So many wonderful miracles this week... The first was last Tuesday night when we had a district blitz (all the missionaries in our district went to one area for an hour to tract and try to help the Laguna Niguel sisters find more people to teach). I was on exchange with Sis Wright. We knocked on several doors, and at the sixth door a man named Shams answered. He was middle eastern, but grew up in America. He opened the door and before I could finish introducing ourselves he invited us in! We were so excited! We could go in because his mom, Violet, was there. Shams has studied Islam, Judaism, and Christianity a lot. He basically believes in Abraham and the Abrahamic covenant, because that's where it all stems from. He is maybe mid-fifties. We had a really great conversation as he prepared tea for his mom and helped her eat. Violet is very old and bed-ridden, but he takes incredibly good care of her. We could tell he was an extremely loving and gentle man as he helped her have dinner. And Violet was just a sweetheart. She couldn't talk much, but every time he helped her with something she would muster a small, "thank you." It was heartwarming. You could just feel that you were in the presence of two very noble and great souls. I could only imagine the wonderful kind of woman Violet had been as Shams showed us pictures of her in Pakistan, helping local school systems. You could tell in the pictures she was well-loved and respected. As we talked, Shams shared some dates with us from Saudi Arabia, and they were amazing!!! I don't remember ever having a date before, but it was sweet and filling, but had a lot of flavor. So so good. We talked about the bible and prophets, and we were able to share the Restoration with him. Shams loved the scriptures and believed firmly in God and his prophets. He was a gracious host and we had such a wonderful time. He loved the Book of Mormon when we shared it with him, and he promised to read it. It was such a powerful testimony to me that God has people prepared to learn His gospel everywhere. We arranged for the Laguna Niguel sisters to visit him again, then left with excited smiles and light feet. We jumped for joy outside and wondered at the miracle. I have never before had someone welcome us in to teach the Restoration while tracting like that - I've set return appointments, taught a few people a bit, but Shams was just so welcoming and so warm. It was just a beautiful experience and something he said stuck with me - he said, "God loves when we are together for Him." Meaning, he could feel the Spirit with us as we were gathered together to speak and learn of our Father in Heaven. It reminded me of https://www.lds.org/scriptures/nt/matt/18.20?lang=eng#19 Matthew 18:20, "For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them." I know He was there with us that night.
Friday morning we had a district breakfast and I tried to open a box of pancake mix while we waited for the elders to get there. Well, I didn't have any scissors, so I tried to just pull the bag inside open. Man, those things are tough. As you've probably guessed by now, yes, the flour did explode. EVERYWHERE. I was COVERED head-to-toe hahaha it was sooooo funny.... I looked like the Pillsbury doughboy. And of course, that exact moment was when the elders walked in. LOL. We all have to have those moments to laugh at ourselves. Keeps life fun.
Later that day, we met up with Toni, a lady who came to church last week with a friend, Sis Fluter. Toni is mid-forties, has two kids, and she is a sweetheart. We met for lunch at a little Mexican place, La Sirena, and we had a mini-miracle when a member from out of town walked up and said hello and handed us a 20 for lunch...what. My new favorite person. But anyway, the way bigger miracle was that Toni was so open and we got to teach her a lot. She really loved it and wants to meet up again this week. We can't wait! Toni is a dental hygienist, grew up in the San Fernando Valley, has been divorced for several years, is a big reader, and she has relatives and friends who are members. She loves the church's focus on family and has been really inspired by the examples of the members she knows. She is so sincere and is a little softspoken, but has a beautiful loving spirit. I'll tell you more about her later.
Yesterday at church was awesome! The young women were all at girls camp last week, and our ward brought 6 nonmember girls with them! They all loved it so much. One of them, Jordan, felt the Spirit so strongly she told her friends she wants to get baptized and we are meeting up with her this week!! Also, Cash, a less-active young woman we are friends with, brought a friend, Kalani, to church last week and we are going to start teaching her this week, too! So many things to do and so much work going on. We can hardly keep up with it all... It promises to be another week of miracles and beautiful memories.
This morning we took a walk with Shawn at Alta Laguna Park. It's a beautiful trail. But the cool part is, Shawn is really close to being baptized! She has set a tentative date in August, but we are hoping to move it up. She is still battling some struggles with alcohol, and her husband Tom recently lost his job, so please keep them in your prayers!! Shawn has become such an important friend to me, and I want so badly to see her receive the immense blessings of baptism before I leave this area. She knows the gospel so well and has been a part of our church family for so long, and God's hand is really at work in her life right now. Please pray for her.
This week I've been studying a lot of really cool things. I don't have time to share them all, but here are my favorite things I have learned:
Recently I read all of Revelations, and I have been so fascinated by the promises and visions it contains. I think my favorite part was in https://www.lds.org/scriptures/nt/rev/7?lang=eng chapter 7 when John saw a group of people who were https://www.lds.org/scriptures/nt/rev/6.17?lang=eng able to stand (Rev 6:17) with Christ at the last day, and I started studying the characteristics of the group, trying to understand what made them worthy to stand with the Savior. The things I identified were: making and keeping covenants with God, serving Him day and night, using the Atonement to be washed clean, and coming through "much tribulation" to become more like Him. Then the promise given to them is actually one of my favorite scriptures. "Therefore are they before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple: and he that sitteth on the throne shall dwell among them. They shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more; neither shall the sun light on them, nor any heat. For the Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall feed them, and shall lead them unto living fountains of waters: and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes." (it is very similar to https://www.lds.org/scriptures/ot/isa/25.8?lang=eng Isaiah 25:8, which is my favorite scripture)
Saturday, on my exchange with Sis Wolterman, she taught me something she had (of course) learned from Brother Andre. 'Cause he's just cool like that. He pointed out how the first thing Joseph Smith talks about in his history is his family. He names his family members. Why would he do that? Because he loves them. (see https://www.lds.org/scriptures/pgp/js-h/1?lang=eng JS-H 1:4. This is important because Joseph wasn't just a weirdly mature 14-year-old boy confused by different doctrines. He was torn apart inside because the different churches kept telling him that anyone who went to a different church would be damned. Well, his father didn't believe in organized religion, his mother was Presbyterian, and his siblings were split. He himself leaned toward Methodist beliefs. But what would that mean for his family? Would they be torn apart someday because they went to different churches? Would he never be able to be with them again? He loved them so much, he couldn't bear the thought. How could he choose? This is why his soul was in such torment over the choice of religion. This is why he went to the Sacred Grove, and this is why he inquired so faithfully and diligently of the Lord as to what of all religions was true and which he should join. Incredible stuff, huh? The first Vision and the very Restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ were brought about by Joseph Smith's love for his family. I have a testimony that the gospel and the church of Jesus Christ are founded on the family, and that our families are a direct reflection of the family of God - which we all belong to. We can make it home together!
Lastly, this morning I read https://www.lds.org/scriptures/ot/2-chr/34.1?lang=eng 2 Chronicles 34 about King Josiah. What an inspiring leader! My favorite part was that as soon as he learned the truth and learned of the gospel, he immediately and without hesitation acted on what he learned. He not only completely turned his life around and made a covenant to follow Heavenly Father's plan for him, but he helped everyone within his sphere of influence to follow Him, too. Josiah's conversion story taught me to be more faithful and immediately act on promptings, trusting in the Lord. Sometimes it isn't easy, but Josiah was a very young and very dedicated leader who was given great promises and blessings as a result of his pure heart and desire to learn and enact God's will.
I love y'all so very very much! Just keep swimming!
Sister Heather Bambas
California Irvine Mission
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