Thank you for your continued prayers and faith on my behalf. This has been a wonderful week. It has been tough since we haven't seen the Castillo family since mutual on Tuesday but we have an appointment with them tonight and we are bringing their fellowshippers. Please pray that it goes well.
If y'all remember from the Mother's Day call, I talked about Gerardo Matamoros. He is the one that was just barely baptized and then received the Aaronic Priesthood the day of his confirmation. He is doing so wonderful. On Friday we taught his daughter (who is also his next-door neighbor) and walked out and saw him. He spoke with us for a few minutes and we told him we were about to go visit a lady from Costa Rica. He thought that was great. We went to the appointment and didn't have a man so we called him and he came right away. He was so awesome in the lesson. He said the word that has become my absolute favorite on my mission when said by recent converts or returning less-actives. He said, "testifico". He bore his testimony so many times in the lesson and just tried so hard to help la Hermana Ovy understand how much the Gospel has blessed him and his family. It was a precious memory. We left and went to a different lesson after which we went to teach Gerardo and his wife Giselle about Family History. When we showed up they had the Gospel Principles manual, the Book of Mormon, and the Bible all open and were in the middle of trying to figure out what his duties were as a Priest. He had spent the two hours in between the lesson with Ovy and the Family History lesson studying the scriptures so that he could "respect his Priesthood". We had much success with family history and are going to do baptisms this Saturday. They are so excited. After we left their home, he spent two hours and went through 500 records looking for an ancestor. Then at 9:30 that night he called and said he had been studying trying to figure out what scriptures we could share with Ovy the next day. He told us that he had found a chapter about baptism in the Book of Mormon and asked if it would be good to share. He literally spent his whole day either with the missionaries, studying the scriptures, or doing Family History. The Gospel sure does change our hearts. He has learned how to cast Satan out of his life and loves how he feels.
My favorite experience with his this week though came on Saturday night. We taught Ovy with him Saturday afternoon and he gave her and her daughter a ride to the activity. It was a Mother's Day activity and the youth and men served and the mothers enjoyed themselves. Gerardo put himself of collecting trash the whole night and at one point I went up to him and told him the story that is in the Joseph Smith movie when Joseph is outside beating the rug and the other man asks him why he (the prophet) is doing such a homely task. I told Gerardo that it was so interesting that he had just received the Priesthood of God and that according to the world he should be above simple tasks and yet here he was pushing around a trashcan. He looked at me and said, "You know what, before I had the Priesthood I never would have done this". It was so interesting to me that he in such little time has been able to in some way grasp the following verses from D&C 121:
36 That the rights of the priesthood are inseparably connected with the powers of heaven, and that the powers of heaven cannot be controlled nor handled only upon the principles of righteousness.
37 That they may be conferred upon us, it is true; but when we undertake to cover our sins, or to gratify our pride, our vain ambition, or to exercise control or dominion or compulsion upon the souls of the children of men, in any degree of unrighteousness, behold, the heavens withdraw themselves; the Spirit of the Lord is grieved; and when it is withdrawn, Amen to the priesthood or the authority of that man.
41 No power or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of the priesthood, only by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned;
42 By kindness, and pure knowledge, which shall greatly enlarge the soul without hypocrisy, and without guile—
43 Reproving betimes with sharpness, when moved upon by the Holy Ghost; and then showing forth afterwards an increase of love toward him whom thou hast reproved, lest he esteem thee to be his enemy;
45 Let thy bowels also be full of charity towards all men, and to the household of faith, and let virtue garnish thy thoughts unceasingly; then shall thy confidence wax strong in the presence of God; and the doctrine of the priesthood shall distil upon thy soul as the dews from heaven.
46 The Holy Ghost shall be thy constant companion, and thy scepter an unchanging scepter of righteousness and truth; and thy dominion shall be an everlasting dominion, and without compulsory means it shall flow unto thee forever and ever.
The ward loves him and is amazed at his desire to serve. He also went to the Bishop's Storehouse on Thursday and plans on doing that weekly and he brought some investigators to the baptismal service last night. Talk about conversion. It has been such a blessing and joy to see the change in him and to feel of his love for the Lord and the Gospel.
Ovy and her daughter Nia are new investigators. They are friends with a lady in the English ward. Ovy is great. She has never been baptized and didn't feel a need to. During the Restoration lesson while talking about prophets, I felt to do something that I have never done before. I quoted John 3:5 "Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God" and then said that we have to be baptized by the authority that prophets hold to enter into the kingdom of God. She said she didn't believe that because there are so many people that die without ever even hearing about Jesus Christ or having the chance to be baptized. We finished teaching the Restoration and then taught baptisms for the dead. It clicked. She then said, "Ok now I believe for the first time that I too need to be baptized." She came to the activity, church, and the baptism last night and loved all of them. Her daughter is best friends with Sandy Ortega and Madison Matamoros (both recent converts in the area) and she thought it was the best thing in the whole world. The interesting and miraculous part about teaching Ovy about baptisms for the dead during the first lesson (something else I have never done) is that since zone conference a few weeks ago we have been praying that we can find those who have ancestors waiting and praying for them to accept the Gospel and then do the work for them. Ovy was a very direct answer to those prayers.
We have spent almost the whole week teaching Family History and helping people prepare names to go to the temple. I have been working on the Case line a little bit and had a big breakthrough this week. One of the people that was put in was incorrect and when I put the correct person in, the line continued on another 150 years rather than ending as it previously had. It was pretty exciting and allowed me to find people to take to the temple to do baptisms for.
This work is an absolute joy. I couldn't be happier. I am so grateful that the Lord has allowed me to serve Him these two years and come to know of His mercy and love and longsuffering towards me. My mission has been for me. I know that the Lord lives. I love Him. I also love reading the words of His chosen servants. This week as I read "The Witness" by Elder Packer, the Spirit enveloped me. His testimony of the Savior is so real, so personal, and so sure. I want to have that kind of testimony of Jesus Christ and I will strive to live worthy to receive it.
I love you. The Gospel is true, what else matters?
P.S. Sharon, Gerardo's daughter, is progressing a lot and is super excited for her baptism on May 31st! Please keep praying for her, especially that she can change her work schedule.