Family and Friends,
I've been humming that lovely primary song all weekend. This Saturday April 19th, 2014, the Cortes family was sealed together for all time and eternity. For those of you who aren't members of the church, one of the most precious truths we treasure as members of the church is that when a couple is married in the temple by someone who holds the authority of God, that couple will be sealed together with their future children as a family not just "til death do you part" but for all time and even after death they will be together as an eternal family. After a year of being baptized and learning and growing in the church you have the opportunity to go to the temple and be sealed as husband and wife and if you already have children to be sealed to them as well and thus sealed to all future children that you may have as a forever family :)
Jonathon was baptized on December 22, 2012 and he baptized Maria Fernanda on February 16, 2013 [Elder Remington mentioned her baptism and was sent a picture in previous post entitled "Exciting News! :)"] and ever since then my old companion and great friend Elder Ayala (He's not an Elder anymore but thats how I remember him and he's still Elder Ayala to me ahha) and I have been following up on them through letters, occasional visits with President's permission as an AP, and facebook on Elder Ayala's part. As with all new converts, they had some trials but with our help, the help of some wonderful members in that ward, the strong testimony and consistent example of Jonathon (he really is a rock, he finished the Book of Mormon in 6 months, magnifies his calling as young men's counselor, goes to church always, shares the gospel, and has been constant in work to achieve his goal of going to the temple), and above all the divine help of the Lord :) they made it to the temple :) wooooohoooo!!! Honestly words can't fully describe how happy I am :) this is a dream come true that I've been praying and working for over a year and it finally happened! Even if all other people in Ecuador rejected me and I didn't baptize a single other person in my two years here....it would've been worth it to find Jonathon and Maria Fernanda, teach them, baptize them, confirm them, and see them endowed and sealed as a forever family :)
I had the privilege of being Jonathon's escort in the temple and Elder Ayala and I were the witnesses of their sealing. The temple worker explained to us that the two witnesses aren't just there in that moment but that their signature will forever be on the certificate of marriage and that they commit themselves to be guardian angels and look out for the family that sealed and always be an important part of their lives :) we both smiled and said that we had already been doing that and already had planned to continue to do so and that now with even greater dedication and with even more motivation and duty we would do so :) I'll always be there for this wonderful family and I'm so grateful that the Lord trusted us enough to put them in our path and help them.
Jonathon's two children Domenica and Santiago (James in English) are normally very rambunctious and noisy and frankly I was nervous that when they entered the sealing room that they would be loud and distract from the Spirit. But when they entered the sealing room all dressed in white like little angels with big smiles and a glow in their eyes... the Spirit filled the room so strong that I couldn't stop smiling from ear to ear the entire time :) I looked at Elder Ayala and we smiled and didn't say a word... words can't describe what we were both feeling. The two children happily, quietly, and reverently took their place around the altar with their parents and when the sealing was finished the four of them all gave each other big hugs and kisses and everyone in the room was smiling and a sweet heavenly exquisite peace filled the room. The temple worker said that this was a taste of heaven for all of us.... this was one of the best and tenderest moments of my life and utterly unforgettable. As the saying goes, missionaries leave their families for two years so that others can be with their family for eternity.
Elder Ayala and I were reminiscing and remembering the good times when we did companionship studies and practices dedicated to Jonathon and helping him finally accept a baptismal date :) and how much we had to work with Maria Fernanda before she finally opened up and went to church with us :) it was awesome seeing Elder Ayala and being with him again and he and the Cortes family will be lifelong friends :) it was also wonderful seeing many of the members from Albonor again and remembering the good ole days haha they will be lifelong friends as well :) After the sealing, the Cortes family invited us all over for lunch and we had a great time together at their house and I had a flashback remembering when we first contacted their house over a year ago and how much one contact has changed our lives forever (Alma 37:6-7).
After the lunch we were able to go to the terminal and return to Quevedo just in time for the Stake Conference that night and good thing too because I had to give the first talk! (By the way, we had President's permission to attend just in case you're wondering hahah President has always said that we need to focus on families thus the motivation is that all missionaries who baptize families will get to go to their sealings :) yay! Thanks President!) I love public speaking. My talk was on the Work of Salvation and how we can work even better together as members and missionaries :) based on Elder Ballard's last two conference talks especially "Put Your Trust in the Lord" that I definitely recommend reading and applying. We made a little PowerPoint sideshow of some of the baptisms we had in the stake the past few months through members giving referrals and it was great it really invited the Spirit in the room and motivated the members. One of the last pictures was of Carlos and Cristina's baptism and I had his brother Ricardo Romero share his testimony at the end of the joy he felt while sharing the gospel with his brother and the happiness he felt as he baptized his own brother and saw him baptize his wife a month later :) I know a good opportunity to invite the Spirit when I see one :) it was awesome he did a great job! There were 3 key points that as members we need to do
- Pray asking specifically for missionary opportunities and be looking for those opportunities.
- Share the gospel in a normal and constant way (first presidency message by President Uchtdorf that is great on that; "A Firmly Set Anchor")
- Give a quality referral to the missionaries at least once every three months (quality means that you help teach them and support them look up PMG quote by President Hinckley [Found in Chapter 13]).
I love you all very much and hope you are enjoying life :) remember thats why we're here (2 Nephi 2:25)