It was 7:00 on Thursday night. My companion and I were on our way to visit a less active member. I felt our cell phone vibrate in my pocket, and taking it out saw we had received a text from Camila. I stopped my bike, and Elder Narvaez pulled up next to me. "Listen to this," I told him as I read the text. "Elderes, o me bautizo el sábado o nunca.".... "Elders, either I get baptized Saturday, or never." This was very interesting to us, seeing as we hadn't been able to talk to her for about a week. I thought it was a joke at first, because her mom (Paola, you'll remember) had her phone for a while, and I wouldn't put it past her to joke with us like that. My suspicions were heightened when we immediately called Camila's cell phone, and Paola answered. I asked her what was going on. "What do you mean?" she asked. I asked her if Camila was with her, and she said that she was. I asked to speak with her and she passed her the phone. "So, you're getting baptized on Saturday then?" "Yes" was her response. "Ok," I told her. "Don't go anywhere. We will be there in 15 minutes." She had to run home (she doesn't live with her mom) but she said she would meet us at her mom's in half an hour.
PART II - THE HELP OF AN ANGEL
As you can imagine, we were very excited. We had worked and prayed for her so much, and just days before, it seemed like she wouldn't be getting baptized any time soon. We immediately called the Zone Leaders, who were going to have to come down here on Friday to do the baptismal interview. We got to Paola's house and talked with her for a few minutes while we waited for Camila to get back. She told us what had happened that had made Camila make that decision. To explain it we have to take a step back. There is another member in our ward named Cholo. Well, his real name is Eduardo but everyone calls him Cholo. He is almost 90 years old and one of the best people I have ever met. He doesn't know how to read or write, but has a firm, strong testimony of the gospel. He got baptized about 30 years ago, here in Chascomús. Because he is old, and can't get around very well, it is hard for him to go visit other members, even though he really wants to. He had been wanting for some time to specifically visit Paola and Juan Cruz, who live on the other side of the city. He has a car but neither him nor his wife can drive. Finally, on Thursday afternoon, he decided he just needed to visit them and took a remis (taxi) to their house. When he arrived, Camila was also there, visiting her mom. Unless we had a fixed appointment with her, she only went to her mom's house about twice a week, and normally in the night. That day though, she had decided to go earlier. (Chance? I think not.) Cholo talked to them both for a while, then asked Camila how she was doing. He knew that she had had a baptismal date, but that she was struggling. He talked to you about her problems and doubts. One big stumbling block for her was being afraid her friends and other family who aren't members would make fun of or reject her for being a "Mormon." He told her how he went through the same things when he got baptized. He had a group of friends that he worked with, drank with, and did whatever else together. When he got baptized, they laughed at him and rejected him. He was sad because they had turned their backs on him, but he knew he had done the right thing. Camila also was waiting to receive a solid answer that the Church is true. Cholo helped her see that she had already received that confirmation while we had been teacher her. Her heart was softened, and she realized that she could find reasons to put off her baptism forever or she could go with her heart and just do it. It was right after Cholo left the house that she sent us the text.
PART III - THE STRUGGLE
When she got back, we talked with her about her baptism, did a pre-interview, and asked her again why she wanted to get baptized. She said she wanted to change and that Christ would help her if she took this step. We explained that other missionaries would be coming to give the interview, and she was really nervous. She doesn't like meeting new people (just like her mom) and felt like it was going to be a test. She said she couldn't remember everything we taught her, which we proved wrong by giving her the pre-interview. She may not have been able to just spout off all that we had taught, but she remembered with just a few words to remind her. She still told us straight up that she did not want to get interviewed by other missionaries. In the end we asked her if she would make this one last sacrifice before her baptism to have the interview with a stranger. If she would, she would be blessed and comforted. Finally she agreed, and we set the interview for Friday at 7:00.
PART IV - DIFFICULTIES BECOME BLESSINGS
The next day at about 4:00, we got a call from the Zone Leaders. They were in the bus terminal in La Plata about to travel down here to do the interview. But... there were no tickets. The whole Easter week and the weekend before are busy tourist times, and it is extremely hard to get a bus ticket the day of. They had one more bus line to check, and in the meantime, I called to see if they could take a shared remis, but there weren't any spaces left with them either. Elder Narvaez had the idea to call our mission president, and ask him if the branch president, President Cignoli, could do the interview. So we called him and explained to him the situation. He met Camila when he came to our area one time and we went and visiterd her with him. We asked him about the branch president, but he said he didn't think that would be a good idea. I thought then that we were doomed, because it was highly unlikely the Zone Leaders would make it down. (There were no tickets for Saturday either.) We would have to postpone the baptism, and as we have noted, Camila wanted to get baptized Saturday or never. We probably could have helped her get baptized down the road, but we knew she could fall into the same doubts as before. Then President Stapley told me something that surprised me. He told me I had better do the interview myself. I reminded him that I had taught her from the beginning, but he told me it was ok, and as mission president he was making an exception this time. He reminded me of the purpose of baptismal interviews, a few key things to check for, and wished me luck. This was very strange, but I immediately realized it was an even bigger blessing than it had seemed at first. Not only was Camila going to be able to get baptized the next day, but the interview would be a much more pleasant experience for her. That night, when we got to her mom's house, we have her the news.She was still nervous, but she was glad I was the one interviewing her. As an interesting note, she had a small problem with the Word of Wisdom. She drank tea every day and every night. It is pretty common here. When we first taught the Word of Wisdom, that was the only thing she was worried about. Along with deciding to get baptized, she stopped drinking tea overnight. She told me that she was going to miss it, but she felt it was right.
PART V - CONFERENCE AND A BAPTISM
In our mission on conference weekend, there are normally anywhere from 0 to 5 baptism. Most people don't set baptismal dates for these weekends because the newly baptized persons have to wait a whole week to get confirmed. Interestingly, this is the second time I have had a baptism on conference weekend. Both times, our investigator just didn't want to wait any longer! Camila was baptized in between sessions on Saturday. For us, that was about 4:00 in the afternoon. She was nervous through the whole first session and couldn't sit still. She was walking back and forth between where I was watching in English, and the rest of the branch watched in Spanish. Finally the time came, and we had the baptismal service. 8 weeks ago, when she first decided to be baptized, she requested that I perform the baptism. I was grateful for the opportunity, and was happy to do it. Right before entering the font, I asked her how she felt. She answered, "Ready." After, you could tell just be looking at her that something was different. She had that light of a person who has just washed away all their sins and started a new life. She told her mom that she couldn't describe how she felt other than that she was very happy and peaceful. When President Stapley went with us to teach her, he had asked her what she wanted out of life. She had responded with two things. Peace and Joy. He promised her that after her baptism she would feel these things, and his promise was fulfilled.
Mom, I mentioned to Paola that you had been praying for Camila. I think you said you put her name on the prayer roll as well. Paola was overcome with gratitude and told me to make sure I sent you her thanks and love. That includes everyone who has prayed for her, or my investigators in general. It was definitely an answerd prayer this week. (Mom and Dad, you will be able to meet this whole family when you come down!)
Needless to say, after last week we feel very happy and blessed. Another interesting thing throught this whole experience was how clearly we could see the Lord's hand in all of it. From Cholo going to visit at the same time as Camila, to the bus problems and me ending up doing the interview. We know without a doubt that the Lord was involved.
I have uploaded pictures from before her baptism to DropBox. Dad, can you make sure that Matt and Rob get ahold of those pictures?
I also loved conference. It seemed like every talk was another small piece of my growing faith. I especially liked Elder Donald L. Hallstrom's talk from the first session. I have seen evidence of what he talked about so much in my mission. As members of the Church, we must be active in the Gospel. It could be said that that the Zoramites in Alma 31 were active members of their church. They went to church every Sunday, and each got up and said the prayer of perverse thanks on the Rameumptom. But we read in verse 23 that "...after the people had all offered up thanks after this manner, they returned to their home, never speaking of their God again until they had assembled themselves together again..." Let's not be like these Zoramites, or in the vernacular of today's youth, let's not be "Sunday Mormons." Elder Hallstrom gave us three keys to help us. 1. Deepen our understanding of Diety 2. Focus on the ordinances and coventants 3. Unite the Gospel with the Church.
Mom, for the record, when you finished preparing for the relief society activity at 12:30 am, I wasn't sleeping. That is only 9:30 my time, so I would have been in my pench planning for the next day! It sounds like it was great experience. I am looking forward to one of those cupcakes when I get home. I also wish I could have some spinach dip as well. I had forgotten about that stuff.
Thanks for the Easter money. I will use it well. I have pictures of my belts and pants, if you still think it's worth it. I will survive regardless, but let me know. Oh, and you can already download the conference talks and put them on your iPhone.
We made conference waffles on Sunday in between sessions. The cream didn't really work out, so we kind of just poured in on over the pudding. But it was delicious anyway. My companion was very impressed, even though mine were mediocre. Too bad he can't taste the ones from home!
Well, I think that is all for now. I love everyone and I hope you all have a great Easter!