Monday, December 7, 2015

Death is But The Next Big Adventure

Dec. 6, 2015
Maria's Baptism

In the font.
Her brother-in-law came to support her but not her husband. President Thole baptized her
Darling Maria and I. Love her.
Eating my chicken for dinner at the Kantas. 
Yep, guys. I did it. I slayed, cleaned, and butchered a chicken all by myself. I think that was the official initiation for being a true Zambian.
More service at the Elder's investigator's house. She put us to work!
Woke up to a flooded bathroom. That's what happens when you are washing clothes late at night and you are tired.

Sister Ratema crossing a bridge in the area
Doing service at a members house
The bush of Ndeke
Maria and Gwen
Learning to put a baby on my back. I love this kid too much.
At the bus stop with Sister Ratema as she sent me off to Lusaka. We match.
Darling Family,

The day I got my mission call was one of the happiest days of my life. As I sat in a BYU devotional with President Henry B. Eyring, Dad sent me the short and significant text, "Your call is here." I was shocked. It had only been a week. I bounced around with anticipation all day until I arrived home, opened the mailbox, and held in my hands the next 18 months of my life. As I opened my call in front of that intimate group and attempted to conceal the whole of the letter so as to read one line at a time, I couldn't prevent my eyes from sneaking a glance down to the words, "Zambia Lusaka Mission," accompanied with a gasp of emotion. In that unforgettable moment I could have never foresaw or comprehended the eternity-altering experience that lay ahead.

Even with research and daydream I remained in ignorance of what was to come, relying solely on faith. No tiny missionary who hugs their family goodbye has any real clue of what they are getting themselves into. No amount of Preach My Gospel preparation can prepare the heart and mind for the soul-stretching months that lay ahead as you walk away from your loved ones into a bright, yet foggy destiny. I will never forget stepping onto that escalator and waving the last goodbye to you. The Spirit whispered, "You will blink and you will be coming back down this escalator to greet your family again." I have blinked and in two days I will be riding that same escalator and returning to your arms. 

An escalator--what an insignificant, commonplace thing to constitute the bookends of this glorious mission. It may be easy to imagine I've simply spent 18 months in the depths of the Salt Lake airport just waiting for the right time to come back out. But I will assure you that the girl that went up that escalator is not the same woman who will come down. Where once I went relatively blindly into my mission experience I now return having actually experienced it. It's no longer a vague destination on a call letter but it's a place and a people and an era that is embroidered into the very fabric of my soul. I could have never supposed when I started off from my home land to a far away unknown that God would have granted me such great blessings (Alma 26:1).

My mission has challenged me to the very core--body, mind and spirit. I've been rejected so much that it doesn't even make me flinch. I've spent so many days without power and running water that it's no longer a disappointment, just a norm. I've walked the dusty roads of Lilongwe, hiked the rainy mountains of Blantyre, knocked the gates of Lusaka, and fried in the heat and "hell fire" (haha) of Luanshya. I've seen people in deep despair and have hit my knees in sorrow, too. But amidst it all I have become deeply acquainted with my dear Savior and felt incomprehensible joy.

My greatest joy has come from seeing the miracle of change--hearts touched, sins repented of, branches reignited, and eyes illuminated with the light of the knowledge of Christ. Satisfaction has come as I have seen investigators open the Book of Mormon for the first time or kneel in fervent prayer, less actives remember the Spirit they once felt and enter the tiny meeting house once again, and members step closer to their eternal potentials and give selfless service. I have been inspired by the faith of consecrated leaders who sacrifice everything for the cause of Christ. I have been moved by investigators who step forward to be baptized despite persecutions from family and friends. And I have seen the Atonement work miracles inside of me, too. 

The lesson that encompasses all other lessons I have learned on my mission is love. My imperfect and often prideful heart has been softened by the infinite love of Jesus Christ. Amidst pleading for, studying for, weeping for, sweating for, and sacrificing for these amazing people I have tasted just a sliver of what the Savior felt on His mission culminating with the most infinite act of love--the Atonement. If charity really is the pure love of Christ then charity is, at the core, the Atonement. Therefore, none of us will quite be able to accomplish having true charity but the closest thing we can get to that true charity--the Atonement--is sacrificing for God's children. It is only through sacrifice that we can attempt to become like Him.

The Malawian and Zambian people have taught me to truly love and give freely, for instead of strangers they are my brothers and sisters. They, in their greatest need and poverty, have given so wholeheartedly to me, who never deserved such sacrifice. But no eternal or abiding love ever came without sacrifice. Because I have given these months to them they have become my family. One thing I love about Malawian/Zambian culture is that everyone calls each other familial names. I can't count how many times I've heard a taxi man call out, "Seesta! Taxi!" or a child giggle and say, "Auntie, how are you?" Even in meeting for the first time you call old women your grandmother and middle-aged women your mother. Children call their mother's sisters their moms and their father's brothers their dads and nearly all cousins are called brothers and sisters. They have taught me to see with clearer eyes that we are eternally connected as God's family. I haven't just been loving strangers here--they have become ever so dear to me. 

I will not attempt to tell you the whole of the events this week (hopefully the pictures will give you a clue) but I will tell you that my sweet sister Maria Kapembwa was baptized and confirmed as a member of the Church. My skin can barely contain the love I have for this woman. She has come so far in such a short amount of time. I've seen her countenance get brighter and brighter and as she put on her baptismal suit I just about exploded with joy. The testimony she bore after her baptism was simple and sweet. The gospel has changed her. As we taught our last lesson with her (yep, they are giving our area to the Elders and Sister Ratema is going to Lilongwe) yesterday we all wept together and in her greatest attempt in comforting me she said, "Don't worry, we'll meet at the temple." The temple is already her next goal.

As we walked with her through Kamirenda to have a celebration dinner with the Kanyesha family, drunk men spit degrading words at her about the church and she proudly defended the church and declared she is a member of it. And as we passed a less active working in his garden I said, "That guy hadn't been to church since 2008 and he came today. It was a miracle!" She said, "That will never be me. I will keep coming to church until the very end." Truly, she was one of the greatest miracles of my entire mission and I can't imagine any better "happy ending" than this one. Christ really is the granter of our fondest dreams.

The tenderest feelings of my heart are wrapped up int these people and in what my mission has done to me. As I come home I can't help but cry to the Lord, "My mission has meant everything to me, yet after all of this refinement I am still so imperfect." I am sure a similar cry will be said at the end of our lives, "My life has meant everything to me, yet after all of this I am still so imperfect." I am grateful for a Savior that makes up for my greatest imperfections. I may have come to the end of my full-time mission but this is only the beginning of my life-long discipleship and dedication to Christ.

For the past 18 months I have walked, talked, ate, slept, and breathed missionary work and I can honestly say I have lost myself in the work. I don't quite know who I was before mission or who I will be post-mission but I do know that in losing all the "extras" I have gone exploring in the deeper, eternal parts of my divine identity and have discovered something beautiful. I may have a small identity crisis awaiting me at home but this will only lead to even more self-discovery. Eternity is on the up and up and "death" is but my next great adventure.

I love being a missionary (that will always be said in the present tense).

I love my Savior.

And I love you all.

Thank you for your love and support.

Til we meet,

Sister Proctor

Is This Real Life?

Nov. 30, 2015

Daring Maria and her baby Gwen.
It's been a short stay in Luanshya but a good one. I've grown to love this place.
Gwen. Oh man, I just want to take her home with me. 

Darling Family,

Like I said last week, I have been a little conflicted about whether we should baptize Mrs. Kapembwa or not because of various reasons, so we brought our concerns to district meeting and had a very powerful experience. Basically, the Elders in my district are some of the most supportive Elders I've ever served with. They took on the issue as if it were their own. Elder Ford (UK) talked about how the Spirit has passed people in baptismal interviews even when their understanding of the gospel isn't perfect purely because of their desire and simple testimonies of the gospel. Some investigators can give the perfect answers but their testimonies are not where they should be. Elder Bobowski (UT) talked about how little he understood when he was baptized at age 8 but the desire and simple testimony that he had has helped him progress to where he is today. I thanked them for their advice and said, "We will continue to make it a matter of prayer," and Elder Ford said, "Do you want to pray right now?" I have definitely learned the power of praying in the moment you need it so the five of us (Elder Ford's new companion hadn't arrived), knelt and I prayed for guidance on what to do. The Spirit was so sweet. Many were in tears. My answer wasn't overwhelming in that moment but I felt great peace about the whole thing. 

Later in the week, the Spirit told me straight up, "She is not yours, she is mine. I will take care of her." I guess I've been holding back to baptize her out of a bit of fear that I will leave and I won't be able to visit her and support her anymore. But she's not mine. She is His. And over the few lessons we've had this week, I have had the confirmation that she indeed is ready.

Maria Kapembwa is truly a miracle--heaven sent. Of all the people to stop, she "happened" to stop our branch mission leader to ask which church he was going to. She has been to 4 churches but has continue to feel the prompting to keep searching. This week as we reviewed with her for her baptismal interview she told us that she had been worried how she was going to pay her tithing but Heavenly Father had suddenly been blessing her charcoal business and many neighbors that don't normally come to buy from her have been coming. She also told us that most of the family and friends she's been inviting to her baptism have been rejecting her invitation because "she is becoming a satanist". When we come to her house they all say, "Your satanists are coming." She simply tells them," Thank you!" Seriously, where did she come from? Her testimony is so strong already. She also asked when the next temple trip is. Every time we leave a lesson with her we just marvel at her faith and do a tiny victory dance.

Another miracle this week happened in Ndeke, the far away, struggle area. Our appointment fell through (opportunity) and I had the impression to go check on a young girl we taught once who told us she was going to Kitwe until next year. It didn't make sense but we went anyway. We found her home but she was totally uninterested. So in our networking endeavor (No Tracting November) we asked if she would introduce us to her next door neighbor. This neighbor was also a young girl who didn't seem that ideal but something compelled us to teach her. After a short lesson we asked her to show us where a friend stayed so she ended up taking us and introducing us to two other families. When we walked into the second house, there was a woman sitting on the couch and she said, "They sent you didn't they?" I had absolutely no idea what she was talking about. Come to find out, she was a less active we had no idea existed in our area! One house led to another and we found her! Apparently, she had just been talking to a brother from church so she assumed he sent us. I reassured her it was the Spirit. Yet another less active to add to our longgggg list. It was amazing!

During weekly planning (planning for my last week) I cried. So that gives you a pretty good indication of how I am feeling.

We put together a "Meet The Mormons" activity like we did in Lusaka and though not a ton of people came it was a great success. We invited a ton of our investigators but by the time the movie began none of them had come. It was sort of disappointing. But then, right as the story of the missionary mom began, our investigator called Sheba came in and sat next to us. It was perfect timing. She is a single mother of 4 and has had kind of a rough life. She's the sister to one of our less actives but teaching her hasn't been very easy. It was honestly a great surprise to see her there. At the end of the movie, Sister Ratema asked how she felt and she said, "Whenever the missionaries would come around the neighborhood when I was younger, my friends and I would run away from the 'satanists'. When you started teaching me I wasn't very excited but you began to change me perspective and show me that your really are Christian. Now I see." Even if that whole activity was planned for just that change of heart inside of her it was worth it.

On Sunday, we walked into Church to find the meeting house nearly empty. When it rains, people suddenly disappear. It was basically the 6 of us missionaries. But as I looked around the room, there in the corner I saw darling Maria Kapembwa bundled with her baby to the point of almost not recognizing her. She wanted to be on time for sacrament. I nearly wept. After church she passed her baptismal interview so next week Sunday will be one to rejoice about.

My thoughts on the Atonement this week: In Moroni 7 it tells us how we can "lay hold upon every good gift". It is by faith that we get all that is good--all that the Father has to give us. But what is our faith based on? Jesus Christ and His Atonement. So it is by faith on His great sacrifice that we gain all of this good he has in store for us. Faith and sacrifice. They are necessary for our exaltation. Christ didn't receive a fullness until after His sacrifice. Why then, do we shrimp and dodge making sacrifices when that is the only way to a fullness of joy? I have a testimony that Christ is the One who will grant us our fondest dreams. I know that is it by sacrificing for Him during this glorious mission that He has granted me my deepest desires. I love Him. I love representing Him.

Here's to one last week in the mission field. My heart is full.

Sister Proctor

Knowing Him by Faith

Nov. 23, 2015

Sister Zohner and I. I love this woman. She was trained in my flat in Blantyre and ever since we have been good friends. I'll miss this shorty.

Me with the STLs. I love Sister Bingham and Motsi!
Sister Ratema forgot her tag on the way to church so I gave her my extra one. Everyone got pretty confused and she kept telling people we were sisters and my parents adopted her haha
Elder Mohlakoana and I. He was my zone leader but now he's been transferred to Lusaka for his last 6 weeks. We were in the same district in Lilongwe. Born and died with him basically. Good guy. And I promise we didn't plan to match...
Darling Family,

It was a lovely week indeed. My heart is so full. I am so happy to be here.

Mrs. Kapembwa continues to progress well. This week she told us that she has already been inviting all of her family and friends to the baptism and we didn't even tell her to do that. That shows how sincere her heart is. The problem is that she will be out of town all of this week that we were supposed to prepare her for her interview. I am feeling really conflicted because I want to see her baptized so badly before I leave but I'm not sure if she will be ready. We wanted to talk to her about it and then she started going on about how she started counting down to the 6th of December. I am praying very hard to know what would be best for her. I don't want to baptize her out of my own interests if she's not ready, but her desires are certainly sincere. I love her so much.

Zone meeting was pretty emotional because it was my last. See all the pictures with Sister Zohner. I gave my final testimony to the zone and talked about how I felt when I was set apart. I always imagined a big weight to be added to my shoulders when I got set apart but when hands were actually laid on my head I felt like I was made lighter--I was given extra heavenly help. I testified that we have heavenly help at all times. What a blessing it has been to be here. I can't even describe how I feel in words. After I said, "Amen," I still had to chorister the closing hymn which happened to be, "Lord Dismiss Us With Thy Blessings." Perfect.

We received a referral from sisters in Kitwe with only a name and address. Addresses can be pretty hard to find in Zambia but it seemed pretty straightforward so we got in a taxi and headed in that direction. We planned on just getting dropped off in that general area and walking around to find the house but the taxi driver decided to go the extra mile and help us find the house. We were driving up and down and asking everyone and soon this taxi man became our good friend. We were speaking a mix of Bemba and Nyanja and Chewa together and I couldn't stop laughing. The house ended up not existing. That taxi man will definitely be blessed for his efforts. Haha

We finally got to meet with a less active we have been trying to meet with since I arrived in this area. On our way there, President Kanta called and asked where we were and if we could join us for our next lesson. It ended up being perfect because he was integral in this man's conversion process. We discussed the sabbath day and centering our lives on Christ and the Spirit was so strong. 

The Africa Southeast Area had a conference broadcasted from Salt Lake with many speakers including Elder Carl B. Cook, Elder Quentin L. Cook, and Elder Dale G. Renlund and it was so powerful. Two thoughts that I really want to ponder further upon is 1) We were invited to more frequently talk of Christ. How often do we talk of Christ in our conversations with friends and families, over text, email, or in person? I want to be better, even though I am a missionary and Christ is basically all I talk about. I want to be better at home. And 2) Carl B. Cook asked, "What blessings have you received this year? What blessings are you still waiting for? What can you do to qualify for these blessings?" Reflect on these questions. You will see where you need to change and what more the Lord has in store for you.

As I have continued my study of the Atonement everyday I am finding the Atonement in everything. The greatest thing the Spirit taught me this week is that the reason I have come to know Christ so much on my mission is not because of my hours of study, though that is definitely contributed. You can read books and books about Jesus Christ but if you do not do then you won't really know Him. The reason I have come to know Him is because I have felt just a sliver of what He has felt. I have suffered for His cause. I have pushed through physical and emotional pain for Him. I've gone through pain to bless others. I can't compare my challenges to His suffering but I know that my knowledge of Him has come from taking up my cross everyday and following Him. I haven't only walked by sight (reading the scriptures) but I've walked by faith. I've taken action. That is how we can deeply know Him. 

Also, the Pearl of Great Price is contributing to my Atonement study. Heavens, it is so deep. I studied Moses 7 this morning and nearly exploded because I felt so much love from Heavenly Father. Though He, of all people, has a perfect eternal perspective, He still weeps for our situations NOW. He knows where we are going and where we will be but He still weeps when we sin. What a compassionate Father we have.

In other news:
-My health is getting better.
-Rainy season is upon us so it's either really hot or pouring rain.
-We found a couple of grandmas this week who live in a house with 5 generations. What? How is that even possible?
-We were about to get slammed by a huge storm as we walked home in the dark one night and then a random person stopped their car and offered us a ride. I am convinced it was an angel because I've never seen them before or since. We gave that angel a Restoration pamphlet :)

By the way, I think we are going far out to the bush next Monday to see a chimp orphanage so I may or may not email. We shall see. 


Sister Proctor