Monday, July 28, 2014

Making Friends for Eternity

July 28, 2014

¡Hola familia!  OH my heavens it’s Monday again?!  AND I just completed 5 months of being a missionary and I am as happy as could be. 

Hey, so funny fact about me, I can’t say Bartholomew any more...it always just comes out as Bartolomeo.  Also, when I was asked where I was from, by our new Zone Leader from Arizona (in English I might add), I said Draper, UT, but with a Latina twist and rolled the R in Draper.  Haha it will be an adventure switching back to English as my main language. 

Also, a funny story.  So you know how my middle name is Jo (hopefully you do because you named me) well here it is pronounced “Ho”.  So during our last district meeting I received a package from home and someone was looking at the address label and said, “Oh, your name is Jessica HO.”  Then all of the Latino Elders and my companion started saying, "Ho, Ho, Ho!"  My district leader and I being the only North Americans in the group just started laughing.  Within 10 minutes I was being called Santa.  "HO! HO! HO!” The church is true (instead of Merry Christmas, haha see what they did there?).  And then there is a Ho which is slang for a lady who usually is not known to serve a mission.  A few of the Elders now call me Hermana Ho, how lovely right?!  But don’t worry I still love my name! :)

While teaching this week I have learned and gained a stronger testimony of this gospel and it left me asking... really, how could anyone deny that this is the true church?  I mean really, the organization of the church being the same as Christ’s day - from prophets, apostles and bishops all the way down to nursery leaders, the priesthood, temples-everything!  There should be a line out the door of people wanting to join the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  Well I sure have no doubt this church is true and I am willing to share it with anyone who will listen.

María, our 84 year old "princess" (she looks like a princess in her beautiful puffy sleeve decorated baptism dress) was baptized on Wednesday!  She struggled a little during the baptism to bend backwards, but she was fully immersed and born anew!  

Princess Maria before her baptism

The next day, we drew her a picture to remind her of her baptism because she can’t read.  The picture had a sun so that she could remember it was in the morning, and a little stick figure drawing of her getting baptized.  María is very honest so she let me know that I wasn’t blessed with the gift to draw, but she has treasured the picture next to her photo of the Savior this whole week. 

When Sunday came around for Maria to be confirmed a member of the church and receive the Holy Ghost, she wasn’t home and neither was her family and she doesn’t have a phone, so we are waiting until next Sunday for that ordinance.  So right now Maria is almost a member, but we are so happy for her and her desire to make this covenant with our Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ.  She told us that we are her best friends and that we touched her heart.  Although she has a difficult time remembering things, she told us that she will always remember us and her baptism, and not because we are the best missionaries ever, (although that is what she tells us ;) but because she was touched by the Spirit.  I am truly making friends here that I will have for a lifetime and the eternities to come. As it says in the scriptures “…the same sociality which exists among us here will exist among us there [in heaven], only it will be coupled with eternal glory, which glory we do not now enjoy.”  D&C 130:2

Three of our other new lifelong and eternal friends are the 3 amigos, Marcos, Wilson and Ricardo.  We learned this week that now Ricardo may have to wait a little while for his baptism because the divorce with his first wife has not finalized and he is not legally married to his new wife.  We are waiting and praying that all will work out quickly, but he is so excited and really wants to be baptized so we are happy. 

Then Wilson is the most thoughtful guy ever.  He is always calling us to make sure we have food and many times has made us a lunch to have for the next day.  We asked him this week if he liked attending church and in his exact words he said, “Did I like church?  I LOVED church.  I am just so excited and joyful I don’t know what to do with myself.” (Insert happy dance here ;)) 

Wilson has been looking for the right church for 19 years.  He joined a few churches and left a few more, but never was baptized.  In our last visit, we read from the scriptures with him the Savior’s invitation to come unto Him, repent and be baptized in His name.  Then we asked Wilson why he never was baptized (thinking that maybe he didn’t believe it was necessary) but we were surprised when he replied that no one had ever taught him like this, or no one else has had the TRUE church of Christ.  He said, “But you told me my baptism is August 2nd and I know that this is true, so I can be baptized right?”  Well of course you can!  We were beyond happy when he told us that! 

Now onto Marcos.  Marcos was a pastor in his Evangelical church which meets below his home. Actually better put, the church is IN his home.  As he has been gaining his testimony and receiving the answers that this church is true he just would not say "¡Si voy a ser baptizado!" [“Yes, I’m going to be baptized!”] 

In our last visit with Marcos, we read the talk given in this past General Conference by Elder Marcos Aidukaitis of the Quorum of the Seventy entitled “If Ye Lack Wisdom”.  He said,
“How can we recognize truth in a world that is increasingly blunt in its attacks on the things pertaining to God?”  He then goes on to say that the scriptures teach us that there are 3 ways we can know the truth - 1) by observing its fruits; 2) by experimenting on the word ourselves; and 3) by personal revelation from God.

We asked Marcos to tell us the fruits of the church that he has seen, how he has experimented upon the word, and if he has received personal revelation.  All of his answers were perfect, as if he had been a member of our church for all of his life.  But still, he would not say, “I will be baptized.”  Finally, one day Marcos opened up his heart to us and told us that he was a great friend and leader to all those who attended his Evangelical church.  Marcos is struggling to part with his friends and his lifestyle for that last 10 plus years.  His church is a huge part of who he is.

After hearing this, we finally knew what to teach him - the principle of Sacrifice.  Sacrifice.  Sacrifice is giving up something good for something better.  Following the example of the original 12 Apostles and many others we read about in the Bible and the Book of Mormon. They gave up everything to follow the Savior. 

One of the stories that came to my mind was the story of Peter being asked by Jesus 3 times - Do you love me? Do you love me? Do you love me?  Yea Lord.  Then FEED my SHEEP. 

Marcos truly loves his Savior and knows it is the correct thing to be baptized, but doesn’t want to leave his friends.  Do you love the Savior?  Then feed his sheep.  Marcos has the opportunity to, as President Henry B Eyring said, "Wherever you are on the path to inherit the gift of eternal life, you have the opportunity to show many people the way to GREATER happiness...and leave a hope to those who might follow your example.”  Like King Lamoni and Alma and many others in the Book of Mormon, after they became converted to the Lord, they told everyone and anyone of this grand plan of salvation, the plan of our Heavenly Father. 

Marcos began crying yesterday as he expressed his gratitude for our teachings and testimonies. He knows this is true.  He has changed his prayers to not IF the church is true, but I KNOW that this church is true and I need the strength to sacrifice my old life and FEED his sheep.  WE are so grateful for the influence of our message on Marcos and the strong faith that he has built of prayer and of our Heavenly Father.  He truly sees the fullness of the gospel now.  OH we are so looking forward to the day when Marcos can say "Amen” (he always says it, it’s his habit from the Evangelica church), I want to be baptized in the Church of Jesus Christ by one with the real authority of God. 

Our investigator pool is small but FULL of those who are prepared by the Lord.  I love Babahoyo, my companion, our ward, our investigators and most importantly my Heavenly Father and Savior Jesus Christ. 

I love you lots family and hope you have a wonderful week!  Thank you for all the love and prayers, I feel them daily!

Con mucho amor,

Hermana Bartolomeo

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