Happy Pioneer day!
Has this been the best week ever, or what??? I've hardly even had time to write an email. Sorry if it's not incredible as my week has been.
After dinner on Monday night, we went to go visit an investigator we had found the previous week. He was unavailable, but we walked around in the neighborhood, and found several other people in the area who were also interested in learning.
Tuesday we had exchanges with the Elders from out in Taft. Taft is a smaller town than Bakersfield, down south. It was fun to go on exchanges with Elder Allen again, since he was my first district leader (and thusly the first person I went on exchanges with.)
Wednesday was zone conference, which took up much of the day. It was about focusing on baptism, something we needed to refocus on. While it isn't about how many baptisms we get, it's important to teach investigators about it and set goals with them so they are motivated to make the changes necessary. They don't need to stop doing drugs or whatever before we teach them about baptism- they need to know about the Atonement and baptism so that they'll repent and stop doing those things. All those big commitments aren't boulders in the way of baptism- they're stepping stones that help build the faith to make covenants with God.
Thursday we planned and did service for a wonderful old lady in our ward. Well, she's actually not a member- her husband is, and he has severe dementia. He's in a hospice down in LA, so she spends a lot of time traveling, and appreciates our help with the yard. We're also teaching her to help her understand what her husband knew and how she can be with him after he is resurrected.
We had another exchange on Friday, this time with the zone leaders. I got to go with Elder Salveson, who came into the mission at the same time as me. It was actually super fun. I enjoy seeing how other missionaries have changed over the past year, as well as their different proselyting methods.
Saturday we ran around and did a million things. After finishing exchanges, we dropped off a book of Mormon in french to a foreign exchange student living here (sorry, I still don't speak french!) and attended a baptism. We're supposed to go to all the baptisms where Elder Tasi interviewed the person being baptized, so we went. The Spirit impressed upon me the reality of the covenant the young man was making- that it was performed by proper authority, in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. What a wonderful blessing we have, of being in a church with the authority to bind on earth and in heaven!
OH MY GOODNESS SUNDAY. So we go visit this part-member family. The children are members, but the parents are not, and only the mom is interested. We were planning earlier in the day what to teach, and we were drawing a blank. She has some problems with doctrines, but has a hard time communicating them because she speaks mostly Mandarin. WE prayed, and still had no idea- not in the "oh no" way, but in a "go by the Spirit" way. Which is always kinda nice but also nerve-wracking. Anyway, we go, and it's instantly awkward. The mother and son are arguing (and have been pretty much for the past week.) We sit down and talk and ask questions for a little bit, then I pull out my scriptures and remember that I had a copy of the "Family" proclamation in them! I was nervous because I didn't want to feel like I was chastising them, but I really love this family, and when the Spirit says do... you go and do. So we talked, and a couple paragraphs in everyone was bawling. While not everything is worked out (it's not our job to be counselors after all) the young man's prayers were answered. "How did you know to talk about families?" I have no idea, besides that I was inspired by the Spirit. I can claim almost no credit, no more than a person starting a car- I didn't build the engine or make the key, only turned it. It's the natural thing to do if you want to go somewhere. We talked about the blessings of family prayer and scripture study, and encouraged them to spend time doing those things, because it has brought blessings into my life (SHOUT OUT to my awesome mother for emphasizing those things so heavily. I think I've had a solid testimony of family scripture study longer than anything else.)
Man, it's been a year now. Today, I don't really want it to end. It's not like we're incredibly successful and baptizing every week or anything. We're not. But it's just so good to wear the tag. It's so great to talk about the Gospel to people all day. I wish I could sit down and talk to everyone about how it can change their lives, but so many people don't want to listen. But God is merciful- like Jonah, he wouldn't send us here if there wasn't some soul to save.
Looking back over the past year, of course there are a lot of things I wish I'd done differently. But that's life! Out of so many things that could be construed as negative, the most important things, the ones I'll remember, are the times I've help lift my companions, strengthen the faith of members, and help people prepare for baptism. It's been a ride so far, nothing like I expected. I hope I can keep loving the mission so much. In another year I want to be able to say the thing, but with the fervor of someone who doesn't want to have to catch the plane home.
Thanks for supporting me. I know I say that every week, but your prayers, emails, and thoughts really do mean a lot.