Second, I just want to say thank you all for taking the time to read my letters. I know I probably sound like a broken record, but it means a ton, and I really appreciate all the support I'm getting from back home.
So, I want to start off with a cool experience I had this week. Basically, we were planning a temple trip for some of our new converts and it happened this Saturday. Going to the temple is always special, but I can't say that I've ever felt excitement while I've been inside. It's always been a place of peace and comfort, but excitement isn't something that I'd pin down that the temple helps me with. This time was different though.
Basically we showed up and none of the temple workers knew Chinese. I guess we should have seen it coming, but they asked some of us elders to help translate at certain times throughout the temple.
As missionaries, we can't actually participate in temple baptisms, so Elder Mak and I were just there to support the people we were bringing. Their names are Frank and Paul, and they're both awesome. You already know Frank, and Paul is another one of our recent baptisees.
Now, I bet you're all expecting me to say that the coolest part was seeing them go into the water, but it wasn't. That part was awesome, but the part I remember most distinctly was right before it. I was sitting next to Frank, and he had his stack of cards of all the people that had died without receiving the ordinance of baptism. I explained how the card was laid out, where there name was, etc., but the coolest part was that when I pointed out the date of death, he got excited. The date on the first one was 1978, and he said something along the lines of "Wow, that's quite a while." Then he flipped it over, and it was something like 1927. He was a bit more surprised this time. He flipped to the next, and it was something like 1888. He started going faster through these names, and I could tell he was amazed at how long these people had been waiting.
Finally we got to the last one, and the year on the card was 1538. We stopped on that one, and I just remember having one of the most spiritual 5 seconds of silence of my life as we looked at this card together. He turned to me, as if to question the date, and I just said "He's waited a long time."
Frank turned to look at the nearby baptismal font, and I could feel more of a sense of purpose coming from him. I don't really know what he was thinking, and I know that this experience probably seemed pretty minor to anyone watching, but I swear I could feel that guy from 1538 just thanking Frank over and over again. It was an amazing experience, and I just want to testify that the names on those blue and pink cards are real people.
Other cool experience: We were meeting with a less active this week, and we brought along a member. I had actually never really talked to her before, but she was more than willing to come. The lesson was on Sabbath Day observance, and our intent was to help this member come to church, but somehow we got on the subject of children. Usually, this is a bad sign, because if the missionaries lose control of the lesson then the members start chatting, and 15 minutes is gone. Usually we try and pull it back, but we let it go. I don't know if it was just laziness or feeling the spirit, but the bottom line is I let it go. It started out with the two members casually talking about their families, and I'll be honest when I say I wasn't trying to listen to the Chinese as well as I should have, but all of a sudden the woman that we'd brought just started to cry mid-sentence. I perked up immediately and listened as she bore one of the most beautiful testimonies I have ever heard, Chinese or English. She is an arthritic 50 year old, and on paper, she was never supposed to be able to have kids, but she talked about how much the Lord had blessed her life in giving her two boys. I don't really know how to describe what I felt, but when you looked at her, you could just see the love in her eyes. It was a tangible presence, and the coolest part? The member came to church yesterday! The gospel is so true!
Two experiences that could, in other circumstances be pretty minor, but this week they both meant the world to me.
The other most significant part of this week was probably that we had zone council, which is always amazing. I have a new-found love for President and Sister Clayton, and just want to testify that they are absolutely called of God. It was really cool, and we focused a lot on the Atonement, which is always a jolly good time.
Also, I get a lot of emails asking what missionary life is like, so I thought maybe I'd share our schedule.
6:30 - Get out of bed, pray
6:32 - Realize that you zoned out after saying "Dear Heavenly Father, we thank thee...." Start again.
6:39 - Finish stumbling through a prayer that is almost completely sincere, with only a few fleeting thoughts of more sleep or how many toaster waffles I'm going to put down today.
6:40 - Get up, go to the bathroom.
6:41 - Emerge, companion is still praying. Shrug, go eat toaster waffles
6:50 - Several pounds of waffles have been consumed. Companion is still praying. Begin exercising. Turn on your workout music, which for a missionary basically means EFY songs or Nashville Tribute band. Pretty hardcore, I know.
7:30 - Jump in shower. Companion is still praying. Practice singing the soprano part of "Nearer my God to Thee"
7:40 - Emerge. Companion is still praying. Start getting ready for the day.
7:55 - Companion gets up from praying.
7:59 - Still tying tie when companion emerges from the bedroom, showered, cleaned, and completely ready for the day. Wonder about 2 Peter 3:8 (Read it. You'll laugh)
8:00 - Start personal study prayer.
8:02 - Start personal study.
9:00 - Companionship study
10:00 - Language study
11:00 - Training. This is basically just for missionaries who haven't been out for 12 weeks yet
12:00 - Go proselyting. Baptize nations
5:00 - Dinner (usually)
9:00 - Return to parking garage. Go inside. Realize you left the apartment key in the car.
9:01 - Realize you can't get back in the parking garage without the apartment key. True story.
9:02 - Begin waiting for someone else to come through the door.
9:07 - Someone comes, lets you through
9:08 - Return to apartment with key surgically attached to your hand to prevent further mistakes.
9:09 - Begin 9:00 planning session. Call Chinese people. Sometime I even understand what they say back. Plan the day. Eat more toaster waffles from the bulk package.
10:30 - Prayer, and bed
10:31 - Member that you've been trying to get a hold of for weeks calls. Can't answer, or else the mission president will chastise you.
11:15 - Realize you're still on your knees, but now asleep, and you never ended the prayer. Say "In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen" and go to bed.
Family, I love you, but I'm afraid I don't have time for the individual responses today. I'll make them 5 times as long next time :( Sorry, but I love you all!