The Misunderstood Sister

Bonjour les amis! So apparently the theme of this week was HOPE. Here's why: It starts, actually, with my mom's email from l...

Bonjour les amis!

So apparently the theme of this week was HOPE. Here's why: It starts, actually, with my mom's email from last week. She included this excerpt from an article about hope: (from: Hope: The Misunderstood Sister By Larry Hiller)

I think of them as three famous sisters whose names are frequently linked, always in the same order: Faith, Hope, and Charity. They are mentioned several times in the New Testament and with remarkable frequency in the Book of Mormon.

Of the three, Faith may be the most well known and popular, the one whose companionship is sought most often. She’s active and energetic, definitely the can-do type. Faith can move mountains, if necessary.

I picture Charity as being modest and refined, beautiful and gracious. In her presence you feel genuinely loved and accepted. She’s unfailingly kind and generous, patient, empathetic, aware of every need, and responsive without being asked. How could you not want the companionship of someone like Charity?

Then there’s Hope, who seems to have a problem with the way people perceive her. It may be her name and the way it’s commonly used: “I hope the car passes inspection.” Or, “I hope the weather will be nice for the wedding.” Used this way, the word hope is the verbal equivalent of keeping your fingers crossed. Consequently, many seem to think Hope is unsure, even fickle—she may or may not grace you with her companionship. But surely that’s not the kind of hope our Father in Heaven commands us to have. Nor would it be the kind of hope our Savior offers.

I see Hope more clearly now. She is serene. Her eyes have the deep, knowing look of someone well acquainted with sorrow, the luminosity of recently being wet with tears. Hope has the confidence of one who clearly sees a bright future even when the next hours seem fog shrouded. Hope is steady and strong, a friend I am glad to have beside me during my own trials.

So I read that on Monday, thought it was pretty cool, but didn't think too much about it after that. Then I get to mes études on Tuesday morning, and with that article in the back of my head, everything I studied was about hope (and the Atonement, you can't have one without the other really)! I'd made a new goal to start every personal study by studying a hymn, so I read hymn number one, "The Morning Breaks," the first verse of which says:

The morning breaks, the shadows flee;
Lo, Zion's standard is unfurled!
The dawning of a brighter day,
The dawning of a brighter day
Majestic rises on the world.

Pretty hopeful, huh? It may or may not be even prettier in French. Next I was reading in the Book of Mormon, Mosiah chapter 16, and I read this:

6 And now if Christ had not come into the world, ... there could have been no redemption.

7 And if Christ had not risen from the dead, or have broken the bands of death that the grave should have no victory, and that death should have no sting, there could have been no resurrection.

8 But there is a resurrection, therefore the grave hath no victory, and the sting of death is swallowed up in Christ.

9 He is the light and the life of the world; yea, a light that is endless, that can never be darkened; yea, and also a life which is endless, that there can be no more death.

As I said, the Atonement of Christ, which this teaches about, is all about hope. It gets better though. The night before, I'd decided to read a favorite conference talk during my personal study the next day, "Where Justice, Love, and Mercy Meet" by Elder Holland. And guess what? It's about the SAME THING. You should go read it, but here's my favorite parts: (sorry if you're getting tired of my scripture study recap, but it was really cool and it's worth your time to read this. But skip to the bottom for more mission stories if you must.)

What a plight! The entire human race in free fall—every man, woman, and child in it physically tumbling toward permanent death, spiritually plunging toward eternal anguish. Is that what life was meant to be? Is this the grand finale of the human experience? Are we all just hanging in a cold canyon somewhere in an indifferent universe, each of us searching for a toehold, each of us seeking for something to grip—with nothing but the feeling of sand sliding under our fingers, nothing to save us, nothing to hold on to, much less anything to hold on to us? Is our only purpose in life an empty existential exercise—simply to leap as high as we can, hang on for our prescribed three score years and ten, then fail and fall, and keep falling forever?

The answer to those questions is an unequivocal and eternal no!... we celebrate the gift of victory over every fall we have ever experienced, every sorrow we have ever known, every discouragement we have ever had, every fear we have ever faced—to say nothing of our resurrection from death and forgiveness for our sins. That victory is available to us because of events that transpired on a weekend precisely like this nearly two millennia ago in Jerusalem.

And to finish it off, last one I promise, I spent the last few minutes of my study time looking up scriptures about hope, because at this point I couldn't help but think about that, and this last scripture in Moroni chapter 7 sums it up well:

40 And again, my beloved brethren, I would speak unto you concerning hope. How is it that ye can attain unto faith, save ye shall have hope?

41 And what is it that ye shall hope for? Behold I say unto you that ye shall have hope through the atonement of Christ and the power of his resurrection, to be raised unto life eternal, and this because of your faith in him according to the promise.

42 Wherefore, if a man have faith he must needs have hope; for without faith there cannot be any hope.

Can you see how these all link together? We all could use a little more hope in our lives, and we find that by gaining a better understanding of the Atonement. (And that was just Tuesday morning, but as I said this was the theme of our whole week!)

After personal study every morning, an hour for us to spend time studying the scriptures and other materials on our own, we have companionship study, an hour of us studying together. I was sharing with Soeur D about my study and she said something along the lines of "it's really cool when personal study has a theme like that, and usually it's preparing you for something you or someone you talk to needs to hear later." I said she was probably right, and throughout the rest of the day I kept it in the back of my head ready to whip it out in case someone needed it. I figured myself a pretty hopeful person, so it didn't really occur to me that maybe it actually was for me too.

Apparently not only did I need to work on humility, but I did indeed need to learn about hope. That night we had a lesson where I was really struggling to feel the Spirit, even though based on what we were talking about it should have been really strong. The reason was mostly because we were meeting with investigators that were supposed to be getting baptized this week, but we could tell that they were still struggling to keep certain commitments, if they were even trying at all. I came home that night and told Soeur D, "maybe you're right, I could use a little more hope for our investigators." Wednesday evening was emotionally actually pretty awful. We went on splits, and a member and I returned to visit the investigators previously mentioned. It was obvious that they were anything but ready to be baptized this week, for several reasons that I won't go into. Meanwhile, my companion was visiting an awesome investigator who was supposed to be baptized last Friday (actually she's had about seven baptismal dates so far) and once again pushing back her baptism. So that day was fun. Not really because baptisms were pushed back or whatever, it's not about numbers or anything, but just watching wonderful people who know the truth letting Satan do n'importe quoi with their lives!

So Wednesday was generally rough, but there's always another day and we were determined to have HOPE. And even though the problems didn't/haven't gone away, Thursday was much better because we were determined to have a darn better day, whether the day liked it or not! And actually it was just a really funny day. For one thing, we are in the middle of companionship study and we hear Soeur K and Soeur R, two of our roommates, scream from the other room. We go out into the salon and THERE WAS A CHICKEN IN THE HOUSE. Literally one of the funniest things I've seen here. There are chickens everywhere here, like seriously everywhere. Like you know all the stray cats in Morocco? Here it's the dogs and stray chickens, with a good number of cats thrown in too. Anyway, the poor terrified thing ran all around through the house, jumping in some of the sister's closets and everything and basically just hilarious. With that start to our day, we were in a much better mood, and we shared that verse in Moroni 7 with several people we visited. We're still struggling to work on our hope, but the work is good and it will all work out if we have trust in the Atonement. It's still raining all the time, the mosquitos are eating me alive, bikes on dirt roads turned rivers are an experience and C'EST BIEN LES AMIS! A few quick funny stories to finish off:

One day we finally found a few minutes to OLB, or ouvrir la bouche, in other words contacting (the work is always busy here in Matavai and we spend so much time in lessons with amis that we hardly have time to find new ones! can't really complain there though). It was the first time that Soeur D was asking me to walk up to a random stranger on the street and start talking to them, and while I knew that was inevitable it was still a little bit terrifying. So as I'm standing there in the middle of the street wondering what to do, I see a friendly looking young man down the alley. Soeur D had her back to him but he looked over and I sort of waved to him while I was talking to her, and, well, long story short, he basically contacted us. This man loves to talk. He could see we looked a bit American and he wanted to practice his English with us. It's hard to describe other than he contacted us - he started the conversation, he asked us for our contact info and said we could come back for a lesson, and this sounds like he was creepy or something but I promise it's not like that, he's just super funny! We haven't gotten a chance to go see him yet but I'll let you know how it goes if we do. I think he'd really like our message, if we get a word in edgewise that is. It was truly a tender mercy though, because I was nervous for my first contact so Heavenly Father sent someone to show me how it's done!

Okay so our neighbors across the street have a habit of playing obnoxiously loud music, mostly bizarre Tahitian-y island remixes of vaguely pop music. It's rather annoying, but that's okay because we love everyone. Anyway, yesterday I was enjoying the peace and quiet during personally study, the occasional bells from the bright pink Protestant church across the street, but by the time we started comp study, the music was back on. We were trying to be patient, but I jokingly said "makes me want to blast my MOTAB right back at them," and because Soeur D was so fiu (sick and tired of everything) because the way the rest of the day was going, she actually grabbed her speakers and did it! It was pretty entertaining. Plus the three houses around us are all members, (the ones with the music are inactive) so I'm pretty sure they all could see what we were doing. We are great Christlike missionaries, huh?

Anyway that's about it for this week. I had my first baptism! G is so sweet and funny. But yeah I hope this email is long enough for y'all ;)

God is good all the time, and all the time God is good!

Tuahine Ladd

the beautiful Tahiti temple!

Hitimahana, a poorer area we we do some of our work,
and despite the poverty this country is beautiful! 

the lighthouse at Point Venus, a park on the beach where we do some lessons

I saw the sun! This is the beach next to Hitimahana. 

Soeur S and I at the temple on the first day, before we got separated!

G's baptism!

there was a chicken in the closet

our little buddy, the fat dog with giant eyes