It never ceases to amaze me how quickly the week goes by so fast. Some of the conversations I had with people earlier in the week honestly feel like a month ago. This week has been good, challenging mentally and spiritually, but good.
Monday we were planning on going hiking but that fell through so we ended up spending the day with the other sister training leaders here in Modesto. Monday night we did a speed "friendshipping" for family home evening which was fun. One of the questions we were asked was to share a Christmas memory and the one that came to mind first was sitting on the steps Christmas morning and dad teasing us that Santa hadn't come that night but then telling us one by one we could go start opening presents. Oh the happy memories our family has that are so cherished!
That night we went up to Galt to begin an exchange. I was with one sister who goes home at the end of this transfer. She's had a hard mission and has really struggled emotionally and mentally. She and her companion live with 2 other sisters at the same house and they are crammed into one room with all 4 beds and all 4 desks so it's hard to have a personal conversation and have that time to talk and discern where the missionary is at and how you can help them. It was hard to feel the spirit and have a private conversation and talk with her about what she really needs right now before going home. At the end of the exchange I was driving home feeling really discouraged wishing that I could have said or done things differently. I worried that some of the things that I had said to this sister (while the other 2 sisters were still there) were taken the wrong way. Isn't that the worst? When you want to have a positive experience with someone and it doesn't go the way you hoped it would? We're there as sister training leaders to go into their area and help them and I felt like I'd completely screwed it up and failed.
Then on Wednesday we had our zone conference which was great. President feels strongly that we as missionaries need to apply the counsel from President Uchtdorf and get back to the basics and keep things simple. Even as missionaries it's easy to make our discipleship and missionary work complicated so it was a great discussion about how we can apply that. We also discussed the role of our companionship studies, the principle of finding and helping our investigators understand the importance of partaking of the sacrament and why that ordinance is so sacred. I was feeling good after that meeting even though a part of me still felt bad about the exchange from the previous day. I felt the spirit remind me I can always improve but we're doing our best.
But that good feeling pretty much all went down the drain when we had a quick zone leadership meeting afterwards. Our zone has been struggling finding solid investigators and people who are prepared and ready to receive the gospel. My companion and I both expressed at different times that we both need to have more faith about our area. With so many sisters all over the mission our time and thoughts have been focused on them. However small it's important we follow any and ALL impressions we receive from the spirit. If that's going up for a surprise visit, doing studies with them, an extra exchange or work in their area for a few hours, whatever prompting we get we follow it even if nothing really happens or changes. So despite trying our best to help these sisters, we're failing to work in our area and strengthen the branch. It's been a difficult thing to balance, helping them in their area and help their companionship versus us in our area and in our companionship even when we're promised that the Lord will make the adjustment in our area when we put our sisters first.
After dinner on Wednesday night we drove to Tracy to do another exchange with some of our sisters. On our drive there, two different sisters called about some concerns that had come up. We told them that we would work something out after our exchange but I texted their district leader (who we report back to) that they had called. When I got back to my area with the sister who was with me for the next day, I called him and he could tell that I was flustered over the phone and asked what was going on. I didn't go into much detail but that I felt like I wasn't doing anything right. We're trying so hard to help these sisters and I was still wishing I could have changed how the previous exchange had gone and feeling discouraged we were hardly getting to work in our area. We talked for a few minutes and he was able to say some things that helped.
The next day the sister I was with who has only been out with for a month completely broke down about the things she's been struggling with. I reached over to give her a hug and she held on for at least 10 minutes desperate for someone to talk to her and really hear her. My heart broke as she talked about how much she missed home and questioned why she had even decided to come on a mission. We spent some time talking and even listing out WHY she was on her mission and what she could be doing to help her companionship but also how she could be helping herself. I remember being where she was, feeling so new and so overwhelmed with everything we face and feeling like I didn't have a clue. I encouraged her that it does get better, we're never the picture perfect missionary and we're constantly improving and we never have it all but that initial adjustment to being a missionary does pass. We talked more as I was driving her back to her area, reviewing what we had talked about and some of the things I would follow up with her in the next few days.
Later that night after we had switched back, my companion and I were talking about the exchange and something we both thought (and maybe this is a cop out) but maybe the Lord hasn't provided us with investigators and assigned us to the YSA where not much is going on so that we can spend that time focusing on these sisters. From day one on the mission we are told over and over again that our purpose is to invite others to come unto Christ by helping them receive the restored gospel through faith in Jesus Christ and his atonement, repentance, baptism, receiving the gift of the holy ghost and enduring to the end. We know that we're here for all kinds of people: the non-members, the less-actives, our companions, our families, ourselves.
But what if right now we're here to help these sisters have faith in Jesus Christ and his atonement. And help them repent, and understand the sacrament to renew baptismal covenants and feel the spirit and endure to the end. Is that allowed? To not be helping your actual area but instead the sisters we steward? It's something that's been on my mind constantly and I've struggled to find the answer. But one thing that president shared with us during zone conference was found in Alma 5:45-46. (I've been studying and reading Alma 5 throughout the transfer, all you ponderizers go read Alma 5! It is so powerful) Alma is sharing with the people the things he knows to be true and he asks them "how do ye suppose that I know of their surety? behold, I say unto you that they are made known unto me by the holy spirit of God. I have fasted and prayed many days that I might know these things of myself". So even though it's been an internal conflict I've been debating whether or not if I'm doing the right thing for our area and these sisters, I know I'll get the answer I need. And I know that I'm not a perfect leader, I'm still going to make mistakes and wish that I could do things differently, but oh am I grateful for all of these learning and growing experiences that the Lord is kind enough to extend to me. During his last remarks at conference president said, "The Lord loves you too much to let you joy ride through your mission" and isn't that so true for life? He loves us too much to let us joy ride through life and not have hard, sometimes painful and uncomfortable experiences. He wants us to be prepared to meet him when that day comes and this is the time given to us to prepare.
So those are the thoughts from the deep well of Sister Allen. I don't have all the answers I need right now but I do know that they will come. I know that they will for all things. Maybe not in the way or in the time we want them to, but in the way we need them to. I'm so grateful for this gospel and for the atonement that helps us along the way to be become better people.
Thank you always for the fun emails and letters in the mail, they are appreciated more than you know. I am doing my best to write back everyone soon. I hope you all have a great week!
Love to you all!