There are bumper stickers that say that, 10 square miles surrounded by reality. Ithaca is such a cute little city and I've fallen in love with it. I am really happy I get to stay here to continue to work with the people we are teaching. They have big barriers, which every person seems to have when it comes to living the gospel, but Sister Hacking and I have helped them rely on the Savior and prayer to slowly illiminate the problems in their life. I think it comes with serving in a downtown area. It's just ghetto, so drugs, poverty, unhappiness, single parenting, is all more prevalent. But the transformation of someone who has been living in such a lifestyle and then begins to change by living the principles we teach is even that much cooler. It's hard to get them to keep commitments and even get them to church because no one has cars, but that's where the member support comes in. It takes a lot of assertiveness (which I've never been good at) but I've really how people are willing to help and serve. I loved Elder Uchtdorfs talk this past conference on committing to be the Lord's hands. I absolutely love these people, no matter how bad their house smells like cat, or how smokey their breath is. I love them and I love trying to help them in any way I can. The part in his talk about a ward seeing people as, "canned food members" I could totally relate to. We bring people to church who don't look like they'd fit in AT ALL, but the ward has loved them regardless and our investigators and recent converts DO feel at home when they come to church. It's so peaceful for them.
Anyways, I just loved talking to you all. Sorry it was so short. Steph, I wish I could have talked to you too. And Mike, I am so sorry I left your name out of the last email. You're the newest to the family, but that should not justify it. I'm so sorry. I get typing and get kind of spacey. ha ha
This past week was wonderful. Saturday was Joey's baptism. So a quick story about him... when he was born he wasn't going to live. His mom had prayed and told God, "If you save my son, I'll raise him in the church." He lived and is now a member. :) At the time of his birth, she wasn't going to church and up until the other Sister's found her she hadn't been going. They worked with her and then I got here and continued to work with her and her family. She (Tracey) had to give up smoking and drinking to be baptized. She did though and it was so cool to see how devoted she became. So she's the one we baptized in February and this month both of her boys we've worked with entered the waters of baptism. She has evolved into a "normal" (if there is such a thing) member! Instead of sitting in the back, she gets there early (with help from Sister Koltko) in the ward, and gets a bench seat. She doesn't yell at her boys in the home anymore. She is a completely different person! The gospel when lived, changes lives. She even wanted to speak at the baptism. It was so sweet to see her tear up and look at her son and say, "I never thought this day would come." Her simple testimony invited the spirit and those in the ward who were in attendance gained a greater love for her. I know it is crucial to get the parents to gain a testimony before the children. Then at church on Sunday in Gospel Principles the teacher had everyone go around and say why it is a special day for them. She said, "Today is a special day for me because my son recieved the gift of the holy ghost."
I know that the parent's influence is essential to lasting conversion. Mom and Dad, because of your examples I came to gain my own testimony. So thank you. I failed to tell my grandmas all happy mothers day! and Em and Annie! You're all idols to me. I look up to you and hope to someday be the kind of mother you are and have been to your kids. You're the best.
I have to go but here is my email to president bulloch because it says stuff I didn't have time to write you about. I'll handwrite home today more about my companion's sickness. ugh it's dumb.
Love you Mom and Dad and family!
p.s. congrats daniel! thanks for the announcement! That's way awesome!