My dear family and friends,
I hope you're all doing well! Know that I'm sending lots of love and prayers your way!
I thought all morning about what I could say in this, and all I could think about was yesterday! Not that the rest of the week wasn't great, but I just didn't know what to share from it. So here we go!
Yesterday we had an amazing! We were able to meet with a lot of people, which is usually harder since church and studies take up so much of our time. We had two particularly notable appointments. One was with Caleb, a brand new 13 year old investigator! His friend Austin had given him a Book of Mormon and invited him to church, then introduced him to us saying, "This is Caleb! He wants to take the missionary lessons!" I am so grateful for the support of our members. When they just hand us opportunities like that, it's hard not to feel just immensely blessed! We met with Caleb and taught him the Restoration, and it went really well. His ailing grandfather had expressed that he wished Caleb and his family would start going to church. So when Austin invited him, he felt like it was the right thing to do. He's really open with us, and so we know he's sincere about learning. We also know that video games could be a hindrance! :)
The other one I wanted to talk about was with a woman named Ashley. She lives with her two children and her boyfriend in a little apartment. The first time we met her, we helped her carry her groceries in and left her with our number. About a week later, we stopped by again and talked about how the gospel blesses families, and left her with a copy of "The Family: A Proclamation to the World." Yesterday was our return appointment! We weren't sure how interested she was, because every time we had met her, she had just been sitting outside smoking. But when we got there, she put her cigarette down, invited us inside, turned off her TV, and quieted down her kids. Then in that wonderfully quiet environment she created without any prompting from us (which is so rare here!), we were able to start with a prayer and begin our lesson.
It turned out that she had completely forgotten to read, but she was sincerely apologetic about it. We decided to read through it together, but as we did so I kept reading sentences thinking, "Oh no. She's going to think we're condemning her for living with her boyfriend. Should we stop?" and then reprimanding myself with, "I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ! This is what I know is true! Be bold!" I talked with my companions afterward, and they all had similar battles. But then we finished, and she looked up at us with tears in her eyes. "This actually makes me feel really sad," she told us.
At that point, the Spirit rushed into the room! She opened up and told us about how she is married to a man who's in prison for something that she knows she can't live with. But she takes her marriage vow seriously, and feels like it would be lying to God to get a divorce. Yet now she feels an immense amount of guilt for living with her boyfriend, while still married to someone else! She's worried about how God will judge her, and about how she can ever feel free from that guilt and shame. More than any time I've ever seen, I was able to see someone that was really, truly spiritually hungry. She needed the message that we shared, and as she soaked it in, she just wanted more and more.
At one point, she asked what made us different than other Christians. I started explaining the Priesthood authority and the importance of Prophets, and then the Spirit really took over. I know for sure that I've never been able to explain it that well before! But she continued asking questions, and our lesson morphed around what those were. We ended up teaching exactly what we had planned, but in an entirely different way then we anticipated! For example, after talking about Prophets, she asked how we knew that our leader was a true prophet. Then, I quoted Matthew 7 (which I didn't even know I had memorized) and introduced the Book of Mormon. I can't even explain what made the lesson so incredible, except that I knew that all of my words were being guided by the Spirit, more than I've ever felt before in English. I guess I needed it more in Portuguese!
Having felt what it can be like to teach by the Spirit in that way, I never want to do anything different! I've been thinking about what it means to be an instrument in the hands of the Lord. I know that in order for him to be able to use me, I need to be prepared and spiritually worthy. An instrument is so precise, so exact in its function. It's made up of little pieces that are delicately and carefully put in place, and then just as carefully maintained. A blade needs to be sharpened, or a piano needs to stay tuned. It takes work. And then, with all of that in place, the instrument can be used. If I'm not constantly developing my teaching skills, studying the gospel, and striving to have the Spirit with me always, then the Lord can't use me as well as he needs to! Sure, an old piano can still make some noise. If someone really knows what they're doing, they can even make it sound kind of nice. And even if the blade on some tool isn't sharp, with enough time it can generally perform its function. But that's not nearly as effective, nor is it the way the Lord needs things to go. He requires that I labor with all of my heart, might, mind, and strength.
I feel a lot of responsibility with my calling as a missionary. I know that I have been set apart by priesthood authority to labor in His vineyard--and that's not something I take lightly. So I'm working really hard to be able to put my weaknesses aside, and labor with all of my might so long as I have the time.
I'm grateful for the support I get from all of you! I love you so very, very much. We have a district outing today up in Springfield, so there's pretty good chance I won't have time to write letters. Sorry! But thank you to everyone that wrote me this last week! Your letters mean a lot! And Mom, Sister Burt said to tell you your letter made her whole week (she really was sooo excited!) and Sister Garner thinks you're the sweetest person ever. She said to give you a big thank you and to tell you that's the first mail she's gotten! You're amazing. I'm super lucky to have you :)
Eu amo voces....para sempre!