Serving a mission in Macau is unique in many ways, one of them being that you're very isolated from the rest of the mission. There are 10 full-time missionaries here right now, and we're really close. Wow, do I love these missionaries. They are so fun, so hard-working, and so in love with this work and the people. It's such a pleasure to be here. We had a district potluck lunch today, so everyone brought whatever food they had available... needless to say, we had a pretty interesting array of sustenance. I've had two packets of cornbread mix sitting temptingly on the counter for about two months now, so we went down to brave the Macau kitchen and cook them. To describe the Macau oven as temperamental would not an exaggeration. Anyways, I was a little worried about the cornbread. And you might shake your head and say to yourself, "Good grief, Sister Cutler, you are a ridiculous person" but Sister L and I bowed our heads in prayer to bless that cornbread as it cooked. And it was miraculous. It cooked in 10 minutes (the packet said 16-18 minutes) and was beautiful. Perfect. I was almost in tears as I took it out of the oven. Cornbread with honey butter. It really was like a mouthful of warm, loving Virginia. What a wonderful day.
I think I will remember this week for the rest of my life. No, not because of the cornbread. But because of what I've learned and what I've seen as I've been working with one of the less-active members in our branch. She joined the church many years ago and then when she moved to Macau she lost the church and slowly forgot everything she'd learned. I've worked with her regularly since I came (six months ago!) and I love this sister so much. She recently has had really awful marriage problems, and I won't go into much detail, but it is absolutely heart-wrenching. She has lost all that is dear to her and is on the verge of hitting rock bottom. Satan is just getting to her, taking away all of her hope, leading her to make bad choices and think bad thoughts. We visited her earlier this week and read with her in 2 Nephi 4, and as we talked about trusting in Jesus Christ and his atonement, the Spirit was there more strongly than any other lesson I've ever had. I don't want to sound like a drama queen, but this is real, I really saw it. When we got there, it was dark and Satan was there. And when we sang a hymn and prayed together, it was like a wave of something more powerful than light came through and swept that darkness away. It was the power of God, I know it.
Sunday evenings are always exhausting because we have evening church and don't eat dinner until about 9, and then we still have to do planning and lots of preparation. I was so tired, and that's when she called me in tears and told me that she'd never felt more alone or hopeless. She was by herself because her husband took away her baby, the baby that her entire life has revolved around. And it was all I could do to not start crying too, but God gave me the strength that I needed. I've promised her over and over again that God will help her, that she needs to trust him and put her faith in him. And I've been believing this promise on one level, a very general one. But I had to decide this week whether or not I really believed what I was saying. If I didn't believe it, then I had to stop saying it, because empty promises will only make things worse in the long run. So I did a lot of thinking. And I decided that I really did believe it. No, I knew it. I'd witnessed God's power too many times to not believe it. And then I decided that my attitude needed to reflect this belief. And that decision changed this entire week for me.
It could have been one of the saddest, most hopeless weeks of my life. But instead, I've felt the Savior's strength more than ever before. I've been able to think clearly and be guided while talking to her. I've never been in a situation similar to hers. I really had no idea what to say. But every time I've opened my mouth, the right thing has come out. And it's not from me, it really isn't. I don't say this to say Wow look at me I'm so wise and have all the answers. Because I really don't. It's God and he is wise enough to work through silly, imperfect people like me.
My heart has felt so much sorrow for my sister this week. She really is my sister, and although we come from very different backgrounds and have very different experiences, I feel so close to her and I love her so much. This is a huge blessing, and also a huge challenge--loving people this much. I can't imagine how God must feel. He knows each of us infinitely and intimately, and loves us for who we are. How it must hurt him when we hurt. But the joy that he feels when we have joy must be worth it for him. I love my Father in Heaven, and I know he is real. He loves this sister infinitely more than I do, and I know that he will take care of her better than I ever can. This is his work.