Elder Allred, Elder Ross, Kristina, Antonio, Elder Raine, Elder Orellana
Kristina, Bishop Kelly, Antonio
Elder Allred, Rafael, Kristina, Elder Raine
What an incredible week! I just love missionary work so much, and I have seen such amazing miracles as I've done it in Harlem. As you all know, Kristina's baptism was on Saturday. I've been a little bit stressed out over the past couple of weeks leading up to this. Planning for a baptism is not a very easy thing to do. There are so many assignments to make for the service, paperwork to fill out, scheduling the interview, worrying about whether the baptismal candidate will actually pass the interview, just trying to make sure the whole experience is perfect for your investigator, etc. There's a lot to think about! But it all came together really well, and all of the stress was worth it. Our ward helped a lot. Our ward mission leader was amazing! His name is Brandon, and he's a really cool guy. Originally from Utah. Bishop Kelly was actually the one who baptized Kristina, which was awesome. He's a really good guy too. I've learned a lot from watching him lead this ward over the past few months. Then one of the ward missionaries, Darren, confirmed her on Sunday. It was so great to see the ward members so involved in the whole thing. A lot of miracles were seen this weekend. I'll just highlight the one that stuck out the most to me. After Kristina was baptized, there was a part in the program for her and Antonio to bear their testimonies. Oh I forgot to say that another guy got baptized on Saturday as well. Antonio has been taking the lessons with the other two Elders in the ward for awhile, and they were both ready at the same time. It was really cool that both of them got baptized! Anyway, Kristina got up in front of about thirty people and bore a beautiful testimony. She expressed gratitude for the opportunity that she has had to meet with us missionaries. It was amazing. I was trying to hide it, but I couldn't stop the tears from coming. When I met Kristina, she was too nervous to even say a prayer in front of me and Elder Monson. And there she was bearing her testimony in front of a big group of people. That moment really hit me. I could see how much the gospel of Jesus Christ has changed this individual. As she has applied the things that we've taught her, she truly has been strengthened and healed through the powers of the Atonement. This is really what it's all about. This is what we are trying to help people do as missionaries. And as I watched Kristina on Saturday night, I felt so blessed that the Lord trusted me to help her come closer to Christ. And then on Sunday after she was confirmed it was crazy to watch her entire countenance just change. I could almost physically see her being "sanctified (purified) by the reception of the Holy Ghost" (3 Nephi 27:20). She came up out of the water on Saturday night, cleansed from her sins. But it wasn't until she received the gift of the Holy Ghost that she was completely sanctified. It was incredible for me to witness that with my own eyes. It was such a testimony builder to me of so many different things. The fact that we have the true Priesthood authority of God on the earth today. The fact that I have been found worthy as one to hold that Priesthood authority and act as an instrument in the hands of the Lord. The fact that without receiving the saving ordinances, we cannot return to live with our Father in Heaven again. That we need to be baptized by water and the spirit, and then go on to live worthily and receive our further ordinances and make further covenants in the temple. It's just so much to think about and so much to be grateful for, and it hit me so hard this weekend. I'm so excited for Kristina as she begins her eternal journey as a member of the true church of Jesus Christ. We've also been teaching her boyfriend, Rafael, and I think he is pretty close to being ready to be baptized as well.
I just love it here so much. I love Harlem. I love the people I interact with. I love the ward members. We did a big service project on Saturday morning with the ward cleaning up a park. It was just so much fun working with the group of saints that stay strong in Harlem. Not really the easiest thing to do. I had Bishop Kelly's little boy following me around and helping me pull out the big roots of the trees we were removing. Working side by side with these people made me realize how much I really do love them. There are so many people here that I could turn to for help, and I'm grateful for their support. There's only two more weeks until the next transfer, and I fear I might be leaving. I've been here for awhile now, and Elder Raine is just about done with his training. I just really don't want to go. Whatever the Lord had in His plans for me is for the best though. No matter what happens, I will just have to hold my head up high and look forward to the future. I know this email is already super long, but I just wanted to finish with one last highlight of the week. The Book of Mormon challenge! I can't believe we're already a month into it. This week's chapters were great. The ones that really stuck out to me were in 2 Nephi 31-33. Chapter 31 got me so excited as Nephi focused all of his writing on the doctrine of Christ, which as you all know is what I've been searching for as I've studied. The thing that really impressed me is that this is the very last thing Nephi chose to write about before he died. After all of his amazing stories and teachings leading up to this point, the doctrine of Christ was the most important thing he felt he could talk about to close his remarks and end his teaching in the book that he knew would reach the hands of millions of people to bring them back into celestial glory and to gain their salvation. Chapter 33 Verse 15 was especially impressive to me, "... for thus hath the Lord commanded me, and I must obey." Nephi was the perfect example of one who understood and lived the doctrine of Christ. He not only taught it to his people, but he actually lived this doctrine himself. He was obedient from the beginning right to the very end, and he endured the way he was supposed to. What an amazing example! I loved it. I hope that those of you who have taken the 120 day challenge are still excited about like I am. Anyway, I'll end with that this week. I love you all so much! Have a wonderful week!