We have been teaching an eight-year-old kid from an inactive family for a long time, and he's got a baptismal date and everything. I actually sent you a picture of their family. The only thing that's been holding Chris back is church attendance. To get baptized here, you need to attend church three times consecutively. We're still not entirely sure why, but the mom finds it a little difficult to come to church, and if she doesn't go, Chris doesn't. On Saturday we sat them down in a park, taught our bit to Chris, and then talked to the mom while the kids played. We got direct, sincere, and specific with her, and told her how we don't just want Chris to go to church for a week, but for the rest of his life. She got a tiny bit defensive, and we left feeling like we had done all that we could, and that now it was in her hands,
as well as the Lord's. Guess who showed up to church on Sunday? The whole family, without needing us to come pick them up or remind them or anything. They just came, stayed for the whole time, and had a blast. There are few feelings as wonderful as striving and working hard and long to help someone come back to church, or go to the temple, and then seeing them complete that goal, and enjoy it. It makes me truly happy to see people making good choices.
Another miracle was with Hermano Ruiz, if you remember him. He has had a hard time with the church because of the administration. He feels that some of the local leaders do not run the church here how it should be. Now, he and his 'esposa' are not married. This happens more often than you would think in hispanic culture, where they have the ceremony and everything, and then they don't sign the papers, or sometimes they don't even have a ceremony, and they call their partner their spouse. Anyway, we had a conference talk from the last session all picked out, and we started to teach it to them, and then Hermano Ruiz talked about how he knows about the plan of salvation already, and that he knows it's true. That led to the conversation that uncovered the true issue I just talked about. One of my favorite parts about being a missionary is that we can speak for our Savior, and serve in a revelatory capacity with those we teach. This was one of those moments. We, as a companionship, promised him that this is why the Lord wants him to join the church- so that he can be the change in this area that will see that the church is run according to the Lord's will. I am positive that it was revelation from God, through us, to Hermano Ruiz. We left him with quite a lot to think and pray about.
Another example of revelation this week has to do with a funeral. Now, the man who passed away was quite old, and his wife is still alive. We went to visit her and her children and grandchildren, and see if there was anything we could do for them. The only problem was that they were quite a ways away from us, and we had already committed to be at a family history function. In preface to my revelation, I remember that in the most recent Face to Face event with the Bednars, Elder Bednar talks about how the work of the Lord is to find 'ones.' He sends His servants places to find just one person. It is now my goal to find that one person the Lord wants me to touch.
Anyway, my companion asked me what I felt that we should do. I felt that we should visit the Perez family first. I went to pray and consult with the Lord, and before I could even open the prayer my answer came. More or less, this is what the answer was: "Brandt, you know where you're supposed to go, so go." The address was obscure, but still we went, and we had a good lesson, although the fruits of it may take a long time to materialize. The funeral the next day was interesting. Most of this man's family are not members. Many of the women attending were crying and bawling uncontrollably, like, they completely lost control of themselves and broke down like a bunch of three year olds. It was extremely sad, and a little awkward, because all of the members present weren't crying at all (except the wife of the deceased, and understandably so). The one phrase I heard repeated most often was "Why, God, Why?" (Por que, Dios, por que?). I am so grateful that I know where we go after death, and the answers to other questions that baffle the greatest philosophers and thinkers.
We've been teaching Elder Pavon's sister and her husband, as well as their three girls, ranging from 8 to 5 or 6. The youngest is absolutely adorable. She's always the first to shake your hand or to raise her hand and answer a question. We've been reading the Children's Book of Mormon with them, and she is so excited to read. Even though she needs help reading most of the words, every word is repeated with a giant grin, and she understands a great deal of what's being said. I absolutely love teaching those little girls. The mom and dad have great faith, and are progressing rapidly. They truly are golden investigators.
Also, I gave a talk (discourso) on Sunday. My topic (which I was told to choose) was rescuing others. The two talks I based mine off of were Elder Eyring's "Man Down!" and Elder Holland's "The First and Greatest Commandment," one of my absolute favorites of all time. I also translated the second verse of 'We are All Enlisted' into Spanish, because the hymns in Spanish have very different lyrics so that it matches up more or less with the rhythm. I talked about how Christ's mission, as well as that of His disciples, is to go and search out those in need of God's love (everyone), but who are unable to reach it due to poor choices or lack of knowledge, and rescue them. I talked about how we are at war, how this is a battle for the salvation and souls of mankind, and how the Lord is calling for volunteers who will keep His faith, and feed His sheep. Life is not peaceful, because we are indeed at war! There is a very real power of evil that wishes to destroy every single thing that is good, and every last person and thing that we love. So, then, we must gird ourselves with the armor of God, and never let our guard down, because if we don't take action, the hosts of Satanas will surely march upon us and destroy us. After we have thus equipped ourselves for battle and learned how to use the weapons and tools at our disposal, we must then, together, seek out those who are not prepared, or who are struggling to survive amid the darkness that lies behind enemy lines. We must not cause them to think we are the enemy, we must strive not to offend them, we must take them and bandage their wounds, help them to limp back to camp, where the skilled and inspired medics we call Bishops and Branch Presidents will help to truly heal them through the power of the atonement. We cannot, I repeat, cannot taste of the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ, know the goodness and light therein, make sacred and holy covenants with God, and then return to our nets, as did Peter and many of the other apostles immediately after the crucifixion and subsequent resurrection of Christ. As Elder Holland taught so eloquently in the most life-changing talk I have ever heard, what Christ told Peter on the shores of Galilee for the second time
was "No, Peter, you cannot go home. When I called you to this work, it was because I needed servants who would see my work through to the end, because this work does not stop until every knee shall bow, and every tongue confess." We cannot return to our nets. When we hear the gospel, when we make covenants, it is supposed to change us, to change the person we are into a person of glory, who can speak with the tongue of angels and chase away the gloom of this dark and dreary world, a person of faith through whom the Lord can work mighty miracles among the children of men.
This was, in essence, my talk, and my invitation to all who read this is that you can make the goal of finding at least one person this week whose burdens you can lift, who you can rescue from the hoards of the devil. You need not be overbearing with the gospel, but as you show the same kindness and concern the savior did, they will wonder what it is that makes you so special, and you will be blessed with an opportunity to share the gospel.
Well, that's my missionary experience update :)
How is Uncle Matt Little doing? I still keep praying for him and his family.
Love you guys a ton,
Elder Richard Brandt Hull