Dear Family and Friends,
To quote someone I met this week, "The story I am about to tell you is real."
Let's begin by saying that the events that occurred this week have been a sound and tender testimony to me that God is invested in his work, and more importantly and specifically, in his children.
I'm going to tell you the tale of three different people: Neang, Bom, and Faa.
Brother Neang is a tall and lanky fellow, about 40 years old, and when we moved in, he had just quit drinking. We taught him every day since we arrived and he would memorize the things we'd teach him and relate them off to us to ensure he remembered, seeing as his drinking and smoking had been a habit for over 30 years now, he works hard to retain information.
He announced that he would be quitting smoking in Elder's Quorum with a tender testimony. He quit that very day. Over a course of a week longer until his baptism, his radiance meekness and love for the members poured over. He memorized evemryone's names, and between his 4 teeth and sloppy accent, each hello and name was always said with such sincerity until everyone loved and supported him in his effort to be baptized.
He has been someone who has wanted baptism more than anything else in the world. His passing of his interview ended in a jumping jacks victory, his baptism held so sacred, his testimony as if from Nephi's own account.... a record of his birth onward: 'my mother and I sold bananas on the street corner and we were very poor....' for quite a long time until Elder Wilson texts me from the back, "How long can he go for?"
Anyway, his baptism ended in a beautiful "If you could hie to kolob" arrangement on the violin from Sis Jackson and Elder Wilson on the piano.
As I came up to greet him and give him my congratulations, I was shocked and overwhelmed to see him in absolute tears, holding his hands up in a "wai". Brother Mac had his arm around him while he was so tenderly taken by the spirit.
I have never seen a person so grateful in my entire life.
Seeing him in this way made countless members begin to cry until all present that day were convinced that nobody would forget the 'value' of being baptized. Because one unassuming lanky man showed us exactly what it should mean for us.
The next man is that 23 year old nurse I had told you about.
We spent the last week teaching him everything. And I mean everything. He was ready for everything. All the way through temples and missionary work. Let me just say-- teaching those things before baptism give people vision. I am so grateful the First Presidency has us teach that now. When they understand the temple and the whole picture, the Plan of Salvation becomes an "on earth" reality to prepare for that Celestial reward. We're teaching people to prepare to live in heaven, essentially.
Bom was that radiating light on the street. This sunday he will be a radiating white on the stand.
There are people out there that have been prepared for missionaries.
With that said, the last story I wish to tell is about the person who said the quote from the very beginning of this email. Her name is Faa.
On Saturday Sis Jackson and I found ourselves lost. Not necessarily lost on a map, but lost on where we should go. As we'd move and change places, we just had no feelings whatsoever, just that our minds were fogged over and where we were wasn't the right place. . .. at every place we went.
The day became frustrating as we finally decided that we'd just head back to the church for our lesson at 4pm. We traveled back and all through this walk I'm thinking back to two days before when an old man member outside the church who I've just barely seen for the first time over-zealously tells us how we should be inviting people. He said, "Just tell them exactly who you are! That God sent you to find them and that he loves them. Tell them that."
On this particular saturday afternoon in Asoke, the roads were practically bear because everyone went home or elsewhere for their day off. Not an ideal place to look for lots of people. But here we were making our way back to the church, talking to each person as they passed, getting waved off at each time.
We come to a girl in a over-sized black sweater who has headphones in. She doesn't hear what we've said to her, those earplugs are in so loud. She says, "what?"
We invite her and she looks at us again, feeling incredulous as to what she has just heard. "Wait, wait, what?" she says with wide eyes.
I remember what that old man outside the church said. It pops into my head. I say it.
"We're representatives of Jesus Christ. God sent us to find you. You must be someone very special because we're looked all day for you."
An appointment was scheduled immediately, and she walks back the way she came? She has no explanation as to why she was walking that way anyway.
It later hits 6:00pm on the nose and she arrives in the church. She finds us and we take her around. She tells us that she has been to a different church before and felt something more was to be found from Christianity, as she had never been certain about Buddhism.
Our lesson was filled with the spirit. More than I can say. She drank up every word and the truth of the restoration beamed brightly. She told us she knew it was all true.
As we sat on those chapel she confirmed her feelings about the Holy Ghost and that she had felt it before. ... very recently.
"What I'm about to tell you really happened, okay? You have to believe me." She begins, clearly overwhelmed by how surreal this day has been for her.
"Back when I went to that church long ago, it was because a boy had a dream that he needed to take me there. In my life I've suffered a lot of toothaches in the last 3 years. Two days ago I had a terrible toothache that had been lasting for a while. This time, I remembered going to that church and thinking that Jesus Christ loves us so much, and that he has the power to heal us. Without realizing it, I had began praying and I told God, if you heal me I will change my religion.
The next day she was fully normal. No problem whatsoever. She said, "I had no reason to believe it was God who did it, but... I knew it was him. I knew it."
"Today you stopped me on the street and told me you were looking for me. That God sent you. I believe you."
I have never been so sure of God's hand in his work, and the authority and reality of a calling to be a missionary.
It is as real as the name-tag you see plainly on our chest.