Well... As if my mission hasn't been crazy enough, I get another curve ball thrown at me and am sent back to Canton, Ohio. I served here last year around this same time and I'm back for another game of missionary work! I was shocked when they announced that I was coming here. Again. It's pretty rare for a missionary to return to an area/ward for a second time, and this is the second time I've done this (first Toledo, now here)! I must not be doing my job right! This time is a little bit different, because I am not serving as the Akron Zone Leader; I am a "regular" missionary for the first time since I was being trained in Toledo for those first six weeks. My only responsibility is my area, my companion, and myself. Kind of a weird, almost empty feeling, but I am quickly learning to adapt. But so far I am loving it back here!
Last Wednesday is when I found out. We were at the transfer meeting and I was sitting by Elder Bills (who flew home Thursday!) and they announced that I was going to be serving in Canton, Ohio. I was speechless (thought I had heard wrong) and Elder Bills turned to me and said "You are SO lucky!" --this is where we served together last year. Since that moment it's just been a whirlwind of crazies... It's finally settling in that I am here and here to stay. My companion's name is Elder Harris and he's from Idaho. He's been out for about 18 months and I served as his Zone Leader when I was in Findlay. He's a great Elder and we're getting along great.
The response I have received from the ward has been humbling. Many have expressed such joy and excitement and over and over at church last Sunday I was told "Welcome back!", "We're so excited you're back!", and even a "Welcome home!" In the past, when asked if I could go back to one area I served and serve there again, I always said Canton. And here I am! I am so excited to get to work with some of the part-member families, less-actives, and recent-converts (like the Nevilles!) again. I know I've been sent back here for a reason, and I am ready to give it all I've got!
It's always great to see the Lord's hand work in your life. This past week, Elder Harris and I had several experiences where it was obvious that we were lead to certain places or prompted to do certain things. For example, on Friday we went to a street we had planned to tract, and the first door we knock on is the mother of one of the members in our ward! She is not a member but invited us in for some water and we chatted for a bit. We were able to offer some service and help her with some mild yard work. It was simple, yet so incoincidental. The next day all four of us missionaries were driving to our service (we help out at Habitat for Humanity each week) only to find out that they were closed for some reason. We called a few more people to see if anyone needed help for an hour or so and had no luck, so we began to drive back to the apartment. All morning the Elders we live with had been calling different members of the church to see if they would be able to give one of their investigators a ride to a baptism down in New Philly (where Elder Hansen is serving - my old companion from Shaker Heights!). They were having no luck, and since I know all of the members already, I was trying to help them think of different people they could ask. As we were driving back to the apartment, I had the idea to ask a mother in our ward who recently had gone through a divorce. The Elders called her and she was unable to help drive, and they were about to hang up when the Elder said, "Oh! And by the way, we have four missionaries in service clothes looking for some work - is there anything we could do for you?" The Sister couldn't believe her ears and graciously accepted the offer. She told us we were an answer to a prayer - that she needed so much help with the yard and moving some things since the divorce and they were weighing very heavily upon her. It's a wonderful feeling to be a tool in our Heavenly Father's hands by which we can aid His children by. The Spirit is very soft and subtle in the way he communicates to us, and I'm grateful for all of us Elders listening and acting upon the thoughts and impressions we had.
I'm also grateful for this curve ball in my mission - being back in Canton. I know that I have been sent back here for a reason. There are many names that already flood into my memory. I know that our Heavenly Father has a perfect plan for all of us. I know he puts us in different circumstances and places for specific reasons to help us grow, learn, and prepare to return to His presence. I love my mission and even more my life. I have been so blessed and these past 20 months have been one of the most enriching experiences in my life. We have a woman who requested a missionary visit earlier this month and we were able to meet her for the first time this last Thursday. Bonnie said that for the past few months, she has felt a weird feeling of warmth and almost a pulling sensation in regards to the Book of Mormon. She hasn't been able to stop thinking about it so she finally decided to act on the promptings and request us via mormon.org. Our meeting was wonderful and as we explained that what she was feeling was the Spirit and were able to teach her why she was feeling that way, it was like the light switch turned on for her. We gave her the Book of Mormon and the next day called us telling us she couldn't get enough of it. She continues to do well and we will be seeing her this week. Our Heavenly Father will guide us and teach us, if we let Him. This I know and am grateful for.
Hope you have a wonderful week and can see the Lord's hand in your life. Pray for me - I never learned to swim in humidity! (this morning at 7:30am, the thermometer read 80 degrees!). I love you all!