December 29, 2014
Nice to see your faces this week! Good thing as well that Bishop offered his iPad for me to use; it was better to have a private setting rather than being in a computer shop, having numberless Filipino students playing Dota whilst screaming a full array of Tagalog/English curse words. My mind kind of blanked at parts of the call as to what I would say. Shock, I guess. I'm glad you're all doing well.
Let's review the week's events in a more detailed manner, shall we?
Monday night we taught about temple and family history work with the DelaCruz family. The Spirit was very strong, especially when we were prompted to share 2 Nephi 12:2-3: "And it shall come to pass in the last days, when the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established in the top of the mountains [(It is interesting to note that the word "Utah", in the Ute language, means "top of the mountains")], and shall be exalted above the hills, and all nations shall flow unto it. And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths; for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem." Now, the mountain of the Lord is once again established upon the earth -- in over 144 locations around the globe -- where we can learn of the ways of heaven, and feel the unexplained peace within the Lord's own house. Temples are built by faith and sacrifice. They are entered in by individuals with immense faith and who have sacrificed much to be able to come. And the covenants therein are kept by great faith and sacrifice to all partakers thereof. We have a great legacy to build upon! How blessed are we to partake of the ordinances of salvation given to us in the latter days!
On Tuesday we had an awesome Christmas devotional. It was all centered on the music of Christmas. President and Sister Rahlf, along with each of the senior couples in turn, shared their favorite Christmas song and the story of how it came to be. They also performed small renditions of their songs. President Rahlf is an RM from Germany, so it's no wonder he sang "Stille Nacht" as his selection. He's actually really good at guitar, and Sister Rahlf is really good at the banjo! Elder Shorter did an amazing Johnny Cache-esque rendition of "What Child is This" which was my favorite. I talked to him afterwards and we geeked out about classic rock for a good while (when a conversation starts with "BTO" you know it is 100% Me Approved). Anyways, the stories to how the Christmas songs came to be were very educational. It turns out the music to the song "O Holy Night" was actually written by a Jew. How about that? The lyrics were written by a French priest when he was pondering what message he would share with his congregation on Christmas eve, and after penning the words, he got his musician friend, a Jew, to write the music for it. An unusual request, but hey, can anyone complain?
Later on that day we performed Christmas skits as Zones. Our skit was an abbreviated version of "A Christmas Carol", with many strange twists. I was highly amused with Elder Monilla's impromptu acting skills as Bob Cratchet, especially when he took a selfie with Tiny Tim before he died. I, on the other hand, was the ghost of "Bob Marley", full of spooky references to my "Buffalo Soldiers", not worrying about a thing, and getting together to feel alright. After the Devotional, Sister Rahlf had me and the Poly's do an a-Capella number to record for her nephew whose been diagnosed with Leukemia. We finished it off by doing the Hakka. Hah, nothing like doing the Hakka with a bunch of New Zealand rugby players. Doesn't get better than that.
On Christmas Eve we went caroling in the STL's area. We made a multitude of people weep, and I was able to see some of my old investigators from Cataggaman! The most touching part was when we sang to the Tong family. Brother Tong had been murdered a few months ago due to his position in the city council, leaving behind his wife and two teenage daughters. When we sang for them, Sister Tong burst into tears, and requested we sang "I Need Thee Every Hour". Later in the day we made a big batch of Filipino-style Spaghetti for Tatay Victor Ramos, at his request. When we came there, we saw that he was alone at the house, with only a small candle lit at his side, reading from the Book of Mormon. I was heart-broken at the sight. Alone at Christmas Eve!? I'm glad we were able to make his Christmas happier with a tupper-ware of home-made missionary spaghetti. After we left his house I said a prayer in my heart that he would not be alone at Christmas Eve. When we came to visit him again yesterday, he said that as soon as we left after dropping the spaghetti off, one of his neighbors came and joined him for the night. Tender mercies!
On Christmas we went tracting a bit and found a new investigator named Josie. She seems very interested. My favorite part of the lesson was at the end when we invited her to pray. At first, like most everyone, she was very hesitant, but she eventually gave in to our requests. As she prayed, you could tell she felt the Spirit. After the prayer, Elder Rebojo asked her how she was feeling. She exclaimed, "I feel like I've learned! Like I was right there talking with Him!" It can indeed be said, to quote C.S. Lewis, "prayer does not change God, prayer changes [us]". Later that day we had a delicious feast at the Stake Patriarchs home. I don't have those pictures copied over yet, I'll get them next week.
The DelaCruz family was baptized on Saturday! When they came out of the water their countenances were absolutely glowing! They all mentioned in their testimonies afterward many things I loved. Deo said, "Truth be told, that water is freaking cold, but after I got out it didn't really matter anymore." He also mentioned he felt as if the hand of an angel were at his side, helping him out of the water. Sister Nida testified how glad she was she had found the fullness of the gospel, and that she was determined to endure to the end. Julia started bawling when she said how a few months ago she didn't really want to be baptized into the church, but then when she heard her cousin, a member, relate to her the feelings she had when she entered the temple, and how it felt as if she had entered heaven, Julia felt powerfully the Spirit of the Lord that the church was true, and that she wanted to partake of these blessings as well. What a beautiful family, and how blessed I am to have known them; for them to be a part of my life is something I cannot repay to my Father in Heaven. All I can do is to press forward, bringing more souls unto Him, and further His divine work.
This is all I have time to write this week, so I'll end it now. I know this is the true church, and I've never felt the Spirit of Christmas more strongly than I have this week, in His glorious service. My favorite Christmas, by far. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.