Now sure how it slipped my mind last week, but this week we got to tour the mission with Elder Viñas of the 1st Quorum of the 70! Elder Slighting and I helped Pres. Chaparro organize 3 multi-zone conferences, and they were awesome. The theme of the conferences was how the Atonement helps us be better missionaries - we ended up talking a lot about how we can become more converted to the Gospel and as a result help others do the same, by way of the Atonement. It was a really awesome experience witnessing 3 consecutive conferences, as Elder Viñas changed his teaching according to the participation and the Spirit.
But as a side story that is very connected, let's talk about the Chuychuy family - Daniel and Gabriela. Not sure if I've told much about them, but they're a miracle. A few weeks ago in splits, Elder Tello and Elder Pizarro felt that they should knock on a door, and well, the Chuychuy's let em in. The rest is history :). They committed to go to church and have been 3 weeks in a row for all 3 hours. They take their 2 year old girl Mikaela, and she doesn't cry - just plays around. Every lesson, they are waiting eagerly to learn more and they keep all their reading commitments. This week, our big challenge and concern has been addressing the issue that they aren't yet married. I was traveling for ZCs when they taught it, but Elder Mann and Elder Tello taught the Law of Chastity very well, and they Chuychuys said they'd been thinking about getting married lately, and they want to keep all the commandments, so they're down. When I got back on Thurs, we did a followup and cleared up doubts. It's incredible how the Spirit is working in them. They've learned enough about the Temple that they know that there is a difference between civil and temple marriage. It was kinda uncomfortable, but we helped them understand that the powers of procreation are to be employed righteously between husband and wife, not only to create life but also to strengthen the marriage bond. They are set on getting sealed in a year. They are reading the Book of Mormon and praying together. In less words, they are experiencing the first fruits of conversion...
I have a ton of notes and thoughts from the conferences. Here are some random impressions:
-Wow, this guy knows the Scriptures. He stood and taught for 1 hour and 30 minutes without touching anything but the microphone, and yet cited verses word for word from all 4 canonical books.
-He talked about how the "remission" of sins is not the same as "forgiveness" - that we are gradually cleaned as we serve others and keep the commandments after partaking of the Sacrament - the Sacrament isn't so much like a car wash that we visit once a week. As we do our best throughout the week, we are gradually cleansed.
-He said very directly that the Church needs CONVERTS, not numbers. It was such a hopeful, loving, comforting feeling, one that really wasn't felt in my first few months in the mission. We didn't feel pressure to reach quotas, but rather, minister and bless ALL. Mom, I recognize that you've been preaching this to me my whole mission - members, active or less active, recent converts, other missionaries, non-members. WE ALL NEED to keep moving forward in the path, and thus we all need help! Overall, I felt a deep sense of urgency to never waste anytime, and that all time spent ministering and helping others feel better about themselves is time well spent.
In each exercise, he took out the lists of the recent converts in each ward in the present zones. He called a few names from each ward and asked that the missionaries tell everyone how they are doing. In Jujuy, I had the privilege to sit next to Leandro Brajeda, one of my best friends in the universe. He was baptized in Alberdi when I was serving there with E Miño, and I invited him to the conference. He showed up with a sweet suit. As he was next to me, Elder Viñas took out the Alberdi list, and called the names of those recent converts who had received the Melquizedek Priesthood. There was one name. "Leandro Javier Brajeda." The 4 Elders from Alberdi jumped and said very excitedly - "He's here, in the 1st row!"
I can't say that all of "my" converts are active, sadly. I've felt that I've got a lot of work cut out for me for the rest of my life to try and help everyone keep advancing in the path. But as for those that are active, like I said last week, they are my joy and happiness. Elder Viñas was clear in saying that the only person responsible for their activity is their self, but that we all play a vital role inviting and influencing others.
I want it clear, especially for Brigham, that the mark of a successful mission depends on your dedication (obedience, diligence), your love for the people, and the quality of conversion that you help promote. That being said, of course more is better, but it needs to start with quality.
May we ALL seek families that are prepared to accept and live the Gospel, keeping the commandments and serving the Lord to build His Kingdom, is my plea. We work for His glory, and in turn he blesses us with unremitting joy.