Well it looks like things are starting to get normal around here in Colombia, finally we will get to have a normal and full week of work! This past week we were told to jump up to Pasto as quick as we could before the roads closed up again in order to get to Cali for Elder Waddell. It ended up being a huge blessing because we got to work in Pasto for 2 days and I had the marvelous opportunity to work with 2 former companions! My son Elder Celaya and el gran Elder Aldunate my first comp in Buenaventura who now is ZL in Pasto. It was such a great experience being with old comps. It was great for remembering good times and seeing how each missionary has changed and progressed over time. It was cool to be in teaching situations remembering the old teaching ways that I had been used to in the past! It wasn't hard to pick up right where we left off as a companionship, such a treat!
We also spent a while at the bus terminal each day looking for bus routes to Cali but there was nothing safe that opened up, we all prayed and fasted so that we would be able to see Elder Waddell in Cali but nothing resulted. I have come to understand on the mission the attitude of "let thy will be done." It wasn't the Lord's will that we would go to Cali this week, why? No idea, but like Nephi "I know that he loveth his children; nevertheless, I do not know the meaning of all things." When we develop faith in Jesus Christ we know He loves us and wants the best for us, no matter what. Prayers are always answered but according to the will who knows it all. I was grateful to help out this week in Pasto and also to have the rare experience to reunite with companions!
And we are now here in Ipiales super anxious to get back to work full throttle! It has been a bit frustrating not being able to work a full week in our area for about 3 weeks, but all the smoke has cleared and miracles are on the way. I feel like the opposition we have faced has worked as a refiner's fire and we are now refined and more excited to work than at any part of my mission!
I also learned so much from the instruction of Elder Waddell from the webcast we had here in Ipiales! He talked about a huge problem there is in the Area right now... last year the South America Northeast Area baptized about 36,000 people. That is great.. but the attendance in the area only improved by about 9,000. That is to say that a lot of converts are being lost, and that is a big problem.
Elder Waddell spoke about how sometimes in missions where the people have really believing hearts and baptize a lot, we can focus too much in reaching numbers of baptisms instead of working towards the actual conversion of the people. Baptism is the beginning, not the end. What is the good of "gathering the sheaves" if they are not "gathered into the garners." (Alma 26:5) Sometimes we are too focused on our goals to baptize that we forget the real conversion. This often leads to missionaries thinking they can still have success without teaching by the Spirit, using the Book of Mormon and having the investigators pray at the end of lessons, etc.
So obedience is not a priority thinking that we can still have success baptizing. But the reality is, is that if we are not converted there is no way we will lead these people down the path to conversion. We may lead them to the font, but the conversion is superficial and won't last "the heat of the sun" that will come after baptism. In this mission and this area you can baptize without the Spirit, without the Book of Mormon and without prayer. But without all of these things, conversion is not possible.
I am grateful for the wonderful counsel of Elder Waddell. It has sparked a fire in my personal study this week too. I tried to understand more the process of conversion, in order to understand what we must feel, do, and be to help these people to real conversion! I read in 1 Nephi 8:11-12:
11 And it came to pass that I did go forth and partake of the fruit thereof; and I beheld that it was most sweet, above all that I ever before tasted. Yea, and I beheld that the fruit thereof was white, to exceed all the whiteness that I had ever seen.
12 And as I partook of the fruit thereof it filled my soul with exceedingly great joy; wherefore, I began to be desirous that my family should partake of it also; for I knew that it was desirable above all other fruit.
I find it interesting that only when Lehi got to the actual tree, and had eaten the fruit that he desired that his family also could partake of it, and signaled the way to help them get there. We as missionaries cannot be in the "forbidden paths" and expect to help people to the strait and narrow one, the tree of life is not the baptismal font, it is Eternal Life and true conversion. We must desire to help these people not just say that we do. I have learned a lot and will change a lot in my mission because of what I have learned!
Well next week's letter should be a lot better, now that we have a full week we are pumped to get at it!
Well, until next week!
Keep the thumbs up, (and hook em horns) maybe I'll make that my new "trademark" haha