Sunday, September 28, 2014

Fighting the Good Fight

Sept. 22, 2014

Dearest Family,

Well, I can't lie and say that this week was easy. It was probably the hardest week I've had so far on mission. But I feel so blessed to be fighting this fight and being in the Lord's army. The opposition hit us super hard this week. Nothing seemed to go quite right. So many people just dropped us or didn't show up or went away and so therefore we did a LOT of walking and a LOT of praying.

Even Sister Orr and I had some struggles. I am definitely learning the importance of communication out here. We have become such good friends so it is easy for us to assume the other person knows what we are thinking but when we don't it can cause conflict. We have had a lot of good talks and things are all good now. I love my companion so much. It's good to have someone you can turn to and find a helping hand or a stupid joke to get you up off your feet. 

I think the hardest part of the week was that my weaknesses seemed to be displayed out for everyone to see. They were made plain to me and it was humbling and potentially discouraging. Mission has a way of bringing out the little weaknesses you didn't even know you had. But I feel the Lord working inside of me and helping me to become a better person. Perhaps one of the greatest miracles on a mission is the changes you see and make within yourself.

But there were still redeeming things about this hard week and I am still as happy as ever. Last Pday we were walking to the market a different way than normal and we found this huge bridge to cross. I will send pictures but it was as if we had been transported into Indiana Jones. It was just made of long boards of wood with large gaps in between. You could feel the bridge sway as you walked across it. It was bridging the gap between markets over cabbage fields and a little river that runs through the city. I can't really do the beauty and adventure of the moment justice but I will send pictures. Later that day we went grocery shopping and as we were walking around the store, the power went out in the whole place and it was pitch black. I just laughed and laughed. Only in Africa.

That same less active that made me cry last week we went to visit again and the juxtaposition of the two visits was so hilarious. Instead of yelling at us for an hour, this time she was falling asleep the whole time. She just kept looking at me with crossed eyes as I shared the scripture we had planned and I was just dying trying to hold in laughter. I think she would make a good character in a future book. She is either falling asleep or raging mad. There's no in between.

On Saturday we were sitting on a curb waiting for a referral to meet us in front of this church and these two guys walked up to us. This was the conversation:
Them: We do some business. We sell stuff.
Us: What do you sell?
Them: you want some?
Us: Does it look like we're interested? (pointing to our tags with JESUS CHRIST on them)
Them: No, we were just asking.
Us: Ha, well you are very welcome to come to church!
Them: Does it look like we're interested?
Us: No, we were just asking...

I laughed so much. Man, dese people. I don't think I've ever so directly been offered drugs before. So funny. You never know, maybe we planted a seed!

I think yesterday was hardest because almost none of our investigators/recent converts showed up for church. One thing that just filled my heart with joy when I was feeling a bit defeated was seeing a couple and their little boy walking down the dirt road to come to church. They just barely got baptized (Chisomo&Mercy) and Chisomo and their son Joseph were both wearing crisp white shirts. I love seeing them so faithfully coming as a family. It's the happiest thing to watch.

Well, I love you all! You are wonderful. Have a good week!
Sister Michaela Proctor
P.S. I haven't sent my weekly scriptures for a while so here is a list to catch you up:
Mosiah 2:41
Mosiah 4:9
D&C 64:33

Work Hard, Play Hard

Sept. 15, 2014

Dearest Family,

It was again another great week. Here's how it went:

Tuesday: |There was a zone meeting where they handed out a letter from our mission president. He was clarifying some of the mission rules and one was involving music. It sounds silly, but I had a hard time processing it because I brought only music that I felt was appropriate but according to his clarification did not quite meet mission standard. It got me thinking about myself and my personality vs. my personal culture. At first it kind of upset me to think of deleting certain songs that reminded me of my past but may not be "spiritual" per se but as I prayed about it (I know, it's kind of silly that I had to do this much processing on something so little) I realized that my music from my past life isn't my personality. Just because I delete a song doesn't mean I am giving up who I am. My songs are my personal culture which is the manifestation of my personality. I am still me even if I don't have the songs I would prefer. I am putting aside my personal culture for now and living the culture of the Lord. That is ok. That is refining and good. I will have these songs when I get home. I can sacrifice my own culture to be obedient and submissive. I want to do everything I can to be obedient but it doesn't mean that I am perfect at my willingness. I am still working on that. But the Lord is blessing my heart and helping me with my weaknesses. Hopefully that paragraph made sense...

We had a movie "party" at our recent convert's house, Daniel, and invited a bunch of recent converts and investigators to watch the Joseph Smith movie. We watched the old edit of the movie and I have to admit I wasn't a huge fan but the Spirit was the teacher and all in the room were touched by the prophet and his devotional and sacrifice.

Wednesday: We work with a recent convert called Pricilla twice a week and she translates and fellowships for/with us. She was only baptized in February but she is already working on her mission papers so she can leave as soon as she is one year in the church. Her faith and excitement about the work astounds me. I really hope I stay here in Lilongwe to watch her open her call.

Thursday: We found ourselves with very few progressing investigators last week and it made us re-analyze our approach. This week we decided to go hard and ask everyone we could possibliy think of for referrals. As a result we got a whole new pool of investigators and it was so cool to watch a little bit of work and a whole lot of prayers and faith manifest in the people we found and began to teach.

Friday: We did exchanges this week again with the other companionship in the flat and I especially learned from Sister Quaye (from Ghana). We had kind of a super rough day full of walking miles and miles and very few lessons. We met with one of our less actives and that resulted in the first time I've cried here in Malawi. She yelled at us for an hour straight in Chichewa and we couldn't pacify her no matter what scripture we shared. Sister Quaye was so bold and just stopped her and testified. She continued yelling after that but you could tell she felt something. Then I finally built up the courage and through my tears testified to her that we wouldn't be here if we didn't love her and we were called by a prophet to come and represent Jesus Christ and let her know that He loves her and knows her personally. It's amazing how even when someone is yelling in a different language you can't understand it can still be upsetting. I've been praying a lot about this lady. I'm not quite sure how to proceed to help her but I do know that I felt the spirit when I boldy testified and that is what matters.

Saturday: We saw a miracle. One of our appointments fell through so we were going to go visit the sister of the couple that just got baptized and when we got to her house the whole family was there. Chisomo and Mercy (the couple) "happened" to walk in and find us teaching his sister, parents, and brothers. It was so directed. They just sat down and shared their testimonies about the Book of Mormon and the Spirit was so strong. Both Sister Orr and I have felt that we really need to start teaching their family and the fact that we just showed up unannounced and they were all there sitting in the same room it was like they were saying, "Come teach us." It would be so cool if they were to get baptized and even cooler if Chisomo could baptize them. We don't get to teach whole families almost ever so it was just an amazing lesson and orchestration.

Sunday: We had church outside because they tore up the chapel floor. Our building is still being built because we are a new branch (therefore the building is still undedicated). All during sacrament meeting there was a little chicken just walking up and down the aisle and it was SO funny. It was chirping so loud and I just kept thinking, "How many people have chickens walking around their sacrament meeting". It truly is an adventure everyday here.

We went to celebrate an investigators birthday at his house and teach a lesson and his friend, Gift (recent convert), was there too. He was one of the people last week that got involved in anti material. At the end after we had born our testimonies and closed, he asked if he could bear his testimony. He simply said, "Through prayer and study I have found that Joseph Smith is a true prophet. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen." My life was made. Those are the kind of moments missionaries live for.

Love you!
Sister Michaela Proctor

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

But for Real, Opposition in All Things

Dearest family,

So last week the subject of my email was something like "Opposition in all things" and I realized I didn't explain that at all. But it kind of applies even more to this week because truly we are facing so much opposition here. Where there is so much light and progress, Satan will continue to fight hard to tear it down. I think almost every day this week we had someone talk to us about anti-Mormon stuff or investigators text us and drop us. It was crazy. And yet, I still feel like it was a good week. No matter what happens, it is just simply a blessing to be a missionary and to be doing this work.

I would say I am being converted to this life. Obviously, I love it so much already, but like Elder Garrett Lewis told me a few weeks ago in an email (shout out to G-money), the longer you are out the longer you want to stay doing this amazing work. Yes, it is hard and there is rejection and exhaustion but ultimately it is the greatest thing. I do experience pangs of missing certain things, like a few days ago we were listening to a BYU devotional on my ipod and just hearing Cecil's voice introducing the speaker made me tear up a bit--BYU is so wonderul--but for the most part I am becoming more and more immersed in this place and this calling. 

Have I ever mentioned that I love Malawians? Holy cow, they are the kindest people. I was on exchanges with Sister Falco and we were walking through my area and all of a sudden these crazy drunk man started walking with us and mumbling in Chichewa about God. She was kind of scared but that is not unusual in our area so i just told her to keep walking and not to look at him. Finally, this man stopped us and asked if he could help. He even gave the drunk man money to walk away. Other men also passed by and asked if we were ok. That is SO Malawian. They are protective of each other even if they don't know you. We weren't in any real danger but it was so nice to feel looked out for.

So yeah, I experienced exchanges for the first time this week and they were fun. I think they mostly served to make me even more grateful for my incredible companion. Not that I don't love the other sisters and didn't learn from them, but Sister Orr really is so great and we are a good team. I feel so blessed to have not only a companion but a friend in her.

Do you want to hear something crazy? Last P-day we were grocery shopping and this azungu walked up to me and asked where I was from. He works or the US embassy and wanted to know what we were doing in Malawi. We told him a little about the church and as we got talking he told me that he was from Northern Virginia. As we talked some more we found that we both went to Robinson. Uh, what? It was the craziest thing to be standing in this Malawian grocery store with someone that went to my old high school. This is a small world.

So, Mom and Dad, you know how when you are stressed you laugh really hard over the littlest things? Well, I've noticed that I do the same. I don't feel like I am stressed almost ever despite the pressure of the calling, but I think there is an underlying stress inside of me that causes me to laugh to tears almost every single day. Sister Orr and I laugh so, so much over the dumbest things. Even the fact that the closing hymn at church yesterday was "Joy to the World" in September made has laugh so hard. Laughing gets me through. You have to continue lauging or you will find yourself crying.

Like for example, Sister Orr and Sister Falco and I wake up every morning that we can and work out together. This week we were tired of our normal routine so we turned on my music and we each had five mintues to lead out and whatever we wanted. They followed me in interprative dancing all around the flat. You've got to do what you've got to do, right :)

Another thing that makes us laugh is that they always switch the Ls and the Rs here when they talk. It changes the meaning of things quite a bit when they say "play" instead of "pray". "For if ye would hearken unto the Spirit which teacheth a man to play, ye would know that ye must play; for the evil spirit teachent not a man to play, but teacheth him that he must not play". Ha! Too good.

I love you all so much!
Sister Michaela Proctor
P.S. The mustard skirt I was wearing in the pictures last week was a skirt made by one of the members of the branch presidency. I drew a design and he just made it. So cool!
P.S.S. Mom and Dad. Apparently packages take forever, especially since you have to send them to Lusaka and I'm in Lilongwe. So they recommend sending Christmas packages like...this week. Just to let you know.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Opposition in all Things

Sept. 2, 2014

Dearest Family,

Once again it was a simply wonderful week. I am going to try to get to the other internet cafe where I can send pictures because I have probably 15-20 I should send from all the wonderful events the past couple of weeks. I already told you about the fun zone activity we had to Lake Malawi/Kuti National Park but a couple days after that we also had zone conference where the mission president comes and does some training and speaking. Wow. I left that conference feeling so filled with the Spirit. My mission president is truly inspired of God. He talked a lot about the culture of the Zambia Lusaka Mission and how he wants to create a culture where we expect great things, even miracles, everyday. As he talked about how ministering angels are around us at all times I felt the chapel just filled with heavenly presence and I could hardly handle the joy. This mission really is so amazing. Great things are happening and we are on the brink of tremendous growth.
Planning by lantern light because our lights go out so often

My average view. No big deal. (African sunset with cabaza man)

Kuti Nat'l Park. Don't be fooled. The animals in the pictures were literally the only animals we saw. But it was cool to be so up close.

My district at Lake Malawi

The zone at Lake Malawi. Oh, how I love these missionaries.

I love Sister Orr!

Looking fly on the beach

This is how I work out. #pumpingiron

One thing we learned at zone conference is to have investigators pray during the lesson to find out if the things we are teaching are true. It can be easy to think, "What if they don't receive an answer?" or "What if it's awkward?" but taking that step of faith if you know the Spirit is there truly does work. They DO receive an answer, right then. If they are asking God with real intent and the Spirit is there already in the lesson then they feel that peace and joy and know that it is true. We tried it out quite a few times this week and it worked every time. God promises to send His Spirit. One lesson specifically just blew me away. A couple of recent converts, Peter and Henry, delivered their scriptures to the church building and didn't come to church yesterday because they had gotten into some anti-Mormon stuff online. They were the Elders investigators but we decided that it would be better for us Sisters to take them on because we have a good relationship with them. We went to their house and after a lot of prying they finally started addressing their concerns and we took them to the scriptures to find answers. But ultimately we had them both kneel with us and pray and pay attention to their heart as they ask God if this church is true. So much light filled their eyes. It was a miracle. I'm pretty sure they'll be at church next Sunday.

Zone conference was the bomb. I love my mission president!

The baptism yesterday. It was so great! Daniel is so goofy.

Another highlight from the week was our baptisms on Sunday. SIX people were baptized and FOUR of them were our investigators. Oh, it was the happiest thing. Three out of the four of these investigators who were baptized I have seen from the beginning of the process. It's amazing that I have now been here in Malawi long enough to see lives change and conversions happen from the very first contact. The four were Chisomo and Mercy Butawo, a young, newly-wed couple who are so adorable and sweet, Gift Kumbwiri, who is so quietly intelligent it is crazy, and Daniel Grem, who is possibly the most golden person you will ever meet. Tears filled my eyes as I saw each of them enter that little free-standing font and make that covenant with God. All of them, especially Daniel, were glowing. They bore their testimonies after their baptisms and I was just amazed at how far they have come, to no real credit on my part but all to the Spirit. I feel like I barely did anything but show up to lessons and teach with my heart and somehow they feel and know it's true. MIRACLES.

ONE of the many funny moments from the week: It was Sister Orr and my turn to cook one night and food was pretty scarce this week in our flat so we decided to make nsima (the maize mush they eat like every meal here). We have made it many times before and it has worked out, but this time we accidentally left it on the stove to long and another sister in an effort to help us added too much maize meal. So it ended up being a burned batch of nasty, sticky mush instead of the texture and flavor it's supposed to be. After gagging down as much as we could (what else is there to eat?) we started making nsima castles on the kitchen table. Needless to say, the nsima ended up all over our faces. Sima fight! Too good. We may be missionaries working crazy hard but we are also silly children still.

I got to bear my testimony at zone conference and I pretty much got up there and said, "I love being a missionary and I love my Savior," between gasps of tears. Really though. I LOVE BEING A MISSIONARY.

Hopefully I will get to send all the pictures today!
Love you all so much!
Sister Michaela Proctor

P.S. The scripture I am memorizing this week is 1 John 3:18.

From Him I'll Gain My Fondest Dream

August 25, 2014

Sorry my email is super late today. We had a zone activity that lasted all day and it was the happiest thing ever. We took a road trip as a zone to an animal reserve called Kuti National Park where we drove around and saw a few zebras and a couple giraffes. It wasn't the African safari that Kenya had, but it was still fun to have a change of scenery and get to see the country side of this country that is becoming so dear to me. Then we got to drive to LAKE MALAWI! It was so amazing. Be still my heart. We got to the shore and it felt like we are at the ocean because the horizon was so vast and no other shores were in sight. I love my zone--they make me laugh so much. And it was just a perfect moment of joy as we drove blasting African gospel music and soaking in every mud house, thatched roof, and finally the sunset. One song that is kind of classic in our sister flat is a gospel song that is essense says "Let it rain. Open the flood gates of heaven". As we listened to that song and drove with the windows down through the beautiful hills of Malawi I felt like the flood gates were open. Christ has given me my fondest dream and continues to pour out so many blessings. How did this happen? I am the happiest little child on the planet. I can't even handle how many blessings are coming to me. Next week I will send pictures of our safare/lake adventure but for now I barely have time to write this email.

As I sit in this little email shop, I am close to a man called Bright. Last week right after I emailed home and walked out of the email shop, he stopped me and said he had waited 40 minutes to talk to me because he saw my tag but didn't want to interupt my emailing. Apparently, he was taught by the sisters a year ago but then moved away for a teaching job in another part of Malawi. Now he is back for a 3 week holiday and of all people to run into he runs into us. It was so orchestrated. Little did I know when I gave my farewell talk on the perfect orchestrations of God that I would be extablishing the theme of my entire mission. We got special permission to teach him and he is so ready for the gospel, it blows my mind. He goes back to his job in a couple weeks but will continue to come back every other weekend. And it turns out where he lives is one of the groups of people gathering to try and establish a branch. Malawi is incredbile because even though the Church is relatively new and small, groups are popping up all over of their own accord without leadership or missionaries. It is so exciting to be a pioneer. Oh, did I mention Bright is an English teacher? Yeah, he is very needed in our little branch.

I got a few letters this past week and one was from myself. The day I left for South Africa I put a letter in the mail to myself, wondering when I would actually have it in my hands again. First off, it proved to me how much slower it is to send letters through Zambia (so send letters to my Malawi address always!), but second, it was amazing to read a message from myself and see my before-mission perspective. One line said, "The Lord loves you so much. Now is your time to show Him how much you love Him." It was a good reminder to have perspective in all that I am doing here.

We have been teaching Chisomo and Innocent (our recent converts that come and teach with us often) English phrases as they help us learn a bit of Chichewa. It is the funniest thing to watch them try to comprehend what, "I'm on cloud 9" and "Raise the roof" mean. Some others we've taught are, "You're a chicken, "You've lost your marbles", "take the bull by the horn", etc. 

Four of our investigators got interviewed for baptism yesterday and will be baptized next Sunday. FOUR! WHAT? I am seriously reeling in awe at how much Heavenly Father is blessing and guiding me. One of those that will be baptized is Daniel who is just the goldenest man on the planet. We were teaching him about the ten commandments and the law of chastity and he said he had one concern (which is always a little scary when teaching commandments). So he asked, "I have a question about charity. Does the church believe that giving blood is a good thing?" It was so random but it also immediately relieved tension and I couldn't stop laughing as he ran to grab his certificate for giving blood 15 times. Ha! He will be a powerful member.

Funny detail about Malawi: their favorite word is "busy". That is their excuse for everything. Even if they can't speak English at all they know that word. Except they say it like "bee-zee". Also, when we come to people's houses they always say, "Get in" to welcome us in but it mostly sounds like a command. Anyway, just little tidbits.

Sorry this email is a little shorter but I have only a few minutes and I need to read a few emails. 

Love you all forever and ever,
Sister Michaela Proctor

P.S. The scripture to memorize this week is Jermiah 1:5