Thursday, May 26, 2011
Received April 27, 2011
Dear Family and Friends!
I hope that all of you had a fantastic Easter weekend. This past weekend was so spiritual for us. We had a great Easter conference and the spirit was so strong as all of us gathered together to remember the miracle of the Savior's resurrection, and also to remember the love that He showed to us. Friday night we had a really special fireside for all of the investigators and less active members in the area. The entire mission was there and we lined the auditorium walls singing songs about Easter throughout the entire fireside. President Alvarado gave a great talk. The spirit was so strong. There weren't a lot of dry eyes by the end of the night.
The biggest surprise of the whole weekend happened at that fireside. I was talking to some people who were visiting from the English-speaking islands. We were trying to figure out who would translate and I felt a tap at my shoulder. I turned around and there, standing right in front of me, was Mary Pabon. I was so shocked and so happy to see her there with her recently baptized husband Angel Pabon. I don't know if you remember this couple but thy are the couple that I found the first weekend that I was in Vega Baja, almost a year ago. And here they were at the Easter fireside that the mission was presenting. Angel looked so great in his white shirt and tie and he just looked so happy and peaceful. Mary said that she was preparing for baptism, but like always, is taking her time because she doesn't like to read. President Alvarado came up and talked to them afterwards with me and he told her that he would get her the CDs in English and that Elder Ward and I would be able to come up and visit her while we are here in the north during the week. It was such a special experience to see somebody that I had worked with for so long who was still faithful and strong. Even though I was never able to see them make the commitment while I was serving there it was still meaningful to me. I felt so happy and peaceful to know that Angel had done exactly what he knew that he needed to do. I got just a little taste of that joy that it talks about in Doctrine and Covenants section 18. I can't imagine what it must feel like after this life is all over.
Anyways on Saturday we had a lot of really neat activities as well. We went to the biggest mall in Puerto Rico for lunch all dressed up in our suits and ties (Elders) and dresses (Sisters) and we did another flash mob. Just a few of us started singing and eventually everyone slowly joins in. It was incredible and it was really neat to see everyone in the mall just kind of stop and listen to the words of the songs that we were singing. With all of the hustle and bustle, and especially with a lot of things that the churches here do this time of year, the poeple tend to forget the true message of the season. Not only did He atone for our sins and give His life for us, but that He is not dead, He is risen! It was great to be able to bring that spirit and that testimony to all gathered there.
That night we all met at the stake center and he had a luau. We were all a little confused about why would be having a luau in Puerto Rico. But President Alvarado had on of the Hawaiian branch presidents explain why we were doing it. He told us that a luau is a family tradition and the family and the importance of family is something that is all over the Hawaiian culture. President Alvarado talked about how that message is what we are about sharing. That is what this plan is about. That is what the resurrection is about. It is about families and being part of the family of God. We wanted to have the biggest family that you could have. So we did! It was great! Elder Zenger and I, along with a few other Elders, and all of the Hawaiian Elders, got together and did the haka. It was intense! I have a picture of us all in our lava lavas. I'll send it to you soon. It was sweet! Kam a tee Kam a tee koorah koorah!
Anyways, so that was the Easter conference. Prior to taking time out of our work for the Easter conference we had some incredible experiences. On Wednesday night we were out working. As I told you in the emails last week we had to cut our p-day short so we could get to all we needed to before the weekend conference. That night we had a practice for the singing we had to attend . We were riding along one of the main roads and we saw a family pulled off to the side of the road talking. We were late for our practice but we could just feel the spirit directing us to pull over and talk to the family. Elder Zenger and I talked with them for a bit and we had a great conversation. They invited us back the to visit them at home the next evening. The next day we got off of the train and walked into the the plaza in our area and there, once again, was the same family. They were again having car trouble. We stopped to help them and it was kind of the like God reminding us about the need to help them and not to forget about this family. We went over and talked to them a little more to see how we might be able to help. We helped them out as much as we could and got them on their way. Before they left we asked if it was still OK for us to come by and visit that evening. They said they would watch for us. We passed by their place and they were there.
The name of the family is the Rodriguez family. Elder Zenger and I could tell that they were a special family and that the Lord had helped us find them for some reason or another. We could just feel it. We were inspired to talk about the doctrine of Christ and that they needed to be invited to be baptized. We talked a about how our families could be together forever and they were touched by the message. Then we started to talk about the example that Jesus Christ set for us and how we needed to follow that example. The spirit touched them all really quickly and they all testified that they knew that the baptism that they had received previously was probably not the baptism that God wanted for them. The spirit was so strong and we invited them to be baptized. Half of the family responded with a quick "yes!" The rest of them responded saying. "yeah, we want to do it, but lets get to know you a little more first." It was perfect. The family Rodriguez, a family of seven, said that they wanted to work towards receiving testimony of our message and preparing to make a covenant with their Heavenly Father through baptism according to Christ's example and by restored priesthood authority. We gave them a Book of Mormon and they said that they would read it.
I am so thankful for a loving Heavenly Father who knows the needs of every one of His children. It has been a struggle to try and get this area moving forward. There are 18 of us in the same ward and the areas in which we are working feel a little cramped. Even though this has been a huge change for all of us and we are having to adjust to working this way, the Lord is leading us to people in our path. And we are not just finding individuals to teach, but entire families. These are strong families that are going to be a great strength in the church in this area and will help the church to continue to build here forever. Yesterday we had a meeting with President Alvarado and he talked about how we aren't just working now only to build a new ward, our work is to accomplish something that has never been done here in Puerto Rico. We are building a new stake! We are building a new mission.
I know that God loves us and that Jesus Christ is the Savior and Redeemer of the world. This past weekend was so special. Our meeting on Sunday was powerful! There were some families visiting with us. One was visiting from Saint Croix. They are from Utah but right they are living in Saint Croix. I was privileged to be able to translate the beautiful talks for them from Spanish to English. All of the talks had the same theme - that Christ died and that He lives again. One of the main results of His sacrifice is that our families can be together forever. During the closing hymn the father in the family turned to me and told me about their son. He is 20 years old. He said that one year ago he never thought of serving a mission. But something changed and he had just received his mission call to the Oaxaca Mexico mission (Go Punky!). He said that his son's life has completely changed. I talked with the son afterwards and it was incredible to see the spirit that was in his face. He was a living, breathing, testimony of the power of the Atonement and I could see what a blessing it was not only in his life, but in the lives of his entire family. And that's why we are here! And I am so thankful that I can be here and I can be a part of this work!
I love you all so much and I hope that you have a fantastic week!