Even though I sounded like an 80 year old smoker for the majority of this week, we had an abundance of lessons and so many opportunities to serve. Lots of fun things happened, but to start I want to focus on one specific miracle.
Her name is Sarah and she was a media referral. Usually you're supposed to contact those kinds of referrals within 24 hours, but some things went terribly wrong. The other Sisters were given her information, but her address didn't exist. The number given was no longer in service and after days of trying to get a hold of her, they gave up. One day Sister da Silva was looking at the map of the ward, just glancing at street names in our area. All of a sudden, she found a street name that resembled the one that was included in Sarah's referral. She called us over and we decided we'd go check it out.
The next day Sister Cozzens and I head over to her street. We look for her house number and we finally find it at the end of the road. We hadn't met many kind people that day, so I was wary and kind of expecting a struggle. I had never done a door approach before, so that on top of having no voice, I'm stressing. I knock on the door and we hear a voice, "Who is it?" "It's the Sister Missionaries!" ...And my voice cracks so many times I'm sure I sound more like a 14 year old boy.
Sarah immediately invited us in. She had been waiting for missionaries her entire life, just waiting for an opportunity to learn more. When she was little, she grew up in a neighborhood full of Mormons who would bring dinner by her home whenever her mother was ill, would sew dresses for her family's weddings, would invite them to church and would show Christ-like charity. She always felt that the Mormons had something that her Catholic family didn't, and since her childhood, she had a desire to be baptized in our church. She gave us a brief summary of her life story, and she has been through so much. Her heart has been broken, her faith has been tried, her life has been tougher than most, and she has never stopped praying. She never stopped believing that God loved her and had a plan for her. She is one of the strongest women I've ever met.
Our first visit we stayed much longer than we really should've. The time flew by as we all shared stories and experiences and lent comfort to a broken soul. Before we could ask her if we could make an appointment to see her again, she asked us what our first names were. She promised she'd call us Sisters, but she just wanted to feel like we were close friends. We told her, and then she immediately asked, "So, Sisters, when can you come back and teach me the lessons?" We set up a time and as we drove home, Sister Cozzens and I were utterly speechless. I felt like crying out of sheer joy! After decades of waiting, Sarah was finally learning the gospel! Our prayers that night were so grateful. Heavenly Father had prepared her for us.
Our next visit with Sarah was interesting. We were on exchanges so Sister da Silva was with me, and we also brought along Brenna, a girl in the ward who is leaving on her mission this week to Juarez! We knock on her door and she invites us in. We all talk together like life-long friends and the Spirit was growing in the room. A few minutes later, another member knocks on the door, and they instantly connect! We have her whole house filled with people who love and care for her and it was clear from her smile that she felt loved. We started teaching the Restoration, and she was hanging on to every word. She had a lot of basic knowledge from the times she attended church as a child, so it was all basically a review for her. At one point we began talking about baptism and sealings and she asked how long she had to wait to get baptized. The poor thing thought she had to wait a few years! I asked her, "Sarah? Will you follow the example of Jesus Christ and be baptized by someone holding the priesthood authority of God?" "Of course! Yes!" We both were beaming and then I said, "How does the 18th of October sound?" The Spirit filled the room like nothing I've ever felt. Tears welled in her eyes and she whispered, "Yes! Yes!" We jumped up and hugged and cried on each others' shoulders. The other women in the room were weeping with us and the Spirit testified to all of us that this was good. This was right. This was what our Father in Heaven wanted so desperately to happen; for His daughter to find and accept the truth. The rest of the lesson we answered a few of her questions, but she really had very few. Most of the time her eyes would widen and say, "Oh! I understand why this happened in my life! This makes sense!" Everything was falling into place and she expressed to us that she was overwhelmed with this sense of peace. She knew it was the Spirit. Before we left we invited her to attend the Women's Broadcast. We found her a friend to give her a ride, and she was just so excited.
We had her sit with her fellowship during the Broadcast, but we met up with her afterwards. She was blown away and loved every moment of it and had met so many new people! She loved the Sisters around her and she felt so welcome and to her it was confirmation that this was the right path for her. And then she told me something that I don't think I'll ever forget. She said that a few days before we came to her door, she decided she needed to burn some sage in her home. It wards off evil and offers protection and healing, and she felt like she needed a little extra comfort. She had no idea where to find sage, or how to burn it. But the day the Sister Missionaries came to her door, she felt comfort and protection and love and everything. All of the bad feelings and things in her home were slowly going away. She told me, "You're my Sage. You're bringing the Spirit into my home and bringing me to God. You are what I've been praying for for so long." There's a story an Elder told several years ago at his farewell. Before he received his mission call, he had a dream where he and his friend were waiting to come to Earth, waiting to get their "call to serve." He was given a paper that said he would be blessed with the gospel in his home, that he'd be born and raised in the United States of America. The friend who was with him also received a paper but it said that he'd be born in he would be born and raised in Costa Rica, in sever poverty without the gospel in his home. His friend wept and made him promise that he'd find him and bring him back to the gospel. The Elder went on the say that days after he had this dream, he received his mission call to Costa Rica and was going to make it his entire mission to find this friend. A few months out on his mission, he sent a letter to his bishop with the words I FOUND MY FRIEND.
And I am certain that Sarah is my friend.
The Lord is mindful of us. He knows our hearts and our pain. He knows where life will take us, and I know that He is filled with so much joy when we remember our purpose and our divine worth.
As a mission we fasted to find people who know not Christ (Alma 6:6). I know fasting brings miracles. That day we were driving around trying to contact some referrals. One referral doesn't live at the address we have and another wasn't home. We had a third, and we were so discouraged we decided to talk to them later in the week. As we drove away, I had this sick feeling in my stomach. I recognized that as the Holy Ghost telling me that going home was a mistake and that we needed to contact that third referral. We turned the car around and walked up to the house. And I am so glad we did. They're a family who is so firm in the faith, but hasn't been able to come to church for a variety of reasons. Their son's favorite thing to do is compare all of the words of the prophets in the various scriptures and see how they all link together. He's been baptized and wants to learn more. He's so amazing. After talking to them and getting to know them, they invited us back for lunch the following week! Before we headed out we asked if there was anything we could do for them. The mother looked at us and said in a tone that I knew was sincere and pleading, "Help us get back to church."
The gospel is so true and I love ever second of being out here spreading the happiness and joy the gospel brings. Don't forget to watch Conference this weekend! Invite someone who you think needs to hear the words of the prophet.
Hugs and kisses!
Be grateful your righteous life molds you so that you don't fit where you don't belong.
- Elder Richard G. Scott