Saturday, December 26, 2015

Clearly, God is at Work Here.

November 30, 2015

Hello, hello!

Ok, I know it has been forever since I wrote a nice long email for everyone. I do not have a good excuse. Crazy things have happened, and I will try to sum it up for you.

We had another deaf expo on Nov 14th. It was one of those events where we didn't have any obvious success and just hope that it planted seeds for the future. There was one exception, however, and her name is Hailey. She is a fourteen year old young woman who felt the spirit when talking to the missionaries. Fifteen minutes later she as back, crying, and asking to learn more. Since then, she has been reading the Book of Mormon like her life depends on it. She has done so wonderful. She is hearing and lives outside the boundaries, and her family is very much against it, but she is still going. She could really use some prayers, if anyone is looking for ways to assist in the work! :)

We started working with Jeaneth again. I love her drive to learn for herself what is true. She is so willing to read and learn. We noticed one night that her Spanish speaking skills were pretty good (she is hard of hearing and from Ecuador). We had a prompting to ask if she wanted to be taught in Spanish. She said she would have to see it happen side by side to know. As we left her house, I had a promoting to go to the nearest church building to see if the local Spanish missionaries would be there (she lives in the Long Beach mission, so finding the missionaries would take a lot more work than we wanted). We drove there, saying a prayer on the way that the missionaries would be there. We got there, and no cars were there. Something told me to have some faith and sit and wait. So we did. We parked, and waited. We said another prayer. I don't think I have ever used so much faith before. Actually, I don't think I ever experienced such faith before. After about four minutes, if that, after we said amen, a car pulled into the parking lot. And then another. And another. Hey look! Those are missionary cars! Wow! Wait... That's the Anaheim missionaries... From the Vietnamese program.... Okkkk... We told them we had prayed for the Long Beach Spanish missionaries, to which they responded, "Oh, wait. We have their number!" Yesss! God works in mysterious ways! :) We ended up getting the right missionaries at a lesson with Jeaneth. They brought their Relief Society president with them (what a woman haha) who was perfect for Jeaneth. We decided to hand the lesson over to the Spanish missionaries so Jeaneth could get a good idea. The spirit was so strong. She was understanding so well. The best part was when the elders looked at me to testify (up until then it was all in Spanish and I had no idea what was going on). But because I signed the testimony, and it was dead silent, the spirit just about punched a hole into her heart and she was so touched. Needless to say, she needs to be taught by the Spanish missionaries. She seemed to have understood so much more. I love her and will miss teaching her, but she is going to progress so well with them.

We are teaching Betty again too! Oh man, we had a great experience with her. Our first lesson was basically gauging her understanding and where she was at. She is from a Buddhist background, so we found she needed to know more about who Jesus Christ is.  Our second lesson with her was all about Christ. We showed her two bible videos and "Because of Him" video. The spirit was so strong. I again had the opportunity to testify about the power of Christ in my life. Addy (a member who is best friends with Betty) felt the spirit in the lesson and was crying, and Betty herself was looking a little teary. She asked us to continue to come back. It had been a little hard to contact her since, but she says she is willing to come to church.

A couple months ago we contacted a woman, a Sister Loew. She is hearing and is friends with a deaf woman named Kathy who lives near her. Kathy was born and raised in the church, but since she was married could not go to church. She always went to church when she went to visit family, however. We weren't allowed to go over to Kathy's house because her husband was very against the church. Well, about two weeks ago, we got a text from Sister Loew saying Kathy really needed help and that we could go and visit her now. Kathy's husband had started to realize how much the church could help his family, if only temporally. We went over this past week to meet with Kathy and her four daughters (all hearing). They are all so sweet!!! The girls' names are Mikayla (14), Justina (13), Diana (9), and Selena (6). They are all very excited to get involved in church. When we went over later and chatted with just Mikayla, we asked what had made her father change his mind, if only a little bit. She said he had for a long time very against the church and very strong minded in his Catholic traditions. However, he had started to realize how much the church really tried to take care of its members and really could help his family. He isn't yet ready to accept; he has not thought to let go of Catholicism. The girls are a little wary still of how accepting he will be of their becoming baptized. But he has had his heart softened, and he will continue to be softened. I firmly believe that hearts can be softened by watching dearly beloved people in our lives have their lives changed for the better. I also believe that even though some people join the church for welfare and food, they can become converted later. This is evident in so many miracles I have seen here.

Now, that all happened in the last few weeks. Not much happened besides that (that was all super miraculous) until this past Friday. Oh my goodness. That day... It was one of those days where you are still reeling, even days later. Let me explain.

First miracle, we got the Figueroa girls to commit to come to church and to learn something. They accepted. This is a huge miracle.

Second miracle, Magdalena and Ubaldo committed to talk about a temple sealing with our branch president. After being married for so long, they are still in love and want it to continue. They are so cute :)

Third miracle, Annie went and did her missionary work and got her sister and brother in law to give permission for her niece to become baptized. She had said nothing of it to us until Friday. We can totally get her baptized before the end of the year!

Fourth miracle, and the one I am still in shock about... Know those people I just mentioned who join the church for welfare and food? Sometimes we become too frustrated with them. No, they aren't doing things for the right reason, but miracles do, truly, happen to those surrounded by the gospel. We have one family who is very dear to me. They have come to church for quite a while now. They consist of a father, mother, and five children (most of them having children too). To be quite honest, many members of this family have intimidated the missionaries, even the missionaries who aren't scared of anyone. They can be involved in quite fearsome things. The parents and two youngest have been baptized, but the oldest three kids have never shown legitimate interest in the church, although they are willing to help their physically disabled parents to church. The oldest, Rosario, has been the one we never, ever would have thought would become truly involved and committed to church. She is probably the most intimidating of all of them. I swore in the first couple weeks of my mission that I would make her my best friend (probably because I thought I would be able to accomplish such a feat with such a woman). She has always been friendly to us if we were to chat with her. Her kids are adorable and love the missionaries. Well, we serve at the Bishops Storehouse now. Sister Loew (the hearing member who helps us with Kathy) introduced us to that. It is seriously my favorite service to do. I absolutely love it. Anyways, so we were there on Tuesday helping them out for the Thanksgiving rush. Rosario and her boyfriend came in to get their food order for their family. I figured I would say hi, so I did and we small talked for a minute, then went our separate ways. A few minutes later I got a very strong prompting:

Holy Ghost, "Sister Crawford, you need to go talk to her."
Me, "Ok, fine... I mean I already did..."
HG, "No, I mean you need to go boldly ask her if she will learn from you."
Me, "Uh, what?!"
HG, "You heard me."
Me, "You want me to go up to her and say, 'Rosario, I have known you for this long and I know you haven't learned. Will you learn from the missionaries?'"
HG, "Yes."
Me, "....."
HG, *stern look*
Me, "...fine."
I walk over to Rosario.
Me, "Rosario, I have to ask you something because it's my missionary duty."
Rosario, "Ok."
Me, "I have known you for this long and I have no idea what you want. Do you want to learn about Christ and how He can help you become happy? Is that something you want?"
Rosario, "Yeah, actually, it is something that I want."
Me, *shock*...... "Really?"
Rosario, "Yeah."
Me, "O....k.... You know this is not something I'm gonna force on you. You can say no."
Rosario, "No, I really want to."
Me, "And you know your kids really love it."
Rosario, "Haha, yeah they do."
Me, "So you know this means you have to come to church."
Rosario, "I'm willing to do it."
Me, "And you are ok sitting down and talking religion with us?"
Rosario, "Yes I am."
Me, *shake myself out of shock* "Ok! When can we come by this week?
Rosario, "Any time."
Me, "6:00 Friday?"
Rosario, "Sounds good!"

To be completely honest, I am still in shock... But the thing is... This is only a small part of the miracle. We went to our appointment and she immediately hopped up and we went to the kitchen to sit down and have a discussion. She was very serious about all of it. We had our opening prayer and then asked her what she hoped to get from our teaching her. She said she has done some bad things and wants to get away from that kind of stuff. I am really proud of her for wanting that. We expressed to her that what we have to teach her will change her life. We taught her about commandments, what they are and why we need to follow them. She asked about forgiveness and what we taught about that. We showed her a scripture about why we need to forgive and how it is a commandment. She seemed pretty understanding and accepting. We explained that sometimes we are told to obey commandments that seem pointless and take too long to take affect. We gave her the example of being drenched in cold water. We could have two choices: being poured over with warm water or to sit by a fireplace. The first will give an immediate solution but will not resolve the problem in the long run, and the second will take a little longer to make her warm but will rectify the problem. She understood it very well and seemed to be in the position where we could tell her that we would be asking her to make and keep commitments which were direct commandments from God. We asked if she would be willing to commit to the things we asked her to do. She said yes. At that point, we were already so impressed by her sincere desire to progress, so we presented two commitments. First, we asked her to read the Book of Mormon every night and to pray about it. She agreed. Then, she added that she had prayed recently. Oh really??? She said she had prayed last week about whether or not church was something she needed to become more involved in. We asked if she had received any answers for her question, to which she responded that she thought she had because her mom had invited her to church. She seemed a little unsure if that was the answer. The thought came to my head to share with her about my spiritual prompting I had had at the storehouse. I did so, and as I did, her eyes started to tear up. She realized that the answer to her prayer had come through someone else, a missionary no less. She recognized that God really is working in her life and is always ready to answer her prayers. We then extended the second commitment:

"Rosario, will you follow the example of Jesus Christ and become baptized by a man holding the priesthood authority given him from God?"

I have no idea how He has done it, but Heavenly Father had prepared Rosario for the gospel. I'm still not sure how to react other than complete gratitude for Him and His mysterious, miraculous ways. Rosario's spiritual experience and drive is nothing short of a miracle.

I am so grateful to Heavenly Father for the opportunity I have to serve this mission. I love the opportunities I have to make a person smile, to help the light shine even brighter from their eyes, and to help them gain a greater testimony of Jesus Christ. The decision I made to serve a mission was by far the best choice I have ever made here on Earth. I cannot wait to see what more miracles the Lord has in store for me to see.

Sister Smyly Crawford

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