Wow, is it possible for one family to have so much fun?! Happy birthday to Ryan! Enjoy the big double-one! I'm glad you finally took that Lagoon trip and had a blast. You make me proud with all your roller coaster lovin. :) And it sounds like everyone had a great 4th of July too! Sister Luke is also from Idaho and we agree that you haven't experienced July 4th until you've experienced it in a small Idaho town.
To answer your questions Mom, yes I am in a car! #tendermercies They give all the sisters in the mission cars, but encourage them to use their bikes for contacting once per day. However, since I'm in a singles ward that covers an entire stake's boundaries, it wouldn't be a very practical use of our time to bike every day. So we only bike once a week, and we do it in the mornings before it gets too terribly hot.
As far as the heat goes, I am surviving! There were a couple of days this week that were killer... and I basically turned into a gospel-preaching puddle. I've never sweat so much. However. As long as I embrace the sweatiness and drink lots of water and pray, I'm okay! And we were blessed with some cloudy days this week which really helped. It even rained last night. Sis. Luke and I ran outside in our pajamas just to watch it pour down. :)
Well. This has been a week full of miracles! I learned in a very physical way that it's true when they say the Lord protects His missionaries. We were in a car accident Tuesday morning! A truck turned left on a red light as we were coming straight across the intersection in Amber's car (our relief society president) and knocked off the whole front of her little red kia. Thankfully, since Amber hit the breaks at the exact right moment, not one of the four girls in the car was injured. It's overwhelming to think about just how bad it could have been otherwise. Instead, it just felt like a bumper car! Amber's engine was totally ruined, but since the woman driving the truck was at fault, Amber shouldn't have to pay for anything. We felt so bad that this happened to her but it was quite obvious that Heavenly Father was watching out for all of us!
Zach continues to be a blessing from heaven. I don't know why Heavenly Father decided to give us such a golden investigator but I'm so glad he did. I'm pretty sure he could have been taught by a chimpanzee and still accepted the gospel, as long as he could feel the spirit. Every commitment we extend to him, he immediately accepts. Get this: I think he keeps the word of wisdom better than I do! He bicycles 15 miles every morning, starts his day out with fruits and ends it with vegetables, coffee makes him tired, and he would always get bored halfway through a beer. .....Where did this guy come from?! He is SO great! He's even started to come out teaching with us. His baptism is this Saturday and he asked me to give the Holy Ghost talk. D'awww. :)
Our ward mission leader Justin made the nicest dinner for us and some other ward members on the 4th of July! One of the yummiest steaks I've ever had... you know how I love my steak... cream green beans, homemade mashed potatoes, flaky rolls, salad with cranberries and feta cheese... It was the closest thing to mom-food that I've had since I've been out here. So I'd say I had a pretty good 4th of July. :) The whole day however was work work work! As soon as dinner was over we hit the local park and contacted all the people watching and lighting off fireworks. It was the perfect time to find everyone!
The saddest thing happened with Danny, our Riverside-San Bernardino investigator. He got offended by the verse in the Book of Mormon where it talks about the Lamanites being cursed with dark skin. He texted us asking if his dark skin was a curse, and in the time it took us to pray, make some phone calls, and study frantically, he came across enough anti-Mormon literature that he didn't want to meet with us anymore. Broke my heart. I guess we never know what will happen in the future. We're continuing to pray for him in the hopes that his heart will soften. And hey, I have 17 more months to find our golden southwestern states investigator :)
Good news. We are finally teaching a girl! haha oh boy. Her name is Amanda and she is one of the nicest people. She's very spiritualistic, believes in oneness and the energy of the earth and that sort of thing. Katherine would love her sense of fashion, very earthy and colorful. She's got a strong belief in a higher power and an open heart and mind so we will see how it goes teaching her! We met her and taught the Restoration on Saturday and she came to church the next day. So far so good!
The ward has recently started a "rescue mission" to make a concerted effort to reach out to the less actives. We had a special fast yesterday for them, and holy moly fasting works you guys. I've never heard such a heartfelt, humble testimony meeting. It felt like two thirds of the young adults who bore their testimonies said "I'm so glad I'm finally coming back to church." Everyone mentioned the power of repentance or how learning about and relying on their Savior has personally changed their lives. Someone made an amazing analogy about repentance as dusting a room-- others can't really tell what you did, but they can tell that something's changed for the better.
During that testimony meeting, Sister Luke and I also received an amazing answer to a big question. All week we had been wondering, "what was God trying to teach us by putting us in that car accident?" Near the end of the meeting, Sunny, the other girl in the car, got up to bear her testimony. She said that experience really opened her eyes to how precious life is and how mindful God is of her. Even though she wasn't wearing a seatbelt, all she suffered was a headache. That accident was the catalyst to help her make the decision to start coming to church every week. We are so glad!
This work is so hard but it is so worth it! During my first week, Sister Luke gave me a talk to read called "The Fourth Missionary." Look it up. It will change your life! It talks about how serving a mission-- or I would add living a Christ centered life-- becomes easier when we surrender our will and heart to God, because our will is the only thing that He doesn't already have. My favorite quote, which is now hanging on my apartment wall:
"Trust in Him. Trust Him who knows all things. Trust Him who has all power. Trust him whose love for you is perfect.... Trust Him that He will make of you immeasurably more than you will ever, ever, in all eternity, make of yourself. He will create of you a masterpiece. You will create only a smudge. You will create an ordinary man. He will create a God."
One way or another, this mission is shaping me. It is setting the tone for the rest of my life. I want to look back on that life as a masterpiece, not just a smudge on the books of history and time. If I try to do this work by myself, it will be too hard and I won't progress much. If I do it with the Lord, He can shape me in all the necessary ways to become the person I need to be. He can lead me to the people who are prepared for the Gospel, and He will! He told me He would and I trust in that promise.
I love you all so much! You're in my prayers! The church is true the book is blue and God loves you :)
Love, Sister Browning