A Time to Rest

Hermana Ball has been issued an Honorable Medical Release from her full-time mission. She is grieving her release but hopes to recover and return to the field with time. She asks for space and privacy at this time but thanks everyone for their support these past two months.

Building the Kingdom of God

Hello, beautiful people!

Oh man. Wasn’t part of the whole missionary deal that the world wouldn’t change at all while I’m gone? Robin’s home, Cameron’s engaged (4 months on the dot!) and girls 3 grades younger than me are getting their mission calls? I don’t know that I’m totally comfortable with all of this change!

Okay. So. Last Sunday we got a new counselor in the Branch Presidency, Brother Chambers. And by a series of miraculous remembrances we figured out that his son, Scott, was Uncle Brian’s roommate and did the infamous Hanz & Franz skit with him, and knew my parents from the Singles Ward. It was pretty hilarious, Sister Chambers and I were exchanging Stanford 3rd Ward stories like we were actually there; everybody was looking at us like we were crazy.

Everybody leaves for the field tomorrow! Ergo today is P-day and I’m writing you on a Monday. This Wednesday I start my Visitor’s Center training, which will be conducted both here at the MTC and at Temple Square. I’m really excited! I found another Sister is my mission doing VC training, and she said that her friend just got back from our mission and spent about half her time in the Park City Genealogy Center. So that may or may not be the plan for me. That would actually be a huge tender mercy for me in many many ways. Plus I am a BOSS at Family History. So I’m excited to find out what’s in store for me.

This week I started reading the New Testament with everybody in the Utah Salt Lake City South Mission. I’ve loved the Spirit that has accompanied me as I’ve pondered more on our Savior and wondered about my role in the grand scheme of His Gospel. I’ve been thinking about how building the kingdom of God is like building a temple. Christ is the rock of our salvation. He is the chief cornerstone of the gospel. But there are so many other stones required to build a temple of the Lord. There’s a Christian song called “Upon this Rock” that invites each of us to be a disciple of the Lord and build His kingdom. (Side note: Kristin Chenoweth sang this on her last tour and after the concert in Berkeley everybody was saying how it was their favorite song. The religious song. In Berkeley. It was that powerful.) There’s a line in the song that says “If you will give your life away with nothing in return, then you are where my kingdom will begin.” That’s what Christ’s disciples did, and that’s what missionaries do. We give our whole lives to the Lord for 2 years for little or no reward. But we are the beginning of the kingdom of God in the respective areas we are called to. And each missionary is like a brick in the temple. If I were to abandon my call and go home, a portion of the Lord’s kingdom would be unbuilt and there would be a gaping hole in the wall of the temple. The work I’m doing is so important. I am a disciple of the Lord. I have been foreordained to this work. Like Peter, I am a rock that builds the kingdom of the Lord upon the foundation which is Christ. And I will willingly lose my life in the Lord’s work so that others may be blessed.

Let’s see, what else? Oh, I pulled my first MTC semi-prank. I was in the cafeteria talking to the MTC President a few days ago and in the middle of our conversation I turned around, yelled to everybody in the cafeteria that it was President Brown’s birthday, and led the 1000+ people in singing Happy Birthday. It wasn’t his birthday. But now I’m his favorite missionary in the MTC. It was HILARIOUS.

T minus 9 days until I hit the field. Thanks for everything y’all do; you are truly the Lord’s hands!

Yours in Christ,
Hermana Ball

Story of my life: Spanish is awesome.

Hola, todos!

First off, funny story. I was in the gym on the stationary bike, reading my Libro de Mormon, when Hermana Jeromin commented about something on the televisions. So I look up and there is Casey up on the screen. I don’t know how long they’ve been showing that Alex Boye music video but I guess it could be said that Casey has been at the MTC longer than I have! Speaking of which, my official guess for his mission is France Leon. I’m so excited for him to get his call! Missions are THE BEST.

So today is the first day of a new era of missionary work! The young’uns start coming in today in masses. The MTC curriculum is changing, the time schedules are totally different, and the work is truly being hastened! What an exciting time to be a missionary!

We’ve committed both of our MTC investigators to be baptized. Vanesa is a senior in high school, wants to become a teacher, and has a 2-year-old daughter. She has felt the Holy Ghost as we’ve taught her and really desires to have its influence in her life consistently. Which just happens to be a blessing of baptism. She really tries to understand and apply The Book of Mormon and believes that the Lord will bless her as she keeps the commandments. She has a difficult life but knows that God will ease her burdens. Our other investigator’s name is Angel, and he is golden. God has truly prepared him to receive the Gospel. He’s Christian and has studied the Bible his whole life but has felt like all the church he’s been to are too much “de hombres.” His testimony came through The Book of Mormon, which I know will be an anchor for him. If our investigators know how to receive revelation through The Book of Mormon they will be ay-okay when the missionaries are no longer in the area. Anyways, he read it voraciously and loved the stories of Nephi and totally understood how to apply the lessons to himself. So we pretty much just had to hand him The Book of Mormon, teacher him how to receive revelation through prayer, and he gained the testimony for himself. And that’s the way if should be. Missionaries are guides and the Spirit is the personal tutor.

Let’s see: some other things you all might like to know:

  • At night I dream about missionary work. In Spanish. Booyah to the max. I never thought it would happen this soon. I love Spanish so stinking much.
  • I survived the Zombie Apocalypse. Or rather, I’m one of the rare few who didn’t get the intestinal virus that took the MTC by storm on New Year’s Day. Everywhere you looked somebody was puking. In the classroom, in the hallway, in the bathroom, in the bedroom… it really did feel like an apocalypse. There were so many hundreds of people sick that they couldn’t quarantine anybody so they just told everybody to let it run its course. It’s a miracle that I didn’t get sick given the contact I had with everybody who got the virus. Which is a HUGE testimony to me that God knows me and my needs; with other things that have happened during these past couple of weeks, I know that getting the flu would actually have been more than I would have been able to handle. God is so merciful!
  • I finished reading El Libro de Mormon! My purpose this time around was studying the missionary purpose/doctrine of Christ with the desire to gain a testimony of extending the baptismal invitation in the first lesson. Haha, I never thought the day would come but… I got that testimony! Oh, and for the record, the Isaiah chapters are a million times clearer in Spanish. Another reason why I love the language so much.

I want everybody in the world to know that I KNOW that The Book of Mormon is true! I’ve always felt and believed that it was true and have received revelation through it in the past but I never received that life-changing divine witness until I got here in the MTC and started reading it cover-to-cover studying one specific question or topic. I have learned SO MUCH from the Book of Mormon. My questions have been answered, my testimony solidified, and I feel like I’ve been jipping myself for the past 21 years because The Book of Mormon is the REAL DEAL and I never took full advantage of it until now.

This is my last week with my district! Where on earth has the time gone? After that I have a week of training at a nearby visitor’s center (hmm, I wonder where that could be?) and then I’m OUT IN THE FIELD! What the heck? I’m so excited to go out and help heal the world on my mission. Soon I’ll be off in Salt Lake City, helping the whole human race. I know my mission will be something incredible! Dear Heavenly Father: I LOVE my calling! To answer some questions: I will be living here in the MTC for my last week (until like the 22nd or 23rd of January) so DearElders will still get to me. I’m still completely in the dark as to when and where I’ll be using this Visitor’s Center training, but I know that it’s what the Lord has in mind for me and so I cannot wait to get started!

I’m so grateful for you all; I have seen many tender mercies in the last week or so that have come because so many of YOU paid attention to the promptings of the Spirit. You inspire me so much and I’m sending love beams to each and every one of you.

Love and light to you all!
Hermana Ball
HermanaBall.com

Reflections on a White Christmas

Hello, lovely people!

I had a most wonderful Christmas and my heart is so full of joy and gratitude. First of all, thank you to the Ball/Call family and to EVERYONE in the Lawrence Station Ward for the magnificent Christmas banners and cards. It’s quite astonishing to be loved and cared for by people I barely know or don’t know at all. Thank you so much for your love and kindness, and God bless you!

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Christmas morning with all of our holiday decorations. Shout-outs to the Ball/Call family
and to the Lawrence Station Ward!

Elder Russell M Nelson spoke to us on Christmas morning! What a treat! He bore testimony to us of the wonderful gift that, as missionaries, we have to share with the world. It was so powerful. He also chastened us a little bit for the rumors that always seem to breed at the MTC. Stuff like which countries will be opening soon and who will be the last prophet and speculation as to the cause of the missionary age change. Ridiculous things. But he told us to be rumor stoppers instead of rumor spreaders, and I think that goes for everyone. I know he is an Apostle of the Lord and I’m so grateful he took the time to speak with us to Christmas. I got to sing in the choir for that devotional, and we did some wonderful songs I’ve never heard before.

We had a missionary talent show, which was fun to watch. The LDS painter Greg Olsen gave us a fireside, which was AWESOME. I have a renewed respect for the symbolism within paintings. And we got to watch “It’s A Wonderful Life” last night! Mom, I apologize for thinking that I hated that movie and for never wanting to watch it; it’s awesome! Jimmy Stewart is an awesome actor and the movie sucked me in so much that I forgot where I was. Love it, love, it, love it.

My favorite part of Christmas, though, was seeing the love and charity of so many missionaries when we found out that one of my friends did not receive any Christmas presents. He doesn’t have his family’s support as a missionary. Anyways, my heart was so filled with joy and gladness in seeing so many missionaries pitch in and collect presents to give to him. Some even gave their favorite presents. It was such an absolute delight to wrap these gifts for him–I was overwhelmed with the goodness of so many people who had never even met him. I will always be grateful to the Lord for the opportunity to participate in a small act of service and for everybody who did the same. That experience made yesterday hands-down the best Christmas I’ve ever had (no offense, Mom and Dad!)

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Christmas afternoon: Hermana Hansen and I preparing to open our presents.

I also had the opportunity to study the Christmas Story in a new way, with the question of “why is it important to know this? Why is this story in the gospels of Matthew and Luke? Why do we care about the shepherds and what are we supposed to understand about the gifts that the wise men brought? What is the significance of the star?” I learned SO much, particularly about my role as a missionary as a witness to the world of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. I received specific, personal instruction from the Spirit by studying this story with the question of “why?”. If any of you would like to continue on with the Christmas Spirit and increase your testimony of our Savior, I’d invite you to do the same. I know that, if you do, you can be blessed with personal instruction through the Holy Spirit.

Well, I’m grateful for our Savior and for His wonderful example to us. I know I quote song lyrics all the time, but one song has been on my mind and has really spoken to me in recent days. It’s in last song from the play (not a musical: a play) “War Horse”:

Only the truth that in life we have spoken,
only the seeds that in life we have sown.
These will pass onward as we are forgotten:
Only remembered for what we have done.

Our Savior was the perfect example of goods words and charity. EVERYTHING He did was for the benefit of others. He was kind and spoke truth and blessed everybody He met. And most importantly, He suffered the Atonement for us. And this is what we remember Him by. Similarly, we will be remembered for what we do in this life. It is our time of probation. So what will we do with our time? Will we follow the example of our Savior by speaking truth and sowing seeds? Will we bless others’ lives? I think we need to consider why we do everything we do and the purposes by which we life our life. Let’s seek to serve others more and bless the lives of everyone we meet. Let’s be more like our Savior, whose birth we got to celebrate yesterday. I love Him and am so grateful to testify of Him on my mission.

Thank you all for everything you are and for everything you strive to be. May God bless you with love and light!

Yours in Christ,
Hermana Ball
hermanaball.com

Merry Christmas!

Hola, mis amigos amados!

Espero que cada uno de ustedes tengan una Feliz Navidad. Estoy muy agradecida para ser una misionera. Qué grande bendición que tengo de poder celebrarla como representate de él que nació esta día–nuestro Salvador!

On Christmas we celebrate the most precious gift of all–the gift of our Savior, Jesus Christ, who atoned for all of our sins. I am so so grateful for this gift; if it weren’t for Him, there would be no hope for us to return to live with our Heavenly Father and therefore no reason for us to be here on earth. Everything that I am learning here and everything I will be teaching goes back to the Atonement. Because of our fallen state as individuals, which we can’t overcome on our own to meet the demands of justice, there had to be an infinite and atoning sacrifice for our souls. Christ was the only one who could have done this for us. He was a god by nature. He was perfect. But He had His own agency: the ability to choose whether He would follow the will of His Heavenly Father. I’m so grateful that He did. I’m so grateful that He suffered all temptations and sorrows and afflictions in His own life in addition to praying for all of my trials and sicknesses and sorrows as well as my sins. Without Him, there would be no hope for me.

I have been saved by the Lord’s grace. Of this there is no question. But I have also been changed by His grace. Through the Atonement I have become a much better person than I could possibly become on my own. I have been helped to overcome temptations which have so easily beset me; I have been given the spiritual gift of charity; I have been given the gift of tongues; and I have been given the ability to change other peoples’ lives as a missionary. I know that this is one of the purposes of the Atonement is to help us better ourselves. It’s not enough to get by in this life; that’s not our purpose here. We’re required to learn and progress and become more like our Heavenly Father, and I’m so grateful that Jesus Christ made this possible. I am so grateful for the gift which I have to share: that of the restored gospel. The only thing better than receiving it is giving it. It has truly brought so much joy into my life and I want to spend the rest of my existence on this earth sharing it with others. I know without a shadow of a doubt that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is TRUE and that Jesus Christ’s gospel has been restored to the earth in its fullness. What I blessing it is to live in such a time as this!

One of my favorite Christmas carols, “In the Bleak Midwinter,” there’s a verse that goes like this:

What can I give Him, poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd I would give a lamb.
If I were a wiseman I would do my part,
But what I have I’ll give Him: give my heart.

This is exactly what I want to do this Christmas: tell the Savior “This is my heart. It’s yours; I’m not protecting it anymore.” I’ve decided to turn over to Him the things that I’ve been holding back or keeping for myself, the things that are preventing me from being a missionary every second of the day. I am not here for myself. I am here for the Savior because He gave His life to me. I am on my mission for the same reason we celebrate Christmas. And I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t true or if I hadn’t seen it work miracles in my life. Thank you all for your wonderful examples. Take time to serve somebody in a significant way today. I love you all and Jesus does, too!

Espero que sea una Navidad muy especial e inolvidable para Ustedes!

Hermana Ball

Have yourselves a merry little Christmas!

Hola, todos! Merry Christmas! Provo is completely blanketed with snow and it’s gorgeous! I’m grateful to be a missionary during this special season and to be the Lord’s hands in a world that needs His love. I have no idea what our schedule is like for Christmas, besides the fact that an Apostle of the Lord will be speaking to us in the morning, which will be AWESOME. I’m so stoked! I love being a missionary and I love the MTC. Life is so amazing!

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It’s Christmas-time at the MTC!

Let’s see… what happened this week that would be interesting to you? Hermano Heap, one of our beloved teachers, is no longer with us. Meaning that he took a job in LA. We miss him and his soft-spoken hilariousness but we’re in good hands being taught by Hermano Bailey (who played our first investigator, Christian). Also, we took our first Language Speaking Assessment… my scores came back… and according to the grading scale, I’m fully fluent in Spanish. Ha! Just wait until I have to use non-gospel-related vocabulary. I got nothin’.

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Our district with Hermano Heap! I love all of these people so much!

This Sunday was a really really REALLY great day! The Spirit spoke to me in really strong, personal ways the whole day and it was AWESOME. First off, we got to watch part of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir Christmas concert. For anybody who went to it or saw it on Music and the Spoken Word: was that not the BEST concert ever? Oh my goodness, I was so touched during the story of “Hal” Halverson, the “Chocolate Bomber” in post-WWII Germany. The Spirit was so strong and really testified to me that the Lord works mighty miracles through small and simple means. Hal changed the world, and it all started with two sticks of gum. I felt so humbled by this. I’m not big and powerful and talented; I’m just plain old Hermana Ball. And yet God has called me to do a huge work (my mission) that is wayyyy bigger than me. But I know that as I follow the promptings of the Spirit to do small and simple things, the Lord will guide me and help me to change the world.

Also on Sunday Sister Elaine Dalton, the Young Women’s General President, spoke to the Sisters during Relief Society, and the Spirit taught me so many sacred, personal things. My eyes are slowly being opened with regards to the work that the Lord has for me to do in my life, and I want to always qualify myself for that inspiration and direction. I know with all my heart that one virtuous woman, led by the Spirit, can change the world, and that is exactly what I want to do.

Life is so good right now. Our teaching is improving, our investigators are progressing, and every day I’m coming closer to Christ. I’m trying to make a significant difference in the lives of the people around me in the MTC because my purpose is to “invite others to come unto Christ” and that includes other missionaries. As I do this, I can feel the love of the Savior in me, and it is AWESOME.

Gracias to Patti Evans for all of your stories and letters! Our zone is praying for your mother! And thanks to everybody who has sent me Christmas cards! You are the coolest! Go Niners, go Warriors, and go to BYU Jabari. Merry Christmas, everyone! Go serve someone in a significant way today!

Love and light,
Hermana Ball
HermanaBall.com

Teaching and Being Taught to Understand

“If I tell you, you’ll forget; if I show you, you’ll remember; if I let you do it; you’ll understand” — Confucius

Hello, wonderful people! Happy bodacious bonza bottler day! (Look it up. If one of the Elders isn’t pulling my leg, it’s a real holiday.)

I can’t believe I’ve been a missionary for a whole month! It’s exciting to see how much I’ve grown in just 4 weeks but also a teensy bit depressing to know that I only have 17 months left. I never want my mission to end! And I haven’t even started the REAL work yet!

TO clear up some confusion about our “investigators,” they ARE played but MTC teachers, but are real people they taught on their missions who progressed but were never baptized. During “Demonstrate Teaching” (when a teacher demonstrates a full-length lesson) or “Practice Teaching” (when we give a lesson to another missionary) I’ve played people I know from back home. Hope that makes sense.

So. The above quote by Confucius sums up my week in multiple ways. I was starting to get distressed early in the week because I wasn’t feeling the Spirit lifting me to a higher plane of being like I have the first 3 weeks here. Having tons of love and empathy for others wasn’t a natural, easy thing anymore. I wasn’t hit over the head with the principles of our activities here in the MTC; rather I was focusing on the applications. I didn’t have the bird’s-eye perspective that I did before. Add overall the Spirit just felt dimmed. And I was stressed out because I didn’t know what I was doing wrong. I was giving every ounce of effort 100% of the time, using my time wisely, and really striving to come closer to the Lord. So what happened? Why don’t I feel the Spirit guiding my every step? After a lot of studying, pleading with the Lord, and a few tears, a principle of God’s manner of teaching was brought to my remembrance:

Before we came to this earth we lived with God. He taught us everything. We knew His gospel and we loved it. But then He sent us down to earth (and we accepted this plan), saying “Okay, show me how it’s done. I want you to learn and grow and become as I am, but you have to do it for yourself.” So we were born with a veil of forgetfulness of our past life with Him, and we’re here to walk by faith. He will help us, but we have to experience it ourselves.

God operates by the same principle with us as we learn and grow here. As we decide we want to become more like Him, He sends us His Spirit to bring us a few steps closer to God. It shows us what we need to do. And then when we “get it” God removes that extra measure of the Spirit and says “Okay, show me how it’s done. I want you to learn and grow and become as I am, but you have to do it for yourself.” That doesn’t mean that He won’t help us, but He doesn’t use us as puppets. That’s the opposite of agency. When we do take that step and bring ourselves to the level the Spirit showed to us, the whole process starts again, and we keep climbing the stairway to Heaven, one step at a time.

So now I have to learn the principles of charity, perspective, etc. for myself. That requires a ton of effort. I have to work for it and work for the Spirit. But I know that it is so worth it and that through the Atonement I can do it.

On a completely different note, I’ve been pondering a lot of what I can do to help investigators cross the bridge from knowledge to understanding, from “getting it” in their head to “getting it” in their heart, from testimony to conversion. And I think that quote from Confucius really applies here, too. I don’t want them to remember; I want them to understand. Our teacher, Hermana Thomas, really gets teaching for understanding. She truly is the best teacher I’ve ever had in school, church, or anywhere. When we have a question, she guides us to figure it out for ourselves and then teach it back to her. She’s amazing at helping us liken scriptures, principles, or the missionary fundamentals to ourselves and our situations, and this manner of teaching is 10x more effective. She’s a wonderful example of how I need to teach investigators, and I’m striving to apply teaching for understanding in our lessons.

So yup. Life is good here. It snowed Saturday and Sunday so it’s really pretty. I’m getting to the point with the language where I can have a conversation with someone and then a minute later not remember if it was in Spanish or English. The BYU Men’s Chorus performed for us on Sunday, which was tons of fun. And yup, I’m still drinking barley grass juice, still singing Scripture Mastery songs (holler, Sister Carter!) and still ragging on Casey in my sleep. So maybe nothing has changed after all.

Thanks for all your Christmas cards! I love seeing your families and am so immensely grateful for your thoughts! I love every single one of you so much and pray for you all! Go serve somebody today!

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All of the Hermanas in Zone 44. I’m a little worried that I don’t have enough personality.

XO Hermana Ball
hermanball.com