Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Liz's Baptism

I have had the great blessing to get to know and occasionally teach a girl from Florida named Liz. When I first met her in August, she came on to chat and asked what she could have her local missionaries teach her. I had only been on my mission for a few weeks so I had no idea what to say. Knowing what I do now, I would have taken a different approach, but I suggested she ask them about a hard topic. She added me on Facebook and a few days later asked Elder Callahan and I to teach her about that same topic. "Great," I thought, "I guess that's karma!" Anyways, she had been meeting with her local missionaries for a long time. She said that she was going to get baptized in April but her parents were going to make her wait until she turned 18 in October. So for the next two and a half months, Liz and I would occasionally chat and we had a few lessons here and there.

I'm a little bit behind here as she was baptized almost a month ago, but still. Her story is great and her testimony is amazing! In her own words, Liz says:

         "I’ve never felt so close to God as I do now. I remember my first time at church. It was all a joke to me. “Why do these people waster their Sunday’s here?” I thought. “Don’t they have better things to do?” I remember I sat there and tried to listen. I didn’t understand much, so I ended up talking. My best friends, Brianna and Laura, sat next to me. I remember when we sang from the hymn book, all I could do was laugh. Singing had felt so weird to me, especially with all of the church members around us. I felt so awkward. I remember everyone was sleeping. I couldn’t understand, you woke up early on a Sunday morning to be here with God and all you can do is sleep. It made no sense to me. Then I learned that they were all praying.
After that, many months went by. I believe it was an entire year, until I was back at the very same church. Brianna told me the church was having a tour. I didn’t think much of it. All I was doing was spending some time with Brianna. The missionaries were in charge of it all. There were four of them. Elder Dayberry, Rogers, Jarvie, and Kealamakia. Once we got to the chapel they all stood there in front of the podium and spoke about many things. I don’t remember exactly what they said, but I now realize that they were each speaking of the testimony. One of the missionaries stood out to me the most. It was Kealamakia. He stuttered when he spoke with long “ummmmm” pauses. I look up to him and admire him very much. And on that same day when the tour was all over I spoke to Elder Rogers and Kealamakia. I remember I really wanted to ask them a question. But I thought it was too ridiculous. I truly wanted to know how Jesus Christ and the Lord were related, but I was too embarrassed. I didn’t know what they would think of me. So as I approached them I came up with a question at the very top of my head and so I asked when and how the church had been built. It was funny how I never knew this before. I know so many things about our Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ now and I can thank it all to the missionaries J
The very first time I met up with the missionaries, I was scared at first. I didn’t know what to expect or what we would talk about. I had grown so much a desire to learn about God. I had a deep dark hole of confusion within me. All I wanted to do was learn, but I would never have guessed three months from then, that I would have such a big desire to get baptized.
I remember the first few times I hated being with the missionaries. I would do anything to avoid one of our teachings. I liked the first night, having Brianna and her aunt, Christina, right by my side. They made it all the better. And Brother McKein was there too.
I remember I hated straight-forward questions. I felt really uncomfortable, when they asked me if I believe in God and if I had faith in Him. I never truly wanted to answer any of the questions.
When we set up a date for our second appointment, Brianna told me she wouldn’t be able to come. It was worse. Not only was Brianna not there with me, but I was alone with two missionaries. I remember wanting to cancel the appointment but I manned up, and decided that whatever happens happens.
I remember the very first time I prayed. I wanted to shoot myself. I didn’t know how to pray. It was with their pamphlet that I had ended my prayer with “In the name of Jesus Christ Amen.” After that I began to appreciate God. I grew. I no longer needed Brianna at my teachings. I learned so many things. I asked questions and I read more and more out of the Book of Mormon. I had always planned on getting baptized, but the day the missionaries told me I was ready, was a complete and utter surprise to me. I didn’t feel ready, because I wasn’t. My parents knew nothing of my plans. My mom wanted to find out more so we began to meet with the Spanish missionaries, Elder Neely and Elder Bishop. I spoke with them many times. I revealed to them what I was too scared to talk about with Elder Kealamakia and Bolz. Even though I did want to get baptized I still had many doubts. I had some stuff to think about. Before I had learned about God all I ever believed in was a virgin from the Catholic religion. It’s not that I didn’t believe in God. I know He lived. I knew that somewhere there was a God. I just didn’t know it. Unfortunately I wasn’t born into a church and sometimes I wish it hadn’t been that way. But if it weren’t for that I wouldn’t be where I am today. I wouldn’t have gone here to this Church—The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. This church makes me happy! J And so do all of its members.
I lied. I told the missionaries my parents hadn’t allowed me to be baptized. I felt as if telling them the truth would let them down. I would be disappointing God and everyone else. I felt guilt, however. For the course of those days I prayed. I needed to know if I was making the right decision. I didn’t want to jump into baptism like it was nothing, it meant a lot to me. I wanted to be purified without feeling any doubt. To lay back into the water and coming back out feeling renewed, and I wasn’t prepared.
My parents were supportive at that time, however they were having their doubts. We kept speaking of the subject here and there but for some reason praying wasn’t working. When I told the missionaries, they understood a little. They just said to keep praying. It’s what they always say. Keep praying! And it wasn’t helping. I told them sometimes I prayed and I didn’t feel anything at all. Elder Dayberry once told me I needed to have more faith in God. I was mad after what he said because I didn’t know how else I was supposed to have more faith in God. I prayed, I went to church, I was meeting up with the missionaries, I did everything in my will the have more faith. It was after that that I tried having more faith as Elder Dayberry said. After that day, I stopped avoiding our teachings, I prayed more, I began to go to church on Tuesdays, and I told the missionaries the truth—that my parents weren’t banning me from baptism. It was all me. I was the one putting it off all along.
On that same day, we had created another goal, another date to perform my baptism. We had chosen April 17th. There was no other day I had wanted the most than to be baptized on April 17th. The Elders and I had met up every single day of that week before my baptism. Everything was to come out perfect. I had organized and laid everything out as it was supposed to be. And everything crumbled. The entire world came crashing down on my shoulders. My dad had been at home by this week and I told him how I felt. I told him my baptism was to be performed on April 17th. He was okay with it all, he didn’t say much, but my father knows me, when I set my mind to something, I do it. But he still hadn’t recognized it. At that same time my mom wasn’t too sure about it either. I asked her to read the Book of Mormon. I told her it would be the only way to know. My mother didn’t even get past the Introduction. It was a disappointment to know that I had wanted this so much and my parents weren’t even making an effort to accept it.
By then, it had been weeks since my parents had last known of the Spanish missionaries. And as the week progressed it had all gradually gotten worse. But there was one thing that remained the same, and it was my desire to get baptized. I had never wanted it more than that week.
On the Sunday before my baptism, I told the missionaries I wanted to meet every single day of that week. They probably thought I was weird. I didn’t care. I had witnessed that whenever the missionaries were around, I was happy. And nothing would ever go wrong during the day. And if anything bad would happen, seeing them at the end of the day would make it all the better. They have that special thing to them, the missionaries. They can brighten up anyone’s day. I think it’s ‘cause of God, ‘cause He’s always with them.
During the course of that week, I learned of the Word of Wisdom. I learned of the law of chastity. I learned some of the 13 articles of faith. It was probably the best week of my life.
It was during that week that they made me realize how much I really did want to be baptized. It meant so much to me. And then came the crumbling down of things. My parents became agitated, everyone they knew kept forcing negative things upon them. No matter how much I explained, no matter how much I implored, no matter how much I showed to them, they would never understand that all I ever wanted was to be baptized. It made me angry, there was nothing else left to go. My dad told me he wasn’t going to make it. I prayed. I prayed like a crazy person. And the Lord performed a miracle. My dad then called me and told me he would be there that Sunday. My mother just told me she wouldn’t even go. She wasn’t going to support me. My father was all I had left
 And then there was no one. I called the missionaries. I told them that my parents wouldn’t allow me to get baptized. Their hearts were as hard as a rock. The best day of my life was ruined. I was losing faith. It was all crumbling to pieces. The missionaries told me to just have hope, to PRAY. And at this point I was tired of praying. But I did as I was told. Kneeling in front of my bed, I poured my heart out to my Heavenly Father. I wanted to get baptized! My Heavenly Father sees me and He is the only one who knows how much I truly want this.
On Sunday, April 17th, I woke up and went to church. I went to the Spanish Sacrament, and I prayed. I prayed some more. Did I get baptized? No. My parents will make me wait until the day of my 18th birthday.
I look back on the experience, and it was probably one of the hardest things I’ve had to go through. I don’t know why I wasn’t baptized, but Heavenly Father has His reasons. I’m still thankful that I can meet with the Elders and learn about the gospel. If there’s one things that I’ve learned, it’s to always have faith. I am so thankful for God. I love going to church, I love reading the Book of Mormon, and what I love most is learning about this gospel each and every day. I leave you with this very long and detailed testimony—that I know this Church is true because I’ve prayed too many times to keep count. And that my heart is filled with the Spirit. After I've been going to church I've learned how to apply my faith to my prayers, it's one of the reasons that nearly all my prayers come true. And I say ALL of these things in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen."

Liz was finally baptized on October 30th. She said it was the happiest day of her life. It was one of the greatest days of my life to be able to witness someone join God's true Church and see the change that has happened in her life since then. I know that one reason why Heavenly Father wanted her to wait was so that I could meet her. Liz has been a huge strength to me and has become a really good friend! The faith that she has shown and displayed has been a huge help to me and a great example to many others! Thank you Liz for your example!

1 comment:

  1. That was a fantastic testimony. It's always great to hear about the experiences of someone from the other side of missionary work. Congratulations, Liz, on your baptism!