[I asked Elder Rich what has been the most important thing he has learned on his mission.]
To answer your first question my testimony has really been strengthened concerning prayer and the guiding light it is in our lives. I came to not only know but understand that faith is a principle of action. It is how we take a spiritual idea and turn it into an action which generates yet more faith. Well, I see prayer as the same thing backwards. It is something physical that we do everyday, kneel, and turn it into a spiritual experience by true intent and a broken heart which generates more action. I don’t know if that makes sense to you, but I shared that in a district meeting when I was a district leader and invited the missionaries to kneel and pray together often. That month we were the highest baptizing district in the mission.
I have also learned the difference between feeling a sense of entitlement to receiving of blessings and just trusting that they will come. Another experience that showed me just how much God will help us if we do our part KNOWING He will do his. At the beginning of this month we were in a zone conference talking and all of the sudden Elder Griffin and I started speaking about things that had nothing to do with the plans we had made for the conference. I then said, “Elders, the Lord is ready for us to baptize. No more councils, no more plans, no more talking. He needs us to just go and and get it done. Now, it may take time for you to build the faith you need to make this happen or to develop the necessary skills. But as for my companion and I, we will be baptizing this month. I don’t know who. I don’t know how. I don’t know where. But the Lord will show you through us that all he needs is our faith. You are all invited to the baptismal service.”
Griff and I went home and then started the process of figuring out how in the heck we were going to have a baptism this month. We prayed, started a fast, and then just left the house. There was honestly not a doubt in my mind that we were going to baptize. That first week, nobody accepted the baptismal invitation. The second week we came up empty as well. We were almost through the third week of the month and I was surprised at myself. I was still so sure we were going to baptize and I didn’t know how I felt that way. We weren’t doing anything special in the work, had few people investigating and were swamped with the errands zone leaders have to run. And sure enough, as we finished a lesson with Cynthia, who had told us that she was never going to be baptized, she asked us to baptize her because of the impact the Book of Mormon and our respect for her had on her belief.
I have learned that God isn’t necessarily waiting for us to do more, but do things more abundantly. He doesn’t need us to increase the quantity of work, but the trust we have in Him and the knowledge of his goodness. I knew He would help us baptize. More importantly, HE knew I knew.
This week was amazing. Cynthia´s baptism was absolutely beautiful and so was she. The Spirit was overwhelming and I cried as I heard her testimony minutes after having entered the waters of baptism. She spoke of the love she feels for the Lord and his mercy, and then, without closing the meeting, just offered a prayer of thanks and gratitude so that the Lord knew she was aware of the covenant she had made. It was something a little unusual, but everyone reverently bowed their heads as she prayed and when they once again lifted their heads, there was not a dry eye in the room.
I love God and know that He loves me. The most important thing I have learned is that no matter how much I think I want people to get baptized, God´s desire is infinitely bigger and deeper. He is just waiting for someone to prove that they deserve to be a part of it.
Primping for Cynthia's baptism
Elder Rich and Elder Griffin
Elder Griffin, Cynthia, and Elder Rich
Wet and glowing
Elder Rich, Elder Griffin, Cesar, Cynthia and their family.
Cynthia is a mature, intelligent scientist and these elders are not, but she's a great sport.