Monday, August 5, 2013

"I've Finally Come Home"

With all the rain letting up, I've truly discovered what 100% humidity means here. It means you cannot tell the difference between sweat and the water in the air. It means that you are drenched no matter where you are. It means that if you're wearing even more than one layer, you die. It means that you are constantly drinking water, even though you have water all over your body. It means that the weather here sucks.
Yet it's all worth it - especially when you meet wonderful people who just bless your life and increase your testimony in... well... everything.
Sister Jones and I set out to tract on Tuesday evening. Not the best idea in the world - the gangs were starting to meet up and harass everyone on the streets and we could tell something was about to happen. Right when we were about to take off and come back tomorrow morning, we decided to knock on one last door. A very sweet girl opened the door, not much older than Sister Jones and I. We started our typical spiel, "We're missionaries from the Church..." and she cut us off right then. She then told us that she had just moved here from Hattiesburg, a Mississippi city a few hours from Pass Christian - and that she was already a member of the church. Yet, she didn't know where to send her records, her husband wasn't LDS, and she had no ride to church. Sister Jones and I were able to get her records transferred, set up a ride, and get an appointment to come back to talk to her and see how she was doing.
When we walked away, I knew that Heavenly Father had us go to that last door for a reason. Most likely, this woman wouldn't have ever figured out where to send her records or which ward to even go to. She would follow the pattern that so many people here do - eventual inactivity. I knew in that moment - we had most likely saved this soul from wandering from the fold of God. What a great joy that was!
As I mentioned in my last letter, it's been a hard few weeks. Really tough - no one wants to hear from us. But the Lord continues to send us His tender mercies. 
Sister Jones and I were able to go teach John some more. If you don't remember, he and his wonderful wife came to our Pioneer Day celebration. Well, we grabbed some members and set off for their home to teach John. And wow. I've never met such an awesome man before. He's very well versed in the Bible and knows seemingly everything about the Catholic Church. He's started reading the Book of Mormon and is filled to the brim with questions. It takes Sister Jones, me, and two members just to answer all his questions.  His poor wife Erin couldn't get a word in with everything that was going on. Finally, we saw that she had this burning question, so Sister Jones stopped and asked, "Erin, what's on your mind?"
She timidly looked up and said, "Do... do you guys still practice polygamy?"
My heart just broke when I heard that! She was probably thinking what on Earth is going on with her husband and has he gone crazy? He wants another wife?? I felt sooo awful that we hadn't addressed that - luckily, we were able to clear that up and let her know that our church doesn't condone the practice of taking another wife. After that, she seemed to loosen up a bit and be more receptive to our message.
We invited John and Erin to come to church and find more answers to their questions. John said that he would try to make it, but Erin told us that she wasn't quite comfortable enough to come. And that was perfectly fine. So, we anxiously waited for Sunday to come.
In the meantime, we made a visit to a wonderful less active woman, R. R had recently moved here from Georgia and had been inactive for years because of some very poor advice that was given to her by the Bishop which tore apart her family. Sister Jones had tracted into her before I came out and we've been visiting her weekly ever since. I was about to give up on her because it seemed evident that she just wasn't going to come back to church. Yet, on Friday, we were able to have her meet the Bishop and his wife. The meeting went fairly well, but I didn't think that anything really would've come of it. 
At the end of our meeting, the bishop's wife turned to R and said, "Why would you let someone who hurt you deny you the blessings you could be receiving from attending church?" I think that truly hit R in the heart and she looked over and said, "Alright. I'll be there Sunday."
Sunday finally rolls around and Sister Jones and I are practically bouncing in our seats, craning our necks trying to see if R and John would actually come. 
The fast and testimony meeting started and our hearts broke - neither one of them were there. Yet, right before sacrament began, R walked in and sat down right next to us!!!! My heart swelled and it took all of my will power right then to not burst out into tears. 
While the sacrament was being passed, I heard a little sniffle. There was R, in complete tears. In the moment, the Spirit overcame me and told me to put my arm around her. So, I did.
She turned to me with her eyes brimming over from tears and said, "I feel like I've finally come home."
What an amazing moment that was. All I could think about was how great Heavenly Father's joy must be. His daughter had finally come home.
As the sacrament meeting went on, I became more and more horrified. Fast and testimony meeting in this ward is a MADHOUSE. I had no idea how to react. Obviously, they were on their best behavior last testimony meeting... Because I thought that I was in a relatively normal ward (for the South, that is). NOPE. I'll give you some excepts of testimonies:

"The Church of Jesus Christ is a is a is a is a is a is a - I didn't stutter!!"
"Then Jesus said, 'Lazarus! Get on out!' He had to say Lazarus or else THEY'D ALL GET ON OUT."
"I was the third black man to receive the priesthood." (No. He wasn't.)
"I feel a song coming on. I feel a song - let me sing." (Yes. He than began to sing.)
"The Spirit of Lehi is upon me. For those of you who don't know what that is, you don't know. But for those of you who do know, the Spirit of Lehi is upon me."
"Maybe Joseph Smith didn't see God and Jesus. I mean, he was praying in the woods. I bet he probably just saw two hunters!"

Throw in a few "PRAISE"s here and there and a few claps and you know what my ward's fast and testimony meeting is like. Oh my word. I was terrified because R was there. Luckily, she was able to find the humor in it and promised to keep coming to church every week.
At the end of sacrament though, Sister Jones and I had given up on John attending. In all honesty, we were pretty thankful he didn't come today because it was so crazy. But right as we were singing the closing hymn, in he walked. He didn't sneak into the back though, he bravely walked up and sat down in the front pews! 
John then attended class with us and he was just amazing. He said the closing prayer and just soaked it all in. He didn't stay for Priesthood but we were able to set up another appointment with him! I was so happy to see two people that Sister Jones and I had been working with in church that Sunday. It truly was an amazing Sunday - filled to the brim with the Spirit and happiness.
I promise that there's a light at the end of the tunnel. Everything will be okay. My week is a pure testimony of that. Now is a time for faith, not fear.

All my love,

Sister Sarah Michéle Durrant

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1 comment:

  1. Sister Durrant, I love reading your missionary experiences in the South. You described with perfection how very "southern" the Church is there--we lived in South Carolina for 4 years and that is exactly how F&T meetings went there too. If a Southerner loves you, it is a deep abiding love. They don't mince words or feelings. I am so happy for R.--if I'd been there, I'd have given her a big hug too!