It seems as though the more time I spend out here, I am filled with more love. I love Sparta more, I love the people more, I love the gospel more, I love my companion more, I love YOU more, I love my Savior more, and I love my Heavenly Father more. It’s almost overwhelming! So much love! Every day, I get a greater glimpse of heaven and how God feels about each of us. It’s beautiful and humbling.
After such a spiritual lesson with R____and CM last week, Sister Taylor and I were really excited to go back again on Saturday. The light and hope that we saw in their eyes is indescribable. It was like seeing someone wake up from a deep sleep. We were seeing the Atonement at work. On Saturday, we went back again, but R____ wasn’t there. We sat down in their tiny living room, and C___ explained that R____ had taken off. He was gone. He had to leave for his own safety and is now on the run from everyone. We are heartbroken. He had finally felt the hope of the gospel. He had finally felt that he could and would have a better life, and now he is gone. We can only hope that this doesn’t bury his hope and his spirit again. As we sat and talked with C___, my heart just broke for her. It seems like the world is against her and her family. She doesn’t understand why this is happening and where God is. She feels like He has left her hanging out to dry. We are hoping and praying to help her understand that Heavenly Father and the Savior never forsake or forget about us. We are promised that. When we reach out to him, we feel his arm strengthening us through our trials and bringing us closer to him. One day, she will understand how deeply Heavenly Father loves and cares about her. I am so grateful that I have the opportunity to be here for C___ at this time. It’s truly a privilege.
Here are answers to a few of the questions you asked me this week! J__ (our investigator set for baptism on July 19th) moved a week before her baptism. I’m sorry I didn’t tell you sooner! She moved to Pennsylvania, but we still text, call, and write to her every week. She always tells us about what new principle she’s learned and about what she’s reading in the Book of Mormon. She’s the best! We got in touch with the sister missionaries in Pennsylvania (they are so lucky), so now they are teaching her. Hopefully, she’ll be baptized there in a couple of weeks! T and L have not contacted us again. L is not a big fan of the church, which is sad because T___ is really interested. One day, her heart will be softened and when that day comes, we’ll be there! One problem that we deal with a lot here is that we find lots of people who initially want to learn more, but then they don’t progress. Heavenly Father leads us to people who are searching for truth, but then they drop us because they are disinterested, don’t keep their commitments, or get too busy. It’s pretty sad, actually. I wish everyone knew how important this message is. The gospel changes lives! It is the most important thing in the world, but people treat it like its worthless.
Do you remember how we have been praying for 3-10 families? Well, guess what. Three solid families just moved into the Sparta ward. Yes, THREE. It’s a miracle. Our ward is so tiny and it struggles a lot. Heavenly Father has been answering our prayers though, because we just got about 15 more active members! Also, Heavenly Father led us to two new families to teach this week! Earlier in the week, Sister Taylor and I were laying in our beds talking about our nightly revelations (one of the best times to receive revelation is during prayer). Sister Taylor said that she thought that we should go to Sandyston on Friday. I was shocked when she said that, because I had received the same prompting! Heavenly Father wanted us to be in Sandyston on Friday, so we made plans to go there. I love when we know exactly where Heavenly Father wants us to be. Doing things his way is so much more effective than doing things our way.Sandyston is a township about half an hour north of us, and we’d only visited it once (our area is huge – the townships are so spread apart!). On Friday, we were contacted a few streets in Sandyston, and we found two families that invited us back to teach them more! We are ecstatic.
Last night, Sister Taylor and I were in Branchville on a quest to find a less active sister in the ward. We ended up in a neighborhood in the middle of a forest (which isn’t hard to do… New Jersey is one giant forest. Honestly, you can’t see more than 50 feet in either direction because of all of the trees!) and hopelessly lost in the dark. We could not find the sister’s house! We decided to ask a neighboring house if they could help us locate the address. The only problem is, these people had no street access to their front door! So, to get to their front door, Sister Taylor and I had to creep through a forest path next to their house. It was kind of stalker-ish, and it was so funny. We felt like spies, except we were much more noisy and giggly. It’s a miracle we didn’t scare the living daylights out of those people.
Well, I am having a blast and learning a lot out here in Sparta. The motto for Sussex county is “People and nature together”. That makes me laugh and laugh and laugh, because it is SO true. We are in the middle of animal country. Seriously. There are deer, bunnies, bullfrogs, snapping turtles, gophers, and bears everywhere. Also, these people love decorating with animal statues. It’s pretty hilarious, actually. People’s lawns will be covered with wooden bear carvings, fake bunnies, and deer statues. I don’t get it. And if that’s not enough for you, everyone also has several pets. One cat is simply not enough. No no no, you must have several and then a few dogs to top it all off. And you know what? I pet every single dog. I figure that if I try to like their animal, they might like us more and listen to our message. People love their pets, so it’s a great way to get in their good graces. We all make sacrifices for the Lord, right? 🙂
Much love to you all! Be Jersey strong.