I hope you all had a merry Christmas filled with joy, and love, and Christ and such. Here, it didn't really feel like Christmas, it was sunny and 75 with no snow and hardly any lights and no Christmas tree. Christmas for me was just like the rest of the holidays, spent with my missionary family. We baked like 600 cookies the night before, then on Christmas day, after we'd all skyped our families, we went caroling and delivered all the cookies to widows in all the wards in our zone. It was cool not having to worry about presents and instead focusing on the Christlike spirit of Christmas and serving others.
One of the other sets of missionaries in our zone baptized a guy this pastwith a really cool story. Our zone leader, a year and a half ago when he first started his mission had met this guy, Isaiah. He was the first door he knocked on his entire mission. They started to teach him, but after a while Isaiah started hiding when he saw the missionaries and eventually the elder was transferred. A year and a half later, we had a meeting and were all gathered together at the chapel of the ward he had served in. After the meeting, all the elders walked outside and saw a guy, sitting on one of the benches hungover and crying. We went over to talk to him, and the elder recognized it was Isaiah. Long story short, he told about how he wanted to change his life, and couldn't think of any other place to go. He accepted the invitation to start taking lessons from the missionaries again and was baptized three weeks later! He has such a strong testimony and completely turned his life around. Right after he was baptized, he came out of the water, and hugged his friend that had baptized him. They stood in the font embracing for a long time, but no one moved. The spirit was so strong because everyone in that room knew what he had come from and how much of a change he had to make and how much it meant to him to be baptized. He told all the missionaries how grateful he was for us and that when we get discouraged, to keep on going, because you never know what'll happen down the road. It took him a year and a half to finally realize he needed to change his life, then to recognize how much the gospel could bless his life.
I also had to give a talk yesterday in sacrament meeting. Because we have such a small ward, when someone doesn't show up to church that's scheduled to give a talk, they just ask the missionaries. I focused my talk on Christ, in the spirit of the holidays. I talked about how great it is that at Christmas time, the whole world comes together to remember Christ's birth, but now that Christmas is past, we can't just forget Christ, instead we move on in His life, in remembering what He continued to do for us after His birth. His atonement, and dying for us on the cross. I also talked about trials. How God will never try us above our capacity, so when we're faced with a trial, to look at it as a blessing and be thankful, because God is complimenting you, saying "I know you can do this, and when you overcome, you will only be stronger". I shared what a bishop in my last area told me about the refiner's fire. He said when a silver is refined it has to be put through intense heat first to break it down and purify it. The silver is finished being refined, when the refiner can see his reflection in the product. Then I related that to us, and how we need to be put through intense heat to humble and purify us, to realize we need Christ and to turn to Him. But once our trials are overcome, we better reflect our Savior and His life. I know trials make us stronger, and I hope by pressing forward, that Christ will be able to say to us as he does in 1 Nephi "I have refined you".