Monday, December 21, 2009

Merry Christmas, Every One!

Family!

Ok, first things first. I want to call you guys at 7 pm my time, 6 pm your time. Is that ok? I hope so...you may be at Grandma's, so if no one answers, I'll just call mom's cell phone? Kapeesh?

Beeville is great. I'm so glad that you got to talk to Sister Allred. She is super cool and I loved meeting her this past week. She said that she would call (she knows what makes missionaries' parents happy) and I'm glad you had a fun chat.

We had a baptism last week of a little 9-year-old girl named Belle. We decided to press forward with the baptism, despite her being the only one of her family ready to make this step. It was a good decision, a really good one. I had the opportunity to baptize a little girl in McAllen, but didn't feel it was right because I "didn't want to baptize just kids." But lo and behold, once I got transferred out of the area, I got word that the new missionaries went and baptized her anyway (and her sister who had turned 8 by that time). Missed opportunity, I guess, but I'm still so happy for those two little girls! They were so cute and the one was 10 and she was halfway through the Book of Mormon in just a month! But perhaps I'm too picky. But that baptism was good despite drama from branch members. President Ramirez forgot about it and walked in a half our late after many many phone calls. But the best part was that (nearly) the entire family was there! The grandparents, the mom (an investigator), and--the most exciting--the dad! He said that he would never step foot in the church. But it was great thing because he really felt the Spirit--I know it! During one of the talks, a member talked about the experience of her dad's baptism and how he used to shoot people and be a bad man, but when he was baptized, he came out of the water and said, "All my sins have washed away." The father's face was intense and watching her. During other parts of the baptism, he was so proud. Even his super naughty, 5-year-old, ADHD came up and sang "I am a Child of God" with his sisters and was an angel during the ENTIRE time and even during the ward Christmas party afterwards. I think that really impressed him. Despite all the craziness and starting late, I love baptisms. It really is true that in the "ordinances of the Gospel, is the power of godliness manifest." Not only to the investigators, but all present.

Let me tell you the story of a man named Washington. I was so excited to tell you last week about him, then his story got way better this week, but then it got sort of lame. BUT, I will tell you this story anyways (partly because I'm too lazy to write it down in my journal because it's so long, so this is an easy way to kill two birds with one stone). Alright, off we go!

Washington is this ex-Mexican mafia member from California. We met him one day while knocking doors in a city called Skidmore--a city which my old companion didn't like at all and refused to go back. SO!--the plus of having a new companion is that they don't have preconceived prejudices about certain areas. We were walking the meager streets and not having much success, until we found Washington outside of his house. Sister Call talked to him for a bit while I was knocking a few homes across the street (within sight and sound of course). I was done and came back and she was still talking to him. Turns out he just got out of rehab recently for drinking. He's a really big guy and probably wears a XXX-XXXXL. But he's really cool. We left because his daughter got dropped off--crying from being with her mom--but as we were talking, we both realized that we had the prompting to give him a Book of Mormon. We ran back and gave it to him (before we had just talked to him about it) and he was grateful. He was going to be in Houston for a while, but we told him we'd call him in 2 weeks.

Two weeks later, we called him and set up an appointment. But later that day, he saw us at Wal-Mart (it suddenly got SUPER cold and Sis. Call gets sick really easily so she needed to go and buy a hat really quick). He excitedly came up to us and talked for a bit--awesome. Later we taught him and he was so interested in the fact that there was a prophet today. He loved the Restoration lesson and was excited to find God again because he says that he has been searching for God his entire life and has been baptized in church after church after church, but has always fallen. He is really depressed about himself, he used to "have it all" in California and had so much money, yet it is all gone now and he is left with nothing but his alcohol. :( We left him a Restoration DVD to watch before we came back.

He called us a few days later telling us that he watched the DVD and totally related to Joseph Smith who was searching for the right church. That is exactly what he has been doing. He calls himself a "loser" and constantly tells us to "give up on him" because he's lost and going to hell. But, something told us not to give up on him and keep sharing the Gospel light with him. Occasionally, he'll call us when he's drunk and that's when he gets into "Wo is me!" mood. And of course, I'm always the one who answers the phone and talks to him for 20 minutes each time. I try talking him through things, but you can't feel the Spirit when you are intoxicated. So mainly, I just do it to not be rude and get him offended--because he's an entirely different person when he's drunk. Sad....

Once we stopped by for our appointment and he was drunk. We had another member with us and stepped in for 5 minutes, but were standing up on the other side of the room. Oh, I forgot to mention that he is no homeless because his wife as taken his home (which is "all bought and paid for") and doesn't let him see his kids rarely, if ever. But he's staying at this house with some girls who he was in rehab with, but they evacuated and deserted the place, but the landlord is nice and said that he could stay there till the end of the month. Anyways, the smell of alcohol penetrated every facet of the room and it made me sick. I've never been around alcohol ever, except at baseball games when they make you hand it down the rows to someone who bought it. Yuck...I'm always afraid it will spill on me. ANYWAYS, during that visit, he clearly was popping pill...there were his anti-depressant pills all over the floor and told us that he wanted to kill himself. Yikes. We got out of there as soon as we could. The Spirit URGED us to.

Anyways, when he was sober, we came back and he told us that we were like angels to him. That we sing and make him feel as if there is hope. He wants to change, but he's really getting to the lowest of the low. He didn't want us to come back, but we told him we were because the Atonement and Gospel of Jesus Christ could and WOULD help him if he just allowed it to. We taught him about the plan of salvation and he wasn't really paying that much attention. At the end, we were wrapping it up and I felt prompted to talk about baptisms for the dead. His whole family was involved in this mafia/gang/whatever, and he has had 13 cousins die. That is one of the reasons that he is so depressed: he doesn't understand why they all died, and he is literally the only one left. He feels responsible for it. After I told him about it, his eyes lighted up and his countenance changed. He had questions and was interested. Later he called us THREE times that night, telling us thank you for what we had shared about it. He said that ALL the other churches he went to, told him that his cousins were all burning in hell--that there was no hope. That's not entirely true and when he was brought the truth, the Spirit touched his heart and gave him that hope that will help him leave his despair behind. It was really cool for me because we really have to be in tune with the Spirit. We can't just teach a cookie cutter lesson to all because they all have different needs, problems, and worries. Once we discover what that is, we can then tailor the message directly to them.

Well, he came to church this Sunday. He shaved, got dressed, covered up his tattoos (including the one arm that is "dedicated" to all his family members). And he loved it and had lots of questions at church. He didn't even have enough gas to make it to Beeville, but I promised him before that if he would just come, the Lord would provide and way. And he did.

Well, we were so excited to visit him, until he called us drunk later that day....It's so sad. We don't really know how to get him to stop drinking. He doesn't even have money to buy it, just lame friends who talk smack about the church and don't want him to change. He ended up calling us three times that day drunk. During the second one, he talked about how it was that we could "really believe" all of it--the book of Mormon, Joseph Smith, etc. I told him how we could, but it was useless because it was impossible for him to be receptive to the Spirit in that state...but then he told me something that freaked me out. He said that the loves when "I" come over, specifically. That he is divorced and alone and that he feels God has sent me to help him, to comfort him. That when he was sitting next to me at church, he felt something. Oh dear.... so yeah, I tried to nip that in the bud by telling him that's NOT why we are sent as missionaries. That we are here to help him rebuild the relationships he already has--with his WIFE and kids. So yeah, he hung up and then called later saying that he didn't want us to visit, call, and that he couldn't come to church anymore.

SOOOO....I have no idea what we're going to do. He practically has the Bible memorized and accepts everything that we teach--when he's sober. That's the hard part. So...we'll see how it all plays out this week. Know this: I'm keeping my distance.

Anyways, I know the Gospel is true and that--if you really want it--it changes lives and WILL heal you. There are many called and few chosen, which is the sad reality of the plan of salvation. But, anyone can be one of the chosen if they just desire it enough: live the commandments and you will be happy.

Can't wait to hear from you all this week!
With lots of Christmas Love!
Sister Burt

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