One of the things we do a lot as missionaries is pray. Hopefully that doesn't come as a surprise to anyone. And as I've been praying a lot more now than in any other point of my life, what I say in my prayers has also become much more important to me. A couple in one of the english wards (congregations) in our area pointed something interesting out to me (hopefully I haven't already mentioned this in a past letter). He's an english teacher (or was before he decided to become a professional map maker/artist) and his wife is a lawyer (and a professional map maker/artist), so language is very important to them. They talked about the word "can," or in other words, "to be able to".
Typically many of us include in our prayers something along the lines of this: "Please bless me so that I CAN do well on my test tomorrow," or "Please bless my children so that they CAN stay safe." Heavenly Father, or God, answers our prayers if we pray to Him in the name of Jesus Christ. (If you doubt that then write me a letter and I will write you a jolly letter in return telling you to open your eyes and actually look for the answers.) So when we pray that we CAN do something, we are basically asking Heavenly Father to grant a blessing that he has already given.
For example, when I was little and still enjoyed annoying my younger brother Kevin (because we all know I've completely grown out of that by now) he would ask something along the lines of "can I use your lacrosse stick?" A very reasonable request. I would respond with complete sincerity and without a lick of sarcasm: "I don't know...CAN you?" or "Of course you CAN use it...but I'm not going to let you."
Heavenly Father is ready to grant us a lot of blessings. He's basically the perfect Dad who just wants to help us out. But if we don't ask him the right way, then he can't infringe on our agency (which is the right to choose or act for ourselves). He knows, just like every parent, that if he can't force Himself on us. All we have to do is ask for something and then in the best time for it, he will give it to us. But before he can give it to us, we have to ask for it.
So for the past few months, I've been working on changing my prayers from "Please bless us so that we CAN find someone who wants to be baptized" to "Please give us someone this week who will be baptized next month." It works a lot better. Give it a try.
This Sunday, an incredible woman named Maribel is going to be baptized. One of the pictures that my brother hopefully will upload is of her and her soon to be husband (despite the fact that they aren't smiling, I promise they are happy. They just don't like pictures very much). On Saturday, they are going to get married and this past week we went to the marriage office with them to help them get their marriage license. Please pray for her that this Saturday, she WILL be married and then on Sunday that she WILL be baptized.
First things first: Ismael was baptized on Wednesday. Working with him has been an amazing experience and his baptism topped it all off. David Castaneda, a member of our congregation who leaves for his mission to Puerto Rico soon, did the baptism and Ismael came up out of the water with a huge smile on his face, which is odd for him because he's a typical sixteen year old who tries to hide emotion (of course I never did that when I was his age). All of the youth came to the baptism so Ismael had a ton of support. On Sunday, he was confirmed and received the Gift of the Holy Ghost (if you have questions about that, go to http://mormon.org/commandments
Last night, Elder Camacho and I met a new family. Actually, it's the fifth time I've met them, but it's the first time they've invited us in and it was powerful. Five months ago during my first few weeks, Elder Torres and I knocked on a door and a man and women, each in their early 20s, answered the door. We talked with them for a few minutes, found out their names were Elizebeth and Javier, and they invited us back the next day. When we returned at the time of the appointment, no one was home (very normal for us). We tried coming back for the next few days but no one was ever home so we stopped trying. A few weeks later with Elder Moczygemba, someone in the parking lot told us to visit them, so we stopped by. Elizebeth answered, we talked with her, set up an appointment, came back, and no one was home. Very fun. Once Elder Camacho and I became companions, the same thing happened a third time when the English missionaries for our area met them and told us to go by. We met Elizebeth outside, talked with her and their two year old daughter, Asdrid, but when we came back, no one was home. At this point, we had probably been to their home 20ish times (talk about annoying missionaries) and we gave up on them. But...thankfully Heavenly Father realizes how hard-headed missionaries can be and gave us another chance with them.
Last Sunday, a member of our ward told us that someone she works with needs help and that she wanted the missionaries to stop by and meet with him. She gave us his name and address and off we went. When we got nearby, we met Javier outside his apartment and suddenly it dawned on us that the member had sent us to him. We set up an appointment for the next day but when we went, he wasn't home. Yay. But, we decided that there had to be something important with this family if we had been sent to them four different times.
Last night, a couple from an English ward, the Tracy's, came out with us to teach a family who we met last week. The family wasn't home, but rather than shrugging their shoulders and giving us the typical "call us whenever you need help and thanks for wasting our time" that we get a lot, they asked if there was anyone else we could visit. We tried to go to another family that lives near Javier and Elizebeth but that family wasn't home either. So in desperation, we stopped by Javier and Elizebeth.
They immediately opened the door an let us in. Within five minutes we were actively talking about the Book of Mormon. Sister Tracy, who was baptized only five years ago, bore a powerful testimony of the Book of Mormon and then we read with them from 3 Nephi 11, which describes when Jesus Christ came here to the Americas. We could all feel the Spirit very strongly and Javier and Elizebeth have a huge desire to learn more.
Basically, all four of these paragraphs describe one thing: coincidences don't happen. Every little thing had to happen just right for that lesson last night to go well. If just one thing had happened differently, nothing would have happened. I repeat what I said a few months ago: Coincidences are God's way of staying anonymous.
Greetings once again from Rose Park. My Bishop (leader of our congregation) and I were joking around this week that I've been here nearly as long as he has.
Thanks for everyone who sent me Family Home Evening ideas. My sister, Meredith, sent in my personal favorite of teaching little kids the "Once there was a Snowman" and "Popcorn Popping" songs and then either making a snowman with them or making popcorn treats. A friend of mine from BYU, Melanie Cox, comes in second with the BOP game. And sorry Dad, even if you sent 110ish ideas, you still come in third :)
Well, this Wednesday Ishamel is going to be baptized at 8:00 (we're replacing our normal youth night with his baptism). Last Thursday we went by his house and the first thing we asked was if he had chosen a baptismal date. He told us he had prayed a few times about it and that he kept thinking about this Wednesday as the day Heavenly Father wants him to be baptized into His Church. Even if Wednesday is not a normal baptismal date, as missionaries we aren't exactly the type of people who argue with ideas from Heavenly Father. So, this Wednesday it is.
When he told us what day he wanted to be baptized, his mom wasn't in the room yet, so only the four of us knew (Elder Camacho, Ishamel, David Castaneda, and me). We always start and end our lessons with a prayer, so I offered the opening prayer. (At that point, Lilia, Ishmael's mom, was in the room). In the prayer, I thanked Heavenly Father for giving Ishmael an answer about what day he should be baptized and then asked Him to help Ishmael prepare for this Wednesday. When we opened our eyes, Lilia looked like she was about to pass out from shock. It was fun.
Love you all.
Please pray for Ishmael this week that he can continue to prepare for his baptism on Wednesday, August 15th, that he can be protected from outside influences that want to convince him to go back to his past life, and that he can feel the Holy Ghost testify to him that this is the right path for him.
Thank you to everyone who sent me ideas for Family Home Evening ideas.
On a random note, I apologize to people who have sent letters in the past month and haven't gotten a response yet. Our preparation days (each Monday), which are the only days when we have time to write letters, have been a little crazy for the past few weeks. So don't hate me (Matthew 7:1). Love you all :)
Lilia, Eduardo, and Ishamel were all baptized this past weekend and it was incredible. Each one of them has a testimony of Christ and the smiles on their face show that better than anything else.
The downside of the week, which later became an upside, was with the fourth member of the family who had planned on being baptized: Ishmael. He's sixteen years old and for most of his life, hasn't had a dad and has served as the "man of the house" or whatever you want to call it. This past week, everything got a little too much for him and he ran away from home for a few days. After the baptism on Saturday evening, Elder Camacho, my companion, plus all of Lilia's family, most of our ward, and many other people prayed for Ishmael. And because God answers prays, Ishmael showed up at his house on Sunday morning and wanted to go to church. Tonight, we're going to visit him at home and see what he wants to do. But it strengthened my testimony that God truly does answer our prayers.