Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Christmas Miracles!

Received December 8, 2010

Dear Family and Friends!

Thank you so much for all of the great letters and emails that you sent this week. It was so incredible to hear of all of the great things that are happening back at home! I am thankful for the miracle that grandma and grandpa had and I am extremely thankful to hear of the incredible miracle that has happened back in the ward. What an incredible experience to be able to share and to be able to experience! I wouldn't expect anything less from the life of Brother Howe. I remember that one of the first activities that I had as a priest in the 6th ward was a hike to a waterfall near P.G. When we got to the top of the waterfall, Brother Howe jokingly asked us if he should jump off. I can remember Jesse Fowlke told him that he could do it and he would probably be able to fly and gently land upon the ground. He is truly an incredible man. And it is obvious that there are still lives for him to touch. I was so grateful to hear that there was enough faith for him to be able to receive another huge miracle. As dad was retelling me the experience, I began to tear up. I cheated and hurried and read the end because I couldn't bear to hear that Brother Howe might have died. But the part I read was, "It was the closest thing to a Lazurus experience that I had ever witnessed." My heart jumped up and I was so thankful to be able to read about the incredible miracle that we all had received! That is great news. I hope you know how much I love you Brother Howe! I am looking forward to our hike in a few months! Thank you so much for being such a great example to us all! I hope you know how much I love you and appreciate you!

This past week has just been incredible for us. We have been a little stressed out because transfers happened this week. But we were blessed because they came and they went and now all is well. We have some new missionaries in the zone and sadly Elder Turner will be going home. How sad that he will be home just in time for Christmas right? But we are really excited for the new blood that we have in the zone and we know we are going to see some incredible things start to happen.

A few of you mentioned that you had been praying for Andres and Alexia and Andy and Diego. I wanted to thank you for that and testify to you that I know that your prayers are being answered by a loving Heavenly Father.

Last Tuesday (as I think I told you) we were able to go over with President Alvarado and we had a great lesson with them. Towards the end of the lesson Andres mentioned that they were both feeling a little anxious about the baptism and they weren't sure that they would be ready by the 18th. It was great to have President Alvarado there because he testified to them that he knew they were ready. We set up a follow-up appointment and we were going to take the opportunity to be able to come back and explain a little bit more of why they were ready.

We sat down on Thursday and we explained the gospel of Jesus Christ. We had fun drawing a picture of a bridge over the water where some scary water animals lived. We said that the bridge the gospel to help us get safely to God. It was great to be able to just teach the kids, but to teach in such a simple way that we would be able to clear up the parents doubts without them knowing it. As we went through each step of the gospel and explained how it is a process -- faith repentance, baptism, gift of the holy ghost and enduring to the end, which means we do it all over again. The spirit was so strong and Elder Varner and I were both so amazed! The kids were learning and they were loving every second of it. We knew that it wasn't because we were doing anything special. The spirit was testifying to them of the simple truths that they were being taught. Towards the end of the lesson we went through the steps of few times and told them that we too, knew that they would be ready for baptism. We testified that baptism would lead them to be able to go to the temple. They talked about having such a strong desire to go to the temple and to be sealed together as a family. We told them that they could do it and they would be ready a year after their baptism. When they heard that they were so excited. I told them that they could come and have a white Christmas in Utah and we could all go together. They LOVED THE IDEA. So, Mom and Dad, I hope its OK but next Christmas we might have a few visitors with us for a few days :) Needless to say, those doubts about not going away have dropped considerably.

Last night was going to be another big test. Last night we were blessed to be able to teach them the word of wisdom. And we were even more blessed to be able to teach with a very strong family from our ward, the Ortiz family. This family is like a perfect match because they both have two little boys who have A LOT of energy. Anyways, it was a miracle that they were able to come with us last night because their witnesses added something to the lesson that we wouldn't have been able to give.

We sat down and went through the five things: alcohol, tobacco, drugs, tea annnnnnnnddddddd coffee. It was pretty funny because as we said the last one Alexia screamed "NOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!" and put her face in the Book of Mormon. Andres just threw his head back and started clapping his hands and laughing. It was all in good fun because Alexia was laughing along with us. She screamed "I KNEW IT!!! I KNEW YOU WERE GOING TO SAY IT!!!" Apparently she likes coffee. But what came next was one of the most incredible demonstrations of faith that I had seen in my life.

She knew that it was going to be hard. She kept talking jokingly about how everyone would have to stay away from here for the next few days as she would go through the withdrawals. But she never once doubted that she would be able to do it. It was great to be able to have Hermano and Hermana Ortiz there with us. Hermano Ortiz talked of prayer and about how this would be a great opportunity for her to gain an even stronger testimony, She would come to find and even stronger conviction that this truly is the restored Gospel of Jesus Christ on the earth today. He told a story from his mission of the only Puerto Rican that he taught in California. He said he lived way out in the middle of no where, about 2 hours from the nearest store. When Hermano Ortiz and his companion taught this brother the word of wisdom the man left the room. While they were talking with the man's wife he ran away with all of the coffee. He said the man stopped talking to them for the next few days. But he eventually was moved by his testimony and gave up the coffee and got baptized. He and his family were later sealed in the temple and now his great-grandchildren are members of the true church. Apparently this story gave them an idea because what happened next was incredible.

We read scriptures in Ether 12 and in 1 Nephi 3 about trials of faith and living the commandments. Then we committed them to live the word of wisdom. Andres laughed and said "if Nephi and his brothers had to walk thousands of miles in the desert to follow the commandments, I think that I can quit drinking coffee so that I can follow God's commandments." Alexia also showed so much faith. She got up and got her canister that they used to keep their coffee gave it to us, telling us to get rid of the coffee. Andres mentioned that we should take the coffee maker as well. We took advantage of that opportunity. By the time that we left the house we had a huge container of coffee, a coffee maker, and the last of Andres' beer. (Don't worry mom and dad, we got rid of it all.

And unlike Mckay we didn't carry it with us into another church on the way home). It was a fun night and we all had a lot of smiles. But the faith that I saw in a mother giving up something that truly keeps her running was amazing. She did this that she could be baptized so that her family would have the opportunity to be sealed. It was a great blessing and a complete jaw dropper to me. The faith that I saw in that family last night was just incredible! I'm not sure that I would be able to do what they did last night. But they did it, and they are chosen.

I know that the spirit is real. I know that when the spirit touches are hearts a real change occurs. I have seen this change happen over and over again in my mission and it is happening so strongly with Andres and his family. They are changing so much and they have caught the vision of what God truly wants for his children in this world. They are doing all that they can. They are sacrificing many of the things of this world that they enjoy so that they will be able to go to the temple in a year to be sealed and become an eternal family. A lot of times we let little things get in the way of the blessings and miracles that God has given us, or that God has made available to us. I wish you could all see and experience what I had the opportunity to see and experience last night. Jesus Christ lives! He loves us! He humbly gave His life so that we could be able to live with Him and our Father again. He never once in life sought for glory or for honor, only to do what His Father asked. I love Him and I am thankful for His example. I know that He lives and I know this is His church! How blessed we are to be a part of it all!

Raul is doing great, He is loving the Book of Mormon. We are working with the family little by little. We were able to get a For the Strength of Youth pamphlet and we gave it to the wife to read! She ate it up. She has a new fire to listen to us. Which is great because that fire kind of went away for a while. But Raul and his family continue to progress and I can see the power of your prayers working here!

I hope you know how much I love you! Thank you once again for all that you do! I hope that the Christmas season is treating all of you well!

I love you so much, family and friends! Stay strong and know that I love you. I know I'm not so great at writing back right now and I am sorry. But I always love to hear from you guys! You are my strength and the fuel that keeps my going.

Have a holly, jolly Christmas week, for truly this is the best time of the year!

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