Monday, June 13, 2016

Cold tile

I grinned from ear to ear as I stood on the cold tile in the baptismal font. I plugged the drain and stood their as the water started to rise to my ankles.

I was entering the missionary training center later that day. My bags were zipped and the rest of my things were put in a box in a closet to wait for my return. Orlando Florida. That's where I was headed. I had butterflies in my stomach as my family piled into the car to drop me off.

My twelve days in the MTC came and gone and before I knew it I was stepping off the airplane. The humidity hit me like a ton of bricks and it was only October.

I soon learned a few things that nobody told me about before my mission. For starters, I was the same person as when I left. I still had the same personality, liked the same foods, and was still scared of the same things.

I learned that you sometimes have to eat twice as much as you want to so you don't offend anyone. I learned that sometimes people slam the door in your face and sometimes people stop texting you or answering your phone calls all together. I learned that sometimes people said mean things to the missionaries, and even worse, sometimes people said mean things about the church that I so dearly loved.

Missionary work is hard.

There are long days. Days that you don't feel like working. Days that you think you'll never get along with your companion.

Over time I started to grow accustom to some of the trials common to missionary work. Days were long, but I got through it. People didn't listen, but every once and a while someone would open their door. Every once and a while we'd find someone to listen.

After a few transfers I found myself serving in a singles ward in central Orlando.

I worked hard, but wasn't seeing the results come from my labors.

I was training a new missionary named Sister Hart and it was during that time that I learned some new things that nobody had told me about a mission.

I learned that faith means believing in miracles. It means daring the soul to go beyond what the eye can see. It means telling yourself that it will all work out even though you can't see the light at the end of the tunnel. It sometimes means taking a few steps forward into the dark believing that the motion sensors will recognize your faith and the lights will come on.

I learned that a successful missionary is a happy missionary. I learned that laughter is the best medicine and the best coping mechanism for hard days. I learned that if you can make someone else laugh or simply smile you can work miracles among the children of men. I learned that joy is a principle power. No missionary ever changed the world with a frown on their face.

I learned about friendship. I learned that in order to bring someone the gospel you must first meet their needs. And more often than not friendship is at the top of that list. I made friends with many investigators and members. I also learned that the best friendship you can strengthen as a missionary is the friendship you have with your Father in Heaven. I found myself on my knees more than I ever had before, not for myself, but for my friends who knew not God.

My soul started to ache for them.

I learned that these things, coupled with hard work are all that it takes to be a missionary.

But I was approaching nine months my heart started to yearn for these people. Nobody had yet progressed all the way towards baptism, and my soul ached for them because I knew the happiness they had potential to become, but far too many of them, members included, we're living below their privilege.

I started to wonder why I was on a mission. I loved being a missionary. I loved the members and I loved talking about Christ, but if nobody was progressing why were we wasting our time.

Some time passed and I eventually found myself standing in a baptismal font. I grinned from ear to ear as I stood on the cold tile in the baptismal font. I plugged the drain and stood their as the water started to rise to my ankles.

I watched as Mayra was immersed in the water and I was filled with so much joy. As she climbed out of the baptismal font and we handed her her towel she said with a smile on her face "I'm soakin' wet" with her cute little Puerto Rican accent. My companion and I did a little dance because we couldn't contain ourselves.

We left her to change and some of our friends from the ward came and gave us hugs. I don't know how to describe the feelings I felt that day.

It took nine months, but it was worth it. Nine months of slammed doors. Nine months of un-returned phone calls. Nine months of tear stained cheeks during my nightly prayers. Nine months of investigators not keeping commitments. Nine months of testifying of the only thing that had ever made me truly happy.

And someone had finally accepted it.

It was oh so worth it.

Elaine Cannon, a former Young Women general president, said, “There are two important days in a woman’s life: The day she is born and the day she finds out why.”

That day as I stood on the cold tile in the baptismal font, and plugging the drain so the font could be filled...

I found out why.

Monday, June 6, 2016

I Think That's What Faith Is

Growing up I always loved attending church meetings. They were always uplifting and that was where I could find many of my friends. But it wasn't until I was a missionary that I came to understand just how important these meetings are. It wasn't until one particular zone conference that I realized we can receive revelation and answers to our prayers through the things others share at these meetings.

It was at about my eight month mark as a missionary. I was really enjoying being a missionary and loved sharing my testimony with people. I was training my first missionary, Sister Hart, and she and I got along like peanut butter and chocolate and I was happy. But there was still one thing that felt to me like a fly buzzing around my ear.

I still hadn't baptized anyone.

It bothered me a lot because my whole life I had listened to stories about how if missionaries were obedient they would baptize thousands. Or at least, that's how I interpreted them. Every week we would receive an email of who was having baptisms in the mission and read it as "the list of successful missionaries this week." I longed to have my name on that list.

I had spent many many hours on my knees asking my Heavenly Father why we couldn't find anyone that was prepared. What was I doing wrong? Every night before I prayed I wrote my thoughts in a little prayer journal. The night before zone conference I filled the last page in the journal and felt like that was a final cry to Heavenly Father for help.

Zone conference came around and after car checks we began the meeting with an opening hymn and prayer just as every meeting in the church always begins. Then our Mission President gave some opening remarks and following him one of the Assistants to the President stood up to give the first training of the day.

He described that he came to a point on his mission where he felt like he was trying hard to do what was right, but that things weren't happening. He said, "my mission started to change me, but I didn't see the miracles from my work.

"That's where I am right now" I thought as I began to take notes quickly.

The title for his training was "more hope, more faith" and I listened as he described how he gained more faith as a missionary. And this gave me hope that maybe I could too.

Throughout the next few days I studied faith pretty intently in my studies. What is it? How does it work? How do I get it? Then my companion and I started to put it into practice.

I think the only noticeable change anyone saw in us was that we had a better attitude. Instead of trying to mentally prepare ourselves for things not to work out or for people to reject us we made an effort to speak as if everyone would let us in and keep their commitments.

Overtime we started to believe in miracles and overtime miracles started to happen. And when miracles happened we got excited.

We observed one of our zone leaders and the enthusiasm he has for the work. Every time something good happens (and basically every time we see him) he always works into the conversation an enthusiastic "WHAHOOOOOOOO!" We tried to emulate his example of enthusiasm when good things happened. We also made a greater effort to offer prayers of gratitude to the Lord when we did see miracles.

We worked at this for a little bit. This Sunday we will be baptizing our first convert.

I can't say it was anything I did to make this happen because it was surely all the Lord's doing, but I can say that this experience taught me that miracles do happen. They happen everyday, and if we put forth our effort to believe in them, recognize them, and thank God for them they are more likely to happen.

I think this is what faith is.