What a crazy week and a half! Feels like it's been a month.
So we finished up Elder Christensen's training last week. What a great 12 weeks it was! Transfers came and I find myself right back where I was before, here in Bahia Blanca. I'm serving as AP again, and my new companion's name is Elder Valle. We've seen a couple changes in the office and in the mission, and it looks like my job here is going to be a lot different than before. The sad part is that I won't be driving the truck anymore because it's going to stay here with the office while my companion and I travel the mission with President to do zone conferences and interviews EVERY TRANSFER now. It's going to be nuts. Remember how the AP's Elder Bosco and Elder Dement came and did divisions with me and Elder Jackson in Olavarría? So my job is pretty much going to be like their's, just with zone conferences thrown into the mix as well. While President does interviews in each zone, my comp and I will be leaving to "feed sheep" in a sense as we do divisions with missionaries who are a little behind or struggling with their work and obedience and what not. Traveling is tiring, especially for President. So please pray for me that I can have stamina and be a good support to him. Overall it will be fun and I'm excited for the experiences to come.
Leaving Tandil and ending my time with Elder Christensen and our area was really hard. That time in Tandil was filled with blessings and miracles and was a huge tender mercy for me, but I'm grateful that I was allowed to have that experience in the first place. This last week was the perfect way to finish with a bang with two successful baptisms, Elder Christensen's birthday, and a huge miracle that I'll tell you about in a sec.
So last week everything was going great with Patricia and Belen. We were all excited for the baptism, and pretty comfortable with the way things were going, but what happens when we get comfortable? BOOM. Humbling trials :) haha. So anyway, Thursday night, two days before the baptism, and a day after they had passed their baptismal interviews, everything was happy and peaceful and the only thing that was in our way seemed to be time. Then Friday morning after a nice jog to get our laundry from the zone leaders house, we get back home and I get a phone call from Patricia while my comp was showering. I answered all happy, but I could tell there was something wrong by the tone in her voice. She proceeded to tell me that she invited her 12 year boyfriend Fabio to her baptism and he told her that if she got baptized he would never talk to her again. My heart dropped as she then said she wouldn't be baptized, at least for right now, but I remained calm as I talked to her about faith and agency and that she needed to pray for guidance. She agreed to let us come over after lunch that day to chat with her while we gave her time to process and pray about her decision. I got off the phone and turned around to find a white faced Elder Christensen who had apparently entered the conversation and could tell something was wrong. I explained a bit about what happened and we both hit the books right away. I probably had the best and most desperate study of my whole mission as we prayed and disected the scriptures for anything to help Patricia. After putting together a plan, we left the house into the muggy mid-day heat (with empty stomachs because we had studied instead of eaten) to make the half hour (felt more like a half-day) trip to Movediza. This sounds super dramatic but we felt like we were marching into a war to fight for Patricia haha.
So we get there to Patricia's house and first find Belen outside. When Belen saw us she starting crying. She was pretty hurt about Patricia's irrational decision to call off the baptism. Saying "we were going to do this together...I wanted to do this in the first place to support her, and now she's leaving me to do it alone." we talked with her about how this was just a trial of faith for all of us, and that she needs to pray for Patricia and have faith as well. She said "ok..but if she doesn't, I'm getting baptized anyway." (Belen is the bomb). So then she took off with her daughter Mía to take her to school while we sat down with Patricia in her front yard to chat. Our chat with Patricia went really well. We listened as she expressed her frustration and fear of having to choose between Fabio and Jesus (the choice is obvious...but she cares about Fabio so we heard her out). When she was done asking questions we opened fire with all we had and took her through this discussion we had planned out and tried to answer her questions and fears with the Bible and the Book of Mormon. That helped, and I think we were expecting her to say at the end "you're right...I hate Fabio, and I will get baptized :)" haha. That didn't happen. She said she would ponder her decision throughout the rest of the day and that we could pass by at night time to find out her decision. That made us nervous, but we respected her in that and just kept emphasizing that she needed to pray and turn to the Lord for an answer and for help. She then gave the closing prayer to our lesson and offered a beautifully humble prayer asking the Lord to help her to continue in this decision she had made and to accompany her in this trial. We left her having faith that it would work out, but definitely anxious to know the outcome. Literally 10 minutes later Elder Christensen and I are walking on a dirt path in the middle of a field on the way home and we get a call from Patricia. I answered and was about to say some kind of ice breaker like "wow did ya miss us?" or something but she started talking a million miles an hour saying "JOLLEY! I just barely got a call from Fabio and he told me that he changed his mind about the baptism and that he's sorry for having opposed to it!" I was about breathless but told her I was so happy for her and that we would continue getting everything ready for Saturday. I got off the phone and told Elder Christensen what happened, and we spent the next 5 minutes laughing, crying, and celebrating in the middle of a hot dusty field. Probably one of the happiest moments of my life. After that little emotional rollercoaster we humbly offered a prayer thanking our Heavenly Father for that trial, for being able to help Patricia, and for softening the heart of Fabio. On the other side of the story. While Belen was sitting and waiting outside of Mia's class, she told us that she said a pray asking for Heavenly Father to guide the situation and help Patricia, and that was about the time we were in the middle of a field and Patricia got the phone call. After calling us Patricia let Belen know, and that was a huge answer to Belen's prayer as well. haha so dope.
Well if that was too long to read you can probably find it in the Ensign over these next few months. ; ) Such a necessary experience for all of us involved. I was thinking through the whole process about Elder Holland's talk about how all of us somehow will have to pay the price of salvation and walk at least of few steps in the shoes of Christ. When that issue first came up, my first few thoughts were "ohhh man. why would Heavenly Father let this happen?" and even started to blame myself for the trial she was having, thinking maybe I did something wrong or wasn't worthy of the blessing to be able to bring her to the step of baptism. Later after the trial had passed. I realized how valuable that experience of putting faith in the Lord was for Patricia, Belen, and my companion and I. I'll never forget that.
On Saturday we had a (thank heaven) flawless baptism after all the flaws from the day before. Both my companion and I (father and son) were able to be dressed in white and participate in the performing of that sacred ordinance. I baptized Patricia and Elder Christensen baptized Belen. We had talks by Abigail (a member who is now really good friends with Patricia) and la Hermana Pepa (a cute old lady in our ward).
"Come to the water, you who search, and you'll search no more."
Left to right:
(top row): tiziano (abigail's son), hna Gutierrez, Hna Ortellado, Hna Garibay, Elder Christensen, Moi, Hna Muñoz, Hno Muñoz, Hno Vallejo,
(bottom row): Abigail, Patricia, Belen, Mía, La Hna Pepa, Hna Romina Papini, Hno Dorado (our mission leader)
Over the weekend I got the call from President that I would be leaving Sunday night to get back to Bahía to be able to help with transfers with my comp Elder Valle and take over for Elder Eufrasio and Elder Ortega, who both went home. A crazy couple of days as usual, helping with transfers, but we made it through smoothly as always. It was fun to see familiar faces through transfers and the leadership conference we had yesterday. I like being a leader and being a part of all the action and stuff, but nothing compares to being a plain old missionary/trainer and working all day just teaching the gospel like I did the last two transfers, but maybe it's just another trial to keep me from getting comfortable and an opportunity to improve.
I love this work, testify of its truth, and of the love that our Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ have for all of us. And like it says in D&C 95:1. God gives trials to the ones that He loves :) so accept the trials that come with open arms.