Well I know that the day that I am about to describe will be hard to convey over email, and I know that only feeling what I felt for myself can truly allow one to have been impacted in the way that I was. First of all, the first part of my mission I was really into saying well I know that I will come home the same person that I left, just like a more spiritual version. But, after last Saturday, I know that is a complete lie, because that is not God´s plan. If I go home the same person that I was 2 years earlier, I have failed, I have failed to let the mission have the effect on me that God intended. We teach everyday how Christ can change the lives of every person that we meet, but the question sometimes is, is if we really let Him do that for us? After this day, I know that He can, and I know that He will if I, if we, just open our hearts and let Him do it, let Him in. I love my Savior Jesus Christ, I know that He lives, and I know that he can save and help us. I came to understand Him so much more, and that understanding is what changes our lives. Elder Penrod and I have both been thoroughly convinced that we may never have such a spiritually exhausting, testimony building or heartbreaking day as last Saturday. Sorry if after that big build up its not that cool of an experience for those reading, as I said it was a day of personal growth, but I will share pretty much all of my email from that day.
So, Saturday was the much awaited baptism of America and her daughters Alexa and Zoe. When I got to this area, Elder Penrod had just told me that pretty much all of the really good investigators that they had had just been baptized so we were kind of starting from ground zero. Our first week here we contacted America in the street and she received us immediately. These las 2 months we have grown to love this family so much! Finally, the date that they had set for their baptisms came. Friday we spent all evening with them in their baptismal interviews and everything to get them ready (which was a fiasco and a whole other story by itself). But, everything seemed so ready for Saturday, Alexa chose me to baptize her, and Zoe chose Elder Penrod and America had chosen President Mecham who had done her interview. We were so excited for the most spiritual baptism ever.
Then, on Saturday we went to go pick them up to all go to the baptism together. America was already in her white dress and everything, and seemed nervous and excited, Elder Penrod and I just couldn’t stop smiling. That is until she said that she needed to talk to us and she sat us down. That’s when Adan, her husband came out. He has listened to us since the beginning, but he is what we call a Buddy Investigator, that he just kind of likes to be our friends, he listens to us, but he isn’t super excited to change his life to put it in line with Gods teachings which is the reason that we were moving forward with just the baptisms of the rest of his family. He just said, ´´Well, Elders. I have bad news. My daughters aren´t going to be getting baptized today. ´´
He went on to explain to us that at the last moment some figure from the Catholic church had called with him (and by last minute, I mean just hours before we got there) and had just really messed with Adan about how the church was going to view him, and his family, and just a bunch of stuff about that. The real rotten thing (in my opinion) is that not at one point was anything mentioned, like hey if this is the right church and they change, they might set themselves up for some bad stuff. No, it was just all political, and it just messed with his head. We couldn’t even believe what we were hearing, I think we literally went into shock. The daughters came out just absolutely bawling and started begging their dad, then he started to cry too and just told us how confused he was. Well, thirty minutes of talking and we got nowhere, the decision had been made, only America was going to be getting baptized.
When we got to the church, Elder Penrod and I went off to a separate room and I was able to say one of the most powerful prayers that I have said in my entire life. Something that I have loved learning about prayer, is that just like a blessing it can be guided by the spirit and that’s just what happened. I started to pray asking God to please soften Adan’s heart so that the daughters could get baptized. But as I prayed and I felt the tears start to come on, I felt the words just come out of my mouth, ´´But, Heavenly Father, if it be not Thy will that these precious daughter be baptized today, we ask Thee to make this a spiritual experience for every person in attendance.´´ Elder Penrod and I got up, and hugged, still so sad for the decision that Adan had made, just sad because of how much we love those girls and want the best for them, but with a strength that I cannot describe that came from knowing that whatever happened it was God´s will.
The baptismal service was incredible. I cannot even describe the Spirit that was felt there. The first speaker was a member of the Stake High Council, and the second speaker was a recent convert. There was a special moment in each talk where the speaker looked up from their paper, and literally started to say things meant especially for this family that they could not have known that they needed. The second speaker even tried to apologize to us afterwards, because she didn’t even realize that the Holy Spirit had taken over to guide her words.
After the talks it was finally time to be baptized for America. She and President Mecham went down into the font. President Mecham gave the prayer, and it seemed as though he may have been starting to choke up from emotion as he did it. Afterwards we went out into the hall to congratulate them, and President Mecham told us, this is such a special hermana, such a special family, it will all happen, don’t worry elders. Then we asked the hermana America if she wanted to share her testimony with everyone (before she had told us that she would never ever do that because she hates public speaking) but we had recieved an impression from the Holy Ghost that we HAD to ask her. So, we did and she said yes.
That was the crowning moment of the baptism that this Hermana stood up in front of a room filled of members and non-members alike and testified of the truthfulness of everything she had experienced. She shared a powerful testimony of how she knows she will see her recently passed away again, how she wants nothing more than for her daughters to grow up in this path, and how she just felt like a new person. She had been looking for this for so long, and finally had found it. There was not a dry eye in the entire room. Elder Penrod and I were outright bawling because the spirit was so strongly present to testify of what this daughter of God was telling us. She single handedly invited a spirit so strong that three of our investigators in that moment got the answer to their prayers and decided that they too needed to be baptized.
That was the moment that changed my life. I know that prayer I had offered had been answered. Even though my heart had literally broken to see Alexa´s and Zoe´s faces when their dad told them they couldn’t be baptized. Even though we have been working so hard here without a lot of success. Even though I personally have been working for so long, with a lot of heartache and hard times with sometimes little success. Even with all of that, in 5 minutes, the Spirit testified to me that just with America my whole mission was a success. It was all worth it. I learned in that moment something that I have always known but I guess never completely understood. The why of missionary work. America had the door opened to her not just for a better life here on Earth, not just for some blessings, but she truly had the door to heaven itself opened that day. She is a changed person with a glow, with a light in her eyes that has no other source than from God. I was shocked to the core to finally feel for myself the promise that the Lord gave is a true one, O how great will be our joy if we labor ALL of our days and bring just one soul unto our Father. I know that God loves her as he loves us, and was so happy that day. I know that this is the most important work on the planet. This isn’t just getting to know people, or teaching some cool stories from a little blue book. This is a question of eternity. I have never loved a family as I have loved the Olivares Puebla family, and I am so grateful that God has blessed me to be able to feel just a fraction of the love that he has for them, and for all of us. I know that He wants what is best for us, and that in His time and His way all things will come to pass as he desires. I know that the hermana made a decision that has changed her life, and mine as well because after that we both came to know Jesus a lot more than before. I have started to understand just a little more of the price that he paid for every single one of us, for the love that He has for each one of us, and the immense joy that we and He can feel when we accept. There is no other way. I hope that these things are on everyone’s hearts and minds this Easter week. I know these things with all my heart and I share them in His name, even Jesus Christ, Amen.