First off, a bit of exciting news from my misison president...
"We just got word last week that the Florida Fort Lauderdale Mission is the highest baptizing Mission in the United States and Canada. This hasn’t happened out of the Utah Missions in a long time I am told. "
Cool, eh? I really am liking Florida a lot and I'm glad that I have the opportunity to serve here. I was talking to someone yesterday about missions in Korea and he said that it is so hard to teach people there because they're all super busy and don't think that talking about religion is worth their time. He said that missionaries there feel lucky if they get to baptize 1 or 2 people during their 2 years. And this week we met 2 Hindus, and one of them even believes in Jesus Christ and loves Christianity...but he's a Hindu because his parents and grandparents and everyone were Hindus. They don't let go of the generational thing; and that is the case with people in a lot of other countries. So I've realized just how lucky I am to be serving here in America.
Another couple random facts about Florida:
-There are a lot of abandoned houses here! And maybe there are houses like that everywhere, but I just don't realize it because I don't usually go around knocking on people's doors. But the economy is really bad here and a lot of houses have gone into foreclosure...so there are just empty houses everywhere.
-It's always swimsuit season here! You can buy swimsuits all year round at the stores.
It's really hard not being tuned into the news right now with the election and the devestation from the hurricane up north. I would love for someone to send me some pics of New York, just so I kind of get a better idea of what is going on up there. I guess now I'm glad I didn't end up getting sent to New York like I was hoping!
Funny story from the week...
We left a blessing with this really old Cuban man and his family. He was a "Presbyterian!" (as he told us like 10 times) but he just LOVED the blessing and was so glad we stopped by. We said goodbye and started to leave and he kept thanking us and then he took our hands and kissed them. And THEN when we finally left his apartment, he actually followed us out and kept following us down the sidewalk! He just kept talking to us and telling us how "it was so hard to find nice young ladies" like us nowadays. Wonderfully awkward and funny ...this little old man with an eyepatch half-dangling off his face following us down the sidewalk as his family is yelling after him, "Solomon! Solomon! Come back!" Such is the life of a sister missionary.
But unfortunately not everyone loves us as much as Solomon. A week or so ago we knocked on the door of this guy, he came out and explained who we were & our purpose. Then he says, "Aw, that's cute. Jesus Christ, huh? HE'S A FICTIONAL CHARACTER." Okay, so we've run into atheists before. Whatever. But this guy, instead doing the normal & polite thing (saying "no thank you" and allowing us to go on our way), decides to stand on his porch and yell at us for 15 minutes straight about why we're wasting our time, why religion does nothing but terrible things for the world and instead of wasting our time praying with people we should actually do something to help people (clearly this man has never heard about all the humanitarian service our church does), why there's no God, etc. As I reflected on the experience afterwards, I realized that most of his arguments didn't even make much sense or fit into the context of the conversation (such as his declaration that evolution proves there is no God...well, I believe in God, but I actually believe in evolution, too). Anyways, I wondered what had happened to this man to make him so incredibly bitter. At one point during the conversation, he even said, "You girls are too young to know what true happiness is!" And I wanted to ask him (but of course you can't get a word in edgewise with these types of people), "So, is THIS happiness? Is true happiness being so unhappy and bitter about life that you yell at two 20-something girls? Is true happiness being so passionate and angry that your face shakes as you yell at strangers?" Because if that's "true happiness"...then I don't want any part of it! But it was just such an interesting comment, because the thing is...I really DO know what happiness is! I wake up every morning, happy to be alive and to have the chance to go out and meet people and share things with them that really will improve their lives. I DO know what true happiness is! I have had so much happiness in my life, and the times when I've actually been happiest are those times when I've been surrounded by the gospel (being an EFY counselor, at the MTC, etc.). And I felt sad for this man who is so bitter about life and God that he yells at girls who are half his age...and he thinks that he is happy. I've known lots of people who have doubts about the gospel or about the existence of God...if you're one of those people, are you going to go down the path of this man and end up a bitter and unhappy peson? Are you going to get so far from the influence of the spirit that you yell at nice girls until your face shakes? It's just something to think about. If you're worried that this could happen to you, ask God for help! Start keeping a journal where you write down spiritual impressions or experiences that you have. There have been times that I've had doubts as well, but luckily I've written down the sacred experiences I've had when I have known without a doubt that God exists and loves me. And re-reading some of those experiences has really saved me on a couple occasions.
Okay, well that's nice and long. I love you all! Hope everything is going wonderfully back home!