This past week has been very busy but very exciting.
One of the coolest things is that we have a miracle baptism coming up this Saturday. There is a 70 year old lady who has been coming to church for a while. She had records in the ward list so we thought she was a recent convert. A member asked us over dinner if she was making any progress and if she was going to get baptized and that surprised us. We went to work researching to find out if she was a member. We found out that the record we had was for a 46 year old family member that has a similar name but isn't her. She really wants to get baptized and is getting baptized in 2 days! We're really excited for that and very grateful for the miracle of witnesses this baptism.
I'll tell some stories in a kind of jumbled order because it's been almost 2 weeks since the last time I reported:
One day I was on exchanges with a new missionary and all our plans feel through so we decided to go tracting (we never have to tract in Spanish work so I wasn't excited about that). The third house we knocked on turned out to be a less active family that had moved away about a year ago and never updated the ward on where they lived. They have been inactive about 5 years. They started falling away from the church because the husband was working a lot of evenings/weekends as a CNA and then they ended up turning to some sort of "spiritualism" instead of going to church. It was really sad to be in their home because they didn't seem happy at all and they turned away from the happiness they once knew. I asked a lot of questions to try to understand why they did what they did and what their beliefs were. What I concluded is that they believe in God but not in any religion, nor prophets, nor scriptures. They pretty much took the Gospel and got rid of all structure. They believe in God but they turn to meditation to be happy and are just lost. I asked them a lot about what they believe about the purpose of life, what happens after this life, etc. They told me they believe everyone is going back to heaven no matter what they do, no matter how bad the people are. When I asked them what they believe the point of life was, they didn't know. The best answer they could give me is that we were all here to learning something, gain some sort of knowledge, but they didn't know what. When I asked them why we had to come here to learn these lessons and why couldn't we just stay with God and learn there they had no idea. It was really sad for me to see how they had known the truth and been happy but had fallen away from it because they were never truly converted to the gospel and they ended up falling away.
A week ago I got to go back to Elk Grove for the baptism of Racquelle! I was really excited to hear that she was getting baptized. I had to miss the wedding the week before but she got baptized the week after and I was really pleased to be able to go back and see that. I got to see a lot of members and investigators again and that was awesome.
We did a little bit of marriage counseling last week. There is a family that we're teaching that wants to be baptized, but the parents had been having problems for a while. They've been married 14 years and they have 5 kids but the wife wants to get divorced and move back with her family in Fresno. It was really sad to hear and we tried to help them as best we could. The problems had stopped a while ago between the two of them (not coincidentally the same time they met the missionaries back in May), however the wife couldn't forgive him and get over what had happened in the past. We talked a lot about repentance and the atonement but nothing seemed to make a difference. The most frustrating thing is that she had made up her mind that she was going to leave and had given up on the marriage already. We pleaded with her to ask her Heavenly Father through prayer if that was the best decision for her to make but she wouldn't accept His help even though we brought it up probably about 20 times in a half hour. We'll see how that situation turns out in the coming weeks.
Elder Martinez and I probably taught the best lesson of my entire mission last Friday. There is a family in the ward who has their 19 year old nephew living with them to study English for 2 months in the adult school here. He has come to church every week since he's been here so we decided to teach him. He asked if Catholicism or Christianity was older, so we taught him about The Restoration. I don't know where the words we said came from but my companion and I taught the best lesson I have ever witnessed. We answered all his questions well enough to evoke the response every time "wow, I really like what you just said". The Spirit definitely worked through us to testify of the truthfulness of the message. At the end of the lesson he told us how when he was young he was looking for the truth but never found it in any of the churches he went to so turned inward to find peace. He still has that same desire but feels like religions just take advantage of you. We told him that if he asked God if the message that we shared was true, he would receive an answer from God that no man could give him, neither take from him. He really liked that because no one had ever suggested that he ask God what's true. He told us that if he believed that any church was true it would be the Mormon church, and that if he were to ever join with any church it would be ours. We could tell the Spirit helped us out a lot because he asked us if we go to school for a couple years to study to be a missionary first and was really surprised that we get all our training in just a couple of weeks. We're going to challenge him to be baptized December 8th and we're really excited for that.
This past week we have worked a lot in a little city named Thornton. We found a family that has been prepared and really loves everything that we say. They had been taught 4 years ago when the lived in Galt and 15 years ago when they lived in Stockton but had lost contact with the church when they moved out to the fields where this little city is. We've taught them twice and we'll see what happens in the coming weeks.
This past week during dinner we listened to 2 sets of parents talk about parenting and things like that. One of the things they mentioned is that if a child ever is "rebellious" or a wayward child it's because their parents didn't give them enough attention. I was thinking about my own history and my parents and I was thinking about how that wasn't true and I realized how grateful I was for my parents and everything they've done for me, and especially for never giving up on me even when I was really difficult and wasn't making the right choices.
Today we drove 2 hours into the mountains and went to a national park in Arnold, CA called Big Trees. It was a lot of fun, lots of massive trees that had fallen over and been turned into a lot of different things. I'll send a picture or 2 home today in an email but you'll have to wait for the rest of them.
Happy Thanksgiving to everyone! I'm very thankful for my friends and family for the great influences they've been upon me in my life and for all the many blessings I have.