Dear family and friends,
I love it here! I can't say it enough. Really, one of my favorite things is all of the learning experiences and chances to meet and (try to) help so many people. It doesn't matter to me if a day or a week is disappointing, I still love it. It is from opposition that we stretch and grow. To be honest, this week was in some ways disappointing. From through , no matter how hard we tried, every single one of our appointments and backups fell through. There was almost no one on the streets. As a result, we pretty much walked from place to place on lonely streets, and were hardly able to see any tangible results. Such a situation could have been extremely discouraging, but it wasn't too bad for me. Things happen! I was buoyed up by the spirit of the work and by an incredible experience just days earlier, .
Elder Wunderlich and I had been teaching a wonderful investigator named Kenia. She has been keeping all her commitments, and once even told us that she would never have opened the Book of Mormon had she not believed us. We prayerfully decided that it was the right time to give her a church tour, and set plans with her to have one last week.
Alas, it was not to be. Her job got unexpectedly demanding, and she was expected to work afternoon and night shifts Mon-Fri, and all day on Sundays. We were crushed. We did take the time to visit her once after our personal and companion studies, but we didn't know how we could continue with such a seemingly insurmountable obstacle in view. We both prayed and prayed for some sort of miracle, and hoped with all our hearts that a way would open for us to continue to teach her and help her progress.
As we were walking by her house evening, we were surprised to see her sitting on her porch! It was exactly during the time that she was required to work. Curious, and wanting to know what was going on, we stopped and talked for some time. As it turns out, her job was downsizing, and she had been laid off just the day before. Both my companion and I were shocked. I don't think either of us knew what to think. It was a terrible time for her, and yet also exactly the kind of miracle we had been praying for. We offered to do what we could to help, and set up an appointment for a church tour .
When the time came for the church tour, we began setting up early to be as prepared as possible for the church tour. We were caught off guard, however, when she arrived a half-hour early for the appointment! We began trying to teach about the Gospel of Jesus Christ and introduce the building in an attempt to stall for the member to arrive. We felt completely unprepared and very unsure. After a brief tour, we decided to show Kenia the chapel. As we entered the chapel, we began talking about the sacrament and its significance. At that moment, the wonderful member arrived just in time to testify of the sacrament. We were still on our toes, but we were thankfully going a little more according to the plan now.
We then decided to show her the baptismal font, where we would talk about baptism, why it needs to be done with the authority, how it's done, what a service is like, and many other things. Our plan was to follow that up with an invitation to baptism. However, shortly after we talked about Christ being baptized by John the Baptist, our plan was turned on its head. As I opened my mouth to talk about the importance of authority, I couldn't speak. I knew it wasn't the right thing to say. I tried a couple of times, all unsuccessful, to talk about priesthood authority. I then felt slapped around by the spirit a bit. I knew for a certainty in that moment what to do, for it was as if a voice whispered to me "Just invite her already."
So I did. I opened my mouth, which had been dumb before, and broke through my stupor of thought by speaking what I really knew all along I had to say. In that moment, her eyes lit up, and as I spoke the invitation, she kept nodding. After a brief pause to ask why she would need to be baptized again (followed by a brief explanation of priesthood authority), she answered without hesitation. It was a quiet, yet determined, yes. The spirit was like a tidal wave filling the room as we testified with the member of the great blessings attending baptism. She felt it; I know she did. I could see it in her eyes.
Also of note is the fact that several members have since forwarded her several very promising job opportunities, which she is looking into.
While my experience is admittedly lacking, was the first time on my mission that anyone has agreed to be baptized. I know full well that many of the greatest challenges lie ahead, but I also know that with the help of the Holy Ghost, she can be ready.
While the rest of the week has been somewhat hard, my testimony has grown because of my experiences with Kenia. It is very apparent that the Lord is very, very aware of her. I know that he is, and he cares for her a great deal. I continue to hope that with the help of the spirit, a precious daughter of God will be brought back into His fold.
Well, that was a lengthy telling of a single story. I've got one more, and it's a little funnier.
So, we've got a guy living in our apartments who is a bit, well, touched. I've heard him randomly yelling German at the sky before, and we've had a couple more interesting encounters as well. Last night, he looked at us four missionaries as we were returning, and said something rather odd. We didn't even respond, we were so surprised. I'll do my best to paraphrase accurately: "Hey! You guys! When are you going to admit to being CIA? I know you're CIA! I've got satellites; just look up and say 'Hi, we're CIA!' Just do it, so they can see your faces!"
So anyway, we were leaving the apartment this morning, and we ran into him again. Before my companion and I got there, he told the other Elders that he knew they were CIA, that he had recently become owner of the apartment complex, and that he wanted us all to vacate as soon as possible. As I began helping Elder Call to back out of the parking space, he began hailing Elder Brassanini. In an attempt to settle the issue, the poor harried Elder tried to use a futile call to reason. In response, the man simply said: "Do you know how I pegged you as CIA?" He then gestured to me, causing me to think along the lines of "Uh-oh". He then went on to say it's because we back each other out of parking spaces. "I know it makes sense, and it's just smart; that's why the CIA does it!" Elder Brassanini responded as such: "Would it help if I told you we're really not CIA, and that's just Church policy? We belong to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints." The guy just said "Yep. Uh-huh. Sure." We then left.
So, it's been a somewhat interesting week. Awesome experiences... and weird experiences. Just about normal out here.
I love you all a ton! My love for you is not in any way the square root of negative one. I love Wenatchee, too.
Finally, I'll end with a little saying shared by a fellow missionary in the MTC, which I constantly strive to follow: "Be the Lord's tool, not a tool." Have fun, stay strong, and keep on being awesome. Also, thanks for sending me a lot of cookies. I'm going to enjoy them... with other missionaries, of course. Our apartment will try to save some for the sisters in our district.
BONUS: A Tour of our Apartment
I'm not gonna lie: our apartment isn't that bad at all. The one thing, though, is that some earlier Elders (I promise not me), umm, accidentally punched quite a few holes in the wall. I think they body-slammed the wall a few times while wrestling or something. That's the only thing that could possibly do that kind of thing, I think.
This is the living room again, but looking into the kitchen this time:
Okay, now for the virtual tour!
Here is the living room, eating, and sleeping quarters. My bed is the top bunk, but is not in the picture. It's off to the right, at a right angle with the bed in the picture (for the other companionship):
This is the kitchen. There is a second microwave, an oven, and a stove not in the picture.
This is the main hallway going off of the living room:
This is... the bathroom!
This is the study room of the other companionships (complete with Elder Brassanini):
And this is our study room (complete with Elder Wunderlich). My desk is on the right:
[Editor: Elder Wunderlich's mom sent us a couple of pictures of Ben & Elder Wunderlich helping some people move last Friday.]