I love to see your pictures. My, how each of you have grown! Boys, just look at you! You are growing so fast, even if you don´t believe me. What a fantastic, good lookin group of people we have. Loved reading about your Sunday evening at Grandma´s house and seeing TBOW, that cute kitty. I can´t watch any videos not church authorized on my mission, so unfortunately I couldn´t watch your video of him or JP and Ty´s mission impossible video. But you´d better believe we´re going to have a giant sleepover watching those videos you´re making, boys, after my mission!
What a fantastic week in Venado Tuerto, Argentina. I love this place. It is amazing how quickly the places you serve feel like holy ground when serving as a missionary, through the personal Gethsemanes we each experience, and the beautiful triumphs like the morning of resurrection. There are no words to describe the kind of emotional roller coaster we feel. But it suffices to say that it´s beautiful to see how much God´s enabled me to become, and my companions as well, and especially our investigators. God is good.
Marcello´s baptism is this Saturday, at 7 pm. We are so excited for him! Our little branch has reached out in such fellowship to him. He´s a tracting miracle, it´s the truth. After Hermana Ferraez and I met him and invited him to church, he came of his own volition, and has kept coming ever since. Nearly every lesson we have with him has been with a member present, which makes all the difference. He has been attending every elders quorum activity and has even started making visits with members to less active members and the sick or needy. It´s amazing to see how prepared he´s been, muchly do to his own testimony of the Savior and desire to serve others. Elder Vergara, our district leader, came out of Marcello´s baptismal interview just GLOWING. He expressed to us that never in his time serving as a missionary has he met someone so prepared for baptism. I feel privileged to know Marcello! He has been such a delight to teach, so patient with Hermana Alicea and I and our faults with the language. He always asks questions to better understand. Needless to say, we are excited for him and his baptism. Each one of the brothers in our ward that have become close friends with him--Presidente Antuña, Hermano Bolaño, Hermano Ermácora, and Hermano Allasia--will be helping in some way at the baptism, whether offering a prayer, performing the baptism ordinance, or giving a talk. THIS is missionary work. With members as friends to our investigators, we don´t even pick anyone up on the way to church. The members pick them up and accompany them. It´s the best!
This week we had two lessons with Carolina Sosa. Monday, Hermana Allasia accompanied us as we explained about the Gospel of Jesus Christ, especially emphasizing the importance of baptism. She expressed that she wants this peace, this peace she feels with us, always. I expressed to her that it is possible through the gift of the Holy Spirit, given by that proper Priesthood authority, after our covenant of Baptism. We set an appointment to come back Thursday morning.
We planned to teach the word of wisdom to Carolina, but during my studies as I prepared early on Thursday, I felt a strong spiritual impression that we should not teach the word of wisdom, but the law of chastity. I was nervous to follow this impression, knowing full well that Carolina is not married to Gaston--they have been cohabitating for about 13 years now. I don´t know the vocabulary to teach this lesson very well, and especially didn´t feel qualified, but I expressed this feeling to Hermana Alicea, and we both agreed to follow it. When we arrived at Carolina´s home early Thursday, she welcomed us in to sit at the table--and there sat a bottle of wine, half drunk. She put it aside and sat down eagerly to hear our lesson. We began by reading Ether 3--the chapter we had asked her to read in our last lesson, but she hadn´t had time. After reading the chapter I expressed the importance of the Brother of Jared, and his offering of the stones to the lord, for the Lord to touch them and make them light. I asked her what stones she has in her life, the things she is doing and wants the Lord to consecrate and bless. She expressed that her family is all she has desires for, her three beautiful children. It was a perfect segue into the law of Chastity. We read the pamphlet (thank heavens for its simple terms!) and the scriptures therein. I invited her to live the law of Chastity. She explained that she has already been faithful to Gaston, what more did she need to do? I expressed that Marriage is ordained of God, and this faithfulness she´s developed will be perfect in keeping the law of chastity, once she is married legally. She got a shy smile on her face, like a little girl thinking about a princess wedding. She said she would pray about it and talk to Gaston. We´re awaiting her answer, but I´m so grateful for that spiritual impression. With the wine on the table, I just don´t think it would have been wise to teach the word of wisdom in that moment.
Heavenly Father Speaks to us, so individually, so perfectly. I am so grateful for the spiritual impressions that guide me and Hermana Alicea during this time in Venado Tuerto.
Our district is the best--every one of the Elders is so encouraging to us both as we work our way through learning more in Castellano and serving to the best of our ability. I love being a missionary! I love learning a language, and I love seeing people´s lives change for the better as they come to know about Jesus Christ and strive to follow him. This gospel is real! I see it in action every day, and I cannot deny it.
We have another investigator, José, whose girlfriend Emma is a member of the Church. She is just coming back into activity, and Jose has such an immense desire to learn. He is about 40, and one of the kindest people I´ve ever met. He asked us in a lesson about the plan of Salvation this week, "If baptism is important to enter the kingdom of God, what do I need to do to be baptized?" I could have melted, I was so warm inside. That´s a missionary´s dream sentence, right there. We explained that we´ll act as guides to help him come to know more about Jesus Christ and prepare for Baptism. He has come to church once, but couldn´t yesterday because he´s very sick. He and Emma don´t have much, and he struggles to read because his eyes are about as blind as mine without glasses. Hermana Ilse Puck, one of my favorite people in the world, (I need to tell you all about her sometime) is taking him this week to get his eyes checked and help him get some glasses. Any kind of medical treatment in Argentina is extremely expensive, including glasses. Hermana Ilse Puck is a saint. I am so excited for Emma y José.
God loves us, He lives. He is shaping me and helping me become so much more than I ever dreamed for myself. I love my Father in Heaven for seeing in me something far grander than I see. Serving a mission is making me more compassionate, more patient, less quick to judge, more willing to serve, bolder in my testimony, more able to laugh and to help others laugh. I´m learning how to budget, how to cook foreign foods, how to conquer any fear of saying blunders or talking on the phone. And so much more. I thought serving a mission was a chance for me to save souls, but in reality, I´m only beginning to realize how Christ is Saving mine.
For any of you, my dear friends and family, experiencing trials--(pretty sure that´s all of us, in one way or another)--I´d encourage you to read 1 Peter chapter 1. Trials by fire are more precious than Gold to our God.
Love, forever and always and THIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIS much,