What a wonderful week in Venice! As a follow-up to my explanation of the demographics here, I heard this joke this week: "All the old people live in Sarasota. All of their parents live in Venice." And it's so true. The average, and yes, AVERAGE, age in this area is 65. And that's even with the couple of fairly good-sized high schools and all the elementary schools in the area. But I can see why old people retire down here. Since it's right on the coast there's always a nice breeze coming in from off the Gulf. So it keeps a little warmer in the winter, and a little cooler in the summer.
This week has been a week of miracles! The sister missionaries that were here before us had a good-sized teaching pool, but a lot of them dropped off right before we got here. I guess the sisters were really hard on them and were a little too in their faces. But we've got in contact with few of them and things are picking up. We met one of them last night, a lady by the name of Teri. She's older and really good friends with several people in the ward. Last night, we taught her the plan of salvation with her friends from the ward. After the lesson we were able to talk with just her a little bit. She didn't talk really at all during the lesson, so it was a good chance to see what she thought about it. She told us that she has met with a lot of missionaries, but that she has never felt from them what she felt from us as we taught. She said she knew what we taught was true and that it just made so much sense to her. She's a big coffee drinker and knows that she will have to give that up if she wants to get baptized. She also knows that it's a huge decision to make and doesn't quite feel ready to make it yet. But she did say that she will be seeing a lot more of us and seems to be excited to keep learning.
Another miracle this week. There is a lady in the ward, Norma, who got baptized a few years ago. She lives with her daughter, Dolli, who is not a member. When Norma joined the Church, Dolli was extremely hostile towards the missionaries. Over time she has become friendly with the Church, but never would really learn more. We went over Friday to help her do some painting on the outside of her house. She then was willing to have a lesson. We talked about the Restoration and the Book of Mormon. She for the first time accepted a copy of the BoM, and she even came to Relief Society with her mom, neither of which she had done before. We are going back over tomorrow.
The third biggest miracle that happened this week happened with a less-active sister in the ward. When E Leavitt and I first got here, we were told by several people in the ward to go and see her. We stopped by several times. No body ever came to the door. We called her and nobody answered. And then Saturday morning, we get a call from this sister. She said that her life has been a downwards spiral ever since she stopped going to church and that she knew she needed to make some changes, and that they were going to be some very big changes. She told us that she would definitely be at church the next day. And she was, and she stayed the whole time! She has a teenage son who is not a member that she really wants to introduce us to.
When we first got to Venice, the sister missionaries had left us a note saying the the Venice ward had been hurt by elders in the past and wasn't excited to get elders again. The experience that I've had so far has been quite the opposite! Every member of the ward was so excited to have elders again, particularly the men of the ward. There is an excitement for missionary work in the ward that has been missing for a very long time, and the members are starting to become more involved as they see the power and influence of the Spirit in proclaiming the gospel. They're really starting to "catch the wave" :) And as much as they have needed elders in this ward to get the work moving, I have seen just how mindful the Lord is of my own personal needs because of the things I've learned and the people I've met just in my short time here so far.
Have a great week! Love you all.