Monday, March 31, 2014

Three Stories

Viva meu querido pessoal!:

1. Antonio Nunes; Fé traz Esperança

Many weeks ago, we contacted a woman in the street named Lurdes.  She was very warm and kind, and invited us to pass by her drapery and sewing shop the next week.  We passed by to get to know her, briefly met her husband, left our card with her, but didn't have time to teach a full lesson.  A few weeks later, we found out from a member who lives on that same street, that Lurdes had suddenly passed away the previous night.  

A few days ago we were walking on the street of the drapery shop.  The door was cracked open and we could see Lurdes' husband inside.  We entered the shop and told him, "We heard about what happened ... and wanted to express our condolences..."  He thanked us for our attention and cried in a quiet, dignified way has he told us that it's really hard.  He has a daughter and 2 grandkids.  He reached into a drawer and pulled out our passalong card, which he had found among Lurdes' things and now keeps.  It has a picture of Christ and says "A Fé Traz Esperança" (Faith brings Hope).  

We said little.  Most of the visit was just quiet coexistence -- mutual, unspoken acknowlegement of the sacredness of life and death.  I was so grateful he let us in on that moment of poignant, beautiful grief.  It was so non-dramatic or theatrical, just a simple Portuguese man weeping at the loss of his closest friend.  They were married for 46 years.

He  told us how he has felt that she is near, that she has communicated with him.  We taught a few simple truths about the spirt world.  We asked if we could leave him with a prayer.  I felt like the Spirit really directed that prayer.  It included gratitude for the promise of the resurrection.  What a beautiful, hope-filled promise for each one of us!  We will bring him a Plan of Salvation pamphlet this week.

2. Palmira and the Hand Cream; Things are Just Things

Mom, your birthday packages arrived this week!  We went to visit Palmira one evening, just after picking up one of the packages from the mail.  It had in it some Lime-Ginger hand cream, which Sis Rad, Palmira, and I all experimented at the beginning of our visit.

We soon realized that Palmira was in a really bad mood.  She told us she didn't want to hear any scriptures or prayers, and that she was getting sick of us coming by.  (we know this is not true; we are some of the only people who actually visit her at all...)  We were kind of insulted.  I felt like standing up and being like, "All right Palmira we can stop coming by!!  We have more enjoyable people to spend our time with!!"  But then I realized that my attitude was completely wrong.  This poor woman is alone and afraid.  The very fact that she was rude to us shows that she trusts us -- we are all our worst selves with the people we love the most sometimes.  I prayed in that moment that God would give me some of His love for Palmira.  

We stood up to leave - she didn't have the patience for a visit - and gave her hugs.  I had been debating in my mind the whole time whether or not I should leave her with the Ginger Lime hand cream.  In the end, I realized that she needed a small act of love much more than I needed a little tube of lotion.  We left it with her and told her, "This is something the smell good and bring a little bit of happiness to you!".  I think it really surprised her.  It felt so good to give it to her.

One thing that Heavenly Father is teaching me on my mission is that things are just things.  Things don't matter.  They are only important as symbols of the things that matter more -- love, trust, confidence, nourishment, protection, grace, generosity, abundance, knowledge.  

(This is also apt for me to remember right now, as a torrential rain storm is probably destroying the clothes I hung out on the line this morning.  My favorite skirt was out there.  I hope it's okay!  Ha!)

3. João and Baptism; Don't Move Until You See It Part III - The Spirit Knows EVERYTHING

The miracle of the week was a lesson we had with an investigator named Joao.  He is a 50 year old doctor, very educated and knowledgeable about the Bible.  We have been teaching him weekly since Christmas - he doesn't want pressure but really loves the church.  At the beginning of the week, when we made a list of investigators we could mark for baptism this week, we  felt that Joao was the person we needed to focus on.  The thought came to Sister Radvansky's mind, "You know who and he knows too."  We prepared a specific lesson for him and taught him on Thursday, during the mission fast, with a member, at the church.  We taught dizimo, the last pre-baptism lesson he needs, then focused on each of his duvidas (doubts) about baptism, one by one, calmly and thoroughly, and invited him to be baptized on the 30th.  He was surprised and kept saying, "That's cedo!" (soon), but he also told us that he wants to attend a baptism (he didn't have that desire before) and believes that everything we have taught is true.  He told us he would go home and pray about that date and read the Book of Mormon (for the first time.  He hadn't yet cracked the cover of the keystone to his answer, even though we had invited and encouraged him in each previous lesson to read it!)  In the end, he still felt like the 30th was too soon, but as a result of that lesson and those invitations, he has now read the Book of Mormon (and likes it, of course!), his duvidas are largely resolved, and he is having a "spiritual wrestle with God" (in his words) as he decides whether or not and when he will be baptized.  I feel confident that he will join the church and become a HUGE asset to this branch.  He could for sure be the next President do Ramo.  Yesterday in sacrament meeting he was crying during the hymn "Grandioso És Tu" (How great thou art).  We know he knows it's true.  He just has to figure out that he knows it, then act on it!  One other interesting part of this story is that the first time he ever attended church, when he took the sacrament he felt something really powerful.  It kind of scared him and he resisted it for a while.  I think this is the phenomenon that is still happening within him, which he describes as a "wrestle with God" (citing Jacob's experience in the OT).  But that was a huge testimony builder to me of the power of the sacrament!  It is a true ordinance that Christ has given us to feel His power and His love.  I think Joao has known the church is true ever since that first Sunday.  I know he is one of the people that I had to meet and teach in Evora.  I really hope to see him baptized before I leave Evora, but I trust the Lord's time table completely.  He knows exactly what Evora needs, and when.  

Will you please pray for João, that he can find clarity and peace as he decides to be baptized and join the church!?  (Nate, I loved what you said about the "big guns" being the fam's prayers.  so TRUE!  :)

Well gorgeous people I love you so.  Are you stoked out of your minds for GC?  I am.


Sister Sandholtz

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