This week was great! It went by so fast, but it was great!
Fast Sunday was wonderful. This was the first time that I have done a real, correct fast. Usually I just break my fast as soon as I get home from church and eat a bowl of cereal. I started my fast right before I went to bed and I didn't break it until I said the blessing on my food. I was so proud of myself. You are so much more in tune with the spirit when you fast. That fast Sunday was SO spiritual. The spirit was so strong, that I was emotional all day. I'm usually not emotional on Sundays, let alone fast Sundays. I usually get hungry on fast Sundays, but it was the complete opposite and I am so grateful for that! In our Zone, are Hungarian missionaries. They leave in a week and a half to go on their missions. I love and look up to them all soo much!! Every time one of the Hungarian missionaries got up to bare their testimony I started to cry a little. It is amazing how much you can grow to love some people in such a small amount of time. The theme that I feel that I learned so well this week was repentance, and how each of us needs the atonement in our lives. Elder Holland said "the road to salvation always goes through the Garden of Gethsemane." for Mission Conference Sunday morning a short clip of the savior’s life was shown with the attributes of him. I always feel the spirit when I have watched those videos of Christ before, but it had a new meaning to me when I watched it on Sunday, I got emotional as I watched that. I tried to really personalize the video to just me. When he was hung on the cross all I could think was that he did that for me. And even though I caused Him such unbelievable pain, he still loved me. Even though I am me. I don't want to have made Christ's suffer for me in vain. I need to use the atonement, and to repent of every sin that I make every day. Christ is always there for us with His arm stretched out. He always wants us to feel of his love and to join His fold. An Elder who is going to Finland shared a "parable" I guess you could say about the atonement and how he loves us no matter what. It gave me the goose bumps and I want to share it:
There is jail by a railroad station. Every night at the exact same time this specific prisoner tries to escape; and every time he gets caught. One night, the prisoner attempted his escape again. The guard who was on patrol noticed that he was missing, so he went to the exact same place and found him there. The prisoner was on a train. The guard asked him why he always goes on the train at night as tries to escape even though the guards catch him every night. The prisoner said "I need to know if my family has forgiven me and has accepted me back into the family. I wrote a letter to my family to put a white ribbon a tree in our town so that I know that they have forgiven me and that I will be welcomed back home. I need to see if there is a white ribbon." He then asked the guard if they could please go through his town to see if there is a white ribbon. He told the guard that the train conductor will toot the horn when they are going through his town so they know to start looking. The guard said that he will come with him. As the train took off the prisoner said that they should be looking both east and west so that they don't miss the white ribbon. The guard was looking out the east windows, and the prisoner the west. The conductor tooted the horn. They both started to look for a white ribbon in the trees. The prisoner started to weep and said “I don't see a white ribbon anywhere." The guard told the prisoner to come over to his side of the window and said "my friend there is a white ribbon on every single tree."
That story just gave me the goose bumps. And I realized that we are all like that prisoner. We have all sinned and at times we feel worried that Heavenly Father might not love us for what we have done anymore. But I believe that Heavenly Father does put "a white ribbon" on every single tree, lamp post, anything that he can to let us know that we are always welcome back to the fold and into His arms.
So, I'm pretty sure that I died for about an hour or so on Tuesday evening. Tuesday's are our devotional nights too, and guess who came?!?!?!?!? JEFFREY R. HOLLAND. Oh my word, everyone was so excited! I and my companion sat on the 6th row up; I was in the same room with an Apostle of the Lord. I was so happy and so humbled. It was incredible. He spoke so powerfully and at the same time so lovingly. Something that he said really hit me hard; he said "there is no old you. This is who you are now. You have changed. You have been born again." and I feel like that is so true. Just like you can't be the same person after you have gone through the temple, I know I am not the same person now that I am a missionary. Yes, I'm still a dork and have blonde moments and everything, but never in my life have I had such a desire to do good and to be good. I am not only a disciple of Christ (we all are), but I have been set apart to be a representative of Jesus Christ. I put his name by my heart every morning. Everything I do and say now matters even more so than what it did before I was a missionary. It truly is incredible. That talk was incredible. To be in the same room with an Apostle of the Lord, and to see him weep as he testified of the Lord and how important missionaries are and how important his mission was to him. It was truly humbling. Whenever an apostle comes for the devotionals, we all stand when they come in and they leave, out of respect. As soon as the devotional was over, no one moved. Not a sound could be heard. We all just watched Elder Holland, and when he started to stand, we stood. We all watched him as he left the room, and the room was silent. All I could think of is how it was like Christ coming for the evening. We heard what Heavenly Father wanted us to hear. I didn't want that devotional to end; I could have stayed in that devotional for hours upon hours because the spirit was so strong. We all hung on to his every word, his every smile, his every counsel. Is that not what we would do if Christ walked in the room and counseled us? My heart yearned for Elder Holland to stay, to not leave because you knew and could feel that spirit with us. One of my favorite quotes is "If Shakespeare walked into the room, we would all stand up. If Jesus walked into the room we would all kneel down." It was amazing to have Jeffrey R. Holland here at the MTC; I could feel of Christ's love for me, as I know we all did. It was truly amazing.
Yesterday was quite a day. We were practicing role plays on inviting people to pray. It was in English, but it was in front of the whole class with Brother Carver. Brother Carver was the investigator and an Elder went first for the first role play. We were going to start a second one and Brother Carver asked who would want to do the next one. I suddenly became very interested in my pen on my desk. I avoided eye contact, and then he said "Sister Zollinger, would you do the next role play." If you don't want to be called on You make eye contact people!! haha, it went well though. He gave me a fist bump after as a good job. I said "see, I can teach in Enlgish! Now if only I could do it in Albanian." haha. This language is coming along. It's hard to be patient with myself with this, but I am doing well. Yesterday we had a testimony meeting in Schqip (Albanian). I was able to do it! I did it without looking at any notes or anything, I was so proud of myself. This is by far the hardest and most challenging thing that I have ever done. But, it has also been the most joyous thing that I have ever done. Learning this language is exhausting, challenging, and so fun all at the same time. But, I know that if I do my best that the Lord will help me, and he has been helping me. Compared to the first lesson, I have come a far way, and I still have 6 weeks left! I can't wait until I know that language as well as my teachers.
My district is awesome. The Elders are such great Elders, and my companion is so amazing! I have been blessed far more than I deserve, but I am grateful that he has given me my blessings.
Let's see what else has happened... I think I put the wrong contacts in my eyes yesterday (the right in my left eye, and the left in my right eye). I felt funny all evening because of that, because I didn't feel that I was seeing right. Haha. But, I opened my new box of contacts so it's all good. I get teased now all the time for "spicy" food. If I'm not eating a specific food/or it's half eaten, the elders just look at me and say "is it too spicy" and then they laugh. Haha, my taste buds are crippled when it comes to anything slightly spicy. It's hilarious. :)
This week was amazing! :) I've only had a few blonde moments, hehe. :) Prayer works. He listens and He wants so badly to hear from us. He will answer our prayers, I promise that.
I love you all!!