I want to give you an update on Noe, one of our investigators that I talked about on the blog last week. As of right now, he is getting baptized on the 4th of February! We had to push his date back a week because he is having some issues with his ex-girlfriend over who is going to have custody of their child and some other issues. He also won't be able to make it to church this Sunday because he will be in Santa Maria figuring that out. It's so sad to see these problems he faces in his life and all he has to go through, but I know that this gospel is going to bless his life so much and we are happy he has made the decision to be baptized. We know that this is the most important thing he can be doing and that it will change his life forever. We are fasting and praying for him so that he can do all he can to make the right decisions and everything will turn out okay.
In previous blog entries I have also talked a little bit about one of the investigators Elder Rollins and I were teaching at one point. His name is Domingo. I became really close to him and there is definitely something special about the relationship we have. Domingo is the brother of Rosi, Noe's ex-girlfriend, so Domingo was actually living with Noe and Rosi when they were together. Domingo was under house arrest while we were teaching him, but due to some money issues and not being able to pay fines, he had to go to jail. That was about a month and a half ago, and during that time I have written Domingo a few letters of encouragement. I also sent him a couple pictures and a poem to brighten his day. He has responded to those letters and I am always filled with great joy when I receive letters from him because it has been so long since I have seen him. My eyes filled with tears as I read the letter he recently wrote me and I would like to share a couple excerpts from his letter. He knows Spanish and English, so he writes in both (haha). He said, "Dear Elder Vance, Gracias for writing me. To be real, it was tough the first weeks but I never forgot what you guys were teaching me when I was out there. The more I ask and it pray it became just another day, but a bright day. Right now it is complicated but either way I will be out on the 4th f February (which just so happens to be the day Noe is getting baptized!! He doesn't know about the Rosi and Noe situation yet). Tu hermano Vance tu eres mi Angel. (You Hermano Vance, you are my angel.) Every word, testimony, and tear in your eyes opened my eyes. You guys showed me and woke me up when I was falling asleep in the dark. I thank God that you guys were sent in my path. Gracias por sus oraciones y bendiciones. Le quiero mucho hermano. (Thanks for your prayers and blessings. I love you brother)”-Domingo
Tears welled up in my eyes as I read his words. Knowing that I am truly making a difference in someone's life here on my mission is a feeling I cannot describe. As a missionary you are always making a difference, but at times you don't get blessed to see that. I believe Heavenly Father wants us to learn before He gives us something to "see". We are not entitled to see the entire success of our work because this isn't our work, it's the Lord’s. But being blessed with these little pearls of happiness or with a baptism is something that is given to us as a gift. I believe with all my heart that these people have been prepared for ME, so that I can help them. The Lord prepares HIS people. Every missionary is sent to THEIR mission because that is where THEIR people are waiting. I LOVE MY PEOPLE.
This last week I read a quote from a former prophet of our church (President Spencer W. Kimball) that I really enjoyed and that put my mission into an even better perspective. His article, which was entitled, "A Mission Is The School For Eternity" said “Your mission is preparation. It is YOUR school for ETERNITY. You won't forget that, will you? This mission is not just a two-year stretch. This is the time when you cultivate the seeds of godhood so that you can help other people on their way toward EXALTATION. How small are we who think of the mission as JUST being a stretch of time, some physical things to do, a little studying to do, some praying. This is the MOST purposeful thing that some of you will ever do. It's up to you to let this be the prelude to your life, to let it be the BEGINNING of a GREAT and GLORIOUS life." I love that quote. I myself know some return missionaries that put their mission in a box and stuff it under their bed. That is NOT the intention of their missions. As missionaries we receive so many gifts through our service; spiritual gifts, qualities, strengths, and knowledge. If we don't open those and share them with everyone, then there was no point to receive them in the first place. Some day my two years here will be up, but I want to do all I can to share my experiences and my testimony with everyone around me even when my time as a missionary is over, because I know what I have received from my mission already can bless the lives of my friends and family. My mission is preparing me for the rest of my life, for my future family, and for eternity. I have seen how far I have really come. I still have a long way to go, but through this gospel we can all be on that path back to our Heavenly Father, progressing bit by bit and following that ultimate and perfect example Jesus Christ set for us.