Monday, April 27, 2015

First week in Los Mares

27 April 2015

Dear family,

Double baptism yesterday! I arrived just in time to see some miracles happen in a ward where there hasn't been a baptism since December.  Two young men were both baptized. One is a twenty-three-year-old and comes from a part member family because his dad was baptized about two years ago. He has been investigating the church for all that time. The second one is a referral from the first. He is twenty-six and has some mental handicaps which make it harder for him to learn, read, etc.

On Monday I met our ward mission leader and with him we went to visit the twenty-six-year- old and I met him for the first time. I was a little worried to be honest. Although he is high functioning, it is similar to teaching a child and his parents are not yet investigators. After visiting him later though, and hearing him share his testimony, I left his house thinking he has to be baptized. We arranged to meet and talk with his parents on Wednesday. Hermana Young says they weren't really friendly at first and they had to teach him outside when they started but they seemed very cordial to me and very supportive of their son. They are Catholics so as we thought of what to tell them the Articles of Faith came to mind. We brought cards with us to give to them and talked about each of the Articles of Faith. They had all sorts of questions about the doctrine and leadership of the church. They also wanted to help their son keep his commitments and asked if he could eat meat, what he can read and watch on TV, etc. We made sure to explain the Word of Wisdom and tithing to them. I think the things we have in common with the Catholic Church and how normal we are surprised them. They shared some of their beliefs with us as well and explained how leadership works in the Catholic Church. My favorite part was answering their questions about the Book of Mormon and teaching them about how Christ came to visit the Americas. "I had no idea," was the mother’s response. They are good people and I hope to be able to teach them. Pray for them to want to listen. They both came to the baptism along with the grandma, sisters, and nieces and nephews. The members were so welcoming and made an extra effort to talk to them and invite them to come back and visit.

Speaking of members, I love this ward! There are a million youth and young single adults, lots of returned missionaries and future missionaries, which is why we have youth investigating the church and being baptized here. For example, we ran into a young man during the week who approached us and said, "Just so you know, I went and got my hair cut this week and invited the lady who cut my hair to church. If she shows up, you should talk to her." Wow! Where am I?

We had some frustrating but also very good moments teaching the twenty-three-year-old and preparing him for his baptism. As we talked about the interview he would have we went through the questions. When we asked if he believed that Thomas S. Monson is a prophet, he wanted to know why he had to believe that. He said, “If I believe that the church was restored and I believe that Joseph Smith was a prophet, and that Thomas S. Monson is a good leader who can guide the church, why do I have to believe that he is a prophet in order to be baptized?” At first I didn't know exactly what to say. It's a baptismal interview question, so obviously it's important, but I had never asked why before. As I thought, I felt like I was given the words to answer his question in that moment. If Thomas S. Monson was not a prophet, it would mean that we live in a time of apostasy, without the priesthood authority to baptize. There has to be a prophet on the earth in order for there to exist the authority to baptize and the opportunity to join the true church led by Jesus Christ himself through a prophet.

Did I mention I love this ward? An emeritus member of the seventy, Elder Barros, is our Gospel Principles teacher. (I feel like as I change sectors I can see the evolution of the church. I started in a ward where we taught the Gospel Principles class and our mission leader was away working every other week. Then I was in a branch with a newly called Gospel Principles teacher and a mission leader who worked very hard but was a new convert. Now we have a very active mission leader and ward missionaries and our Gospel Principles teacher is a seventy.) We had lunch with his wife this week and learned that she had been struggling with her health. Then we went to Relief Society on Sunday and the lesson was about trials. A sister commented about how Elder Oaks' wife was single for decades before she married a widowed apostle. Sister Barros shouted out, "I'm not dying yet, just so you know!"

It's been a good week. We have worked so hard and we are so tired. Last night we both agreed that it was time for P-day and we went to Santa Lucia, a hill with a castle.

I love you and hope you have a good week!

Hermana VanCott

There are a million YSAs in this ward

Writing on the teaching records after the baptism

P-Day at Santa Lucia

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