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

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