Monday, January 12, 2015

The Benefit of the Doubt

This morning while I was praying at the end of my studies, I asked Him what I should blog about this week. "The Benefit of the Doubt" were the words that came to mind. As I reflected on all of the different experiences I had been given this week, and all of the lessons I had learned, I realized that they could all be easily categorized into this one phrase. 

Let me explain to you why, we had to attend an all day meeting, have interviews with President, prepare people for baptism, prepare a baptism for Alivia, speak at the baptism, train at zone meeting, speak in sacrament meeting, teach gospel principles, and teach in Young Women's. All this week. All without a car.

To begin we dropped off our car at the dealership to have it fixed. As it turns out, they weren't going to be giving it back for over a week, and this was going to be the coldest week of the year so far.... Joy -___-

LUCKILY our first day without a car we were in a meeting in Nashville all day. It was MLC! (Mission leadership counsel). We woke up at like 4 in the morning. I sat up front with Elder Nez because we both get pretty carsick. It was a 3 hour drive but worth it because we get to see the sun rise. 
When we got there the Andersens had breakfast ready for us and I got to meet all the new Sister Training Leaders! Kind of crazy to be standing in a group with sisters who you will probably be companions with sooner than later. The trainings were great, and it was nice to get to be apart of something so big as setting mission wide goals for the year. I can't wait to implement them! Setting goals is really important. Preach My Gospel says that goal setting and planning are acts of faith, and that we should do everything in our power to achieve them while respecting the agency of others. So this got me thinking, "Why bother setting goals, if it's completely dependent on someone else's agency?" I realized the answer is faith, because faith precedes the miracle. It is my responsibility to have faith sufficient enough for Heavenly Father to provide the miracle. In other words, I have to give this the benefit of the doubt. 

The next day we went out with Sister Hayes to see Sarah, who wasn't home. We normally see Amy K with Sister Hayes, but this week she was sick and asked us not to come by. When Sarah didn't answer her door, Sister Curtis told me she felt like we should go see Amy K. I was really hesitant, because she had just asked us not to go... Since we both had different opinions, we decided to pray and ask Heavenly Father what we should do. After we prayed, Sister Curtis still felt right about going to see Amy. Needing an excuse to go by, we stopped at Krogers and picked up some flowers and soup. While there, Sister Hayes ran into an old friend, and we were able to meet her and give her a pamphlet! (Did you know you can have them scan those things for a store discount??). Amy ended up not being home, so Sister Hayes dropped us off at an apartment complex so we could go knocking on some doors. We tried to go see a nearby investigator, but they weren't home, just their son and his girlfriend. They were acting pretty awkward, so I was backing away to leave when Sister Curtis stepped forward and basically got through the door and began teaching them. I rolled with it, and the things we shared were exactly what they told us they were needing to hear. It felt really nice to get new investigators in this way. I learned the importance of giving EVERYONE the benefit of the doubt, and not just assuming they don't want to hear my message because they are uncomfortable or awkward. I also learned to let my companion have the benefit of the doubt, and provide her with the opportunity to learn to recognize her promptings and use her agency. 

Following this we had interviews with President Andersen. As leaders, President and I talked a lot about correction and the proper way to give it. I appreciated his gratitude for the correction I had given to the sister thus far, and I was so thankful to receive his insights as well. Throughout our discussion, we talked a lot about the importance of pointing out the good in the things the sisters do.  President told me to remember it from a parents perspective. Your children are the one thing you can correct and control all you want, but if you continually are telling them what to fix they won't respect you or listen anymore. I know I've worked with people in the past where it seemed that all they wanted from me was to be better. [oh snap! she's talking about her PARENTS!!!!] It made it so that everything they said irritated me- even when it wasn't meant to be bad! I think about experiences I've had just on my mission, and I realize how necessary it is to catch those around you doing good. You have to give these sisters the benefit of the doubt, show them you trust them to be doing the right thing, otherwise they will never listen to what you say or feel understood enough to accept advice. 

(Sorry I wasn't looking)

We continued our no car adventures into Friday where we had our first zone meeting of the transfer. Having not had much time to prepare a 45 minute training, I was a little nervous. Nevertheless, as Nephi said: "I know in whom I have trusted" (2nd Nephi 4:19).  Sister Curtis did a fabulous one on faith that I really loved, and the Elders taught about setting goals. As the meeting went on (I was to be the last speaker) I didn't think I'd have enough time in my training to do everything I felt inspired to do... But God worked his magic and I fit everything in perfectly and it flowed super well. It was so wonderful getting to sit among some of the greatest missionaries in the mission. Of all of the Zones, Paducah is leading the way and I am so proud! What once was known as "outcast island" is now the promised land. All it needed was to be given the benefit of the doubt :).                                           Since the Hermanas BOTH had their birthday on this day  we went to Kentucky Fried Chicken in Kentucky! 
Saturday was Alivias baptism. It was a very spiritual experience, because Alivia is a great warrior among her families. You see, all but her aunt have left the church, and have refused to come back again. Because of Alivias choice to follow Christ and be baptized, the room was crammed full of people came into a place they hadn't stepped foot in many many many years... it was a true miracle. You should have felt the atmosphere change when she was immersed into the water. After that, many of those inactive members opened up to us about the church, and many even came to sacrament meeting the next day. Alivia's mother said that I reminded her a lot of Alivia, and I just knew that like I could be a missionary for her daughter, Alivia would be a great missionary for her. I am so proud of her for giving her family the benefit of the doubt and inviting them to her baptism, and not being afraid to be bold about her beliefs. 
Elder Marvin J Ashton said: "Perhaps the greatest charity comes when we are kind to each other, when we don't judge or categorize someone else, when we simply give each other the benefit of the doubt or remain quiet.... Charity is expecting the best of each other."
The following day we frantically wrote a sacrament talk, planned a gospel principles lesson, and prepared to work with the young woman and also go to an early morning meeting. It was hectic, to say the least. Of course, Heavenly Father provided a way and all was accomplished and then some. I am so grateful that despite my weaknesses, he continues to give ME the benefit of the doubt by giving me always more than I feel I can handle. 

In weekly planning this week, Sister Curtis and I just didn't feel like many of our investigators were going to be ready for baptism very soon. We prayed, and Lisa came to mind. "No no, it can't be her, she just told us that she will need some time", I said. We prayed again, and again, Heavenly Father told us we will need to put Lisa on a baptismal date. We looked at our calendar. "February 15th?" I suggested. "Uhmmm that's pretty soon" Sister Curtis thought out loud. Sunday night the devil was trying really hard to keep us from even seeing Lisa. She was way too far out to bike, and everyone we asked said they couldn't take us. Then, we called Sister Long. She and Lisa were a match made in Heaven. We taught the Restoration and the spirit engulfed the room and penetrated our hearts. As Lisa shared with us the experiences that got her up to the point where she was meeting with the missionaries, Heavenly Father touched all of our hearts and we knew it was time. "Lisa, you're right, God does build off of our experiences. Will you take the next step and build off of the things you now know, and be baptized February 15th?" 
"Before, when you asked about that, I didn't feel ready. But right when you said that, I felt something. YES."  
WE WANTED TO CRY! Lisa is the mom of two recent converts of almost a year. She just radiates sunshine whenever you talk to her, and FINALLY Heavenly Father was ready for her. Or rather, she was finally ready for him. All of those years preparing her, all of the trials she had experiences and struggles she had had, they were all given out of the benefit of the doubt. God truly loves her. He truly loves her family. And I know He truly does love each of us. 

He has answered my prayers and he has blessed me with so much charity for dear old Paducah, Kentucky. There is no other place I would rather be. I LOVE it here. I testify that where we are, is where we should be. What really matters, is where we are going. I know that if we can give ourselves, and our Heavenly Father the benefit of the doubt, all things will work out for our good. 

Love,Sister Hochstrasser  Write to me!!  
[Jennifer's birthday is on the 26th of January! Please write her if you have time. thanks!]
Sister Jennifer Hochstrasser
447 Hutchinson Ave 
Paducah, Kentucky 42003

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