Another great week in paradise!
We've still been working with the same people. Right now our focus is on the four kids: Johnny, Jibas, Monalinda, and Denise. All four of them are set for baptism this Thursday so that's exciting. It's really how crazy everything is moving. It seems like we just started teaching them and already they're days away from entering the waters of baptism! The Lord really is hastening his work!
We've also been working with this girl named Carmela. She's 12 years old and was baptized a few years ago, but once the missionaries got transferred out she didn't really feel like she had any friends in the church so she stopped coming. I've been talking with her and trying to get her to come back to church for the entire five months I've been here, but she just kept going to this other Christian church with all of her other friends. Finally three weeks ago she showed up at church randomly, but ran out the door right after sacrament. We talked to her a little bit the week after and she came again to church the following Sunday, and this time stayed for all three hours. After Sunday school she pulled me aside and said that she wanted us to come and teach her that week. It was really surprising, but I gladly accepted. We went and started re-teaching her the missionary discussions. It went really well and she came again to church yesterday for the third week in a row! We taught a super solid Sunday school lesson on the atonement and I think it really hit her. This week we've committed her to talk to the branch president and get her temple recommend! She's really excited and is starting to feel like she belongs in church again!
The lesson we taught in Sunday school was on how to make the sacrament more meaningful. We picked one of the youth in the class and set up chairs (one for the feet and one for each hand) and then gave out Starburst to each kid as a gift. But the catch was that for each gift we gave out, the kid on the chairs had to do 5 pushups. There's about 45 kids in the class so it added up to a lot. We told the kids to look at how much Freddy was suffering for them and how much pain he looked like he was in. We told them that even though it was something that was hard, something that Freddy could hardly bear, he was doing the push ups for them so that they could have their starburst. He loved them enough to subject himself to pain and hardship all so they could get their gift.
We then related it to the Atonement. How it wasn't something that Christ wanted to do. He asked Heavenly Father if the cup could pass from him. But he did it anyway because he loves us. He did it so that we could all have the gift of eternal life and returning to live with our Father in Heaven. And not only did he suffer for our sins, but he suffered for our pains, sicknesses, weaknesses, afflictions, etc. So any time we are facing something hard, He knows exactly how it feels, because he's felt that exact same pain. And because Christ suffered so much to give us this great gift, shouldn't it be something that we treasure? We should always remember Him and his sacrifice, which is one of the covenants we renew each week we take the sacrament. So to try and help make the sacrament more meaningful to the youth, we asked them next time they take the sacrament, to think that Christ atoned for their personal sins. That their wrongs added to Jesus' pain, to his drops of blood lost. But that He didn't do it grudgingly, He did it so that no matter how bad, or how many times we mess up, we can be forgiven and eventually return to God's presence. To me, that's the greatest gift anyone can ever offer me.
Love you guys!
-Elder Sammy Merrill