Family and Friends,
Here are the pictures from the baptisms we had last week :) we had a combined baptism with other sectors and it was a very sweet experience with a ton of members there supporting them, a musical number, cookies, and the Spirit was felt strongly there. From our sector, Marelene Barboto, Daniela Lema, and Khevyn Lema were baptized. Marlene is a single mother of 2 little rascals with one on the way. She has been through a lot of tough times and is still having lots of trials but now with the gospel in her life she is much happier and has greater stength to overcome all the obstacles that life is giving her. She was a referral from the ward and the sisters here are really supporive and hepling her spiritually and physically as well. She reads the Book of Mormon everyday and has a sweet and sure testimony :) She looked very happy the day of her baptism.
The way we got to know and teach Daniela and Khevyn is pretty funny and a great example of the importance of being bold and fearless in missionary work. Their mom Diana was baptized 20 years ago but had been inactive for years and they had never gone to church before. The dad Jorge is not a member and wasn't a big fan of the missionaries and doesn't like religion. For several months before Elder Muñoz and his other companion and many other missionaries before them had tried to teach this family with no success. The missionaries had heard that they were a part member family so they tried several times to teach them and did everything they could to get them to let them in and share something but all they got was no, no, and no. Elder Muñoz told me that one time it was so bad that the dad yelled at them and slammed the door in their face. So my first weeks here in this sector anytime we walked past their house Elder Muñoz would tell me about them and jokingly say if you're brave enough you can try it again. I would just laugh and say that I'm sure they're already tired of missionaries visiting them and didn't think much of it. Several weeks later we were on a split with two members and as a member and I were walking past their street I felt the subtle impression that we should go there and invite them to church. It was 9:30 in the morning (church starts at 10:00) and we had recently went to several investigators' houses to go to church with them but had no success.... I figured we had nothing to lose and it was worth a shot. We went to the house and knocked on the door. They didn't answer and I just heard a girl's voice shouting"Who is it?!" I put on a big smile and friendly replied "Its your friends the missionaries :) we want to invite you to come to church with us?"
She coldy replied "No we're not interested thank you." The majority of missionaries in this case will say "ok thanks have a good day" and leave. But you've got to think outside the box sometimes and go the extra mile. Without hesitation I happily replied "Okay don't worry its all good but we can still be friends :) whats your name?" She responded and I then told her who I was and where I was from, I introduced her to the member who was with me, asked her what she liked to do, what her favorite color was, used some self-deprecating humor about being a gringo who doesn't know how to speak Spanish, made her laugh, showed her that we're normal people, and gained her confidence (all with the door still closed and not being able to see her face and having to speak loudly). You gotta do what you gotta do sometimes but it worked because she then agreed to let us visit her the next day at 6:00 pm ... then she remembered that her favorite tv show is at 6 so she changed it to 7:00 pm and we happily agreed and went on our way.
The next day we got their at 7:00 pm sharp and knocked on the door... nobody answered... knocked again... heard noised from inside the house but still no answer. I looked through the side window and could see her sitting behind the couch trying to hide... I grinned and excitedly said "Hey Daniela I didn't know we were gonna play hide n seek before sharing a lesson you should've told me! I love that game! Come on out so we can play some more!" She laughed but then hurried up the stairs so that we couldn't see her. Once again the majority of missionaries in this case would´ve hung their heads and grudgingly walked away a little discouraged. But in this moment I felt inspired to not give up and really felt that this family needed what we had to share and we just had to get them to open the door and hear our message and that then they would progress and love it. So I stepped back a bit and said "Daniela we know you're up there :) hey we want to know how was your tv show that you just watched? What happened? Did he finally marry the girl? What else happened we wanna know, etc etc" After a while her brother opened the door and then we gained his confidence and he helped us convince Daniela to come down and chat with us too. At this point she finally agreed and went to the door. They both listened to us but only with the door ajar and without letting us in the house. But we taught them and helped them feel the Spirit and they accepted that we visit them the next day too. Little by little they opened up to us and they progressed in the gospel. We became great friends :). They let us in the house, they listened and participated intently in the lessons, they read the Book of Mormon, they accepted a baptismal date, they went to activites, they made lots of friends in church, they went to church, and they were baptized and confirmed members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints :) but the story doesn't stop there that's just the beginning. Now they are doing great and thriving in the gospel. Daniela reads up to 10 chapters a day in the Book of Mormon and remembers its all and really enjoys its. Khevyn is a spiritual machine that loves reading the Book of Momon, goes to seminary everyday at 5:30 am and gets there early (a feat that I admire haha), recently had an interview with the Bishop to receive the Priesthood, and he's way excited to be a missionary soon :) it is truly a joy to see their progress and its great to see their mom Diana happy in the church again and loving being there with her kids. Now the challenge is their dad. He's kind of tough but we're working with him and we have the faith that as he sees the changes in his family he will open up even more :)
IMPORTANT side note, the experience that I recently shared in being so persistent with them was a unique experience that happened because I felt prompted by the Spirit to do it and that doesn't mean that you should do this as a missionary in every contact, no no no one of the keys of being a missionary is being able to discern because many times this is just going to irritate or offend the people and they aren't going to progress anyway. A good missionary has to be able to recognize when its appropriate to be more persistent and when its time to focus your efforts on other people. That's why the Spirit is the most important part of this work. This is not an example of what to do in every case. But this story does illustrate an important point of missioanry work that it is crucial in many cases to be bold and fearless. Doing so will bing great blessings to your own life and the lives of many others :)
Well thats about all I've got time for :) there's much more to tell but you'll just have to wait until next week! I love you all very much and hope that you are learning and improving everyday. Spend time as families and enjoy those moments together. Dinner time is a very imporant moment don't let it go to waste eating separted or just watching tv. Sit down and chat together and it will help :)