Monday, March 31, 2014

This kind of stuff doesn't happen in real life!

Elder Pence, Sister Eneri, and Tima at her baptism.

Mosa bought this cake for us. $40. Not ok because that's a lot of money around here. Also, ridiculous, it was supposed to be his day, not ours! (We are wearing traditional Kiribati blouses called tibutas. Sister Eneri's mama made it for me!)

ALright brace yourselves this is gonna be a long one. 
SO it all started in January, the beginning of this year, on a Monday eerily similar to today. I was confined to the flat with my bedridden companion, Sister Kumar. Everyone else in the Zone went to Zone P-day and the Zone Training Meeting EXCEPT us. I was so cabin-feverish that I wanted to run away, but I wouldn't dare. Anyway, there were some things talked about in that ZTM meeting. Some zone goals were made. Later that week, Elders Smith and Heath (the ZL's at the time) came to our flat and had a ZTM on the porch with us. We sat and ate cookies and drank watery Tang and discussed the aforementioned goals: (I actually am having trouble remembering the specifics. Numbers, man...) 100 baptisms in the month of March (missionwide?). That means three baptisms per companionship. January would be a month of finding, February would be a month of teaching and baptismal committing, March would be a month of miracles. Elder Heath had this whole funnel graph thing going on to explain how all this was going to work. The guy will be a great businessman one day. BUT ANYWAY, we committed to it. Three baptisms in March? Sure, no problem. 
Here's the thing: there hadn't been a baptism in the area since September. The ward was having a hard time being our friends. We had been confined to the flat for WEEKS, so the work was very much behind. It was definitely going to take a miracle. 
Then WHAM Sister Kumar got transferred to Suva so that they could monitor her health, and Sister Eneri came to me wide eyed and fresh faced and GREEN as can be. We got to work. We regained the trust of the members (they ADORE us now). We talked to every stranger we could find, knocking on doors, street contacting, calling former investigators, all that jazz. We had more new investigators than we had time for. So then we buckled down and sifted the wheat from the tares, making sure we focused more on those that were progressing. But March came, and it still didn't look like we were going to get those three baptisms...
FLASH FORWARD to this week. We had three baptismal dates. But only one of them was for March. The other two were for April. We had given up on the idea of getting three baptisms in March; we were happy to even be getting one. Here was the plan: Mosa this weekend, Tima next weekend, and Junior the weekend after that. Three baptismal weekends in a row. We were both very pleased. Very happy with this plan. 
But of course, the curse of Lautoka decided to strike again. (The curse of Lautoka--every baptism for the past five months had fallen through for one reason or another.) FIRST we find out that Mosa probably was unworthy to be baptized. What we heard was about four different stories from four different family members, but each of them basically told us the same thing: he should not be baptized on Saturday. ??? We also found out that his father, who is the 2nd counselor in the bishopric and someone that I greatly respect, refused to be the one to perform the baptism because he felt that Mosa was not ready. Of course, he never told us this, we heard it from someone else. All of this stupid word of mouth stuff. And to top it all off, Mosa worked late every night after his baptismal interview. EVERY NIGHT. We did not get to see him ALL WEEK. And of course he has no phone...
So that one looked like it wasn't going to happen. 
Then we went and saw Junior. He has been taking the lessons since August. He knows it all, he believes it. We were just waiting on him to talk to his dad (he's 17). Lately we had been talking to his mom about it. She supported Junior's decision to be baptized 100%. She even said who cares what the dad says, I'll sign the dang form. But it mattered to Junior. He really respects his dad. And of course, what did the dad say? No. Why? Because it would be betraying his culture. (The family is Indian and Hindu.) Well, we can't do much about that one. 
Then there is Tima. Let me tell you about here. She has been a miracle. Such an incredible blessing. She is the na levu, or aunt, of a sister in our district, Sister Vasu. Sister Vasu had actually lived with her since she was 10 years old, and called her na (mom). One day, Sister Vasu gave us a referral, who happened to be Tima. We went and found her and started teaching her. It was love at first sight. She became our mom. She would always make us lemon leaf tea, always call us luvequ (my child), always listen intently to everything we told her. She was a golden investigator, knowing immediately that everything we shared is true. She came to church every Sunday, she kept all of her commitments, she was SO golden. So this week we start to fill out her baptismal record, but we had a question about it. Should we write down her husband as her current spouse or former spouse? Because they had been separated for ten years, though not legally divorced. So we texted the DL, dear old Elder Pence. And he calls us and suddenly we have a dilemma. Why? Because in this mission, wives need to get consent from their husbands before they can get baptized. And if Tima was not yet divorced, then she'd either have to get permission from this long lost husband (who had cheated on her hardcore and broken her heart those many years before) or get a divorce (which could take MONTHS to finalize). 
WHAT?? Really dumb, why had I never heard of this policy before. 
My first reaction was to be angry- how degrading to women can you get? What a dumb policy...
But I prayed about it and got over it (not before having a knock-down drag-out with our DL...) with this particular quote in mind: "Good timber does not grow with ease, the stronger the wind, the stronger the trees." (Thomas S. Monson) Tima had been SO easy to teach, if we wanted her to have a conversion as solid as good timber, then maybe she would have to go through a little refining. Alright I can accept that. 
But there went our plan. Those three baptisms in a row were suddenly *POOF* gone. 
I was discouraged, man. I was thinking like this: Heavenly Father, I've done my part, why can't you do yours? 
SO BLASPHEMOUS I know. But those were my thoughts. 
Thursday night we got back to the flat and I just cried. Sister Eneri had a much better perspective than me. She left me alone, she knew I needed the time. 
I just wanted my mama. Just wanted someone to talk to that could understand my brain like she can. I was cursing at the whole missionary life thing, where you are forced to do all your ranting to the Lord. Not that I don't appreciate prayer, it's just that at the time I was a little mad at Him. Let me tell you, that particular conversation with Him was a funny one. 
I woke up the next morning just ugh. Didn't talk to Sister Eneri. She gave me my space; she's a good kid. I prayed and prayed that the Lord would just throw me a bone. Help me be able to function enough to at least figure this thing out with Mosa. 
And He did. I gathered my thoughts. I called Sister Vasu. She gave me some FABULOUS information--Fijian law states that if you have been separated from your husband for three years, it's automatically a divorce. Waaa? We confirmed it with a lawyer in the ward, it's true. (Never heard of a law like that before.) 
That gave me the peace of mind necessary to come up with a game plan for Mosa. We were going to figure this dang thing out, so help me gosh. We went to his house, determined to wait for him until after curfew if necessary, because that was the only way we were going to be able to find out if there was going to be a baptism on Saturday. Luckily, he came back early! And we sat him down and he told us he was worthy and we felt the Spirit so we believed him. Then we told him he needed to reconcile with his dad, who he had apparently disrespected. We took Mosa to his dad's house, sat them all down, and witnessed a really tender moment. Mosa pleaded with his father for forgiveness. Brother Namatarua counseled Mosa up one side and down the other, telling him that he needed to be serious about this gospel, and that the Sisters won't always be around to hold his hand and take him to church (not that we do that). He said that he needed to pay more attention to the gospel than his friends. Emeni to that one. And then Brother Namatarua said that he forgave him, and that he would baptize him tomorrow. Tears fell from Mosa's eyes as he listened to his father. The Spirit was so strong. Ah it was a happy little meeting. AND THE BAPTISM WAS ON.
Then we went to Tima and told her hey guess what you CAN get baptized next week after all! Yay :)
SO we had Mosa's baptism on Saturday. It was hectic and the font took four hours to fill up. The water pressure was so low that we had to be going back and forth between a different spigget and the font with a 5 gallon bucket. I lost track of how many times we did that, but it felt like it made NO difference. Nevertheless, it did get filled, and we had a baptism. Sister Eneri's first one, and my fourth. It was lovely. Even though the whole Namatarua family was grumbling about it haha. Tima came and saw it, and then afterwards she was supposed to get interviewed for her baptism. 
Then another bomb got dropped. We heard from our DL that Sister Vasu, Tima's "daughter", had finally received her visa. She was called to serve in Vanuatu, but had been unable to because of the lack of a visa. Well, now she'd gotten it, and she's leaving on Tuesday. RIGHT before Tima's baptism.
Tima was devastated.
We didn't really know what to tell her. She had been praying that Sister Vasu could attend her baptism. Now she wasn't going to be able to. AH.
So Tima goes to have her interview. And when it is finished, Elder Pence comes out and says he needs to talk to me. Um why? What went wrong? No, nothing went wrong, he just had a question. What? How do you feel if Tima were to get baptized TOMORROW. WHAT?? THAT'S A FABULOUS IDEA, BUT TOMORROW??? 
Baptisms are not easy to plan. They take a couple days. WE HAD ABOUT THREE HOURS OF AWAKE TIME TO GET THIS TOGETHER. 
I hate the idea of throwing a baptism together. They are supposed to be so special.
Well, guess what. Tima's was special. 
We had it before church. Everyone was late, including Tima, so we had to cut back on the program a lot. Sister Vasu spoke, and everyone was in tears. I organized a little musical number with our whole district, and it was beautiful. Tima was baptized by Elder Pence. For the first time ever, I cried as I watched my investigator get baptized. Every baptism up until this one had been important, but the love that I have for Tima is stronger for some reason, so this one was special for me. She is so precious. She is our miracle. I love her so much. It was a beautiful morning. The only people that came were the missionaries, the Bishop, and our Ward Mission Leader and his wife. The program was cut down. It was seriously thrown together at the last minute. But it was the most beautiful and special and perfect baptism I have ever attended. And Sister Vasu got to come too. And Tima was so happy. And I will love her forever, my Fijian mother. 
I gave her my CTR ring. She cried when I did. She is so grateful for her "two daughters sent from the Lord". 
I BELIEVE IN MIRACLES. I may have been rude to my Heavenly Father, but He still heard my prayer. And not only that, he made it possible for us to get two baptisms in March. 
Now we need to find some more investigators...
This is Sister Eneri's last week of training :O
Love you all, take care

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