|P-day with penguins at Ripley's Believe it or Not Aquarium in the Smokies|
Dear Family! HELLO!
This week was grand. We played a jolly game of tennis last p-day, and then visited an inactive family (who barely remembered they were members) and they had a pet hedgehog I got to hold! Then on Tuesday, we'd planned to go out with this couple in our ward the Bakers. They are much older, and have served a mission in Utah, and Brother Baker is the most stern and sarcastic person you'll ever meet, and Sister Baker is as sweet as pie. But we took them to contact a referral we'd received. We got there and met Stacy.
Stacy is 48, she has a 13 year old daughter, Anaka,whom she loves very much. A year ago she was in the mortgage business, but after a sudden heart bypass surgery a year ago, lost her job and all her money and has been living on nothing for the last year. Through a patriotic group on facebook, she connected with a Utahn (ex-MoTab member in fact) and he sent the missionaries over to talk with her. So she was almost set for baptism in Knoxville, and then had to move for financial reasons. But somehow we got sent her address! The Bakers took us to contact her, and she was crying almost as soon as we walked in. She told us she knew we came from God and she needed us. As she told us her story, Brother Baker would interrupt occasionally and say, "don't cry! look at the bright side, everyone goes through these things." So that was kind of interesting. But we had a good lesson and scheduled a return appointment for Saturday.
One cool experience was Thursday, we called Sister Whitehead (a less active sister we work with) to schedule a visit and she informed us she was very sick that night. Turns out we were heading to the house of a one of the very few families in the ward with two Melchizedek priesthood holders in the household for dinner that night who lived very near, so we asked if we could come offer her a blessing. To our surprise she said yes! So we knew that she really must have been sick. Anyway this family had only met her once despite living a mile away! So after dinner we went together and they gave her the blessing, she was so grateful. Priesthood power is real.
Friday we made waffles for the seminary students, it was great fun. We had leftovers after so we decided we'd share with the elders after district meeting, but we didn't think anyone was coming besides our normal district. Ten minutes before the meeting started, the zone leaders came, then a minute later in walks President Griffen! I was very shocked! We had a great meeting, he helped me with some questions I had as we role-played. I was also shocked when afterward he stayed and had waffles with us! What really stood out to me is that he's so personable to every missionary. He's fun and loving. It's really a testimony to me that the Lord knows who and what we need out here in the mission.
Afterward, we had an appointment fall through and I was at a loss of what to do, until the thought came to my mind that our Bishop had asked us to visit a sister in the ward who's gone through surgery recently. When I called her to ask if we could swing by, she sounded very very hesitant. But we just walked in and began visiting, and she began to tell us her marvelous story. She's really one of the strongest members I've met, her testimony has withstood her husband leaving her, some of her children falling in and out of activity, insults that could've offended her, losing all her money and her house, and breast cancer most recently. And she tearfully told us that she stays strong because she knows what's right and true, and she wants her children to know what's right and true. We were all in tears by the end, and her heart had definetely changed and I think she was glad we'd come by. That was just a great strengthener for me.
Saturday night we met again with Stacy and Anaka, this time bringing Sister Kennedy and her daughter as fellowshippers. The lesson was great, we talked about the Restoration, and set a date for their baptism on September 13th! We know Satan will be working on them hard though in every way-physically, financially, and with bits of doctrine that are hard at first (understanding the role of the priesthood and women, for example), so please pray for Stacy and Anaka!
Today we went with the Maryville missionaries to Ripley's Believe it or not Aquarium in the Smokies and it was ever so fun!!! We walked with sharks and petted jellyfish and sting rays. But the best part was the cute penguins. I loved it! After we went to eat at a place called Old Mill, corn fritters are my new favorite thing.
I'm not really thinking about my year mark this week too much. "The past is behind--learn from it; the future is ahead --prepare for it; the present is here--live it" -President Monson
LOVE you ALL!!!
Hermana Madeleine Collier