Its great to be able to write ya'll today on my half b-day and official 25% completion date of my mission. Wow. How freakin wierd it is that I'm already 1/4 done. It feels like just yesterday that I got here.
This past week was the last of the transfer. The norm for this mission is 3 transfers in your first area, so I was ready to get shipped somewhere else. I said goodbye to some converts and members and snapped some good pics. However, when the time came for transfers last night, surprise! -- I'm staying. My letter will be largely comprised of the premature farewells I gave yesterday, as well as some personal growth from the thinking I've been doing about perhaps leaving my birthland.
Yesterday, I said goodbye to Cesar Miguel Palma, and his mom, Patricia. She has been inactive for 10 years, but has started to come back since we baptized Miguel Dec 15. However, it has been and will continue to be a rocky climb back to full activity for both. Miguel is a semi rebellious, popular 12 year old kid. He feels like she pressured him into being baptized, even though we witnessed that it was all his choice. Anyways, I went there yesterday to make sure that whatever happens with the missionaries, he will strive to be active. I gave a bit of a sermon about how important the commandments and the church is for a kid between the ages of 12 and 18. I felt the Spirit strongly as I testified and warned him of the time ahead.
He and his mom have grown a special place in my heart. Apparently, he looks up to me a lot, although he's your typical 12 year old punk and doesn't show much affection. Anyway, I left off with a contract. The terms: he will pray, read the BoM daily, and go to church every Sunday, with the promise that he would grow to become a strong, faithful Priesthood holder, and would be the happiest he's ever been. I left my address etc, and my signature, but told him to sign in when he feels ready. I told him to make a decision between him and the Lord, and no one else.
The other powerful farewell was with Lila. She's 69 and we've taught her everything. She has accepted and completed every requistie to be baptized, but has denied many invitations to be baptized because she has already been baptized 2 times. She changes a lot, but ultimaltely has an incredible heart. We've grown super close this transfer, and is so fun to be around. Bueno, last week she basically told us - no, I've made my choice. However, she said she'd come to church and told us to come get her. She's slept thru the last 2 Sundays and always resisted us coming to fetch her. Suddenly, she's giving the orders. Boom! Sunday morning she's up and waiting for us. She loved the service and many members were chatting with her. She even asked a sister when the baptisms are. We snapped some pics becuase I said I might be leaving, and she told me "hey I might actually get baptized." Here enters one of the most powerful moments of my mission. So it's clear, we almost always are light'heartedly joking around with her, always laughing. Well, when she said this, I got really serious. I didn't say much, but IMMEDIATELY felt the Spirit say thru me really powerfully, "Lila, I don't know if I'll be here to see it happen, but I know you'll get baptized. I KNOW this Church is TRUE." Nothing more.
|Elder Hermanson, Lila and Isaac|
It's truly a priveledge to be a vessel in the hands of the Lord. We've STRUGGLED this transfer. The people here are hard. We had 8 people in these 6 weeks prepared/or willing to be baptized that for some reason or another all basically became eliminated as options. There is hope for a few (like Lila), but Hermansen says he's never seen so many people fall off or back away after being so willing or prepared. People don't want to come to church becuase Sunday morning is sleep time or drink time or time to go on vacation. Man. We consistently teach the most lessons in the zone, have good numbers, but FIGHT to baptize.
My 2 big takeaways: Man, I'm so blessed. 1st off, Vanessa was a tender mercy of the Lord. We were blessed to take part in her conversion, and really didn't do anything. 2nd, Limache is such a blessing. I've been thinking about how much agency has to do with progression. We all have problems, and can make decisions. For us here, God could either take away our problems (give us baptisms), or could test us, lift us up to be able to meet them (make us labor to be more capable in His hands). Either way, the problems will be taken care of and the baptisms will eventually come, but the difference lies in the personal growth. Man. I have learned sooooo much, grown soooo much, because of this blessed area. We have improved our quality of teaching soooo much, and still are striving to improve. I've learned to live in the fire. I know the God is making a precious gem out of the stubborn, ugly piece of coal that is the natural man inside of me. I can't be grateful enough.
Finally, I've always had trouble reconciling the selfisness that it seems to focus on what my mission can do for me. However, the conc I'm slowly reaching is that because of the nature of agency, the only person I can really be responsible for is myself. HOWEVER, the key to self improvement will always be the selfless striving to help others along their own journies. I hope I have touched you in some way thru these letters, and my prayer is always to grow more and more worthy of transmitting the Spirit of God to my fellow man.
Godspeed this week,