Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Well President, the Lord and I can do it.

Dearest family,

I love you all so very much :) This week has been...the best week of my life bar none. I can barely remember everything that has happened...and I forgot to take notes for this email! Sorry! BUT! I will try my hardest so that you can definitely feel how I feel about the work that is happening in our area. The Lord is too good to us :)

So A got baptized this week on Saturday! Happy, happy day :) His family has been through so much since December and now everything is coming together for them. The moment we went down in the water together, there was a look of peace and determination on his face. Wow! Then we got out into the changing room. And he just simply said "Thank you. Thank you." He told me that he felt so clean and that he felt the Spirit. There is power in the saving ordinances of the gospel. Through them we receive the power of the atonement and make everlasting covenants that lift and inspire us for the rest of our lives.

The story of A and the F family continues. At his baptism there were 15 nonmembers...his whole family! President Diaz and Hermano M gave great discourses that were so simple and focused on the basics of the Gospel. And A-, A's wife, had an extremely powerful spiritual experience. She said the moment that A got baptized she felt a huge peaceful power well up inside of her. She knew it was the Holy Ghost! I am sorry this is so disorganized...but this family is so amazing! They all went to church the next day too to see his confirmation (done by Elder Paiz) and they stayed for all three hours. The kids loved it! And the gospel principles teacher asked A- if she was a member too and she just said "I am beginning here". Long story short...this month M and A--  will be baptized by their father into the Lord's Church restored on the earth. This month is going to be so amazing!

So now for a little business, President Leonard called us yesterday (he had to leave a message at first because we were in a meeting with three Stake Presidents, our Branch PEC, and Elder Wade of the Seventy....we felt kind of out of our league. Also...Elder Wade gave us big hugs. Our church leaders are so amiable but also inspired). Anyway, President Leonard called us and gave us our assignments for the coming transfer. Elder Paiz is leaving me :( He will get to go lift an area and a District that is struggling by being their District Leader. President then told me my coming assignments. He asked me to be the Lavaflow District Leader and to train a new Elder from the MTC. He told me that "During all phases of this process (recommendations, evaluations, and praying for inspiration) the Lord made it clear that this is exactly what you need to be doing right now. Will you accept these assignments?" "Well President, the Lord and I can do it." And that is honestly how I feel. It will be a blessing and a challenge to focus on training a brand new Elder (I hope he is a native speaker! No English would be amazing! He comes in on Wednesday!) and to lift the four other companionships in our District. But the Lord has done WAY TOO MUCH with me in these last years, and in these last months, for me to not be TOTALLY CONVINCED that whatsoever thing is needful in Him, He will help me to do. We learned Spanish in a short time. We lifted a struggling area and found his elect and prepared children on hot and long days. We've baptized a few people, and we will baptize even more. Honestly... I will relish the chance to become even more focused outside myself and on this work. I have no doubt or fear. I know God is with me :)

So a long story short, Elder Paiz is going and I am staying. I will miss him so much. We have been an extremely unified companionship. Our Branch leaders, other returned missionaries, and our leaders have all told us that we have so much unity. I know that unity came through praying long and hard for love and compassion for each other and working hard every day side by side. We have learned to share, to forgive, to correct, lift, bless, and inspire each other. Now we get to turn and learn all of these things over with other Elders :) We had an amazing lesson yesterday with a new investigator who is 13 and afterward our fellowshipper (an RM from an Argentina mission) told us that he rarely has seen Elders as unified and teaching as well as we do. That whole lesson it just felt like we were one person! The Spirit was there, we knew the words that the other was going to say, the commitments to make, and how to help C. It was a sweet, sweet experience :) And now that I understand the principles of building a companionship from scratch, I hope to apply this to all of our future companionships. But really, as President called us, "the dynamic duo" will be split up for now. Good thing Elder Paiz's family is in Utah and not so far from our own Provo-town :) Can you say life-long friends?

I wish you could just feel how excited I am for this month. Elder Paiz and I have worked hard to find and teach the elect and prepare them for baptism. I learned something really important this week about this process. If our mission statistics are that we baptize 1 out of every 4 investigators (which we are doing right now), what happens to the three other people who don't make this covenant? Well...they become "former investigators" and we have to stop teaching them and move on. Let me give you an idea of how hard that is. We have been teaching an incredible lady named A S for months now. She knew at one point that she wanted to join the church, she brought all of her grandkids to church every Sunday for two months, and she studied and prayed every day. This week, some things changed in her family, and she can't see her grandkids as much, and she is no longer interested in talking with us. We have to leave her. That is really sad. We love her (and her cooking) and respect her and just wanted so bad for her to progress, but she has her moral agency and we prayed about it and we must move on from her family now. I just hope and pray that the Lord has a plan for her and other missionaries further down the road.

Also this week we got to do leadership exchanges with the Elders in the St. George North area. I got to serve with Elder Wood (who has been out for 20 months) and I learned a lot from his perspective, experience, and just overall...his presence. The North Stake is really different from the stakes we cover (you can see them on LDS.org maps). Basically, the 5 towns they cover are stretched out over one highway nestled in the valleys of the beautiful mountains (I should have taken pictures...but we were working). The houses are big and spread really far apart and basically everyone has heard of the church and made a decision about it. They need lots of faith to be able to find three new investigators a week. But Elder Wood is a master of introducing the gospel in every conversation topic in a really nonthreatening way. Our purpose statement says we "Invite others unto Christ..." and Elder Wood does that in every contact, every conversation, even just in the way we stands. You can tell he loves the people and he knows he is a disciple of Jesus Christ. I took down a lot of notes :)

The Lord and I have a lot of work ahead of us to do. Sorry to all whose letters have gone unanswered, but I know that my first priority is to focus on the Lord and his people. It is a rare privilege to serve the Lord in this part of His kingdom. These missionaries want to be obedient and they want to baptize people unto repentance. Our mission president is incredible. He loves us and serves us, but even better he shows us where we need to improve and get better. Dad, you're pretty much right that he has to be in charge of a three year camp out :) But even more than that, I just have a real testimony that the Lord Jesus Christ directs this work.

Se que el Evangelio restaurado de Jesuscristo es el camino de la vida eterna. Dios ha llamado a profetas para guiarnos hoy en dia. De veras los apostoles y el profeta son testigos especiales del Cristo viviente y tienen la potestad de El para actuar en su nombre y usar su poder para bendecir. Estoy agredecido de que tenga este tiempo para servir al Senor y su pueblo...si uds. hubiera sentido todas las cosas que he experimentado en esta mision...no podrian negar la veracidad de esta obra.
(I know the restored gospel of Jesus Christ is the way of eternal life. God has called prophets to guide us today. The apostles and the prophet are truly special witnesses of the living Christ and are empowered to act in His name and use their power to bless. I thankful to have this time to serve the Lord and his people ... if you had felt all the things I've experienced in this mission ... you could not deny the truth of this work.)

Los amo bastante. Cuidense mucho.
(I love you very much, take care)

Siempre Vaya con Dios,
Elder Michael George Stewart

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