Monday, November 24, 2014

November 24, 2014

Dearest All

The only way I can describe this week was Magical, it didn't feel real, but it was! The week began with our usual lessons with Debra, and then this magical thing happened, when we were finishing up our lesson at the Library she said, "I believe it" and she wants to get baptized, we ran through the Baptism interview questions with her again and she was interviewed that night after Andrew's interview! (Elder Cluff and I when we left the library, we got in the car looked at each other and said..."what just happened?")
Elder Tonjes, who was my first district leader, back in Ravenswood WV, is now our zone leader here in the Ashland zone. So it was a fun throwback to have him come down to Prestonsburg on an exchange to interview Andrew and Debra, the interview's went just over an hour each, and Elder Tonjes, said it felt like he was a bishop with back to back interviews. Meanwhile, I was out in the foyer with Sister S and Debra and Andrew sharing our conversion stories, it was wonderful to get to know these members and investigators (soon to be members) on a more personal level and share our testimonies, it was just splendid!

Elder Tonjes, upon the conclusion of our exchange as we drove though Jenny Wiley State Park, he said that I am a really a different person and have found a great balance in missionary work and a fireball since the first week of my mission, when we first went on an exchange.

Then at last the Magical day arrived, Sunday! We Arrived at the church and having everything set-up for the baptism, the font was clean and ready for water, We sang in the ward choir (which this was the first time in several years that this ward has had a choir, it was a very sweet return and the spirit simply resonated through the chapel), the stake president and his wife also came to sacrament meeting he said "music is part of our culture as latter-day saints, but it is not musical performance, but rather a form of worship " which struck Debra especially, since she loves music! During the stake President's Talk Andrew looked over at us and pulled out his brand new large print, monogrammed with his name, leather bound scriptures that Sister S had purchased for him while she was  in Utah, he had the biggest smile on his face like a little kid excited and proud of his new toy!
 We also had to move our Gospel Principles class to the Family History Center, because our previous classroom we have outgrown, with so many investigators coming (Andrew, Debra and the B family) and less-active member's returning, we filled every seat in the family history center! Elder Cluff and I began filling the font during Sunday School, and putting together the finishing touches for the baptism, as we dashed around the building, a number of the ward members made the comments, "you two must really like each other" "you two are great together" "I can tell when missionaries get along and when they don't and you both get along really well!" It's true we love each other and we are a smashing fantastic companionship. It all added to the magic feel of the day! Sister S shared with us the gifts that she had for Andrew and the anticipation continued to build..

We had a little linger-longer lunch after church to ensure that everyone was fed before the Baptism which began at 2:00, the stake president and his wife even spoke one on one with Andrew, Sister S, Debra and the B family! 
The guests all began to arrive and as the chapel filled (full!) there were at least 100 people at the baptism, we with Andrew got changed into our white clothes, (since and Andrew is 6' 6" 250lbs and the font is fairly small it was arranged so both Elder Cluff and I would both be in the font, Elder Cluff was performing the baptism, and I assisted in insuring he didn't hit his head and also to lift him back up out the water, and making sure we got him all the way under) it felt like exactly like we were in the temple again! I keep saying it like I have never felt a spirit like it before, but it is true it is all the spirit but it was unique and powerful for the occasion.  When we walked down the hallway toward the chapel , with the piano playing my heart simply was pounding with excitement and joy, as all three of us we trying with all our might to hold back our overpowering joyful emotion, sister S was there to greet us as we entered the chapel, when we walked in the only experience close to the spiritual sensation we felt is walking in to the celestial room in the temple. Everyone waiting for Andrew and us, the chapel was full, with the entire ward and Andrew's friends and family they all turned around and smiled, we took our seats up front, it felt a lot of what I imagine what it will be like when we leave this life and are greeted in the spirit world.

The opening hymn was The Spirit of God, which it sounded like the Tabernacle choir was singing, and members who had known Andrew since they were kids spoke and then we all stood and moved to the back of the cultural hall were the font was located

 The bishop was concerned that we were going over the top and was hesitant to let us use the chapel, the new program format, the lunch, and the little details like tables with table cloths with photos of the temple and Christ etc. for the Baptism even (simply because it wasn't how they usually do it)  after a little persuasion he allowed us to proceed to hold the service in the chapel.

On our way out of the chapel the Bishop stopped us and with a huge grin on his face he said "your right, I like it way better in here (the chapel) [along with everything else] this is how we are doing it from now on"...and then he hugged me and thanked us..."this is a good day..a really good day" he said.  I have never seen a bishop so excited.

First of all I want to say I love the floor plan of the ward building here, with the font in the back, center of the cultural hall and a small alcove outside the font  away from everyone else, with a white hallway as we enter the font, we waited in the alcove with my hand on the door knob for a few minutes as everyone found their place in the cultural hall to watch the baptism, those moments I never wanted them to end, the happiness, excitement, joy and spirit as we couldn't hold it back anymore the spirit was radiant! Then sister Winn came around the corner and said we are ready, I opened the door and we walked down the short hallway to see everyone smiling with quiet whispers, I describe it as walking onto a celestial stage, was stepped into the font, the water was warm and just right, then everything went quiet, it was perfect... and for what seemed like an eternity Elder Cluff raised his arm  and being caught in the spirit, elder Cluff could barely say the words then He went under and Elder Cluff and I lifted him back up and he immediately caught us in a hug, the spirit still beaming we stepped out and those minutes after didn't feel real at all, elder cluff and I told each other how much we love each other and how grateful we are to be serving together and out on a mission here in Kentucky. This was the first Baptism we had both been a part of the actual ordinance, the first time in our missions that were were dressed in all white and again I can only relate the spirit to how you feel in the temple.

After we dried off we went back into the chapel, where sister S sang a magnificent solo, and another talk from one of his childhood friends, the Bishop stood and practically jumped to the pulpit absolutely elated and welcomed Andrew to the Ward!  Trish gave him his Family History Binder, then as we sang the closing hymn, I am a child of god, and Elder Winn gave the closing prayer, when I opened my eyes, I looked over and saw a small pool of joyful tears on the Hymn Book that Andrew had in his lap and then the entire ward proceeded to  come and hug Andrew with an equal joy very excited to have him as a new member of the ward, Elder Winn came and grabbed both Elder Cluff and I and put his arms on our shoulders, "well done elder's, well done elders "...as we looked around the chapel and saw Andrew with the rest of the ward it was like the end of a good movie, a happy ending...however this is the happy beginning, because in the gospel "there are no true happy endings only everlasting beginnings"

Debra said that she had never felt like she had during the baptism and is very excited for her's next week. (November 30th)

Well that was really only a scratch at how really incredible this week was...when Elder Cluff and I Arrived home that night we said to each other..."it was a really good day...we should do it again sometime," "how about next week"...haha Well I love you all thank you for all your prayers and support, it is because of all of you that I am able to be here and this experience is yours to have as well.

​Debra, Elder Cluff & myself at the Library after our lesson...notice how well studied her triple combination is.



​So This was the lesson when Debra said "I believe it"...Debra's biggest hold-back was understanding that this is the only true and living church and adjusting to the changes from her protestant background. so we set up this board "Who wants to be a Millionaire (in blessings) : Gospel Edition" with the Million dollar question, how many churches are there? with enough lifelines to get the answer correct no matter what, because Heavenly Father wants us to know the answer...correct answer is 2...the church of the devil and the church of the Lamb of God. We read 1 Nephi 14 with her and then she got out a huge stack of notes from her former church services and pastors, and she wanted us to tell her if each thing she had taken notes from was true or false and as we taught true or false, she would either correct what was wrong in her notes, or cross it out all-together with a red pen! Her courage and trust in the lord was and is incredible   
Scoreboard...Elder Cluff wrote this as we went through Debra's notes...I said "well it really isn't us that is getting the point"...so he added representatives of Jesus Christ, because it is truly the lord's win.
 ​Tis the season...Deck the Library with bounds of Holly.

so here in Kentucky, we are in the "mountains" so everything that is flat has to be cut out of the mountain, but the water table is still high, so water just leaks out of the cuts in the mountain and when it gets cold the water freezes and forms these really cool looking giant icicles everywhere! 
 Myself and the B family holding their pet rabbit Whitey...they are progressing right along, they have had the first three discussions, and have come to church consistently and every ward activity. we are planning to watch Joseph Smith Prophet of the Restoration tomorrow with them.
 Burl S Deep Frying a turkey for the ward thanksgiving dinner...the worlds greatest mustache

​The ward thanksgiving dinner...a smashing success, a large number of less-active members and non-members came.
 So when we were cleaning up from the thanksgiving dinner, I noticed that one of the storage closets had what appeared to be a stairway above it, and the closet next to it was just a dummy door for looks, so my engineering curiosity was peaked so I went exploring with Elder Winn (and his keys) and found the stairs to the attic and found the mechanical room for the ward building. Places you don't really think about much in a church. 
 ​fun fact, did you know that just about every church property, the climate control is actually controlled remotely from Salt Lake City.
 ​service at the ward supported, food pantry.


 So it has become a tradition for us missionaries here in Prestonsburg, to come to Dewy Dam in Jenny Wiley State Park and stand on the top center of the dam and do our "Samuel the Lamanite"

 ​Elder Tonjes and I infront of the Prestonsburg Apartment...if you go way back to my first week in the mission, you will see nearly this same photo of Elder Tonjes and I back in Ravenswood on my first exchange, now seven months later. 
Saturday the night before Andrew's Baptism, we deep cleaned the Baptismal font.  
 Cleaning the Font...Elder Cluff Showing off his giraffe socks.
 Sunday, Baptism Day...in front of the font.
 ​Sister S & Andrew in front of the font, at the Martin Ward on his baptism day November 23rd, 2014
 Andrew with Sister S and her Son Kaden.
 Engagement photo...soon, maybe, we hope...these two are awesome by the way.


​Dressed in White...just before we entered the chapel.






After all was said and done, we departed the church with high spirits and a sense of "was that even real" and yes it was! this was the Baptism that this ward has been waiting for in years, down right incredible, and I and the rest of us here in Martin Kentucky are looking forward to the miracles that are sure to come next.




​Later on sunday night, Elder Cluff and I decided to host a missionary, sunday dinner...I cooked some Terriaki Chicken, with sticky rice and soup. we had a grand old time with all of us Martin Ward Missionaries...Elder Alley, Elder Buttars (notice he is holding the Thankful Pumpkin that I received in the mail from my family, it was our center piece) Elder and Sister Winn (our senior couple that live across the street from us)  and of course my dear companion and our mighty District Leader Elder cluff and myself.




​My family is so cool...I really wish I could have seen how this went at the post office, when you sent this mom.


Lunch, before the baptism...this ward pulls together, on the spot.


  The ward...you can see Elhanan, in the blue suit with the red tie, in the front center, and the B family down the row from him, Andrew across the way talking with President (stake) Lymn's wife, then of course there is Elder Cluff.

Our Ward Mission Leader, Brother Dingus



​The Welcome table, it's in the details...by the way, the majority of Andrew's guest's were less-active Jehovah's Witnesses (which is a huge deal, becuase JW's are not supposed to attend church services of other religions)...one said that they will be back and most of this stuff was gone by the end of the service.



That is all for this week
Love yins
-ART

Elder Wheeler

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