Christmas was a lot of fun! We woke up at our usual 6:30 and used our allotted exercise time for a thorough work out... meaning we opened Christmas presents! Thanks so much to all who sent letters and packages!it made it feel a bit more like Christmas to have something to open up in the morning. We had instructions not to proselyte on Christmas Day unless invited to teach someone a lesson, so we spent almost the whole day going from members house to members house, and of course skyping home around mid-day. It's great to see some familiar faces! I feel like that gave me a bit of a boost to push past a bit of holiday home-sickness. The rest of our week has been a lot of time spent at Rhonda's house preparing D*'s for her baptism. We are going to be signing a duet of "Beautiful Savior" at D*'s request. We planned to have her baptismal interview Sunday morning before church, but when we went through the interview questions with her on Saturday she threw us a bit of a curveball and we determined that she needed to be interviewed by President Morgan instead of Elder Kia, our beloved district leader. Luckily president happened to have enough time Sunday afternoon to drive up to Poughkeepsie for an interview so the baptism can still go on as planned! President said the interview was awesome and that he can tell we have prepared D* well for baptism. Simple as it is, praise from someone we respect as much as President Morgan makes us feel pretty good about ourselves! Any pride I may have built up in that moment was soon shattered when Rhonda pointed out to President Morgan that I look much the way she imagines Tiny Tim of Charles Dicken's "A Christmas Carol" does. President laughed so hard his face turned cherry red. Mine probably did too. It's not the first time on my mission I have been called a "cute little boy" and it probably won't be the last!
Later in the week we had a fun surprise. Elder Romo, one of our zone leaders, is going home this cycle. All the missionaries who are going home had a special trip to the Manhattan temple with the Morgan's on Tuesday. We had the duty of picking Elder Romo up at the mission home, which means I got to go back to good old Scarsdale! Even better, when we got there we were informed that the group was caught in traffic and would be a half hour late, so we had enough time to run and say hello to John Ruggiero!!! His face just lit up when he saw me at the doorstep. I love that guy so much! He's still doing great. What a guy! He is so faithful and loving. His dogs even remembered me, so they were still friendly!
We have since learned that because the missionaries going home will be doing so a few days early this cycle, we will be driving Elder Romo down to Scarsdale again tomorrow and will go again on Friday for MLC because we will be in a trio with our other zone leader Elder Allred until the transfer. It will be a lot of driving. Luckily I've gotten pretty good at getting around on the narrow, poorly maintained New York Roads and dealing with the way drivers here just don't care what the signs, lines, or lights say tell them to do. I will never complain about road construction in Utah again! Roads here are awful! I've honked my horn more times in the last month than I had in my entire two years of driving previous to my mission.
In other news transfer calls are this Saturday! We really have no idea what to expect. We could both go so they can bring sister missionaries back to the area, we could both stay and end up staying for months, one could go and the other stay. Really, we have no idea. Our zone leaders seem to know, but they aren't telling us anything!
Well, for now we will be chillin' (and by chillin' I mean working really really hard, of course) in a trio with Elder Allred. We'll focus on preparing for the baptism on Saturday and trying to maintain a good teaching pool to work with for whatever missionaries may or may not be coming to the area next week.
I would like to close with a brief thought. I feel like throughout the last six months I have seen a lot of ups and downs. Every time I have hit a low, every time I reach the pinnacle of frustration, every time I feel like God has forgotten about me, I ultimately get a gentle (or not so gentle) reminder that He is there and He is very aware of me. God seems to say to me "Patience. Don't you remember? You know how this goes. I'm still working on you." I realize more and more each day that though I feel lost or confused sometimes, He always knows what He is doing. He's pushing me forward, weeding out weakness and planting seeds of faith, hope, and charity. As He has told us in scripture: "if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them. ... and I will show unto them that faith, hope and charity bringeth unto me--the fountain of all righteousness." As I realize this I find myself feeling much like Moroni, who "having heard these words, was comforted, and said: O Lord, thy righteous will be done, for I know that thou workest unto the children of men according to their faith." (See Ether 12:27-29)
Until next week, thanks for your prayers, love, and support and Happy New Years!
-Elder Samuel Burton
Here are some pictures from this last week.
Our Zone at the New Paltz Chapel
Our Zone at the New Paltz Chapel