|Gwyneth is the Girl in Green|
I have a pet. He is a small little spider about the size of my pinkie nail and I've named him Aragog. Why Aragog? Because the freaking spider tried to eat me, that’s why! I was using my two fingers to ‘walk’ towards him saying “I’m gonna get youuuu!” and then he just turned towards me and JUMPED AT MY FACE. I nearly ran all the way out of the apartment freaking out. For rude, but that’s fine, Aragog eats ants so I still like him.
“This is Halloween, this is Halloween, pumpkins scream in the dead of night!” I’m gonna start with Gwyneth’s baptism and then hop around because I can and there is nothing you can do to stop me! MUAHAHHAHAHA!! Sorry, I’m just really into the Halloween spirit and you can’t really do much when you are a missionary. Luckily there is a phrase in the Philippines of a ‘white lady’ which is another way of saying ghost or spirit so I guess I’m always in a Halloween costume here. Not as good as a live tombstone or something but it works I guess! Haha.
So this last Saturday we had Gwyneth’s baptism. It went off with a splash and soo many people from the ward showed up to support her and a part-member (her mother is a member but the rest of her family is not) sister as well. Gwyneth is simply incredible and when she received the gift of the Holy Ghost on Sunday (Baptism by water is Saturday and the baptism by fire thing- the gift of the holy ghost- is on Sunday before sacrament meeting.) in the priesthood blessing she received it talked about the preparation she will do and how she will be ready for her own mission in the upcoming years. Which is sooo cool. Before church even started she was sitting in the front row by herself (her aunt and uncle had a meeting in a different town so they weren’t there yet) reading the Articles of Faith.
Can I just shout how prepared this girl was to receive the restored gospel of Jesus Christ and begin her journey towards Him? Which, to me is funny as just a few days before we really started teaching Gwyneth at the beginning of this cycle (when Sister Ganaden started working with me 4 weeks ago) I thought Gwyneth wasn’t all that interested and we were only teaching her on the request of her member relatives (we will not baptize people unless they want to and I prefer to teach people who are actually interested) but all of a sudden she just started to bloom and she started attending seminary (a high school course on the scriptures, they cover one book per year: Old Testament, New Testament, the book of Mormon and the Doctrine and Covenants.) and memorizing scriptures and really after a while we would sit down with her and ask ‘so we are teaching about tithing today what do you think about tithing?” and she would basically teach US the lesson. It reminded me a lot about the times when we were sitting in on the lessons with Christ Artificavitch (my now brother-in-law) and how the missionaries would jokingly ask him to at least pretend he didn’t know the answers. But Just like Chris, Gwyneth was prepared to receive the gospel into her life.
Now conversion isn’t all pumpkins and roses. It’s about repentance or a change of ways. You have to align your will with the Father and accept that some of the things in your past may not coincide with His will. This is an everyday sort of thing. Recent converts and lifetime members alike have to do this.
Honestly Gwyneth’s baptism is the only thing that happened this week. BESIDES THIS AWESOME EXPERIENCE: So I’m pretty sure I’ve told you about Tina. I also gotten to meet her husband. I had never seen him before so when he started waving at us and calling out ‘hey Mormons! I have questions!’ I was just tickled pink, thinking that he wanted to hear all about our message. Nope. He wanted to test our bible knowledge. He wanted to see how well I knew the bible and if I was a Christian as I claimed to be. And boy did he not give me much time to speak. He’d ask a question and give me about 30 seconds to respond before going on to the next. I felt like I was on a talk show or something. “Tonight on Bible Questioner we will see how fast these Mormons can answerrrrrrrrrr!!!!!” *the audience applauds* But I answered every single one of his questions with confidence and with references. I was on exchanges at the time so my STL (Sister Training Leader) would try and get a word in and bare her testimony but he was having none of that. It was really cool. At one point he ran out of questions and we finally got to bear our testimony about the Book of Mormon and the Plan of Salvation. He seemed a little surprised that we not only could answer him but ask him questions too. Questions the bible doesn’t really answer, like infant deaths and the importance of prayer. The way I’ve written this it sounds like I've won some brilliant bible bash but it's not that. I'm glad that I not only had answers to his questions, but had the opportunity to share something that is incredibly precious to me.
Later that week we met with his wife and she was giggling about how we had stumped her husband. We then went on to teach her the Plan of Salvation- that we had tried to introduce to her husband. She is a previous investigator and has questions. She doesn’t get how ‘the Mormons’ don’t believe in hell. But I think she was simply confused on the wording. We believe in God’s plan of Happiness, which is best described in a timeline.
So hell (as described in Luke 16) is actually the Spirit World, which is broken into two parts (paradise and prison) and as it says in Revelations 20:12-13 it is only a temporary place and that hell will give up her dead and they will then be judged. Cool stuff. So after explaining this all to her and asking her if she had any questions (she and her husband are reaaaly good at coming up with stumping questions) she just sat back and said. “It makes sense.” I asked her how she felt about it and she simply replied “It feels right.” Now you can't even imagine how incredibly happy I felt. It wasn’t me and my fancy smancy scriptures that explain and it wasn’t my cute handmade plan of salvation timeline that we had set out for her to look at either. It was the spirit. Only the spirit can truly soften hearts and bring about changes like we saw in Sister Tina. Now, she still didn’t come to church this Sunday and she still has a way to go but she feels at peace when she thinks about her future. And even if that is all we are ever able to accomplish with her that will be enough for me. Just as she is at peace so am I. Walking home after that (because we are flat broke) was an incredible experience. There are still areas that are not entirely back to full power, electricity wise, and so we could see the stars.
In a book I read as a child the main character was lying down in a field as he told his friend about the constellations and their stories, then after a while he looked over to his friend and she told him about her constellations from her culture, how they base the constellations not on the stars themselves but on the spaces between. But the word for starts in tagalong is ‘Betwin’ which is pronounced between. Sorry I just think that is the coolest thing ever. So, back to the story: We are walking home after this powerful lesson and stop to stare at the stars and I ask Sister Ganaden if she could see all the stars. She said yes and pointed out a few constellations she knew. Then I shined my flashlight in her face and asked her if she could still see them. She couldn’t, maybe just one or two. I said. Sister, we just turned off the flashlight for sister Tina; she can see. Sister Ganaden had me write down my exact phrasing for the next line. “If you take out the world and focus on the heavens, you can see its glory.” Honestly I wish I could better describe how I felt walking away from that lesson.
From the sister who had now worn two holes in her shoes from all this walking