Well, this was an interesting week. The mission goes through phases--I think C.S. Lewis called it the undulation cycle. You're up and happy and everything goes right. And then you're down and struggling to keep optimistic. And Sister Wilson (the visiting General Authority's wife) told us something very wise. She said, in effect, "Life naturally goes through cycles. These cycles aren't caused by our personal error. They are very natural. But Satan will tell us differently. When we are up, he will tell us that this is the way it should always be. If we believe him, we start to wonder what is wrong with us when we pass through the up phase and head for the down phase. And when we're at the down phase, he tells us that it will always be this way, that it will never get better. If we expect these ups and downs, then when we experience them, we can deal with them better and become a more balanced and steady person." It's so true, I've seen it on my mission. In the past, I've not dealt very well with the down times. I've been frustrated with myself because I thought that they were my fault and that I was being silly. But as my mission has progressed, I've learned to rely on the Lord through those hard times, and when I relied on him, yeah, those times were still hard. But I got out of them. And I didn't beat myself up the entire time either, which I think is important to avoid.
Anyways, the point is that I think my life is just in one of those down swings at the moment, but I'm learning so much from it! I was studying grace this morning, and I've studied it many times before, but it seems like every time I study it, I realize that I'd forgotten how essential and powerful grace really is. Grace is the power that comes from Jesus Christ. It enables us to make and maintain positive changes in our lives. Ether 12:36 has made me think a lot: "I prayed unto the Lord that he would give unto the Gentiles grace, that they might have charity." I need that grace so that I can maintain the charity that I feel here in the mission. Sometimes I have these great spurts of love and desire to serve, and then it kind of fades a little, and then it comes again in another great spurt. I don't want to be a spurty missionary--I want to be consistent! So that's what I've been working on recently, consistency.
In other news, Tuesday was my 'one-year-in-the-field' mark! And I celebrated by going to Hong Kong for a leadership meeting with Elder Wilson (in the Asia Area General Presidency). All the missionaries that I served in the MTC with were there! It was so great to see them all again, to see how we've all changed! One of the changes: we love each other so much more now than we did back then haha.
Elder Wilson is just an awesome man, I learned so much from that leadership meeting and from his trip to Macau that he made on Saturday. He's the first General Authority with whom I've had any sort of real extensive interaction. Here's how our first conversation went down:
EW: And where are you from?
Me: Yorktown, Virginia.
EW: Where is that?
Me: Do you know where Williamsburg is?
EW: Yes, I've been there before.
Me: We're very close to there. I worked at Busch Gardens before.
EW: Really? I've ridden on Apollo's Chariot.
Me: I love that one! You should try The Griffin: 90 degrees straight down.
EW: Not really my style. But Apollos was really good. Very smooth.
Me: Did you hear about the opening ride of Apollo's, when that male model got hit in the face with a flying duck?
EW: Yes, I seem to recall hearing something about that.
Me: But yes, Apollo's is usually very smooth.
Yeah. I felt a little silly afterwards. But he was really nice, so wise and inspiring. I really appreciated what they taught about, especially their focus on the relationship between the Fall and the Atonement. He's really good at making people want to be better while not making them feel bad about where they are right now. That's a talent that I really want to develop.
Today we visited M M, an lady in the Chinese branch, and after lunch we played harmonica together for about 20 minutes! It was so fun! I had to play as fast as I could to keep up with her, it was just hilarious. I sure do love the people here, they are just a blast.
We've been working a lot with that sister that I talked about last week. She is really struggling, and I think this week she hit rock bottom. At least, I hope it's rock bottom. We got a call one morning and found out that this member was in the hospital. During the night, she'd drunk so much alcohol that she was dangerously intoxicated. Her blood pressure was so high and she was a wreck. After I hung up the phone, I did all I could to keep from just plunging into despair. That sounds very dramatic. But it's true! We'd just talked to her the night before on the phone; we prayed with her, sung a hymn, read the scriptures, gave her the best pep talk I could give. And I felt like I'd failed. But then this little voice came into my head and said, "NO. I do not give you permission to take responsibility for this. You stop feeling sorry for yourself right now. Self-pity will not change anything, so just buck up and deal with the situation! Also... I love you. Thanks for what you're doing for my daughter. She's going to be okay." Yeah. I'm not exaggerating, that's really what I heard. So then I said a little prayer and just waited to hear about what was happening. One of our members took this sister back home, took care of her, and now two sweet, sweet sisters are staying over at her house to just to help her feel like she's not alone. She has made a huge transformation in the past few days. She has finally realized how EVIL alcohol is and she doesn't want anything to do with it. And because she hit that rock bottom point, now she realizes that she has to do everything she can to rely on God, because no one else is able to fix the situation she's in. It has been a miracle, really. The love of these members have saved a life. I hope that throughout my life the Lord will bless me with opportunities to serve the way those two angels have served. And I hope that I'll be paying attention and I'll be prepared. She's still not out of it yet, and there's a long road to go. But there is light and hope and it's all because of the gospel of Jesus Christ. I can't find the words to express my love and gratitude for him.