Hello everyone. This is the fiftieth post on this blog. Wow! I would like to make it memorable but I expect it will simply be my meandering thoughts, as usual. The photos for this week have made me thoughtful though. I hope they make you think too.
This photo is from last Sunday. Our sweet friend finally got baptized. I won't use his name since I haven't asked permission. We have helped teach him and we have known he has difficulties. He seems to have some OC and probably other things. Still, he deeply desired to be forgiven of his sins, a gift I am afraid I take way too lightly. When the sisters asked who he wanted to have baptize him, he asked for Elder Castillo. That was an unexpected blessing for Rod. We had to borrow white pants and tie from a member as the supply in the closet was all too small and we didn't bring any. The actual process of being baptized was very, very difficult for our friend. He almost froze completely just getting in the water. He was afraid he would be dropped, and he really didn't much like the idea of being in the spotlight, just to mention a few of the obstacles. To make it even harder, the baptism was right after the Spanish ward's meeting so there were lots of people there. Still, he persevered!' He was confirmed today. I was touched by his willingness to do something that was so extremely difficult for him, in order to receive forgiveness for his sins. To me baptism is a landmark event, a step in our progression, but not 'an Everest to climb', as it was for him. Still he did it. Here is hoping I can meet my challenges as successfully.
I don't remember exactly what day it was, but the sisters told us they wanted to make us dinner one evening. We have fed missionaries regularly since we got here, and they are always complimentary and appreciative. However, this was the first time any returned the favor. It was so sweet and thoughtful of them to even think of doing it. They have such limited financial reserves that I thought of saying no, but, we are trying to learn to be gracious, so we just said thank you. They came to our apt to fix dinner as we have more room, dishes, AC, etc. When they got here and rang the bell, I buzzed them in, and opened the front door so they could just walk in. They rang the doorbell anyway. I thought, oh the door must have closed, but when I got there, this is what I saw.
Don't worry, we are still ourselves and inclined to add a good bit of play to our work. Rod remembers so clearly the trials of his first mission, how hard it was to be 'in the office' so he brings his spirit of joyful play to the Elders too. This is the 'Winchester 300' we got for Elder Butler. The sister had gotten a package from her best friend. She told us that one afternoon some time ago she and her friend decided to build a bear and had sent it back and forth to each other through school and other adventures. Our Sister had understood that the bear was lost though. She was so tickled to receive the bear, dressed as a missionary, from her friend. Elder Butler felt that a bear hunt was called for however, and so she was obliged to defend him. :)
We know the blessings of service, right. Well, one of the side effects is love. You already knew that? Okay, I may have known it too, but not like this. Everyone has hard patches on their mission and this Elder was in one, but is the only member in his family. Where do you go for support, sympathy and shoves in the right direction without family? We happened to be in the right place, and Rod was inspired with the right things to say and do to help him get over his difficulties. Now he feels like family to us. You can see the resemblance right? You kids remember how often you had to ask if Dad meant you or his kids from school when he talked of his kids? Well, I'm afraid there will be even more confusion when we get home because now 'our kids' are from all over the world.
Now to this week! Our mission is having a special 'Week of finding". Previously, the highest number of new investigators we have had in one week was just over 100. We generally don't have a huge emphasis on numbers, but this week, the zone leaders set the goal of 555 'news' (new investigators) for the week. The number is significant because that is the mission goal for number of convert baptisms for the year and we are rather behind the pace if we are to reach it. We started with a special fast and they have been working like crazy to reach their 'finding' goal. One AP and one office elder decided to do a push-up for each 'new' found. The first couple of days, they had to do over a hundred every day, and they are still going strong. I haven't heard how close we came, but when I first heard the goal, I thought it was so out of range. Now I am not so sure. How often we set our sights too low. Fear is our greatest enemy.
Today was 'munch and mingle. One of the advantages of a small branch is that we can all get together in someone's home. It is so fun, we get to taste food from other cultures and just visit with each other. It is an opportunity to invite neighbors too. Today it was at our house.