For those of you who didn't know, I turned 21 this week. So that's new. Nothing seems that different, but it was a good birthday which I'll talk about in a bit. It's August now. That's also new. And frightening.
1) Open Hearts- This week was excellent, as we continued teaching some very open families that we found the week before. It is something very refreshing when someone you recently met accepts you into their home time and time again, talking openly and listening attentively to whatever you have to say. This week was full of those families.
One in particular comes to mind. We met them a little over a week ago, and in the first visit they explained that they had heard that we are a cult, worship Satan, "Mormon" is the name of a demon of whom the Book of Mormon teaches, and other rather blatant lies. (For those of you reading who aren't members of the church, none of these things are true. As far as I'm aware. And I consider myself to be pretty aware.) Yet, despite the fact that it was trusted family members who said this, the family said they refused to judge until after hearing us out.
So they began to read in the Book of Mormon, come to church, visit activities, and hear the lessons. And they loved it all. And they love us. The wife, Claudia, said that if any other missionary aside from us showed up at her door, she wouldn't let them in. She informed us that we weren't allowed to leave Ipatinga, and she would say as much to our "leader." At the activity, when she was introduced to the branch president, she immediately informed him that if we left she would not come back or be baptized. I love Brazilians. We'd only entered their house three times and we're already close family friends.
2) Birthday- So for my birthday I had the great privelege of going to Belo Horizonte for a mission leadership counsel. Which, in part, meant 10 hours in the bus round trip, but also meant a very spiritual meeting in which I learned a lot and began to think about how I can work harder and apply myself more in these upcoming months.
On the way back to Ipatinga, I had a touching spiritual experience in the bus. I was reading in the Book of Mormon, and once more received a spiritual witness that it is true. I was reading in 2 Nephi 31 and a strong feeling of peace distilled upon my heart, and a certainty in my mind that what I was reading was true. Suddenly it just made so much sense and everything seemed to "click." I love that, even after years in the church and study of the Book of Mormon, the Lord gives me these tender experiences to strengthen my testimony.
3) The Price- We learned something else rather shocking in the counsel. Elder Holland will be in Belo Horizonte in two weeks...but does not have in his schedule a meeting with the missionaries. An apostle. In Belo Horizonte. Elder Holland. And I'm in Ipatinga. And so begins two weeks of work, dedication, and prayer with the whole mission fasting for a change in Elder Holland's plans so that it would include a mission conference. Every individual missionary made a promise with God of what more we will do to live up to our potential.
We've been working without stop these last few days. Calling people to repentance. Feeling the Spirit testify that our words our true.
I know that this work is worth any price. I cannot deny the things that I know--Joseph Smith was a prophet, he restored Christ's church, Christ is our Savior and Redeemer, and we are God's children. The only way we can return to his presence is through faith on His name, repentance, baptism, and the gift of the Holy Ghost. And then endure to the end. I never cease to learn about these simple steps. And the more I learn, the greater desire I have to teach these things to everyone I meet.
I love you all. Know that it is true. I know it. I cannot deny it. And I never will.