And also, I just want to say a quick thank you to all who have sent me things these past couple weeks for Christmas! I didn't think about writing them all down until we were doing our laundry and I didn't have them all in front of me so I can't remember everyone. But even if I can't remember who I got stuff from, it doesn't mean I'm not thankful because I really am!!! So here are the names I remember... Brother Geertsen, the Parrott's, Renata, the Urban's, Grandma and Grandpa K, and I don't remember if I thanked Grandma and Grandpa Wheatley when they sent me Special K cookies! So thank you to everyone that I have received things from! I really do love and appreciate it all! It means so much to me!
And Happy Birthday to cousin Crista Tharp on the 26th, Bekkah on the 27th, and Happy Anniversary to Sarah and Michael on the 27th, and Bekkah and Jonny on the 29th! Love you all!
Ok... Now to get started on what happened this week. There wasn't a whole lot but I feel very blessed for what I have learned these last couple weeks as the world has brought their focus on Christ at this time of the year.
Monday the 17th was a pretty good day. It was a very relaxing Pday for Sister Amataga and I. We basically stayed at our home all day to write letters, clean, and relax. Our zone had an activity but we decided to just have a day to ourselves to get the little things done. And it was wonderful!
Then that night we went over to Bishop Ferrell's house for the Young Single Adults Christmas Family Home Evening. It was fun! It was kinda weird for me because I'm such a quiet person and I don't do well in large crowds of people when I don't know anyone but in the end, it turned out good! I talked to a few of the members of the ward and they brought friends and I was able to talk to them as well. And there was a white elephant gift exchange that night but Sister Amataga and I forgot to bring ours so we weren't going to participate. But the Elders had to leave early so they gave us their gift and no one ended up wanting it, so it was ours to keep. When we opened the box, there was a note that said "The best gift EVER!" and inside was a little kids fanny pack (not sure if I spelled that right...) from the 90's with Scooby-doo on it. And inside it, was something else. So we opened it and it was a High School Musical locker box with HSM playing cards inside!!! So I immediately grabbed the cards from Sister Amataga and said they were mine! haha I was pretty excited!!! ;) But it was a good night getting to know that ward a little better and having fun!
Then Tuesday the 18th not much happened than either but we did go visit a less-active and have a very good gospel/Christmas discussion with her. And her son's girlfriend was there as well so it was nice to have her around and talk.
And to end off the night, we went to St. Dorothy's to help out with the San Gabriel Valley winter homeless shelter. We walked in and the lady in charge had us do a job that she does every year, which was to serve all the homeless seconds of dinner. So we did that and in a good way, it was so rewarding! You never know how small things in life are going to change your thoughts for your future life. As we were standing there, we had people come up to us and say "This is the first meal I have had all day. Thank you so much!!" And so many other things that just tug at your heart strings. It made me realize even more that I have been so blessed in my life! I never had to worry whether there was going to be a meal on the table at night, whether it was just left overs from the night before, Taco Bell, or a homemade dinner, I never had to worry. We have been so blessed my whole life and I have taken that for granted. And to just see someone's face light up when you give them a smile of wished them a Merry Christmas, it was just wonderful! I think my parents did a good job at teaching us to be grateful for the things we have and to serve others but I just never realized how important it was until being out on my mission. One small thing can change someone's life forever. And personally, I think we all need to realize that a lot more. We go through life so quickly and we don't take time to remember the important things, like food and shelter that we have been so blessed with.
Then Wednesday the 19th was basically a day of contacting people in the YSA ward and getting familiar with everything. We had a meeting with Bishop Ferrell, which lasted much longer than I thought it was going to, but it was very good! Not only was it good to get information about the ward and see how we could help Bishop, but we were able to (hopefully...) gain his trust in us so that we can have a good relationship as we are serving in the ward. Oh... and not to mention, he has a family business where they make designs and things for amusement parks and other places so he showed us a little of what they do! OH MY HECK!!! It's so cool! They have made attractions for Disneyland, Disney World, places in China and other foreign countries, and they even designed Celin Dion's pool/spa area for her house in Florida (they didn't know it was for her until after it aired on a tv show haha) Anyway, not like that matters in missionary work but it was cool because they showed us all these awesome attractions they have done! It was just sweet!
Then on Thursday the 20th, President Becerra showed up at our District Meeting. I have said it before but I'll say it again, he always shows up at our meetings or schedules a meeting right when I need it the most! And for that I am thankful! He talked about how there are three things that we need to change in our mission because they are "broken." And those things are personal study, companionship study and district meetings. When he asked us about that, we all shook our heads in agreement that yes, those are broken in our mission. And that's really sad because those are the things that start out each of our days. So we talked about how we can change that and how we can help everyone else in the mission, especially with so many new missionaries coming in in the next few months. And it just changed my whole perspective. Then we talked about how we need to put away our weapons of war like the Anti-Nephi-Lehi's did in the Book of Mormon. And we kinda talked a little about what some of those things might be and how we can change it. So many thoughts went running through my head about what kind of things I can change to be a better missionary. I walked out of District Meeting that day seeing so many new ways of how I can change! We were lucky enough also, to be President's "guinea pigs" so that was nice because it wasn't anything that he has talked about to other districts yet so it wasn't routine. It was comfortable and nice!
Then that night we had a lesson with one of our less-actives in the ward where we watched The Forgotten Carols. And I have seen the play before but I think I was a little too young to have seen it when I did because I didn't really like it the first time. But oh my goodness, it was one of the best things I have ever watched before! I was in tears! That is one of the things that has helped me to realize the important things in life. To remember the forgotten things! It's like a quote that President said in District Meeting that morning, "What will you remember when you forget everything?" And I thought that kinda went along with The Forgotten Carols. It was just wonderful! And I wish I could explain what it's about but for anyone who hasn't seen it or read the book, you should go and try to find it online or at Deseret Book or something because it is amazing! And after watching it, we had a very good conversation with Sister Bright about it. It was just wonderful!
Then Friday was a pretty good day! We did our weekly planning and had a very long companionship inventory. Comp inventory is not something fun to do but in this case, it was much needed (not because we are having troubles but for other reasons.) Then we had a meeting with one of the members of the YSA ward and then dinner with a less-active/part member family where we had my favorite tacos!!!! And we had good gospel conversation there which was nice. But that's about all that happened on Friday.
Then Saturday we had a very rewarding morning. There's a less-active/part member family that we are teaching that called us and had three full turkey Christmas dinners that they needed us to find homes for. So after talking to the Bishop we were able to take these meals to three families that we know would be very grateful for them. And it was just fun to be able to deliver them. We were able to find one of the families at home but just left the other two on these family doorsteps. I don't know what their thoughts were but it was so good and another rewarding thing to do for those in need.
Then to end the week, yesterday, Sunday the 23rd was just wonderful!!! I was able to be apart of the ward choir again for the Christmas program and it was so good! We sang Joseph Came Walking to Bethlehem and also It Came Upon A Midnight Clear (which has become one of my favorite songs lately...) And at the end of sacrament meeting, the primary kids got up and sang their Hallelujah chorus they sang at the Christmas party. Then they sang a beautiful song called Peace Peace and at the end of that, we all sang together Silent Night and the Spirit just overwhelmed me so much! I was happy and sad at the same time. As I was sitting in sacrament yesterday, I saw all these families sitting together and I just thought of my family back home and wanting to be with them. But then I thought, that's why I'm on a mission, to help bring other families together like all of these families. And it was just an amazing feeling! It was so overwhelming but it changed me. I have been out for over nine months and I haven't felt like I have made a different or that I have changed but I realized yesterday that from here on out, I am going to work even harder than ever because of the overwhelming feelings I felt yesterday.
Well, I just want to end by giving you my journal entry from the other day. This is from 12/21/2012 (the day the world was supposed to end LOL)
"This morning I have a lot on my mind. Christmas is four days away and I'm really missing home. So much would be going on. Work at DearElder.com would be crazy! Last minute shopping trips. Snow on the ground. Presents to wrap. So much to do. But this year I am away from home. I don't get to enjoy the business of work. I don't get to wrap presents or go shopping. There's no visiting Santa Claus at the mall this year.
This year I'm a missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. This year, as much as I'm missing my family, I get to enjoy Christmas in a new way. I get to enjoy Christmas this year by serving. I will be out at people's homes. I will be walking the streets of Glendora and San Dimas. I will be looking for those homes where my heart tells me, "Go knock on that door." And when I knock on "that door," I hope and pray that the person who opens it will say, "I've been praying for you."
Being away for Christmas this year has changed my perspective. As nice as it has been to feel so loved when I receive boxes of presents, gift cards to Panda Express, and Christmas cards with cash inside, I've realized that none of that matters.** DISCLAIMER: I truly am grateful for the gifts, love and support I feel when I receive them. It's not about what I receive. It's about what I give. And I had always been taught that as a kid. My parents were always wonderful at teaching us these things. But being away from home this year has really cleared my view. I'm not in the middle of all the holiday rush. My life right now is slowed down and focused on one thing, spreading the good news of the Restored Gospel of Jesus Christ here upon the earth. And as I've realized that, my perspective of Christmas has changed. I don't know what future Christmases will hold. Will I go back to my old ways and forget what I have learned this year? I sure as heck hope not! I know that only I have the power to change future Christmases to what I want them to be but life gets to us, it's time to take a step back and see what is really important in life. I'm so grateful for this year and all it has brought to me. I never thought I'd be on a misison. But my Father in Heaven knows best and He sent me to the California Arcadia mission for a reason. And if I could give one present to Him and my Savior, Jesus Christ, it would be to work harder than I have these last nine months. Time is flying by and I don't have much left. So as I spend Christmas in California this year, I'm more grateful for this gift I have been given, the gift to share what I KNOW to be true. Like I said earlier, as much as I miss home and my friends and family, I have come to realize that there's absolutely no where else I would rather be this year than on my mission. I know that what I'm out here teaching is true. I know my Heavenly Father loves me. I know my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ loves me. And I know that He died for each and everyone of us so that we can return to live with Him one day. I'm grateful for this Christmas that has changed my life. I hope and pray that we may all, wherever we may be, can give just a little more than we receive. Jesus Christ gave His life for us, what can we do for Him?
In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen."
Merry CHRISTmas, everyone!!!
Sister Rachel Anna Wheatley