Well, chalk up another L in Satan's win-loss column! Kathy annihilated him last week, culminating in her baptism. Like I have said, she is an incredible lady, and studies more than anyone I've ever met. But, we had the same problem just about everyone in Western New York has: smoking. We had it all scheduled out for her to be fully quit by the Wednesday before her baptism, and it was all looking completely doable. Then, we got a phone call telling us that Kathy had just received an eviction notice... We thought for sure the stress of the situation was going to destroy her. But, we called her up, and the first thing she said: "Well... you told me Satan was going to work his hardest this week, didn't you?" She stayed completely off cigarettes, and had a beautiful baptism!
Possibly my favorite part of the whole baptism, though, was the combination of talks. We had Liz, Kathy's investigator daughter, give a talk on the Gift of the Holy Ghost, and Freddy, Liz's investigator fiance, give a talk on baptism. We definitely had multiple people in the branch express concern about nonmembers giving talks, but we stuck to our guns on it. We helped them a little bit here and there, but really the vast majority of the talks they wrote themselves, and man did they stun everyone! Freddy, who is 18 and has a learning disability, used the Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, Preach My Gospel, True to the Faith, and The Gospel of Jesus Christ pamphlet to really figure out what baptism was. We've found in the past that he struggles internalizing information, but when he writes it down, it forces him to process it on his own and really figure it out; this was no exception. At the close of his talk, he talked about how much he has seen Kathy change as she's accepted Christ into her life and how excited he was as he nears his baptism in just a month and a half, now. I expected Liz, who is just 16, to do well, and she definitely did. My favorite part of her whole talk was her close: "Without the Holy Ghost, I don't know if living a completely happy life would be possible." Even our branch president was just staring in awe at both of them!
Holy crap! I just looked at last week's letter and totally missed what was probably the most important event of last week! We got a new investigator (three, really, if you count her kids) on Sunday. Her name is Amy, and she just got out of an abusive relationship that left her permanently disabled with a broken back. She was at the pool one day, when she met Sister Forster, who is a single mom in our branch. Amy was really impressed with the way Sister Forster had raised her daughter on her own, and Sister Forster immediately credited the Church. In not much time, she'd invited Amy to Sacrament Meeting. Amy had been raised Catholic, and apparently when she mentioned that she was going to church to her mom, her mom started crying, just thrilled that Amy was going to any church again.
Then, we spoke with her a week before yesterday, and the discussion went PERFECTLY. She agreed it made perfect sense that there would still be prophets on the Earth, that Jesus wouldn't only give His gospel to the Jerusalem area, that anyone else with the gospel would probably write their own scriptures as well, and that there would need to be some sort of authority to do things in the name of God. We invited her to be baptized, and often with people raised in other faiths their first question is, "I've already been baptized, do I need to be baptized again?" Instead, Amy's first question was, "I've already been baptized, am I able to be baptized again?" and was clearly relieved when the answer was yes. She said she needed to find out if it was all true for sure, but she has been reading the Book of Mormon every day since and already has a habit of prayer, so that is a phenomenal place to start!
Then, last night, she came with us to a fireside in Buffalo where President Christianson (my mission president) was speaking. Really, it's near impossible to listen to President talk and NOT be converted, so it was already a solid plan. What surprised me, though, is how quick she was to feel the Spirit. Before President even started, there was a musical number where a family of five men sang "Come Unto Jesus." By the end of the first verse, Amy was in tears, and they didn't stop for an hour of a fireside. We'll meet with her again on Sunday to talk about the Plan of Salvation, and I can't wait!
I figure someone out there is probably getting fishy about how positive all my letters seem to be. I think it will be important that we save these letters to combine with my journal, because I swear this is where I put all the positives of the mission, and my journal is where I sort out all my frustrations. I've come to realize real quick that having a companion is going to be my primary struggle. Look at my past two years, even. What are my big groups of friends? The Rainbow Brigade--seven guys--and SigEp--a bunch of guys. But, who are the friends I build the strongest one-on-one relationships with? Kelsi, Haelee, Sam, Tab.... all girls. I don't know what it is, but I butt heads with companions like crazy and definitely need to sort that out! But, there's a song both me and my companion are loving now, from EFY 2012, called "Give It All to Him," which hits the nail on the head!
Incredible song, eh?
Also, there's a scripture I found that I want to share with you all. In Colossians 3:12-14, it reads:
"Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering; Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye. And above all these things put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness."
The bond of perfectness. I love that line! We always hear about charity being the pure love of Christ, which is spot on, but I love this scripture in Colossians as an appendage to it. In 1 Corinthians 13:1-3, Paul repeatedly says he can do all sorts of great things, but without charity--without that pure love--it simply doesn't matter. Here in Colossians, Paul lists off all sorts of great traits: kindness, meekness, forgiving, the list goes on. But it is truly loving people and wanting to use these traits and these gifts to help other people out that serves as "the bond of perfectness" and helps us become truly Christlike.
I love you, but I don't miss you!