Monday, October 28, 2013

Glenn Beck as Prophet, Seer, and Revelator!

Sometimes, you meet crazies here in the South. Actually, we meet crazies almost every day. There is never a dull moment in the Mississippi Jackson Mission. I cannot even begin to recount how many times I have hurt my sides from laughing way too hard. To illustrate, I'll tell you a tracting experience we had not too long ago:

*knock knock knock*
"Come in!" yells a voice from the other side of the door. Hesitantly, we pushed open the door and walk into the house. An old man raises his head from the couch that he's lying on and stares at us for a moment.
"Who are you," he asks.
"We're missionaries from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints!" 
Again, we tell him that we are missionaries. Three more times, he yells asking who we are. Finally, the message that we are missionaries finally sinks in. The man lays his head back down on the pillow, away from us and screams, "I'm asleep!"
Stubbornly, I shout back, "Are you sure you're asleep sir? You were just talking to us a moment ago!"
He mumbles into his pillow a muffled shout, "Yes! Sound asleep!"
Again, I ask, "Are you?"
All of a sudden, the man pretended to snore. As loud and as obnoxious as he could.
Completely convinced me he was asleep. *sarcasm* 

That, ladies and gentlemen, is how my day goes. Almost every single day. The South, I'm telling ya. Miss-ippi to be exact. And I found out the other day that my area has one of the highest rates of illegal meth produced in it. Along with that, this was where Al Capone got all his bootlegged liquor and drugs from. And it's one of the headquarters of the KKK apparently. WELCOME TO HANCOCK COUNTY.

As for actual missionary work? 

We taught Domonic a few times this week, trying to prepare him for baptism. I don't think he'll be ready any time soon. Let's just say it took us an hour to explain how spirit prison is just basically another name for hell. An hour of explaining and re-explaining. Whenever we'd just try to move on (because it really isn't that important if he calls it hell or spirit prison), he'd bring it right back. Chewing on his shirt the whole time. It'll take a long time to get him baptized, but I'm confident that the Spirit will continue to work within him to tell him that this gospel is true. One of the most frustrating aspects of our lesson was when we were talking about the Book of Mormon. Domonic kept saying he still wasn't sure about the Book of Mormon and whenever he'd read it or think about it he'd get a "nabbing at [his] heart and some funny warm feeling". 
Of course, we told him that was the Spirit and showed him countless scriptures about it. He still maintained that it wasn't. And then he told us that he had a dream where "Sister Durrant was in a freezer and she was handing me fruit - it was really really delicious fruit. I don't know what that means! Do you?"
Before we could explain what we thought it meant, he moved on and wouldn't listen to us.
Let's reiterate. It'll be a long time before he's baptized.

On the bright side, we've set yet another baptism date! Actually, three to be exact. As I mentioned last week, we tracted into a sea-bee, Evan, and his adorable three children. We've begun to teach them almost on a regular daily basis. It's definitely different from teaching everyone else here though because he doesn't have a strong belief in Christ or even a solid Christian background. Each and every one of the lessons we've had, I've adored. The Spirit is always so strong and present. It's been a wonderful experience to see the light of Christ in this family and watch as their homes seems to feel brighter and happier each day we come. His oldest, Brianna, even gathers her younger brother and sister together every night to have a kneeling prayer together. I've never seen children so excited over the gospel and the blessings it promises. We've set them with the baptismal date of December 6th (couldn't do December 7th because that's Pearl Harbor Day) and I'm fervently praying that I won't be transferred before then. I've loved getting to know this family and watch them grow in the gospel. I know without a doubt that this gospel is true - I've seen how it can change the lives of three young children and a seemingly beaten down man. I've witnessed the light come into their home and watched how their smiles seem a little brighter every day. There's nothing quite like it. 

Along with my miraculous week, we met this amazing man while tracting (illegally). His name is Jay and he LOVES Glenn Beck and his program on the radio. It was a great point to gain common ground with him, but.... He's convinced Glenn Beck is the prophet. Absolutely, totally, and utterly convinced. We've actually set up a return appointment with him and I'm very excited to teach him. He's so giving and sweet towards his neighbors and he calls himself a "Jesus-freak". When we gave him a Book of Mormon, he remarked that he was going to add it to his daily Bible study (he already reads a proverb, a psalm, and two chapters in the New Testament every day). We just need to somehow teach him that it isn't Glenn Beck who's the prophet.... I can't wait!

Our last crazy experience this week was when we met a less-active lady who lives over in Pass Christian. When she let us in, she started screaming at us because the missionaries before us forgot to give her a call back months ago. Once we established it wasn't us who forgot to give her a call back, she turned very civil and started asking us about ourselves. She turned to me and asked, "How old are you? 16?"
Laughing, I told her that I was 19 and Sister Devenport remarked that she just barely turned 21 in September.
That let loose the cannon. The woman started to go on and on about how Sister Devenport was a "Virgo" just like her and how amazing she was because of the month she was born in. And all the traits the she was naming wasn't at all like Sister Devenport. Then she asked what month I was born in. I, of course, told her I was born March 19.
She looked at me and said, "Oh. A fish. You're very mean and jealous and weak-minded."
Yes. I'm horrible person because I was born in March. And then she turned back to Sister Devenport and continued to talk about how exalted the Virgos are. She wouldn't talk to me for the rest of the evening.

Regardless, we still had a fun time that night!

This church is true. I know it is. If it wasn't, I still wouldn't be out here. I wouldn't be working this hard. I'd have given up by now. This is the way to salvation. It isn't just a church - it's a way of life. It's a pattern of change. It's how we can all prepare for heaven and live once more with our Heavenly Father. If I can just bring one soul to the Lord, how great is my joy!

All my love,

Sister Sarah Michéle Durrant

Monday, October 21, 2013

The Lord's Hand

Has it really been a week? It feels as if it's been longer since last Monday came and went, especially since halfway through Monday, we got a phone call that greatly changed the course of our P-Day.
After we went grocery shopping at the local Wal-Mart, we glanced down at our phone and saw about 10 missed calls - all from the same (unknown) number. Of course, we immediately returned the call and asked who had been calling us so much. On the other end, Domonic answered. Yes. Domonic. The very man who had told us to stop reading the Book of Mormon and just read the Bible instead. Domonic then expressed that he NEEDED to meet with us right away. Not about to miss an opportunity to see what was going on, we bolted for our usual meeting spot to see him and hear what was going on.
As we waited for Domonic to show up, my heart was in my throat. Butterflies were hatching in my stomach. Was Domonic coming just to attack us more? Had he found Anti-LDS material that he wanted to show us to convert us away? What was going on? My mind was racing - I was completely terrified.
After what seemed like hours of anxious waiting (in reality, it was only about 10 minutes), Domonic ran up, sat down, and pulled out his Bible. He thumbed through and showed us a passage in 1 Thessalonians that stated, "Deny not things of Christ." He looked at us with huge, bright eyes and said, "If the Book of Mormon truly is something of Christ, I want to know. Tell me more." 
My jaw dropped. I didn't know what to think! Weeks ago, he told us basically that the Book of Mormon wasn't revelation, that it was of the devil. And now? He had been humbled and came back to us - earnestly seeking to have an answer. We jumped on the opportunity to teach Domonic more. Eventually, he brought up a scripture about baptism and we began to teach him more about how it needed to be performed by the proper authority. The Spirit was thick. Sister Devenport and I exchanged glances and knew - it was time to ask. I opened my mouth and asked, "Will you be baptized by someone holding the proper authority in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints?"
He looked down at his Bible and slightly nodded. Then, he said, "Well, if I know it's true, I will." In a sense, Domonic agreed to baptism. As he walked away, I felt like Ammon - my joy was full and all I could do was glory in my Lord. He had helped Domonic come to this point where he needed to be. The Lord had worked on him to soften his hardened heart and bring him back to the true gospel. I was filled to the brim with complete joy as we offered a prayer of gratitude to our Heavenly Father. 
It was a complete turn around in him. Not even 2 months ago, he was preaching to us how wrong we were and how we needed to still seek out the truth. Now? He has opened up his heart, even accepted baptism when he comes to know that these things are true. How great is the Lord God? I cannot even begin to describe.

As the week went on, I began to notice more and more how much the Lord had His hand in what we were doing and how much He was truly protecting us. On Wednesday, it seemed as if everything was falling through. We had several appointments set up to go teach - yet, every single one of them got cancelled. We ended up simple helping the poor Waveland Sisters clean out their apartment since the previous tenants were Elders and had completely trashed the place (I can now say I've done dishes in a bathtub). Once we got the place cleaned, Sister Devenport and I tried to brainstorm over what we could do. Nothing came to mind. We finally just decided to go tracting - it was a nice day regardless and we had nothing better to do for the evening. We set out and began knocking on doors. One after another, no one answered. 
Finally, an older lady stopped us and politey informed us that the neighborhood had a covenant that forbade soliciting (something we already knew, yet tactfully ignored) and asked us to leave. Dejectedly, we drove over to Timber Ridge, a nearby community and set out to tract there instead. A house in, we found an amazing man, Evan, who had been struggling with life after coming back from being deployed in Afghanistan. He talked to us for a long time and we were finally able to set up an appointment to return and share with him the healing gospel of Jesus Christ and how it could help him through his struggles. Walking away, we both felt so very fulfilled over the fact that we were able to give this man some light. The appointments were cancelled, we were kicked out, just to meet Evan. Our whole day was thrown to smithereens, simply to bring the gospel to this man. It was meant to be - the Lord knew where we had to be, and He made sure it happened.

After some more tracting, we approached one home. The moment Sister Devenport lifted her hand to knock on the door, a feeling a complete dread overcame me. Something wasn't right about that house. Sister Devenport looked at me with wide, scared eyes and I knew that she was feeling the same thing. I could physically feel the Spirit leave and all I knew at that moment was that we had to leave. That very moment. We rushed down the flight of stairs and started to head out and out of nowhere, this huge Lab popped up. 
He began barking as if there was no tomorrow. Teeth bared, fur raised. My hands began to shake, I was completely terrified. The dog approached us quickly, took one look at us, and turned around. We started walking off and the dog led the way in front of us. Quickly, I felt comforted by the presence of the Lab. He lead us the whole 2 miles we had walked away from the car. Once we got into the car, we glanced outside, looking for the dog. He was no where to be found. Curious, I began to drive around, searching for this dog - yet we didn't find him. He disappeared just as he came - out of nowhere. 
Sister Devenport turned to me and said, "That dog was sent from the Lord." 
A rush of love overcame me and I knew that she was right. As silly as it seems, Heavenly Father sent us a dog. He sent us that lab to protect us from whatever danger presented in that spirit-less house.

I know without a doubt that the Lord is here. He is mindful of all of us. He helps us in whatever way we need it - if it's through a bible verse, a cancelled appointment, or a dog. HE LOVES US ALL. I know it without a doubt in my heart - the Lord is mindful of each and every one of us. He's preparing a way for us. Serving a mission has made me homesick - not for Utah or returning back to normal life, but homesick for heaven - to be with my Heavenly Father once more, much like how I miss my wonderful father and mother here while in Mississippi. Being away from my dear family has helped me to understand how difficult it must've been for our Heavenly Father to send us hear to Earth, away from Him for some odd 90 years or so. A short 18 month mission is a lot like our live here on earth. Many missionaries leave with their families telling them, "Return with honor." I personally believe that before we came here to earth, our loving Father too pulled us aside and whispered in our ears, "Return with honor." May we all return with honor.

All my love,

Sister Sarah Michéle Durrant

Monday, October 14, 2013

Fighting to the End

In reality, not much happened this week since Sister Devenport got the flu really bad for two days straight and we were confined to our apartment from Wednesday night until Saturday. Yet, somehow in the midst of it all, we managed to teach 22 lessons and set two baptismal dates.
We met with Angela and Jakira on Tuesday and it was a great great lesson! Yet, since I had a horrid migraine, I wasn't mentally there for the duration of the whole lesson. Which really makes me sad! Yet, as Sister Devenport tells me, somehow, I challenged them both to baptism and asked them to be baptized on November 2. I honeslty don't remember asking anything like that at all. But, apparently, they were both very very eager to be baptized and showed a ton of interest in what we were teaching. I dearly wish I could just recall what happened in that lesson. Yet, it is such a testimony to me that the Spirit truly works through us as missionaries to help Angela and Jakira draw closer to our Father in heaven and His true gospel. He was able to work through me, a simple servant who couldn't think, to bring someone to the waters of baptism. I am so very thankful to be a vessel of the Lord in His great work.
Almost right afterward, we left to go teach Rick and talk to him more about the gospel. Another lesson which I physically cannot recall because I was just so sick through it all. Yet, from hearing what happened, it sounds as if it was a very successful lesson. Rick apparently opened up to us a lot more and was very accepting of all we had to say.
Wednesday was... interesting at best. Since we have the van, I drove all 6 missionaries in our district (Sister Devenport, Sister Harr, Sister Keyes, Elder Martin, Elder Mobley, and I) for an hour to Slidell for a Zone Development Meeting. Once I get onto the freeway, I heard from the back of the van Elder Martin screaming, "I'M BATMAN. I'M BATMAN." And then Elder Mobely starts chimming in, screaming at the top of his lungs how he's Iron Man. Of course, I turn back to see what on Earth was going on and there was the two elders.... With superhero masks on. Fighting each other. And thus was my drive to Slidell. The whole way. Somehow, I didn't kill us all.
After the meeting, all six of us missionaries drove out to Diamondhead (a city in our area) to meet with members. All 6 missionaires. Luckily, no members answered their door so they weren't overwhelmed by the mass. Luckily, there was a huge parade going on up in Diamondhead so we were able to all split up and go find people to teach. Sister Keyes was quick thinking and managed to grab the superhero masks from the elders before we set them lose on the people of Mississippi.
Later that day, Sister Devenport and I got to teach John again. In all honesty, it was a difficult lesson to teach. We mainly focused on the Great Apostasy and the need for a reformation, but he couldn't see it. John started talking about how the Catholic church has had 2,000 years for a firm foundation to build upon as a church and how our church hasn't been around for even 200 years. He then went on to talk about how nothing has changed in his church for the 2,000 years it has been on the Earth. Of course, it took every bit of my self control to not challenge that statement. We urged him with every word we spoke to pray about the Book of Mormon and to continue to study it. We focused on how he could know that there was a restoration needed by reading the Book of Mormon.
Thankfully, John is very genuine and agreed to study it more. I know that he sincerely wants to learn more by the way he asks his questions. He doesn't try to challenge us - he sincerely wants to know the answers so it can help him on his journey. I know that as he continues to read and pray, he will come to know his answers. We're merely guides to help him through it all.
The next two days were very uneventful, as Sister Devenport caught an awful bug and was sleeping the whole day away. It gave me an excellent opportunity to study the gospel more in depth though and just breathe.
I know that the Lord sent me here to Mississippi for a reason. He could've sent me anywhere else in the world - yet He chose to send me here, to the deep deep South. I'm supposed to be here and I am confident that there are people here just waiting for the Gospel. I know without a doubt in my heart that Mississippi is ready to hear the word and to grow in the Church. Now is a time to put on the armor of God and fight. The time is drawing close at hand and the Lord is hastening His work. He is bringing to pass the immortality of man, for it is His work and His glory. It's the final surge, it's zooloo - the last bang before the end. The devil is wrapping up his hands, he's getting ready for the showdown. We've all been reserved for this day and this age because we are fighters. Show him what you've got.
All my love,

Sister Sarah Michéle Durrant

Monday, October 7, 2013

The Kingdom of Heaven is At Hand!

On Thursday, as we were doing our Mormon.orging, we got a call from the nearby sister in Picayune. Confused, we left the library to talk briefly to them. Excitedly, they started screaming at the top of their lungs about Hurricane Karen and how it was coming in a few days. As missionaries, we all look forward to hurricane season because most of us have never seen one or experienced the excitement of it. Sister Devenport and I just looked at each other with dropped jaws - we hadn't even thought about a hurricane! After talking with various leaders in our mission, we were advised to go back to our apartment and pack up everything and pull in our bicycles. Hastily, we dashed home and pulled everything into suitcases to prepare for the on-coming storm. In those moments, you truly learn what means the most to you and what you wouldn't mind leaving to be destroyed by a hurricane. There were only a few possessions of mine that I wanted to save - scriptures, pictures, letters, and journals. Everything else, I realized that I didn't care if it got ruined by the water or winds or if they were stolen. All I cared about was the written words I so dearly treasured and the few photographs I had of family and friends. There's a defining moment when you make those decisions.
Luckily, the hurricane dissipated into a mere tropical storm. Yet, there was still a chance it could turn into a hurricane at any moment, so our bags remained packed for four days. There isn't much fun in living out of a suitcase and in fear that you'll have to dash out of the area in a moment's notice. I'm very grateful that the storm has passed and that life can assume as normal (well, as normal as it can be for missionaries). Of course, Sister Devenport and I had a fun time joking around, saying that we were going to stand out in the middle of the hurricane, holding up posters that read, "REPENT. THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN IS AT HAND." If you can't tell, we're running out of ideas on how to find people. 
This week, Sister Devenport and I had the wonderful chance to teach Nick, an investigator that we've been meeting with for a long time now. At first, our lessons were slow. It felt as if we were just teaching at him rather than teaching him. Originally, he'd just sit there, listen to us, and then bid us farewell once the lesson ended. He only began taking lessons from us because his girlfriend is a very active member in the church and advised him that the Gospel could help brighten his life as he suffers through hard times. Yet, this week, as we began to teach him, Nick started to open up to us. He told us about his background and his difficult life before we met him - how his struggles and service in the army shaped his life. He divulged how he'd been forced to go to church as a child and stopped going the instant that he could. Finally, we were able to learn what we needed to do to teach him better.
Then, for General Conference, we were able to watch it with him. In between sessions, we taught a brief lessons and covered any questions that came up while he listened to the prophet speak. At one moment, he told us, "I don't like this spiritual thing! It feels weird!!!" I couldn't help but to smile as I listened to that small testimony of his - that he was finally beginning to feel the spirit. As our lesson went on, he also brought up the subject of baptism himself. He commented that when he's baptized, he wants to be baptized on the beach! Of course, I was elated to hear that! As time has gone on with Nick, I've started to feel the immense love that our Savior has for him. My heart has doubled in it's capacity to feel for others and I have this sincere desire to just see Nick happy. All I want is for his happiness - especially as he deals with the burden that our Father has entrusted him to carry. 
General Conference was truly a great experience to watch. On Saturday, we texted John and reminded him of conference and he replied saying that he would watch. Later that evening, we got to talk to him on the phone and he mentioned how much he loved President Uchtdorf's talk. We're really hoping to be able to get back in and teach him this week.
Because of the excitement of the hurricane, little got done this week - evidently. BUT I do know that this Church is true. The longer I've been serving my Lord, the stronger my testimony of that fact has grown. The other day, Sister Devenport and I were searching old teaching records, looking for someone to teach. Since our area used to be an elders' area, almost all the teaching records were from former elders. Reading how poorly the teaching records were kept, there's no way this church can't be true. If there are elders writing "We mowed their lawn. They fed us lunch. They're very nice." for the whole teaching record and somehow, these investigators got baptized? There's no way this church can't be true. There's just no way.
Heavenly Father loves each of us. He's known us longer than we've known ourselves. He knows what we need and how we can become better people. He knows us perfectly and loves us perfectly. This church, I can boldly say, is God's kingdom here on Earth. 

All my love,

Sister Sarah Michéle Durrant