No pictures from Hermana Houghton this week, but we went on vacation and sent some to her, so we'll share them here!
|Mom and Dad the week of Valentine's--overlooking San Francisco|
|Trying to spell "Eliza"--but only four people for letters,|
and who knows WHAT Marta is doing. Levi is
obviously the "z"
I'm not quite sure what to include in the letter this week. It's been a long one, but it's been really great to be able to see the Lord's hand in everything.
We had several miracles in knocking doors this week. First we met Patricia, who we were really excited about (and still are!) because she seems to just know that what we're saying is true. On Saturday we took a member to her lesson, and she told the member that when we knocked on her door she'd been crying and really devastated because her husband just left her. But when we came in, she said, she felt the spirit and knew that it was her answer. Her kids calmed down and she felt peace. It's really hard to be able to ask about things like that as missionaries, especially because it's so difficult to make a deep connection with people when you don't speak their language very well. But when she was talking with the member we felt so affirmed that the Lord is using us even when we don't feel like we're making a difference.
We had another miracle when we were walking down the street to a referral the elders from the English ward had given us. We felt like we should go knock on a door, even though it was on a street that the elders had already knocked. We invited this woman and her boyfriend to be baptized and she said she already had been. We hear that a lot, and generally explain how important it is to be baptized again, and what a blessing it is. She told us that no, she'd been baptized a member of our church already. Then she started crying and said that she hadn't been to church in a couple of years but had wanted to start going back. She just didn't know where the chapel was, because she had moved, and she wanted her boyfriend to learn about the gospel too. She had been praying for missionaries to come by as they did when she was fourteen, and had hoped we would stop by when she saw us walking by.
One thing I never really thought about before going on my mission is the importance of baptism. When I came out I felt like baptism was a commitment, a huge step, and shouldn't be entered into lightly. I still think it's hugely important, but what I've realized is how crucial it is to receive the gift of baptism as soon as possible. When a new member is baptized, he is saying that he will work to change and follow Jesus Christ more. He's not saying he knows everything about the gospel or is going to start giving all he has to the poor tomorrow. He is saying that he has faith in Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ, that he believes that Joseph Smith was a prophet and Thomas S. Monson is a prophet today, and that the gospel of Jesus Christ has been restored to the earth. He is saying that he will repent of his sins and follow the Word of Wisdom, the Law of Chastity, the Law of Tithing, and that he will keep the Sabbath Day holy. And as he takes this step and is baptized, he will receive the ability to access the Atonement of Jesus Christ in his life in repentance and changing. He will receive the gift of the Holy Ghost, which will enlighten his understanding, guide him, and help him. It's amazing how much God gives us when we have just a little bit of faith and understanding. We just need to have the desire to receive it.
And a quote from mormon.org (which you should really check out, member or non-member; it's awesome!): "The teachings of Jesus Christ have more power to bring lasting happiness than all the success and pleasure the world can offer." It's so true.
This week I've learned a lot about relying on the Holy Ghost to do the teaching. We're really just there to give them something to mull over. The Holy Ghost is the one that integrates it into their minds and hearts, if they're willing. No amount of persuading or rationalizing will convince anyone to really accept the fulness of the gospel, even though it does make sense rationally and has a lot of obvious benefits right off the bat. It's only when we can get the Spirit into their thoughts and feelings that they will learn at all.
One frustrating thing that I've learned this week is that people have their agency. Yes it's good that they make their own choices, but sometimes it's so hard to see them be lazy, or lie to us, or not keep commitments. I just want to make them see what they're missing! If I could impress onto the mind of every person I met how being a member of this church has blessed my life and will bless theirs, we would have people lining up down the street to be baptized. But they don't see that, and they get distracted, and they feel like they are already happy enough with their lives, and it's really easier just to ignore us because change is hard and sometimes painful and we're always calling them. It's easy to feel down on yourself when you feel like you're not doing well enough as a missionary, seeing the huge value and potential of each of these sons and daughters of God that you're not helping them to tap into. That's why we really need miracles like the ones that I mentioned above. The Lord has prepared people to accept the gospel, and He is helping us to find them.
Sorry, I'm out of time to include a funny story. Just know that there has been lots of laughter, smiles, tears, prayer, and work on this side of the country this week.