This week has been so awesome. It's the first time in my whole mission that my companion and I have hit the mission's Standards of Excellence.
On Monday, we helped Brother Smith (super cool less-active) move a hot tub he bought on the fly from his garage out onto his back deck. He invited us along with three or four other brothers from the ward to tackle the feat. Impressively, we used plywood and short lengths of wide PVC to jury-rig a sort of conveyor belt out to the back yard. When it was finally in place, Brother Smith cried out, "A cooked goose for everyone!" Funny guy!
Afterwards, we had arranged for the Copenhavers (PMF with twin UBC's) to join the Fairbanks for Family Home Evening. So we went to go remind them (yes, they had forgotten) and suprisingly, Sister Copenhaver got out of bed, got ready, loaded her rowdy sons into the car, and followed us to the Fairbanks'. FHE was a blast! We had a quick, fun, interactive lesson on avoiding Satan's lies and staying on the Lord's side, and then we played the paper bag game and had ice cream. It was all really good for helping Sister Copenhaver get comfortable with getting back into the swing of things. In fact, she and three of her sons were at church yesterday! For the first time!
On Wednesday, we had the privilege of hearing from Elder Paul V. Johnson of the Seventy. There was a big focus on enduring challenges and afflictions as a missionary as well as creating synergy between members and missionaries in order to hasten the Work. It was good and inspiring. I think the main feeling I got was: when adversarial temptations to slack off set in, fight back! Do work! Vex the adversary by doing the Lord's work. Maybe that makes more sense in my head, but it sure helps!
You may remember my mention of a man named Sam that we street contacted a month or so back. Well, we saw him again this week. He's read something like a quarter of the Book of Mormon already and is keeping an open mind. He had really good questions about how we're different and what our purpose is, so I testified boldly of the Plan of Salvation and families (Spirit told me to!) and invited him to pray sincerely. It was awesome. He asked us to "keep dropping by".
Thursday was an AWESOME day. The morning was a little slow, but in following promptings of the Spirit, we caught John on his way out the door to work and set up an appointment for Friday. On Thursday, we had four different teaching appointments set up, and they ALL went through! It was so great. Our lesson with Nalina (less-active widow) was ok. But something was amiss. The Spirit just wasn't quite there, and I'm not sure why. She didn't pay great attention, but answered questions with sincere-ish words that lacked the feeling. She committed to church, but didn't show.
Our lesson with Johnathan (13-year-old newer investigator) was better. It sounds like he really does want to learn from us in English, rather than from the Spanish sisters. As soon as we left his house and went to Giovanni's house, his mom, Maria, came knocking on the door looking for Giovanni. "Perros!" she cried, one hand "eating" the other (she doesn't speak much English). She was telling us that their two pitbulls, Yoda and Diamond, were fighting again and she needed help, but Giovanni was in the shower. Elder O'Rullian and I ran over to help, but watched helplessly as the two dogs tore each other apart, swinging clenched jaws back and forth as though the opponent's ear or paw were another rubber chew toy. The carnage continued, smearing blood all over the living room. Eventually, I called for a trashy blanket, wrapped the volatile, furry mass up in it, and maneuvered them out onto the back porch. We closed the sliding glass door on the pups, and they continued to hash it out. We looked on in helpless horror. Then Giovanni burst through the front door. Rumor had it among Johnathan and his family, Giovanni was the only one who knew how to break the fight up. He marched straight to the back porch, grabbed an old high-top shoe from the deck railing, and commenced whacking the dogs in the face, commanding them to stop. In seconds, they were apart and whimpering, humbled. Though both were covered in a coat of red, the fight was over. This man was a master.
Our lesson with Tia went very well. We taught the Gospel of Jesus Christ (faith, repentance, baptism, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end) with a focus on the baptismal covenant. She had written down some of her own questions about how the baptism works, which was cool. Dennis and Tiffany, her parents, were both present, and the former was extremely helpful and supportive during the lesson, as was Brother Noll, our ward mission leader. Tia is now on-date for November 23rd!
Finally, our lesson with Jeff Schmidt was awesome. He approached us on Sunday (having attended church alone) and told us he wanted to start meeting up again, as the past couple of weeks have been rough for him. Of course, we squeezed him in! During the lesson, at Brother Noll's house, we learned that Jeff's primary concerns are with baptism and authority and with "dark spots in the Church's history" (i.e. polygamy, Mountain Meadow Massacre, etc). He believes the Book of Mormon is true and loves the Church, but he's just not all the way there. In fact, he described himself as being "ninety percent there." He doesn't want to jump in without knowing it's right. Brother and Sister Noll were super awesome in helping resolve concerns, and Elder O'Rullian threw it do
wn, saying he needs the spiritual witness of the Book of Mormon -- not just "Smith couldn't have done it any other way than having been commanded of God." So he's close. We'll definitely have to seek revelation there.
Friday was also awesome. We started by teaching Gilda the second half of the Plan of Salvation at Bishop Prete's home. When we taught her about the Spirit World and the missionary work that goes on there, she was brought to tears, saying, "It's so clear. It makes sense! I'm sorry I'm crying. It's just so clear to me!" When we taught about the three kingdoms, Gilda exclaimed, "That why it says in the Bible, 'In my Father's house are many casas!" What a tender experience for everyone in the room!
Our lesson with John Nguyen actually went through. We sat with him on the porch and delivered a 15-minute Restoration lesson. It was short, packed, and powerful. I sure hope it pierced his heart. He seemed to have been reflecting upon what we said as we said it. He re-committed to read the Book of Mormon and pray. After John, we stopped at Brother Lothyan's house (less-active) and shared a message from Ether 6 about God's light. Then he offered the closing prayer and broke down crying as he did so, giving thanks to Heavenly Father for the Light of the World.
As I mentioned, the Copenhavers were at church yesterday, which is a first. The ward did awesome in supporting them and making them feel welcome. Jeff Schmidt was also in attendance. Tia and her family didn't make it, unfortunately, and neither did anyone else that we taught this week. That's ok. There's another Sunday up 'n' coming!
That's about it for this week. There are other details and things, but overall, it was a fantastic week that reminded both Elder O'Rullian and me why being a missionary is so dang incredible.
I love y'all!