What a great week it was! I want to tell you all about it. I feel like I can never fit in everything that is worth writing about, but I'll try to sum it up as best as possible.
First off, thank you so much for the cards and letters. I got a whole bunch! Granny Willi, Mongo + Grandpa, Grandpa Williams, Uncle David, Loralyn, Geoff, Jared, Dallin, Drew, Alex, Maddi, the Walkers, and a few more that I can't even remember right now. Thank you everyone so much. It was a great birthday.
We met with our investigators Latorie and Ashiana this week, which was a miracle. They are so hard to meet with because they never keep appointments. They were just cooking some fried chicken, so we came in and joined them and popped in "The Restoration" DVD. It was much better than the Jerry Springer show, which they were watching, haha. Ashiana is progressing since last time we met with her, and has been praying!
We also were able to meet with Cathy Casteel!!! She is the investigator that moved to Indianapolis and was going to get baptized. She came back to Springfield for a couple days because of court. The situation with her and her boyfriend is really messy. Apparently she got kicked out of the house the last night we saw her. Her boyfriend was mad that she came out to talk to us and tell us the situation and everything, and so after we left he threw all of her stuff outside and just kicked her out. So Cathy's dad drove from Indianapolis that night and got her. That's why we never heard from her. But she still expressed interest in the church and everything, so we got her address and phone number and we are hooking her up with the missionaries in Indiana. We were so happy to be able to see her! I'll probably never see her again, but I know she'll be baptized.
On Wednesday we went on splits. Elder Crowley went to Decatur and I stayed here. I was with Elder Hansen all day. We biked our butts off all day with little-to-no success, but then had a great appointment with Josh Rhodeman that night. Our ward mission leader, Brother Mendenhall (the coolest guy ever, if I haven't already told you), came with us.
Josh told us about how he had this extremely spiritual experience at church on Sunday. He said he didn't know if he should tell us, but he did anyway, haha. He said that while I was up there at the pulpit giving my talk, that I had this extremely bright glow around my entire body. He thought he was crazy, so he kind of slapped himself around, rubbed his eyes, and made sure he wasn't just seeing things. But the glow continued. He said the same thing happened with another brother who gave a talk right after me. He mentioned that the guy who was teaching Elders quorum had a glow around his head, along with a few other people he saw. He said he felt extremely peaceful. He knows that we have the Spirit of God with us, and that what we are teaching is true, and that God wants him to be a part of it. Josh told us there is absolutely no turning back now. He is determined to follow this path. It was really, really neat to hear him talk about this. The change that I've seen in Josh from the time we first met him is HUGE. We taught him the 3rd lesson, which is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It goes over faith, repentance, baptism, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end. It's probably the best lesson in my opinion. The spirit was strong and Josh loved it. Josh asked a question and I don't even remember what it was. But I remember answering it, and half way through my little spiel I realized, "Wow, I am answering his question in a way far beyond my own ability to articulate what I wanted to say." I really felt in that moment that I was being guided by the Spirit and given what to say (D&C 100:6). It's really cool to have an experience like that and know that I am being used as an instrument in the Lord's hands. It's life changing! We moved Josh's baptism date to October 15th.
We met with the Pastor again, John Wentz. Normally, he seems somewhat interested in learning about the Mormon doctrine. This time he was 100 percent trying to convince us that what we teach is false. He said we read the Bible through the lens of the Book of Mormon. He says that we can't trust our "good feelings" to know that this is all true. He said that our entire religion is based off the experience of one man (the first vision of Joseph Smith) and that it is a really weak foundation. John said that we cannot trust our own feelings. His testimony of the Bible is based on logic and proof, which he admitted to. John always comes up with contradictions in our teachings with the Bible and says that they are "red flags". He has the NIV translation of the Bible and relies on his own interpretation to understand it. We both left the appointment discouraged and down. Crowley and I felt like we both failed. It sucked big time. I prayed really hard that this experience would be a testimony builder, rather than one that would shake my testimony. The following morning in my study, I happened to be on 2 Nephi 28. Nephi prophecies of many things that would happen in these days and talks about the need for the Book of Mormon. One verse in particular really stood out to me, which is talking about Priests/Pastors: "and they shall teach with their learning, and deny the Holy Ghost" (verse 4). That's a red flag for me! I've had witnesses and experiences from the Holy Ghost that I cannot and will not deny. And when a pastor comes along and tells me to deny the Holy Ghost and rely on proof and logic, it just makes my red flags start waving like crazy. The first principle of the gospel is faith, not proof. What a testimony building experience that was! I wish I had time to share with you more things I learned about it. The Spirit was VERY real. Don't ever deny its promptings!
I guess I have to tell you about my Friday experience. Elder Crowley and I did the Holy Ghost Pepper Challenge. This family in our ward always does this for missionaries. They order ghost peppers from Pakistan and make chili with it. The ghost pepper is the hottest natural grown pepper known to man. If we took two bites of it, we got our name on their wall in really small letters for "honorable mention", and if we ate the entire bowl, our name would be huge! Only two missionaries have ever done it before us. I took the first bite and my entire mouth was on fire, including my lips. My head was ringing too. It was HAWT! But for a reason unknown to me, I finished the entire bowl, almost killing myself in the process. Sister Greene bought me a tie for my birthday and wrote on the back "Happy Ghost Pepper Birthday!" Haha. Elder Crowley finished his bowl too. It was one of the dumbest things I've ever done. Sister Phillips videoed some of it and put it onto her Facebook page. She said she added you Mom, so you can go view the videos if you want.
The peppers were a lot hotter coming out then they were going in. Hard to believe, but very true. It made for a very painful awakening at 4:00am on my birthday. The price you pay for success. Anyway.......... My birthday was fantastic. We were busy the entire day and never had a moment to spare. We went to a funeral, which was SUPER EXCITING. Just kidding. We didn't even know the lady. But Bishop asked us to come to potentially talk to this dead lady’s family members about the gospel. We might actually get an appointment out of it. We also helped an inactive member in our ward move apartments. Whenever people need help lifting things, they always call the missionaries! Haha. We had an awesome finish to the day. Sarah Headman is a young woman in the ward and she invited like five of her friends to come play volleyball at the church. A couple other people came and we had an epic 6 vs. 6 volleyball game. It was such a blast. And the youth in this ward are amazing. What an incredible job on Sarah's part. Hopefully she can continue to invite them to things, and eventually it will lead to them listening to the discussions. Who knows!
Well, I'm going to stop there. I love you so much Mom & Dad, Jesse, Megan, and Alison! I'm glad to hear that Ali is doing great in Russia. I'm excited to read about her experiences in the field. I'm glad to hear about Jesse dating some good lookin’ babes and shooting an antelope! And of course Megan and soccer! What an awesome family.