I'm going to be annoying and just go ahead and say it: I have the best companion and the best area in the whole mission. There, I've said it. I must have done something right (or maybe something wrong?) to be in this awesome area with my new companion. She's from Pennsylvania and has been out for 2 transfers now. Our area is really small and consists of 5 "villages." That sounds kinda 1800s creepy, but it's just 5 different neighborhoods. They look little Potemkin villages with these perfect houses lined up along the streets. The ward split back in June, it used to be huge but now that we cover just the villages the area is a lot smaller so we bike full time and I love it! We're sister training leaders over 12 sisters throughout the mission again this transfer, so we have a car we use to get to them, P-day and meetings but when we work in our area we're biking and it's been a blast. I crashed and ran into a bush on my first night, it was bound to happen at some point on my mission. I'm just glad it was in the dark and no one was around. There are a lot of punk teenagers that live in the area that like to chase us and yell things as we ride by. I'm not a huge fan of those kids, but hey at least they aren't dogs so I'm not complaining! We're teaching quite a few people right now that have been found all from biking and street-contacting. I love it.
We live in a non-member's "casita" I'd never heard of such a thing but it's this tiny apartment attached to their house with a separate entrance. Sister Neeley and I are having a ton of fun together so we don't mind that's is small. Halloween was still hot, but once we hit November it's been chilly during the mornings and in the evenings, especially on bike. I'm glad the heat is behind us and am more than happy to wear boots,coats and scarves, I'd choose fall over summer any day. It's rained a few times as well, we're hoping we'll continue to receive more.
My first night we went over to Amy's for dinner. She and her husband have been married for a year or so now but they dated on and off for a long time. She joined the church while they were dating but stopped going when they broke up and since getting back together and married she's started attending church more regularly. She's been struggling to know if she has a testimony of the church and of the book of Mormon because she feels like she never receives answers. She said she never really "feels" anything, but she wants to know these things for herself. We've offered to start reading in the Book of Mormon with them once a week which is where we'll be tonight so that she can start to gain a testimony and recognize the spirit working with her as she receives answers and impressions on her own.
David is in a part member family; I guess the missionaries who were in the area before kept trying to meet his wife, DeAnne who hasn't gone to church for over 30 years but they never got in. A few weeks ago they tried again and David answered the door. His wife's family is really active in the church and has sent missionaries over several times through the years and it's always turned him off but something was different this time as they bore their testimonies and he said he'd be willing to listen. The ward here is awesome where the members ask us if they can go out to teach with us, when it's always been us practically on our knees begging members to come to a lesson. We went over Wednesday night with the bishop's wife and had a great lesson. DeAnne's sister, Stephanie who has been living with them who also hasn't been to church in a long time was there as well. We were planning to teach the Gospel of Jesus Christ (faith, repentance, baptism, holy ghost, endure to the end) but instead, Stephanie was telling us about how their dad had passed away and got emotional how they had called someone from the church to come over and give him a blessing and he passed away peacefully. She said it had been a long time since she had felt the spirit and always knew the church was true but she's always had a job and that's taken a lot of her time. I don't even remember what we taught or shared but the spirit was so strong. We invited David to attend church with us again but he had to work but DeAnne said that she would come. David is such a great guy, they both are. He always says how good he feels when we're there, and that he knows what we share with them is true.
Friday was a really busy day with several meetings we had to attend and we went to stop by some of our sisters that live in our zone so we were late riding over to dinner. As we were on one of the trails, we met Cody. He's 23 and walks around the park everyday so we asked if we could come back the next day to teach him. We had a good lesson with him though, we think he might have some mental illnesses but we're not quite sure. We didn't feel the spirit warning us or telling us he was dangerous or anything, but we have another lesson with him on Tuesday so we'll see how it goes. He has a lot of questions but needs light, happiness and peace in his life right now, lucky for him though we have just the cure :)
Saturday morning we went and taught Monique with one of our members; her dad was in our area book but he recently passed away and she's had a lot of questions about religion, her purpose in life etc. She wants to get baptized but wants to make sure this is the right church for her and it feels like the right thing to do. We're still teaching the lessons with her and keeping her committed to reading the Book of Mormon and praying. Sister Neeley always tells our investigators to ask specific questions because the Lord will give us specific answers, so we're looking forward to continue teaching and meeting with her.
On Sunday, DeAnne came to church! We called and left her a voicemail but we were excited when she came in and stayed all 3 hours. We were asked to teach in gospel principles, we kept it basic but the spirit was strong. Then in relief society, the bishop's wife, Sister Ross (who had come to the lesson with us) taught in relief society. We had the "Feed my Sheep" lesson from President Benson. Sister Ross shared that she knew she needed to step it up and think more about other people, the other sheep in her life and shared how much she had enjoyed coming to the lesson with us and how it gave her the motivation she needed to re-focus on other people in her life. After she shared, DeAnne raised her hand and shared how much she had felt the spirit during our lesson. She's been a member her whole life but hasn't been in a long time and while we were in Relief Society she realized that she's been a lost sheep for a long time now. She hasn't had much interest in coming back to church, but something softening with her husband it's been what she's been needing in her life as well without recognizing it. Sister Neelely and I were humbled and so grateful to hear about that lesson from their perspective and not just ours; yes we're teaching David for the first time, but it's like the first time for DeAnne as well to be hearing and remembering these thing she grew up learning. We're looking forward to continue working with the both of them.
There are a few other people that we're working with that I haven't had the chance to meet with, but it's a great area and I'm excited to continue working here. It's been amazing to look back and see how the Lord originally split the ward in June and then the mission split in July...clearly there are people and families who are ready and waiting to receive the gospel that they needed their own missionaries in the ward. We're determined to find them and work as hard as we can.
Like I said, we have 12 sisters who are all over the misison; there seems to always be a few that need extra love and support during the transfer so with our area and helping with these sisters we'll be staying pretty busy. At our meeting on Friday with President and Sister Palmer, one of the things that was shared and I'd heard it before but it really resonated with me this time, while we are working with the Lord's missionaries, He is working in our area. I'm going to rely and trust on that this transfer with how much we'll have to spend away from the area as we help some of these sisters, but I know that he's so involved in the work and is looking after it even and especially when we aren't there. During the meeting, we split off into groups and had a few minutes to be with President and Sister Palmer and they told us that we were assigned as leaders because we are trusted by the Lord. We are all loved, but few are trusted. I know that I want and need to continue to be worthy of that trust, one thing that Sister Neeley and I will be working on this transfer is seeking more ways to be obedient. It's sad but something you see a lot with missionaries; some try to find more excuses and ways to bend the rules rather than look for ways to be obedient. I know that I still have a few months left, but it goes by so fast and I don't want to look back on my mission and wish that I could have worked harder or regretted some of the choices I had made. I know I'm not perfect but I know the Lord blesses those who are obedient to his commandments and find happiness in them.
I'd better get going, thank you all for the emails and updating me with how things are going in your lives. I feel so full and so blessed to have such incredible family and friends in my life. I hope you all have a great week, we're looking forward to a good one here in Manteca.
Love, Sister Allen