Friday, April 23, 2010

Friday, April 16, 2010 -- Rain and Blessings

It´s been a rainy week here in Monterrey. I've enjoyed it. Sometimes it seems like the rain is perfectly timed to rain only after 9:00 at night or before 11:00 in the morning so as not to affect the missionaries.

I love the sight and sound of rain so much that I have been doing my personal stuying outside, kept dry under a roof. Rain makes me think about a lot of things, especially the Primary song that says,

I like to look for rainbows
Whenever there is rain,
And ponder on the beauty
Of an earth made clean again.
I want my life to be as clean
As earth right after rain . . . .

The work never ceases. Both in the offices and in the area things are marching well. (Can I use the word "march" like that? I'm not sure if it has the same meaning as the Spanish word marchar.)

It seems like in addition to the water falling from the sky, this week has brought with it an outpouring of blessings.

Last Sunday night our ward had the second in a series of activities that we have planned. (The first was the sporting event that I wasn't able to attend because of the zone council.) Sunday was the event that I was most excited about, partially because I had the initial idea (which was improved upon by the ideas of my companions and the ward leaders.) It was a "conversion fireside." I love hearing conversion stories, they always bring the Spirit and always encourage me to be better and do more in missionary work, so we planned a night in which several people would share their conversion stories.

This was the program:
  • Opening Hymn: Called to Serve (I played the piano)
  • Prayer
  • Nancy Cabello shared her conversion story (she was baptized about eight years ago, but became inactive soon afterwards--until about two months ago when the missionaries found her and baptized her Mom)
  • Elder Crisostomo shared his conversion story (he has been a member for three years and a missionary for almost two years. His parents were sealed while he was in the mission field. His is an incredible story.)
  • I gave a short talk sharing three conversion stories, including that of [my pioneer ancestor] Ann Jewell Rowley, showing that you can't measure the results of one person's conversion
  • The Bishop shared a few words
  • We finished with a movie called "By Small and Simple Things" about member-missionary work
  • Closing Hymn: "Because I Have been Given Much"

In terms of attendance, unfortunately it wasn't the best of activites. But for those who attended, it was a spiritual feast. I was very much edified, and I could tell that the members were reminded of their own conversion, and became more excited to share the gospel with their friends.

This past week I had one of the most spiritual experiences of my mission. As you know, I had already had several testimony-strengthening experiences with fasting, such as with Angelica Montagut or Jorge Montoya, or recieving my own personal guidance. This week my testimony was strengthened even more.

President Mendoza has suggested that in April and October the missionaries should fast the first Sunday of the month instead of waiting for the second week as do most members. (The reason is that, as we are sitting in the church durring that time it will be easier than when we fast while working all day in the area.) My companions and I followed his advice and fasted during General Conference weekend.

Last Saturday we went to visit a person named Elsa Gaytan, who has been taught by many sets of missionaires. When we went to teach her, it was clear that she was one of the Lord's prepared children. Although it has been some time since the missionaries last visited her, she was still reading the Book of Mormon on her own.

As we taught her, I asked myself why she had not yet been baptized, but the answer became clear when we invited her to church. First, she asked if she could attend a different buidling [referring to a nearby meetinghouse other than the one used by the ward in which she lived]. We explained the order of the Church, and she understood.

She then told us that she had attended our ward, many years ago, but that there was a sister in our ward with whom she had had a disagreement, and the sister had declared that one of them had to stop attending, because they couldn't both do it. She had written a letter to that sister asking for forgiveness, but the sister didn't even accept reading it.

As I listened to her problem, I distinctly heard a phrase in my mind that I had studied in Preach My Gospel that morning: "Great blessings are available to those who obey God's commandment to fast." And so I did something that we hadn't planned on doing, something that I had not talked to my companions about beforehand. I pulled out my Bible and turned to Matthew 17:21 and begain to explain the principle of fasting.

That very moment my companions and I began a fast. At the end of the lesson we knelt down with her and offered our prayer to begin our fast.

The next day, we awaited anxiously in church, but Elsa never arrived. But we didn't lose hope. Knowing that faith without works is dead, we decided to act, and after our services we decided to talk to the sister [with whom Elsa had a conflict]. Her answer greatly surprised me. She said, "Elders, this is Jesus Christ's Church, not mine. I can't say who can come and who can't. If she wants to come, that's great, and I won't do anything. Just don't ask me to sit by her."

It may not sound like much, but knowing the situtation, it was huge. And it was an answer to our fast. Later that same day we visted Elsa to give her the news. She was overjoyed. Yesterday, in a lesson which we planned especially for her, we challeneged her to be baptized. She happily accepted, saying only that she had to make sure that it was all right with her husband first.

Without a doubt, there are great blessings available to those who fast. Problems that seem unsolvable can be solved with faith the size of a mustard seed shown by a true fast.

Last night we went to visit Nancy Cabello and her husband, Jonathan (he's the one who was a Catholic missionary.) We had planned a lesson for him in which we were going to challenge him to be baptized, but we were nervous.

In our companionship study that day, we had thought about all the possible answers he could give. "But my mom would never talk to me again if I were to become a Mormon" or "are you kidding me, I'm a catholic missionary and you want me to get baptized in your church?" Elder Dudley said, "and what if he just says ´yes?´" We all laughed, thinking that that was impossible.

We began our lesson by verifying if he had read his assigned reading, 3 Nephi 11. He had. We used it as a platform to talk about the gospel of Jesus Christ. When it came time to challenge him, it was Elder Dudley's turn. When he asked the question "Will you be baptized?" Jonathan said, "yes." No objections, no doubts, just "yes." I was amazed.

We congratulated him on his desire and explained that this decision was the first step to an eternal family. And we finished our lesson talking about eternal families. As we did so, his wife, Nancy, looked at him with a look of such love and hope. I think that she was imagining the two of them and their young daughter in the temple, being sealed for time and all eternity. As the second principle of the first lesson in chapter 3 of Preach My Gospel says, "The Gospel Blesses Families."

I love missionary work.

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