Monday, March 26, 2012

Baptism! And I've been a missionary for 5 months!

This was a good week!  We had more rain, which was an adventure, and also some cool finding experiences.  We've been struggling to find investigators this week, but we added two investigators who were both investigators a couple years back.  One of them has been investigating the church for literally 12 years!  We tracted into her on a day when it was pouring buckets.  It's interesting, because I've seen her teaching record in our archives several times, but I always passed over her and we never went to visit.  Then the other day we were knocking on doors in the pouring rain and we found her!  She was the only person who let us come inside.   It's interesting how the Lord works.  He knew we'd never go and visit this sister because I'd seen her teaching record a bunch of times and never planned on going to talk to her.  So then we knocked on doors in a monsoon for an hour and a half, and found her in that way instead!  And who knows--maybe she wouldn't have let us in if it hadn't been pouring and we didn't look like drowned rats wearing black nametags.  She says she's never been baptized because she's been looking for a sign, and like Sister Camarillo said, "The missionaries have been coming to visit you for 12 years.  That's a sign!"  We'll see how things go with her.  A lot of our other investigators have been sort of fading away and have stopped keeping commitments.  The ones who came to church last week didn't come this week.  It's so frustrating!  To quote The District (those movies we watched before going into the MTC) "Just come to church!!!!"  This morning I was reading in Jesus the Christ, thinking about why these investigators are just not ready to make changes.  I read about the parable in Mark 4:25-29 when Christ describes a sower, who after he plants has to wait for the blade, then the ear, then the harvest.  Every seed that we plant has to grow!  We can't expect to always sow a seed and then harvest the fruit in the same moment.  Some seeds grow faster than others because they've been planted on ground that has been cultivated and well-prepared with experiences and a desire to receive the truth , and others need more time.  So it may be that with some of these investigators, we've sown the seed, and they'll need some time to grow. They've felt the Spirit and they know what they need to do.  So now they have to decide to do it--to nourish the seed that's been planted (Alma 32)!  Like the sower in the parable in Mark, we might rise night and day for many days and not know what will happen to these seeds we've planted, and maybe we'll have to go and work in other areas before these seeds are ready to bring forth fruit and be harvested.  Sunday we had a baptism!  [J and B] were baptized. It's been interesting teaching kids, especially little boys.  They're kind of crazy and sometimes struggled to pay attention in lessons, but they have learned a lot in the past little while.  They were baptized on Sunday, and it was so good to see them starting on a path that will bring them so much happiness.  Their mom just recently started coming back to church, and I know that having her sons in the church will help them to grow in the gospel as a family.  And nobody panicked during the baptism!  That's been a problem with a lot of the little kids in the ward--they're super scared of water!  But everything went well for [B and J].  J's toes came up so we had a redo, but it was fine. He'll remember it better now!   

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Beginning of the transfer!

Update on my health:  I'm good!  I didn't have to go to the doctor or anything, although I had a continuous stomach ache for 8 days.  EIGHT. Blegh.  But I feel better now!  Thank you for checking up on me.  This week was a good week.  It was the end of the transfer.  Sister Camarillo and I will be staying together in Richmond again this transfer, thank goodness!  I still feel like there is a lot of work we need to do here in this specific area.  We've seen lots of miracles this past transfer, and we are expecting to see many more as we work hard this coming transfer.  Highlight of the week for sure was having 5 investigators in sacrament meeting!  We had a whole family come--mom, dad, two little kids--and then one of our investigators that has set aside church in favor of baseball for 3 weeks, but who finally committed and came to church! [J and B], the two kids we're teaching, also came.  What a blessing!  Sister Camarillo and I could barely contain our happiness.  The Lord is so merciful and blesses us so much every day.  Last night we had an awesome first appointment with a brother named [B].  We taught the first lesson and invited him to read the Book of Mormon and pray to receive an answer, and he said, "Claro que si!  Si ustedes me dicen que han recibido una respuesta al leer y orar, yo lo hare tambien, porque quiero una respuesta!" ("Of course!  If you tell me you've received an answer by reading and praying, I'll do it too, because I want an answer!)  Such amazing faith!  I sometimes wonder what would have happened to me if I hadn't grown up with the gospel in my life.  I'm not sure I'd be able to exercise that much faith.  It's more evidence to me that our Heavenly Father knows what we need and knows the things we'll be able to handle in our mortal experience here.  The other highlight of the week lasted the whole week long--rain!  It rained buckets and buckets for about three days straight.  It was crazy! There are lots of hills here so the water was rushing down like rivers everywhere we went.  We went tracting in the rain though! Every day!  We even took a member with us one day!  It's weird how as a missionary, I do things that I would never normally do, like walk around in the freezing rain for an hour... and it makes me happy!  But it's not just walking around!  It's working to find those who are ready to receive the restored gospel of Jesus Christ.  It's amazing how much of a difference it makes when you work with a clear purpose in mind.  I'm really excited for this next transfer.  I feel like every day I'm coming to understand my purpose as a missionary a little better.  Sometimes when I think about what I've been called to do--invite others to come unto Christ--I feel overwhelmed.  But when I think about who's there to help me, and everyone who wants to share the gospel, missionary or not, I feel relief.  The power of the Holy Ghost is truly an amazing thing.  As Derek said, it's astounding to see how much change can occur through the Holy Ghost.

Monday, March 12, 2012

L. Tom Perry came to talk to me!

This week was really good.  I got an AMAZING birthday president.  L. Tom Perry came to talk to me!  Seriously, he did!  Well, to me and all of the missionaries in the mission.  He's going on a tour of California and talking to all of the stake presidents, and on Wednesday he came to Oakland and spoke to our mission and the Santa Rosa (I think) mission.  How cool! He gave an awesome talk on the importance of working closely with members to unify missionary work--one church, one body, one Savior.  So great!  We were really blessed to be able to hear from him and the other speakers.  It was a great opportunity and definitely made me take a look at myself to examine whether or not I'm doing everything I possibly can to be obedient, do the work in the Lord's way, and strive to follow the Spirit.  Best birthday present ever!  We also had exchanges this week!  I love exchanges.  Always a great opportunity to learn and grow and change things up enough to re-assess and refresh the work we're doing in our areas.  Hermana Osborn got to come to Richmond with me for a day, and Hermana Camarillo got to go to San Mateo. Sister Osborn and I had a really good day here and it felt so... normal (!) to be working with her in Richmond again.  On this exchange I learned a lot about being well-prepared to teach to peoples' needs. The only bad thing about exchanges was that my camera randomly broke when we went to take pictures at the Visitor's Center afterward.  Random!  Also sad!   This week has been a lot better as far as investigators and teaching goes. We were blessed with an opportunity to teach two young boys whose mother just recently started coming back to church after 12 or so years of inactivity and wants her children to prepare to be baptized. [They are 11 and 9 years old] [They] are on track to be baptized on March 25th!  It'll be a huge blessing for them as they grow in the gospel together with their mom.  Teaching kids is definitely a different experience than teaching adults, especially when the kids have little to no background in learning about things like the scriptures or prayer.  It's been a good growing experience for me though, and it's helping me to teach the way the gospel is meant to be taught--clearly and simply--so the Spirit can be the real teacher.  This week I've been thinking a lot about how the gospel is meant to help us progress and make changes.  We have a lot of investigators who are reading the Book of Mormon and feeling the Spirit testify to them that it's true, but who aren't applying those feelings to their actions when we invite them to make changes, like to come to church or to live other commandments. It's frustrating!  I'm realizing that this is the big test of life--not just to learn the truth, but to apply the truth and make and KEEP covenants with our Heavenly Father.  I think we all fall short in that area of life--of knowing but hesitating to act on what we know.  There are of course always barriers and temptations that try to keep us from making the changes that are necessary for us to live with Heavenly Father, but those things can be overcome through the Savior.  That principle applies in all aspects of life!  Even as a missionary, when the temptations and barriers I have aren't of the same class as what our investigators face, or as what I faced before my mission, the principle is the same--that through the Savior, I can overcome any barrier that stands in my way. But just knowing that doesn't do us any good--we have to make the choice to use the Atonement, and then do everything we can to follow the Savior with as much exactness as possible.  Anyway, food for thought.  

Monday, March 5, 2012

A really great week

Earthquake this morning at 5:32!  CRAAAAZY.  THis one felt bigger than the last one, for sure.  It woke us up and went on for a little while.  I was SUPER SCARED!  I sat up in bed and hugged my Pillow Pet for comfort.  Nothing happened, so it's ok!  :D  This was a really great week.  We've had a tough transfer so far, but we have been seeing miracles every day, and our investigators are really making some giant steps in their progression in the gospel.  We've been teaching a couple named [E] and [C].  They're so wonderful and we instantly felt close to them.  [E] has been reading the Book of Mormon and he understands it so easily!  It's amazing.  When we first started teaching him, we had a hard time helping him understand the personal relevance of the message of the gospel.  He seemed to just enjoy talking with us more than learning and applying what we were teaching.  But this week we noticed a biggggggg change in him.  We taught [E] and [C]the plan of salvation, and we can tell that [E] knows what we've said is true.  He recognizes the importance of what we've taught, and he knows there are big changes in his future.  He's scared, and for good reason.  He's in his 50s and he's been Catholic his whole life.  For him, and for many people, being Catholic is part of his identity, something that has literally penetrated every aspect of his sense of self, culturally, spiritually, and even politically.  His heart has really softened a lot this week, and I can feel the differences in the way he listens and asks questions.  He wants to follow the truth, even though it will be hard to change his life in so many ways?  I am amazed at the faith that I see in people here.  It's astounding to think about how much faith and trust in the Lord it takes to accept the gospel when it's not something that's been a part of your life before.  We've also been teaching a couple.   They have two young kids and they are outstanding parents. Their kids are super smart and super involved in everything--Shakespeare,football, soccer, science, etc. and their weekends are spent doing extra credit pojects. [They] really want to help their children be successful.  They've been talking with us because they know they've been lacking in teaching their kids about God.  We have high hopes for this family.  Their barrier right now is that they kind of see spirituality as another category that they want to make sure their kids are "successful" in, not as the center of how they guide their lives.  We've seen a lot of changes in them too, as they've felt the Spirit and have recognized some of the importance of relying upon the example of the Savior.  It made me think of how I've grown up.  I was super busy in high school and middle school and in college, and I had lots of activities and programs and volunteer things that were a big part of my life.  The thing that I've always felt is at the center though, even though my education has been so important to me, is the gospel.  The center of our home has always been the gospel as well, and what a blessing that is!  It's true that everything else will eventually fade away, as fun and rewarding and beneficial as it is to be involved in different things like sports and theater and science.  Knowing the gospel is what gives meaning to this life!  When we understand that we have a loving Heavenly Father who has a plan for our eternal progression and happiness, it's so much easier to focus on the things that really matter.  Now go and watch/read "The Things That Matter Most!" by President Uchtdorf! :D  :D  :D