The most notable thing that happened this week was the baptism of Gaby and Yoelis!!! It was a beautiful service - all the jovenes (youth) came to show their support and there was a very special spirit present.
Gaby and Yoelis arrived early and we sent them to try on some baptismal clothes. While they were changing, Anairis showed up. She is a young woman in the branch who goes to school with Gaby and Yoelis. She was the one who first invited them to come to church and listen to the missionaries. When Gaby and Yoelis entered the room all dressed in white, Anairis burst into tears and gathered them into a hug. She told them how happy she was, how wonderful it was to have them there in the church, and that this was one of the best and most important decisions they would ever make in their lives. So, of course, Gaby and Yoelis started crying as well, and it was such a touching scene that so did Victoria, Hermana Martinez and I.
After the baptismal ordinance, Gaby and Yoelis got up to share their testimonies. Yoelis is quite timid, so I wasn't sure if she would want to speak, but she stood up in front of everyone and declared boldly and clearly that she knows that this church is true, that it is directed by Jesus Christ himself and led by a living prophet. When Gaby got up she said that she knows this church is true because she has felt it change her - she is more kind to her family and those around her, and she has learned how forgive others and ask for forgiveness. She said that in a short time the Gospel had already brought such happiness to her life and that she wants to share it with all her friends and family.
After the service we planned to stay to mop the wet floor, clean up the kitchen from the refreshments, and set up chairs for church the next day... and Gaby, Yoelis, and Victoria insisted in helping us. With their help were able to mop the entire church and set up chairs in no time at all.
They are such wonderful young women and I know that they will make an indispensible addition to the rama. They are already so involved in the Young Women’s program, which by the way, has an amazing new presidenta named Indiana. She is so great with these girls and they all idolize her. I honestly believed that Indiana was called because the Lord knew their would be a sudden influx of young women getting baptized who would all need a great leader to strengthen them (Gaby, Yoelis, and soon Victoria, Diana, Adelaida, and 2 more that the other hermanas are teaching). In a matter of 2 months, the number of young women attending church has nearly tripled from 7 to 20. The change has been amazing to watch. The Lord is truly blessing this branch and blessing us as missionaries.
Interesting things that happened this week:
- We started teaching Esterlin again. He has another baptismal date for the 6 of December and says that he wants to start coming to church again. I hope we can actually make it happen this time - it's really all up to him, though.
- We had a faith-building experience this week when we went to visit a recently widowed less active member. After the lesson, she said that she had something for us. She went into the kitchen and returned with 2 large bags full of food. We thanked her for the offer, but tried to tell her that we were all right, that she should keep it. She insisted, however, saying that with only her in the house it would just go bad anyway. She told us that she believed we had been sent to her house that day for a reason. She said that she had been so lonely that morning and had prayed for someone to come visit her and a few minutes later we showed up at her front door. So we thanked her for her kindness and took the food with the intention of finding who needed it.
And sure enough, not one hour later, we ended up at the house of a less active family that we didn't know very well. We learned that both parents had been out of work for some time. They were several months behind on rent and the landlord was trying to kick them out of their house (a tin shack, really). With the little money that they did manage to earn doing odd jobs, they had just enough to feed themselves and their 2 little girls. "I don't know what to do, hermanas," the father said quietly, "How can I choose between feeding my family and keeping a roof over their heads?"
We asked him if he believed that his Heavenly Farther loved him. He said yes. We told him that He did, that He was mindful of their family's needs, and that He had led us there that day to ease their burden. We opened the bags and when he saw the food his eyes grew large. We told him to take it all and use the money that he had to pay his back rent. He was silent for a few moments, staring at his hands that were resting in his lap, then he looked up with subdues gratitude in his eyes. "Thank you," he whispered fervently.
I know that the Lord guided us to those 2 houses that day and I'm glad that we could be instruments in His hands to answer the prayers of a lonely widow and a struggling father.
Love you all!
Until next week,