July 4, 2016
This week was a very, very special week. I got a call from the Bolla family (from mountain house my previous area) last monday and was invited to be apart of their temple endowment. They have worked through so much to get to this place in their life and we got very close in this process while I served there. When I was in mountain house they were newly baptized and I was involved in teaching their new member discussions. The endowment session was for Friday atat the Oakland temple. I was nervous to ask President Palmer for permission because I was doubtful I would get it, especially with the session being so late, but President prayed about it and felt so good so he went ahead and asked for further permission from I think the area seventy of the church for us to be able to go. It is such a big deal to go because we would have to leave our mission boundaries, and that requires special permission. It all worked out though, and I and my companion were allowed to go! It was such a special experience for me. The Oakland temple is BEAUTIFUL. It over looks the bay area, and in the distance you can see San Francisco and the Golden Gate Bridge. The air there is so much cooler than in the central valley where we serve too! It is much more humid and it just feels like a cool beach breeze. We got to the temple early so we were able to walk around it and take in all the peace and beauty of being there. Being in the temple was like a breath of fresh air to me, and seeing the Bollas in the temple made me just overwhelmed with happiness. I literally didn't know I could be so happy about anything. It was one of the best experiences I have had on my mission. The temple is what it is all about. It truly is the House of the Lord, and every time we go we leave with extra strength from God to face the trails and challenges of this life. I can not say enough how grateful I am to of had to opportunity to be apart of that night for the Bollas. I love them so much!
The morning before going to the temple was amazing as well. We got to go to a sister training leader breakfast at President Palmer's house and it was really special. He has been really busy lately so it was really nice to be able to catch up and council with him in such a personal setting. He is a really amazing mission president, and serving so close with him has been a huge blessing for me. I am constantly learning so much from him and his wife.
Our investigators are doing well! This week was a little sad with lots of cancellations (typical in YSA work haha...), but we saw miracles as well. We taught Chad more and more this week and he is excited to be baptized on the 30th. I have never taught someone so willing to follow Jesus Christ. We taught him the word of wisdom, about not drinking or smoking or taking in coffee and certain teas, and his reply before we could even explain why we have it or all the blessings was "well, looks like I will have to find a different favorite drink." He is really awesome! It is kind of nerve wracking teaching him because he is a quiet guy who keeps things to himself, but the spirit is always there so strong and every time he tells us he had his questions answered during the lesson (yet he never really tells us what the questions are!) He works so much so though so going to church is our biggest hurdle. I know though that God will provide a way for him to be obedient to His commandments if we have faith. Kelly is super super excited for her baptism on the 16th and she loved church on Sunday. Marco was a little uncomfortable attending the English ward for the first time, but he says it will be good for him and he knows how important it is to go to church with his wife. Oh yeah, and this week we contacted a YSA referral, Mena. Mena is so amazing! We only talked for a little bit, but she told us "this just is feeling right to me". We have an appointment to teach her this week and we are so crazy excited. She was the sweetest person. And she works at Kate Spade which is awesome haha.
Another amazing thing that happened this week was that I got to work in the Spanish branch up in Modesto! We went on exchanges with the modesto 12th hermanas. It was the best day ever. I was working with hermana Maya who is a native spanish speaker. She was so so loving and encouraging with my spanish. As soon as I got there she let me (well...kind of forced because I was nervous haha) make the calls for our appointments the next day. I was so nervous but I did really well, and when I didn't understand she would help me out just enough to let me do it on my own still. The lessons and the members we taught that day were also so nice to me as well. They were excited that I was trying so hard to speak Spanish with them and be apart of the lesson. My bike ended up breaking down in the afternoon which was so frustrating- I HATE BIKE PROBLEMS- but the elders came and started fixing it for me. As they were trying to fix it, hermana maya and I saw this old homeless man in a wheel chair in the middle of the road struggling to get around. We both felt really prompted to go help him. He accepted our offer to push him where he needed to go, and he said it was just around the corner...well it actually turned out to be like 2-3 miles away. We didn't have heart to turn back ever so we just kept pushing him even though it was really taking awhile and we were sweating to death. We ended up a long ways away from where the bike was being fixed so the elders brought the bike to us. As we waited we went to this little ice cream shop near by owned by the branch president of their spanish branch. He told me I had to try his mangonada. It was very interesting but I loved it! It was mangos and sherbet....and then they put hot sauce and tajin on it too. It was weird but really good! It was a fun exchange and I really loved working with the hermanas and getting to speak spanish with them all day.
I have this goal to finish the Book of Mormon again before my year mark on the 29th, so I am just constantly reading it. Every second I get I am reading. I feel such an increase of peace from doing this. I am really filling my heart and my mind with light and peace. As I was reading in Helaman I was so impressed with Nephi's example. I loved chapter 10:4. The part about Nephi not seeking his own life, but seeking God's will and His commandments really meant a lot to me. I feel like I am really learning this lesson on my mission. As I have tried and prayed and fasted, to follow and trust God's plan instead of my own plans, I have felt such a power in my life. I feel like I am really understanding who I am and who I can be with God, and that person is not even comparable to the person I, by myself, was planning on being. As the book of Helaman goes on, Nephi talks about the restlessness, and misery some of the people have because they "have sought for happiness in doing iniquity, which thing is contrary to the nature of that righteousness which is in our great and Eternal Head." And that sentence rang so true to me. I feel like our culture and other people try and tell us how to be happy- that is comes with how many things we have, how cute our clothes are, how fit we are, etc. but, I know that all of those avenues of happiness only have left me feeling still empty. We are spirit children of God, our spirit-our nature, is to do what is right and follow His Gospel. When we do that, we are being true to who we divinely are and we feel a peace and we feel liberated. It is freeing, being true to who we are inside. I still have a lot to learn about this all, but I am so grateful for the scriptures and for my mission for allowing me to change my heart in this way.
all my love,
Sister Eleanor Neeley