Monday, September 23, 2013

My joy is Full, yea my heart is brim with joy (July 29)

Dear family,

Really what a week! Sooooo muchhhhh happens in just 7 days. I don't know how it is even possible! So I guess I'll just pick it up with where I left off last week. So after all of the craziness of pday we had an exciting night planned with lessons and also home evening. We were super excited! Our first lesson was scheduled with James at 6, then the home evening at 7, and then Jeff at 8. Basically everything went completely opposite of how we planned haha but it was all good. But so for Jeffs lesson we were just planning on reading with him from the Book of Mormon. We felt really impressed to read Lehi's dream with him from 1 Nephi 8. Wow the spirit was so strong as we read over the story and Jeff completely related to everything we read. We invited Jeff to be baptized on the 17th of August and he said yes! It was one of the most humble responses I have ever heard. It was just like a sweet little whisper and you could tell how badly he wanted it. Jeff has had lots of issues in the past with addictions, but right now his struggles are coffee and cigarettes. On Wednesday we taught him the word of wisdom. We asked him what his thoughts were of this commandment and if he would be willing to live it. He sat there for a little while and thought about it. He then said something like, "Well if I'm going to be getting baptized I'm going to have to live it. So I will.". I just love having the opportunity to meet these people who are just so humble and willing to follow the teachings of Jesus Christ. I love it! It shows me that I still have a lot of work to do- which really is a good thing because we need to always be learning and progressing. It was so cute because the next day Jeff came in and visited us when we were on shift at the vc. He told us he was just so excited about his baptism and that he wanted to go over the plans for it :) It was pretty slow that night so we just took a minute to go over the service with him and he picked out the people that he wanted to be involved. Oh! I forgot to tell you a kind of funny/precious thing! haha So after we taught the word of wisdom we had plans to go out on visits with our ward missionaries. Well Jeff didn't have anything to do, so he asked if he could come! haha He's already doing missionary work! It's just so amazing to see people progress and I know that this progression comes from living the gospel :)

Ya know timing is just so very interesting too. So at the same time that we are teaching Jeff we are also teaching James- who if you remember has a baptismal date for the 5th of August. James is also super prepared. It is just so interesting to see really how different and unique the needs of each investigator (really each individual) is. We taught James the same lessons and doctrines, but for some reason we were concerned about his progression. We felt that he wasn't making his preparation for baptism his first priority. Satan has been working really hard at trying to distract him. He began forgetting lessons, not reading the scriptures, and when we did have lessons we just felt like the spirit wasn't very strong. It became really difficult and honestly stressful as we worried about whether or not he was really in this for the right reasons. At the end of one of our lessons - we were teaching plan of salvation-Sister Pickett just broke down crying because the spirit just was not there. It was so sad! We felt so helpless because we knew that there really was nothing we could do. People have the gift of agency and we have to allow them to choose. They have to have the desire and that is not something we can force on them. Telling them everything we know and how it is going to bless them does absolutely nothing unless they have a reason to care. It just broke our hearts!!! This might sound funny, but I almost imagine that this must be somewhat similar to the pains parents feel when their children go off the path. There is nothing you can do, because they have to use their agency. BUT, there are somethings you can do. You can remain faithful and not lose hope. I know that faith is a real power and as we exercise it we see miracles. You can also pray for them. We prayed for James with all our hearts. Every prayer we said we kept him in mind and asked if Heavenly Father to bless Him and help him to have a greater desire. You can also fast. I felt strongly impressed that we needed to fast for James on Friday and so we did. We had faith that as we did absolutely everything that we possibly could that Heavenly Father would help James. It was a huge trial of faith as we continued to plan for James lessons and for his upcoming baptism, but we did not lose hope! We knew that he was prepared and that if he really wanted to change he could. I was reading the other day in 3 Nephi 13:19-21,

 19 Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where amothand rust doth corrupt, and thieves break through and steal;
 20 But lay up for yourselves atreasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal.21 For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.
If we have our priorities in line and we are putting God first, then what will our treasure be? What will be the thing that is of most worth to us? That is something I have been studying a lot lately. What is my treasure? I know that if we don't desire the things of God that we can change that. Our hearts can be changed by Jesus Christ as it says in Alma 5:7. I love that scripture! But as I read that I knew that was James answer. His heart just was not in the right place! 
So anyways, we just kept praying that God would step in and touch James' heart- and he did! On Saturday we got a text from James telling us to pray for him and that he was not doing good. We then didn't see him until the next day at church. We went off and talked to him and asked him what was wrong. He then told us everything about how he had been getting nervous about the whole thing and that he takes it very seriously and just wants to make sure he is doing it for the right reasons. He also told us about some very unfortunate drama that had been occurring in his life over the past week or so, but interestingly enough he decided just to cut it out of his life on Friday- fasting works! :) He told us that he wants with all of his heart to still be baptized on the 5th and that he is willing to do whatever it takes. We told him we still have a bit to teach him so we would have to meet more than usual. He was very excited and said he will meet with us every day. We then took some time to plan out his baptism and that gave him some peace of mind as well. It was just so good to finally have the time to have him voice all of his concerns and help to find the peace he was looking for. He told us that this week was really hard for him and he was sorry for all of his bad communication. But in all of the trials he had really turned to praying for strength and to the Book of Mormon as well. He said he knows for a surety that the Book of Mormon is true. So the baptism is back on for the 5th! :D We were worried and concerned, but we still had faith. Looking on the positive side of things it reminds me of  the importance and purpose of opposition in this life and how we would never learn to enjoy the sweet if we didn't experience the bitter. Sometimes we have to go through times of opposition, but as we learn to make righteous choices we will be blessed. We can make it through the trial stronger than before and with a greater understanding and appreciation.  Man what a week! It is such a roller coaster! And I love it :)
In other news.... I SAW IMANI!!!!! let me just paint a scene for you. I'm standing at the back desk facing the north side of the temple. It's in the afternoon. The center is pretty dead. I see someone coming up to the door and realize that I recognize the person... then I realized that I know the person!! My jaw literally dropped and I think Sister Pickett thought I saw a ghost or something. Al I could say was "NO WAYYY!!!". Imani just said hi! hahaha we then ran over to each other, hugged, and cried, and then cried and hugged. It's a good thing there was like nobody there because I was definitely not dignified haha but what a tender mercy that Heavenly Father let me see my best friend! I could have easily been on the morning shift that day, but I wasn't! I took her on a little mini tour of the vc and we talked and got caught up. It just made me sooo happy!!! how did I ever get soo blessed??I felt like Ammon when he said, "my joy is full, yea my heart is brim with joy, and I will rejoice in my God". It was just such a happy experience and it left me feeling soo blessed :) 
This week has really taught me patience and the importance of fully trusting in the Lord. The importance of recognizing that these individuals are his children. He has their best interest in mind and He will help them make it through the necessary trials in life so that they may fulfill their full potential. I love this scripture in Alma 26:27, "Now when our hearts were depressed, and we were about to turn back, behold, the Lord comforted us, and said: Go amongst they brethren the Lamanites and bear with patience thine afflictions and I will give unto you success." That is a promise and I trust that the Lord truly is bound when we do what He says. So family if you learn anything from my experiences this week I hope that it would be to never ever give up! Keep moving forward with faith. Do the things that you know you should be doing and you will not only be blessed, but you will be happy. As James describes it- you will find the fulfillment that everyone is searching for. Peace of mind and hope for a brighter future :) 
I love you all soo much!! Please keep Jeff and James in your prayers as they are making very big changes in their lives. I am just so proud of them! haha But most  importantly I am just so grateful to be a part of this amazing experience and to see Jesus Christ change peoples hearts.
I love you all!!!
Sister Hamstead