Friday, November 21, 2014

July 28, 2014 Growing Pains, Patience and Pure Testimony

Hello y´all!

First things first. A huge thank you for all of the birthday wishes :) I LOVED the photos with everyone holding up a different letter. I get to celebrate waking up at 4:00 a.m. tomorrow for a zone meeting 3 1/2 hours away by bus. Yippee!! My biggest present however will be seeing all of you in person so soon. You really are the best. Mom, I promise to treat myself to something today since you asked me to!

Guess who moved in on Tuesday?? Elder Frutos!! My longtime office friend that has already lived with me for 5 transfers on the mission. We´re not companions but we´re working in the same ward and living in the same house. That´s been a super huge blessing.

This week´s theme: I think God is wanting me to learn in 2 weeks the patience I should have learned in 2 years. I seriously have never seen so many difficulties in the work all in one week. We started the week with 30 investigators and 16 with a baptismal date marked. We now have 5 of each, and nobody went to church! That´s incredible to me! We confirmed personally with so many and they decided not to come. Something happened with Aldireine and her family because they shut the door in our face Friday night. We saw Bia in the street yesterday and she was trying to hide from us. All those miracles I said I´d report this coming week were very real, but the investigators involved in them are straight-up denynig clear answers they´ve received and telling us they don´t want us to come back. One of them told us it´s our fault his grandfather died, because the day he decided to read the Book of Mormon was when his grandfather passed away unexpectedly. I tried to explain to him that his reasoning was like blaming someone for giving you an umbrella because a storm came afterwards, instead of recognizing that the umbrella was given in the first place because someone knew the storm was coming. He didn´t want to accept that. Elder Frutos noticed I was a little put out and we talked a while this morning. I always have liked the imagery of me being God´s investigator. I imagine I´m at the part in the conversion process where the missionary takes away a smoking addict´s cigarettes. At first the investigator hates it and complains because it´s so stinking hard. Then he realizes that he´s progressing in a way he never could have without the missionary letting him use his agency in extremely difficult circumstances. All the hardships in the work have yielded some of the most spiritual experiences I´ve ever had on my mission. I wanted to share with you one of them that I described in detail in my journal:

"Miracle 3--writing this one pains me because it´s one of those Book of Mormon "signs and wonders" miracles that the people wind up denying and considering mere coincidence. A week ago we got word from Paula, a less active returning to activity, that her husband Rogério had finally decided to be baptized. We´ve been teaching him for 6 weeks and other elders for a solid year. I was thrilled at the news. When we heard it from Rogério himself he explained that late one night he was thinking about baptism and his future in the Church while holding his 6-week-old baby in his arms. There was a moment when Davi (his baby) turned to look at him with that piercing glare that only someone that was with God 6 weeks ago can muster. Rogério felt the Spirit overwhelmingly strong and decided he´d be baptized on August 10th seeing that his birthday is on the 11th. This is after dozens of baptismal invites from missionaries that he not once accepted. Davi had him finalized. 

Unfortunately our visit on Friday was not nearly as pleasant, although equally miraculous. We got there and Rogério wasted no time in cancelling his baptismal date. He "wasn´t ready." He said a bunch of colleagues at work started questioning his decision and he didn´t know how to answer their doubts. He´d smoked that day too, and Satan was making him feel completely overwhelmed and unprepared. I read with him in 3 Nephi 1, when immediately after the day, night and a day sign of Christ´s birth Satan did the same thing. Rogério understood that but wasn´t budging. We tried to help him recognize that the extremely clear answer he´d received with Davi was God´s expression of confidence in him that he could be ready. Everything else was worldly pressure. Then Rogério´s piercing question, "if I decide to put off baptism will God bless me less?" It was obvious he was hoping for an "of course not" for an answer, so that he could comfortably continue sitting on the fence and know that he wasn´t disappointing God. But the Spirit told me to answer "yes." I remembered President Monson´s constant counsel to never put off a prompting, together with the consequences Jonas faced when he didn´t do God´s will in God´s timing. So, I answered "yes." Rogério became furious. He stood up and started pacing back and forth and shouting at us. "I could ask any evangelical pastor around here what would happen and he´d give me encouragement, not tell me God would bless me less! Is that what you missionaries do then? You came all the way from the United States just to tell me God is going to bless me less?! I have a 6-week baby to take care of and you´re going to deny me God´s blessing?! I´m sorry but it´s a definitive NO. I´m not getting baptized in a church that tells me that God´s going to bless me less." He stormed out of the room, leaving us alone with Paula and Davi. Everybody was crying. I was furious. I wanted so much to shout back at him. I was hurt and extremely disappointed. We´d lost Aldireine and her family on the same day and honestly my desire was to hurl a Book of Mormon at him and say "the wicked take the truth to be hard." But i didn´t do that. We sat there in silence, teary-eyed, for a good 5 minutes or so. When I calmed down, I called Rogério into the room so that we could pray for him. I kneeled down, sobbing, and poured out my soul to God to help him understand. I repeated how much we loved him and pleaded that he´d soften his heart and overcome his fears. When I finished I couldn´t see anything. I asked Rogério if I could hug him and he didn´t respond. So I hugged him anyway. In that moment the Spirit whispered to me I needed to make him a promise. Still crying, I put my hand on his shoulder and told him that the next day, when he went to put a cigarette in his mouth, he physically wouldn´t be able to. He´d throw up at the taste. That would be his second witness that August 10th was God´s will for him, as he´d already made clear a week earlier. Usually when promptings come they come subtly, but I saw the exact phrases in my mind that I needed to tell him. It was something I´d never experienced before and utterly undescribable. We left and I noticed Elder Rodrigues was crying too. I pat him on the shoulder, and he told me he hadn´t cried for two years, ever since his dad passed away in a motorcycle accident. I told him I´d never had such a spiritually powerful and draining experience in 23 months in the field. I was devastated at Rogério´s decision and pride, but I felt so much like a real representative of Christ walking out of that home. There was a silent power with us for the rest of the night, something that I´d very much like to feel again."

So, that was just one of the experiences we had this week. It´s been extremely hard, but salvation has always been that way.

Love you all dearly!

Elder Sears

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