Monday, June 23, 2014

"Ask and ye shall receive"

This week was so awesome!! I'm here to testify that God answers prayers, that He uses weak things to accomplish His purposes, that He's real, that this is His church and His work, and that amazing things follow rough times if you push fact, usually times are rough because the adversary knows an amazing thing is about to happen and doesn't want it to happen. God is real, and He is amazing and loving and merciful. If I don't get in every story I want to tell, at least there's that.

 One night, we didn't have set lessons and I was looking at a map, because our set plans didn't feel right to me. We had an hour left and I didn't want to waste time, so I quickly picked a random neighborhood and we started off. While I was driving, I got a distinct feeling, "We need to stop." It was a busy highway and no real good place to park, so I turned at the next light and looked for a little neighborhood where we could park safely. When we turned, I realized where we were and thought, "Well, this would be a great place to walk around!" so we parked and bowed our heads to do our prayer.

 It was my turn to pray, but I couldn't. Something still didn't feel right. I knew God didn't want us there, he wanted us somewhere else. So after a few moments I turned the car back on and said, "We need to visit this person." I knew she lived around there.

 When we showed up, they were surprised to see us, because usually we call ahead. So we had to tell her, "We really just felt we needed to visit you. Is everything okay?"

 Nothing was okay, it had been a rough day, and she needed to know that God was aware of her, and loved her, and would send people to her to comfort her and make her feel loved. God is a God of miracles, and He really wants to help His children. He wants them to know He loves them, and He answers prayers. He's always reaching out, no matter how weak or horrible we feel. My testimony of that just keeps snowballing with every person I meet out here in Arizona.

 Speaking of prayers, I have to say taht I knew there would be people who wouldn't want to pray and ask God if the Book of Mormon was true, or if He had called a prophet on the Earth today. I expected that. I expected them to be either atheists who didn't believe in a God and so had no reason to pray, or theists who didn't believe God spoke to man anymore.

 Never in my wildest missionary daydreams did I think I'd meet people who knew God loved them, that God answers prayers, that He desired to give them truth and light and knowledge, and that He would give if they asked.....and still not pray. I never expected that. 

 One man we talked to said, "The most important truth you can ever know is that God is real and that He loves us, right? God is truth. Once you know that, you don't need any other truth. If that's a truth I learned from the Bible, what does it matter to me if the Book of Mormon's true? How would that affect me?" When we tried to talk about Apostles and Prophets and a Church that Christ Himself has set up and leads, he waved his hand and said, "so what if there are Apostles and proplehts? good for them, their relationship with God doesn't affect mine. They walk their path, I'll walk mine."

 A couple we talked to enjoyed their comfortable church where they wear jeans and have barbecues afterwards and doesn't require anything of them except show up and enjoy a fun service. They'd met with missionaries before and have read from the BoM, but when we asked if they'd prayed, they admitted they hadn't. "The whole Mormon faith thing just isn't for me," she said, and gave a long testimony that had a lot of "comfortable"s and "casual"s in it. 

 And sandwiched perfectly between these experiences was a man we were teaching who held the Book of Mormon in his hands and said, "my neibhgors think it's weird that I keep meeting with Mormons and Jehovah Witnesses and anyone else who talks about religion. But I need to find out the truth. If God has called a prophet, if there's more scripture to learn from, I need to know that. I need all the truth I can get, y'know?"

 "Ask, and ye shall receive. Knock, and it shall be opened unto you." That's the most reccurring scripture in the scriptures. I was so surprised to meet people who claimed to be avid scholars of the Bible, who know God will answer their prayers and that He loves them, and simply refused to ask God for truth and knowledge, whether out of fear of getting an answer or pride thinking they have everything and don't need to recieve anything else. Or they think that God will be which case, they don't know what the word "upbraideth" means in James 1:5. We read and love the same Bible, but they don't like hearing about the Bible from us. I guess they expect Mormons to only ever talk about the BoM, and it's weird to them when we're familiar with the Bible.

 I love the people of Casa Grande, and I love being on a mission. I love talking about God and Jesus Christ. It hurts me when I talk to these people I've come to love, and they refuse to turn to God for answers. I want them to be happy, and to know the comforts that I know. I know life only gets tougher, and it hurts to know that they don't have what I have. But at the same time, you can't get upset that people have their agency. I'm grateful for a loving God who lets us make our own choices--and who gives us more than just one chance to come to Him.

 In other, adventrous news, there is a family in our ward here who raises peafowl....!! Ahhh, that was so fun to see! I had no idea that Indian Blue weren't the only kind of peacocks. They come in all sorts of fun colors---even pure white!! So pretty! There's a Gospel principle in there somewhere...anyone want to make a parable? XD haha!

 There was a baptism in the Spanish ward this past weekend. I don't remember if I said this, but a few weeks ago another sister and I sang at a baptism. It was well recieved, and we were asked if we could sing at another Spanish.

 So we learned the pronunciation and sang "Mas Cerca, Dios, de Ti." Hopefully we didn't butcher it; if anyone said anything about it afterwards, I had no idea what they were saying, compliments or otherwise. Haha!

 Even still, it was really cool. The Spirit was there so strong, even though I couldn't really understand what was being said. That will always blow my mind, how you can feel the Spirit when someone is talking to you in another language.

 I love people, and I love the Gospel, and missions are awesome!  :) There were rough days this week, but there were also amazing miracles, and there's nothing else I'd rather be doing! Thank you for your letters and your support. You've all blessed my life so very much!!

 God bless!

 -Sister Stratford

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