To be 100% I have no idea where to start...
I think this week has been one of the most amazing, spiritual, miracle filled, and absolute life changing weeks of my entire life. Maybe that is just what goes down when your beautiful mother completes another year ;) Happy Happy Birthday to my beautiful mother. The woman who keeps me going when the going gets rough. The woman who I look up to like none other. I love you mom and hope that it was an incredible birthday!! :)
Again... I am just not sure where to start. Hmmm... on Monday we ended up downloading the “A Savior Is Born” video and noticed that the cyber we were in had a TV... and it was a pretty good one. I made eye contact with Elder Ashman (it must just be Utah Valley Code Talk) and we were thinking the same thing. We went up to the owner of the cyber and said, “Hey, so we are not sure if this video will play on our Pen Drive... would we be able to ‘test’ it?” Haha... we got him! So we put the video on and then BLASTED the volume and it seemed like it got just about everyone’s attention. Especially a woman who asked if we could visit her. We were stoked! She told us... “there is a reason that I just so happened to be here and you two just so happened to play that video. God is trying to tell me something.” So we got down her name and number and visited her the next day! In her words... “the Mormon’s are right! What time is church on Sunday??” Haha! Such an amazing experience!
We have also been spending quite a bit of time singing. Just the two of us. Haha. I probably should have dedicated myself to a bit more of singing before the mission. At times it did not go too well... but the spirit made up for that!:) One particular time was kinda funny... we passed by a house and Elder Ashman and I both stopped on a dime... it was an impression like I have almost never felt before... we at first thanked the Lord for giving us the same impression at the SAME EXACT TIME and then went over to knock the door. A very old... very grumpy... and very denying man answered the door. He did not even say good afternoon... haha. The only thing that left his mouth was that he only believes in the Bible. We rejoiced and said, “US TOO!!” We asked him if we might be able to sing a song for him. But he denied. We asked him again. But denied again. We implored... but he said no again and began to shut the door... we acted pretty fast though... and BELTED out in song: “VENID ADOREMOS!!” (O’Come All Ye Faithful) That really caught him off guard with each word we sang he opened the door a little more until we finally finished the song and then he let us in the house. He began to weep. He is a widowed man who lost his wife years ago and misses her more than anything. He said he is tired of being alone. He just wants to see her. We shared a short message on the Plan of Salvation and invited him to read the Book of Mormon and come to church with us. He told us that he would never do such a thing but thanked us for the visit. And that was all. As we left I was shattered. What could we have done to help this man? What did I say wrong? If we both had such a strong impression why was it that we failed? Elder Ashman, looking happy as ever, taught me a pretty valuable lesson. “You know what Jess--uhh... I mean... Elder Noll...even though he denied us I think we were sent there to prepare him for the spirit world. To prepare him for future missionaries in the life to come. We left the spirit in his home and now he will be able to recognize it quicker. Be baptized that much sooner.” How right he was. What a miracle it was to meet this man and help prepare him for the spirit world.
Then came another miracle... we had an appointment with another investigator at night time, but really felt we needed to go over there a little earlier. This man has stopped drinking and smoking... and is doing all he can to be worthy of baptism this coming January. When we got to the house I knew EXACTLY why the Lord sent us there early... this man was in desperate need of a blessing. We watched him tremble, sweat, and grieve for the pain he was feeling... the withdrawals. I wept. As he stuttered out the words... “I-I-I-I ddd-don´t-t... knnnnn--ow... know… if-f-f I c-c-ca-ann do itt-t. I wept. We testified of the Savior’s Atonement. That the Lord God trembled first. He sweat first. He grieved first. And that with His help and with His power he could overcome any and all difficulty. We decided to give him a blessing and it was amazing. After the anointing his trembling and shaking did not cease... he continued stuttering. Then came the blessing... we “commanded” him in the name of Jesus Christ to “be still.” We “ordered” him to “be at peace.” The blessing came to an end and we told him we would come back and visit him at night. We shook his trembling hand and left all in the Lord’s hand. The night rolled around and we headed on over to his house just like we promised. For quite a distance away we saw the silhouette of an old man... after he saw us the silhouette starting jumping up and down and waving his arms. We made it to his house. I extended my hand and I shook a still hand. I shook a firm hand. I shook a hand at peace. And so did Elder Ashman. We were amazed at how reverent we was... how content he looked. This man is 100% free of drugs and alcohol and his withdrawals have magnificently disappeared.
Thursday was one of the craziest days I have had in my entire life. We headed off to Naranjito which is about an hour away from La Troncal to work there until Friday. We were going to head to Guayaquil for a temple sealing of a family in Duran. So we packed everything up and got two days worth of clothes, toiletries, wallets, shoes, journals, suits, etc. in the suitcase and headed out the door, waved down the bus, threw the suitcase under the bus and headed to Naranjito. You have to take various buses to get there so we got on and off a few buses and then looked at each other with the worst feeling in our stomachs... THE SUITCASE! We had forgotten it on the first bus! We were devastated! The bus that it stayed on goes through La Troncal, Triunfo, Milagro, Kilo 26, Samborandón, Duran, Guayaquil, goes back through the cities that I just mentioned, goes up and through into the mountains of Ecuador in the direction to Quito and makes it back to La Troncal about 10 hours later. WE WERE TOAST. That suitcase was LOOONNNGGG GONEEE.
We frantically started making calls, but each worker told us that it was gone for good and hung up on us. Everyone told us we could not do anything. We did not know the bus number or what time we got on... we were calling every line of the bus route and nobody listened to us. “Can´t help you”... “that sucks!”... “what do you want me to do?”... not quite sure how many prayers went through our hearts... I begged Heavenly Father to help us find the suitcase... I did not want to finish the mission without a suit and with crooked teeth! Haha! I was actually really specific... “Please help us find this suitcase TODAY... with EVERYTING inside. We finally got ahold of a lady who told us we could TRY to pass the bus station and figure out what bus it was… and try to see if the suitcase was NOT taken by anyone. The only problem was that we were forever away and would not have made it back on time. We called the other Elders from La Troncal and told them to swing by the station and check out the situation. We had not a clue what bus number it was but we told them to just go check #30. And what a coincidence... #30 pulled over in front of them... so they opened up the storage under the bus... and there it was. The suitcase... after every city that it passed through... every person that had seen it and could have claimed it. Elder Ashman and I REJOICED! Haha!
By that point we had kinda bailed on the whole Naranjito thing for the day and we were on our way back to La Troncal hopping from bus to bus. Elder Ashman had tp pee… and we missed one of the buses! Haha! But we finally made it on the last bus and whipped open Mormon 9... and we came to the conclusion that it is true... “God has not ceased to be a God of miracles.” Not to mention that we ended up talking to the dude that sat by us on the bus and he was the biggest stud... he is super interested… wants to go to church... just a GOLDEN investigator.
So why did we leave that suitcase on the bus... I do not know... but it could have very well been to find a prepared soul. Boy did I learn a lot from that experience. Things that can’t be written!
We got to attend a temple sealing which, of course, was incredible! The Cruz family!!! Man did that touch my heart. I certainly did NOT cry... but my eyes were pretty dang sweaty if you are wondering. When the little 5 year old girl, Melanie, walked in that room all dressed in white smiling like never before I could not help but think of the experience I had with my amazing family years ago... though I do not remember... to be sealed to my parents and my older brother. Everything about God´s plan completes itself in the temple. It truly is amazing.
This week will be a little crazy with Christmas and traveling to Guayquil various times so I am sure we will have some great stories in a week...so stay tuned!!
Have you found out why “a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son?” Why was a baby boy brought to this world in manger? Have you found out why there was no room in the inn? Have you found out why this child “grew, and waxed strong in spirit, filled with wisdom?” Why “the grace of God was upon Him?” Have you discovered for yourself what could possibly lead someone of such humble birth to such a humiliating death? Have you found out why a first born received His mission call to a Garden, Golgotha, and a tomb? What is it you have because ONE child was born in Bethlehem over 2000 years ago? Who would you be if this birth had not taken place? “What think ye of Christ?”
“Knowest thou the condescension of God?”
I ponder often about, where, and what our older Brother was before His mission. In the 17th chapter of John the Savior asks, “O Father, glorify me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was.” What was the degree of glory that He had before the world was? “...whose bodies are celestial, whose glory is that of the sun, even the glory of God, the highest of all, whose glory the sun of the firmament is written of as being typical.” The glory that Jesus Christ had made, even the sun, that which gives light, heat, and life to the entire universe, “typical”... usual... NOTHING. Meditate what it is He left for you. He “came down” as Mosiah 15:1 explains to us. In Spanish “He descended” among the children of men. He descended below all... lower than any being in universal time... the being who had the glory of God... more brightness than the sun... more splendor than any living, non-living, or imaginable being or thing... therefore, fulfilling His condescension.
So when “the angel” makes the same question to you as he did to Nephi, “Knowest thou the condescension of God?” you better be able to answer the same way he did. “I know that He loveth His children; nevertheless, I do not know the meaning of all things.” We do not know the meaning of all things. Why is it that you feel alone? I do not know. Why is it that you feel insecure? I do not know. Why is it that you feel heartache and pain? I do not know. Why is it that you feel forgotten, incapable, or overwhelmed? I do not know. Why is it that they had to die? I do not know. Why is it that God allows this glimpse in eternity in my existence as a glimpse of darkness and hopelessness?
I.DO.NOT.KNOW. I do not know the meaning of all things. But what I know means more!
What I do know is that a baby was born of a virgin! That is a miracle in and of itself! And what is even more of a miracle is what He became! What I DO know is that the Everlasting Redeemer, Creator, and Lover came to earth... descended below all... condescended below all. What I do know is that the Man of Holiness... of Counsel... Endless and Eternal was born! The Creator of all... of YOU!... has been born! What I do know is that the Prince of Peace, Savior of my soul, and older Brother was born! So do I know the condescension of God?? Perhaps NO! Do I know the answer to all things? NOO! But what I do know is that for you, for me, and for every intelligence, A SAVIOR HAS BEEN BORN!
To know you.
To feel you.
To understand you.
To succor you perfectly and powerfully.
I testify with every fiber of my soul and spirit that a Savior has been born. I testify that He lived in the flesh and because of that I too live in the flesh. I testify that He still lives and because of that I will forever live. As will you. You will be exalted because of the birth of a child. You will be glorified because of what happened in a manger bed.
Brothers and Sisters, may the birth of this child fill your heart and spirit with the love of God like never before. You may not know everything this holiday season. You may not come to understand all. But what you need to know... and what I know and testify of... is that a Savior has been born... and He LOVES us. And that is all that counts.
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Be safe! Be happy!