I wish I could convey to you the epic things that have happened in my life this week, so I'll try. Zone conference in Springfield on Wednesday was awesome, we rolled out the training that we received in our leadership conference to the rest of our mission. Elder Horsley and I taught about teaching short, powerful lessons; it went super good. These trainings are exactly what the mission needs to advance the work. Exciting! Then we had exchanges with one of our district leaders and his companion, we drove back to our apartment aaaaaand found it flooded. The downstairs bathroom had an inch of water in it, flowing out into the hallway and then the kitchen. Somehow our toilet tank cracked in half and the thing kept refilling and dumping water onto the floor. It leaked through to our basement/garage and soaked the insulation on the ceiling. We didn't have time to deal with it because we were running late so I just shut the toilet water off and we went out to our appointments haha. I took the district leader and we had some good experiences finding and teaching. Then we got home and had to deal with our flood, Elder Gines a senior missionary serving on Ft. Wood brought some tools over and helped us tear up the carpet to dry it out and take down the dripping insulation in our basement. So that was an exciting day!
Saturday was Sarah Melville's baptism and I might have to say it was one of the best on my mission thus far. It was just such a miraculous experience. Her preparation to receive the gospel was just outstanding. And she is such a successful and fun person. She brought her whole army engineering team to support her! They took up a whole pew and had a really great experience. I spoke on baptism, Elder Horsley played an incredbile arrangement of "Come Thou Fount" on the piano and her good friend Josh Austin baptized her. Then she bore her testimony and my life kinda changed. She told of her experiences years ago in college being introduced to the concept of trusting God, and of dark lonely times in her past when she thought all was lost. When Josh invited her to church and we began teaching her, she fell in love with the Book of Mormon and would rather read it than do most things. Then she told of the moment when it all came together and she knew that she could be forgiven, that God loved her and that this is what she'd been waiting for. It was in my first lesson with her, I had just been transferred in that week. I encouraged her to set a baptismal date as a goal, and testified that through Christ we can indeed be cleansed and have our burdens lifted. She'd heard it before, but this time the truth of it sang to her heart! Unbeknownst to me at the time, she had received her answer to many brokenhearted prayers. All the puzzle pieces fit snuggly together and Sarah knew what she had to do. It was life altering for me to hear her story of a questioning soul nurtured by God for years, and to be able to play a small part in making the difference for her. There was nowhere else on the planet I would rather be, than here, testifying of my Christ. I know he magnifies my small actions and my simple words with his Spirit to bring others to the knowledge of their Redeemer. I have been given no greater opportunity in this life than to be engaged in the work of salvation, as rebellious and proud as I am. It never ceases to amaze me.
Sunday was another mind blowing experience. I gave a talk in sacrament at the Ft. Wood branch (yeah I give a lot of talks haha) and it went great. Then in our investigator class I taught solo because Elder Horsley was teaching another private who was interested. Hahaha the soldiers have been giving us cash to buy and bring them lil debbie cakes because in basic training they don't have access to anything tasty and it's considered contraband. So we had 30 bucks from last Sunday they had given us and we bought like 15 boxes of assorted cakes and they tore into it like animals, they were so happy! Anyway I took questions and several people asked about the plan of salvation so I gave a mini lesson about it and then started into the restoration. After the lesson a guy named private Fugate came up to me and said, "the things you just said make so much sense to me," gesturing at my drawing of the plan of salvation on the white board, "how can I become a member?" He goes on to tell me that he's been raised southern baptist and knows the bible front and back, but he's halfway through the Book of Mormon right now and it "fills in all the gaps". He says he's had a concept of the spirit world, and different kingdoms in heaven but never heard anyone teach it. He said he struggled with the whole Joseph Smith thing when I taught it, but then he realized, "Hey God spoke to just one man in the past, why couldn't he do it now?!" Then he said he struggled with John the Baptist returning to give Joseph the priesthood but then he thought, "Jesus was resurrected, why couldn't John be resurrected?!" Haha hearing him connect all the dots he's had his whole life just put a big stupid grin on my face and it wanted to just hug him. The Spirit worked on him hard. I told him we'd teach him and he could be baptized, and he's so excited. And another private standing next to him during this whole conversation said basically the same thing, so that's two! Form a line people! Get in the water one at a time, let's go. I love teaching in the army. Then more soldiers rushed forward to give us money for contraband food items and one asked us to get everybody pizza, we walked out to our truck and counted over a 100 bucks hahaha oh goodness... We've started a soldiers fund jar in the apartment to buy them all the junk food they want. So funny.
Miracles abound in this work. It's such a blessing to be part of it. Watching the stakes of Zion grow and the lives of individuals being altered forever is the most fulfilling experience you can imagine. It comes at a price, and sometimes it just sucks, but man is it worth it. I love it. Gotta go, till next week :)
Elder T. Hakes
Elder Miller helping sweep out our flooded basement