As I was reading the account of Alma and his brethren and how they felt after having labored in the missionary work for so long and had reaped in the sheaves, I was particularly impressed by his description of joy. I have felt that pure joy and love come over me in the work so many times but it was truly a tender mercy of the Lord to feel a greater joy than I had never experienced in my mission last night.
As I have already explained, the mission permits us to greater understand that God is in charge of the work. We might think we do something when we bring an investigator to church or we might feel useful when a person gets baptized. Satan can make us think we did something spectacular when an investigator progresses and has a tendency to teach to make excuses when something goes wrong. The truth is that we are nothing. God does everything! We have so little time in the office to work that the finite mind cannot comprehend how the success goes up. It isn't after all because of our efforts but because of the Lord. This week we had quite the struggle to try and visit investigators we were preparing for baptism. It wasn't until Thursday night that we could even inform the majority of our investigators about the baptismal service and invite them to see it the following night. The investigators we in many ways on their own to be prepared for the baptism and the Lord helped us out there too. Satan never rested and they had many doubts before getting married and baptized but in the end His wisdom won out. Only after inviting them quickly to the baptism Thursday night, we had 4 investigator families come to the baptism and 8 investigators. There were more investigators and nonmembers there than members. It was amazing. What made my joy fuller was to hear of the challenges they had and how they exercised faith to go to the baptism. Even being at 7pm, many furiously walked through the rain about a mile of the highway to get to the church on time. Their faith made for a warming experience.
I will not boast in my own strength but I will boast in my God.
What made the experience even more beautiful was to find a good friend of mine waiting in the chapel before the baptisms. Who could have expected to meet Victor Narvaez and Ester in San Juan in exactly that moment. I embraced the man and his wife that I taught and baptized almost a year ago. He began to express his testimony with me:
"We are here for a Seminary Teacher Training meeting. Ester has been newly given the calling. I am the Sunday School President and First Counselor in the Elders Quorum Presidency. All of the family goes every week to church. We wouldn't miss it for the world. In fact, Carlos already has his missionary application ready for next year. He says he wants to be just like you. We are preparing to be sealed this December before he goes. (By this time the tears had already welled up in my eyes...and writing this gives me more.) We always have you in mind and in our prayers. We thought we would never see you again but we always have had you in our heart. We have had our difficulties for sure. But we are going forward and nothing will keep us back. Ester has been giving references of a few neighbors and our other daughter has been baptized with her family. We are just so happy!"
This is the same family that when they were baptized vowed never to have a calling. They weren't committed to come to church every Sunday either. They were super addicted to coffee too but dropped it. Victor was antagonistic toward wearing a tie and said he would never go to church again if we made him do it. Ester too had her doubts at first but they are living testaments to how the Restored Gospel changes and blesses families. There they are every week, dressed in shirt and ties and always serving the Lord in their callings.
It is hard to explain the feelings that came to me. Gratitude. Love. Charity. I think Doctrine and Covenants explains it best when it says that Great will be our joy if it be with only one soul we have saved. But then I had another feeling. I can continue to help more families like that. I looked at the those who had assisted the baptism and I was just so thankful to know that God was doing His part. He changed the Narvaez family since I last saw them. He made it possible for these new investigators to come to the baptism. He also helps us find them after preparing them all. I am nothing.
God LIVES! Christ DIRECTS. I know that this is His church. This Gospel is true and really does bless us. I am speechless and tearless. The tears have long been shed in pure joy.
Elder Grant Russell