Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Not By Our Doing

This week I can't help but starting out by announcing this. We got a BCD! If we look that up in the Mormonese to English dictionary, making sure to use the Missionary Dialect we will see that BCD means.... someone's getting baptized. Baptism and Confirmation Date is what that actually stands for and we made sure as of Thursday that our youngest investigator, Morgan, who is a senior in high school, got one of those hehe. If all goes well she will be baptized on September 14th. We are doing our best to support her and keep in close contact because she moves around between school and her parents' houses a lot. But she has a strong desire to be baptized and I know she can make it.
Me and Sister Bennion teach a wide variety of people. It's pretty crazy. There's youngsters like Morgan, old ladies who have been the same religion for 80 years (they don't progress much, but I think they like having the girls over), Southern Baptists looking for a debate, people who let us in because they want to Jehovah's Witness bash and then they figure out that we are Mormon and awkwardly have to let us talk, and then there's like 300 less active members in this ward and they expect us to track down all of them. :O My favorite thing to do is teach progessing investigators though. They are generally more friendly to the Church than less-actives even.
Oh gosh, how could I forget to highlight the biggest adventure of the week. Sister Bennion and I took a wrong turn in the backwoods and ended up stuck in the bug infested Florida sand-dirt for three hours!! A ward member had to tow us out when the Elders couldn't even though they drive a truck. We definitely learned a lesson about using our best judgment there. :P
Okay, highlight of the week. I even got to tell this story to the Fort Walton Stake President who I met yesterday at ward conference. We are teaching this guy David who is definitely one of those people who comes to the lesson ready to debate and negate. He said upfront that the heart is treacherous and he feels no emotion. He owns like 10 versions of the Bible and I kid you not, his hobby is to bring over representatives of different religions and debate with them. So naturally I was hesistant to go over to his house twice this week. The first time went alright. He said at the end, in regard to the Book of Mormon, "I can't reject this completely" which I thought was a big step. Next visit I'm still really hesitant and Sister Bennion starts saying how she wants me to get involved with the lesson more. So yeah we get to this lesson and he's debating everything and then he's debating about the Spirit of God and he says that it's treacherous to feel anything, but then out of nowhere he started tearing up and talking about how he knows the Spirit is real and he can feel it when he reads the scriptures. It's not an emotion, he said, (so I guess it isn't so treacherous haha), but he knows it can help him learn the truth and he agreed to read The Book of Mormon. :) So, we'll see where this goes.
Not by our doing, my friends. It's the Spirit! :D That's what softens people and makes them want to learn more, come to church, and get BCDs. It's really the best missionary in the world.

Love you, everyone!
Till next week,
Sister Laura Cooper
The gorgeous DeFuniak Sunset 

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

The Measure of Success

I've made it through my first full week in the field. P day came so much faster than I anticipated. Getting lost in the work is actually easier than I thought! All you have to do is get up in the morning, run, eat breakfast, study, and then work as hard as you can until 9 pm.
This week Sister Bennion and I spent a few hours at a retired couple's house making a huge map of DeFuniak and marking every less-active member and investigator on it. We hope that it will assist us and all the DeFuniakan missionaries following us to find out where the heck they are going! We have GPS's, but sometimes a visual aid is helpful. Though we hope that some of these people will eventually be ridded of their need to be on the map.
AKA they will get baptized or come back to church and become the most excellent members of the ward. :))
Also this week we had a district meeting and a new missionaries of Fort Walton zone meeting at the chapel in Crestview. It's hard on the mileage on the car, but it's great to see the other missionaries from time to time. Sister Imlay is still in this zone, so it's cool to see her, and her trainer who I knew at BYU!
This week a lot of lessons fell through, and we worked some with active members to try to get the work going, so when it came down to yesterday morning and our numbers were really low for the week, me and Sister Bennion both were feeling pretty stressed. We talked about it in the car and over a picnic lunch (yeah outside during a flash flood warning... ). Although Sunday was going great and our numbers were starting to pick up, we took our philosophy back to Preach My Gospel and reminded ourselves that the measure of a successful missionary is not an elder or sister who has appointments set up every hour of every day. It's not who is best liked of all the missionaries in the mission. It's not the one who never gets lost or stuck out in the rain. It's not the one who gets the numbers they want... It's the one who commits to find people to teach and bring unto Christ! You can make all of your goals and never help anyone feel The Spirit and come unto Christ. But as long as you are striving to help and invite people, and to introduce them to or remind them of the gospel, you are excellent by Heavenly Father's standards. People have their agency to get to church or get to Fort Walton beach, but we do all we can to help them feel that there is a right answer to that choice. :)
I miss each of you at home, and I send you a hug from me, but know that I love this work! This is the truth, and DeFuniak needs to hear it! :)

Sister Cooper
                                          This is me trying to survive a rainstorm
                                           Me and my companion Sister Bennion

                                             The turtle we found!!!!

                                                         The view from my window! Right onto lake defuniak. :)

Monday, August 12, 2013

The Land Southward

I arrived in Tallahassee Tuesday afternoon and I felt like I was just in a different world! The airport here is super small (it flies only to like Atlanta and Tampa...).

Everything was blurry until I got dinner and my new camera in the mail. Then I was like OMG it's all real! I'm in the deep south. :o

That night I found out I was going to DeFuniak and I was like OH THAT SOUNDS NICE AND LIKE A BEACH OR SOMETHING.

Haha this is totally the town they based Cars on.... Whatever lol. My companion is Sister Bennion from Salt Lake City. She is training me and guess what. She's never served in DeFuniak in fact this is only her second transfer... She is great though! She always makes sure we are out the door for a jog around the lake at 6:30 am sharp. :P Oh and btw my window looks directly onto a train tract where trains start going through at 5 am. xP

Since we knew no one in this area five days ago, we don't really get fed much and we do a lot of tracking less actives down so we can teach somebody. The Defuniak Ward covers two cities and sixty people come to church, but 400 people are on the roll. That puts some serious strain on the people that do come to church so we've got lots of inspiration to help them out. It's funny because Sister Bennion told me that in her last branch the Branch President and the Relief Society President both spent the first Sunday asking the branch members to help the missionaries, give them rides, feed them, ect. 

Ohhhh well sounds like we'll be tracking down less-actives and referrals, and going door to door preaching the gospel for a while. Hey, that's what we're here for. :)  We have ridden our bikes a little but we hope to do more of that because our miles are limited on the car and we're always lost! This place is crazy backwoodsy and spread out. I don't like the dirt or mosquitos (seriously my legs look like I have chicken pox), but I am so honored to be in an area that has been closed to sister missionaries before now! We are roughing it for sure, but I guess the Lord trusts us! 

Ok ok I've got a good story about missionary work. Yesterday after church and lunch, we ventured into the backwoods to find some less actives. We got pretty well lost and our GPS was just like uh IDK drive into a tree or something. So we stopped and knocked on the door of this little house and asked for directions and once we got them, Sister Bennion started bearing her testimony about the restoration and guess what... THEY TOTALLY LET US IN! We talked to this lady and her son for like an hour about The Book of Mormon and everything and by the end the son asked me to highlight recommendations of chapters in The Book of Mormon and he had me explain all of the pictures in the front. Plus they gave us lemonade. :D It was so awesome! We are going back there probably this weekend to teach them again. 

The people in "the land Southward" (here haha) are the funniest. There are churches on every corner. In fact, word on the street is that the local polygamist Church of Christ branch goes proselyting around here and it makes a lot of the people we tract in to suuuuuper confused. We have heard about all kinds of things we Mormons worship. Joseph Smith, Sidney Rigdon, Virgin Mary, ect. Oh dear we have a lot of straightening up to do. :P

I'm having a blast! ;) We are biking home after this and probably gonna make some brownies from a mix the senior couple missionaries in our area left for us.
That's me saying bye bye to my MTC comp Sister Imlay! She serves in Baker, FL now, being trained by my friend from BYU Sister Leifson! 

 Love you all a lot!!

Sister Laura Cooper