Jessie: A 21 year old less active in the ward. Problems with smoking marijuana and the law of chastity which she is very open about. We hadn't met her in the last six weeks somehow, which is odd because we know essentially every member on the list. Anyhow we had dinner with her family this week and I felt like I could really connect with her. She is a good person at heart, she just doesn't have any vision for herself or her life... she just goes wherever the waves will take her. Well she mentioned wanting to serve a mission. We set up a time to take her out teaching two days later. She came with us and when our appointment fell through we knocked on doors with her. Once we knocked on the first door she ran away to hide. (It was a perfect moment capturing the emotions I feel inside almost every time we knock on a strangers door haha.) After that she got a little more comfortable and actually was testifying without promptings from us by the time we were done! She even asked to go out with us again, and so the next day we took her out again to teach a family we had found knocking with her the 1st time. She has made HUGE improvements in less than a weeks time. Jessie told us when we picked her up the second time that she had stopped texting the boy she was having problems with, and that she had given up smoking!! When we checked on her a few days later at church she was still going strong!!
Juan and Jackie: A couple the Elders had taught once when we got transferred in. We met Juan our very first night in Coalinga but then they were never there for our appointments and so we stopped teaching them. Well, this week we were out in Huron trying to contact less actives and we were driving up and down this tiny little street looking for a house. We passed this rather large scary looking gangster type man probably four times (and of course waved awkwardly but laughing each time). Finally we realize that it is probably his house that we are looking for. We pull over and climb out of the car when the man says that he knows us. It was Juan! He invited us to come over and have a lesson that night with him and his girlfriend! So we did and it was great. [Juan was at his parents and the less active we were looking for lived next door].
Vince and Amber: I've probably wrote about them before. Basically they are AWESOME! I love them so much. Now that they are over the German Measles and all that craziness and Jared the son's birthday has passed we were finally able to meet with them again. We helped them decide a wedding date and scheduled it with the Bishop over the phone during the lesson. It was really a quite hilarious moment to watch this tough marine get so nervous/anxious about his upcoming wedding while she was totally at ease. haha I love it. So April 19th will be the day they tie the knot! And then one year from then off to the temple!! Vince is all the way through Heleman in his Book of Mormon reading so they are doing really well! My favorite quote of the week also came from Jared during this lesson. I asked Amber and Vince why they thought God would command us to keep the Sabbath-day holy? Jared the 5 year old pipes up from the other room and says," Maybe, because He is smart like me!" hahaha
Melonie and Steve: This by far is the most emotional and spiritual miracle part of the week for me. I wrote it down in a journal on the 15th and so this next part is going to be a selection of what I've written... "We really are the sum total of our experiences. Everything we do and see leads us to more moments where we take and apply all of our knowledge. I feel this is especially true right now as a full-time missionary and representative of Jesus Christ. So often I struggle with and question the Lord's timing. I want to jump forward and expect that then is where happiness will be waiting, but it isn't so. It's always been about the journey and not the end destination. If only we could savor and treasure every learning and growing opportunity we have here in life... think how much happier we'd be. Well, I feel that meeting Melonie has helped me to do that more in my life; savor every moment that I'm granted. As I reflect back on my journey to here and now I realize how crucial the Lord's timing really is. If I'd left on my mission right when I turned 21 I wouldn't be here now, I'd be at home. Not to mention I would've missed those months of preparation and time with my siblings who are now on their own unique life trajectories. But anyhow I want to share the story of meeting Melonie because I truly feel that knowing her has and will continue to change my life. Four days ago was about as normal as any missionary Tuesday can be. We (Sis Johnson and I) were out tracting most of the day. finding new people to teach is one of my least favorite missionary activities. Talking with people I don't know is still a daunting task, and yet it must be done especially when you don't have many people you are teaching. We'd had our only set appointment (one to do service) fall through, and as a result were knocking on doors and offering to say prayers with people. We'd prayed with drunken men on the corner and tried all of our referrals. It wasn't a horrible day by any means, but by the same token it was NOT my "cup of tea" either (or as Sis Johnson would say my idea of "good clean FUN"). I even was lucky enough to get stung by a Bee that afternoon. Feeling rather sorry for myself I kept going "gutting through it". We had dinner with some members and then taught lessons to some recent converts. But the whole day (and my whole outlook on life) was changed when we met Melonie. Late in the afternoon early evening time frame we'd tried to visit a less active member who wasn't home, and then a referral for the neighbor who lived next door who was also not at home. I was walking back to the car with frustration and slight discouragement when Sister Johnson points out to me a family on the other side of the street we should go talk to. I hadn't even noticed them, but as we walked closer I was sure they wouldn't be interested in our message. The man was laboring intensely tearing up the solid dirt surface (that would be a yard) with only a shovel and elbow-grease. The woman sat smoking a cigarette on the front stoop in an immodest tank-top. Three young children ran around the yard kicking a ball, swinging a shovel, and just being loud rowdy children. As we approach them I tell Sister Johnson to NOT walk on the yard that looks freshly raked. In her usual cheery manner she bubbly replies that she "wouldn't dream of it". We begin to talk with the woman who kindly tells us she is Catholic but accepts our invitation to pray with her. There was more small talk and getting to know her, all the while I am thinking to myself that this will be like the other 100 doors and we'll pray and leave and that will be it. But when we ask her if there anything she would like us to specifically include in the prayer the tone changes. She tells her 8 year old daughter Miracle to go stand by her dad on the far side of the yard and then come back. She looks at us and tells us that she had just found out that day that she has brain cancer. We assure her that we'll include that in the prayer and testify that families can be together forever. She hadn't even told her children yet. In that instant I felt the position of the world shift. I felt a heavy burden to pray sincerely for this family without disclosing the sad news to her children. I desperately wanted to instantly transmit the peace and love that only a testimony in Jesus Christ and Heavenly Father can give. Acting as a voice to that prayer I invoked the blessings of Heaven upon them for their righteous actions and testified again of the eternal nature of families. I don't remember the words I used or all the specific things included, but I KNOW the Holy Ghost came and rested upon us in those moments. It was beautiful. Then Melonie had questions she and Miracle had been discussing previously about Adam and Eve. So we were able to teach them a little more about the creation. Then Sister Johnson and I introduced the Book of Mormon and read some verses about the Stripling Warriors (Alma 58:46-48). Sister Johnson connected it to raising our children and then invited them to come to church on Sunday. They accepted. We then set a return appointment for Thursday evening and marked Alma chapter 7 for them to read. Waving happily we climb into our car and drive away. Once in the grey corolla Sis Johnson and I simply look at one another. I sat replaying the whole scenario in my head. I couldn't fathom what had just happened. I felt so grateful for my life, for my health, for my family. Sister Johnson and I began to disagree over the life expectancy of Melonie. I thought she had told us one week to her next birthday and Sister Johnson thought one year to the birthday after the one a week away. Either way it didn't matter, because the outcome would be the same. Yet in our young naive minds this was a point worthy of debate; not considering the facts that three children will soon be motherless, their father without his beloved companion, or how we were currently in the position to give comfort to someone preparing to exit this phase of life. I won't say I had enough clarity for all of that to really sink in just moments later, because I didn't. What I did realize however was that I'd just witnessed and been a key actor in one of Heavenly Father's miracles. It only makes sense that god would send two of his missionaries to one of his children in need at the very pinnacle moment of their despair. Thinking about it now it seems surreal. Of course Steve as the overloaded husband and father would be venting all of his emotions (which I can't begin to imagine) through physical labor. Of course Melonie would be contemplating life as she attempted to cope with the news through worldly solace and temporal substances. Of course their children would be unaware, innocent of all the world's bleakness, playing laughing and fighting just as any other day. Of course a loving and all knowing Heavenly Father would guide us there to that very home at that very precise moment. Of Course...." I am sorry that took a while to type and so I don't have time to write all of the story but Melonie and her family are a very special part of my mission. I will forever be grateful for this opportunity I have had to meet them. She has taught me so much about true faith and courage. We are still meeting with them and she has a baptismal date in April. Please keep them in your prayers.
I love you all so much!! Have a great week!!
P.S. pictures with the Aguayo Family at dinner and cleaning the car for inspections!