Received March 16, 2011
Dear Family and Friends,
Trent! I hope you had a happy birthday yesterday buddy! I can't believe that you are 16 already. That is so crazy! I hope that things went well and that you were able to have a great birthday!
I hope that you are all doing well and that this week was a great week for you guys! It was really sad to hear about the earthquake and tsunami in Japan. Everyone here is really worried about it so I hope that everything over there is going OK and that you are all safe and sound! Thanks for all you do for me. I love you all so much!
This past week has been way busy for us. We are doing so many things in the zone right now that I haven't had time to even think about myself! I am loving it so much because that is exactly what I need right now. We are in our area for three days out of each week and the other days of the week we are out working with the other missionaries in the zone. We are seeing so many miracles and I am learning more at this point in my mission than I ever have before. So things are going good and if you are expecting a letter from me and you haven't received it yet, this is the reason and I apologize. I'm not sure if things will calm down before the transfer ends. I hope not because I am loving every single minute of it.
This past week was just incredible. We have been so blessed to have been able to find Brenda Garcia. We passed by on Saturday night to remind her about church on Sunday and we were teaching the plan of salvation. That was one of the doubts that she had. She was worried about her and her childrens beliefs in God. I don't know if I told you this last week but she has been going through some really hard things in her life and she said that lately she has been doubting if God even exists. She said that the day that we were led to her she was ready to just throw herself in front of a bus and call it good. But she said that through the Book of Mormon she has come to receive answers to her prayers and she is coming to know a lot better that, yes, God does exist, and that He loves her.
We were talking about the plan of salvation and there was such a neat spirit. The pre-earth life made so much sense to her and it seemed to build her faith even more. When we started talking about the fall, the reasons we are here, and the purpose and importance of the atonement, it seemed like a light bulb just turned on in her head. After we talked about the atonement we reviewed again the lesson about the gospel that we had taught last Saturday. She said that it was just so clear to her. She said "Wow! So I really do need to get baptized. When will I be ready?" We weren't really expecting that but we hurriedly said the 9th of April would be a good date for her baptismal service. We also told her that we knew that she would be ready by that day. She said yes without even thinking about it. It was so neat to see how simple it was. All she needed to know and feel was that it wasn't the missionaries alone who were inviting her to be baptized. It was the Savior. When she connected the dots and realized that we repent and are baptized because it is what the Savior asks of us, she had all the desire in the world to do it. The spirit touched her heart and it touched our hearts as well.
The next day she was at church and she was a little timid. It was her first time but she liked what was spoken and she seemed to enjoy it. The teacher talked about the word of wisdom in relief society and there were some comments that made her really confused. We were both really worried that somebody had said something and that she was going to be really scared about everything now. But I need to repent because that is the opposite of what happened. We passed by that afternoon to go see what was up and she said that she was a little confused. But her real concern was that she just wanted to know all of the commandments that she needed to live in order to be baptized. We went through every single commandment and it was incredible how strong the spirit was. I have never felt the spirit testifying to all of us so strongly that what we were talking about were in fact commandments from God. We went through them with ease and after every single commandment, including the word of wisdom, she said "Yeah, that's what I already do. That's what I already believe. Of course I will live it." It is an absolute miracle to have this family right now. We have been going through a dry stretch trying to find the people the Lord has prepared for us. And he answered our prayers and hers by leading her to us. She is so chosen and is so ready to go. We still haven't been able to visit with her son because he is living in San Juan studying at school. This week we are going to send the missionaries over and I am sure that he is going to be touched by the spirit as well. God answers the prayers of His children. Brenda and her family are an answer to our prayers and we are so blessed to have them in our lives! We are so excited for the 9th of April because its going to be an incredible day.
We were over visiting the Galarza family on Sunday night as well. Raul was the only one who showed up at church on Sunday and we were a little concerned. It turned out that Nelly had a huge tooth infection in her mouth and she was at home recovering from the pain that she had. Anyways, we sat down and talked a little bit more about their baptism. We talked a little bit about the things that are required from us as members if we are baptized and asked if they felt that they knew that God would help them meet those requirements. Nelly responded with an answer that I wasn't expecting at all. She started talking about the temple. She said the night that we had invited her to be baptized all she could think about was the temple. She talked about how that was the reason why she said yes. She said that "yes, I know that we will be ready to go on the 16th, and you know why? Because I want to be in Salt Lake City at the temple on April 16th of 2012 so that I can be sealed to my family for time and for all eternity." I was really surprised by her answer but it touched me. Her goal isn't just baptism. Her goal is exactly where it needs to be. Her focus is on the temple! That's what we are constantly trying to do with all of our members and investigators. Get them focused and get them to have that goal of the temple. And here is this lady who for months we have been trying to get to feel in her heart that this is what she needs to do. And the thing that got her there is the testimony and the witness that she has received that families can be together forever, That the priesthood has been restored to the earth and that each and every one of us can be together with the ones that we love forever. It has been a crazy road to get to this point but I am absolutely amazed at the effect that the spirit has had on the heart of our dear sister. Her husband has been ready to go for a while but now that she is on board, we are going to see miracles continue to happen for them!
Yesterday I was working with a missionary who is going through some struggles right now. My work with him is part of the "centers of strength" program that we are doing every week. This is when all of the missionaries come to Ponce and we just go nuts in the work. We were working really hard yesterday talking to family after family and nobody would listen to us. We were both getting a little frustrated. We both felt bad because it just seemed like nobody would listen to us. We have been working a lot lately to try and get this missionary's faith built up and all day I had been praying, pleading that we would be able to have a faith building experience and that we would be able to have a testimony building experience together. It was a little frustrating to me that the answer had not come. It was getting late and we saw a family down the road. Neither of felt like we were ready to go and talk to them. I stopped him for a moment and we talked about the day that we had. We talked about faith and we talked about if we were ready to go and talk to that family. We talked about believing that God would bless us and that we would be able to teach the family. He said that he had never been able to teach that family and that they had passed by a few times already and the family had already said they did not want a lesson. I promised him that if we had faith a miracle would happen. We prayed and went for it. And what a miracle happened. They let us teach them about eternal families. I know that God lives and that He answers the prayers of His children. Maybe the lesson didn't have the greatest impact on this family and maybe they aren't a family that is going to get baptized in three weeks. But when we needed it most, when there were two missionaries giving it all they could, our Heavenly Father blessed us with the faith and testimony building experience that we needed. The rest of the night seemed like paradise to us. I know that God lives! I know that He hears our prayers and I know that this is His work. He is mindful of every single one of us and knows our needs. I know He lets us grow. He tries our faith. But in the exact moment that we need Him, He is there. And I know that is true.
I love you all with all the love I have to give. I hope you know how grateful I am for your love and support. Have a fantastic week and know that you always have somebody down here praying for you guys.