Greetings from Mexico, where the “canicula” (the hot, dry summer) has passed and the cold is setting in.
Never have I been busier than these past three weeks. Last week we had almost no time in our area, as everyday we had zone conferences to attend. But the Lord blessed us greatly with success and rich spiritual experiences. I will never forget this last Sunday.
In sacrament meeting, my companion and I were sitting with a part-member family we have been working with. The father is a member, his wife and children are not, but soon will be. (In fact, we had woken them up that morning by serenading them with a special rendition of “Welcome, Welcome Sabbath Morning.”) As is customary in every ward of the Church throughout the world, several people walked in late after the sacrament. As we had been expecting a few people who had not yet arrived, I paid attention to see who it was.
I saw someone enter, but stay next to the door. It was a young woman, about 25 years old, with a little girl. Just one look at her outfit (jeans and a t-shirt) and the nervous, out-of-place look on her face told me that she had never been to church before. She seemed to be looking for someone. Recognizing her as someone in need of help, I nudged my companion and we got up to talk to her.
We introduced ourselves to her and learned that her name was Adriana Perez. As we asked her if someone had invited her, she began to cry. “I’m sorry,” she said, “I don’t know why I’m crying. But I feel something special here.”
She didn’t know why, but we did. So we explained to her that what she was feeling was the Holy Ghost, telling her that she was in the right place. I told her that she was a daughter of a Heavenly Father who loves her and that what she was feeling was that she was at home. I also felt like crying, and I was filled with love for someone who I had never seen before.
A minute later, her friend arrived. His name is Alex Garcia, and he is a recently returned missionary. He is not a member of our ward. In fact, he lives in the other mission. He had met Adriana because she works with his sister. He had invited her to church, but instead of inviting her to his ward, he invited her to the ward where she lives. (He had arrived late because he was with another investigator that he had invited in Juarez, about 45 minutes away.) He sat with her during the services, and set an example of a great fellowshipper—presenting her to the bishop, lending her his scriptures, bringing her daughter to Primary, etc.
Once again we had a great Gospel Principles class. (I love Gospel Principles. The Prophet was truly inspired to make it the course of study for the whole Church for the next two years.) Adriana was attentive and interested throughout all the services. After the last class, we offered to give her a quick tour of the chapel, and she accepted.
When we arrived at the baptismal font, we taught the doctrine of baptism. We explained that through that sacred ordinance she could become pure and clean and enter the path to live with God. As we explained the gift of the Holy Ghost and told her that she could always feel as she had felt that day, she once again began to cry. We bore a simple testimony and invited her to be baptized. She accepted a baptismal date for December 6.
Our experience last Sunday was truly a miracle and a blessing from God, and I learned many lessons. I learned from Alex how to be a good member-missionary, and about the importance of following the order of the Church. (I’m not sure that Adriana would have felt the same at-home feeling in a ward that wasn't hers.) I learned that the Lord is preparing His children, that there are people who are ready and waiting for our message. And I learned for the millionth time that I love missionary work, the happiest work on earth.
I can’t remember if it was in my last letter or in the letter that got erased and I never sent that I talked about how much I learn from President Mendoza. When President Carlson set me apart to be a missionary, he promised me that I’d learn great things from my mission president. (I remember thanks to Mom, who wrote down the blessing that President Carlson gave me.) That promise has been fulfilled many times, but never so much as now that I am able to work with him closely almost on a daily basis.
Being a mission president is probably the most difficult and time-consuming calling in the Church outside of being an Apostle. Yet despite all the work and having to deal with difficult missionaries (and unfortunately, there are quite a few,) President Mendoza is always cheerful and optimistic. Lately, in preparation for Christmas and the end of the year, as well as all of our weekly and monthly chores, we have been very busy. President Mendoza gave me some advice that may seem simple, but really affected me. He said, “hay muchas cosas que hacer, pero hay que hacerlas bien.” (There are a lot of things to do, but one must do them well.) In other words, if I finish all my work, but do a mediocre job, its better to not even do it.
President has also taught us to use every spare minute to do something good. He often says something like “the other day I was driving to Reynosa, and pondering on this or that, and I realized that we should make this change.”
Following his example, I have tried to be more diligent, use my time more effectively, and think more about my experiences. In fact, there are two experiences I had this last week while driving (we drove a lot, visiting all the zones in the city, and all but one in the border.)
We always start our car trips, even if it just to the gas station, with a prayer. But for some reason, we forgot to pray one day last week when we left Matamoros. As you all know, road trips are great but can easily cause stress and crankiness.
During the journey, things got a little tense, and it didn’t help things when we got hopelessly lost in Rio Bravo. I was at the wheel and wasn't feeling very happy. So I pulled over and told my companion that we had to pray. We prayed, asking for the Lord's protection and guidance, and pleading that He would help us to keep His Spirit, our Divine "Third Companion," with us. It was amazing how quickly the atmosphere in the car changed. Elder Olguin and I apologized to each other, and the rest of the journey was spent listening to MoTab (how I love that choir), enjoying the scenery, and talking about great things.
My companion and I have gotten lost a lot lately, and consequently have lost some valuable time. We have had to make several trips to areas to bring materials, make emergency transfers, and the like. One day, it occurred to us to use the Guia Roji, a map book of Monterrey. Our next trip was incredibly easy. We knew exactly where we were going and what streets we had to take to get there.
Life, I think, is a lot like that. When we don't have a map, we are confused, frustrated, and lost. But with the eternal map that God provides through the scriptures and living prophets, it is a whole lot easier to know where we are going and how to get there.
Speaking of prophets, this last week we had the privilege of bringing a third part of the mission to the temple (every other week now one third of the mission goes). I always learn great things in the temple. This time I was greatly impressed by the importance of following the Lord’s true messengers, and only them.
My time us up. I love you all.