled rotten... seriously so many blessings there is "not room enough to receive them." I got to do something that many missionaries would dream of- I got to go back to my first area and do missionary work there for a few days. On Monday evening, the Fort Walton 2 sisters drove to Crestview; I went back to Fort Walton with Sister Ramahdar, who was in my MTC branch. She is so fun! She is from Trinidad, has a quick wit, works hard, and has a deep understanding of the gospel. On Tuesday morning, we had heart shaped pancakes for Valentines day. Then we went to the Fort Walton District meeting, which was strange to be back in, although only one of the elders there now was there when I was. We went to visit the Nystroms!!! I saw Tess, Yogi, their darling granddaughter Elana, and their daughter Heather. She has been less active for a while (struggling with the some addictions) and we had started teaching her just before I left. It was amazing to see how much better she is doing! She has been coming to church every week, she's doing really well in an addiction recovery class, and she feels much closer to God. :)
We stopped by to see Sarah Miller and Sister Highsmith briefly, and visited with a new family in the ward. For dinner, the sisters just so happened to be signed up to eat with the Pilkingtons, some of my favorite members!! The sisters had told them I was coming, so they sweetly bought my favorite barbeque chicken pizza from Papa Murpheys. I told you I was spoiled!! It was such a happy time with them, catching up and whatnot. It feels good to feel loved.
On Wednesdsay we had an appointment with investigator Rod, and he was so happy to see me! But he was feeling pretty sick, so we weren't able to stay for a lesson. But he is doing awesome! He's working on divorcing his wife (who he doesn't live with) so that he can actually marry the woman he lives with, who he calls his wife... that is dedication, because that's not the easy thing to do! I'm so proud of him!! It really shows how much he wants to get baptized.
We were in the neighborhood, so Sister Ramadhar asked if I would like to stop by the Brocks (active members) to say hi. Sweet Sister Ramadhar! We stopped in, and they sat us right down, asked how I'm doing, and made me feel so loved. Brother Brock of course pulled one of the many books of his shelf and shared a miracle story from early missioary work in the South, and got teary eyed. He's such a softie. :) Even though I'm sure I didn't make much of an impact in their lives while I was in Fort Walton, they still make me feel important and special, and know that as a missionary I am still a person with feelings. They are wonderful, and they understand the ups and downs of missionary work.
After lunch, we went to see Leslie Harris, which was relieving because he hasn't been visited since I started training Sister Trawick. He was happy to see us, and we talked about the Holy Ghost. And of course he shared a handful of his famous stories with us. Thankfully the Spirit helped me to tie it into the gospel. :)
We had dinner with the Mathews!!! Some of my other favorite Fort Walton members! It was another very happy occasion! We laughed, chatted, and she answered some of my questions about going into education, which I'm thinking about doing. She was an elementary school teacher for a few years, and she's so passionate about it. The awesome thing is, as interesting as what she said was to me, it was far more poignant to Sister Saunders, who I told it to later. Sister Mathews said that there will always be a need for teachers, and what job isn't stressful or difficult? And no matter what restrictions there are, you can always make an impact on the students' lives. Sister Saunders needeed to hear that, because she has thought a lot about being a teacher!
Next, we went to Sarah Chapman's and had a lesson with her eight-year old son, who wants to get baptized. Teaching kids is the best, because it forces you to teach the gospel at its purest and simplest form. The gospel is simple enough for even kids to understand!
Afterwards, we went back to the apartment where I helped tie up some loose ends, logistics-wise. I wrote a list of people Sister Ramadhar and Sister Petersen can go visit, productive activites do to in Fort Walton. So it was helpful for them and gave peace of mind to me.
Thursdsay morning, our companions drove from Crestview, and we exchanged back. We had a lesson with Quan... he told us he is in a "gang"... no murder or stealing, but he said, "if a brother's in trouble, I'm gonna go and fight for him." Quan. What would Jesus do?? He would turn the other cheek. Be the bigger person. He would tell his brother to leave the situation, call the cops. Quan couldn't seem to get it... but he said he'll pray about what God would have him do. Quan totally does not seem like the gangster type, though... he's too sweet. So we watched a short awesome video on mormonchannel about a gangster turned Mormon. Now that's "sick"!
We had dinner with the Hannons, who are a hoot! We helped them do some family history, which they are so excited about! The youngest daughter brought out her gineau pigs for us to hold, and it peed on my skirt... that was exciting!
Friday was a PERFECT day. WOW. We drove to Tallahassee for the mission wide conference, which is a super rare occasion. This occasion was because Elder Gary E. Stevenson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, as well as Elder Maynes and Elder Parker of the Quorum of the Seventy, came!! We got to shake their hands, and WOW is it true that it feels like they can look into your soul with their kind eyes. When I shook Elder Stevenson's hand, there was such a gentle peace and spiritual power that exuded from him, and I felt that Spirit during the whole meeting. There was a double vocal quartet that sang "Come Thou Fount" and I played the violin part. In front of an apostle of the Lord. Elder Maynes and Elder Parker spoke first, talking about how Joseph Smith was the first investigator and Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ are examples for our companionships, as they taught Joseph Smith by answering his questions and teaching him the gospel of Jesus Christ. Elder Stevensen talked about making sure the Holy Ghost is the third companion, and doing all we can to let Him be the teacher.
After the conference, President Smith gave ALL the missionaries (there are about 250 of us) permission to go to a park in Tallahassee and gather at the ampitheater so we could all visit with each other for an hour. It was sooo fun! I got to see Sister Trawick, a bunch of Fort Walton buddies, and other friends. AND the weather was perfect. AND afterwards we got Chick Fil-a for lunch. So, perfect day.
Something that really impressed me at the conference with Elder Stevenson was the kind of Spirit I felt there; I didn't feel a fiery bosom-burning, but rather I felt a very gentle, peaceful power that was very comforting and filling. Elder Stevenson just exuded this quiet spiritual power, as well as Elder Parker and Elder Maynes. Before the conference, I had been studying a lot about the Holy Ghost, how to be worthy of its companionship, how to increase its power with me once I have it, and what it means to be a more persuasive teacher. I was so humbled when the Holy Ghost was taught about a lot; Elder Parker spoke about trusting in "that Spirit which leadeth to do good"; Elder Maynes spoke about doing all we can to be worthy of the Spirit and being sensitive to it, as did Elder Stevensen, who also spoke about the Holy Ghost as the third companion, and us being worthy and letting the Holy Ghost teach when we prepare ourselves, testify, allow for silence, and letting Him linger at the end of the lesson. I also loved the lines he pointed out in the second paragraph under "A Successful Missionary," and I turned it into a positive statement: "Hope will strengthen your faith. If you have [appropriately] high expectations, your effectiveness will increase, your desire will strengthen, and you will have greater ability to follow the Spirit." From this conference, I am going forward with an increased focus on increasing the power of the Spirit in my life. It's such an incredible gift from our Heavenly Father. Love you all!