Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Building the Kingdom of Heaven

I should have known things were not going to end well when the Relief Society President introduced me as "Hermana Risso", the previous mission president's wife. Yesterday I attended a ward I have not attended very much. My husband had gone to his Lambayeque District for meetings with his counselors. This ward is close to our house and has some sister missionaries in it. Things went fine and smoothly until Relief Society. I was sitting with a sister missionary on my left side and a recently rescued (reactivated) woman on my right side. She and her family are preparing to go to the temple soon. Her 18 month old was very tired and a little out of control. I was trying to be nice and help her out, giving her pencil and paper to color, etc. Finally, the woman and child had to leave. There was nothing more we could do.

                                   We are official now! We have a welcome sign for our new
                                            missionaries. Our new assistant is Elder Perez.

Right at this moment, the teacher looked at me. In my mind, I was hoping it was not me she was really looking at, because I had no idea where we were or what we were talking about. Then she said, "Hermana Williams, would you help us and read the next paragraph?" I paused a minute and said, "I'm sorry, but I'm lost." The sister missionary at my side tried to help me, but she was obviously lost also. The teacher explained the page and paragraph and it still took us three tries to get the right one. I finally read it. No problem. It was short and not too difficult, although there were one or two words that I didn't know. She looked at me again. It got even worse! "Hermana Williams, what are your thoughts about that paragraph?" Because I had no idea what we were talking about, I really hadn't understood the paragraph at all. I looked at it stuttering, trying to figure out what it meant. Finally, I made some brilliant statement about needing to attend the temple again to do the work for others and then we would be blessed.

                                Edna and her newly set apart missionary son. She has two
                                children on missions now: Eric in Bolivia and Danny (daughter)
                                 in Chile. She is the Primary President in her new ward.

After I spoke, I looked at the page and the paragraph closer and realized that what I had said had nothing to do with what that paragraph was about. The sister missionary kept trying to reassure me that what I said was fine. Later, I related the experience to my husband and I said, "So basically for being nice and trying to help someone, I was able to embarrass myself. My husband replied, "And it won't be the last time!" I really appreciated his feedback!

                                                    Recent converts. Mother and Son. He dresses
                                                    and cares for his mom. She reads the Book
                                                    of Mormon to him. He is blind. Her husband
                                                    passed away just two weeks ago.

The Fourth of July really felt like a Fourth of July holiday this year. It is our third Independence Day in the mission and the last two we barely remembered it was a holiday in the United States. We had all the Sisters in the mission (there are 20 now) come to the mission home for a good old fashioned Fourth of July barbecue. The Fourth of July fell on a Monday this year which is our P-day. It was a fun privilege to have them in our home. They were so polite and very helpful. They insisted on helping with the last minute preparations and on doing all the dishes. It was amazing! They laughed and shared advice and war stories with each other. We had the traditional barbecue menu and two cakes for dessert, one for America and one for a sister who had her birthday the day before. The most fun part was that many of the sisters dressed up in red, white and blue. They were so cute! The Latina sisters were gracious to support "our" holiday and were excited to learn our traditions. The other great thing was that we were able to get a picture of all the sisters together. This does not happen often.

The Whole Group: Looking funny. . .

                                                      And Looking Nice!!!

                                               The Burger Master!

Lots of yummy food!

                                            Dessert. Star Spangled Cake!

Several months ago, maybe 6 to 8, I shared a story about giving a copy of the Book of Mormon to my hairdresser, who is a very nice, sincere person. He really seemed interested in it, but has made no effort at all to read it. About two months ago, my husband encouraged him again to read it and told him how important it is. About a week later, I went in to get my hair cut. I really did not want to talk about the Book of Mormon again. After we talked about the usual, how is your family doing, etc., I felt like I should say something, but I really did not want to! Finally I asked, "Have you been reading the Book of Mormon?" "Yes" "So what do you like that you have read?" "I like the teachings of Moroni about baptism." We talked about baptism and eventually I mentioned that I have a huge painting of Moroni in my office. I told him he should come with his family and see it and have a tour of the mission office and the church. Then he could even see the baptismal font. He seemed really interested and said he would like to, but needed to check with his wife.

                                  Teaching with missionaries is such a great privilege.

For some reason I started to talk about the fact that we have a Heavenly Father and that he loves us, that we are all brothers and sisters and that he is my brother. I told him that this is why we are here in Peru teaching the gospel, because we want to help our brothers and sisters. I told him that this doctrine has always and still gives me great peace in my life. Because I know this is true and it makes me so happy, I could not stop the tears from running down my cheeks. He was very quiet and did not say much. I left knowing that he had felt the Spirit and hoped that it would encourage him to want to know more. Two hours later, my husband and I were eating lunch and I got a phone call. It was him! He said that his wife had said that would be fine and they would really like to come the next day. We set a time and he clarified three times the day and the time. I was so happy and so excited that they had accepted my invitation! I was very excited all day.

                                     Celebrating an office birthday with lasagna. Elder Wright;
                                         Financial Secretary (front right). I grew up with his
                                              Grandparents, aunts and uncles in Modesto:
                                                                    The Hamilton's.

The next day, Mark and I were so excited again and went to the office at the appointed time. My excitement turned quickly to depression, because they never showed up and they never called. About two weeks later, he called me and apologized and said something came up and that he had not had cell service and could not call. (This is actually very common here in Peru. People can only afford so many minutes and then they run out for the month.) The next time I saw him I mentioned something about the Book of Mormon and tried to show him, but it was obvious that he had no interest at all. The only good that came from this experience was that I understood for the first time the real rejection that the missionaries experience almost on a daily basis. How can you share something so precious with all of your heart and have your message rejected? It is a very difficult thing to experience.

                                           Father's Day, June 2016. We were finally able to
                                            sit down and eat at 4:30 after a double session
                                            Stake Conference and then interviews for Mark.

A week ago, we had another experience in total contrast to this one. We went to teach a really special family with two sister missionaries. This family has three children who are members, but the parents are not members yet. Their daughter is actually serving a mission at Temple Square in Salt Lake City. The two sons have not been very active until recently when the mother started going to church. The problem for the Dad has been that he works on Sunday in a bakery, but he was to the point that he was going to quit his job because he wanted to go to church. The lesson was on the importance of the Sabbath Day and Mark and I, along with the sisters, had the opportunity to share how living this commandment has blessed our lives. The father explained to us that he knows the gospel is true because he has already seen how it  has blessed his family. He has seen the changes in all of them. He had talked to his supervisor at work and told him he would be looking for a new job. This family is very poor and barely has enough money for food, but he was ready to make this sacrifice for the blessings of the gospel. The next day, the parents were in church with their youngest son and the father bore his testimony of the truthfulness of the gospel.

As I thought about the contrast of these two experiences with two different men and a completely different outcome, I could not help but think of the words of the Savior in the New Testament. It says, "Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto a merchant man, seeking goodly pearls: Who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had, and bought it." (Matthew 13:45-46) One man in this story is not willing to sacrifice in order to have the gospel. The other man has found a pearl of great price and has humbled himself and is willing to give up whatever is necessary in order to obtain that pearl, the gospel of Jesus Christ and the blessings of eternity.

                                            Recent baptism of a true convert. He bore his
                                               testimony of how grateful he was to have
                                                           finally found the truth.

We are in the middle of interviews. It is so wonderful to talk to the missionaries. I used to dread trying to talk in Spanish and it was really exhausting, but it is just truly enjoyable now and I do not even think much about talking in Spanish. I feel so blessed, especially because I can communicate so much better with these special sweet individuals. One thing new I am doing, that has been such a choice experience, is asking all the Latinos to pray in English. Of course, many of them are reluctant and think their prayers are not good, but because they are so simple and sincere, the Spirit is so strong when they pray. It reminds me of listening to a child pray. I have always loved listening to children pray, starting with my younger brother Tim (who said the best, most funny prayers) to my own children and my own grandchildren. My two sons always said really long and spiritual prayers. They loved to pray. This has always been a choice experience for me. Praying with the missionaries has brought back many fond memories and experiences.

         An amazing group of Elders going home. Missionaries are truly angels who publish peace.

I know I have said it before, but the easy part of serving in our callings, as Mission President and Wife, is to love the missionaries. The missionaries in our mission are obedient and trustworthy. We have total confidence in each one of them and their ability to find and teach the elect. We know we can trust them to carry our the Lord's work each day. In my last Sister Leader Meeting, we talked about the miracle of missionary work. In Preach my Gospel it says, "When you have faith in Jesus Christ, you trust the Lord enough to follow His commandments. . .You accomplish what the Lord wants you to accomplish. You help bring about good in your own life and the lives of others. You are able to do miracles according to the Lord's will."

                                          Missionaries preparing for another day. We study
                                           in the morning, work in the afternoon and see
                                           miracles in the evening. Our Mission Theme.

I asked the Sister Leaders if they believed that they could do miracles and not one of them raised their hands. Then I asked how many of them had seen a great change in the lives of individuals they have taught. This time every single one of them raised their hands. I bore my testimony to them that they have done and witnessed miracles. I gave my witness that all of missionary work is a miracle and the Spirit bore witness that it is. How many other churches can send out 18-26 year old young adults to live a whole bunch of strict rules and depend on them to do the most important work in all the world?! I only know of one who has been able to do that: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. This is because it is true and it is His gospel, the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. I wish with all my heart that everyone could see the miracle of this great and marvelous work and take hold of the pearl of great price.