Wednesday, January 7, 2015

In three days I will raise [you] up

This past week has been AMAZING. 
BUT FIRST: No, I am not being transferred.
SECOND: Neither is Elder L'Espérance.
THIRD: neither is anyone in my district, except Elder Romo who we like to say has been transferred to Provo, Utah because he's finished and went home!
So not too much is changing as far as people and places over the next six weeks.
Now on to more exciting things...
Of course, we had D*'s baptism, which was awesome! I'm so grateful I got to baptize her. That felt... different than I thought it would. Hard to explain. It was really cool! Her grandmother (Rhonda's mother) came up to me afterwards and said, "I want you to know that you guys came into their lives right when they really needed it." I am just so grateful for everything that has come together for D* and Rhonda to be baptized and so grateful that I got to be a part of it!
Another amazing thing happened this week to a woman named G*. I haven't mentioned her yet because before this week we only knew her as one of the Zone Leaders' investigators. We have, however, had the privilege of joining them for lessons with her, giving service to her, and getting to know her at church. Over the last week, because we have been in a trio with Elder Allred, she has officially been our investigator too! And she has had quite a week. Her life has been hard. There are not words I know to adequately describe just how hard. Broken families, bad relationships, poverty, etc. When I first met her, she was a wreck. Her husband had just left her and her seven-year-old son. She was about to be evicted from her apartment because he was stealing the rent. She lost her job. Just about everything that can go wrong did. On Friday morning, the first day of the trio, we got a call from a member named Rebecca who has become good friends with Gloria over the past few weeks. She was at G*'s apartment and the landlord was kicking her and her son out. We stopped companionship study and ran over as fast as we could. We were texting Rebecca to get more details as we drove. We learned that the Landlord would take possession of a truck Gloria owns unless we can tow it. Gloria can definitely not afford that. She's more worried about just paying for food. We called the bishop and asked if he knew any members with tow truck connections. He told us to call Brother Malcarne (who had us over for thanksgiving and Christmas eve). He didn't have tow truck connections but he quickly volunteered to pay for it to be towed. He's so awesome! Rebecca stayed by G*'s side all day, let her leave the towed truck in her driveway, and got them a place for the night. Friday was definitely her low point. Basically, that day was the last bit of her life falling apart. Three days later, we had a lesson with her. She was living in a homeless shelter, most of her possessions gone. But guess what? She was happy! For the first time since I met her, she was truly happy! We read Mosiah 18 with her. Immediately she saw where we were going with it. As we read the  baptismal covenant as explained by Alma, "willing to bear one another's burdens, ... mourn with those that mourn; yea, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort, and to stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places that ye may be in" she told us how she had felt that from so many people who had helped her out in her moment of need and she wanted to do the same. ("If this be the desire of your hearts, what have you against being baptized in the name of the Lord, as a witness before him that ye have entered into a covenant with him, that ye will serve him and keep his commandments, that he may pour out his Spirit more abundantly upon you?") She was way ahead of us. She fumbled with words for a moment as she tried to express her feelings. Finally, a smile broke across her face and she just said it! "I'm ready to be baptized." That whole lesson was amazing. Just a few days earlier she was wondering why God had forgotten her, and now she was telling us how she could look back and see that he never had, but rather had been preparing her. She said He knew exactly what needed to happen to her to change her and allow her to feel what she needed to feel so that she could realize what she needed to do. She called her brother who tried to kill her, her other brother who tried to kill her mom, and her best friend who had betrayed her and told them all she forgave them. She said most of them she wasn't ready or just plain didn't want to bring into her lives again, but she knew she needed to forgive them. Then she decided she wanted to be baptized. She's at the lowest point she could possible reach by the standards of the world, but she has reached a new high in her spirituality and joy. She said she doesn't know who she is anymore. She feel's like a new person, like she's left behind an old life and begun anew. She says it feels good, but a bit scary. She knows that it is right though and thanks God unceasingly. Since Friday, she has secured a new job, a stranger came up to her at her job and told her he heard she needs an apartment and that he has one for her. Things are turning up for her again temporally, but more importantly spiritually as well. It reminds me of when Christ said "[I will] destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up." I realize that he was making reference to his death and resurrection, but I feel it is also a metaphor for what he does for us as well. Sometimes our lives fall apart--are destroyed--in some way or another, or perhaps seemingly in every way. But God gives us afflictions for a reason. He has to take down our old life to build a new life, a better life, even a life with Him. Watching G* go through so much hardship, and then three days later to be a renewed person with renewed joy has been amazing. She is SO happy. She's a single parent working at Walmart and living in a homeless shelter and yet she is happier than she's ever been! I realize I'm kind of rambling now and I don't have much time, so I'm going to wrap this up.
All this to say: missionary work is so worth it. I feel so lucky to be witness to these amazing changes people go through and even help them a bit along the way. God is there, in trial and joy. He knows what he's doing. He's working on us. It hurts sometimes, but it's for the better. I understand that a bit better now, and so does Gloria.
As for the rest of the week, it has been awesome too. Rhonda learned about the missionary dinner calendar so she had us over for dinner on Saturday and made us her family Italian meatballs. She told us that if ever we don't have a dinner appointment we should just show up at her house and she'll make us something. She's so awesome! The bishop is trying to determine what calling to give her and she has made it clear to us that she is willing to try ANYTHING. 
Now for a funny story to end this email. When moving all Gloria's things out of the apartment we ended up with two unwanted air conditioning units out on the curb. A guy came up and saw them and immediately asked if they were up for grabs. We said they were. He walked up to them and we thought he was going to try to pick them up. They were large, awkward, and heavy so just carrying one would be difficult. Instead he went straight for the cords. He grabbed them and said "come on, boys!" As though talking to two dogs. He then gave them a yank and pulled them off the curb. He proceeded to drag them down the street by the cords. Sparks flew and the unpleasant sound of metal against asphalt filled the air, but he seemed just happy as ever. When he got to the end of the road, he left them sitting on the street corner and went into his house. 
Well. That's all for now. Love you all!
-Elder Burton

Photos: baptism, selfie, A/C guy

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