** A bit of commentary from Mom here... we sent Elder Allred some money to get a new suit yesterday. It was great that he found such a good deal on the one from Goodwill, but we felt like he needed one more in his line of work. A member in Poughkeepsie could get him 60% off at JC Penney, so he got this one. Hopefully between the two he can get through the next 6 months. Yes, that's right. Just 6 months!!! 1 general conference, 1 Skype. 6 Fast Sundays. Mom is also happy to see that he seems to be keeping his little apartment nice and clean. Ah, I love this guy so much!! **
The highlight of this week was definitely Joe's baptism on Saturday. Thanks to the amazing leaders in the Poughkeepsie 2nd Ward, the service went perfectly. Easily the smoothest baptismal service that I've been to. I could go on and on about how every little detail of the baptism was perfect, but I don't have enough time to do that. I'll just highlight a few things that really made the day special. The first was right after Joe was baptized. Right after he came up out of the water, they closed the doors that separated the font from the people watching the baptism. Joe turned right to me and just gave me a hug. That man is my brother. There is just something special and indescribable about the bond between brothers. It's something that I can't really explain. I gained a brother as I stood with Joe in that font. I look forward to an eternity of that brotherhood with him. That was the first thing. The next thing was that I loved the words that Bishop Berardi said as he took a few minutes to welcome Joe into the ward. One of the things that he highlighted is that wherever Joe goes in the world he has a family in the Church. He openly acknowledged that Joe is a college student who will only be in Poughkeepsie for another two or three years and assured him that he has a family in the ward here. He went on to say that no matter where life takes him, if he will plug himself into a ward or branch unit in the church he will have support and love and family. So true. I've learned that as I've served in four different wards in the mission now who have all taken me in as one of their own. Bishop's words about the church family really struck me, and I know they struck a few others in the room as well. The last thing that hit me at Joe's baptism was when he bore his testimony at the end of the service. It was just so powerful and so inviting of the Spirit. He started by thanking the missionaries. He said that he's very grateful for what we do and that he admires our dedication. He also said that he prays for us every single night. It's interesting because we always pray for the people that we teach, but you never think that they might be praying for you, too. It also hit me that the influence that we can have on another person's life is often more than we even realize. He bore a beautiful testimony of the prophet Joseph Smith and said that there is no way he could deny that he was a prophet of God. He called this gospel the truest thing in his whole life. The most powerful part of his testimony was when he told us how he gained a witness of the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon. He said that one day he had been reading and praying about the Book of Mormon. He picked his copy of the book up and held it to his chest. He described just feeling this exciting rush of emotion. When he put it down and picked up just a regular book he didn't feel it anymore. Then he picked up the Book of Mormon again and felt the exact same rush that he felt before. He recognized that as an undeniable communication of the Holy Ghost. That had to be such a powerful experience for him. It's interesting how God communicates to all of us in different ways, and we all feel the Spirit in different ways. I've never felt anything like what Joe was describing, but my testimony of the Book of Mormon came just as his did. It was a manifestation of the Holy Ghost as a result of sincere reading and prayer. I am continually impressed by how much Joe has been prepared to receive the Gospel and how well he has received it. I'm filled with gratitude for the Lord placing Joe into my life. He's had a bigger impact on me that he will probably ever know. I secretly hope that he will move to Utah one day so that I can be more closely associated with him. I'm just so happy that I made the decision to serve a mission. If I hadn't chosen to do it, I never would have had such powerful experiences like these. By the end of the week I'll have less than six months left to be a full time missionary. I can't believe it's coming so close to the end. It makes me happy, sad, excited and several other emotions all at the same time. I look forward to more amazing experiences like these over the course of the next six months. I love you all. Thank you for everything that you do for me. Have a wonderful week!!