This Saturday we had a baptism, after what seems like a very long drought. It felt really well earned, but then again, when that thought comes to mind, I remember the story of the little child who wanted to buy a bike and worked and saved and did everything she could and ended up with like $0.40. I know even when I do (what feels like) everything I can, God is on the end doing a million times more. I have really seen miracles in the mission. And they're not like seeing an angel, or watching a blind person gain his sight, but they're exactly what these people need and they are what I need as well to remind me that God is literally doing so much here. He is so real and so aware and so involved.
So, the baptism was of three people: S. (8 years old), F. (15), and L. (14). I have sent some photos. It has been a long road for them and I am so happy to be able to see them in the right path. L. is so cute. When she came to the baptism she was in a blue fachalina (the scarf/cape thing) and after the ordinance we changed her into a white one. F. is really timid and wanted to share his testimony afterward, but couldn't get up the courage to say anything so he just kind of stood at the front smiling. I love these little kids and I want the best for them! (We have been working with the whole family of L. and F. The Hermano has a word of wisdom problem. He says it gives him energy to keep working. I have been bringing him Gatorade to take the place of addiction. It is pretty funny, but hey, whatever works, right?)
Saturday we also had a few service opportunities. I have really appreciated the opportunities to help the people here, and learned a lot about what a difference serving someone will make in if they accept the missionaries later on down the road. It is a really important tool to use to earn the trust of less-active members and investigators. I sent some photos of those too. I really love this part of the mission.
So I. is doing really well. If I get transfered, I won't be able to attend her baptism, which will be a big bummer, but to know she is moving forward will have to be enough! She has really accepted the gospel and she is learning so much. To begin with, she didn't know how to read. When we met her, she was explaining to us she doesn't know the alphabet (sp?). She didn't recognize the letter Q. I remember her explaining to us that she always got confused because she would think it was P but it was backwards ("p" "q"). Well, we have been teaching her to write and read before the lessons and now she is reading the pamphlets little by little. It is so cool. She gets the majority, very slowly, and only misses the big words like "mandamientos." The other day she told us about a dream she had with us and she was following us the whole time. We were in heaven and Hermana Marca and I were singing praises. Something along those lines. Anyway, she was following and trying and trying to catch us and finally she caught up to us and she just said she rested and was so releaved and felt at peace. It was really cool to hear. I mean, I don't know how to interpret dreams, but I like the idea of that one. I love this woman.
We can't work with L. anymore, which is super painful. I will explain more in a letter. I guess it just isn't his time. But I have a lot of hope for him.
Please tell Caitlin, Sarah Law, Abby, and Veronica that I love them and miss them! They are the greatest. I think about them often. I am working on writing many people! I hope everyone will understand that I am doing what I can to respond!
Adam, I love hearing about your life. I just can picture it. You are the happiest little kid. Thank you so much for your example in everything. Whenever people ask about my family I always end up explaining to them about how they need to remember my little brother's name because some day he will become prophet. Okay, I really haven't said that to anyone, but I do believe it and I want you to know how grateful I am for you!
Mom, I felt the same way about the chapel. I just felt like I wanted to cry but couldn't breathe. It was really interesting. Anyway, thanks to everyone for their support and concern. I will see what more we can do.
Mitch, I LOVE YOU.
Okay, time to go. Thanks for everything!
Parable of the bicycle
“Daddy, I need to talk to you,” the little girl said. Seeing her earnest expression, the father set his newspaper aside and looked into his daughter’s eyes.
“All my friends have bikes,” the little girl explained. “Can I get a bike? I could ride it to school and lock it with a lock. I could go to my friend’s house all by myself and you wouldn’t even have to drive me.” Her eyes sparkled with excitement at the thought.
“Well,” he said, “that is an interesting idea. But having a bike is a big responsibility, you know. And bikes cost quite a lot of money.”
The little girl smiled confidently. “I’m going to pay for it myself,” she declared. ”I’m going to save up all my money and not spend even one penny. If I save and save, don’t you think I’ll have enough for a bike someday.”
Her father sat for a few moments without answering. He knew that his little girl had no idea what a bicycle would really cost. There was no way her small allowance would be enough, even if she did extra jobs around the house to add to it.
But she was so excited, so earnest – so priceless – that his heart melted. He took her into his arms and hugged her tightly. “A goal is a good thing to have,” he said. “Why don’t you try it, and let’s see what happens.”
A few days went by, and the father found his little girl sweeping the porch. The following week he noticed her working alongside her mother in the garden, pulling weeds and planting flowers. And once or twice, as the little girl went into her bedroom, he heard the clink of coins being dropped into a glass jar.
After a while, the little girl came to her father and said, “Daddy, I’ve been working and saving up all my money for a long time. Can we get my bike now?” She shook the coins in the bottom of the jar.
The father looked at the little collection of coins, and then he looked into the pleading eyes of the little girl he loved so much. “Let’s go and see what we can find out,” he suggested.
The bicycle shop had a little bell that made a tinkling noise when they walked into the store. They hadn’t looked around very long when suddenly the little girl froze. There it was! The most beautiful bicycle she could ever have imagined! She ran to it, stroking its shiny chrome and running her fingers through the colorful streamers that flowed from its handle grips. Never could there be a more perfect bike than this one. She clapped her hands with the pure delight of it.
Then she reached for the price tag.
The next moment, the sunshine in the little girl’s eyes melted into tears. “Oh, Daddy,” she wept, “I’ll never have enough. Never.” She threw herself into his arms.
Her father cradled her head on his shoulder and gently stroked her hair, letting her cry.
When the little girl finally settled down, her father wiped her tears away and said, “How about this? How much money do you have?”
“Sixty-one cents,” she answered in a forlorn voice.
“Then I’ll tell you what,” he said. “Let’s try a different arrangement. You give me everything you’ve got – the whole sixty-one cents – and a hug and a kiss, and this bike is yours. I’ll make up the difference.”
Hope came back into the little girl’s eyes. “Really, Daddy?” she asked.
“Oh, Daddy!” she said once again, but the words were happy ones now, and the little girl hurried to fill her part of the bargain with several hugs and kisses just to be sure.
The deal was completed, and the Most Perfect Bike Ever was purchased, and the father walked beside his little girl as she wheeled it proudly to the car. In his pockets jingled the sixty-one cents, and in his heart glowed his love for his daughter and the joy he felt in knowing how hard she had worked to reach her goal. When it came down to it, the sixty-one cents – and the hugs and kisses – were exactly enough.
But the story doesn’t end there. . . .
The truth is, there’s something we all want, and we want it more than any child ever wanted any bicycle. We want the kingdom of God. We want to go home to our Father in Heaven worthy and clean.
At some point in that spiritual voyage, we recognize the full price of admission into that kingdom, and we also realize we cannot pay it. We’ll never have enough - - never. The tremendous price of perfect performance is hopelessly beyond our means.
And so we despair.
Only then can we fully appreciate the One who comes to save. For Him, each soul is priceless. When we finally feel the pain of our own shortcomings, the Savior, Jesus Christ, steps in and lovingly says, “Let’s try a different arrangement. How much do you have? You give me exactly that much (the whole sixty-one cents) and do all you can do, and I will provide the rest for now. You give me all you’ve got, and a hug and a kiss (signifying the love that cements this covenant), and the kingdom is yours. Perfection will still be our ultimate goal, but until you can achieve it on your own, I’ll let you use mine. What do you say?”
To all who want to serve God and keep his commandments, who hunger and thirst after righteousness, we declare, this is the “good news” of the gospel. Christ is the answer. He is the bridge from here to there. He is our hope when we feel cut off and alone. He is our Savior”
(Stephen E. Robinson, “You Are Priceless - The Parable of the Bicycle”, Shadow Mountain 2004).