This week marks the first week of my eleventh month on the mission. I’m having a hard time believing that the time has flown by. To a great extent, I feel like I’m just starting the mission right now. I feel like I have spent the first year of my mission scrambling around on my hands and knees with my eyes closed, knowing what was necessary but not knowing how to achieve it. And I feel like, now, just now, I’m finally opening up my eyes and understanding just exactly what conversion is.
I spoke briefly about Juliana in the last email, and the fact that she was a miracle contact in the street. What I didn’t fully explain is that her baptism wasn’t exactly easy. She had a real caffeine addiction. We invited her to stop drinking caffeine and she pretty much stopped in an instant. Then she got stuck with serious migraines. She felt the addiction impossible to overcome, but we helped her to lean on the Book of Mormon as a source of spiritual strength. By the time her marked baptismal date on Sunday rolled around, she had completely stopped drinking coffee and had no doubts that she was doing the right thing. The change was remarkably quick and remarkably powerful. I was personally astounded at the strength of her conversion. When we taught her sister afterwards, she explained that she felt a remarkable feeling and confidence as she read the Book of Mormon. She knew that it was true and that was enough motivation for her to completely turn her life around.
I’ve leaned sometimes on church activities, friends, and culture as a means of bringing people into the gospel. But the longer I’ve been on the mission, the more I’ve realized that true conversion comes only through reading the scriptures and praying to the Lord to know if they are true.
That being said, it’s not just that easy. We baptized a young woman of 15 years of age this last Sunday. She has difficulty reading, but she reads better than the rest of her family, all of whom are illiterate. Trying to explain the Book of Mormon and its teachings sometimes feels like trying to explain Chinese philosophy to a class of 3rd graders. As I develop techniques of teaching, the process becomes easier, but I still rely heavily on the Spirit.
I can’t wait to work with my head fully on my shoulders for this upcoming half of my mission. It’s all just now beginning…