This week was such a good week. We had a BAPTISM!!!! It was so very special. Our dear friend, María Brígida Acuña Muñoz, was baptized on Saturday, May 4, and was confirmed the next day, Sunday, May 5. She is a really special lady and she was so ready to receive the gospel. Hermana Morán and I have felt so blessed to have been able to work with her.
Let´s go back to the beginning, A week or so before I was transferred to Libertador, Hermana Morán and Hermana England were out picking up investigators for church when it started to rain. María was out in her garden and saw that Hermana Morán was in short sleeves without any jacket and was worried that she would be cold or get sick and offered to lend her a sweater. Hermanas Morán and England declined the offer, but offered to come back another day and teach her about the restored Gospel of Jesus Christ. They went back once and gave her a basic first lesson, which we call "La Visión para Bautizar." She didn´t really listen, nor did she accept the invitation to baptism or to church, but did agree to read the pamphlet (folleto) about the Restoration.
This is where I come in. Hermana England went home, I got transferred to Libertador, and one day Hermana Morán suggested that we stop by to visit María. Her daughter answered the door and said that María was sick and couldn´t attend us, so we said we´d stop by again. By the time we went back (on Friday, April 12), it had been a good week or so since Hermana England and Hermana Morán had visited her that first time. We asked her how things went with reading the folleto and she said she hadn´t had a chance to read it yet and made a bunch of lame excuses for why she hadn´t read or prayed about the message that the Hermanas had shared. The whole time she was making all these excuses, I was sitting there thinking, "This lady isn´t keeping her commitments. She´s not interested. We should get out of here and go find somebody who is ready." And then something in the lesson changed. Honest to goodness, I don´t remember what happened or why, but even though at the end of the lesson she still would not accept an invitation to baptism, she did commit to come to church and to read her folleto.
On Sunday (April 14) we went to pick her up for church and she had a cut on her knuckle on one of her fingers, which she said came from something that was sticking out when she went to close her gate. She said that when it happened, she figured it was a punishment for not having read her folleto, so she decided she´d better read it. Then she came to sacrament meeting and she loved it. We had planned a little Noche de Hogar (Family Home Evening) with a recent convert who lives just around the corner from María and with a less-active lady from the ward for later in the week. We planned to follow-up on her experience from church and on her "lectura" in her folleto and to invite her again to baptism at the end of the lesson. After we said the opening prayer, we started to ask her about church and her reading and it became clear immediately that she had prayed and received an answer and felt that the message of the restored gospel is true. So before we even taught the lesson we invited her again to baptism, and before I even finished extending the invitation she had said, "Sí, sí, sí." We asked her to start preparing for baptism on May 4 and she also accepted that invitation.
And she never stopped from then on. She had received an answer and she was going to follow it. It was really a miracle, because not only did she agree to live the commandments, she was already living them! She always came to church and usually made sure that her recent convert neighbor, Carmen, came with her.
Though she did not have much support from her family, and her spouse even told her that he thought the whole thing was a little rushed, she always pushed right on ahead with her reading, praying, and Church assistance. (Did I spell that word right?) There wasn´t any teaching she didn´t accept without hesitation, even if she didn´t fully understand it. And she still insists that 10% is not enough tithing, and even though we told her that she is to only pay 10% in tithing and then she can give as much as she wants in fast and other offerings, she still says she wants to pay more tithing than she should. At first her Book of Mormon reading was slow, because she doesn´t have the right glasses and the print was small for her to read, but a member of the ward had an extra copy of one of those GIGANTIC triple combinations, and so she gave it to María, and since then she has been very consistent in her Book of Mormon study.
Her baptism on Saturday was very special, and we were blessed to have many members attend, along with another investigator of ours who brought a friend, and three women who attend our weekly English class. After she was baptized, while we were in the bathroom with her as she changed into her dry clothes, she kept saying, "It changed my life. It changed my life." It was such a sacred moment. After nearly six months in Chile without any baptisms and finally having one, I expected to feel more excitement and accomplishment, but really I just felt grateful that María had this opportunity. I felt so blessed to have been allowed to participate in her conversion process. She is not my convert. Hermana Morán and I taught her some lessons and invited her to do things, but the conversion process took place between her and the Lord. She understands that she made a sacred covenant to follow the Savior in every way possible for the rest of her life, and she is committed to it. And at the end of the baptismal service, she got up at the pulpit and bore her testimony! We were so proud of her. We love her so much.
And her confirmation was also so special. After having been given the gift of the Holy Ghost, Hermana Vergara, who was performing the ordinance, said very little in the blessing part of her confirmation. But he did promise her that her example would lead her family to the waters of baptism, and who can ask for a better blessing than that?
I really cannot express how incredible María is. I can´t wait to watch her as she grows in the gospel. She is going to take this ward completely by storm! I am so, so very grateful to know her.
Speaking of baptisms, this week in a Zone Conference they gave us some statistics on missionary work that might shock you. I know I was stunned. When missionaries go out contacting, working door-to-door and in the streets, they are able to find ONE person out of every 784 (or so) contacts who is prepared to receive the gospel and who end up getting baptized. 1:784. Not very good odds. But when missionaries receive and contact referrals from members, ONE referral out of every FOURTEEN ends in baptism. 1:14!!!!!! In Utah, missionary work is done mostly through referrals, and the missions in Salt Lake and Provo are some of the highest baptizing missions in the world!
See where I´m going with this? Here´s your commitment for the week: Get out a piece of paper and write down EVERYONE you can think of who isn´t a member of the Church. If you think you don´t know anyone, get out your phone and start going through your contacts, or open up your Facebook friends. It doesn´t matter if you have tried to share with them before or if you think they won´t be interested. WRITE THEM DOWN ANYWAY! This is the Lord´s work and this gospel is necessary for salvation and EVERYONE has their time. For example, not long before we started teaching María, she wasn´t ready. Hermana Miskin has been in Libertador for six months with four different companions, and she told us that before we started teaching María, she had probably knocked on her door at least once with each of her companions and been turned away. So write down ALL those names. And then think about those people. Ponder about it, pray about it, and the Lord will let you know with whom it is time for you to share this glorious gospel message - this opportunity for salvation. You can do it!!!! So this week, start making that list. Start praying and meditating over those names and when you´re ready, ask the missionaries and they can help you decide how to approach your friends and family with these glorious truths.
I love you all and thank you so much for your love, prayers, and support.
Have a wonderful week!
P.S. We are reading the Book of Mormon as a mission! I forgot to bring the schedule with me today, but next week I will post it for any of you who want to read along with us for your daily Book of Mormon study. :) Just be aware that by next week we´ll be into 2 Nephi somewhere - so you aren´t too far behind!