How are you all today? Is it sunny there? It is here! I LOVE the name Miss Nelli! I like it way better than Miss Bertha. Glad you like the "miss" thing :) Also, I don't know why, but that Maximiss vs Maximus thing totally got my funny bone. Love it! It's pretty much a win win situation.
Sister Solorzano didn't get her visa but she was transferred yesterday because of a situation with some other visa waiters who got their visas. It was hard to watch her go. She did a lot of good while she was here, and many people at church missed her yesterday.
I unfortunately don't have a huge update on the people here. Nancy won't be baptized, even though she wants to, because of her husband. Tricky situation. He walked in a lesson the other day and we were able to talk to him. He's a good person, I like him. What he doesn't know is that most of his beliefs fall right in line with ours. He'll practically quote the book of Mormon to us without knowing it. We had this great discussion with the two of them though, and really committed them to coming to sacrament meeting together. It took some doing, but they committed. They weren't there. Nancy all but officially committed to baptism on the 11 of May, but we'll need a miracle with Irenio for that to happen. We need the two together in order to set them up for lasting success. At least, that's how we see it right now. Basically same story, different person with our other investigators and members. But, Claudia did come to church yesterday! She came for Sacrament meeting. It took a lot of faith on her part and I was so proud and happy. She may have partly come because I was speaking.
My topic to speak on was service, but I didn't want to talk about it in the way we often hear it here. "We should do this, and we're supposed to do that." The big things like organized service. No, no. I don't want to tell people what they should do, I want them to want to do it! Service should be a way of living I think, an attitude that we carry throughout our day with the many encounters we have with our fellow sojourners on this earth. So I approached my talk by beginning with first looking at our baptismal covenant, and the second great commandment to love others. The topic really is a duty and responsibility of each of us who were baptized with the proper authority. I also studied the phrase "to become a disciple of Jesus Christ." It was fun because I feel like on a personal level, I've been able to identify that as the main theme of my mission. Mostly through the Lord teaching me how to love others and show that love. I think that all started with my setting apart by President Ballard when I was blessed with a greater capacity to love all. One thing that became so clear to me through my studies is that at baptism I took upon me the name of Christ, and each Sunday I renew that covenant, and then it is throughout the week that I demonstrate that discipleship through the way which I live. In my readings I felt like I rarely found the word "discipleship" without the word "dedicated" very near. I believe that by definition discipleship is dedication and diligence. You cannot become a true disciple of our Master and Savior by sporadic acts of goodness. The word is become. That's why service is a way of living, it has to be if we want to truly become like Christ.
I felt like Elder Ballard's talk from last October about the honeybees helped me best to discuss that. It's a powerful and simple analogy! I really love that talk. Remember how in each bee's lifetime, they only contributed 1/12 of a teaspoon of honey? And yet, it was absolutely vital for the livelihood of the hive. Likewise, very simple, small, yet regularly occurring acts of love and service can have a transformative affect on the world around us. One thing I've noticed in the branch is a lack of kindness. I mean there's kindness, and I feel loved, but almost each week we have at least one investigator in church, or one less active that we did everything we could to get to church. They exercise their faith to come, even though they may be nervous. We have one sweet returning member that will come in a little late (I think because she feels uncomfortable still with the sacrament) and she sits alone. Not a person says a word to her. Not a single handshake when the meeting is ended, let alone a conversation. Why? There is no reason! There might only be 30 people in Sacrament! I've watched it happen too much. Everyone knows it's going on, but doesn't really know what to do. I felt so strongly from the Spirit that I must directly and lovingly address that. There's a quote in Elder Ballard's talk that says: "We are to love God and to love and care for our neighbors as ourselves. Imagine what good we can do in the world if we all join together, united as followers of Christ, anxiously and busily responding to the needs of others and serving those around us—our families, our friends, our neighbors, our fellow citizens." And I added the members of our branch, our family here. (Actually in a very literal way, because most of their families are in south or central America). I couldn't really tell you what all I said as I shared and testified about this principle, but it was a special moment for me because I recognized the Spirit working through me. I'm no motivational or great speaker. I was so nervous! I kept telling myself to hold still, speak slower - and yet I could feel that no one noticed those things because they noticed the Spirit. I observed many tearful eyes. When I was finished I walked back to the piano to play the closing hymn. The meeting ended, and you know what I watched as I played postlude? At least 5 or 6 different people go up to Claudia, as well as others, and happily talk to her. And in my head, I could just imagine the good that this small branch could do as united saints, working to become dedicated true disciples of Christ through their actions towards one another.
So there are some of my insights from things I learned this week. Seems like it's always about service! Well, that and the Spirit. We went to the temple Thursday night, we had some members who were going to do baptisms for the first time, and then we did a session. I had a special experience in the celestial room with Sister Solorzano. I came in, sat down to pray when immediately verses from Doctrine and Covenants 138 came to my head. That section to me is kind of a pick me up. It talks about those who were called for these last days and received their first lessons in heaven. Something like that. Well, when I thought of that scripture, totally unrelated to anything that had been on my mind, I just thought I needed to be more focused in my prayer. Again, I suddenly looked up and saw Hermana S across the room with her head completely bowed over, and I thought, "Oh, I should find that scripture and show her!" Then I wondered why my eyes were open even though I'd been praying, and again tried to focus. After about 30 seconds of trying, I got up, got a Doctrine & Covenants, found the scripture, went over and show Sis S. I told her she was amongst those that the scripture was talking about. She's not a new missionary, she's been prepared for a long time, and some other things. Her eyes welled up and she told me she'd just been wondering again if she should be here. She was missing her boyfriend, and was earnestly praying to God for Him to tell her if she was where she was supposed to be. She said now she knew for sure because He sent her an answer almost immediately through that scripture. Moral of the story: if you think your mind is just wandering because you're restless while praying or something, it's not! Follow random thoughts (if they're good) even when you don't have a clue why!
On a completely separate note, my right big toe has been bothering me a bit for awhile and Sis Wall had me stop by the urgent care Saturday to get it checked. There I was told they'd need to remove the nail because it was a really bad ingrown toe nail. I decided that when you wake up in the morning, you just really don't know what your day is going to bring! So I was just back there in the "conversation" room for a while by myself. But seriously! When the doctor ripped open the bag of tools and laid them out, I could just see Jack Bristow! :) haha So I just decided to be as tough as Sydney Bristow :D. I'll spare you the details, but I watched to whole thing, and it was gross. And painful. Although they only removed half of it. And I couldn't let Sis C come back there because I knew without a doubt that then Sis S was faint, but even though it hurt really bad, I was ok. I won't downplay that it was painful, and it freaked me out (especially when she left me there in the middle to find another doctor because she couldn't get it, but then she couldn't find him), but somehow I didn't shed a tear. I didn't feel alone at all. Right in the middle, when it was bad, the thought that came to my mind that I couldn't believe that Christ even had to suffer the pain of my dumb in-grown toenail since I didn't get it checked sooner. And then in that moment, I felt strengthened. I testify that the Spirit is real, as a communicator, as a strengthener, and as a Comforter. Also, I'm considering cutting the toe out of one of my shoes because I need to have two of the same shoe on. And what I keep thinking of is your experience dad, and Grandpa's words, "Good thing you're there to save souls, not soles!" Is that how it goes? Well, I just hope my nail grows back!
We have to go. I will say that fasting yesterday was a powerful experience, and I'm anxious to find out what Will is going to do. I'm grateful to each of you. I love you lots. Stay safe.