Many people in our mission have been affected by the tragedy in Haiti. It is very sad. I haven't heard word from Sister Petit regarding her family there. Our house is by the coast guard airport. They have been constantly coming and going since the earth quake. Prayer is very important in times like this. Sometimes its the only thing that we can do.
I truly am in awe and at a loss of words to try and even describe this last week. I have grown more and "found" the Lord more in the last week than in any other week on my mission. There ar two experiences I wish to relate to you, one full of anguish and another the greatest joy I have ever felt in my mission.
Some of the most precious spiritual experiences I have had have been while testifying to and teaching Georgia. I have grown to love her so much and have gotten so close to her. There has been a special spiritual bond I cannot describe. I was the first person she ever prayed out loud with in her life. The last time we were at her home teaching her, we could tell by the spirit that she was closing her heart. Sister Murray and I both felt that we needed to testify boldly about the need for a restoration and about authority. It is the boldest I have ever been. "Georgia, you know that I love you, and this is why we're here. We are not here just to help people become better or feel good. We were sent as missionaries to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ, so that people can have eternal life and return to live with Heavenly Father." She insisted that she felt the spirit when she was baptized previously. I testified again that in order to be baptized, that the person needs to have been given that power from God by the power of the Priesthood. We left Georgia a little frazzled, but I felt very sustained by the spirit in every thing that we said.
The morning before our next visit with her, Sister Murray and I were planning, and said, “What can we teach Georgia today?” I thought and thought, then the talk from the last General Confernce by Elder Tad R. Callister about Joseph Smith came to mind. So we decided that it would be good to read it with her. When we came to her house it was very different then before. Her husband wasn't as pleasant with us and Georgia was acting a little different. She invited us in. We sat at the table, had an opening prayer and then I said that we had something that we wanted to read to her. So I pulled it out and started reading. Many things in this talk addressed every doubt that Georgia had. She said, "So what you are telling me, that I was pretty much just dunked in water before, because this person didn't have authority?" We calmly said, "In order to be baptize, the person must have the authority given to him from God. Then we went the rounds of, “Well how do you know.” At this point we knew that she was closed but I felt like I should keep reading.
The next part was about how God the Father and His Son are two separate beings. That really got her. This concept wasn't an issue before. In our prior meetings, we would address her concerns with the scriptures and the doubt would be taken care of. But now that her heart was closed it wasn't possible. Georgia kindly and sweetly let us know that we were always welcome in her home, if we ever needed anything we could call. She said she has prayed on it and feels that God is pleased with her choice not to continue with the missionary discussions, but she openly acknowledged that she feels the spirit when we are there.
I had the biggest ball in my throat. :-( I was so sad that I felt like my heart was ripped out. We asked if we could have one last prayer. She said it. She thanked God that he placed us in her way. After the prayer, under her breath and tearfully said, "Why didn't I just shut the door like I usually do." We got up and Hermana Murray gave her a hug. I just stood there. She then walked up to give me a hug. I always have given her a huge bear hug and she always comments on it. She gave me a hug. Then buried her head in my shoulder and started crying. She said, "If I hugged you as hard as a I want to right now I would hurt you." She then stood and said some very sweet things about me and what she thought about me. I had a smile on my face, but I was really hurting inside. With a tearful glance as Sister Murray and I rode our bikes away the tears really started to come down.
We rode down the street and pulled into another street and parked. I kind of started pacing and praying to Heavenly Father. All I want from Heavenly Father is to find one family that will except the gospel with all their heart and be sealed in the temple. We had a mighty prayer together, then I took a few steps and said "Hermana, let's go find a family to baptize." We wiped away the tears, worked fervently, and not 45 minutes later we found another family that is ready to except the gospel! Heavenly Father pours His blessings on us if we but ask and have the faith that we can receive it. I felt the dews of Heaven pouring out over me!...
We have been working as hard as we can getting the branch ready. Visiting the numerous inactive members, tracting, inviting, and getting less active members excited! Sunday morning I must have been lacking in faith, because I was really worried and nervous that not that many people were going to come. We heard that some of the solid Spanish members in St. Petersburg ward decided not to transfer to the branch. I was so worried that we wouldn't have enough priesthood holders. We got there early to get everything set up. We were in the relief society room for services. It is a large relief society room. This particular stake center is the biggest model that the church builds. We had all the chairs set up and anxiously awaited the arrival of the members.
I stood by the stake presidency translating as we welcomed people in. Ten minutes before the start of services, I peered in the room and there was only about 8 people. For a moment, those feelings of despair that I had that morning crept in. So I said a silent prayer that Heavenly Father would prepare a way for those that wanted to attend to be able to make it. Well, I did have a lack of faith. I leaned over and asked the 2nd counselor. So how many is the stake presidency expecting. He shrugged his shoulders and said 25 would be good. I felt the pressure, but oh my... I went into the room to get the organ ready (apparently I'm the music person now. Funny how that works out :-) … good thing it is electric) as I stood up and greeted more people, I watched as one person after another came into the room. The same counselor came and stood by me and asked me, "So how are you feeling right now?" I was overcome by the spirit. My heart was full of so much gratitude for Heavenly Father I thought it was going to burst. I leaned back and couldn't even speak a word. I think the tears let him know. that room was not only filled with the spirit, it was filled with faithful Saints!
As I watched active families, less actives and many inactive people come into the room, I can't even describe how it felt. I poured out my heart to Heavenly Father thanking him. Everyone had a huge smile and was so eager to worship! We had 59 Spanish members in attendance and 3 investigators that have a date for baptism. One will be baptized next Sunday, and that one is Eddy from Cuba! :-) I am so grateful to be blessed with this opportunity to serve them. I want to earn the trust of these members and let them know that we work as hard as we can. Relief Society was in the High Council room. They are some of the most faithful women I have ever heard. Many of them coming from South America they have such amazing stories of how they have found faith. They even asked me to share a little bit about my story. I experienced a first in relief society. I was having to translate from Spanish to English!!! That is soooo cooooolllllll!!!!!!!
There is one women that I'd like to write about real quick. she is an amazingly strong woman. She is a returned missionary and I could tell she was a little skeptical towards us at first. She kind of gave me the, "Are these sisters hard workers? Should I trust them? Stand offish." look. I could tell she was watching me like a hawk and wouldn't really say anything to me. After I stood up and told a little of my story and bore my testimony she gave me a little grin. I was surprised. During our amazing potluck supper after our services, she came over by me and looked at my name tag. She wanted to know why I had two names. So I told her. :-) She smiled more. Hermana Murray showed her our planner. She commented on how we were really busy and teaching A LOT of people. She smiled at me. Slowly we have gained her trust. It was amazing. She will be instrumental in the branch. She's having us over for lunch on Friday. Oh how amazing this work is!!!
Hermana Vaughan Schultz