What a week is all I can say. This week has been one of the most mentally exhausting week of my life but it has also been so rewarding. We have just taught some of the hardest lessons of my mission and it has really caused me to rely on the spirit and be in tune with its gentle whisperings because I there were times that I was at a loss for what to say next. I will never cease to be amazed at how the spirit is able to speak to me and put in my heart and mind the words I need at the moment I need them. I always know that I am speaking through the spirit when I start teaching things in a way I have never taught them before because each person is so vastly different and to be a good missionary you have to teach them according to their needs and understanding. Usually this is a simple process when following the spirit. This week however I had to really work hard and constantly petition the Lord for guidance. We have some of the toughest but greatest investigators right now. We are teaching a man who recently converted to Islam and who is interested in following the truth no matter what. He is interested in what we have to say and we had a really good lesson with him this week and at the end of it my head hurt but he agreed to read the Book of Mormon so we'll followup with him this week and see what he thought about it. We are also teaching this family from Thailand that the elders in our ward we teaching previously and believe it or not but they are Buddhist. Teaching them is very interesting because they believe everything we say about Jesus Christ but they believe that they can believe in and worship Jesus and Buddha at the same time. The main concern with this family is the mom speaks Thai but only reads Burmese and there isn't a Burmese copy of The Book of Mormon. We have some ideas of how to work around that to help her gain a testimony of the Book of Mormon and also come to understand that she no longer needs to worship Buddha. To top this all of we have also started teaching this cute young couple from India who belong to this religion that is an off-shoot if Hindu. They are the sweetest couple and we already love them so much. We are hoping to be able to really teach them with the spirit so they can be converted because they would make the best members and the sweetest eternal family. Anyway as you can see we have a wide variety of religious backgrounds for our investigators It makes our life really interesting.
Another intense lesson this week happened in the Visitors' Center. We got a call from Elder Hawkins (the VC director) one night when we were getting ready for bed and he told us that a pair fo zone leaders were bringing their investigator into the VC for a lesson the following day and and they wanted one of the senior couples to sit in on a lesson with them. Elder Hawkins said that he told the elders that he has the best teachers serving in the VC and so he volunteered us to teach the lesson. I was already nervous hearing that it was zone leaders and then to know that Elder Hawkins personally recommended us really added to the pressure. The zone leaders arrived prior to the lesson the next day and we talked through the investigators history and then we walked through how the lesson will go. We were going to be teaching the Plan of Salvation and so we decided to start with the Christus narration to set the mood and then build the lesson around that. The investigator arrived and we learned that he is married to a woman who was raised in the church but fell away and now she is coming back too. They both seemed really nice and because we had talked through the lesson I wasn't really that nervous. We played the words of the Savior and the spirit was so strong and we started to teach about our life before we came to earth. Out of nowhere the wife raises her hand and said "I have a question. What does it mean to be translated?" Sister Clarke and I looked at each other and then we looked at the elder stunned. They frantically tried to explain it to her and then she asked another off beat question and we struggled to bring the lesson back. Finally we got control and started teaching again. We taught about the atonement and it was so touching. We then went into the theater and watched "He is Risen" (a video the VC got specially for Easter) and it is the most beautiful and touching portrayal of the atonement and crucifixion that I have ever seen. At the end of the video I was trying to compose myself and not cry when the wife pipes up and says "Well that's just a different version of the same old movie!" It's like she was trying to put down out movie or something and that chased the spirit away a bit. We went back into the other room to finish the lesson and this is where things really fell apart. We were teaching about the three kingdoms of Glory and she goes off again asking questions about translated beings and when are they resurrected and when do they stand judgement and all of this nonsense. It was just ridiculous. Throughout all of this I tried to keep connecting what was being said back to the needs of the investigator and he seemed to be understanding the basic things that we wanted him to understand. The moment in the lesson where I almost lost it was when I was teaching about the celestial kingdom and she said "Um can you please explain for me the three levels within the celestial kingdom?" I didn't even know what to say and I looked at Sister Clarke I knew that she was starting to get frustrated too. I then realized that if I fully let myself get frustrated then I would chase the spirit away and no longer be able to feel it and then I would fail because I was only making it through this lesson by relying 100% on the spirit. I took a deep breath and started to talk and I simply explained that that is something we don't know much about except that to attain the highest degree we have to be sealed in the temple. I didn't go any further than that and she seemed satisfied so we moved on. After that she tried to explain to her husband about outer darkness and all this other useless stuff and he just seemed so overwhelmed. The elders and us bore out testimonies finally to end the lesson and then we said a closing prayer and it was finally over. Sister Clarke and I both thought that the lesson was a complete disaster and we felt so bad for the elders and Elder Hawkins because we thought we had let them down. Right before they left one of the elders came up and shook my hand and said "That was a mean lesson! You are great teachers. We'll bring them back again soon." It made me feel a little bit better that the zone leaders were happy but I still felt like a failure. The next day we explained the whole situation to Elder Hawkins and he explained that we handled it perfectly and he said he was proud of us. We later found out that they had come in to the VC before and had a tour with Sister Doole and Sister Swindler and they both said that it was the worst tour/lesson of their entire mission because of the wife and her comments and questions. After hearing that I felt so much better that it wasn't me who ruined the lesson and that it really went as good as it could go. We had another fireside last night and the zone leaders were there and they again came up and shook my hand and thanked me again for that lesson and Elder Hawkins said that he talked to them as well and asked them what they thought about it all and he said they couldn't have been more complimentary. That was probably the hardest lesson I have ever taught because I had to use all of my missionary skills just to keep the spirit there. I learned a lot from it though and I was so relived to know that we really didn't ruin it.
Miracle for the week! (The best part!!!!!!) was Sister Clarke's 23rd birthday so of course we celebrated and had a great time. We went into town for sushi because it's her favorite and she mentioned that before we head back to the VC, she wanted to go to this american candy store. It sounded like fun to me because I miss american candy. After our sushi we walked down to this store and it was so much fun to see all of this candy that I love and haven't been able to have for over a year. They had fun dip and m&m's and reeses and butterfingers and all the good stuff. I had not idea what I was going to buy when I turned around and saw on the shelf at the opposite end of the store the most beautiful thing I have seen in a long time. Can you guess what it was? It was a jar of DILL PICKLES!!!!!!!!! I am sure you can imagine my excitement. I bought them and they have brought me constant joy ever since. I am so happy to have dill pickles in the fridge now that I get happy every time I open it and look inside. It's funny to me how much my love for them have intensified during my long break from them. At home I was picky and I didn't really care much for the Vlasic brand but that was the only kind they had here and they are so delicious. I believe this was a tender mercy from the Lord!
Well that was my week. It was a really good one and I am still loving my time as a missionary. Tomorrow it the birthday of the New Zealand Hamilton Mission and I feel so blessed that I have been able to see the birth and growth of an entirely new mission. It has been such an adventure. When the mission started last year we had 123 missionaries. 100 elders and 23 sisters. Now our mission has a total of 235 missionaries. 150 Elders and 85 Sisters. It is remarkable! This has been the greatest adventure and I can't wait to see what more the future has in store.