Let's start with our little field trip to Wichita. We spent the night there and Tuesday morning we got to tour the new mission office and the new mission home. President Keyes and Sister Keyes and all the new missionaries of the new Kansas Wichita Mission were there. It was the best and worst zone conference in the history of mankind. It was incredible, as always, to be with the Keyes. I love them so much. They got special permission from Salt Lake for this zone conference and to be together one last time. Then we loaded up onto busses and traveled back to my stomping grounds in Missouruh.
Going to the temple was MUCH needed and such a blessing. They divided us up and I got to go through with President and Sister Keyes through a session. It was amazing being with them and many missionaries that I love! It was also one of the saddest experiences ever.. Everyone was BAWLING throughout the entire thing.. Being greeted by President and Sister Keyes in the celestial room and have them both sob and tell me how much they love me was an amazing and terrible feeling. I am really going to miss them, but I will always cherish these last four months that I have been able to serve with them and learn from their powerful spirits. It was something I will never forget. The celestial room was PACKED. (more people in there than they have ever had and all missionaries) It was amazing. As we were all bawling our eyes out, the only thing that kept coming back to mind and that was getting me through it, was to think of Shawn and Felix and those that we are teaching right now. I was reminded that I am in Manhattan right now for them, not for me, and I need to suck up this hard change and transition and remember the people that we have been called to. I couldn't stop picturing them and think how happy they will be from receiving all the blessings Heavenly Father has in store for them. It was a difficult but comforting realization I had in the temple.
After the temple, we had our meeting in the church building right next door (the one that we would go to weekly in my first area!) Walking through the doors I was greeted by Sister Stevenson. She was one of the amazing senior couples that I served with at the Liberty Jail. I ran up to her and gave her a big hug and she told me she was only there waiting for me! Which duh made me cry more. She told me how much they all missed me at the jail and it was really hard remembering all of those memories and made me really miss it but feel very blessed. Then walking into the chapel for the meeting, on the stand was a choir full of many of the sisters and best friends that I served with at the jail and some friends that serve in Independence. Oh my goodness I was a mess. Not knowing they would be there- it was so hard! The Spirit was SO strong there and they sang the new mission song for the Kansas Wichita Mission. And of course ended with God Be With You Til We Meet Again. President and Sister Keyes bore testimony to us, told us how much they loved us. And the thing that I was not mentally prepared for, was them bawling as well!! You would have thought someone died looking around that room. But to have people that you love that much is just amazing. President asked us to do one thing and that was to love President and Sister Bell. And I will, but honestly, right now it is for the Lord and because President Keyes asked me to. I will always remember President Keyes' testimony as he testified of the reality of our Savior and that He lives. Whenever he bears testimony, you just know he knows and the Spirit confirms what he is saying is true. Always. Through his sobs, he told us that this is one of the hardest things he has ever done and that if this is anything like being released, he is NOT interested. Haha. I love that man.
After that brutal and blessed day, we loaded up on the busses and headed back to work. Swollen eyes, headache and all :) The very next morning was pretty rough. We had an appointment that we were super stoked for! When we got there to teach Kat, she told us that being Mormon is not for her. It broke our hearts. She told us "I know this must be pretty upsetting for you but it has nothing to do with you ladies because I have loved meeting you." I said "You know Kat, the only thing that makes it 'upsetting' is knowing how much we love you and how much the Lord loves you and the blessings that you are missing out on. We know that our message comes from God." She was almost in tears and I know that the Spirit has testified to her that our message is true, which makes it that much harder knowing she is rejecting it. That same day we met Angell but let's take one "l" off and just call her Angel. Because she made our day!! Her and her mom April have met the missionaries in the past and are excited to be taught again. We will see them Tuesday.
On Friday, we were able to teach Jonathan. We read with him in 3 Nephi and we all learned so much through the Spirit as we studied together. I know he feels it. We were able to meet his friend Robert! Who is a member from Ecuador and didn't know where to go to church, so running into him was a tender mercy. We were able to find him a ride to the baptism the next day and also to church and he is now being fellowshipped by the ward :) But Jonathan is going to be taught now by the Single's ward sisters which is a bummer but not. They will take good care of him.
Sister Stewart's bike was broken so we were on foot. And let's just say I have never looked so good. Bahahah. We were sooooooo sweaty, oh my goodness. We had to walk across town and man it was so hot outside. We ended up teaching Julius and it was amazing! He told us he really wanted to be baptized. And then.......the next day we find out his mom is not okay with it and he can't meet with us anymore..... He will be 18 in December though and I believe he will be prepared to accept the gospel later. That was such a bummer! He told us how he just reaaally wants to be better and make good changes in his life. We were able to bear testimony that through Jesus Christ and repenting, then being baptized, his sins could be completely washed away. Hearing that made him so so happy.
We were able to see Amissa Self, who is 15, a lot this week. Her mom and other family members have been super busy and she is the only one that has been reachable.. But she is amazing!! Such a sweet spirit. She really wants to the baptized!!! We are praying and trying to decide what would be best for her and her family. Because she is ready but her family was also wanting to learn so we are trying to decide if we should wait to set a date for her or not.. Keep the Self family in your prayers please! Oh and Amissa came with us to a baptism on Saturday, which was so so good. And she was able to meet more members of the ward and make some friends. Felix and his daughter Serenity also came to the baptism!! It was so awesome! They loved it and definitely felt the Spirit there. We are meeting with them tonight and I KNOW Felix is so ready to prepare for baptism. Keep us in your prayers as we see them tonight.
We saw Shawn on Saturday night. It was a POWERFUL visit with her, holy cow. We had Sister Spurlin come with us, who is an amazing lady and a convert to the church. Shawn had many questions for her and was able to see a new perspective. We ended up talking about taking leaps of faith and acting on our answers we receive. We know that Shawn is receiving some very direct and powerful answers and it breaks our heart when Satan tries to twist them. I shared with Shawn about how hard it was for us as missionaries leaving the other mission and saying bye to President. But that the one thing that is getting me through it was thinking of her! We were all in tears and the Spirit bore testimony of the importance of our message that we are sharing with her. She just kept saying "Wow Sparkles and Lil Sis. Wow." I love Shawn and want soooo badly for her to accept the restored gospel and receive the blessings from doing so.
The missionary broadcast last night was amazing! It was so cool to receive direct guidance/advice straight from our prophets about this work. We are going to work even harder and in new ways in Manhattan. This is an amazing area, an amazing ward, and most importantly, the gospel is true. Jesus Christ is our Savior and He lives. I love being a missionary.
Sister Smartt aka Sparkles