First of all - the important news: transfer calls came this past weekend, and I am staying in Pasadena! I could not be more thrilled that I am lucky enough to get at least one more transfer here. Pasadena is so special to me, just as Lake Charles was and will always be, and I am so excited to continue getting to witness miracles here in my Little Mexico. With that said, I am really sad because Sister Crump is leaving me :( My little baby, all grown up and saving China.
Now that that is out of the way, it is time for a sad story.
Remember Becky? Becky with the five little children and the amazing experience of sharing the Joseph Smith story and feeling the spirit? Well, we have had a hard time getting back in with her, and earlier this week we went by and were knocking on her door when a guy in the parking lot yelled out to us that they didn't live there anymore. Pasadena problem #1: investigators getting evicted and never being found again. True story. Because if you can't afford your rent, it's not like you can afford your phone bill either, and so the missionaries lose you and it breaks their hearts. So we ask the man what happened, and he looks at us like we're morons (missionaries get that more often than not) and asks "didn't you hear about the stabbing? That was them. Don't know where they went." Now even more confused and concerned, we asked a few more questions. Turns out, there was a stabbing behind the apartment where Becky lives just earlier in the week, and the person killed may or may not have been Becky's boyfriend, or Becky's sister's boyfriend who also lives there. Either way, they had been involved, and had vanished. It really did break Sister Crump and my hearts - to think of that little family, how amazing they were, and to have them suddenly disappear, not to mention thinking that perhaps one of the boyfriends who we had met had possibly been killed What brings me comfort is the knowledge that the seed has been planted - and someday, somewhere, God will guide them again to this knowledge. I have learned many, many things on my mission, but my testimony of and gratitude for the Plan of Salvation is strengthened every day.
Another sad story.
Yesterday, we were supposed to have the baptism of Gabriel, our Jehovah's Witness investigator who honestly was probably one of the most serious students of the gospel I have ever taught. However, beginningmorning, we knew something was up when one of our members (who we had had dinner with her and Gabriel) called us and told us that in talking with her after we had left, Gabriel had expressed worries about the baptism, and was wondering if maybe he should postpone the service. As soon as we heard this, we hurried over to Gabriel's house and though he certainly behaved oddly about seeing us, he said that he was still planning on it and would see us the next day - but something wasn't right, and so we called our ward mission leader and he and couple of elders went over to give Gabriel a blessing, which he refused, but he didn't bring up with them a number of concerns he had expressed to us before, but which he had already resolved through prayer. Specifically, he had always been worried about leaving the J-dubs, and wanting to know for sure which church God wanted him at. He had this concern a while ago when we were teaching him, but, like I said, he had received an answer by prayer and had told us he knew this was true, and so we were surprised to hear from the elders that this had gotten brought up again by him night. They told him to pray, and he said that he would call us in the morning with his final decision.
Well,morning came, and after Ward Council we received a phone call from Gabriel informing us that after praying and also after meeting with some elders from the J-dub church, he had decided that he needed to stay with them and would not be getting baptized.
There are few experiences more painful, I have learned, than seeing a child of God turn away from Him, after having received a witness of the truth. We as missionaries can do all we can to teach them the truth by the Spirit, to give them the means to receive their own answer and make their own decision, but ultimately it is their agency that makes the difference, and as we serve and teach them and come to love them, it truly is the most painful thing in the world to see them receive an answer, know the truth, and then - for whatever reason - to turn away from it. I've had this happen to me several times out here, and each time it is the hardest thing. But what brings me comfort is the knowledge that these people are in the hands of their Heavenly Father forever, long after I and my companions are gone, and that he will always be there for them to guide them home. There is a quote by Orson F. Whitney that I think is so powerful, it reads: "No pain that we suffer, no trial that we experience is wasted. It ministers to our education, to the development of such qualities as patience, faith, fortitude, and humility. All that we suffer and all that we endure, especially when we endure it patiently, builds up our character, purifies our hearts, expands our souls, and makes us more tender and charitable, more worthy to be called the children of God...and it is through sorrow and suffering, toil and tribulation, that we gain the education that we came here to acquire." How amazing is that? The knowledge we have of the enabling power of the Atonement, and of the knowledge we have of the growth and learning that we receive as part of God's plan. Just think of the people we are destined to become, through Him!
To end on a more positive note - yesterday we did have two baptisms, belonging to two sets of elders in our ward. And it seriously was like my favorite baptismal service of all time. Not only were there an excessive amount of brownies afterwards (one of which had Oreos in the middle - IS THIS REAL LIFE) and not only was the service seriously one of the most uplifting and spiritual experiences of my whole life (we have an elder here who has like THE best singing voice, and he sang "Savior Redeemer" as a special musical number, a song which - if you don't know it you need to go look it up RIGHT NOW, the Vocal Point cover, because it seriously is the most amazing thing ever) but also, one of the baptismal candidates, James, is TERRIFIED of water. He has spent months preparing for his baptism, trying to overcome that fear, and finally yesterday he entered into the water, shaking and scared to death, and was baptized. Unfortunately...his foot popped up. Even more unfortunately, he proceeded up and out of the font so quickly that they didn't have a chance to tell him before he was out of the water that he had to back in and be baptized again. After that, the whole congregation sat in reverent silence listening to James throw a fit in the men's bathroom, exclaiming - quite loudly - "I REFUSE TO GET BACK IN THERE!" It took about 15 minutes, but finally, shaking even more, James got back in the ward and was baptized by full and complete immersion. See? God truly does give us strength to overcome all things. He truly "giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them."
Love you all! Make cookies, trust God, have joy. You can't go wrong.
-Sister Bayley Enright