Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The Power of the Atonement

Hello family, friends, loved ones, strangers, etc.

Well I never cease to be amazed by how well Jennifer understands exactly what my mission life is like. Perhaps because she served a mission... But like you mentioned, Jenn, I'm not sure if I had a "good week" as there's really no such thing as a week that goes just as planned in the mission world. But I did have a few experiences that I will share that edified me and helped me grow. They all have to do with faith and/or the Atonement/Grace.

Friday was a very interesting day. I was on an intercambio with my District Leader, and in the bus on the way to Carahue with him in the morning, I received a phone call from the Asistants. They informed me that they had been talking with each other and praying and that they had received the impression that there was someone in Carahue who is prepared to be baptized this month. They said they didn't know if it would be someone we already knew, or someone that we would cross paths with, but to be on the lookout. So with that bit of information, Elder Sigaran and I were very much alert the whole day, to the point that it almost seemed like we had to follow clues. One of our investigators called us but I missed the call. So we went immediately to her house. She was busy and it turned out that the call was accidental, so we thought maybe it was only to draw us to that neighborhood, so we began to contact references there. Long story short, we approached the end of the day, and I have to admit that I was getting a little hopeless that we would find "the one." I doubted whether the asistants had actually received revelation or if they just wanted us to work harder. We closed the day, and we didn't set a single baptismal date. I was disapointed. However, as I have often learned and often forgotten, the Lord works in HIS way. Our thoughts are not his, nor our ways his ways. That day, in the morning, waiting for the bus to Pto. Saavedra, we began to chat with a girl of about 23ish years. We talked a long time waiting for the bus, about a lot of stuff, and obviously about the Church. She surprised us with the question, "so what do I have to do to join your Church?" We tried to hide our enthusiasm and said that she just needed to meet with the missionaries and learn. We finally got on a bus to Puerto, and Elder Sigaran talked to her the whole time. Upon arriving, she got off, and I woke up, realizing that her stop was our stop as well. So we got off the bus a little bit after her, and watched her begin to walk in the same direction that we needed to go. We were amazed at every street corner as she turned every time towards the house where we were going to have lunch. She finally arrived about three houses down from where we were going and when she saw us approach, we explained what had happened and had a good laugh at the coincidence. I realize now that it was more than coincidence. She is incredibly prepared to receive the Gospel. Unfortunately (for us), she lives in Temuco, but we have already contacted the missionaries there so that they go visit her, and I have full confidence that they will be able to set a baptismal date with her in the first visit. The Lord works in mysterious ways, and I admit I doubted that day. Maybe if I hadn't, we would have been able to set a date, or maybe she was "the one." Either way, I learned a lesson in faith.

I don't have time for second. But I will recommend that everyone read the talk from Elder Bednar in the latests Liahona (or is it Ensign in english? I don't remember). It has to do with the Atonement and how grace is the power to make bad men good and good men better. Like it says in Mosiah 5, "put off the natural man and become a saint." It's a wonderful article and I've been reflecting on it and sharing it with people continuously throughout the week

I don't believe I've ever mentioned Marco. He's 15 years old and from Osorno. He moved to Carahue to live with his mom and other family because he was seriously involved in drugs, theft, and other foolishness down south. I believe he is also a pathological liar. And I also believe he has a sincere desire to change. We have been working with him for the past few months now, and I admit he has become more than "an investigator" to me now. At first, he was an investigator. Then he was a project. Yesterday, he become a friend.
Although Marco seriously wants to be baptized, and in his heart of hearts he wants to be a good boy, teaching and helping him has been a serious challenge. His Mother is a member of the church that has been less active ever since she married another emotionally abusive man who loves his cigarettes more than his family, and largely due to her difficult circumstances in life has up until recently been almost zero support to her son in his journey towards Christ. It's a complicated situation. Cristina (Marco's mom) loves Marco, but she is also tortured by him. I won't mention all of the things that Marco has done to his family or to his mom, but it is to the point that yesterday she expressed openly in front of Marco and all of us that she doesn't deserve a son like him and that she often wonders if she has a devil in the house. We listened with pained ears yesterday as she bawled and listed all of her mixed feelings towards her struggling son. We felt sorry for her. We also felt sorry for the young Marco, who with tears in his eyes, listening to his own mother give up on him, tried to hand us back a pamphlet we had given him, telling us he no longer wished to be baptised because he would never change. In that difficult moment, we could have tried to talk about behavior patterns and the spicific issues in their family, but as Marco looked at us we knew there was literally nothing that could help him beside Christ. So we began to testify. We talked about the power of the Atonement. We talked about the conversion of Alma, one of the vilest of sinners. About the pain that his parents must have felt as they watched their son murder and try to destroy the church. And especially about the joy beyond description that he experienced upon accepting the Savior in his life. We promised Cristina that Jesus is Marco's only hope. That he needs baptism, the remission of his sins, and the opporunity to start again. That he needs the Holy Ghost, who will help him make good decisions from her on out. We promised her that Marco would not be the boy of her dreams in a week, not in a month, maybe not in year. But that little by little, with God in his life, he WILL learn to change, because God does NOT make garbage, and the Atonement of the Savior applies to EVERYONE. We pleaded for her help, that she would not lose faith in her son, because God definitely hasn't. We also pleaded with Marco to not lose faith in himself, even if everyone else in the world, including his own mother does. We promised we and God would never give up on him, and that if he wants to, he WILL change.
Even now as I write, my eyes water because of the love that I have developed for this troubled boy. I don't know that I've ever cared so much about the future of someone. Marco has a lot of problems, but he wants to change. He has even said that he wants to serve a mission. I dream of the day that he dedicates his time trying to help others be better, as we are now trying to do. I know that Christ is our savior. I know without a doubt that he died so that we might live. His love is the power to change. And he does not make exceptions. I will keep you all updated on the progress of Marco. Please keep him in your prayers. He needs them.

Thank you all for your love and support always. Your letters are always a strength to me. Be good!

Elder Wilcox

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