If there was anything that truly frosted my cookies about being in the MTC right now, it is that I missed having the fourth of July in Texas. TEXAS! Instead of being off in Patriotism-land I'm stuck in the Provo MTC, eating Montreal Chicken. Yes, that's right. There was not a single hot dog or apple pie served, and they don't allow you to play baseball. This year, instead of watching the stadium of fire's fireworks display while belting out "Faithfully" with my companion, the MTC decided to have a two hour devotional that featured the most patriotic of songs, like "Hark all ye Nations", and "High on a mountain Top". The "Celebratory Devotional" as it was called more closely resembled a flag day ceremony. What gives?!
But in all seriousness, I did enjoy my fourth of July in the MTC. The Devotional reiterated the precious truth that the true gospel of Jesus Christ is universal. It is for every nation, kindred, and tongue. And though the day of independence for my home nation may be cause for great celebration, the true celebration should always stay with the knowledge that there is a God who loves us, no matter what our circumstance, no matter what nation or culture we wave a flag under. Walking out of the devotional with my companion I overheard a disgruntled missionary spitting at anyone who'd get near him. "Did you see how they disgraced the American flag by not singing the national anthem? How could the MTC do such a derogatory action?" He expressed many other complaints to many people, including a missionary from Japan. As well as Japanese missionaries, servants of the Lord come from all corners of the earth to Provo, each with a profound and undying testimony that Jesus Christ is our savior. And I'm sure that if the United States wanted to sing their country's song, then every other country on God's green earth should be able to sing theirs too.
On more important news, the Lord's work is hastening through me. Call it crazy, but I already have my first baptismal date. Yes, that's right. My companion (Elder B) and I already taught a nonmember who committed to be baptized on August 1. That's amazing! It's absolutely astounding that before I leave my own training facilities the Lord has already blessed a life through my works. It took us five days and four appointments, and now Sister C has accepted the invitation to follow the example of Jesus Christ and be baptized by someone with the proper authority of God! Quite honestly, it was one of the happiest moments of my life.
My investigator, Sister C, transferred to UVU from somewhere in Texas for the summer semester, and while she was here, was introduced to the gospel by her roommates. She then volunteered at the MTC to get lessons from the missionaries. We were her first teachers. For our first lesson to a true nonmember of the church, Elder B and I did work. We went through the whole restoration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and she understood it completely. Though she was afraid to touch the Book of Mormon, she accepted our invitation to pray to know if our message was true. It was quite beautiful to see that small act of faith change everything. Her willingness and desire to learn allowed the spirit to teach so well, and the presence of a higher truth was near overwhelming. By Thursday, Sister C accepted to read portions of the Spanish Book of Mormon and pray about her experiences after sharing with her the story of Enos and the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I was so moved by her faith I bought a Spanish Book of Mormon for myself and spent much of Thursday and Friday reading the Spanish copy of the Book of Mormon with an English one, so I would be able to help with any questions she had. On Friday we had already gone over The Restoration, The Plan of Salvation, and the Gospel of Jesus Christ with sister C, and we knew we were on our last lesson with her. She said that she wasn't sure about baptism on Thursday, but on Friday we directed our whole lesson on the Book of Mormon and accepting the challenge to baptism.
I cannot tell you how much joy I felt inside after reading Alma 7:14-15 in Spanish with her and seeing her smile while tears streamed down her face. Sister Cortez was one of the souls that was waiting for me to go out on a mission so I could help her come to a greater light. She was waiting for the fulness of the Gospel to come to her, and with open arms she accepted it. Sadly, though Elder Blackhurst and I taught her the main lessons, we have to go to Texas, and let some other lucky missionaries help her finish the lessons and be baptized, washed from sins and past transgressions, passing through the gates to the kingdom above.
I just want to say that teaching Sister C was the real treat of this week. If through all my mission, I could have the experience of teaching someone with so much faith and so much love only once more, then it would all be worth it. But I know that this message is true, and it is delicious to the taste, and these heavenly experiences will surround me for two years. This is Heavenly Father's work and glory, to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man, so they man joyously live once again in the kingdom of the Father. And I beyond graciously his open hand, ready to do his work without spite, but with humble love. This church is true. I absolutely love what this church does to people when they allow it to change them for the better. This is God's will, and no matter what it may be, God's will is God's love. I am beyond grateful to be a missionary and I don't know how to thank the Lord for this opportunity enough.
My MTC district is what most people would call "The Fun Group". The 12 of us get along better than Peas and Carrots, ebony and ivory, or even Steph Curry and the 76ers defense. We always have a blast and when we aren't having a blast we are having a great spiritual experience. I don't know if I've ever gotten along so well with 11 other people so different from me. It must be the marvelous work of the Lord that is binding us together in sweet harmony. Unfortunately, we cannot last all two years together. The four sisters in the district left last night, and they are way off in Cincinnati Ohio, and two elders are parting ways with us on Wednesday to go off to Salem Oregon. The remaining six of us are off to San Antonio, but will be buckshot throughout the mission areas. Hopefully some of will stay together, perhaps in the same zone, maybe the same district, and I pray I'll reunite with some of them as companions in our later days of service. But the idea of leaving behind these truly eternal friends ails me- even if we have already scheduled a reunion in two years. The thoughts of the glory of missionary work and the importance of other people drove me to jot two poems quickly and roughly in my journal. I now close with them
How does one repay the soldier's debt? What is the battlefield that brings forth legends?
The pain one feels when they ruefully regret that a battle's cost is endless stipends!
Our king is in need, and our souls act his deeds
that his immortal message may never be rent.
Our armor is painted with the color of sacrifice
and the frailties of dent them more than any vice
But we few in number are large in bravery
will stand for truth and fight and slavery.
But no matter our served duty and makeshift altars
the grasps of selfish desire hold us- and payment falters
So what is the bail that pays our soldier's debt?
It is willing, loving service that starts before sunrise and past sunset
And our work, filled with joy, is the price where justice and mercy are met
What love is ever enough? How can a soube poured into a sufferer's cup wen travelling through a mortal mouthpiece?
the eyes are windows to the inner-godliness but fail to give love its full release
The pain of knowing our words will never fulfill
the precious truths that time slyly steals
Where does our grace and God's grace strum in beautiful unison?
What is enoiugh when we forget the gift at the meridian?
I strive to intertwine my heart with my friends
but the strings of our souls fail to satisfy loose ends
I'm dying to let them know that life is made by them
I'm dting to offer the love that was born in Bethlehem.
May my prayers for these souls be met with God's grace
so our short but joyous paths may once again be retraced
I hear God in their voices, and the tune is past o'erflowing
My eternal love for them somehow keeps growing
I pray you find godly peace from my honest praise
And godly peace will find you in the darkest of days
My words for you long to parellel our Savior
but, ifit can be, use God to replace my savor
My actions now align with what my heart knows is true
Like, Christ, and with undying love, I love you