It has been such a good week for Sister Walton and I. We have been working so hard. I am so proud of her - She is an excellent missionary and is so much more bold than I ever feel! We push each other and help each other every day. We have gotten to be so much more comfortable with each other, too, so we're bonding well - which I am so grateful for! One of the perks of being her companion is that she's a commercial fisher AND a '49 Chevy truck owner - which means she has something in common with 95% of Havasu. It sure makes for a great conversation starter with street contacts, haha! I have no doubt that she was called to Havasu because she can connect with so many of the retirees here. It is so awesome.
One huge lesson I have learned thus far on my mission is that I can't force anything to happen... all I can do is work hard, be obedient, continually pray for guidance and strength, and then TRUST that the Lord will make things happen. In my head, I've known that that's the way it works from the get-go. But actually feeling and applying it daily has been a struggle. I've been my own stumbling block because (as I've said before), I've been relying too much on my own grit and abilities. It's taken some time, but I finally feel I'm shoving that stumbling block to the side and increasing my diligence and faith, and everything is falling into place. We have seen so much success these past few weeks, and our efforts have nearly doubled our key indicators (numbered measurements of the progress of the work)! We have quality contacts each day, strictly stick to the schedule we plan out each night, and pray and pray and pray some more for miracles. One of the biggest miracles I have yet to see yet happened yesterday:
Emma Aston's baptism was held in the chapel right after church (the chapel because so many ward members came to support her and we couldn't all fit in the Relief Society room, where baptismal services are usually held! Another reason I LOVE Crossman Peak Ward). It was such a beautiful service. All her family was in town, and the room was filled with so much love and JOY. I was really touched. When we migrated to the room with the baptismal font, Bishop Hansen tapped me on the shoulder and said, "There's a man named Tom sitting in the back of the room - I just met him. I want you to go speak to him after the service." We caught a glimpse of him before heading over to speak to him afterwards - a man in his 50s, blue Tshirt, cargo shorts, old sandals, crying. We went up and introduced ourselves to him, and he began crying harder. One of the first words out of his mouth: "I have been to 8 or 9 different churches in this town, and every single one of them, without fail, has depicted you Mormons as the most evil, corrupt, devil-worshipping church in the world. It makes me sick thinking about it, now that I've been here and witnessed this. I cannot believe how wrong people are about you guys. This is the most beautiful thing I've ever seen!" He was just weeping. "I'm telling you, you have NO IDEA what other congregations are saying about you! And they're all wrong!" We were speechless. I asked him what brought him to join us, and he said he just kind of wandered in. "I'm at the end of my rope... as of tomorrow at 4:00 I'll be homeless. I've got no where else to go. Someone told me I could find help here, so I came to see your Bishop, and I found myself sitting in on this service. It is so beautiful. There is so much love here." He stopped talking because he couldn't get the words out past his tears. Finally, "I'm sorry I'm crying, I'm so embarrassed! I just - I don't know..." I told him we were so glad to have him there, and then I asked if he was interested in learning more about the church. "Yes!" He exclaimed. "Yes, yes! I have never felt this way before!" A miracle! Sister Walton pulled a Book of Mormon out of her bag, handed it to him, and said: "Tom, this is where it begins. This is what we're all about, and I promise that if you read it, along with your Bible, you will find all the guidance and direction and clarity you need." She began to cry. "THIS is what we do as missionaries, and THIS is why we've left our families for 18 months. I know this book is true, and you, too, can know for yourself." He kept crying and nodding his head. I couldn't believe what I was witnessing! We got his information, and as we led him to the Bishop's office, he said this: "I have a question for you two. I was baptized before, in a river. I accepted Christ as my Savior, but as I was baptized, I didn't feel anything. The commitment to Him was there, but there was a complete lack of feeling. Why?" Sister Walton and I looked at each other in shock... he was asking all the right questions! Sister Walton said in reply, "Tom, we believe in a power called the Priesthood. The Priesthood is the authority given to man to act in God's name in behalf of His children. One must be baptized by a man holding the Priesthood authority of God in order for his or her baptism to be fully accepted before the Lord. The Priesthood seals promises and covenants man makes with God on Earth and in Heaven." Tom listened closely and said, "So, the man who baptized me didn't really have the Priesthood?" Sister Walton: "No, he did not." (pause) "Tom, if you read the Book of Mormon, and came to know that this church is true, would you be baptized by someone who holds the Priesthood authority?" Tom: "Yes, yes I would!" He continued to cry. "I most definitely would." Sister Walton: "Well, we're holding a baptismal service on - will you prepare yourself to be baptized on that day?" Tom: "Yes! I can tell you right now, I will accept it all."
....can you imagine our shock and awe?? Who was this man? Where did he come from? What brought him here? Why had he just fallen right into our laps? As we left the church building a few minutes later, Sister Walton began to weep. "Sister, I have never, ever felt that way before." She paused because she couldn't speak. "I...I literally felt God's love for that man run through ME" (she motioned up and down her body) "I was overwhelmed. It was a power bigger than me. And I couldn't NOT give him a Book of Mormon; I couldn't NOT invite him to baptism. This is the truth! This is HIS work!"
This words from Mormon 9 in the Book of Mormon are powerful:
Miracles are real, and come about, as taught in the scriptures, by true FAITH, sincere, heartfelt PRAYER, and NEED. I know I use the word "miracles" a lot, but it's because they are the most powerful manifestation of the reality of this great work, and they empower me daily.
There's a book that Bishop Hansen uses to counsel all of us in our High Council meeting each week - it's called "Counseling with the Councils" by M. Russell Ballard. He says it stands 3rd in line next to his Bible and Book of Mormon in seeking inspiration and guidance from heaven. Mom and Dad, will you get a copy and study from it together? It sounds like one you'd like. I'm going to see if I can get a copy to study from on P-day. Another thing that I think you'd like in your personal study is Jesus the Christ by James E. Talmage. The life and ministry of the Savior is brought to light in a whole new dimension as I read from it - I LOVE it.
Thanks for the emails and updates. Love y'all forever.