Flagler West Side Story

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Editor’s note: Eliza is wearing her Family Reunion T-shirt in this photo, so I can photoshop her into some of the pictures (like her Uncle Andy in days gone by!).  She also told me to notice her made bed! 🙂  I love the inspiration wall!  Special thanks to all of you who have shown her love and support.  It means SO much to her and to me! You are true friends! Love my sweet missionary! Katie

Familia!
Oh, little Flagler. It is such a strange place. Last week, Christy’s mom (also an alcoholic) passed out while we were praying with her, just like King Lamoni (see Alma 18:41-43). We didn’t know what to do…..so we just started reading the scriptures. After a couple of minutes, Christy shouted out, “I CAN’T LEARN THE GOSPEL WHILE MY MOM IS DYING.” So we decided to stop. It was a long seven minutes to sit there while George and Christy slapped her until she awoke and ‘arose such a clatter’. Then she didn’t want us to stop talking! Or praying! Or leave! But we did. So that happened. I guess we’re pretty powerful pray-ers or something.
Also, we have a super cool new family that we’re teaching! We found the mom, Lily, while harvesting and had a really good experience with her. She later told us that she had posted on Facebook that God sent her two angels that day in the exact moment that she needed it! So even without iPads, we’re still Facebook missionaries! Word. Her husband, Fernando, is Christian. Very Christian. His first question for us was, “Does your church preach spiritual warfare?”, and then proceeded to launch into a huge lecture on how the majority of churches are just “Baby Christian” and how his pastor was a serious man of God sent to prepare them to embrace all of their gifts and powers they have as Christians. It was intense, and rather fascinating, and ultimately at the end of our discussion, he gave me permission to pray over his son, Fernando Jr. He is a 5-year-old with mild autism whom his father believes to have curses placed upon him that bind his tongue. He informed us that he had already broken several curses that his biological mother had placed upon him, but told us he could sense that we were “anointed” (whatever that means) and gave me permission to break any curse that I could sense that perhaps he hadn’t found. I didn’t know what the heck he was talking about, to be honest, but I just gave myself a little pep-talk in my brain and trusted a lot in the Spirit. No, I did not break any curses (that seemed a bit nonsensical to me, but who knows), nor did I cast out demons because I do not hold the priesthood, the power of God, yet we all were able to feel of the Holy Ghost as we prayed and I exercised my authority as a representative of Jesus Christ. So that was cool. BUT, all craziness aside, the coolest part about that family is their 14-year-old son, Christian (named such on purpose), whom we have taught the most. What an awesome kid. He is facing a lot of opposition right now, but he really is spiritually sensitive and has a lot of sincere desire to follow Christ and do the right thing. An unusual trait for a 14-year-old, in my opinion. We’re excited to see what happens with them in the future! Christian is preparing to get baptized too! He asked us on Saturday night, “How much do I need to pay you to get baptized?” It made me laugh out loud, but I quickly stopped when I realized he wasn’t kidding. People actually charge others to get baptized? I couldn’t believe it. We assured him that baptism in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is, and always will be, free.
Anyway, I’ve realized that by the time I come home I will be a certified Love Doctor. We’re currently juggling a couple of peculiar love triangles (one of members and the other of investigators/less-actives) and have had to deal with an investigator who fell in love with the sister that was here before me (20-year age gap. Weird). That’s something I certainly didn’t anticipate! Just on Tuesday, Jose, a recent convert, was asking us to help him find ways to not be so intense and desperate (his words) as he pursues another RC, Maria. He is a massage therapist and has been offering over and over to give her a massage, and he chases after her when she exits the church or an activity without saying goodbye. He’s pretty awkward, poor thing, but we’re doing our best to help him out. And he thought that he could just tell the bishop that he loved someone and that the bishop would talk to the woman and arrange the marriage. Yes, you can laugh. Who knew that I’d have to include teaching Dating 101 to a 36-year-old in our lessons?
Yesterday, watching the First Presidency Christmas Devotional was just lovely. And our stake put together several choirs that sang for an hour and a half in the chapel before it started. My favorite number was “Mary, did you know?”, sung by eight-year-olds to a romantic-sounding track. It got soulful. I really don’t have the words to describe it, but just think ‘karaoke bar for children’. While singing Silent Night at the end of the devo., Sis. Montoya leaned over and said “Radiant beams from thy holy face – beams like frijoles? Frijoles is the Spanish word for beans, so that created a pretty good mental picture. The giggles were hard to stifle.
I love reading the book of Alma! Seriously, between watching The Testaments and reading Alma, I have all of the action I need. Destruction, arm-chopping-off, wars and rumors of wars, it’s awesome. I recently read in Alma 14: 10-13, which is a good lesson on the soul question: “Why does God allow so much suffering?”. A little background, two missionaries, after telling the people the truth of the Gospel and calling them to repentance, the leaders and people of the land grow furious and decide to burn all of the women and children who are believers and make these two missionaries watch. Intense. Yet, in this instance, Alma teaches us that God allows this to happen because those people will stand as a witness in the last day of the wickedness of these people and make their judgments just. An interesting thought. Additionally, God will never, ever take away a person’s ability to choose, no matter how horrible the choice or how severely it will affect others. We work with so many people who are suffering so intensely. Just in the last week we have taught people with failing kidneys, miscarriages, deaths in the family, diseases without cure, homeless, no money, or no job. Yet something I am relearning each day is that God truly has a purpose in all things. We are here to learn and to experience, and one of the best ways to do this is through trials. Serving a mission is certainly the hardest thing I have ever done, but I have never learned so much in such a short amount of time, nor have I grown so much in my faith, testimony, and love for other people. God truly knows what we need to become better, even if sometimes we have to go through the refiner’s fire to purify ourselves.
I also read in Alma 17:19-39, an awesome story of the power of service and a pile of arms. You would like it.
We’re already heading in to the last week of the transfer (WHAT), so we’re excited to see some crazy miracles this week! I love you people! Go make some miracles happen in your own lives too!
Also, a huge shout-out to the Baynes, the Hixsons, and the Gubler-Coons for their beautiful Christmas cards and to my fantastic mama for an awesome package (and for introducing me to Pumpkin Spice Caramel Ghiradelli chocolates. Holy Bible, Batman)!
I love you!
Sister Burdett

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