I've never been good at not exaggerating. I guess I just rested my case with that statement. But I'll rest it again: I have never been so happy in my entire life.
This week was incredible and I hardly know how to start. Sister Garner and I have been hitting the ground running, and the Lord has blessed us every inch of the way. We have been trying to devote ourselves to the activities that are the "best" use of time. However, sometimes we forget to eat all day and then we have to reevaluate, hahah. But we're both just so excited. There's so much work to do in this area, and the Lord keeps throwing it on our laps!
There are three main things that happened this week that I want to talk about, but that's not even a glimpse of the miracles we saw.
The first was on Tuesday. We had told our investigator Jayme that she and her boyfriend (who's a member of our church) would need to get married before she got baptized if they wanted to continue to live together, and they do, because they've been together for 8 years and they have a daughter together. <--Run-on sentence of the century. So on Tuesday, we went over for our appointment, and they asked us if we could come back later that day. We shifted some plans around to accommodate that, and when we returned, they surprised us and told us they had spent the day ring shopping and getting their marriage license.
Then, on Wednesday, they met with the bishop, and because of extenuating circumstances, we all learned that he planned on marrying them on Sunday! This Sunday! Like, yesterday. So Sister Garner and I had four days to plan a wedding. That was a challenge. Luckily, the ward we serve in is incredible, and they all stepped up and pitched in; especially the relief society. It was such a great display of charity to see people who hardly knew them bring gobs of food and decorations to help set up. Their wedding was very simple, but it was cute. They both wore cowboy boots and their cake was made out of cupcakes. :) Jayme's getting baptized on the 20th! Yay!
The second also happened earlier this week, the Spanish Elders gave us a referral for a girl who had flagged them down and asked them what they were doing and if they could teach her about God. She lived in our area, so they gave us her information and we made her top priority. Her name is Amber, she's barely a year older than me, but she and her boyfriend have 3 kids and have been together for 7 years. She said she had been praying for someone religious to knock on her door and teach her anything about God because she wasn't raised religiously at all, but she has such great faith in Jesus Christ. She said flagging down the Elders was the answer to her prayers (talk about being proactive in receiving answers!)
In our first lesson, we didn't have much time, we barely taught her any restored truths, but we testified of our purpose, and that we wanted to help her gain the relationship with God she was looking for. She was captivated. The spirit was so strong that we said,
"Amber, we want to help you work toward baptism"
"I would love that! I've never been baptized before!"
So the next time we went back, we explained simply the Doctrine of Christ. She knows a lot more than she thinks she does, but we talked about faith and repentance and it answered a lot of her questions. When we started talking about the spirit, and how the spirit talks to us, she said, "Oh, I don't have that."
"How do you feel when we're here?"
"I can't even describe it! I feel warm and happy and peaceful. Honestly, it's the best feeling ever."
"Amber, that's the spirit. And after you're baptized, you can receive the gift of the Holy Ghost, and those feelings won't leave you."
Her jaw nearly dropped to the floor.
The next day, we went back (Yes, 3 times in a row) and she had invited her Sister-in-Law, Italia, to join us. Amber said to her,
"These girls are helping me learn about God just like we've always wanted! And I'm getting baptized on July 11th! You should do it with me!"
"Okay!" said Italia.
Then our jaws nearly dropped to the floor.
Amber helped Italia brush up on everything she had learned so far, and then we taught them both the Restoration and they were both captivated. They said they had both always wondered why there were so many churches and that the Restoration really helped them understand that. Amber said,
"you guys could tell me anything and it wouldn't offend me."
"Amber, the church you're about to join is lead by Jesus Christ"
"Woah. I believe you. I'm excited!!!"
Every time we say something that usually makes people hesitant, she just perks up and gets excited.
"Church is 3 hours long"
"I have 3 hours to give to the Lord every week!"
"We believe in a latter-day prophet"
"I felt the spirit when you said that!"
Then she came to church! She brought two of her own children and two of her nieces, (an 8-year-old, two 3-year olds, and a 1-year old.) and she handled them like a champion. It was kind of awkward because we're in the mission president's ward, and he was sitting right behind us while we practically babysat her kids during Sacrament Meeting. But it all worked out; we even caught him making faces at her baby, Julian. :)
She faces the same issue as Jayme and Timothy, living together with kids and unmarried, but during relief society, she leaned over to me and said, "I told my boyfriend that I want to marry him before I get baptized and he agreed! Will you help me?" "Of course!!!"
A couple weeks ago, I wrote about David and Kimiko, a couple who wanted to get baptized at the end of June, but we lost contact with them! He sleeps days and works nights so it's hard to ever catch them. Earlier this week, one of our appointments got rescheduled, and we had Conor with us, and Sister Garner, who is utterly inspired, said "Let's go see David and Kimiko." We agreed that this would kind of be a last-chance opportunity for them so we could focus on those who are truly receptive, so right as we pulled up, David's car pulled into the parking space. "Hey David! Long time no see, can we come talk to you two for a bit?"
"Sure! Come on in!"
We walked inside and sat on the couch for a few minutes until finally David left. We looked around, confused, and then Kimiko walked out of a dark room, rubbing her eyes. She had just woken up, but she came in and plopped down on the couch and we started talking. Her demeanor changed nearly instantly and she started to share some personal insights about why she felt that God didn't listen to her prayers. Her words nearly had me in tears. We tried to explain God's unceasing love for His children, but no one did a better job than Conor. He sat quietly thumbing through the Bible until he found what he was looking for and then he sat in silence.
"Do you have something you want to share?"
"I really do. Everyone always reads John 3:16, it's every Christian's favorite scripture. But no one ever reads John 3:17: "For God sent not His Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through Him might be saved."
Kimiko started to cry. Conor bore his testimony in overcoming sin and weakness. We bore our testimony of the Holy Ghost's role in all of that; that he's the comforter, and that devoting herself to Him will help her remove all feelings of guilt and shame. She confessed that she still really wants to work toward baptism,, so we re-commited her to it, setting a new date. She was thrilled. She even offered a prayer, one of her first prayers in a long time, and it was humble and simple, but perfect.
Then we left, and Conor made the comment,
"Wasn't it interesting to see her countenance change?"
"What do you mean?"
"Well, when we first got there, she was tired and impatient with her kids, but as we kept talking, she became much more patient and loving, even though her kids were just as rambunctious."
Conor was spot on. This is the most exciting part of missionary work. When you get to see someone change. We see it two ways, we see it gradually over time (watching someone drink and smoke and be mean to really cleaning up physically, emotionally, and spiritually) and we see it immediately, just as Conor described. But either way, it's a testimony to me that drawing nearer to God is the best way to change. It's the only way to truly change for the better. Heavens, I've seen that within myself! Just devoting my time and energy to God had helped me love others, helped me love life, and helped me love myself so much more. Loving God entails keeping His commandments, especially serving others, because that is the source of all happiness. I have been FILLED with His love. I'm full, about to explode. This world is beautiful, the people in it are incredible, and we are all so blessed. Yes, there's some bad in the world, but the miracles and the positive things outweigh the negative ten fold.
This was a theme in church yesterday, even though it was difficult to fully pay attention, it was often said that we all go through phases, no matter what phase of life we're in. But we have to trust that through it all we are improving. Sometimes we trust God more than other times, but no matter how we feel, no matter how far away from Him we feel, the truth never changes, we can always rejoice in our Savior Jesus Christ, even when there's seemingly nothing more to rejoice in.
I know that's true. I know that He lives and that his atonement was infinite, to save us not only from our sins, but from our bad days, our negative thoughts, and our sadness. He is there to succor us and help us understand why we're going through what we're going through.
I love you. Thank you all for the shining lights you are. :)
I know this scripture is well read, but it just rings in my brain every hour of every day,
"Come unto Christ, and be perfected in him, and deny yourselves of all ungodliness; and if ye shall deny yourselves of all ungodliness, and love God...then ye may be perfect in Christ." Moroni 10:32
He's not here to condemn us, but to lead us to perfection. I know that to be true.
In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.
Pictures: Anderson's wedding! Jayme, Timothy, and their daughter Hauna. :)