"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, March 25, 2013

The Touch of the Master's Hand

It is hot. And it is just starting. Apparently, everything--every aspect of Tabasco Mexico is condusive to disease. This week Elder Cabral and I got stomach infections. His didn't last quite as long since he has a healthier stomach, but it still got the both of us pretty good. The adversity always seems to come up on us as we have something important to do. 

Which brings us to the story of this week. Which is really the story of the last month--the story of Hna Zuleyma. 

Well, we can't even really call her Hermana Zuleyma, cause then she sounds like an old indigenous woman. When the fact of the matter is that she is the Bishop's 20 year old neighbor and family friend. She has known the family, and consequently the church, and consequently the missionaries for the past 13 years. The first day we passed by her house was over a month ago while Elder Deem and I were purging the old records from the Area Book of everyone that had ever progressed in the area for the last 5 years. We noticed she lived by the Bishop so we figured we'd stop by and see what the situation was like. We brought with us the Bishop's son which is when we found out that they were actually close friends--like brother and sister. 

She told us that she never could be conquered by the other missionaries because eventually they would stop coming. So, we continued with the lesson and at the end asked if there was anything that we could do for her. The room went silent. She slowly looked up and me and Elder Deem and just said softly, "Please come back." 

Well, as a missionary, upon hearing that you are happy, right? But, you couldn't help but wonder why so many pairs of missionaries had left her. A question that she, as well as I still don't know. But, in that moment, I let her in on a secret. The secret was simple. That she does the homework we leave and that she really tries to understand what we teach. So, she agreed she would do just that. We had to put her to the test, so we left a pamphlet, the Book of Mormon with some assigned reading and some other small things to do that really add up for a first visit and told her we would be back the next day to check up on her progress. For certain if she read it all then we could justify walking the hour to her house in the hot sun, if not, it would be easy to drop her. So, we went back the next day.

She forgot where we told her to stop, so she read even more to make sure. We asked her questions, and we couldn't believe what we were hearing. She explained every little detail to us! She retaught us the lesson we had taught from the previous day and then added more with what she had read. We were blown away.

According to the mission standards she could have gotten baptized the next day since in the past 13 years she had to for sure have gone to the church 4 times, and she didn't have any problems with any of the commandments that would keep her waiting, but something kept me and Elder Deem back and we committed her to be baptized 1 month later after that day (thus assisting 4 more times). It certainly wasn't necessary, and certainly wasn't wise if we were worried about reporting numbers or the fact that Elder Deem wouldn't be there, but we did what we felt was right. And there we went.

We taught everything as Preach My Gospel tells to in the exact order as it comes.  Rarely ever happens like that because you always get side-tracked one way or another, but we decided to do it like that. Many missionaries can teach all the lessons in a week, hey, I did it all once in one day, but it really takes a good missionary to effectively teach and keep someone interested for 4 weeks. Something that amazingly Elder Deem, and eventually Elder Cabral and I were able to do for her. 

All the while Zuleyma found herself fighting a battle with her own family, which are the rest of her neighbors. Even the day of her baptism her mom sent her a text message saying she shouldn't get baptized. But, Zuleyma had already mentioned to us that she had felt what she had felt, and that she had to continue with what she knew was right.

She was then baptized last Thursday where we had the most spiritual baptismal program I have ever attended. She then asked me to also confirm her as a member of the Church--my first time ever doing so. I had imagined that my first time to do so would come with my own children, but that did not change the experience. While confirming someone you also give them a blessing. But the blessing is not from you. But, comes from your Father in Heaven. Once again I was allowed to feel as I would imagine a father would in this role, even though she is older than me and already has a child of her own. It is an odd feeling. A special feeling when you hope you've taught her well enough. You hope she will be able to go on. You are concerned for what will happen when the day comes that you aren't there to take care of her--because as a missionary that day will surely come. And nothing is more comforting than being able to leave the Holy Ghost at that time. There was nothing better I could do for her. 

True repentance is a real aspect of life made possible to us through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ and his Atonement. Our potential and children of God is unimagineable. Please, do not sell yourself short. 
And always watch for the "Touch of the Master's Hand"

Part 1 of 2

Part 2 of 2

With love,
Elder Andrews

Elder Cabral, Zuleyma, and Elder Andrews at Zuleyma's baptism.

Elder Andrews with a coconut drink and a churro!

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