I hope everyone had a very Merry Christmas in which you could enjoy the company of family and friends and the spirit of Christmas! From the pictures that i saw i could see that you guys had a wonderful time! This Christmas was so specail for me and it was amazing to get to hear your voices again and get to talk with you all. It just went by too fast! holy cow! i couldnt believe how fast the time flew. But let me tell you about my christmas this past week and all the miracles that we saw.
Well let me start from the 24th....we had a fun night. Here all the peruvians eat dinner right at midnight or just a little bit before and when it is midnight the sky literally errupts with fireworks. Everyone shoots them off and there are no rules here. It was insane! It was the coolest thing i have seen fireworks wise. Elder Leon and i put our matresses out up on the roof and slept out there and watched all the fireworks and ate cookies at like 2AM because there was no way we could go to sleep. it was so loud! Anyways, christmas morning we woke up a little bit earlier to go and climb the mountain right behind our area (its in our area but the final parts) that overlooks the whole city of tacna. It was such a great view and half of the city was covered in the smoke and haze that was left over from the fireworks. But we had fun and took some pictures. We then headed down to the church where our zone got together and we cooked breakfeast and made pancakes and eggs and sausage and then had a white elephant gift exchange. It was a good taste of back home and we all had a great time. We also set up for the our noche blanco for that night. This past month we as a zone wanted ot have a ¨white Christmas¨and have a combined baptismal service for all our investigators who are ready to be baptized. We have been helping and challenging people all month for the 25th. well let me give you all some background info first.
We have been teaching a family and have been working with a mom (sonia) and two kids (sandra, and bryan) for over about 2 months. We challenged them to the 25th and they all accepted. well has the weeks approached....sandra and sonia didnt want to be baptized but bryan did. but bryan needs permission from his parents to be baptized (he is only 15). well we have been asking for his parents to sign for weeks but they always come up with some little excuses. anyways we stopped by his house christmas eve and his mom said that she would not sign and that her husband would be the only one to do that. so the plan was....bryan was going to talk to his dad before the festivites started and then call us to tell us that he had the papers sign. well we didnt get a call. after our zone party christmas morning, elder leon and i headed to his house to see what had happened. he answered the door and just put his head down and said that his dad said no and that he would not sign the papers. He also told us that his dad wasnt home and that he wouldnt be coming home until 10 that night and that it was impossible for his mom to sign. We were sooooooooooooooooooooooooo bumbed. I asked if we could talk to his mom and he told us no, that she didnt want ot speak with us at all. Well early in the morning i had had an impressiion to bring our telephone (its huge) and put it in my backpack...i didnt know why but i did. and i am grateful i listened. i asked bryan if we could say a prayer and he offered the most sincere prayer asking and pleading for heavenly father to allow him to be baptized that night. we really didnt know what to do but i had the impression to pull out the phone and have bryan call his dad. he did. his dad answered and said absoulety not, you are chatholic and you are already baptized and hung up the phone on bryan. discouraged, i told bryan to call again. this time his dad asked to speak with his wife, in which he told her that she was not to let bryan be baptized and to not sign the papers. when bryan told us this, i was crushed. i have never prayed so hard and pleading with heavenly father to allow a way to appear for one of his children to be baptized, who sincerely had the desires to be baptized. we sat outside the house for another 10 mins or so, praying, thinking and not speaking ot one another. then this impression hit me saying ¨weston, you call him.¨ i picked up the phone and called. he answered and i got to speak with him. i explained the situation, that bryan wanted to follow in the footsteps of our savior jesus christ and that it was necessary to have permission from the parents. after i had talked with him for a good 5 mins about everything i asked if we could baptize bryan....This is my miracle....he was a completely different person. ¨Yeah absoultely elder, just talk to my wife and have her sign. if she signs, we are one in our decisions and you have my consent.¨i was literally shaking, about to cry because of what he had said. after speaking with him, i told bryan what had happened and to go and speak to his mom to get here ot sign. he entered the house and after a while came out, head down, and said that his mom would not sign. i asked bryan to get his mom outside so that we could talk. after hearing a bunch of yelling in the house, a very angry mother appeared in the doorway and started chewing us out. saying that we were forcing her son into baptism and that he doesnt want it and a whole bunch of ohter things. we explained that we were not there to fight, but to talk about the situtaion with her. as we explained...she gave us an exuse, we answered back with a gospel topic. she gave us another....defeat by another gospel subject. she said that her son didnt have clothes, i told her i would give him mine.....and a ton of other exuses. I have never seen satan trying so hard to prevent that woman from giving permission. her final exuses was that she loved her kids and that if bryan was baptized...the church would take her children away and send them to other countries to preach the gospel (just like us) and that she couldnt handle that and she doesnt want ot be far away from her kids. The spirit overcame me and my mind was full. i dont remember the exact words i said but i told her that i was glad she felt that way about her children. that i was grateful for the love she has for them and wants them to always be close to home and come home. i then explain that that is exactly how our heavenly father feels. he wants us to come home. he doesnt like being very far away from his children. but in order to return home, we have to complete and do his will and follow is doctrine. i told her that our loving father in heavenly and our heavnley mother want us to come hoome because we are far away, he wants bryan to come home...let him complete that which is necessary to go home. after i had finsihed....she asked bryan for the papers and signed them and put them in my hands....a different person. ¨what do we need to do elder? where do we need to be? what time?¨ i just about lost it and almost cried. I saw two miracles in the space of almost an hour. Heavenly father softened the hearts of two parents in the matter of minutes and they allowed there son to be baptized. I had the priveledge to baptize bryan that night. the baptism service was so amazing, powerful and so spirtiual. i got to play a special muscial number with a sister and we had such a great turn out.
That was my christmas. And yes, i had my christmas miracle. I will never forget those feelings and the experiecnes that i had. Bryans baptism was the best gift i could have ever recieved for christmas.
Well really quick....we found a wonderful lady who had been recieving the lessons from other missionaries in a different area, had been attending church for weeks and now wanted to be baptized. elder leon had a distinct impression to knock on her door and upon doing so we found her. the problem was that she will be traveling to chile to live but wanted to get baptize here before the new year and before going to chile becausse she was afraid to not find the church in chile. she had been struggling with the decision of being baptized for weeks but told us that she had never felt more sure in her life. we asked if she would be willing to be bapitzed the next day (saturday) and she said i will be baptized right now if it is possible. so we set up an interview, got everything ready and she asked if i would baptize her. It was a very sweet baptismal service. she was our golden girl and i will never forget her. oh her name by the way is raquel.
but I just want to tell you that god lives and knows us. Miracles happen. I know they do becuasse i see them so much. I love being a missionary. words cannot describe the joy i feel. I wish you all a very Happy New Year and i hope you all will pray for miracles to happen in your own lives, and to help others come unto our savior. I love this work. This is the true church of Jesus Christ on the earth today. i have no doubt in my mind.
I love you all and pray for you daily.
May you feel of the love that our savior has for each and everyone of you and may we all serve him and stand as witnesses and examples for him always, is my prayer.
till next week
Elder Weston Birtcher