Well which ones do you guys want first? The sad story or the two good ones?
Usually people want the bad stories first to get them out of the way so they can hear a happy one but I am feeling more like typing the happy stories first…
SO. here we go 🙂
So these past couple of weeks we have only been working in this little neighborhood that we found after going down a sketchy path we found… and we have been having a lot of success there!
One of the first people we found there was named Andrey. Andrey was a little scary the first time we met him. He was on a motorcyle, coming back from the gym, and has lots of tattoos. But we started talking to him and he was extremely receptive. We invited him to be baptized there on the first contact we did and he accepted!
So we returned and started teaching him… we taught him about the importance of baptism and how when he would be baptized he would be washed cleaned from all his sins. the moment we said that he started opening up to us and telling us all about his life. How his friends have been a horrible influence on him and he had ended up assalting tons of people and had to go to jail for awhile and that he has been addicted to drugs, drinking, etc.
He told us about how he wanted to leave his former life in the past and be forgiven and change his life. We taught him about repentence and taught him how to pray so that he coupld ask God forgiveness. During these past 3 weeks that we have known him he has changed 100%. He loves the church and is making a lot of friends there. He stopped smoking maijuana and told us that he has decided to not color in the tattoos he already has (I don´t know why but when he told us that it was just really special to see the physical evidence of the changes that are happening for him) and yeah…. he started bring him mom to church to she is loving how much we are helping him.
okay, pause on his story to tell a different one.
Now I am going to talk about Erivaldo. Erivaldo is another man that we met in this neighorhood where we are teaching. He is a little older… probably around 50 or 60 years old, and man, he is hilarious. We taught him and invited him to be baptized on our first contact with him too and he accepted. And he cryed. He was so so excited to be baptized… He told us he had never been baptized but had always wanted to. We asked him if he had any problems with drinking/smoking etc and he said that he drank but then said ´But I will stop! In this moment! I will never drink again!´ Hahaha, it was really cute. And he has stayed true to his word! Everyone in the commuity has told us how he has stopped drinking so that he can be baptized. He LOVED the church and is telling everyone he meets about it and inviting everyone to visit the church with him.
So now linking the stories!
This past Sunday was the day of Andrey´s baptism, but a lot of crazy stuff happened and he couldn´t make it there. But he wanted to be baptized still so we put his baptism for this past Wednesday morning. We invited Erivaldo to come to so that he could see what it was like. Wednesday morning we went and picked up Andrey but Erivaldo wasn´t there. So we had to just go without him. We had the baptismal service and it was extremely spiritual. After the closing prayer we were getting up to leave… and who showed up??? That´s right, Erivaldo. He came running into the church, all sweaty, and told us ´I was in Ponto Negra for work and I rode my bicycle to get here!!!`
haha, oh man, it was pretty sad. Ponto Negra is really far away and he must have been riding his bike for like an hour to get to the baptism. But we showed him the pictures and stuff and explained that it would be exactly how his baptism would be the upcoming Sunday.
Sunday (yesterday) Andrey was confirmed and recieved the gift of the Holy Ghost and Erivaldo was baptized. There were so many people there and Erivaldo cried his eyes out, it was really amazing. Andrey was there to support Erivaldo and it meant so much to him to see all the support he was recieving… he was so happy to have found a family here at the church.
okay….. Sad story. I don´t have much time.
My first week in this area we met a family. Never have I met a family so special with such a strong spirit. The name of the husband is Isaac, and the wife, Camilla. Camilla was 9 months pregnant and ready to burst. They were in the house when we met them (well actually it was the house of Isaac´s mom, but they lived on the other side of the street) and we started talking with them. That night we invited Isaac, Camilla, Isaac´s brother, and Isaac´s mom all to be baptized and they all accepted. And said they would all come to church Sunday. Saturday night we returned to confirm about church but when we got there we found Isaac with a huge girn and told us the ´thing they had been waiting 9 months for had happened´ haha. Camilla had her baby! So they could go to church Sunday but said they would the next. We taught them during the next week the lesson of the Restoration and the Plan of Salvation. The lessons went really well but Isaac had lots of questions about preisthood. He started telling us all about his life and the life of his wife, Camilla.
Isaac has 13 siblings… 7 full and 6 half…. his mom was a drug addict as well as his dad and basically the rest of his family. He was raised by his grandma until he was 14 years old. He started drinking and smoking when he was 8 years old because it was what everyone around him did. Throughout his life he used all types of drugs. When he was 16 years old a pastor invited him to church. He life changed after that and he started going to church… he left drugs, drinking, and everything. He was baptized and started to help the church. He met his wife (Camilla) and started living with her when he was 20 and she was 17. He basically saved her because the situgation she was in with her family was even worse than his family.
They started a family and he kept working for the church. After 3 years of living together they realized that they needed to get married because it was a comandment of God. Now they are married and have 4 kids… She is 22 years old and he is 25. About 3 years ago while Isaac was working for the church, the pastor told him he wanted to help him get a house. He told him that if Isaac did his work, he would give Isaac a house. So Isaac did everything the pastor asked of him for this house. In the end, there was no house. The church lied to him. They when to every church in the area and every church kicked them out. They had to live on the streets (with three kids at the time) without any support, bathroom, money, nothing.
They worked and worked these past three years and now are still living in very poor circumstances but have a small house now.
Isaac has been through many incredible experiences in his life. He has seen literal miracles happen in his life because of his faith in God. He saved him mom, had dreams with angels, has been guided by the spirit, and shared with us many many other things that happened. I have never been more sure that he and his wife were a family God has been preparing their whole lives to recieve the gospel.
However, Isaac doesn´t believe in Preisthood. He had doubts about the restoration of the God church through Joseph Smith because it is different than how he has been raised in this other church and Jospeh Smith´s name is not written in the bible. We taught him the lesson of the restoration I think 3 or 4 times and prayed and fasted for him many times. We explained the importance of the Book of Mormon and how if he wants to know if all we are teaching him is true, all he has to do is read the Book of Mormon, and pray to know if it is true.
We asked him what would be the difference in his life if the Book of Mormon was true…. He told us it would mean his other church wasn´t the true church of God and that his baptism wasn´t valid.
We told him that was exactly right. That although there were many great and true things the church he attended taught him, it wasn´t complete without the Book of Mormon and without Priesthood. We asked him if he was willing to read the Book of Mormon and to pray to know if it was true.
He told us no. He told us he was afraid to recieve an answer because it would mean that he would have to leave everything he ´knew´ and everything he had been taught by his pastor in the past. He was afraid of that… He was afraid of the change. And wasn´t willing to even read and pray to know if it was true… because deep down he knew he would recieve an answer. So there was nothing we could do for him.
This has been probably the saddest experience that I have had here on the mission. Because this family was so so special and I know that the church would help them so much, it was exactly what they were wanting and searching for.
I saw literally the profecy in 2 Nephi 29:3-9 being fulfilled:
6 Thou fool, that shall say: A Bible, we have got a Bible, and we need no more Bible. Have ye obtained a Bible save it were by the Jews?
7 Know ye not that there are more nations than one? Know ye not that I, the Lord your God, have created all men, and that I remember those who are upon the isles of the sea; and that I rule in the heavens above and in the earth beneath; and I bring forth my word unto the children of men, yea, even upon all the nations of the earth?
8 Wherefore murmur ye, because that ye shall receive more of my word? Know ye not that the testimony of two nations is a witness unto you that I am God, that I remember one nation like unto another? Wherefore, I speak the same words unto one nation like unto another. And when the two nations shall run together the testimony of the two nations shall run together also.
It was extremely sad to see how Satan has decieved this man and prevented him from coming the Gospel in his life. After all he has been through, he still had to much pride that he was not willing to simply read, pray, and ask God.
He has been through so so much, one of the most difficult lives I have ever heard of, and he will continue to pass through difficulties because of his pride and lack of faith.
I wanted to share this experience with you all not to depress anyone, but so that you could all understand how the mission is. How for every amazing story there are sad ones too. How much Satan is working to prevent the work of God from being fulfilled.
I have learned so so much here on my mission about how Satan takes hold of people´s hearts… and they can´t even notice it´s happening. No one wants to be bad… no one thinks they are doing anything wrong… but it´s a slow slippery and sad slope that everyone can fall down if they are not careful.
It starts to justification, it starts with pride, it starts with laziness, it starts with ungratefulness, it starts with the natural man.
I want to challenge each of you to reflect in your lives, really reflect, and ask yourself the question: What sin is holding me back from receiving the blessings that God wants to give me?
I know that Christ lives and that because of Him we can change, really change. We can leave in the past former sins and weaknesses and become better people.
Thinking that this change of heart and charcter is impossible is a lie.. It comes from Satan. We each are entitled to the blessed of the Atonement of Jesus Christ because we are children of God. And Christ died for each and everyone of us!
Okay…. that´s all 🙂
I know this is Christ´s Church and I am doing His work
love you all!!!