January 13, 2014
This week has been a busy one, to put it lightly. The big note to emphasize is that Elder B and I were able to see our investigator become baptized and confirmed on Saturday and Sunday. The events leading up to this have been interesting and will be depicted throughout this email. There have been a lot of moments that kept me guessing as to whether or not D would there on Saturday. But he ultimately made it, and this has been a positive experience.
In order to make sure he was ready for baptism, we had to teach a lot of material this week, and ended up meeting with him four days in a row. We made it through teaching about the law of chastity, Word of Wisdom, tithing and prophets, and he had accepted everything without much argument. The worst is that he did not want to give up drinking coffee, but he said that he would. With things looking good, we called the branch president and started the ball rolling for him to be baptized.
On our lesson where we reviewed the baptismal questions, we asked a member to join us so that we could be more confident in our understanding the language. We went through the questions one by one. D would answer, the member would listen and together we would agree if his understanding was correct. The first five questions went by like a breeze and both us as missionaries and our member present were feeling great about the situation.
Then we came to the sixth question, and that is where we found the hidden grenade. Part of it says that we take upon ourselves the name of Christ. He interpreted this as that our first names become Jesus. And the fact that missionaries do not show their first names made this even more difficult to correct. Fortunately, we were able to correct that, but decided to dig a little bit further in order to know his understanding of the church. As we continued to talk, our member present summed up what all three of us were feeling with a simple phrase, “Oh crap!” These were the highlights of what he thought.
First, D understood that when we come out of the water, we have resurrected and perfect bodies. This explains why he kept asking my companion and me if we had been baptized, then thoroughly examining our hands and arms when he would shake at the end of lessons. Second, he did not know if Jesus is a man or woman, and thought that when we are baptized, that we are marrying him. Third, he thought that it was not allowed for crippled people to be baptized. Finally, we learned that he also plays the piano for another church where they dance around and cast out evil spirits. D had received in invitation to join the clergy at this church. We tried to resolve some of those right there, but it was a little too difficult, so we ended the lesson and scheduled one for the next day with the branch president.
The next lesson gave some light as to why D thought the way he did. He had picked up a Gospel Principles book and as he was reading through it, misinterpreted a couple of paragraphs which led to his reasoning. We talked with President G and he was able to make any corrections as needed. By the end of the lesson, I asked President G if he thought that D was ready for baptism, and he told me yes. From this point I made the rest of the preparations needed, and had everything set up for Saturday.
Between the last lesson and the baptism, Elder B and I had an opportunity to go do service out in a village. There is this ex-military American maintaining a farm in the outskirts. He has lived one of the most interesting lives of which I have ever heard.
What I have learned from the stories he has come very close to death on too many occasions. After the military he moved to Scotland and opened up a Cinnabon franchise, where he made his money with other construction work. He met a Ukrainian woman whom he married and together they have been developing their farm for the last four years. I want to write about him in another email home at some point.
We asked if we could come out to his house on Thursday in order to do some service for his neighbors. There is this very old couple living less than one hundred yards from his residence, so we went to their house to cut kindling. The whole time he would tell us about his days in the military, which are some of the most gripping stories. At one point, the old man living in the house came out to talk and show us where some other wood needed to be cut. He is in his nineties, and over the years, has developed a hump that goes above his head. After service for his neighbor, he invited us to his house where they served up a very American meal. Mashed potatoes, turkey and candied yams. It was a great day to say the least.
The baptism on Saturday ended up being a nice experience. A good amount of members were able to show up. At the end of the service, D was asked by President G to stand up and give his testimony. I immediately went still, because I imagined him begin talking about how he has a new wife Jesus Christ, and ultimately destroy the relationship built between the missionaries and the members of the branch. But it ended up being a very legitimate testimony which had many of the members nodding their head and coming close to tears. It was a relief for me, to say the least.
On Sunday we had our mission president visiting the branch, so a confirmation would be a good way to show that the missionaries here are doing good work. But when the meeting started, D had still not shown. At this point my face was in my hands and I was trying to think of how I could remedy the situation, but five minutes after the opening hymn, he made it and President G quickly organized a circle to confirm him. Many of the members came up afterward to offer congratulations and this whole experience ended up being a positive one. It has helped me grow a lot.
That sums up this week rather well. I now have no investigators, so these next seven days are going to largely spent looking for new people. Both on the streets and through the members. Should be a good time.