Surprisingly I read all my emails, replied to some people I forgot to reply to last week, wrote president, entered numbers and still have a full hour to sit down and write this letter. Hopefully I will be able to arrange my thoughts and the crazy happenings of this week into a semi-comprehensible form of a letter in the time that I have.
I'm sure you all are curious about Lerma.
Lerma ended up not being able to come out Monday night, so we rescheduled for Wednesday. Wednesday night we held an semi-informal Sacrament meeting so Lerma could take the sacrament one more time. The Asia area presidency has set a standard of investigators needing to take the sacrament three times before they can get baptized. It was a little bit out of the ordinary, but was one of the most memorable sacrament meetings I have ever attended.
The entire company consisted of me and Sister Murdock, Lerma, the assistants, and President and Sister Blickenstaff. I mentioned to Sister Murdock that I always feel like a spy when I got and visit Lerma. We usually wait at the street corner under the street light and watch down the street for when she comes, so it feels like a scene straight out of a mystery novel or something.
We were able to hold a pretty good Sacrament meeting in the thirty minutes that she had. We got to sing a hymn and the elders blessed the sacrament and served it to our small company on a plate brought from home, a white fabric napkin, and cheap paper cups from the office. I am so grateful for the priesthood and for the young men I get to work with everyday. They are trying their best to stay worthy of this sacred privilege, which blesses those they teach and others that they serve around. It's a privilege to be able to see them bless the sacrament, give priesthood blessings, and act worthily wherever else they are called to serve.
After partaking of the sacrament (some of us for the second time that week) it was our turn to teach her some last things before she could have her baptismal interview. It was intimidating to say the least. First of all Lerma ends up teaching us every time we meet with her, so I feel completely inadequate teaching her anything. Second of all we were in company of the President, his wife, and the assistants to the President...and I'm the senior companion. Adding onto that I've never taught all of Lesson 5 in Preach my Gospel in one lesson before.
Fortunately I was able to pull it all together, and ended up teaching the whole laws and ordinances lesson (which includes priesthood and auxilliaries, temples and family history, eternal marriage, service, missionary work, teaching and learning in the church, and enduring to the end) all in about five minutes. Really it ended up not being that scary. The others were really supportive and backed me up. I love how we all get to learn and improve together.
After we taught President shared a few things, we closed and walked her home. It was probably the most unusual place for a sacrament meeting. We don't usually hold them on the street corner, in the dark, on a makeshift pew of benches and chairs tied together by the old amahs and agongs who sit outside all day, in front of a GIANT gold Buddha statue and an ancient Buddhist temple. But despite all the odd circumstances it was an incredible experience where the spirit was so strong. It can be manifest anywhere, we just have to look for it.
Then Friday night Lerma conveniently was at the hospital with the man she takes care of, so was able to get out for about thirty minutes to come to the church and have her baptismal interview. It was probably the fastest interview in history. Elder Flint, who conducted the interview, said the spirit was so strong and that he was getting chills as soon as she answered the first question.
Yea...that sounds like Lerma.
So Friday she had her interview, Saturday we met with her and went over some last few details of the baptism, and last night she was baptized! The baptism was incredible and I know it was a special experience for her. She was so thankful and cried almost the whole time. Sister Blickenstaff was able to get a hold of several of the other missionaries who taught her and the elder who found her, so they had them all skype in so they could see the baptism. It was really special.
Several members from the english branch attended to support her and get to know her more, and of course we had the whole office staff and the missionaries who have taught her who are still in Taiwan. She had about an hour and a half so we were able to make it a good service for her. President Blickenstaff actually baptized her and after she came up out of the water she just stood there and cried. Definitely a touching site. Sister Murdock and I got a little teary eyed as we watched from the side of the font.
After the program was over Lerma took some time to talk to each of the missionaries who had skyped in. So while she was making the rounds I ended up holding the computer that Sister Schultz was connected to. It was a little weird seeing my old companion as, well, no a missionary. It was really good to talk to her though.
Then to top off the night. As we were taking pictures with Lerma she saw the branch president about to leave and ran off to grab something. A few seconds later she runs back in and hands a small white envelope with her tithing in it to President Smith. Once again Lerma is an incredible example to us all, and continues to amaze and teach me.
(hopefully sometime soon I'll get the pictures from the others and get those to you)
Aside from Lerma's baptism we also had a funeral this weekend. We found out Wednesday that our ward mission leader, Chen Dixiong, had had a massive heart attack that morning and was in the ICU. Aboutthat night the elders texted us and told us he had passed away. The ward held their own funeral service for him on Saturday.
I think this was the first time for me that anyone I knew very well passed away, and I was able to be there for the funeral. Actually this is the first funeral I've ever been to. Chen Dixiong was one of our strongest advocates in this ward and was always so willing to help us out in the Lord's work. It was shocking how fast everything happened. I had talked to him just the night before and seen him walk into the church with a few pizzas for a family home evening. But as always I am so grateful for the gospel and for our knowledge of the plan of salvation.
I loved seeing the ward all gather together and put together the funeral and remember Chen Dixiong. They talked about how much he has changed since being taught the gospel as well as his growth in the church. They talked about how willing he was to serve and how selfless he was. It truly was a beautiful service and full of the spirit. We will miss him, but I know he has already become one of the Spirit World's most diligent and powerful missionary. He's still helping us, just on the other side.
Other happenings of the week:
1. Church was canceled because of a typhoon that never hit Taizhong. (picture of the church is a member who didn't get the memo)
2. We called and taught elvis this week...who actually is a super cute 22 year old girl, but her name is cool.
3. We got in contact with a former who was super excited about the Book of Mormon, hopefully we can continue meeting with her.
4. I made four plans for the typhoon day, because we had no idea what was going to happen. In the end they all ended getting mixed together.
5. Sister Murdock is great! I'm so grateful for her companionship and that I have the privilege of getting her started. I can't believe we are almost done with her first move call!
I love you all and loved hearing about your trip to Idaho. I guess five year olds everywhere are prone to ruling their households. I'm glad Jemma had fun and that we live so close to family that we can make those trips every once in a while.
I can't wait to hear about your weeks and share what miracles we see this week!
Miracles are around every corner!
With all my love,