This was another very special week. I have been shocked, for some reason, that the work hasn't slowed down the entire time I've been here. It has picked up and taken off; I feel like I've been running for the last six months. But I wouldn't change it for anything, especially not this ward or my companion. She and I have grown together so much. She is purely a Christlike example and being able to learn from her has been one of the best experiences of my mission.
It's been a rush of a week! Jayme was finally able to get baptized and confirmed! There were a lot of weird events that popped up and kept it from taking place, but at last Brother Anderson got the priesthood and was able to baptize his wife. We were both so happy we waited until he was ready to baptize her because it made it such a special experience for them and for the ward, and it was indeed a blessing to be able to witness it. She looked so happy. Yesterday, they met with the bishop and this weekend we're planning to go to the Temple with them! And we're taking Amber to the temple this weekend as well. So it's going to be a wonderfully busy week!
Yesterday, at church, I spent a lot time looking around and feeling the spirit as I looked into the faces of these people that I love. I identified all the people that have grown so much since I have met them, people whom the Savior has truly taken and given direction, forgiveness, and mercy to. All of the members in this ward are kind-hearted, and loving, and have treated us so well. Between the two sets of missionaries in this ward, we've had 8 baptisms since I've been here, and that number would feel completely irrelevant, except for that this ward was slowly shrinking, and it needed people who would play a big part in it, and these 8 people have. They each have huge hearts, firm testimonies of the Gospel, and a desire to serve. I watched as Jayme ran after other people's kids even though she has her own to worry about, I watched as Conor passed the sacrament and gave the most heartfelt talk on keeping and living true to your covenants, as Lance passed the sacrament, and several other of these new members received callings.
We had a lesson with Conor this week and we made him pretend he was street contacting us as a missionary and then he would teach us the first lesson. It was awesome. He's so much more prepared than I ever was to serve a mission. But toward the end, we got to talking about his experience, and he said, "In the second lesson, the missionaries invited me to be baptized and that freaked me out. Just for future reference, it really freaks people out when you invite them to do it so early."
We looked at him for a long time, and both of our eyebrows were raised, and we didn't know how to respond, but finally I said,
"Shame on the missionaries for not inviting you to be baptized in the first lesson."
Sister Garner and I laughed and we explained, "Conor, we don't just invite people to be baptized so we can say that we did it and get another member in our congregation. We do it because we love these people. We meet them, and we love them, and we desire that they have the blessings of the gospel in their lives. We want them to learn how to repent, so they can receive true joy. And when they are baptized, only in and through the priesthood, then they can enter into God's presence. And we don't want to keep anyone from God's presence. This is His work, He controls it. All we do is invite people to follow Him."
We were both kind of startled at our words, because I don't think, until this moment, either of us realized what clear desire we have to fulfill our purpose. But I think that's why Sister Garner and I have been able to see so many miracles together. And I hope I don't come across boastful, that truly isn't my intention, I've just been praying my whole mission that my desires would be pure, that I could serve and teach for the right reasons, and it wasn't really until this moment that I realized that I have no other motives but that of bringing others closer to Christ.
This morning, Sister Garner said, "I just don't like when people tell us it's such a great sacrifice to serve as missionaries." I laughed, because I knew exactly where she was coming from. In the beginning, it did feel like a sacrifice, because everything was different. We left the things we love to come to a place that we weren't familiar with. But now it feels like we do so little to receive such great blessings and witness such great miracles, and the amount that we grow and change, and the amount that we see others grow and change, is beyond description, it makes anything else in life, aside from your own loved ones back home, seem trivial.
The most prevalent thought on my mind this week has been about the Savior and His overwhelming friendship. He is my best friend and my brother. Not just mine, He gives anyone His undivided attention and love, anyone who seeks it. He is the ultimate source of truth, light, and comfort. Nobody says it better than Ammon.
35: "There never were men that had so great reason to rejoice as we, since the world began; yea, and my joy is carried away, even unto boasting in my God; for he has all power, all wisdom, and all understanding; he comprehendeth all things, and he is a merciful Being, even unto salvation, to those who will repent and believe on His name."
36: "Now if this is boasting, even so will I boast; for this is my life and my light, my joy and my salvation, and my redemption from everlasting wo. Yea, blessed is the name of my God, who has been mindful of this people...blessed be the name of my God, who has been mindful of us, wanderers in a strange land."
That is exactly how I feel. Oklahoma is a blessed place, one of devoted, faithful people. My time here is quickly coming to and end, and I think I'm in denial, but I am grateful for every second of time I have been given to serve among the people here.
I love you all! I don't think I ever thought I'd live to see the day where I would write, "See you next week!" But I'll see y'all next week. :)