This week has been one of the hardest weeks of my mission mentally. This week has been downright hard, draining, and difficult. But, looking back on it all, and what happened, I count it as a blessing.
The Heat - The heat here is unbelievable. The sun is so hot, the humidity is so thick it feels like you are being cooked in an oven full of boiling water. It drains you completely.
Hermana Feliz' niece. So my old companion Elder Hausenfluck served in Harlem before. He told us to go look up the Feliz family. Well, we did, and we have been meeting with them every week now. Sister Feliz has a niece who is visiting from the Dominican Republic for the summer. We have been teaching her for the last month and she is really receptive. She has come to church three weeks in a row and all is going well. It is interesting because we have been teaching a lot of people who came to this country from their native country to find work and opportunity. It is amazing to see those who "mistakingly" run into the gospel. The Lord sees these things and He gives us these tender mercies that just make it all fit together. We will see how she continues to go!
Fashion designer - There is this guy in our church who is in charge of dressing models and celebrities. He creates their outfits and packs them to go on tours (if they are music artists) or for photo shoots (if they are models). He has dressed some very famous people and he was telling us all about it. MY favorite was him telling us how he was in charge of putting all the outfits together for Justin Timberlake. That was a very fun visit. You just find so many awesome people here in NYC.
Tender Mercies of the Lord -
This week has been extremely difficult. Almost everyone we talked to was extremely rude to us. I felt like everyone we talked to cussed us out this week or threatened us, or to put it plainly, just didn't want us to exist. Yesterday we were feeling really down. I haven't felt that way for a long time. We decided to go and knock one more building. We knocked the building, and everyone was super angry with us. One guy started yelling at us in French, and then changed to English and cussed us out for a while. This happened with about 15 doors. Everyone answered (which is extremely unusual), and they all had something to say. So we were down with one floor left. We were not feeling happy at all at this point. We knock the next door, and this lady answers the door, and said, "HI! How in the world did you get in the building?" And I said, giving a smirk like we are some secret agents, "We have our ways..." Then she got super scared...and then I busted up laughing -- "no we are kidding, we just rung the bell and someone let us in." Then she asked us if we had been out all day and we said yes, and she told us to come in. She already knew who we were. Turns out, she is from southern California too. She just moved into her apartment a month ago and lives with a guy roommate. She is 23, and we came to find out that in high school she dated a Mormon guy. He left on his mission and they ended it and she felt pretty bitter about the whole thing. Well, that was the reason she let us in. She was extremely kind and we ended up talking for about an hour. Elder Merrell and I felt like we found our friend. I felt the spirit confirming to us that everything we had to go through that week led us to this. We had one of the greatest conversations I think I have ever had on my mission about life and who we are and what our purpose is as humans. The spirit was there, and the joy that we felt was so full of the love that comes from God. It was awesome. She just moved in. She was telling us how she doesn't have any friends here yet. We were going to leave after 20 minutes, but then she asked us if we could stay a little bit longer...she even told us she was feeling extremely depressed before we came. I find it funny that people think "we" make them feel good, when it isn't us, it's the Lord’s spirit. They cling to it.
It was wild because I kind of have forgotten what normal people are like. People say "New Yorkers" for a reason. They are rough, tough, and straight up blunt about everything. She was kind and understanding and normal. This whole week was filled with rejection, but we both left feeling very edified and filled with the Spirit. It was a tender mercy to me to see that God was truly looking out for all three of us. He knew we needed something to lift our spirits, and even more, He knew that she needed it. We are going back to visit with her and her guy roommate within the next few weeks. They are going to make us dinner and we are going to go over to talk again with them. To explain the feelings I felt, I felt like I found my friend. That has been the most amazing feeling on the mission. When you feel like you find the person God wanted you to find. And when you find them, you can feel it by the spirit. Anyone who has served a mission knows exactly what I am talking about. The joy you feel is indescribable.
This experience seems so meaningless, but that is what I have been learning. This mission, serving in the areas I have served in, has been hard. I don't like the atmosphere here. But I have come to LOVE the things that are good, because of how much bad I have been experiencing. I have come to see for myself that the greater bad I can experience, the greater good I then can enjoy, and things that are so simply good mean the world to me now. Buddha said, "Thousands of candles can be lit from a single candle, and the life of the candle will not be shortened. Happiness never decreases by being shared."
The way to know joy is to know misery. The more misery you experience, the greater you will seek after joy, and the greater capacity you will have to experience it. I am learning this first hand and I love it.
As they say,
Come what may,
and LOVE IT!
That is something that makes this mission all worth it. Finding your friends who are in the darkness, and you both come into the light together.
The view outside our apartment in Harlem
with Elder Merrell
Our Harlem Zone with President Smith