Elder Steed, Me, Leigh, Sister Gonzalez
Surprise! We had our first baptism yesterday. Didn't see it coming? Us either. She wasn't even on our progress record last week... So... Leigh is twenty years old. We started teaching her when I got here because she had shown up to church on her own and wanted to learn more. This girl KNOWS her Bible and admitted that she was only meeting with us to try to disprove us. So,naturally, we kept meeting with her. We taught her a lesson or two my first week and she texted us and told us that she wasn't interested in meeting with us anymore. This was the same girl that said, "Actually, I'm going clubbing right now..." Hahah. So we let her cool off. We didn't meet with her for a bit.
And then we felt like we should talk to her again so we tried to track her down but couldn't. Finally, she texted us and told us she had questions so we met up with her. Turns out, she was super depressed and lonely and wanted to keep learning more. I felt such a connection to her from the very beginning, but to see her talk about how she felt like she had reached the point of no return and she felt like her identity had been compromised, it proved to me that God really does put people in our paths that he knows we will be able to help. She and I had a lot in common. We met up with her and taught her another lesson and she knew it was true. She agreed to be baptized on the 26th. She even came out with us a few times to teach lessons to other investigators.
So on Friday, we were weekly planning and we started joking around saying, "we should just move her baptism up. She's so ready!" But then we started thinking... "Wait. That actually makes a lot of sense." So we met up with her again. She told us that she had broken up with her boyfriend because he wasn't respecting her new beliefs. And she had started dressing more modestly because her other clothes were making her uncomfortable. You could see a noticeable, fast change in this girl. We asked her if she wanted to be baptized on the 19th. She said she would be out of town so I accidentally blurted out, "what about this Sunday?!".
Well. If you've ever planned a baptism, which I hadn't, you don't realize that it takes quite a bit of preparation to plan a baptism. But she was excited! She was ready! So we just committed to it and got permission from the Mission President and she was baptized after church on Sunday. It was such a remarkable experience. You could see the light of Christ in her eyes. This beautiful girl thought that she was worthless and then found her identity as a daughter of God in an instant. I don't mean to be so corny, but I've never seen such a dramatic difference in anyone. It was such a blessing to see her overcome weaknesses.
After the baptism, we went to a members home for dinner and Leigh showed up with two of her friends. She said, "this is Abby and Kate and they want to learn more". Mind you, she had only been a member for like 4 hours, so how's THAT for "every member a missionary"?! We started teaching them and answering their questions and one of them, by the end of our lesson, had asked to go to Girl's Camp and the other one said she knew what we were saying was true. We'll keep meeting with them but I have a really good feeling about all of this. So we're seeing miracles here in Wichita Falls!!!
Although, you know you're doing something wrong when one of your investigators texts you on Sunday night and says "Sorry I didn't make it to church but I'm stopping by Wal Mart right now if you girls need anything." Aww geesh, hahah.
Things I probably shouldn't write home about so that y'all don't freak out but I'm going to anyway: Let me tell you what's brewing in Texas. Yesterday, it was 100 degrees. I can prove it. I took a picture of our thermometer. Today, it is 44 degrees. We went from wearing t-shirts to wearing huge coats. I'm calling a tornado soon. Also, this just in. We just learned that someone we just barely met and invited to church stabbed somebody. So we're going to go ahead and not meet with him anymore. This world is... Horrifying.
On a much, much lighter note, here are some things that really stuck out to me this week: The church and the gospel are not the same. The church is just the vehicle that helps us live the gospel. So just if we go to church every Sunday, that does not mean we are living the Gospel. It may not even mean we understand the gospel. My testimony increases every time someone mentions that something, "makes sense" when we describe it. That is the very foundation of this religion, it is entirely cohesive, It is a religion of order because God is a God of order. So while they may be separate, the church and the gospel, we have the responsibility of not only going to church, but of living the doctrine that Christ taught, having faith in all He was, is, and does for us, continually seeing the good in people and doing what we can to love and serve them, and enduring, truly enduring by continually learning, growing, and strengthening our testimonies of him and his attributes.
I know with all of my heart that there is an answer available to all who get on their knees and ask. We can know why something happened, we can understand something we don't get, we can know what we're supposed to do. If we're sincere enough, God loves us enough to tell us anything. I don't think I really believed that God loved me before my mission. But being able to look at somebody else and feel the love God has for them really proves to me that he knows us individually. He knows all of you. He cares about you. He does what he does for a reason. And if you don't understand why, you're allowed to ask. But I can promise you, it's because you're supposed to be learning something. At least that's what he's been telling me. I love you all. I appreciate every single person who has helped me in my life, who has shown me the love of God through their actions, which is all of you.
I love you.