I have decided to nickname the last three transfers of my mission as "the refiner's fire." It hit it's peak this weekend during General Conference.
Wasn't that the most amazing conference... EVER? I received so much guidance, so much peace. I got spiritually slapped in the face a few times, which hurt but ya know, was needed. It was just absolutely incredible.
Elder Holland's talk at the very end got me - could anything be more perfect for a missionary close to finishing? I felt as though that message was meant specifically for me and as he said amen, I bowed my head in gratitude to my Heavenly Father, who knows me far better than I know myself.
Well turns out, we made it through another transfer! Sister Castagnola are going on our third transfer together! Making that the longest I've been with one companion :) I love it here in Sioux City. We are making great strides, and we're seeing miracles every day.
The biggest miracle this week was with a woman named Elois. Last week, we had dinner with a member and her family, and she told us of a lady the elders had taught a few months ago down the street from her. We decided to go check her out! This lady... so prepared.
The first lesson we had with her was focused solely on her - her beliefs, her family, her relationship with God, etc. It was cool to hear her talk about the things that mean most to her. When we asked her what her family meant to her, she got silent. She looked up at us, shrugged, laughed a little, and said, "There are literally no words. My family is absolutely everything."
We came back two days later and taught her the message of the Restoration. With every question we asked, she gave the most perfect answer. She was understanding and comprehending all of it. She told us of her desire to change, and how she wanted to help her whole family get on the right path. We talked about God, and His incredibly perfect plan for us. At the end of the lesson, she was holding the Book of Mormon in her hands and while staring down at it, said, "I really want to know if this is God's plan. I really want to know soon. I hope I will." It was so sincere and so full of faith, I was blown away. She said that she would be baptized if she received her answer.
Last night during nightly planning, I experienced something so overwhelming, it is still affecting me at this moment.
I was frustrated last night - we have been finding so many cool people, like Elois, but yet, no one came to church. No one is progressing. We've had 0 progressing investigators for a few weeks now.
As we were planning, I just shut my planner in a moment of frustration and asked my companion, "What are we doing wrong?"
We both sat in silence for a couple minutes - neither of us really knew what we were missing. I mean, we were obedient, we were diligent, we were thorough. And then the sweetest feeling came over me and a thought filled my mind.
Do you truly love these people? If you do, stop thinking about yourself.
I could barely even get the words out as my sobs shook my chest. I wiped tear after tear as I told my companion that we needed to forget about ourselves and focus everything on these people. I looked at our whiteboard filled with names of families and individuals, and I was overwhelmed as I said, "Theyneed this! They need what we have! They don't know that God loves them!"
I love my Heavenly Father. I love Him so much. And I love these people so so much, but I don't think it has truly entered into the very depths of my soul like my love for Him has.
He taught me an incredible lesson last night:
"Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.
This is the first and great commandment.
And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself."
That's what missionary work is - love. I am so grateful I have spent the last year of my life learning the most important and most necessary lesson that will have eternal benefits for as long as I exist.
Hermana Brie Gould
pictures: Happy because we're still together, happy because God is good, happy because General Conference was literally the best 8 hours of my life.