Dear Family and Friends,
It's true, yesterday was my 11 month mark and I can hardly believe it. It's a weird mixture of feelings....the MTC literally feels like 10 years ago...and thinking about how little time I have left just blows my mind. June is just around the corner which means summer is already going to be over and it'll be November before I know it...and it is all flying by faster than I can keep up with! There is so much more I want to accomplish and so much more becoming I have to do...I'm freaking out a little bit! This last Sunday one of the members in my ward I serve in gave her "farewell" talk and I was crying through the whole thing as memories of how I felt before I left flooded through my mind and heart. She sang an arrangement she wrote of "He Sent His Son" with two of her sisters and it was SO beautiful...the spirit overwhelmed me just seeing them stand up there together to sing...it made me miss singing with my sisters so much. Life is amazing and missions just really open your eyes to how even more amazing it is and can be. I am so thankful to be here serving the Lord.
I had one of the greatest experiences of my mission this last week as our investigator, Arthur, was baptized. He arrived at his baptism clean-shaven and with a haircut! He was also dressed in Sunday clothes! I have never seen him in anything but shorts and a shirt or pajama pants and a shirt. A member had taken him to Salvation Army where he got some church clothes and pretty spiffy shoes! Bishop gave him one of his favorite ties. He looked so changed and his countenance beamed! I think the spirit was extra strong at the baptism because of those that Arthur asked to participate...leading the music was a recent convert who didn't know how to lead the music but was honored to be asked to help and very humble about it. The talk on baptism was given by our most recent-convert, Casmier, who has a fear of public speaking. Arthur was afraid to ask him because he didn't want to put him through any anxiety, but we encouraged him to do it and that even the invitation would mean a lot to him. He was more than honored to speak. He wrote his talk and read it from his phone like he did with his testimony when he was baptized and WOW!...what an amazing spirit and what powerful words from someone who is so young in the gospel. As I listened to him speak and heard him tell Arthur that he was a "lost lamb" that had now been found, my heart burned. I began to cry and sat and listened in awe. I reached my hand back to Sister Rasmussen to give her a squeeze of love at this sweet moment, remember how the Lord had lead us to find Casmier while walking through a parking lot. There couldn't have been any greater joy than I felt in that moment as I saw Arthur, a young man totally lost in darkness before he found the gospel, sitting in white, completely changed and ready and willing to make covenants, while listening to someone I got to teach bear testimony of the blessings of baptism!! SURELY there could be no greater joy! My heart has seldom swelled with so much happiness and my eyes were wet with tears. It was wonderful! Arthur had asked us to sing. We had sung "Did You Think to Pray?" in a couple of lessons and he told us it was his absolute favorite and it would be awesome if we sang it. So me, Sister Miller, and Sister Rasmussen put together a little trio of it, with Sister Miller playing the guitar. Arthur cried as we sang and the spirit was brought so sweetly. We shared a message of hope and of the amazing change we had seen in Arthur as only through the Savior, Jesus Christ, the hopelessness he felt had changed to a perfect brightness of hope! Arthur even stood at the end of his baptism to bear his testimony and it was like a punch of the spirit! Ha ha...short and to the point...but so pure and powerful! He just said "I know this is the true Church of Jesus Christ....I know it was restored through the prophet, Joesph Smith, and I know that through reading The Book of Mormon...I know God is real and if God is with me, then who can be against me?!.." Yeah!! Surprisingly, Arthur's parents came and had nothing but gratitude for us. His dad said he had seen a change in him that was good. His mother was in tears throughout and thanked us saying, "I have been praying and praying for a miracle for my boy because he was so lost. I knew He needed God in his life and I am so glad you sisters came into his life and helped him!" His dad wants us to teach his sister, and his mom wants to meet with the missionaries now!!! She said after, "I feel so much joy I am wondering if I want to be baptized now!" Ha ha! Does it get any greater?! I love being a part of this work. Arthur has already brought a friend to the gospel too (Anthony) and we have begun teaching him and he has set a date to be baptized for June 15th! MIRACLES!!!! He told us that he has known Arthur for a long time, and seeing everything that has happened with him, and just being around us and the people at church for 3 days, he has already felt that this is all true. He wants it for himself. He wants Arthur to be able to baptize him and he pretty much would jump in right now if he could, ha ha! He told us he already had a dream that he was serving a mission! What?!! So cool! Arthur received the Gift of the Holy Ghost on Sunday and when we met with him yesterday, we pulled up to him running around in the street playing football with Anthony. I had never seen him show so much energy! We sat down and he told us that he had never felt happier...that ever since yesterday he had felt so much joy and he loved it!!! As we read the first vision with him and Anthony...he stopped us and said he really loved it because Joseph describes the darkness that surrounded him before his prayer was answered...and that he was delivered from destruction. He looked me in the eyes and from the bottom of his heart expressed his gratitude...he said he knew if we hadn't come into his life, if he hadn't answered the door...he wouldn't be here today...he said he would most likely have been living in a canyon with a bunch of homeless people doing drugs...seriously....and he said he felt like we really did save him and he was so grateful....he covered his face with his shirt and began to cry.....WOW....what a sweet and tender moment I will never forget...and may I add that all of this change, and all of this hope is possible because of the Atonement of Jesus Christ. When we follow Him, when we accept Him as our Savior and do the things we have seen Him do...and trust in His promises...our lives and our hearts...indeed our whole WORLD can be changed...just as it was for Arthur.
I mostly just want to leave you with that this week, but wanted to share another neat experience with following a prompting. Wednesday I was on exchanges and had another Sister in the area with me. We had been unable to make appointments as Wednesday during the day was not an ideal time for most people. So we went out in search of less-actives. We searched for 2 and 1/2 hrs and no one was home. Throughout the day I kept thinking of the Baugh family. I had never met them but knew of them. I had a phone conversation with the father all the way back in December. He was actually someone who called us and referred Teresa to us! Remember? My Birthday baptism?! I had called him to invite him to the baptism and he told me a lot of things happening with his family...including a son coming home from his mission to work through some health things. I bore my testimony of the miracles I knew the Lord performed because of what he had done for me in my life to get me on my mission. I told him that when we align our will with the Lord's and do all we can, miracles happen, and He provides a way. He told me then he hoped to meet me someday. Well, when I got moved to La Jolla, I found out that we covered their area and that he also had a less-active daughter at home. So...back to the present...I was thinking about them all day and thinking, "I don't know how much longer I am going to be here but I do want to meet them, and I wonder how his son is doing and if he's still working on getting back to the mission field....plus his daughter should come to church!" We were almost out of time and I said, "There is just one more place we gotta try. I can't go home without stopping by." Well, we pulled up and all 3 of them were outside! We shared a message with them of strength in trials and a loving Heavenly Father. I turned to ask the father if there was a time in his life that he had felt the Lord strengthened him to be able to do something he didn't think he could. He stopped and said, "Can I just tell you sisters, that everything you have been saying has been exactly what I needed today. Something really difficult happened to me yesterday and I heard some pretty astonishing things and Satan was really working on me last night....I really was wondering if I was ever going to go back to church...but this has been a good reminder for me...so I have to thank you for coming by." I testified of Heavenly Father's love for him..and that he was aware and told him how coming by was not in our plans...but Heavenly Father knew better and let us know where we needed to be so that he would know He cared about him and his family. We invited his son and daughter to the single's ward and his son said, "Yeah I have actually been feeling a lot of promptings to go to the single's ward but I can't drive and don't have a car." His daughter has an old 66' Mustang and has been trying to get it to work and Brother Baugh said, "I will have that car running by Sunday so they can get to church." His daughter laughed and said, "FINALLY!!" ...On Sunday, we were singing the opening hymn and I turned to see who had just walked in to sit down and almost jumped out of my seat when I saw it was them! Ha ha! So happy!
During Sacrament meeting on Sunday I was touched as I sang the final verse of the hymn that said, "Pardon faults O Lord we pray, bless our efforts day by day..." I have been seeing the many faults I have as I am now in the "fine-tuning" stages of my mission...and it has been a little discouraging...and I said a silent prayer to know that I was doing good...that I wasn't failing every day like Satan was trying to make me feel I was....then just after that, in the departing missionary's talk, she shared a quote I had shared with her in a lesson earlier this week. When she started reading it I started to cry. When she finished reading she turned to me and smiled. I felt her gratitude, and I felt the reassurance of my Heavenly Father wrap around me. We all have weaknesses...but even with weak things, the Lord can perform mighty miracles. How grateful I am to be a part of them.
All my love,