October 24, 2016
When you have a birthday, Heavenly Father gives you the best gifts
Well, this is officially my first email as a 21 year old. Having a birthday as a missionary was a unique experience, but it was one of the best days of the week (more details later). Between my family, friends, and the ward I was well loved and very well fed :) Apparently when people know it's your birthday, they all decide to bake you things. So I have plenty of treats to last me a long time. Thank you so much for the treats/cards/emails and for all of your love! Y'all are the best and I love each of you!
Okay, since I'm sure y'all are dying to know why my birthday was so great, I'll tell you :) It had almost nothing to do with the fact that it was my birthday and everything to do with the people we are teaching. Wednesday was just full of miracles and the fact that they all happened on my birthday made it a million times better! sadly, we were on exchanges today so Sister Ruske missed out on my birthday miracles. But lucky Sister Fisher got to meet some wonderful people!
Miracle #1 was Lisa. For those of you just tuning in to the weekly Sister Pyper update, Lisa is honestly the most prepared person I have ever met/taught! She is amazing!! We met her on October 4 and she is getting baptized on Saturday, 25 days after we first met her. I just can't even put into words how incredible she is. Anyway, we went to teach her the last few commandments that we needed to teach before her interview on Friday. I had planned on checking her tea to make sure that it was all okay, and then when we got there she asked if we would make sure everything she had was in line with the Word of Wisdom. She unintentionally had a few that weren't but she gave them to us right away and had us get rid of them for her. That right there is repentance in action!
Miracle #2: Drina. After dinner we had about 30 minutes before we got picked up for dinner, so we decided to go knock some doors in the cul-de-sac at the end of our street. Drina was walking over to the mailboxes right as we walked into the parking lot. Sister Fisher said hi to her and she said hi back! So we went over and started talking to her. She is awesome! She was raised Methodist but is currently looking for something to help her strengthen her personal relationship with God. She has wondered why there are so many different churches and why they all teach such different things. She said that it always feels divisive and not like how she imagines Christ's church to be. So we taught her the Restoration. Outside, in front of the mailboxes. It was so great! She told us she has a lot of questions for us and would love for us to come back and talk to her more! We gave her a pamphlet and a copy of the Book of Mormon, committing her to read it and to pray about it. She thanked us for asking her to pray, that really impressed her. She said that people usually tell you to believe what they say just because they told you it was true, but we didn't. We asked her to pray to know for herself if what we had told her was true. Meeting her strengthened my testimony that the Lord puts people in our path who are prepared to hear the gospel. All we have to do is get out, do the work and talk to as many people as we can. All it takes is 5 seconds of courage to say hi to someone and then the Spirit takes over. When you are doing what the Lord wants you to, He will literally put people in your path who are searching and He will give you what to say.
Miracle #2.5: The Book of Mormon. So, the fact that we even had a Book of Mormon to give Drina shows how involved the Lord is in this work and that He is aware of all of the details. Sister Fisher is a Spanish missionary, so she doesn't usually carry around English scriptures. She had forgotten her English scriptures at home that morning and so only had her Spanish ones. There 'just happened' to be an English copy of the Book of Mormon in the car (thank you elders), so she grabbed it to follow along in lessons. I totally forgot she had it until we were talking to Drina and Sister Fisher reaches into her bag and pulls it out! It is amazing to see how every single detail worked out perfectly for us to meet Drina and to teach her at the exact moment that we did.
Miracle #3: Dawn. Dawn's husband is a member of our ward, but she is not. Her husband had told us a few weeks ago that she was going to have a minor operation on her heart and he would love for us to come visit her while she was recovering. We haven't been able to go over, due to conflicting schedules. Then, while we were sitting at dinner, I looked across the room and saw someone who looked a lot like him. Not being sure it was him, I tried not to stare. The next time I looked over, he waved and then I realized it was actually him. I went over to say hello and it turned out he was there with his wife! I was able to finally meet her and introduce myself a little bit. We had been texting her husband to ask him how her surgery had gone and offering our help for anything they needed. She was so grateful for our kindness and kept thanking me. They are going to sign up to feed us some time soon, so we will get to be able to talk to her more. Even if she doesn't get baptized right now, I love knowing that we are able to help her have positive impressions of the church. (Side note: her husband is amazing! He is the only member in his family, and one of his daughters is going to be at our ward's fall festival this weekend. He called us a few days ago to let us know and asked us to come introduce ourselves to her. This man is doing all he can to help his family become eternal and it is wonderful to see <3)
Miracle #4: Chris. Chris is another non-member married to a member of the ward. They live right by the church, so we stopped by to try to see them before a meeting we had in the evening. His wife wasn't home, but he was and he was very polite and friendly. He was in the middle of making dinner, but took our card and said he would call us when his wife got back in town. When we asked the bishopric what they knew about this family, they told us that the husband is apparently pretty anti. He was not at all that way when we stopped by, so we have full permission to try them again in the future! Baby steps, people, baby steps.
Okay, apparently this past week was just full of miracles, because Friday was great too! Another testimony of talking to everyone and obeying the commandment in D&C 28:16 to "open thy mouth at all times, declaring my gospel with the sound of rejoicing". After dinner, we went tracting around the member's apartment. We found a very solid potential investigator who wants us to come backtonight to teach her family and have a family home evening. BUT the miracle of the night was Mario. We had stopped by to see a less-active member but they weren't home. We were freezing (don't worry, it was only 65. Summer here has just made me wimpy when it comes to the cold.) so we were walking back to our car to go grab our jackets. We passed this man sitting outside, smoking. I said hi and felt like I should stop to talk to him some more. So I asked him some questions to get him talking and he opened up to us. He told us about how he is trying his hardest to quit drugs (to the extent that he called the police on himself a few nights before instead of calling his dealer) and turn his life around. He has a belief in God but doesn't really go to church or have a strong faith. We testified to him about the power of the Atonement and how it can take away all of his pain, heartache, addiction and misery. I have been kind of confused about why I came back to Durham, and especially right next to where I spent 6 months. As we talked to him, I saw a glimpse of why I am back. I remembered that, in my first planner, I had written down the phone number for the LDS addiction recovery program. I have no doubt that Heavenly Father brought me back here to Durham (at least in part) to help this man take the steps to lead him back to his Father. The Spirit was so strong as we testified to him about the healing power of the Atonement and that, through the Savior, he could be cleansed from all of his past mistakes. Again, even if he doesn't get baptized now, I know that Heavenly Father put him in our path that night. He needs what we have and he is searching.
OH! Fun story, explaining the Girl Scout cookies. One night the elders call us and, with no explanation, ask us what our favorite kind of Girl Scout cookies are. After being confused and asking why they wanted to know, they told us that a member had given them 45 boxes of cookies. Yep. Forty-five boxes. So, obviously, they needed to share them and make sure they weren't the only ones gaining weight :) So they brought us 10 boxes of cookies the next day at church. So now our kitchen is full of all kinds of treats. Sister Ruske and I are very grateful that this week is bike week again. We are also glad that most of our skirts are elastic :)
I know that this work is the Lord's work. There is absolutely no way that all these miracles would happen if He left me in charge. If this work were being carried on by 18-21 year olds alone, it would not work. But it does. It works because God has called us here and what we share is the truth. I know without a doubt that this church is true, that the fullness of the gospel has been restored by Jesus Christ through the prophet Joseph Smith. I know that the Book of Mormon is divinely inspired and that it is evidence of the truth of what I teach. The men who wrote the Book of Mormon were prophets, as was the man who was given the power to translate it. This gospel is a gospel of hope, joy and love. God is not mysterious or distant. He is close and He is our Father. He loves us. He loves you. The most important thing I share with people is the knowledge of how to return to the Father who loves them perfectly and infinitely. This gospel and the priesthood authority, found only in Christ's restored church, are what enable us to make the necessary covenants.
P.S. For those of you who are worried, Sister Ruske is doing much better! Still coughing a little, but she has a lot more energy and feels like herself again. The poor girl had a rough first week in the mission field but she refused to let it get her down. She is so positive and bubbly and cheerful about everything! These next 10 weeks are going to go by way too fast.