I hope you´re all surviving being back in school, working hard in the mission field, taking a breather from holiday shopping, or enjoying whatever you may be doing! I feel a little closer to you guys after spending time here in Los Angeles--it´s the most like the States I´ll probably ever experience in the mission. Well, except for the fact I´m on of the whitest people in this country, but other than that, life feels a tad more normal:)
Hermana Black and I have been doing so much better; we talk all the time and are great friends now! She´s little, but she likes to play rugby, and she adores ¨Lord of the Rings.¨ She is the second youngest of six kids and played the flute as a teenager. We get along splendidly:) Get this: our apartment actually has doors on the inside! Normally there´s just a front door and curtains for everything else, but we have real wood ones! We live on the fourth floor of a building that´s one of about 200 nearly-identical apartment (buildings); it´s a residential area. that´s how this area is divided up, so we spend a half or full day in each residence and contact & teach. Turns out that all the driving last week wasn't normal--we do a lot of walking. Partly because of the time it takes just to get everywhere, partly because people aren't home or don´t want to talk to us, we don't have tons of lessons each day, but we've gotten to contact more. Hermana Black and I go the most contacts either of us has ever had in the mission! And we have TRIPLED the numbers in nearly every category (from what they were in previous transfers)!!! The area was so dead before, but we keep having miracle upon miracle. At the November zone conference with Elder Zivic of the Seventy, one of the themes was ¨faith + works = miracles.¨So true! I´d say that obedience would be a third ingredient, too:) As Doctrine and Covenants 103: 36 says, ¨All victory and glory is brought to pass unto you through your diligence, faithfulness, and prayers of faith.¨
Through the Lord, we are turning Los Angeles around--giving it a new name and bring more energy & enthusiasm. That doesn't happen without it´s challenges, though; however, that´s what makes you stronger. I've never been rejected like this in my life, but it´s only increasing my faith that Satan's doing everything he can to stop people from finding the real, comforting truth. And each time someone shuts the door in our faces or walks away from an intercom call, I just know that they´re not ready to accept Christ´s message now, but they will have another chance, and I hope that they take it when it comes.
We met a man who turned out to be a big religious studies guy, and he knew a ton about the Church and the Book of Mormon...in a not so good way. He bashed for an hour and a half and kept interrupting us when we tried to share our testimonies. I've heard enough stories about missionaries ¨fighting¨ to defend their beliefs who didn't have the Spirit with them, that I knew I needed to just stay calm. As I listened to him rant, I had a strong peace that settled in me, and I though, ¨It´s going to be okay, because I know I´m right and have the truth, and he can´t change that.¨ God´s light will always be brighter than Satan´s darkness. D & C 50:23-25 says:
23 And that which doth not edify is not of God, and is darkness.
24 That which is of God is light; and he that receiveth light, and continueth in God, receiveth more light; and that light groweth brighter and brighter until the perfect day.
25 And again, verily I say unto you, and I say it that you may know the truth, that you may chase darkness from among you.
Here´s the miracle story of the week: we were proselyting in our residence area and passed a man playing with some kids in a parking lot. He called out to us, ¨These kids are Mormons!¨ We were like, ¨Huh?¨ and went over to talk to him. Apparently, they were his nieces and nephews, and his sister was a member of the Church and lives right there! So he let us into the apartment and we met this whole less-active family! The single mom´s name is Silvia, and she had been endowed; she was even a Primary and Young Women's President before! But when they moved to Los Angeles 5 months ago, they couldn't find the church building anywhere, and everyone they asked didn't know where it was, either. She had been praying for help, and through a miracle, we found each other. It has been an absolute blessing; she is so ready to come back, and on Sunday, we went to church with them, and they were totally welcomed!
I gave a talk about progression/trials/perseverance in sacrament meeting, and some stake presidency members were there (good thing I don´t get stage-fright or anything like that:) ) The ward has been really nice (there were 115 people there yesterday!), and they´re very happy with my Spanish and lack of a Gringo/American accent; actually, the bishop said that my accent sounds Russian haha whatever works:) I really can´t believe how far I have come in the language in the past 6 months--it´s come so quickly, and it´s all because of the Lord. The gift of tongues is not what I though it was; those stories about missionaries fluently speaking all of a sudden in lessons are rare. Really, the gift of tongues is brought to pass through diligent study, faith, and reliance on the Lord, and when you´re teaching, what you have learned is brought to your remembrance, and you are a more effective servant of the Lord. It takes time to learn a language--years to become truly fluent--and I´m so grateful for all of the Lord and the Spirit´s help right now. Rely on Them! Pray for Their help! I know God´s help is real, and through Him, we can do ALL things, no matter how difficult they may seem! I love Him and this Gospel and all of you guys so much!! Have a terrific day!
Love, Hermana Randall