The title this week is a little self centered but I happen to enjoy my birthdays so I feel just fine having that there. This week has been so great and I have become even more thankful that I am able to be out here on my mission. Here it goes:
- I am told that holidays on the mission are a little bit of a bummer because we always have to be in early and we cant really afford to buy anything special to celebrate with, and that is partially right looking back at the 4th. But, even though I wasn't able to celebrate the normal way I loved sitting on my porch reading the Book of Mormon and hearing fireworks in the distance. It really was a beautiful night and I'm glad I was here for it. I'm pretty sure I am going to love birthdays out here though, especially with how long I have been in this ward and how well everyone knows and likes me. Me and my comp are constantly being taken out for lunch and dinner and there are so many families who are making me cake to celebrate with. I am going to have to work out extra hard this coming week just to make sure I don't blow up like a balloon, but I have felt so much love from the ward. Just the other night I had a dream that I spent all two years of my mission here, and I didn't want to leave. I woke up depressed because I felt like my mission is already going by to quickly and I wanted it to slow down a little.
- Even better news then my birthday is how well the baptism of Jeremy Pescetti went on Saturday! He is such a strong young man and he continually impresses me with his faith and determination to do what is right, considering none of his family supported him and not a single member of his family came to the baptism. Elder Thatcher and I arrived a little over an hour early to set everything up and fill the font and even at that time I felt the spirit strongly so I knew that the baptism was going to be one to remember. By the time the baptism actually started we had to set up more chairs and there was barely walking room because so many people came to support him, including a very large amount of youth his age from other wards that came. The whole baptism was a beautiful experience with Brendan, Jeremy's friend, doing the baptism and other friends from church giving very heart felt talks and testimony. Right after the baptism Brendan's family took the family, Jeremy, and us out to eat at Outback Steakhouse. They handed out at least 10 of our cards for the Book of Mormon and then Jeremy was given free desert because the owner is a member and wanted to congratulate him. That spirit carried over when yesterday both he and brother Healy were confirmed members of the church and given the Holy Ghost.
- The work here is doing great. We are having a little trouble keeping a good teaching pool right now because so much of our time is now spent teaching new member lessons, but I guess that is a good problem to have. We are working very hard on following the spirit and working more effectively so we have tried to limit tracting to no more then an hour a day if we can help it. As we were studying we came across a section that talked about having an open house so we have taken that idea and are on a full run ahead now. It is schedule for Aug 29th and we are hoping and praying that we have a good turn out of members with their friends so that we can start getting more member referrals since that is one of the most effective ways of bringing others into the Gospel. We are now starting member lessons where we go into every families home in our ward and give a lesson about missionary work and we help them make a family mission plan, including inviting someone to the open house. We are already seeing good results from this. In fact, after Jeremy's baptism the Stake Presidency took me and my companion into a separate room and asked us why the work is going so well in our area because they want others to catch the fire. He quizzed us for information on how to find and teach more effectively for about 10 minutes and then let us go back to mingle with everyone who was still around after the baptism. I know I am not the reason so many people are coming into the waters of baptism, but I am so thankful that I am worthy to be worked through by a loving Heavenly Father, because being a part of this work has been one of the greatest blessings of my life.
(There is a lot to write about this week)
- A few days ago I got a call from one of the members in my ward letting me know that they had my scripture case and my camera. I was so excited that we drove over there right after our appointment to pick it up, and I thought it was a joke they were playing on me when they handed me it because my scriptures weren't in the case. They said that a friend of theirs found it as they were jogging on day and found it that it was a missionaries because of the pictures, so they gave it to this family because she knew she was a Mormon from work. The weird thing is that the scripture case only had my camera and not the scriptures which is way different then I thought it would turn out. Who takes scriptures and leaves a nice camera? This is still a great blessing to have my camera back, but just a little confusing.
- Our new Mission President has already been making changes in the mission and I am excited to see the effects. One of those changes is that each missionary has to prepare a 10 minute talk weekly with a memorized scripture so that if they ward ever needs to call on us to speak we are ready. Along with this we also have to bear our testimony in front of the ward every fast and testimony meeting, the first being two weeks ago. I felt the spirit strongly during the meeting but didn't think anything special had happened until we were at a members family for dinner, the Williamsons. They are a great family and very strong in the church. She actually didn't join until a couple years after marriage but is now very active. Bro. Williamson has tried to convince her to go on a couples mission once all their kids move out for the past couple years with no success, but she said that as she was listening to my testimony the spirit took over and told her that she needs to go on a mission. She doesn't remember anything I said, but testimony allowed the spirit to speak to her heart and both of them are now excited for their mission, years down the road. Isn't it great to see the spirit work?
Just as a last thing, I had a great experience during personal study this week. Early on I was reading and came across a scripture talking about the sons of Mosiah and the power they had in teaching because they had the spirit of Revelation and Prophesy. It hit me for the first time that I don't really know the difference between those two, besides just a very superficial understanding. I spent the rest of my study time trying to figure it out with no success. For the next couple days I asked everyone I could think of and spent my spare timing studying and praying about it, and it seemed like it just kept getting more confusing to me. Then two days ago I was studying it and came across Alma chapters 8-12 and got sidetracked reading about this incredible missionary and trying to figure out why he was so successful. I began learning so much about him, and then as I was reading the answer came to me regarding revelation and prophesy. Suddenly it seemed so simple, and now as I study and come across those words my understanding of the scripture is so much stronger. Its was a very powerful experience and one that strengthened my testimony in revelation quite a bit. I'm so thankful that I have been raised to recognize the prompting of the spirit and have lived worthy of those miraculous promptings. I am praying for you all and hope that you are doing the same because I am always in need of it.