Apparently the announcement is out from the First Presidency that missionaries are allowed to email their friends. Mind you all, I still have only an hour for email. If you would like to send me an email, I will absolutely read it, love it, savor it, and might respond over the course of a few weeks. It's been confirmed, my best bud in Norway emailed me this week with the same news. So, throwing it out there.
This week has been as eventful as ever. We're working hard at developing the strategy and tactics required to increase member-missionary coordination. It's already mid-March and there's only been one baptism in Chai Wan with an end of the year goal of 18. This morning both the CW companionships scheduled a meeting with President Hawks to discuss these efforts, and I believe it's going to help a lot. I can feel the enthusiasm increasing, and in brief, we believe that through specific, simple, and steadily increasing goals and shared responsibilities the work out here is going to become exponential in numbers. President Hawks actually issued out a message through the Zone Leaders asking us to pray specifically that there will be calmness and stability throughout the mission as numbers begin to increase. He also promised us that if we follow precisely the guidelines in Chapter 8 of Preach My Gospel about Using Time Wisely, our short term key indicators will double within 4-6 weeks and our long term key indicators (baptism and confirmation) will at least double in 4-6 months. The attitude of faith and obedience has been present throughout the mission and wonderful things are beginning to happen.
Mom, it's funny what you said in your last email to me about thinking I was being pushy with Francis. There's more to update on his story this week. I may have had the "pushiest" lesson of my life this week. It started in our Weekly Planning session -- Elder Woo and I felt really strongly that Francis was going to make his baptismal date this month. We planned for it, and later that night we had a text from his fellowshipper saying that Francis was not willing to be baptized until 2014 after he worked out his debts. Apparently he also sent her an article written by a Christian that challenged the doctrine of baptism. That same night I had been texting a new investigator, who, within the 30min time period that I messaged him, got completely anti'd by his parents and went from saying he'd read the Book of Mormon to "I don't need religion, I'm strong enough to face my own challenges, and my parents want me to be myself." He concluded nigh accusing us of telling him to disrespect his parents. Needless to say, that night I was frustrated with what seemed to be failure on every side.
I prayed and studied hard about what we would do with Francis. We decided to finish teaching him the Gospel of Jesus Christ, including the doctrine of baptism, the gift of the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end. Elder Woo and I taught with much unity as we expounded him the scriptures and taught him the need to be baptized and the danger of procrastination. I've never spoken to someone with so much authority in my life, and told him in essence that I did not care what the internet said. No matter how persuasive a man can be, God is the most persuasive. We did not speak to him in anger, nor did we look down on him, but we spoke as men having authority from God. I told him that if he tried to wait until next year, he'd forget the feelings that the Lord has blessed him with. We told him that now was the day of his repentance, now was the time to exercise his faith, and now was the time to prepare for baptism.
At the end of the lesson, Francis had changed from skeptical towards the importance of baptism to a deep desire to change and commited to change his schedule in order to accommodate coming to church. He's scheduled to be baptized on the 31st of March.
Without much time to explain, this week I have felt closer to the Savior than I think I may have ever felt my entire mission. I mentioned the hard night with the new investigators anti'd and Francis putting off what the Lord was giving to him. I got on my knees that night, and it would be impossible to describe eloquently the mixture of devestation and the feeling of immense love for these people that I hardly even know. As I prayed about the difficulties, I told God in tears how personally I took it when many of his children unrighteously use their gift to choose. Almost as plain as day I pictured in my mind the Savior standing before the jeering crowd of hundreds who hatefully begged that a sinful man be freed and that He be crucified. I thought of how the Savior did nothing but serve and love every moment of his mortal ministry on the earth. I thought of how personally He must have taken the condemnation to crucifixion.
Jesus Christ is the Savior of the world. He suffered the sins of the world through his Atonement. He bled from every pore in the Garden of Gethsemane, suffered death by crucifixion, and is now forever risen from the tomb. He conquered death, and took upon Himself the sins, pains, and sicknesses of His people. He lives today, and enables us to face the trials of every day and to return to the presence of our Father in Heaven.