The highlight of the week was definitely Gloria's baptism!!
I met Gloria a few months ago on exchanges with Hna Cedeño. Gloria has moved a lot, but considers herself mostly from Spain, though she was born in Chile. She's very animated and dedicated to living the gospel - she's been planning her baptism for over a month, but wanted to wait until her actual birthday to do it (partly hoping her daughter would be here from Mexico by then, but they hit a snag with the paperwork so she wasn't able to make it). She was SO excited for her baptism all week, and when Saturday came she was there in a brand new dress she bought specifically for that day. When the ward mission leader asked her if she was ready after the talk on baptism, she immediately said, "Si!" I don't think I've ever seen someone stand up that fast or answer that question so quickly, it was hilarious but also heartwarming seeing how much she desired it and how much it meant to her! She was confirmed the same day, since we didn't have church yesterday and we all wanted her to be able to go to the Tucson temple dedication with us. The spirit was so strong, and it made her really excited to go to the temple to do baptisms
Another really, really amazing experience this week was being able to go to the sealing of the Quintero family on Saturday morning. They're a family from the branch in Gilbert, but I worked with them a lot when I was there last year and this past April. Hna Quintero was never interested in joining the church, but her husband was a member. He died just a few years ago, and she started taking the missionaries a bit more seriously. Now, they're just the most solid family you would ever meet - Fernanda is 17, Rene is 11, and Willy is 6. I've come to love them so much, and was thrilled that they were finally able to be sealed. When they brought the kids in to join Hna Quintero and the proxy brother, the sealer looked at them all and said softly, "Do you know what's about to happen?" Fernanda nodded, and said in a shaky voice, "We're going to be sealed to our father." Rene started crying and put her head down on the altar, and I lost it. I don't think there was a dry eye in the entire room. The love and compassion that I feel for that wonderful, wonderful family is beyond anything I've felt before. While we were there, I also got to see almost all of my favorite people from the branch, since they'd come to the sealing as well. I felt so loved as they all greeted me, all of them kept asking when I was coming back north haha. I miss them!
Jimmy's still progressing, his smoking has improved a lot and we're proud of him! We took him to the visitor's center yesterday morning and watched the Joseph Smith movie, which we think was helpful - the spirit was definitely there - but we're still searching for how to best help him take that leap of faith. He wants to be baptized, and he's on date for the 26th.
Another person on date is Diana for this Saturday. She's 9, super shy, but she and her mom have been investigating forever. Letty, her mom, wants to get baptized SO bad but has some hurdles. So together we decided to not wait anymore for Diana and go ahead and get her baptized. Diana's excited about it.
In other news - Wednesday was zone conference, and at the end of it President Wheeler got a call then came back in and announced that they were shipping out the smartphones the next day! I'm excited to be able to use it as a tool in missionary work! Sometime this week Elder Bednar's going to be here to train a small group of missionaries (most likely the ones they choose to be the new 'district' - to follow them around and videotape them to train other missionaries) and then probably next week we'll actually get the phones. Crazy! Elder Anderson will also be here for a mission tour this month, so we're in for some cool experiences!
The scriptures are so powerful and the source we should turn to to find the Lord's strength when we're feeling weak! Some of the things I learned this week:
- The Plan of Salvation is the key, and part of the reason why the Book of Mormon is so important since it makes the Lord's plan so clear. Without an understanding and testimony of the plan of salvation, why would we do anything in the gospel?
- Quote from Elder Bednar: "[God] shouldn't have to dramatically shake us to get our attention."
- There are so many incredible examples of charity in the scriptures - specifically charity for our enemies. When Christ said, "Love your enemies," He didn't mean to just not do bad things to them - He meant to actually love them. That's something I definitely need to work on, having genuine love for everyone.
This morning, I was reflecting on everything I've experienced and learned on my mission, and reading Dad's journal entry that he put on the back of our 2015 Christmas card, and I just felt overwhelmed. I wrote this in my study journal: "I am so humbled by the sacrifice and love of my Savior and Brother, Jesus Christ. My soul is filled with gratitude and wonder. I look at the pictures of my family on my wall and feel close to tears knowing that we can and will be together for eternity - all because of the mercy and love of our Heavenly Father and His Only Begotten. I feel in my heart what President Nelson said in conference last October - 'As our Savior becomes more and more real to us and as we plead for His joy to be given to us, our joy will increase.'
My heart is full of joy!"