This week was one of those "roller coaster" weeks. Full of miracles, and one or two heart breakers as well! To start off the week right, last Tuesday we met our new mission president. He is AMAZING! He seems to be one of the kindest people around, with a huge heart and a willingness to invest all his time and energy into us as missionaries, as well as every person living within the Pennsylvania Pittsburgh mission. His wife was so tender and extended her sincere love and concern to each of us as we went up and hugged her. They have been so anxious to arrive since learning of their call about 9 months ago and it was so easy to feel how much they care! After that meeting, we headed to Forums where people seemed especially willing to talk with us (probably because it was gorgeous outside - tender mercy!). We met this one young man named Darien, who instantly filled me with hope as I could truly see him for his potential in the gospel. He is from Philadelphia and has had a hard upbringing in dealing with a heavy dosage of hypocrisy from people who profess to be Christians. It turned him away for a long while, but within the past year he decided to begin his search again. He has been to 8 or 9 churches but hasn't felt that any of them were welcoming, he described the experience at each as simply "not feeling right." My companion and I strongly testified of the fulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ being restored to the earth, and the ability he has to know for himself that there is a church on the earth today that IS true and does feel right! He seemed hesitant, but agreed to meet with us the next day.
On Wednesday, when we met up with Darien for a lesson, he opened up to us a lot more. He explained his hesitation comes from having a hard time feeling that God actually loves him. He feels that he doesn't get answers to his prayers and that a lot of times he feels silly praying because he doesn't know if anyone is actually listening. My heart ached for him to feel the love that his Father in heaven has for him! I could feel it so strongly and I wanted him to be able to feel it as well! We testified, from the bottom of our hearts, that God knows him personally and loves him deeply. We promised him that if he turns to the Book of Mormon searching out that love, he will be able to find it. Towards the end of the lesson he told said, "I can tell y'all have confidence in what you're saying. And I know that generally I am not a happy person, but I can tell that you are! Like.. y'all glow!" :) He committed to taking his questions to God and finding out for himself if He really is there for him.
Skipping ahead to Friday - Darien came to a "brunch" the branch had in the morning to celebrate Independence day! He had told us the night before that he was worried he wouldn't feel comfortable, but the incredible members of our branch (especially the one who came to Darien's lesson on wednesday) really reached out to him and welcomed him right away!! It was so wonderful. As we all left, he kept telling us how happy he was that he came and how he couldn't wait to come to the service on Sunday! He was feeling loved!! We went from the brunch on Friday to help out with the parade that was happening downtown. It was so fun! We were in charge of handling the biggest balloon in the line up and it was quite the experience!! From the time we arrived for "training"/helping set up to the time we left the parade scene was about 4.5 hours. The best part about that whole time, was a little girl named Sadie. :) Her mom was busy helping with all of the parade logistics, so I started asking this little girl questions about herself. She is 9 years old, she is originally from China, and she loves God and church so much! She asked me a million questions about being a missionary and concluded after a few minutes that when she grows up, she wants to be a missionary too! She clung to me the entire day and at the end of the parade, she didn't want to leave my side. My heart was filled with love for this little girl!! She was so pure and innocent, and loved me unconditionally after only knowing me for a few hours. That night as I thought more about how much I needed to meet little Sadie, I felt an increased desire to love the people I serve the way that she immediately loved me. There truly is so much to be learned from the "little ones" around us. :)
On Saturday morning is when we received sad news. We received a text from Darien telling us that he didn't feel the Book of Mormon's teachings were something that he could "follow in good conscience." ...I have been out for a good while now on my mission and as a result, have had to deal with a lot of people dropping us. For some reason though, this one hurt a lot worse than the others. I turned to my companion and I couldn't hold back tears as I asked her what we did wrong? She reminded me of the Spirit we felt in his lesson, and the happiness we could see in his eyes after spending time with the members at the branch activity. I had to then remind myself of my purpose; I have been called to INVITE others to come unto Christ... I cannot force Darien to accept the happiness the gospel could bring into his life, I can only invite him to do certain things and make certain choices that would allow it to happen.
I am grateful that I have the opportunity to use the agency I have been give, to choose to follow my Savior Jesus Christ. I know that He lives, and that He has provided the perfect example that we each should strive to pattern our own lives after. The gospel brings lasting happiness and true joy into our lives if we are willing to live by it's teachings and keep the commandments! I know the gospel is true!
I love you all so much! Have a wonderful week!