Monday, August 17, 2015

The Fruit of My Vineyard

Hey guys! 

So the title of my email this week comes from Jacob 5, I was studying this chapter of scripture in my personal study this morning and it really spoke to me. I love the story in Jacob 5, even though I know that I don't fully understand the significance of everything that's being said. But anyway, verse 75 stuck out to me this morning specifically. I just want to share one excerpt with you, 
"And blessed art thou; for because ye have been diligent in laboring with me in my vineyard, and have kept my commandments, and have brought unto me again the natural fruit, that my vineyard is no more corrupted, and the bad is cast away, behold he shall have joy with me because of the fruit of my vineyard."

This week has been amazing! 

Saturday Jorge was able to get baptized. The spirit was so strong and we had tons of members from the branch come to show their support. Jorge was so happy, and at the end of the service, he was able to stand and give his testimony... Honestly if you'd heard that testimony you would probably think that this guy had been a member all his life. He talked about his gratitude toward Joseph Smith and how grateful he was for a living prophet Thomas S. Monson, and how he loved the Book of Mormon, and even though he had yet to finish it all the way, he knows that the things he is reading are true. Then he shared one of his favorite passages of scripture with all of us and it just blew me away. 
What he shared is found in 2 Nephi 25:16-17 and it says: 

"And after they have been scattered, and the Lord God hath scourged them by other nations for the space of many generations, yea, even down from generation to generation until they shall be persuaded to believe in Christ, the Son of God, and the atonement, which is infinite for all mankind--and when that day shall come that they shall believe in Christ, and worship the Father in his name, with pure hearts and clean hands, and look not forward any more for another Messiah, then, at that time, the day will come that it must needs be expedient that they should believe these things.

And the Lord will set his hand again the second time to restore his people from their lost and fallen state. Wherefore, he will proceed to do a marvelous work and a wonder among the children of men."

That was the most incredible thing! To hear our investigator reading those words and bearing his testimony of the restoration of the gospel!! 
So anyway. Other than the fact that we just baptized the next prophet.... The baptism was pretty normal :) his confirmation was really cool. We were small numbers this week in sacrament meeting - only about 27 people. So pretty much the whole congregation stood up to confirm him ;) hahaha just kidding. 
But when he came to sit back down he had the BIGGEST smile on his face and he just looked like the happiest person in the entire world. He said his heart was beating so hard and he just felt this warmth and joy, and I knew that he had really felt it! That he really had received the Holy Ghost. 
Out of all of the amazing and prepared investigators that I have found and taught and baptized... Jorge Salas has got to be the one who gets it the most. At times I'm pretty sure that he gets it even more than I do... And I've been a member of this church my whole life! Explain that!?
Anyway. Hopefully next week Jorge will get the priesthood and be able to start helping with passing and eventually blessing the sacrament. That will be an amazing opportunity for him. 
The only thing that breaks my heart is that Diana decided not to be baptized. Not only does she not want to get baptized, but she also decided to just keep going to her other church. I was completely devastated... And completely baffled! The week before she had just been telling us over and over "I am SO sure I want to be baptized into this church." And we just don't know what happened! :( we just hope that she was able to feel the spirit at the baptism and that the Lord will continue to look after her and continue preparing her to accept the gospel. She's got Jorge, though, so we're not too worried. 
But ALSO we just found out that Jorge is probably going back to Ecuador for a couple of months to work and save up some money. He will be leaving mid September. 
The first counselor in our branch presidency is also leaving mid September to move to Florida. 
AND our branch mission leader leaves for Utah to go to college... 
Not the three people going home!
So someone please explain to me how we are ever supposed to build this branch up and help it grow if we baptize one person and three people leave!? 

Well that's exactly what we have been thinking about, and the Lord gave us this great idea to do a 40 day fast for missionary work and opportunities. So we explained the idea a couple of weeks ago to the branch council and the idea was implemented and everything is set to begin on September 6
So what the 40 day fast is, is that each day for 40 days, a member of the branch signs up to fast for missionary work and for opportunities to share to gospel and things like that. Or if they have people in their lives that aren't members or are less active or something like that, then they fast for their hearts to be softened or whatever. 
So every day for 40 days there is at least one designated member of the congregation fasting for missionary work. 
We sent around the sign up sheet on our side of he branch yesterday and already over half of the slots are filled! We couldn't believe it! 
Next week it will be passed around the York side of the branch, and hopefully all of the slots will get filled!! 
This branch is so amazing. We really think that this idea will help the work take off as the members become more aware and as we become more unified through this fast. 

Meanwhile we're just trying to do our best to move forward with the work! It's been really amazing! We have been praying so fervently to know what the Lord's will is for this area and to follow his direction in the work. The past couple of weeks we have just felt so strongly that He's been telling us to focus on working with the ward members and the less active or part member families. We have been a little bit confused because we also need to be getting baptisms if we want this branch to stay open, but we knew that it's what the Lord wanted so we just decided to go with it! And we have had some amazing blessings! 
The other day we were going over to visit with a less active sister that really seems like she's ready to be reactivated. We had an awesome lesson with her and then felt prompted to ask if she had anyone that we could share our message with, and right away she brought up her neighbor who just moved in from another country! We got super excited and said, okay! And asked if she had a name and an address or a phone number or something. But she was like, "hey! let's just go over and visit with her right now!" we were just baffled. 
So we walked over to Dolores' house and she was just heading out to visit with someone, but Hermana Paulino told her who we were and why we had come over, and Dolores was just like, "Oh that's awesome! I've been looking for a church! Let's go upstairs in my apartment so you can talk to me!" So that's what we did! And we had a super great member present lesson and the spirit was really amazing, and Dolores said how much she loved the Lord and appreciated that we had come. Then she gave us these little pears and we walked back to our car and drove home and we were just dumbfounded. We could not believe what had just happened.
It was our little miracle. 
Not Eduardo's Pitbull!
Another miracle that we had... we were going to try one of our recent converts who has been borderline less active lately and there was this guy just standing with his dog by the place where I usually park the car, and I felt prompted to talk to him, so naturally I strike up a conversation about his pitbull and ask if I can pet it and then we got into this long conversation about God and how He loves his children and all His creations and we shared a Book of Mormon with him and he said, "Oh my gosh! I used to have one of these, I read a little bit in it, but then I lost it. I will definitely read it this time, thank you for the copy!" And he told us we could come over to talk a little bit more about the church! His name is Eduardo. 

We love the Book of Mormon! We had an awesome Zone Training this week about the role of the Book of Mormon in conversion. We talked about how it is absolutely essential for our investigators to be reading if we want them to have true and lasting conversion! Now the whole mission is doing a competition which will be really cool - each day you have to ready 1 chapter of the BOM, one of your investigators or LA members has to read 1 chapter of the BOM, and you have to give out one BOM. Every day that you do ALL THREE of those things, you get a point. Each night, the Assistants are going to call EVERY companionship in the mission and find out how many points you got! The score will reset every single week! We're so excited, we've already been committing people to do it! We have been getting a lot of really positive responses! 
When we tried to commit Jorge to do it, he just looked at us and was like, "I've already been doing that!" Haha we were just like, "Who are you!?" 

Anyway. Things have been going amazingly. Since we decided to work with the members and LA's, we have been getting super tight with a lot of the people in this branch. They're really starting to love and trust us. The scary thing is that I know eventually I'm just going to have to leave this area, and I never want to!! I'm probably just going to find an apartment and move in to Lancaster, PA and be in the Spanish branch forever and go on team ups with the Sister missionaries every single day! I already have a family who said they are going to adopt me! Actually they said that they already DID adopt me. So that's an important first step! ;) hahaha

I love this work! I love the Book of Mormon! That book has played an incredibly large part in my personal conversion, and I invite each of you to read it over and over and over - to study the message that it contains, and to fall in love with the Book of Mormon! It will help you with any problem you are facing or question you have.
A chapter a day keeps the devil away ;)


Hermana Bills

A straight shot home!

Chair Soccer