Tuesday, September 30, 2014

9/29/14 - Ricky's Baptism & Half Way Milestone

                                        Sis. McNeill, Sis. French, Ricky and Bro. Escamilla

   Wahoo!!! Happy 2 days before my half way mark - my official "Hump Day" will be October 1st! And with a baptism on Saturday, who could ask for more? 
    Ricky was baptized by Brother Ruben Escamilla, the YM President and yesterday was confirmed AND found worthy to become a priest!!!   Fun details:

-The member Luis (who we asked to speak on baptism) called us 2 hrs. before the baptism and asked if we could come over and help him write it.. Ahh! We had to leave before he got anything down, but we gave him some ideas and a type of outline, and let him use our gospel principles book for quotes and stuff..... We were so nervous about it that while Sis French drove, I wrote out a simple talk on a Referral's paper on the way down to the stake center.. just in case. Luckily, he had his own talk.... the first two pages from the Gospel's principles book, word for word! haha, so cute!
-Peter, our investigator, gave the opening prayer! It was so good, he was so nervous, and he did really good, just I think the pressure got to him.  So, he ended his prayer with "in the name of the church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Amen.  He also asked physically how he could be baptized, since he's in a wheelchair. Ahhhh, he's sooo close!
-Ricky- Friday we had the most AWKWARD conversation talking about how he needs to wear white underwear, or boxer, or briefs.... or whatever men wear!.... still wasn't as bad as trying to sign that to Juan, our last “baptisee”, who was deaf.  But, his testimony Sunday was sooo good! He just talked about how it was seeing the church influence and change the members lives that showed him this was the true church. He bore witness that this is Christ's church, and he's excited to be a part of it. Man, he is SUCH a toddler in the gospel- we members don't even comprehend how much there really is. But one day at a time. Ricky has the faith, and he will stick with it, so I am sooo thrilled for him. How cool. Sisters have been teaching him since February. He considered being baptized maybe early next year, after school, but me/sis French more or less squeezed a baptismal date outta him. Six weeks later, he's preparing to get the priesthood. Man, truly the Lord has given us this tender mercy of which I am truly grateful. Juan was awesome, and touched my heart. It is wonderful how you have a different relationship with each person you teach/baptize.

    Soooo, other fun stuff, we got to watch Meet the Mormons! The blonde who narrates is in Burbank 3 ward, and I saw her at the women's broadcast! We had the whole mission get together and watch it. It is not for us to use as proselyting. But, we are to encourage members to go watch it. It’s a sweet documentary. It really highlights how we as Mormons should be the most passionate and driven people on the face of the earth!
   Yesterday at church, we talked to our friend Crystal (the elders are teaching her - luckies!)  But she just got outta prison, her husband was a Mormon. Crystal has no job, and got kicked out of her friends apt. because she refused to tend her friend's kids while she konked out from alcohol. Crystal has been sober for a little bit and she's just trying to get a clean slate. It’s nice though, she never got into crack, so her head's screwed on straight, unlike a lot of people we run into. So she shows up at church, riding the bus all night. She has her purse, and a black backpack. That’s all she owned. Before prison she had a place bigger than ours. Man, I was dying to help her out! Our poor Bishop, he deals with this a lot. Really, if you learn nothing else on your mission, you learn gratitude.

   Love you all!  Thank you mom and dad for raising me with what you did. This gospel is one of safety from the cruelty and influence of the world. I'm so grateful to be serving here, so hopefully I can lighten a few lives while I'm out here, since mine has been so blessed.
Love ya tons!
-Sis McNeill

9/22/14 Update - Mucking Out Stalls and Loving It

Workin it Out-On a mission, majority of the work is in your head, and it just feels good to sweat out your stress sometimes.
 So it was a blast (crazy as it sounds) mucking out stalls for a newly active member! Boy, can't help but miss blue jeans and boots.  Earlier that morning we helped clean up the Balboa River (what’s left) for 3 hours. We had around 100 missionaries through the Valley come, so it was super fun to see Sis Cox again! Service is just the best. 

-Ricky passed his baptismal interview!! On Saturday we had a really good lesson about repentance, and how it is only through Christ we can change. We are super excited for him. It’s cool, he had been taught for about a year now, but Sister French said that he has changed more in this past month than he had the 3 she's been here. Amazing how setting that baptismal date really alters their perspective and commitment. That’s why it’s so crucial to have specific goals, else you'll just drift on forever, getting nowhere!
-Peter also came to church. Really, he is a dry Mormon, we just have to get him wet! The ward loves him, he loves them. He just still can't quite choose God over his family. Man, that is a decision I can't imagine having to make. I get it now, because I grew up with that. But when he finally gets dunked, look for him to be the next apostle.
Norma- a less active now coming back to church! She has two kids so the primary is thrilled! She is so enthusiastic, it’s awesome to have her here... but, similarly to a lot of people we've run into, she did drugs in the past so her mind is not quite all there. But she's pretty solid, til she starts going off about having the gift of tongues to speak Arab... Only here in LA county would a relief society activity have members involved in a conversation focused solely on pills... Love it. at least she has fellow shippers!

I love Sylmar! The ward is struggling, but the area is booming. We taught five lessons last week, that’s almost one a day!! Truly the Lord has blessed and taken care of me. I've really started to see the mental and emotional changes that've happened, and I am so grateful I have the opportunity to work side by side with the Lord in His vineyard.

Love you tons, thanks for your patience!
-Sister McNeill

Monday, September 8, 2014

9/8/14 - Every Missionary Has A Story About a Dog...Pit Bull and Wolf Dog

 So, a funny thing that happened this week.  We were knocking yesterday night, and at every gate you need to bang a little and whistle, to know if they have a guard dog or not. So we do that, nothing happens, and its later so it’s pretty dark. We knock on their metal door (people call them the holy ghost doors or confession doors since they are full of holes so they can see you but you can’t see them). Anyway, a younger woman opens the door and we introduce ourselves, and the first words out of her mouth are "don't move." uhhhhhhhh...... okay? We stand there frozen on her porch for a solid 3 minutes, when she returns and explains that she had to put her pit-bull away. WHAT? The Lord protects His sister missionaries.   She's not interested, but as we turn to leave, she gasps and we turn around, and there is this Wolf dog right in her yard that must’ve wandered in after we left the front gate open. So she ushers us into her house to sit by her 3 yr. old while her husband chases this thing out!!! Can I say again, He protects His sisters!  And yes, STL-sister training leader- is fun, you get to serve with a lot more missionaries. Tomorrow we are doing inspections for all the sisters apartments because we are having General Authority Elder Carlson coming to the mission Wednesday. Turns out he was a general in the army, and so he's gonna be intense!
So here are some people from this week:
Dorinda: Older lady who had a stroke a while back. Can't move her right arm or say anything besides "choy-choy". She understands everything. So, we've decided to teach her sign language…tender mercy for me and for her.
Ricky: He is still set for baptism. He actually was asking us if he could push it forward, so that’s cool:) Only problem, he really doesn’t know this is the ONE true church. He believes our teachings, he comes to church every other week, he wants to follow God. But it’s amazing how essential having a testimony about the Book of Mormon/Joseph Smith/priesthood authority is what sets us apart..... so, working with him on that=)
Eskamillas- amazing members. Husband-YM president, wife is YW president. Had us over for FHE with their teenage son, and we got to play Scum and Apples to Apples!! Man, we all said it felt like home to be playing card games.
Jason Scarabin- Less active we met with. Coolest guy ever, swapped a ton of mission stories! His daughter is adorable! What’s the problem? His wife hates religion (okay, we've dealt with that before no problem) The problem is- he doesn't want to go to the Celestial Kingdom...... He knows the doctrine deeper than we do. He "gets" it. But obviously, not enough. It’s another "Jim" -(excommunicated member in West Hills)... You just gotta love them and realize why it’s so crucial to have the spirit, cuz it can touch them in ways you can't.
Sister Reuben- Met on exchanges in Burbank ward. Turns out she's a CODA (child of deaf adults). Suuuper cool talking/signing with her. Her husband has not gone to church, but we made hamburgers for them, joking the whole time, they were both so cool. And during dinner, I just felt the spirit, and told him straight up that church is a commandment from God and he needs to go. Coolest moment ever=)

This week I really have felt yoked to Christ. Matthew 11:28. At the end of this month I am halfway through my mission, and it sometimes feels like I have so much to become, and if I fall short, how can I, as a leader, help others grow?  But the spirit is an interesting thing. You don't lose the weight of the burden, but you are given a deeper desire and a bigger perspective to know it’s not your hands, it’s His.

Love you all!
Sister McNeill