Howdy y'all!! What an incredible week! So. Much. To write about! Last Monday we played Tennis as a district and it was amazing. I miss it! We found a few Hispanic investigators and also spoke to a woman very prepared for the message. She said "Every church I go to just leaves me feeling unsatisfied. I am missing something!" She loved the Restoration and is excited to read the Book of Mormon! Tuesday, we visited one of our investigators trying to give up smoking and he is doing well! He said that every time we pray with him something good happens in his life! We stopped by a nursing home afterwards to give a member a blessing, but upon arriving there, we found out that she had been transferred to the hospital! The member that met us at the nursing center took us into the kitchen anyways and we met some random strangers. Very nice people! One lady saw me and screamed "You're handsome! You're handsome!! You're handsome!!" She had her arms out like she wanted me to come over so I went to talk to her and as I approached, she started wheeling her wheelchair towards me! She had her arms extended and was screaming at me! I gave her a handshake and she wouldn't let go! Haha she was adorable. We taught a man by the name of Richard that night and he told us that he doesn't need God or Jesus to tell him how to live.. He thinks he is all he needs. It was actually really sad to see someone without a faith in Jesus Christ. Wednesday, we went to district meeting in Wallace and followed it with exchanges! I went to Wallace with Elder Pope and we had a great night! We had dinner with a Hispanic member and it was a blast! We also set a baptismal date with a very promising investigator of theirs for later this month! We ran the following morning to a park and back and it was a great workout. We exchanged back and went on a blitz with the Hampstead Elders. To start off our blitz, we ate lunch with a member of theirs at their farm. They fed us oysters!! They were sooo delicious!! I am in love. I then went out with Elder Stirling and we had an awesome time together. We visited a medically less active woman and had a very powerful lesson with her. She cried twice in the visit and we definitely felt of the Lord's love for her. We had a meeting in Raleigh the following morning so we drove up that night to sleep back at the old apartment! We got into Raleigh a little earlier than we had expected so I decided to visit the Madrid Estrada family, someone I had become very close to! But the strangest thing happened as we drove there, I got a strong feeling not to go! I said a prayer to know where to go and felt prompted to visit Josy Bermudez and her family, some of my recent converts. Upon seeing her, she almost fell backwards and absolutely lit up! She was so excited to see us! She began to tell Elder Nadauld all about the special experiences we had together and even told him that I was the man that changed her home. She was, however, speaking in Spanish and though my companion couldn't understand what she had said, I could, and it brought tears to my eyes. She asked if we had come for the baptism and we told her we didn't know about any baptism. She told me that Jesus (her husband) and Bryan (her oldest son) were finally getting baptized that Saturday morning at 11! She let me know that Bryan had specifically requested for me to baptize him, but that she didn't know how to get in contact with me. The Spirit flooded the room as she came to a realization that God had sent me the invitation by guiding me to her home that night. Absolutely thrilled, I told them that I would ask my mission president if I could stay the extra day to be able to come. As we were on our way out, the Raleigh Elders walked in for an appointment and guess who came with them? Brother Madrid! He told me that they had moved and that if I had went to their old house, I wouldn't have found them! He gave me the new address and I went to visit his sweet wife. It was such a miracle that the Lord lead me that night. The following morning we had our meeting with all the zone leaders of the mission and it went very well! We discussed a lot of new programs we might put into play, and set a baptism goal of 600 for the Raleigh North Carolina Mission for the year of 2017. To close the meeting, President read off a list of emails sent to him expressing the impact some leaders have had on their missionaries. As he read email after email, one stood out to me. This missionary was explaining to President that in zone training the week previous an instruction was given, about smiling. It was my instruction. They expressed that it had a deep impact on them and that they were striving to do all they could to smile day in and day out, despite the difficulties and trials presented. As I sat there listening to them explain the difference it had made in their life, I couldn't help but feel an overwhelming feeling of gratitude for my Father in Heaven. Something President had said previously in the meeting rang especially true. He said "All we need to do is show up. Be obedient. Open our mouths. And the Lord will make our influence to be great." I approached President after the meeting to ask about the baptism and after explaining the situation, he just stood there and looked at me for a while. After a few moments of silence, he told me it would be alright. We ate dinner with a member that night and afterwards, I went on an exchange with Elder Garner. We visited one of my former investigators and we found him home! He said the Elders can come back and visit him again! We then visited a less active recent convert and also found them home! Elder Garner told me that they had told the missionaries they didn't want to see them anymore, but we went anyways! We shared a very spiritual message with them and I could see in each of their eyes that they had not felt such a Spirit in a long time. It was very refreshing to feel such a hunger for the gospel. The husband is actually working in Wilmington right now so hopefully we can go to lunch some day together! As we closed the exchange, Elder Garner and I had a long talk. He let me know about some things that had been going on. We had a very personal heart to heart and were both in tears. I just absolutely love Elder Garner so much. And I know that God loves him! He told me after that the exchange had helped rekindle a fire inside of him and that he was determined to work harder this coming transfer. I am very grateful the Lord touched his heart so deeply. The next morning, we had the baptism! It was absolutely beautiful! Josy was jumping up and down to see that I had made it. A few other members also came and it was great to see them. Adolfo Lopez Duran came and as I asked him how he was, he said "Much better now that the Lord has let me see you again!" The ordinance went perfectly. Josy ended the service with a prayer and in it, she thanked God for letting me come. I broke down again out of gratitude to God for letting me experience that great day. Bishop Larkin set a goal with the family for January of 2018 to enter into the Temple to be sealed for time and all eternity! We ate lunch at Steak 'N' Shake after and the member that works there paid for it! We drove the 4 hours back down to Wilmington and taught a few lessons before having to be in our apartment by 7:30. The other Elders spent the night with us and we stayed up until midnight just to shoot some confetti and then go to bed. The following day we had 12 Congolese come to church! We went out and taught four lessons before dinner and then found Bernardo, a really promising new investigator! We had a lesson with the Congolese and found out that Elias has not smoked in a week! He said that he is done and that he wants to be baptized this coming Saturday. So he will be! Right alongside with his son! Elias asked Elder Nadauld to baptize him and his son, Gaston, asked me to do it! Whoo, three Saturdays in a row with baptisms! Three times being in the water. The Lord is pouring out his blessings so abundantly upon us. We do not deserve all the success we are witnessing. I know that it is only by the grace of God that these things are happening. We are unworthy to be His servants, yet He has called us to be instruments in His hands. What a great time to be a missionary. I am full of excitement and joy to see what this new year brings. I love God and make it my mission to please Him. For He is whom I serve!
Giving all praise to God,