Monday, July 22, 2013

Hialeah Is Crazy. I Love It!

Harmana Houghton after biking in a Florida rainstorm!

Dear Family, Friends, and Everyone,

What a week! Hialeah is crazy. I love it. We have a zone goal of having two baptisms per companionship this weekend - and I honestly believe it's going to happen!
So, really great things have happened from being on bicycle. The people we've met have been beyond compare. I told you about R last week. Sadly, he disappeared all week. We didn't see him at all, although we went out of our way to bike along Palm Avenue (the main road near where he lives) every day as much as possible. The phone number we had for him (his brother's) wasn't working. Then, as we were singing the sacrament hymn at church, guess who walks in! Sister LeBaron and I both felt very strongly that he was ready to be baptized, although we had taught him a grand total of once. He had his baptismal interview during Sunday School and was baptized after church.

Hermanas Houghton and LeBaron with R
 I have learned some valuable lessons from R. I'm going to use some quotes from the Challenging and Testifying Missionary talk I've told you about previously to explain some of this. First off, and this has been stuck in my head all week, "The Gospel of Jesus Christ is not knowledge... The Gospel is a feeling." I can't rationalize or explain my testimony no matter how hard I try. But it is enough to motivate me to act. I know and have faith strongly enough to be here, doing hard things, and loving it. Testimony and true conversion come through the Spirit, not from words or any outside influence, though those may open the way for the Spirit to touch our hearts. To be baptized, a person needs to have a testimony from the Spirit and a desire to follow God.
"I know investigators who cling to the idea that they can't be baptized until they know what they are being baptized for." When they get a testimony from the Spirit and have a desire to be baptized because they know deep in their hearts and souls that it's right, baptize them! This conviction and willingness to act will continue after baptism and even increase. Gospel learning is lifelong, and it's better and easier after you receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. If an investigator has the desire to be baptized, and is willing to live the covenants of baptism, why should we hold him back just wanting to teach him everything? The baptismal interview is the standard established by God, and if a baptismal candidate passes that, he can and should be baptized. He will learn the rest of the details of the Gospel as he goes along afterward.
Finally, "These things have nothing to do with teaching. They are the power and Spirit of the Lord... If we are to understand the ways of the Lord we must understand we are but the servants. We sustain Him. It is His work. It is not our work."
I saw the Lord's hand at work so strongly with Raul. We literally spent less than 15 minutes teaching him. His baptismal interview was maybe 20 minutes long. But the Lord knows who He wants in His church, and He prepared R.
So, some funny things about R's story: Elder Shepherd told us a little bit about the interview. During a combined companionship study this week we talked about Cuban culture. One Cuban cultural thing is a way they reject things. If a Cuban doesn't want to talk to us, he will tell us: "No estoy interesado. No no no no no no no no no no no." If we keep on talking, he will just keep saying "no no no no no no no." So during the interview Elder Shepherd role played with R, helping him know how to respond if someone offered him coffee or alcohol. R's response in these role plays was: "No tomo eso (I don't drink that). No no no no no no no no no no no." So great. After the baptism we followed R (on bikes) back to his house, because we hadn't known where it was before. He gave Sister LeBaron his sunglasses. Then he wanted to give me something to remember him by, so he gave me his driver's license so I could make a copy of it and have that.
We met another R (RM) this week as we were biking along. We taught him for the first time last night. It was a great spiritual lesson, and he told us over and over that he just needs God. I loved seeing the change in his eyes as we taught. Then his friend came over with 8 beers. They were planning on just chilling and drinking beer. We taught them that the spirit couldn't dwell in unclean temples, they gave us the beer, and I almost fell off my bike balancing a bag of beers on the handlebars! Then RM called us a few minutes later and asked us where the beer was. We told him it was in the trash, where it belonged. He laughed and told us okay, he wouldn't go out and buy more. A bit later he called us and asked us not to forget to remind him about the appointment for today. So great.
We had an amazing lesson with a super sweet couple named P and D and their seven-year-old L. They arrived from Cuba about a month ago. We met them last week during a thunderstorm, but hadn't been able to see them again. So we dropped by on Saturday and taught them about the Restoration. They are both going to get baptized. Sadly they are moving to Tampa this week so they won't be baptized here, but they are another example of people that are SO prepared (plus they're pretty much the cutest couple you've ever seen). Sorry to leave it at that - I know you don't know them so that whole interlude doesn't mean very much, but it was a powerful lesson. I cried, which I have never done during a lesson. They came to church and loved it, especially when they met the Cardenas family, who we had been trying to arrange a lesson with for them....
Some other fun things: I got to go to Institute this week while I was on an exchange! So fun.
-My companion has a beautiful voice. Sometimes I feel like I'm at the opera getting ready in the morning.
-I swallowed a fly while I was biking. There was also one afternoon when the gnats were out and we were picking dead gnats off of our clothes - probably about 40 each.
-I made arepas this week! The Venezuelan kind. I will tell you about them later... So good.
I love you all!!

Pictures from last week:  
Hermanas Houghton & LeBaron,
with new convert, J
Hermano Gonzalez, the second counselor in the Bishopric,
with new convert J, who discovered they were first
cousins at his baptism.  

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