This was the best week of my mission!! My heart is ever full of gratitude to God for the wonderful blessing my mission has been and continues to be. A great blessing of the week was that my Grandma Rae sent me two boxes full of the best thing on the planet! Her homemade cookies!!! Wow, I'm truly spoiled. Thank you Grandma, I love you so much! After receiving her box of cookies last Monday, we visited one of our Bishops and had a great lesson with him and his family. Bishop Thornton is the most missionary minded Bishop I have ever had on my mission. He does everything he can to be an example to the ward! He not only invites his members to experience the blessings of missionary work, but he does it himself. Following our visit with him and his family, we stopped by the Rathavongsa family and made some memories. They made us a very Asian meal and it was delicious! We talked about the Priesthood with Ryan and he was very excited to receive it. His mom commented on how different he has been since his baptism. Even we have seen it! He is much happier now, has greater confidence, and loves everyone around him! This gospel is so true. Tuesday morning we visited Rich and watched a few Mormon Messages with him. He is doing great! We ran to the mission office to fix our number reporting system a little and it is a monster to tackle! I better be a Microsoft Excel pro after this! We had dinner with Yuliya and her family and she made us some incredible pulled pork. My favorite part was of course the lesson that we had with her. We shared one of Elder Bednar's videos explained the process by which we receive revelation. We explained and testified that revelation more often than not comes subtly, gradually, and over time. Line upon line and precept upon precept. Although sometimes we desire an answer to come in one single, dramatic instance, it usually doesn't happen that way. She understood the concept and is excited to be baptized! We are so happy for her. And she is happy too! She shared that she is very careful about saying that she is happy because it's such a fleeting feeling. Yet she told us that when she goes to church, she is truly happy! Woohoo!! She is wonderful. We had a zone conference on Wednesday with the Tri-Lake zone in conjunction with their temple trip and they both were very enjoyable! Following our meeting, we went tracting!! Yip yeah! We surprisingly found a trailer park in our area which is weird because our area is the richest area in the mission. Yet I suppose we are serving in North Carolina so we couldn't get away without at least one trailer park in each area. After almost being eaten alive by a few ferocious dogs, we stopped a family driving past us and shared quite a bit of our message with them! The father in particular was very interested and really saw this as something that would bless his family. Thanking God in our hearts for the experience, we felt prompted to contact a referral of someone requesting a copy of the Bible. The referral lives in a retirement home so unless she unlocks the building's front door from her room, we can't enter. As we arrived to the building, we tried to call her. Unfortunately she didn't answer, but although she wasn't home, we saw someone out in the lawn with their dog and we decided to go speak with them. That's because we need to speak with everybody! You never know who God is preparing to receive His word. Her name is MaryAnn and she has just the sweetest spirit. She is 75 years old and is very spunky as Elder Barlow perfectly put it! The Spirit really touched her heart during our conversation and she went from telling us she will never change religions to promising she will read the Book of Mormon with real intent. We all felt very powerfully that she has potential. It was amazing to see God's hand in finding her. If we'd have come at any other time to contact that referral, we wouldn't have found her! Yet God worked a miracle and she was outside ready to speak with us. Thursday was as equally as fantastic of a day as we got to teach Mike in the morning! He fed us lunch and was anxious to ask us questions about the Plan of Salvation pamphlet he had read through entirely and even marked up with notes! His questions were phenomenal and we did our best to use the scriptures and the Spirit to answer them. His understanding grew and his hope in the message did as well. We believe strongly that he will be baptized very soon. He is such an honest seeker of truth!! We went on an exchange with the Raleigh zone leaders after our lesson and I went to their area with Elder Carrell. We had a great time teaching a few of their investigators with baptismal dates, but more importantly I enjoyed learning from Elder Carrell's great example! He is a great leader and truly knows what it means to appreciate his mission. Despite him going home next week, he is staying focused and working hard to the end! I have loved serving around him for a good portion of my mission and have learned many things from him. We had the last of our zone conferences the following day and it was hopefully our best one yet. It was with the Fayetteville zone and there are many great missionaries down there! We loved being able to go to the temple one last time and I will honestly miss it quite a bit. It has been the greatest blessing to attend twice a week for three weeks straight! President was very pleased with the zone conference and he believes this is the best zone conference we have ever had. Hopefully that's true because it is "The Great Awakening!" He definitely gave two of the most powerful instructions I've ever heard. We went out to dinner at Ruby Tuesday afterward with President and Sister James, and the whole office staff! We celebrated the birthday of one of our office missionaries, Sister Salgado! She is wonderful. President asked Elder Chiu to bring his guitar into the restaurant to sing happy birthday to her and it was terrific! Elder Chiu is an incredible musician!! We tracted the rest of the night and loved every minute of it. We had another miracle story too! We felt prompted to visit an investigator we had previously found and upon knocking her door, discovered that no one was home. With the few minutes of the night we had left, we decided to tract across the street! Within the first or second door, a man by the name of Ray came out onto the porch and greeted us. He let us know that he had been praying to God for direction and had been seeking the right path. He expressed the desire to help his family find the truth. We told him we believed God had answered his prayers. Doing our best to follow the Spirit and fit it to his needs, we shared our message and he was speechless. He told us that he too believed God had answered his prayers and told us he wants to read the Book of Mormon if that is what God needs him to do. We promised him blessings and it refreshed my entire soul to feel of his desperate need for the truth. We know he will find it. It turns out that his work schedule is pretty busy and he was actually scheduled to be out of town that day! Something came up and his trip was cancelled, otherwise we wouldn't have found him! That was literally the only time of the week we could've found him home. God is a God of miracles! Wow, what a sacred privilege it is to be an instrument in His hands. Most of our time on Saturday was taken up by our meeting with President James, but we did get to teach Anthony! He is doing very well and wants so badly to be baptized. Although they are taking baby steps, we know he'll get there! They are progressing at least, and that is all that matters! Sunday was marvelous. Ryan and Brandon Rathavongsa received the Priesthood and we were able to be a part of the ordination. Yuliya came to church and she was happy again! So good to see her like that. After church we taught Matt, the Messianic Jew we found a few weeks ago, and he was just as promising today as he was then! He has looked through quite a bit of the Book of Mormon and he had many deep and historical questions. Wow he is seeking the truth! As we arrived to his home and walked up the path, he opened the door before we even knocked on it was so excited to see us! We ate dinner with Sister Salgado and her family to celebrate again her birthday and then went out in the rain and thunderstorms to do some work! This week's weather has been unbelievable. It has gotten up to 102 degrees with 100 percent humidity! Whoo, that's hot!! I wouldn't trade it for the world though. Like I said before, my mission is the biggest blessing of my life. I know this is God's work and I know He will provide. Let us serve Him daily, regardless of the rewards we feel we receive! Our service can never be conditional upon our ability to recognize his blessings. Let's love him and serve him that we may live happy lives.
Finding the elect in God's timing,