Hello Mother and Father! I love you all so much!! Thank you so much for your continued prayers and support and for continuing to point me to the Lord to receive help in His work.
This week was excellent. As a mission we set a goal to find 3 new investigators per area...and our district beat that goal! It was a long week to be sure. District Leaders were calling each companionship every night to offer encouragement and suggestions and to help us support each other. I definitely feel like I can't do everything as well as really seasoned leaders, but somehow the Lord sees our imperfect efforts and with His grace we can receive results that we can't explain. It was really fulfilling calling every companionship, every night this week. Basically the evenings look like this: home by 9, plan until 9:30, call Companionships (5-10 minutes for each of our 4 other companionships) until 10:15, update the area book until 10:29.59 and lights out at 10:30. On Fridays and Sundays there are also numeritos to total and send :) It feels good though...not to have to worry about myself and just to get to uplift others. Really, it’s so amazing I feel like the successes of the areas in our district are successes for our area. It is just kind of busy.
In St. George yesterday there was a lunar eclipse (which ever one where the sun blocks out the moon...school is so far away from me right now) and that is the BRIGHTEST thing I have seen in my life. We were in a trailer park and some Hispanics had devised a really clever way of viewing the eclipse without damaging their vision. They sprayed water on the ground and watched the eclipse reflected in a car window reflected in their puddle of water and taking turns using 3 pairs of sunglasses. We got to see it too, and it was...incredible. It lasted from 6:30-8:00 and was brighter that any noonday I have ever seen. Elder Barrales and I weren't so focused on the eclipse as we were still searching for a new investigator last night, but it did give an interesting backdrop to our work.
This week we had amazing lessons with O R and G's family. These people are so...elect! O didn't get baptized on the 19th and they are going out of town on the 25th so his baptism is going to happen in June. He explained to us that he wants to be sure and that he wants to know more about Joseph Smith and about the Apostles we have in our days. So we devised a lesson centered on baptism and how the Restoration of the Gospel makes these opportunities possible. And he is back on date for June! Seriously, thinking about when we first met O until now, he has made so much progress. He just wants to do everything he can to keep the commandments and to bless his family. We are going to give him a DVD next time called "Special Witnesses of Christ" which records the testimonies of the Quorum of the 12 Apostles in 2000. If you haven't seen it I am sure it is on YouTube. Their testimonies are so powerful. I know that the apostles carry a unique knowledge of the divinity and the corporeal resurrection of the Savior. They have the same authority that Christ gave to his apostles almost 2000 years ago, and by that authority we can receive all of the blessings of the atonement. One of the most impressive things I have learned on my mission so far is the blessing that we have to be lead by a prophet and apostles today. I know now more than ever what that means and it makes me want to study their words even more.
In D&C 20:38 we learn a little about how apostles and elders are related "An apostle is an elder, and it is his calling to baptize" Well...there is the doctrine of Christ laid out for us. The Quorum of the 12 can't be everywhere at once, so under their calling (we are called by apostles individually) and with their authority (through our setting apart by stake presidents) we join the apostles as elders or defenders of the faith in gathering people unto Christ through baptism. To a lot of people here in Utah, they can be put off by how much we emphasize the doctrine of baptism, but it is our purpose. And Heavenly Father's promise is that he is preparing his children in every area of the mission to receive us. An example follows :)
I've told a lot about G and her family already, but new details keep coming up every week! This week we prayed about a fellowshipper for G and felt we should bring a sister from the branch named F R. That was a good choice :) F and G hit it off instantly. You could almost see the Spirit work in between the two of them and Elder Barrales and I basically just sat back and let the lesson teach itself. Like G wants to, F felt strongly to join the church for the benefit of her children even though her husband is unbaptized. Like G, F was impressed by the example missionaries set, and wanted that future for her kids. G has told us at least five times that she will send her boys on missions...and she isn't even a member yet! She also told us about the first time that we met her. She was a person we tracted into (yay tracting =]), and Elder Paiz and I promised her on the door step that what we have could change and bless her family. She told us on Saturday that on that very first day she was extremely depressed for some reason and that when we came, she felt the sadness go away and decided to have us come back. Every time we came back the sadness lessened and lessened and (miraculously as promised) her kids started learning and improving! Now she is at church with her whole family and loving it and they have baptismal plans for June. I really....just love this family with all my heart. We are so imperfect as teachers, but I know that the love we feel and express makes a real difference.
Also this week we found two less active families that haven't been to church for a while...only because they didn't know where the branch was! One of them came to church yesterday and met president and the other will be at church next week. One way or the other the Lord is working to grow and strengthen this branch. With a lot of help the branch also just redid home teaching and visiting teaching assignments which will help SOOOO much for continued activation. There is a core group of families in this branch that keep it running. Brother M (our branch mission leader), President D, the Tharps (our service missionaries) and soooo many others are great examples to me of taking time out of their busy lives to lift and sustain the branch. If the members just did their visits regularly...things would take off so fast! BUT! For that we continue to work hard to find prepared families to teach and to reactivate those that need the blessings of the gospel in their weekly lives.
As always, it seems I have learned a lot about trusting the Lord and about putting my faith in action. The Lord continues to humble me so that I seek his help first to solve problems. And really I know that He will always help me. I know that Joseph Smith saw what he said he saw "una columna de luz … mas brillante que el sol". Yo sé que Dios nos ama arto y quiere que seamos fieles en nuestros labores. ¡El puede hacer milagros a travez de nosotros si solo tenemos la fe! Cristo vive. Él nos cuida y esta muy preocupado por nuestro exito. Seguire intentanto a hacer lo mejor que es posible para bendecir sus hijos.
(“a pillar of light … above the brightness of the sun”. I know that God loves us and wants us to be faithful in our efforts. If we only have faith he can work miracles through us! Christ lives. He cares and is very interested in our success. I will keep trying to do the best I can to bless his children.)
Los amo con todo mi corazon. Por favor, sigan orando. Cada oracion me ayuda, y siento el poder de sus oraciones todos los dias.
(I love you with all my heart. Please keep praying. Every prayer helps me and I feel the power of your prayers every day.)
Que vayan con Dios, (Godspeed)
Elder Michael Stewart
Elder Michael Stewart