I'm really enjoying Salem a lot! It's so different from Forest Grove. It's busier and there's a lot more going on but it's still the calmest city I've ever been to. It's the capitol of Oregon so it's a pretty decent sized city but definitely safer than Philly or New York. We live a little north of the city and our apartment complex is gated so we're well protected. Sister Perez and I really want to teach a gang member, though, so we end up approaching a lot of pretty sketchy people. Don't worry, we're safe about it.
It was a good week with a lot of great experiences but there's one experience that really sticks out above the rest. The hardest part of pink washing has been just finding people to teach. The missionaries that were here before us didn't have a lot going on so we've struggled to kind of get things going in this area. One day, as a part of this effort, we were looking through the contacts on our phone to see if there was anyone there that we felt we should call. We decided to call one number listed in our phone as "T_____". As we talked to her, she expressed her complete surprise that we called her. She started crying just telling us how she had been having such a hard time lately and how she couldn't believe people from the church were calling her. We talked to her for a little while until she calmed down and set up an appointment to go see her a couple of days later. We had our first meeting with her last night and she opened up to us a lot. She explained some of the things she's been going through with her family and her sincere desire and need to rely on God to get her through this. She also told us that the day we called, she had decided she didn't want to live anymore and was trying to figure out how to end her life.
It's hard for me to even articulate how humbling that experience was; to sit with her and listen to her and know for a fact that we had been put in the exact right place at the right time by a Heavenly Father who is so mindful of every detail of our lives and loves us so much. Man, things like that just don't happen by coincidence.
We got to speak to her a lot about happiness and hope. There are all different kinds of happiness in the world from all different sources, but the gospel offers us happiness that lasts FOREVER and hope that can never be extinguished regardless of anything that happens. The Atonement is what makes that possible. Jesus Christ suffered the price for our sins as well as the emotional pains and suffering we would experience. I love this scripture from Alma 7:
He knows perfectly the pains and sadness we feel. And He did this because of the overwhelming love He has for each of us and all of us.
God is real and He lives. I have seen and felt the love He has for His children. I've seen miracles and countless tender mercies. I am humbled to be a part of His work. I know it truly is His work because His hand is so clearly present in it every single day.
I love each of you and am grateful for your support and especially your prayers! Have a great week.