Wednesday, January 11, 2017

The Last Goodbye....January 9, 2017

Right now I echo the words of Paul in 2 Timothy 4:6-7 "For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith." We've come full circle everyone! I never thought this day would come- the day I so longed for in the beginning, but the day I've truly dreaded here in the end. 
I have so many mixed and fast-flowing emotions- this week has been a roller coaster for me. Bear with me as I share what happened this last week, with transfers, and then I'll share briefly (hopefully haha) some of what I've learned on my mission. (Oh sidenote, I've been suuuuuuuper sick this past week with a head cold, cough, and being a that's been fun lol)

Monday I was privileged to go to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island with President and Sister Taggart and the other 19 departing missionaries! It was a cold and rainy day, but so fun. We took the ferry from NJ into Ellis Island and got to walk around and look for a good hour at the museum. I've seen it a dozen times already, but it was fun to see it one last time. Then we got back on the ferry and it took us to Lady Liberty!!! She's huge! We went through security again, and then boom, we were in the museum. There was lots of cool stuff there and I wish I could have read more and looked at more of it but we only had an hour until the ferry left because we were on a tight schedule. As part of the ticket we got to climb the pedestal. Ok. Seriously. That thing is so deceiving. It was a HIKE. Holy moly my legs were about to give out. It was basically 100+ people packed into a tiny stairwell going up 150+ stairs without stopping. Man, my asthma kicked in and my legs just about had it- but the view from her feet made it all worth it! You could see for miles in all directions. I can't imagine what the view from the crown would be like!! We climbed back down, got on the ferry, and then drove back to Newark to have some Elm Street BBQ (love that place). Then the Taggart's gave us lots of career, college, and adult life advice for when we get back. It was so fun to have that time with them!

Tuesday we had my last zone meeting, and if I had a quarter for every time someone made a dying joke...I would be rich. Filthy rich. The jokes that day were unreal haha! But it was a good meeting, and afterwards I had my Hot Seat. That's where the dying missionaries sit up front and the whole zone gets to ask them questions about their mission. We only did the spiritual half that day because we ran out of time, so supposedly I'm doing the funny half today...we'll see haha! I never wanted to do a hot seat anyway, so I'm not too bummed if it doesn't happen. 

Wednesday I got hugged by a man. So that weirded me out and the guy was probably so confused because I was all stiff and awkward about it....but in my defense I didn't see it coming, and like, thats not ok haha! We were at the nursing home doing service, and the activity director is a super cool guy, about 23. We'd always talk with him while we're there, and apparently right before I got here there was an elder who went home, and Tim was like "oh, I hugged him! I'm a hugger." And then proceeds to come in like he's giving me one of those bro handshakes, but then really just grabs my hand and pulls me into a full on hug. I was so weird about it lol! My mind was just like....NO! And it was just awkward. And I'm just awkward. And it was just weird. Blech *shudders*
We also helped the Trunks that day with some stuff she needed to get done. It was fun being with her kiddos and being able to serve her!

Thursday we cleaned our apartment and I packed up some of my stuff. Weird. Then we did weekly planning (my last!) and headed off to our Bishop's house for dinner. Their family is pretty quiet, but they're all so sweet. It was a fun evening with them! We then went and had a super awkward lesson with our new investigator Erica. She was completely distracted by her kids the whole time and wouldn't say anything to us, so we were awkwardly fishing for conversation and trying to discern her needs and interests. It was just weird all around, I don't know how to describe it haha

Friday we had dinner and FHE with the Trunks and that was super fun! Gosh I love this family. Another forever friend right there! And we also were able to see the Teets family and share one last lesson with them. I love that family. They have their issues and things, but you'll never meet sweeter people.

Saturday we had coordination at 7am with Brother Stevenson, where I had my last waffle with him :(  the Stevenson's are awesome! And then we had a lesson with Lisa and she's progressing!!!!! Dream come true!!! She's reading the BoM and praying about it and loving it and all she's learning! She wants to come to church with her daughters, and we brought Sister Trunk and they connected super well, and I just love the Ciccia family! The story of how we found her is a straight up miracle, and I feel so blessed seeing the seed I helped plant grow. I know I was supposed to come to Sparta to find her. And I'm so glad I did. God has blessed me immensely. I am for sure flying back for their baptisms haha!
Saturday we also found out that we're being doubled out of the area....we were so sure that S.Hall was staying. So for the past couple days we've been maniacally packing, cleaning, saying goodbye, and writing notes for the new sisters. S.Hall is going to Harrison (part of Newark), back to the city where she belongs haha! She was a fish out of water here in the boonies, but I'm so glad she came. She taught me lots, and I'm glad we could be companions for 2! No one else I'd rather have kill me haha :)

Sunday was also full of goodbyes. It was fast Sunday so we both bore our testimonies, and literally every class we went to and every meeting we had- they all mentioned how we were leaving and how grateful they were for our dedication and service. I seriously love this ward so much! They made me feel so welcome and loved. I never felt inadequate or not good enough with them, they always uplifted me and helped me feel at home! They are so wonderful. Lots of tears were shed as we said goodbye to people. This ward truly became home to me.

So, now for the tearjerker. Yikes haha! This mission has been amazing for me. You all probably don't know this, but I didn't exactly come out here for all the right reasons. Yes I wanted to serve people, but I also didn't want to be a disappointment and I felt that it was expected of me to go (not by you family, dont worry about that haha!). So I came out, and I struggled the first couple months. It never crossed my mind to go home, but I wasn't enjoying the work. But I kept going, kept trying, kept crying and pleading with my Father for the forgiveness and grace of my Savior. And guys, holy moly is God good and amazing and such a loving Father! Over these 18.5 months I've seen a change in my heart, my desires, my thoughts, my actions, my words, my attitude, my testimony, my conversion, and my future. This mission changed the trajectory of my life! I know for a fact I would have fallen down a deep and dark road had I not come out here. And God in His infinite wisdom and mercy, accepted me as a fledgling, selfish, shy missionary who didn't know why they came out, and has molded me into a person who loves God and loves people. I know where I would be if I didn't come to NJ, and it is not a good place. And I know for a fact that this will bless my life into the eternities, but that more importantly it will bless my family and future family's lives forever. I truly know that even when we only give, or can only give, 5 loaves and 2 fish to Christ- He makes it infinitely more. He takes our sacrifices, however small, and reciprocates blessings an hundredfold. God loves us all unconditionally, irrevocably, and eternally! And I am so grateful I could give Him 18.5 months of my life, and I can't wait to give Him the rest of it.

God is good all the time. And all the time, God is good.
I love you all. And I'll see you soon!
So for the last time,
Stay Jersey Strong.
Love, Sister McAllister

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Lady Liberty and Ellis Island...January 2, 2017

Hey All!
Today I went to Ellis island on my departing trip. Super mixed emotions about that, but I'll get to that later haha

This week was a "miracle, last-minute twist, hard work, and fun times"-filled week. Life seems to have just gone crazy since Christmas!

Monday we went to the Stevenson's house so S.Hall could make her pen on his lathe. We got some yummy homemade cinnamon rolls out of that too! They were supposed to have us over that night as well for dinner, but there was a delay in a flight from Utah and yadda yada they couldn't have us over- which I actually felt better about because I felt bad taking up their whole day! So they had us over the next night for dinner.

Tuesday we had my last ever district meeting...that was the beginning of the end haha! All my lasts are going to be coming up! Gah. But yeah, I love my district leader Elder Jordan, he's a super awesome leader! His trainings are great and he's really adapted his teaching to meet the needs of his district. It's cool to serve around him again too, because it was back in the beginning of my mission that we served around each other last. It's always cool to see how people change and yet are still the same goofballs they were in the beginning. They just become more of a spiritual giant :)  So anyway, I'm going to miss Tuesday meetings where you know you'll get spiritually fed weekly with new ideas and things you've forgotten or overlooked.
Tuesday we were double booked with dinners, so I made sure to wear my stretchy skirt, and boy was I stuffed after! We went over first to Sister Menendez's house and had yummy fried plantains with rice and pork. One funny thing about Spanish, is there's dozens of different dialects, so words mean different things in different countries. For instance, she's from Ecuador and plantains to her is "maduro", but to other people it's "plátanos". We were really confused when she first told us what she was cooking, but then she showed it to us and we got it haha! Then, we went straight from her house to the Stevenson's where we had authentic Chinese food made from authentic Chinese ingredients. Brother Stevenson served his mission in Taiwan (and sis Stevenson in Scotland), so they made us a bunch of stuff I can't dream of pronouncing. There was lots of rice, weird meat, and weird vegetables, but it was all pretty good! I also ate my entire meal with chopsticks, so I felt pretty proud of myself! And then we had homemade mango pudding for dessert- yum. I swear, just in these last 3 weeks I will have gained at least 10lbs from all the stuff we're getting fed.

Wednesday we were able to see a miracle of getting in to an inactive, part member house that we've been trying by for 3 months!!! The timing was right I guess, probably because of the holiday cheer, and we were able to share a short video with Dawn and George before they kicked us out haha! We talked about the poems he writes about God, and we shared our Christmas Day festivities with each other, before she got antsy and started ending the conversation. Woohoo! We took them brownies another night, just to build trust and friendship with them, so we're hoping that'll start going somewhere in the next month or so. Small and simple things! Little tender mercies lead to big miracles! Wednesday evening we also got a call from our district leader that the STL's were on there way to our apartment right that minute for an we were not informed about til that very moment...And it would go til Friday. Surprise! We were a little frustrated at first, and felt a little judged by the whole situation, BUT God is good and I'm a prideful sack, so it ended up being perfect haha! We had Hna Higginbotham with us here, and we all learned a lot from each other. I learned to not judge a situation right away, but to step back and see the bigger picture. She was sent to us to learn something, and we were given plans that day to learn something as well! More on that later.  So Wednesday we went over to the Thompson house for dinner and guess what we had!? Chinese food! What in the world haha?? I've had it once in the past 2 transfers, and then all the sudden here it comes! It was good though, her egg rolls were to die for.

I'm realizing this letter is all about food...I guess it's easy to see what I love haha! I hope I'm not making y'all hungry. Thursday we still had the sister with us, but it was also weekly planning day, so we spent the majority of the morning and early afternoon planning while she studied Spanish and did other stuff. I learned some more Spanish with her too, so, maybe one day I'll actually know more than 20 words! Lol
That day we had lots of plans to go finding because we had no set appointments. Our mission is doing this thing where we try by a less Active, and if they're not home we knock 20 doors around them asking their neighbors if they know them, who are they, what's their schedule, etc etc. President has said that this is a beautiful way to knock down barriers and get in their houses, and I have seen it work before, but for some reason that day it was so not working. We got yelled at twice, scorned a couple times, and one man walking his dog was pretty rude, BUT we met a super nice guy named Jesse who had the most hipster, eccentric outfit and vibe going on and he took a card with our number on it! Woohoo! And we had another lady (who had had a leeeetle too much wine) who opened the door, called us pretty, started to close the door, and then without us saying anything said "alright, give me your stupid pamphlet" lol! We're so good we didn't even have to say anything haha ;)

Friday we had more Chinese food, and lots of other stuff happened this weekend, but I've run out of time! The Statue of Liberty is huge, and the inside was cool! My feet are killing me, and my hair is drenched, and my life is still a surreal mess. But I love you all and wish you well! Talk to you next week!!

Stay Jersey Strong.
Love, Sister McAllister