Without what happened this weekend, my mission still has been the greatest and most transformational experience of my life, but after this weekend, I want to share 10 reasons from this weekend alone that have made me love my mission even more!
1,2,3,4: Amber, Oriana, Destinee, and Hope Cowart: This family lives in Houghton Lake, and just might be one of my favorite families (yes I know I say that about every family, but its true). When Elder Johnson and I knocked on their door, Amber felt prompted to let us in. Over the next few months, it was remarkable to watch Amber change. How she would describe the Holy Ghost as she read, prayed, and attended church was nothing short of sacred to me. We had some of the most powerful lessons with her, however she could not get baptized yet because she smoked and had a live in boy friend. She dropped cigarettes as soon as she was taught the word of wisdom, and as she was praying to know what to do to help her boyfriend, they ended up splitting up. She said it wasn't the answer she wanted, but that it works for her. She has undergone incredible changes leading up to this moment. She has turned away from her horrible past and has chosen to turn to Christ. I wish I could have been there for their baptism, but I can't wait to hear from Elder Johnson how it went. They are family to me.
5. Donna Bryant: Donna was a name we had in our area book in Houghton Lake, a former refferal from Mormon.org that Elder Campbell and I felt prompted to check on when I got to the area. We were unable to contact her, but a few months later refferal secratary at the mission office asked us to go check on her again, and we finally contacted her at Taco Bell of all places. She was a golden investigator if I have ever seen one. She investigated the church in Utah, and when she moved here she felt like something was missing. She very quickly got along with everyone in the branch and will play a BIG role in its future. She is one of the most elect I have every taught. There was a special connection with her. There was a special spirit in her home and her and her husband looked familiar as if I knew them before I came to earth. It sounds weird but its true. She was baptized on Saturday :)
6. Jenica Taylor: Jenica and her new husband Darrell were just married on Saturday before her baptism. She is the sweetest girl ever! I still don't know her very well and she had a much stronger connection with the missionary before me, but seeing the smile on her face after her baptism, it is hard not to love her.
7, 8 and 9: The Esquivels. I have written quite a bit about them in past emails, but man do I love this family. Isaac (12) and Evan (9) are the sharpest kids I have ever met and are like my little brothers. I had a really cool moment this week with them. We were waiting for their baptism interview, I got to play a little basketball with them (they are really good by the way). As we played, I had a very special experience where I realized a crazy thing: I am their missionary. They just might remember playing basketball with Elder Wheat their whole lives, and if they don't, I know I will. A feeling of pure love filled my heart and I couldn't help but smile. I got to confirm both of them and Ixchel (the mom) asked me to baptize her. Raising her up out of the water and seeing the pure joy and gratitude in her eyes as she said "Thank you" was a moment I wont ever forget.
10. Aubriena Richardson: This girl has made the greatest change of anyone I have ever seen in such a short time. She is a miracle in and of herself. I wish you could all just see the smile on her face all week. I got to baptize her too, and man was that cool. There is something about raising your right arm to the square and saying "Having been commissioned of Jesus Christ." Side note. Anyways, yesterday at church, I overheard her and her fellow-shipper talking about serving a mission!! She also wants to go to BYU now haha Rise and Shout! Aubrieana is a special one to Elder Jeppson and I. She just means the world to us and it has been a privilege to see her change.
That baptismal service in Lansing was incredible. Elder Jeppson and I were talking about it afterwards, and I was so sad, because I will never be able to talk about it with anyone and have them fully understand what was felt. The out pouring of the Holy Ghost on that night can only be understood by those that were there. There was a tangible love that emanated from that room. To watch one after the other step into the waters of baptism to make a covenant with their Father... my heart burns just thinking about it. It must be how it felt to stand at the waters of Mormon as witness the scene that happened there. So special. So sacred. That is all I can say. My goodness. I was in heaven in deed.
Elder Jeppson and I were talking about this on Saturday. The crazy thing about all this is how happy the missionary is in this process. Seeing this people in there conversion process has filled me with a joy that is unmistakable. I felt more joy on Saturday night than I felt when I have received forgiveness for my own sins. But why? The decision these people made does not benefit us in any worldly way. We get no money or glory. We receive nothing but joy for our labors, but that is enough for me. Oh how great is the joy of them that spend their days crying repentance, and oh how great is the joy of them that are fortunate enough to see there labor harvested. My joy is full. Such a rant as this must include my acknowledging that none of this happened because of me. Any missionary could have come and baptized these people, but I am forever grateful that God saw fit to let me witness and feel what I have. I apologize if what I have said has come off as boastful. Sometimes I get too excited, but is the only way I can express what I feel. If you want to understand, Preach the Gospel.
Elder Joe Wheat
|Isaac, Evin, and Ixchel Esquivel|
|The most beautiful picture i have ever seen|