Friday, December 26, 2014

Staying Alive

Bishop got up in sacrament meeting yesterday, and announced, "Brothers and sisters, just as a reminder, starting at the beginning of January, our meeting time will change from 1pm to 9am with leadership meetings being held before church."

*you've got to be kidding me*

I knew it. I knew this was going to happen....I'd get transferred from a ward that met at 9am to a ward that met in the afternoon, just to have it changed at the beginning of the year back to 9am. Called it:) I guess I'll never get my wish of being able to "sleep in" till 6:30 on Sundays, so in the mean time, I'll just appreciate the fact that I'm an early bird:)

This week has left me brain fried and bone tired, but I made it:) Leaving Buffalo Grove was one of the hardest things I've ever done on my mission. I cried myself to sleep that last night, feeling like my heart was breaking and wishing more than anything that I could just stop time and never leave. But, the Lord has a plan and with that plan He gives us the strength to overcome and achieve. I've felt Him so near--SO near--as I've taken every day since leaving BG, one step at a time.

I still miss it. I can't see an Oregon ducks bumper sticker without thinking of the O'Briens. I can't drive past Harding st. without thinking of the Kumars. I can't hear a Georgian accent (or visit the hospital:) without thinking of the Robisons. I can't pass Bass Pro Shops without thinking of the Kuffers. I can't notice Taco Bell without hoping for a reunion with the Eyres. And when we were at the mission home this week, and President Woodbury offered me an "amazing Austrian cookie from the Lex's," I just about cried.

Those members, those investigators, those people.....they have my heart! And it hurts to be so far from them. I wondered as I sat in church yesterday, surrounded by people I didn't know and who didn't know me and feeling sorry for myself, how I'd ever be able to let go of my old area, those relationships, those memories and to move on. Almost immediately, the spirit reminded me of a letter Pres Woodbury had written to the missionaries a short while ago. He wrote about receiving a new heart from the Lord (Ezekiel 36:26) as we turn over our hearts to Him: "He will give it back to you new and refreshed, full of hope for good things to come and full of love for Him and all mankind."

I realized in that moment that I didn't need to forget.....I didn't need to forget those people I loved, those memories I cherished, or those relationships I'd formed. Those will always be close to my heart. All He asks of me now is to continue to love even more. That loves never runs out, and I DO have more to give, because He'll fill my heart with love for these new people as I strive to be His hands here in Westchester.

*Keep Calm. Love On*

That's what I'll do:)

This area is a 180 from Buffalo Grove. I'm back to buzzing buzzer boards, smelling weed in almost every apartment complex we visit, ignoring the cat calls and whistles while walking the streets as the only two white girls around, and....of isn't complete in Chicago without getting honked at every time we change lanes or the light turns green.

>>TBT to the Evanston days<<

We're having fun though...and every day is an when the elders texted us Saturday evening asking us if we could go to the church building THAT night and find a baptismal dress for their investigator who was getting baptized the NEXT day. Nothing quite like cramming at the last minute, elders:) So we naturally head over there, and Sis Green goes to open the baptismal closet only to find that it's locked. Well....only one thing to do. While Sis Green starts scrolling through the phone to locate someone to open the closet for us...

.....I pulled a credit card out of my wallet.......

Hey, ya gotta do whatchya gotta do sometimes:) I explained to Sis Green later that at college, it was easier for me to pull my student ID out of my pocket when I got back to my apartment than to go digging for my keys in my dark abyss of a backpack. Sooooooo....i got pretty good at the push-and-slide technique. You never know when stuff like that is going to come in handy.....just saying:)

AND...the elders' investigator had her outfit pressed and ready for her by the next morning.

Mission accomplished. hahaha!

On Wednesday, we were invited to gather as a zone downtown at the Kris Kringle market to carol and give out hot chocolate. After an hour of driving and another half hour of trying to find a parking spot, we finally started off on foot to walk about a quarter mile to where our zone was caroling. Before we'd gone very far though, we stopped in at a CVS to use the restroom, but before we'd even made it to the back of the store, a man bumped into us, saw our name tags and said, "Mormons!" We were a bit surprised, but told him that's who we were to which he responded, "I need to talk to you."

Well ok....

He escorted us out into the metra food court and sat us down at a table. Then, for over an hour he talked and talked and talked.....all about his life, serving in the Vietnam war, his struggle with PTSD, giving us life advice (including how NOT to "run off after our missions and marry the first guy we meet":), his relationship with God, and a million other topics (not the least of which was his view on physical fitness, how "beautiful and angelic" our faces were, the ingratitude of younger generation "yuppies," and the corrupt politicians of America). In any other circumstance, I'd have been totally creeped out, eyeing the closest exit, and possibly speed dialing the elders. However, as we sat there with him, the spirit prompted, "Just listen."

Our zone was waiting for us, we were already half an hour late, and it was getting dark, but the spirit spoke, so we sat there. Honestly, I couldn't take my eyes off him; I was totally intrigued by this perfect stranger sitting in front of me, telling me all about his life and struggles. He fascinated me, and though we didn't say hardly two words during the whole hour we "visited" with him, I knew that's where we were supposed to be. He began wrapping up, talking about how he was haunted every night by the memories of his time in Vietnam. His eyes clouded as he told us he'd wake up in cold sweats, see the faces of those he had been forced to kill, and hear Vietnamese phrases screaming in his dreams. "But, he said, there's nothing you or I can do about it. I've asked God to take it from me and He hasn' that's the way it is."

Immediately, the spirit spoke directly to my mind, "PROMISE him, right now, that his PTSD will be taken from him if he reads the Book of Mormon and pursues this course." I was taken off guard. I've always wanted to have an experience on my mission where the spirit directed me to promise a specific and....let's be honest....impressive…blessing to an individual. However, when the prompting came, I instinctively questioned it. "I don't know the ins and outs of PTSD. If doctors and psychologists can't help him, how am I supposed to make this promise to him?? I don't want to get his hopes up. Maybe this prompting isn't from the spirit, it's just wishful thinking."

But that prompting kept coming and coming, until I KNEW that it was undeniably given by the spirit. I finally spoke up, "Dave, you said just a moment ago that we couldn't do anything for you....and to a point that's true. But I KNOW that your Savior, Jesus Christ can and will." I testified to him of the divine mission of Christ to administer to those in need, and to save us from our pain and suffering. Then, I extended a Book of Mormon to him and said, "As messengers of Him, I can I promise you that if you read this book....and follow its teachings and continue to progress towards Him...your PTSD will be alleviated."

I'm sure my companion was a bit shocked, but once the words left my mouth, I knew they were meant to be said. He just looked at me for a second, his eyes bloodshot and teary....and then said, "I'll give you my word, I'll read it tonight." Before he walked away from us that night, he told us, "I can't tell you enough what this has meant to me." We hadn't solved all his problems, given him every answer to all his questions, or even taught him earth-shattering doctrine.....but we had LISTENED. We'd loved. And through the spirit, we'd promised him a blessing that only God could give.

I walked away from that conversation, so deeply grateful to the Lord for giving me the opportunity to be His servant.....His a man who needed two young girls to just listen. It took an hour long drive into the city, a half hour of driving in circles to find parking, and a quarter mile walk on foot, for the spirit to bring us to him.....but he did. And there's no better feeling than knowing you were in the right place at the right time, for the one person that needed you. How grateful I am that I was the one given that incredible opportunity!


The rest of our week consisted of an amazing (and much-needed) trip to the temple, a Christmas lunch and uplifting devotional at the mission home, a beautiful blessing and interview with President Woodbury, and a lot of introductions to investigators, members, and ward leadership.

I'm exhausted. But I'm alive:)

Quick health update: all the tests are in, and still no answers. After a lot of prayer, I've felt that the Lord's will for me is that I endure these challenges for these last few months I have left. It's frustrating to not feel at my best all the time, especially when all I want is to go fast and hard till the end, but the Lord has a plan, and for now, I'm putting it in His hands. I've decided to put further tests and doctors appointments on hold until I'm back home, and to instead just take it a day at a time, trusting in His strength to pull me through:)

Thank you for your love and prayers! They work miracles out here!! This work is hard and demanding, but it is oh, so rewarding!

Onward and upward,

Sister Anna Parker

i saw santa in #theregoesmychildhoodfantasy

our missionary christmas tree:)