Monday, November 30, 2009

Bi-Lingual Thanksgiving -- St. Petersburg Week 9

I was worried that Thanksgiving was going to be hard being away from family, I thought about family a lot, but this has to be the best Thanksgiving I think I have ever had. While at an appointment last week with Mercy, (Cuban lady that immigrated here 6 yrs ago, 60 yrs old, baptismal date Dec. 19th. AMAZING) we invited her to Thanksgiving with us at Sis. Fleck's house. She takes care of an elderly women in her home. She got sooo excited! So Thanksgiving we woke up extra early to make sure we got time for our studies and to roll out dough for my favorite rolls at Sis. Fleck's house. We got there and had a wonderful time. Flour fight included! What was so special about this day was that we all felt like family. The Elders came over too.

We got a call from Mercy and she was lost in Sis. Fleck's housing development, unable to find her home. It is REALLY hard trying to give directions in Spanish! It's hard enough in English, but she made it finally and she was so excited to come that she brought the lady that she cares for. She had been ready all morning and just sat at home waiting for the hours to come. She doesn't have any family here, but she helped the woman that she takes care of get all "dolled" up with makeup. It was precious and it honestly warmed my heart. The elders wheeled her in. Mercy doesn't speak English in the least, and well, the elders and Sister Fleck don't either, but it was amazing sitting around the table. To bless the food, we each said a prayer around the table for what we are thankful for. The spirit was very strong in the room. I have so much that I am grateful for. I feel more blessed now then ever as I have been serving the Lord. You recognize more that you are blessed with when you are around so many people that are in such humble and dire situations.

They would all laugh when we would call it dia de pavo! day of turkey! We did a lot of translating across the table. Mercy constantly thanked us and said that this was the most special holiday that she had ever had! She loved my rolls and we gave her all of the extras! She quickly invited us all over to her home for a Cuban feast this week. I'm really excited!
I had an "educational" experience this past week. We had kind of pointed out an area where we wanted to tract, so we hopped on our bicycles and we were on our way. While we were riding, we were keeping our eyes open for another area that felt right for tracting. While riding, I glanced over at this street, and I kind of had this little feeling like "Hey, that would be a good place to tract," but Sis. Murray was ahead of me and I kept going. We rode quite a bit longer, and nothing was feeling right. We stopped in the middle of an alley and said a prayer with busy cars driving by. When we finished the prayer, and I said "Hermana, we need to go back to a street over there." So we headed on our way, I was leading, and we searched and searched for this street. I was so frustrated. my heart literally ached because I knew that we were supposed to tract on that street but I couldn't find it. I could see it in all its details. I even remembered a little red gas can that was on the corner of street. we hadn't rode that far and I knew it was right around where we were. With an aching heart, we prayed to heavenly father to help us, in the middle of street, but we still couldn't find it. So we left, and headed to our next appointment.

I was very frustrated with my self. I apologized to Heavenly Father for not following that prompting. With a last minute effort after our appointment, we quickly rode to this area again. I felt that same feeling again as we found the same street we were on earlier. It turns out that we had been riding up and down the right street for 20 minutes. It was right there the whole time! I need to open myself up to those quiet impressions. Heavenly Father taught me a very important lesson, to follow every little impression that I have. It is so very important. The fruits of this was finding a Philippino woman that is just amazing. Her family in the Philippines are members and her son there is even a member. She had been taking the lessons 6 yrs ago in another part of Asia but moved to the states and she was lost in the transition. She has a strong testimony of the Book of Mormon. She knows a lot!!! She was just lost and needed to be found. We never would have gone down this street otherwise because that portion of it had been tracted already. It is amazing how the Lord knows where each of his sheep are. We are also teaching 3 Spanish families from that same street. I love this work! I never ever want to feel the way I did during that 2 hr period when I didn't follow that impression. Never again.
Oh I love the food here! I can't decide what type I like the most. Puerto Rican is amazing, but so is Peruvian... Cuban is to die for! I can't wait to come home and cook all these amazing types of food. Get ready for some feasting when I get home!
Just an update on Peggy. She is doing great! Her family is up from Hawaii for Thanksgiving so we haven't had a chance to make it over there, but we have a member, Sis. Bangeter that is an artist as well, and they are very excited to meet each other. I'm so excited! I'll send the painting home so you can have it until I get home. It really is the most beautiful thing I have ever seen.
So you know how I said last week that it was the week of canceled appointments. Well this week is the week of not having enough time to do everything! The area is exploding! Literally! We have 45 lessons planned for the next week. we are so busy that we will have to be doing splits to get all of the lessons done. We have to cut into our study time in the morning to fit everything in. We feel so blessed! This work is amazing. It's true that if you do the little things, and truly give your all to the Lord, he will bless you. I feel so blessed to have met so many wonderful people. We have 16 people that we will be setting dates with. I know they have there agency, and can choose to accept it or not. Some of our investigators (I don't even like using the word investigator) some of our brothers and sisters, that's better, can accept the commitment to follow the example of Jesus Christ into the waters of baptism or not... It is our job to bring it to their hearts It's their job is to open their hearts so it can be let in...
I just wanted to share an experience that I feel prompted to share as I write this. We were tracting in a lighted apartment complex not too far from the church. As we walked up the stairs, there was a man standing outside putting cat food in bowls. He told us how he adopted a stray cat. He then yelled inside and said, "Hon, your AVON is here!”

“Oh,” we said, “we're not Avon.” She ran out and tried to hand us a check, but once she saw our name tags she threw her hands in the air and said, "The missionaries!" and ran and gave us a huge hug. In my mind as I looked at Sis Murray, I was like "Is this lady crazy?!” This is not the usual welcome that we get. We're used to a slammed door or a, “we're not interested,” and other more colorful things that I don't care to write about :-) but she also said, "Are you here for me?" She invited us in and as we got talking to her, she has been a member her whole life. She has had a hard life, but she went to seminary and was fully active in her young adult life, but something turned her away from church. She started making a few small, bad choices, and it was like a "flaxen cord" for her. Before she knew it, she was too uncomfortable to go to church, so she stopped.

She asked us to share a scripture, and I instantly saw in my mind the scripture I wanted to share, Alma 34:38, "That ye contend no more against the Holy Ghost but that ye receive it..." She started to tear up. I asked her if she remembered her baptism, and when she received the Holy Ghost. She said she did and it was beautiful, but she leaned over and said, "You don't know how precious the Holy Ghost is until you don't have it anymore." The spirit was very strong. After talking a little bit about repentance, I shared the story about my little brother Jesse and how he was dirty after a soccer game and how my mom wouldn't let him in the car because he was dirty as an example of repentance and the need to be clean to be with our Heavenly Father. What she said next broke my heart. She said "I thought once you lost the Holy Ghost it was gone forever." She has been living the last 8 years of her life thinking that she could never have the joy that she once felt or ever feel the influence of the Holy Ghost again in her life. I bore testimony through tears that the Holy Ghost is real, and it is a gift from God, and we can always change. We can be as clean as the day we were baptized if we but come unto him and surrender our heart to him. Not only our heart but all of our actions and deeds. He wants you back. He wants to help you. She started to cry. She felt the Holy Ghost for the first time in at least 8 years. I'm really excited that we were lead to her.
Don't ever let Satan think that you can't change or that you don't deserve the blessings that Heavenly Father wants you you have.
Love you all!

Hermana Vaughan-Schultz

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