Well, as you probably know, this weekend I had the honor of witnessing the baptism and confirmation of my dear Alisa. After eight months of placing cornerstones in the foundation of Zion, I was finally allowed by God to see a construction through to the capstone. He allowed me to witness and take part in a spiritual transformation of one of His beloved children -- one who He has been nearby all her life, who has been being prepared for the fulness of the gospel for years and years, and who has now officially joined His kingdom. At the end of the baptismal service, when Alisa and Alexander (a man who also got baptized) bore their testimonies, Alisa said, "Dear brothers and sisters. I want to repeat that, 'dear brothers and sisters,' because I really mean it. I feel like I have finally come home. In my life I've been in a lot of beautiful homes with a lot of wonderful people, but there's only one place where I have truly felt at home, and it is this church." It IS home -- an echo of the heavenly home we left to come here, and a foretaste of the eternal home where we will return after this life.
It was interesting to me that the actual baptism and confirmation were less extraordinary than I imagined them being. Yes, the Spirit was incredibly strong, but not much stronger than the myriad of lessons I've been on with Alisa as she has strengthened her faith in Christ and brought her life more and more in harmony with God's will. Baptism and confirmation are two absolutely vital ordinances, but they're only part of the gospel of Jesus Christ. As I've taught my investigators, the steps to salvation are faith in Christ (#1), repentance (#2), baptism (#3), receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost (#4), and enduring to the end (#5 - infinity; continuous repetition of the first four steps, sacrament substituted for step #3 and living worthy of and following the Holy Ghost subsituted for step #4). In any case, I'm so grateful to have been (and will continue to be) part of each one of those important steps in Alisa's life.
Speaking of enduring to the end, we got transfer information a little early, and guess where I'm going?... NOWHERE! One more transfer in Voskresensky and then I'm out of here (words from President). When he told me (I actually snuck it out of him last week after our leadership council), I could hardly believe it. And to make it more ironic, all five of the other missionaries in my district are leaving for other areas. I had a dream the other night that I was looking in the Russian dictionary for the word "dinosaur," because that's pretty much what I am around here. I hope y'all know that my lamenting is purely comical -- I'm glad to be staying, and plus I'm super excited because I'll have a native companion, Sister Batalova, from Russia (and I'm staying Sister Training Leader... yay!).
It's nice knowing that this next transfer will be my last, because I'm going to milk this area dry. Back in August, the first time I thought I would leave Voskresensky (clearly before I knew better), I wrote in my journal something like, "How can I leave this area? I've given my whole heart to this place, and I may soon be leaving it!" If that was August, then I have since also donated approximately both lungs, my right kidney, my liver, and my left kankle to the cause of Voskresensky, and soon will come the other kankle. I don't know what the mission will hold for me at the end of March, but until then... may Voskresensky live on. :)
Spiritual thought, spiritual thought... I've been thinking a lot about the mercy of God and how it's available to literally everyone. Some of my favorite passages in the Book of Mormon are 3 Nephi 18:22-25, 32 and 2 Nephi 26:24-28 because of how clear it is that the gospel is for everyone. I love the symbolism that Christ's first miracle was turning water into wine because that's what the gospel is all about: change. If he could literally change the chemical structure of a liquid physically, then surely He has the power to change the spiritual nature of anyone who comes unto him. We should never judge who would or would not accept the gospel if given the chance: our blessing and responsibility is to offer it to everyone, come what may. It's made me think of a little mission motto: let it be THEIR choice, not MINE. If anyone around me doesn't accept the gospel, it will never be because I deemed them unworthy of it; it will be because I offered it and they rejected it (for the time being). So, friends and family, as you're striving to share the gospel with those around you, resist the natural man's urge to judge whether or not someone will accept what you have to offer -- only God knows the hearts of those around you, and I think you'll be surprised where you find the elect.
I love you!
You know where to find me... ;)