"Wherefore, ye must press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope, and a love of God and of all men. Wherefore, if ye shall press forward, feasting upon the word of Christ, and endure to the end, behold, thus saith the Father: Ye shall have eternal life." 2 Nephi 31:20

Monday, January 14, 2013

Humility and Strength

[Some explanations of Spanglish have been added in brackets].

So, I kind of tend to keep most of my afflictions to myself where I can. So I don't worry you guys too much. Many of them pass after a few days just cause Mexico does some weird things to your body. But, don't get discouraged from the story you are about to read. I share it so that you can see the struggle, and then how great the help of the Lord was shortly after.

And so it begins. Last week. Saturday, as I was helping with a baptism in another area--remember, when I was District Leader--an investigator pulled me aside. His name is José Roberto Martinez Zapata. He is the boyfriend of a girl in my ward. He is 22. She is about the same age. He had been coming to my ward since right after I got here to the island. So, more or less, since September. Soon after that he told me that one day I would baptize him. I told him that I wouldn't, because he lives outside of our area. Which means if he got baptized in our ward he would not be able to progress, not be able to have a calling, just be able to come. This may sound a bit odd to people that are not of the Church. But it is a real problem here in Mexico to have people be baptized in areas where they don't actually pertain [belong] to. If they stop coming for a little bit, and it turns out they need help in the future, it is very hard for the Church to find them to help. The Lord's house is a house of order. I'm here to invite others to Christ, not to baptize as many people as I can find to get wet. Missionary work, when done properly, is one of the most powerful things there is on this earth.

So, he pulled me aside. This is after he attended the baptism of little girl that Elder Pack and I had. After that baptism he came up to us and said he really wanted to get baptized. That he was willing to do whatever it took to be baptized. So, we had him call the other missionaries in the Carmen Ward, and he just introduced himself and said, "...and I want to get baptized next week." Of course the other missionary went silent because that never happens. José Roberto had practically already been a member for 4 months in my ward on and off (with work and all) so he had met all the requirements for baptism, it was just a matter of making sure he fully understood everything we believe (the basics) and that he was willing to live accordingly. He flew through it all. 

So, he pulled me aside that Satuday night and reminded me of the day he had told me I would baptize him over 4 months ago. He then invited me to baptize him in the other ward. Although I was not the missionary of that ward, he could choose any missionary or worthy priesthood holder to perform the ordinance. I gratefully accepted the opportunity. Although in the back of my mind I was scared to death since I felt like my time on the island may have passed already. We were to find out the transfers the next day, Sunday. I just smiled at him and said I would love to.

Transfers came and as you know, I stayed. Problem solved, no? But Sunday morning as I got out of bed I fell back down immediately. Something had happened to my ankle/foot. I could not walk. I could not support my own weight. After some testing and some prayer we were able to make it to church at 8 AM on the bus and all went well. I went a week walking until I could walk no more. Finally I was sent to take some x-rays after we stayed home on our preparation day with my foot elevated (no fun). We went to get the x-rays and nothing was broken. But a few of my bones were not in their correct places. No wonder it hurt to walk. After consulting with a few doctors I had been ordered to 10 days of rest. Death in the mission. 

10 days of rest. How could I baptize him if I was not allowed to get up unless I was going to the bathroom? Well, after some convincing I cleared it with the doctor that I could still baptize him. She made sure I could take off my cast so I didn't get it wet. When José Roberto heard I was ordered to rest 10 days he wondered the same thing of how? It really doesn't matter who baptizes you, no, but he had been praying that I would be able to. So what did he do? He started praying for my health. He even fasted for me that I would have the strength to baptize him. Have you ever heard of an investigator praying and fasting for a missionary before? I haven't. He is something else, and for the time we have spent together he has become a friend.

So, the morning of his baptism. I woke up. But I could not get up. I could not get out of bed. Because I could not walk I had hurt other parts of my body like my back, and elbows for how I tried to get around with my hurt foot. How could I baptize someone if I couldn't even move? Being a former lacrosse captain and sports fanatic, I could always rely on my own strength, but in the mission field I have learned better. I was still determined to baptize him if I could because I knew how disanimated [sad or disappointed] he got when he heard I might not be able to do it. I promised him I would. Elder Pack helped me get my clothes and stuff ready to go, our Bishop came to get us and we found ourselves at the baptism. I was able to limp enough to the car with a little help. I even practiced the baptism (kind of) on Elder Pack before we left the house and I dropped him. Whoops.

I was scared to death that I would drop José Roberto and ruin the whole baptism, but I knew he wanted me, so I just decided to do everything I could to make it happen. We made it to his baptism and I was there sitting by him, everything was the same. Could I really do it? But the baptism came. Before entering the water I explained very well how it should happen as a means to get as much help as I could. 

But here is where the miracle happened. As I was saying the words of the baptism I looked him in the eye. In his eye there was a certain love that I will never be able to describe. More the love of a child and willingness to follow whatever you told them. The purest charity that you could imagine. In that moment, right before he went into the water I could no longer feel my body. My concern turned more to if I was making everything as spiritual as I could for him. Was he understanding everything? Did I explain it to him well enough? He went down, and straight back up. Everything went normal. He was fine. I didn't drop him. How did I not drop him? When he came back out of the water he gave me the biggest hug you could imagine and said thanks. 

There is no way I could have done what I did that day without the strength of the Lord. I could not even stand on my own just an hour before the baptism. The next day in church he commented to the other Elders how happy he was that I was able to baptize him. 

As for José Roberto, he is set on the right track. He has so much potential and so much in front of him. He will be a great leader in the church. Especially here is Mexico. He is something special. He will make a difference. 

May we all rely on the strength of the Lord.

Love you all,
Elder Andrews

José Roberto Martinez Zapata and Elder Andrews
Elder Andrews' messed up foot (the left foot...)
Elder Andrews and José Roberto Martinez Zapata.

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