Elder Galke: "....yeah President's got an Audi".
Hermana Vasquez: "President has an outie? Good for him... I've got an innie".
We're actually not sure what kind of belly button President Calderwood has, but his Audi is the only trace of his past life that is visible. I suppose he had to get to New York somehow. If you didn't Wikipedia him, you would have no idea that he's an extremely successful business man and could probably find something else to do with his time if he wasn't taking care of 160 young adults. He is so humble and an incredible example of someone who has left behind everything to go to New York and serve God with all his might, mind, and strength. Being a mission president is no nine to five job. I'm sure the new mission president coming in in a few months will be great, but I can't imagine not having President Calderwood.
Once again we had a week of miracles. And snow. It snowed probably about a foot in one day on top of the several inches we already had. We almost didn't make it out of the church parking lot. That would have been embarrassing. The undercarriage of the car didn't clear the snow. We had an.... interesting.... Lesson with Anthony and Christian. We read Alma 32 with them because they hadn't understood on their own. Afterward, we brought up their baptism date which was five days away. Both of their mothers were there, and neither of the kids had told their mothers they had a baptism date! I was a little flabbergasted, although, trying to exercise a little humility, I realized that is something that I might do.... so I could sympathize. So the next 30 minutes or so was the two Mama Bears grilling everyone. On the bright side, they weren't opposing it. In fact, they were saying (yelling) that if they know it is true, don't wait, but don't get baptized and be less active. So now it's clear how supportive they are. The Hermanas are working with Christian's mom right now, and while she doesn't know it's true yet, she knows that it is good. So anyway, their baptism date got pushed back. They are still progressing.
One night after we finished with lessons and we still had 45 minutes before time to return home, elder Galke received a little bit of inspiration that we should do some street contacting. This was actually my first time because people aren't really out on the streets as much during the winter. In fact, it sounds like winter kind of shuts down a lot of the missionary and ward functions. We don't do a lot just because people won't come because of the weather. That's something that's a little bit different here, because back in Utah when the weather is bad is exactly when people need a nice indoor activity to go do. Anyway, we started walking, and right when we were about to cross the street, he turned us around totally to a different guy. At first he was, of course, a little standoffish, but Elder Galke just struck up a real sincere conversation. Eventually we were stopped, and as we were getting rained on the man open up so much to us. He spoke about how he had been with a girl who had disappeared and then came back pregnant, saying it was his child. They got a blood test which confirmed that. Then she left him with the child. Now he lives in Queens and travels to visit his daughter living here in Staten going to high school. He said having a daughter gave him the desire to straighten up a bit. So we got his number to give to the elders in Queens. It was so amazing what this man confided in us – two guys he had never met. It was a miracle. That's something I noticed a lot here. The members and investigators, people I've never met, will open up so much to us, will trust in us so much. I truly think that they are prompted by the spirit when doing so. That kind of willingness to share The most personal things with people who are, in many cases, total strangers, is something that I have not experienced before.
We had a wonderful lesson with la familia Avila. The spirit was so strong. We shared the Mormon message "hope you know, we had a hard time" and discussed how Christ and the word of God can help us overcome. Hermano's father just died. When the hermana was commenting on how they had been helped through hard times thanks to God, I could hardly suppress my smile. The spirit was testifying of those words so powerfully.
Yesterday we did a few minutes of street contacting and I accidentally started talking to a really, really drunk guy. It was about 8:45 PM and he was already walking home from the bar, he was hammered. We actually asked him if he'd had a lot to drink, and he shrugged it off and said he'd had a few beers. Uh huh. He started getting a little aggressive so we left, but we are able to leave him a card. It was pretty funny at the time, but as I was thinking about it, I realized how sad it was. I wonder what that man is going through, to be going to the bar by himself probably right after work and doing that to himself. It definitely wasn't recreational or social drinking. That's something that I've realized out here more than ever before - we can't understand what other people are going through.
We had a really good lesson with the Garcias. Rick was there tonight, which was an answer to a very specific prayers. It was good to teach Rick and Belkis together. We were really bold and asked Rick straight up why he is not going to church. He just vaguely said life wasn't permitting and that God had his own timetable, but he would eventually get there. We told him that God was calling him right now. We'll see what happens. Doesn't know how much we know about his situation. I could never explain the difficulties they have in cases entrusted to us, and even with our knowledge I can't understand what they go through. Only Christ. I love Rick so much. I feel more of a connection to him than anybody else here. I want to help him so badly but its difficult. On the bright side, we have made more progress with them in the last few weeks than in ten years of missionary lessons before.
I want to give you all my testimony of the enabling and changing power of the atonement. I know it's real because the scriptures say it is. I know it's real because prophets say it is. I know it's real because people whom I love and trust testify of it. But above all, I know it's real because I have personally experienced it. "O then, is not this real? I say unto you - yea." Alma 32:35. Life is hard. That's how it was meant to be. We are meant to need a Savior. Go to him, he will heal you. Don't ever say "that's just the way I am" ( véase "What Manner of Men" by Elder Hallstrom). Christ can change you. In his atonement is the power to become "even as [He is]" (3 Ne 27:27). How incredible. I testify of he blessings and peace that come from understanding and using the atonement. I invite everyone to study "Yes Lord, I Will Follow Thee" by Eduardo Gavarrett. All things this I say in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
(Drawing of Christ: Saw a picture of Jesus that I really liked. On P-Day last week I started sketching this and thought heck, it actually looks like a person, so I've been working on it for 15 to thirty minutes before bed every night since then. I discovered that drawing people is a lot harder than that tiger I drew in high school. I think just because of the eyes. Anyway. Not sure what compelled me
to do this, I just really liked the picture.)