I am so excited to share with you a few really cool things that are going on here in downtown Albany. I am engulfed in miracles each and every week.
On Wednesday, Eileen Johnson will officially be a non-smoker! We will be celebrating at their home with a large array of snacks, surprises, and even the movie "Joseph Smith: Prophet of the Restoration," the film they play at Temple Square. Eileen has been so dedicated. She deserves this satisfaction from her father in heaven. We gave her the mission's stop smoking program, which includes drinking Unsweetened Grapefruit Juice after every meal and washing her mouth with strong cinnamon mouthwash, as well as several other strange yet useful tactics to quit smoking. She has really developed a close relationship with her father in heaven through sincere prayer in the process. We are so excited for her new life as a clean temple.
Christian Yarleque has chosen to be baptized on May 10th, Maritza's Birthday. I cannot express how much excitement I have for him and his progression. The missionaries have been teaching him for about 7 months, so the only thing he really needs between now and his date is a strong testimony of the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon. We have been meeting with him twice a week, just feasting upon the words of Christ with him. The more he reads the Book of Mormon, the more excitement he has about it. I love love it!
Something cool you might enjoying is that a youth from Elmira, New York will be joining the companionship of Elder Hougaard and Elder Kunzler this Wednesday for a week. President Wirthlin is encouraging mini-missions throughout the mission to give the future missionaries of the church a glimpse of what missionary life is like. While Elder Hougaard was in Elmira, his companion had to be emergency transferred out and was replaced with this same young man for a week. Elder Hougaard loves him with a fiery passion, so I am excited to serve with him.
This week we met a man on the streets named David Ventura who expressed gratitude in finally bumping into some missionaries, and said he loves what our church teaches as opposed to other churches. We met with him in a coffee shop later in the week and talked about the restoration. He wanted us to convince him that the church is true without him trying to find out for himself, it was very weird. He really wanted to know deep things like the nature of God and how we will one day become Gods. All we told him was that the answers to our questions come through sincere desire, faith leading to action, and diligence in studying the scriptures. We told him that the answers to our difficult questions are much more simple than we think. He accepted to read the Book of Mormon and pray about it to gain a testimony of it, Joseph Smith, and that this church is true.
Then, Sunday morning, when I was filling out a record of people we met with this week, I perused through the branch directory and found the name "David Cats Ventura." The branch had lost contact with this guy for like 8 years. In Branch council, we talked about our meeting with him, and President McGreevy asked if he fit a certain description, and he fit it perfectly, born in Miami, Florida and all. We were shocked. Either there are two David Venturas meandering through the cold plains of New York, or there is one who doesn't have any recollection of his baptism, with the middle name of CATS. There is one way to find out, we have to ask David if his middle name is Cats somehow this week. The story will continue next week, I'm sure.
Something very valuable I learned about this week through spiritual study is that we all have been blessed with spiritual gifts. These gifts can be found in D&C 46, 1 Corinthians 12, or even the hymn "More Holiness Give Me." Each of us has been given many or few of these gifts for the use of edifying and lifting those around us, bringing them and us closer to Christ. Jacob might be a scholar, able to exceed any test far above the standards that top rated schools might have set, or even be very sociable, being very friendly with everyone he comes into contact with. Josh might have the ability to make any member of the opposite sex fall in love with him without him even talking to them, and have a remarkable Christlike love for those around him. I might be very organized and able to remember things that happened deep into the past. Jonah might be diligent in doing those things that are most important and filling himself with good things that strengthen his testimony. Jaden might be able to lighten the mood when others are upset, and attract others around him to his kindness and firmness to doing what's right.
The main tactic Satan uses to make us lose sight of these things is the feeling of inadequacy. The adversary wants us to lose our self-confidence by comparing ourselves to others who receive plaudits or have different gifts, something destructive that can make us lose sight that we are children of God. We have weaknesses too, which are good to have. After all, we all need to have things to improve at on this road to perfection we are all on.
I love you all so much, and I thank the lord every single day for the Christlike examples I have been blessed with in my life. Life is so much more enjoyable with all you in my life.
Com muito amor,