It is so good to hear that Gabe is doing better. Sounds like you all are now participants in the miracles and witnesses of God's power on a daily basis too.
Saturday night we went to the adult session of Stake Conference and listened to Elder Russel M. Nelson and Elder Hansen (of the Seventy). It was amazing. President and Sister Ashton spoke as well. The Spirit was so strong and the members of our ward brought our investigators! Everyone loved it. Then Sunday morning we had the general session. That was one of the most spiritual meetings I have ever gone to. About half an hour in we left to go rescue the Del Castillo's who had gotten lost but got back just in time for them to listen to Elder Hansen (he used to be the Texas Houston Mission President a few years ago) and of course, Elder Nelson. Elder Nelson stayed after both meetings long enough for everyone to line up and personally meet him. Watching it happen reminded me of the Savior amongst the Nephites. He was different for every person. For some, he held their hands, others just looked into his eyes, one lady kissed him on the cheek. Just another witness to me that he is an Apostle of Jesus Christ. He spoke of missionary work during the adult session and set some high expectations for the members. During the general session he spoke of the Plan of Salvation and repentance. He said that it was his mandate from God to declare repentance to all people. He quoted the Bible Dictionary about repentance ("The Greek word of which this is the translation denotes a change of mind, a fresh view about God, about oneself, and about the world.") and then said it also implies a change in the way we breathe because each breath is full of gratitude and knowledge that we only can do so because of the breath we are lended. He asked all of the Primary children to stand and sing, "I Am a Child of God". That brought the Spirit. It was in the middle of his talk and pretty cute. At the very end of his talk however, he looked at his translator and said in Spanish, "I don't know how long it has been since these good people have seen an apostle. I want this experience to be memorable for them. So I am going to need your prayers as I now speak to you in a language that is not my own." He then bore a testimony of the truthfulness of the Gospel that penetrated the soul. I can feel the Holy Ghost just thinking about the Spirit that was manifested through that great servant of the Lord. I know that God has called Prophets and Apostles again in our day, that they do in reality speak with our Heavenly Father face to face and that they hold every Priesthood Key on the earth. I know that his church is the church of Jesus Christ upon the earth and that through the saving ordinance of the Priesthood, we can return to live with our loving Father in Heaven. This work is true!
We finished teaching the Del Castillo's everything that they needed on Friday morning. Mijail, the dad, expressed to us that he had voices telling him to not be baptized. The miracle is that during studies that morning, as we thought about him and his wife, the Spirit revealed to us that that was happening and then taught us exactly what he needed to read in the Book of Mormon to overcome the temptations of the devil. We read those verses with him and he felt the Spirit and they were baptized. It was a miracle though. As we were filling out their baptismal records with them on Saturday (the baptism was Sunday after Stake Conference), Maria couldn't remember their marriage date. She knew the date they moved in together but not the date they got married. We told them that they needed the certificate in order to get baptized. When we saw them at conference Sunday morning we asked if they had found it yet and they still hadn't. We committed them to do everything possible to find it. We called a few hours later and still no luck. Then as we were leaving the apartment to go fill the font, we knelt down and pleaded with the Lord that they would find the certificate. In the exact moment that we said "amen", the phone was ringing and it was Maria telling us that they had found the certificate. I know that God loves His children and that He hears and answers our prayers. It was almost as if God was just letting us know once again that we are completely incapable of performing this work on our own and that we have to really fully on Him and on His merits and grace.
Another miracle was that as we waited in line with the Del Castillo's to meet Elder Nelson (how cool is it that they met an apostle on the day of their baptism?!) multiple people came up to Mijail that he knew from work but had no idea that they were Mormon. It strengthened him greatly and one of his best friends from a different ward came to his baptism. They were all so happy. In the picture that I sent of their baptism, all the girls but the one in blue are the Del Castillo's daughters. They are going to be baptized on January 25th and we spoke with the Bishop last night and he is going to interview Mijail so that he can baptize his daughters! I loving seeing the Gospel being lived. It makes people so happy. It makes me so happy.
This coming Saturday, Julie (the 10 year-old daughter of Mirna) will be baptized. We spoke with Mirna and asked if she wanted to wait to baptize Julie until Mirna and Rodolfo were married so that Mirna and Julie could be baptized together. She responded and said that Julie would cry if she had to wait any longer to be baptized. That girl is the best. Last night when I walked in to the Relief Society room in all white she looked at me and said, "Don't you know that it is after Labor Day?" (I think that Mary and Lizzy will appreciate that the most).
Another miracle that happened this week is that we tried a former that Elder Nielsen was teaching a year ago when he was in this area and la hermana (Cristina) let us right in. We taught the Restoration and that there was going to be an Apostle here this weekend. She loved it. All her daughters are members, sealed in the temple, and active. At the end of the lesson she brought out three copies of the Book of Mormon, two in Spanish and one in Quiche (spelling), which is a dialect in Guatemala where she is from. She also had her own Teachings of the Prophets book and showed us the plan for baptism that her daughter had made for her. We came back two days later and brought an hermana from Guatemala with us. They were the best of friends and kept on saying that they felt like they had known each other in a prior life. That family brought Cristina to conference Satuday night and she loved it!
The Lord is so kind. He is full of mercy and grace and truth. He wants to bless us more than we can imagine. My whole object is to be an instrument in His hands so that He can work through me to bring about His purposes. I feel the Holy Ghost every day testifying of the truthfulness of this work. There is nothing better than serving the Lord full time and feeling the Holy Ghost constantly throughout each day. It is what brings joy.
I love you. Please pray for Mirna and Rodolfo so that they can get married and please pray that the Del Castillos will continue to progress and have the strength to overcome the adversary this week especially as they wait to be confirmed on Sunday.