One of my former mission companions and now forever friends visited me this weekend. It was so good for my soul.
Katarina came from Sweden to serve on Temple Square in Salt Lake City with hundreds of other sister missionaries from around the world. Proficiency in varied languages is crucial on Temple Square, since it is a highly trafficked destination for international visitors. Good thing she's fluent in English, Swedish and German, not to mention additionally conversational in Italian, Spanish, Mandarin and ASL. (We'll get back to that ASL.)
At midpoint serving on Temple Square, sisters transfer to a different mission in the States for the door knocking form of finding in missionary work. It's way more effective when people are coming to you with curiosity, but both experiences are meaningful and now cherished. Katarina and I were companions when she came to Texas from the Square.
She's been to the States a few times before and this time came for 40 days visiting former companions around the country. She hit Los Angeles, Seattle, St. George, Salt Lake/Provo, a city in Arizona, Washington, D.C. and is finishing up in New York City. When I asked her if she wanted to see the Mall, which the iconic American memorials line, she said "I want to do what you do" implying she didn't want to be a tourist.
Okay, let's go to The Tombs, then.
The Tombs is a restaurant established by Georgetown University alum just blocks from its campus at 1226 36th St NW. Naturally, it's a hangout for Georgetown students. Think the Max on Saved By the Bell only way cooler. I was first introduced to The Tombs when one of my Jesuit professors offered to host our class there on the final day of our Religion in Latin America course. He called it the "den of iniquity" because it's a favorite bar for students. It was one of those jokes he really meant.:) It was nice of him to host us since he had no department budget for such privileges. I wanted her to get to see what an American university scene was like.
Then she made me envious when she said the Swedish government pays for all university, even masters degrees. I almost ended our plans for the evening reasoning she'd had a cushy enough life, but we already had some friends meeting up with us. I had to save face. On we went.
We talked about the American university sports system since the Georgetown basketball away game flashed on flat screens around us.
We also talked about American food. My dish was dee-lish-us. Lamb ravioli. I'm definitely not a vegetarian. I highly recommend it.
Spending time with Katarina was so good for me. We picked up like we saw each other only yesterday, rather than years ago. Recalling experiences I haven’t thought about for years brought smiles to my face. Here’s one.
Katarina had an assignment on Temple Square to learn American Sign Language to support incoming visitors. Missionaries studying language add 30 minutes to their morning study for its acquisition. I studied ASL at BYU. It was my way of evading another math class since BYU allowed for a language to take place of a math credit for social science majors. However, I wasn’t that proficient. I had classes conducted completely in ASL, but had yet to gain fluency myself. Katarina taught me her gospel vocab and I shared what I could remember.
After some time daily practicing ASL, we saw two people signing in the parking lot of our apartment complex. However, we didn’t take the 40 steps to go over and talk to them. We went on our way. That night, while kneeling for prayer, Katarina said she regretted not talking to the Deaf girl we saw that day. She said she’s been spending all this time studying and we pass up the rare opportunity to invite someone to learn about the Savior’s restored gospel in their own language of ASL. I shared her sentiment. We decided to pray for another opportunity.
For weeks, IN EVERY SINGLE PRAYER, which is a whole lotta prayers as a missionary, we prayed for “another chance with the Deaf girl.” Over and over and over. Again and again and again.
Then BAM. One day, we ran into her again. We didn’t miss our chance this time. We talked with her in a comprehensible way and asked if we could teach her. She agreed. Her boyfriend joined us.
My sign had never been so good as that lesson, neither has it been since. When teaching the “Message of the Restoration” the Spirit heightened my ability to communicate. It flowed more smoothly than I’d ever been able. We invited the couple to Church and they attended where a professional interpreter in our ward made the meetings more accessible to them.
Then they quit opening the door to us, which was unfortunate. Though LDS missionaries are persistent, they still get the hint.
I believe that we can influence God. Jesus taught in the parable of the unjust judge a woman received her request from the unjust judge simply because of her repetition in asking. Then, what of God? He’s a perfect Parent with the best interest of His children at the forefront of His priorities. I know when my nieces ask repeatedly for me to spin them around and around, I cave like a mushy mess because they love it so much. I want them to be safe, happy, well adjusted little ladies and as long as those parameters are met, I’m happy to do as they request of me, especially when they’re so grateful. I’m hardly a pushover, okay sometimes I am. This is how I view God. I believe that though the “Deaf girl” was not interested in being taught, God performed the miracle of opening her heart because of the faith we offered Him, enough to grant us our request. We just wanted another chance to talk to her. We received what we asked and beyond.
May you influence God by the faith you offer in the form of prayer. He will respond to what it is you request as long as it is within His parameters for your safety and eternal happiness. (Doctrine and Covenants 88:2)
Katarina and I attended the Washington, D.C. Temple this weekend for an ordinance session conducted completely in ASL. It’s the third Saturday of each month at 3:45pm. Signing again reminded me to remember, remember that I can influence God with my prayers. He gave us “another chance with the Deaf girl,” He can do other things too.
In what way will you influence God?