Beautiful Scenery and Beautiful Miracles
We went hiking on Tuesday with the whole zone, and you know me and my scenic photography :P It was soooo much fun and really beautiful. We got up at 4:00AM so we could get there and hike and come back in time for studies, so we got to watch the sun rise as we hiked up!
Sooo excited for another transfer in Gilbert! I feel confident that I'm going to finally have my first baptism this transfer! We had a GREAT lesson with Laura this Thursday, and were able to talk about the Plan of Salvation. There was a lot that she didn't know, but she accepted what we taught. We could tell that she felt the spirit testify to her of the truth of what we were teaching, and after teaching a little bit we asked her if she thought the Fall was a good or a bad thing. She thought for a minute and then said, "Well, a good thing, because if it hadn't happened we wouldn't be here." It was a really cool moment because so many people have a negative view of the Fall, but she was enlightened during our lesson and saw it for what it really was! She also was enlightened by the fact that we lived with our Father in Heaven before, and said that it made sense. Also, she came to church!!!! She felt the spirit and felt really comfortable there.
And now, LUIS!!!! We had a lesson with him on Thursday this week, and we got really bold. It was actually a really emotional lesson, and Hna Cedeño and I basically poured out our hearts. He had told us how much we've helped him and how much his life has changed, which we've seen, and how he thought we were sent to him to bring more tranquility into his life. I said, "Luis, that is absolutely a part of the purpose that we have, and part of why we were sent here. But it's so much more than that. We weren't just brought here to bring you peace in this life, but to bring you eternal salvation. That's why we're asking you to read. That's why we're asking you to pray and come to church. Because if what we're teaching you is true, your eternal salvation is at stake. But you need to act in order to know that for yourself." He was so humble, and admitted that he hasn't been acting on what we've asked him to do in order to know. At this point, he's worried about betraying his faith, since Catholicism is all he's ever known, worried that by converting he would be fraudulating his entire life up to this point. We're praying for him to receive a more sure witness and to understand that all of his life experience up till now was preparing him for the truth. And then, the next day, we received a text from him, asking us for the link so he could watch conference! It was really a miracle because he's never taken the initiative to go searching after something before without us extending a specific invitation, so it showed some real progress!
We were so hopeful that he would come to church, and when he didn't we were both really disappointed. So we went over last night to check in with him and see if we could teach a lesson. He was in the middle of eating, so we weren't going to have time to actually teach anything, and then suddenly Hna Cedeño says, "Do you want to go to the Visitor's Center tonight?" I was pretty surprised, and so was he. It was 6:20PM, and we said we'd pick him up with Hna Angelica at 7:00PM. Here's the thing - we hadn't planned this. At all. We've been wanting him to go to the Mesa Temple Visitor's Center with us FOREVER, but never been able to work out a time. And we can't drive over there ourselves - though we have permission to go, we have to have a member drive us there and back. And since this was unplanned, we didn't have a member, but Hna Cedeño had already told Luis that Angelica was coming with us! So we RAN over to Angelica's house. She answered the door, and we quickly explained what happened. She was soooo excited, and immediately agreed to go with us! She's SUCH an amazing member missionary, and such a great friend to Luis! Hna Cedeño and I run home, grab what we need, then drive back, as we drive up, we start talking about what we want to show him at the Visitor's Center (again, NOT PLANNED). We say a prayer, are both quiet for a moment, then Hna Cedeño says, "Lesson one," or in other words, The Restoration. That was exactly what I'd been thinking and feeling, so we got out of the car feeling inspired and even more excited! We all drove over together in Angelica's car, took a picture with the Cristus statue, then waited for the visitor's center missionaries so we could find a way for us to watch the restoration video. They ushered us into Theatre One, but we weren't actually able to watch it in there because they're having an exhibit of artwork. So we walked around looking at the artwork, and though Luis was visibly touched and we were able to teach a little bit, we were anxious for the visitor's center sisters to find a room for us to watch the video in. After what felt like an eternity, there was finally a room free, and we went inside. After a short introduction from the sisters, one of them went to turn on the video using the panel on the wall - and it wouldn't work. For at least ten minutes, she was pushing fervently on the panel, trying desperately to start this video for us. I was feeling my heart sink into my stomach. We'd felt sooo prompted to share this video, and now I felt like Satan was working super hard against us to make sure that Luis wouldn't be able to have a spiritual experience! Finally, the sister turned back to us and said, "I don't think it's going to work. But, we can always say a prayer." Luis actually laughed a little bit at that and was like, "A prayer for the TV to work?" And she said, "Yeah, of course! Would you say it?" He was visibly surprised, but after a moment bowed his head to say the prayer. It was a beautiful prayer, just as his prayers always are. As soon as it was over, we were all silent as the sister turned back to the panel. For a moment, it seemed like it still wasn't going to work, and then - the video started. She smiled, turned to Luis, and said, "The Lord answered your prayer," before leaving the room so we could watch the video. It was a SUPER powerful moment, and really a miracle! The spirit was incredibly strong, and as the video ended I saw that Luis's eyes were a little teary. As he shared some of his thoughts, it was clear that he was touched by the spirit and received some personal revelation, and more of a desire to truly know if what we're teaching him is true, and more direction on how to do so and recognize the answer. The sister who'd been helping us and working on the panel shared her testimony, and challenged him to go home and pray just as Joseph Smith did that night. As she did so, she said, "I know He will answer your prayer, because He already has." She pointed to the panel. "That was a direct answer to your prayer, and a miracle. A small miracle, but still a miracle, and I know that the Lord is aware of you and listening to you."We continued to talk and share and teach all the way back to Luis's house. We're not sure how long this personal journey of his is going to take, but I know he was touched by the spirit. We'd promised him we wouldn't be gone more than an hour at the visitor's center, and we didn't leave until we'd already been there for an hour and a half. He joked that we'd robbed him of his time, but then said more seriously, "But I really enjoyed it. I'm glad I came." The whole night was such a miracle, and one of the coolest experiences of my mission!
So much more happened this week, but those are definitely the highlights! Sorry it was so long, but the whole night was so amazing I didn't want to miss any of the details!!
As always, I learned a lot this week. Continuing on after conference, I've been thinking about the theme of repentance and what it means to really repent. As I was thinking about this, I ran into Acts 11:23, where the disciple Barnabas is traveling and preaching to the people in Antioch, and it says that he "exhorted them all, that with purpose of heart they would cleave unto the Lord." I was thinking about that phrase, "purpose of heart," in line with the phrase "real intent" and how we will continue to make mistakes throughout our entire life. But as we strive to keep the commandments and to improve with real purpose of heart, that is when we receive forgiveness. It doesn't mean we won't stumble, but we can know that our intentions are pure, and that we are striving to be more perfect each day.
Also, I was thinking about how to overcome temptation, and was reading in 2 Nephi 4, where Nephi laments for his weaknesses. And as I was reading, one word continued to jump out at me: REJOICE. I had the thought, "The antidote to temptation is JOY." I think there's SO much truth in that! As we come to truly know the joy that is in the gospel, as was talked about in conference, we won't have the desire to seek after the counterfeit that the world offers! We'll know the difference, and just how much powerful that eternal joy is. I want to seek to be more joyful and rid myself of temptation to yield to the natural (wo)man!
Thank you for all your love and prayers!