Hey my favorite people,
This week was complicated because I got hit with THE ABSOLUTE WORST AND WEIRDEST flu virus of all time. Apparently it's hit about half our zone. I've been out of commission since Thursday, and each day my symptoms morph into something new and horrible, but don't improve. SGibs has been a real champ and compassionate friend, taking care of me. This morning she woke up to me crying and made me lemon tea at 6:30 a.m. Bless her.
However, notwithstanding the bizarre health lameness, there were a lot of awesome things that happened this week. I want to tell you about two lessons in particular.
The first was with Armando. He came into the church in a flurry and we sat down in the classroom with Angela and Fatima and Amandio (recent converts who often teach/learn with us) and he was smiling real big and he looked at sister giberson and said, "I already know what you are going to say. You are going to start out with, how was your week?, and I am telling you right now that it is AWFUL." -- He´s still grinning .. "it is totally AWFUL and nothing has been going right. But something cool happened on Monday. I sent off a whole bunch of texts to clients who need to pay me, and NONE of them responded. Normally I can read the BOM when I am in a good mood, but when I am down, forget it! But this day, I had TV, I had food, I had movies, I had other books, and I was feeling horrible, and for some reason I decided instead to pick up and start reading the Book of Mormon. I read for four hours straight -- all of first and second Nephi -- and exactly when I finished second Nephi, my phone buzzed, and a client responded to me! I was astonished. I thought to myself, "I ought to read this book more often!" (we were like, yeah!! you should!!)
So he has received an answer that the Book of Mormon is true. Yeah!! Heavenly Father is so cool.
He continued, "You also asked me to pray about baptism. One day I did. Like, I didn't form any words with my lips, it was almost only a half-thought, but IMMEDIATELY something good happened."
He wants to be baptized!! He is no longer talking like "if", but now "when"! He is so much more ready than he realizes, too. We are full of faith that he can soooo be baptized this transfer. July 5th is the last Saturday of the transfer. We are going to present that date to him this week. !! He still needs to stop smoking and drinking and start living the law of chastity, but once a person has a desire to be baptized, nothing can stop them!
Will you pray for Armando?
Oh, guys, I wish you could have seen the new light in his countenance. He was going off about how his week was going horribly but he was SMILING and his whole countenance was changed and more full of light. He has already changed so so much since we met him.
THE GOSPEL IS TRUE. Gah! It is so cool to see it start to be delicious to others.
Ha! At the end of the lesson he was going off about how we are just so great. We are never irritable or depressed, we are generous and other centered and don't think about ourselves, etc, then he's like, "and you are always wearing the same clothes over and over again and you don't worry about your shoes."
I looked down at our shoes. Both of us were wearing HORRENDOUS sister misisonary shoes. Like, Shaun would literally have a heart attack. Perhaps Armando would be less impressed if he knew that we actually LOVE wearing adorable shoes and having more than 5 outfits. But lucky for us, those were strong points for him. :) HA.
Oh, and one more thing. I wish you could hear him pray. He VOLUNTEERED to say the closing prayer. One of my favorite things EVER about missionary work is hearing people pray who haven't yet gotten really comfortable with prayer. It is so beautiful. Their prayers are so unadorned and childlike and real. It always makes me want to pray more like they do.
Armando closed his eyes and folded his arms and said, "Heavenly Father. I want you to know that I believe in you. More every day. I know that you are good. You are extremely good. ..." It was slow and purposeful and real and uncomfortable and sincere and just exquisite.
I am so glad for Armando.
The other awesome lesson was with Irene. Irene is my FAVORITE. She is this 75ish Portuguese fire cracker with so much spunk. We met her in the street with Ricardo Melo (Ricardo Melo is this 16 year old LEGEND in our ward who joined the church a couple years ago and is amazing. He sometimes teaches with us. Especially Irene, because she loves him. Yesterday at church she was talking to the RS pres about how she is "crazy about that kid! I adore him, believe it!!" Anyway.) and he recognized her because the elders had been teaching her a while back. We invited her to church and she was like "NO" and we were like "why not?" and whe was like "because NO" and we set up an apt with her.
We taught her with Ricardo that week and she was constantly joking around and winking at all of us but you can just tell she has a desire to be blessed by the gospel. On Thursday we missed an apt with her because I was sick but we managed to get out of the house long enough to teach her on Saturday. Ricardo couldn't come, so we brought Angela. (Angela is the recent convert at whose house I called you for mothers day. She is a RIOT. She is always talking and saying "for the love of God!!" after like every sentence and is ON FIRE for the gospel. She's so great. I thought she and Irene would get along, even though they both have huge personalities. :)
Angela was great with Irene. She bore powerful testimony and went off about how greatly the gospel has blessed her life ever since she was baptized in February and how she loves living the 10 commandments and --
Irene interjected, "What exactly are the 10 commandments?"
"Oh," Angela said, confidently, "FIRST, Honor your father and mother. SECOND, Love God over everything else. THIRD, Love your neighbor as yourself." She made some vague hand gestures while trying to think of the next one, and said assertively, "NEXT, Keep the 10 commandments (this is my favorite) and NEXT, give food to the hungry and give clothes to the needy..." She ended there, as if she had said ten things. Irene was just listening and nodding. So were we. It wasn't worth correcting her in that moment. (A quote from SGibs' journal: "Sister Sandholtz and I just sat there smiling wisely with an expression that said, "Yes, these are the 10 commandments...") HA!
It was one of my favorite teaching moments of all time.
But the lesson was also very tender. We had pretty much marked her for baptism for the 14th of june the last time we met with her. But she is pretty fearful and afraid of change and failure. I had wanted to apply something that our zl elder Moore had taught us in zone mtg. -- to tell your investigators that you love them, and to show them you love them. This whole work is about love! During the lesson, Irene had told us she wasn't going to come to church. We asked her if she liked church when she came before and she said yes because she had felt a lot of peace and inspiration there. So we were confused.
Near the end of the lesson, I looked over at Irene and said, "Irene, we love you."
She threw her hands in the air and exclaimed, "You've known me for a week!!"
"I know," I said, "but we are set apart as representatives of Jesus Christ, and with that comes a great love -- His love -- for the people we teach. Irene, we feel His love for you, and we really love you. That is why we want you to come to church tomorrow, so you can feel that inspiration and the peace you described feeling last time you came. We want you to have these blessings because we love you."
She fixed my gaze for a few long seconds, testing me. She is fiery and jokes around a lot, but deep down she needed what I said to be true. I held her gaze confidently because I knew what I said was true.
"Will you be at church with us tomorrow?"
She looked at me, and said, simply, "Yes."
It was such a powerful moment for me. To apply something my mission leaders taught, and to see how huge of a difference it made for Irene to simply know and hear us say that we love her.
How often do we forget to tell people we love them? Expressing love is SO important and gives people the courage to do things that scare them. ALL REAL CHANGE IS MOTIVATED BY LOVE. this is why the atonement of Jesus Christ can purify, cleanse, uplift and enable us. Because He LOVES us. Expressing and showing love is the FIRST thing he asks us to do -- love God with all we are, and love our neighbor as ourself.
Anyway. I was so grateful to see that so powerfully with Irene this week.
I also loved watching her while Angela was going off about stuff. Irene would roll her eyes at me as if to say, Who is this lady!?, but deep down you could tell she was totally loving Angela. :) So good.
Oh, yeah, and she TOTALLY came to church. And she's totally getting baptized.
Will you pray she can have courage? That she can feel that love and take this step and not look back or fear?
I love Irene so much.
Fam. I LOVE YOU.
Have an amazing week.
Grace be with you,