I'm really excited to tell you about all the good things that are happening.
but we've hit a couple hard things, and also some good ones. Our good friend Albert Lin, who had decided to be baptized on the 10th of this month, decided to not go through with it. He knows the church is true, but he doesn't feel like he has a strong enough testimony of the Book of Mormon yet. he's waiting for some type of miraculous experience. He also was dealing with a huge amount of opposition. I felt as if Satan was throwing everything he had at Albert, with excuses and concerns. All which seemed really daunting and real, but I knew as soon as he was baptized and received the Holy Ghost, would all vanish into thin air. He's still reading and praying somewhat, and willing to meet, but I'm really worried for him. We had a crucial lesson where we invited him and tried to persuade him repeatedly to accept baptism, but he still was set on dropping his goal. I don't think I've ever felt more sad on my mission. Because I see in him a future church leader/ stake president. But we're meeting with him tonight and of course we'll invite him again and see where he's at. Our other best investigator Brother Chen, who has already gained a testimony of Prayer, and scriptures, church, has hit a wall. He does construction work and they have to work every sunday. He's asked his boss already for work off, and his boss's attitude is "Yeah, go ahead. You can rest whenever you want, but don't worry about coming back, we'll find somebody else. They're family really needs a good supporting job right now. We've promised him that God would help him find a better job if he is willing to give up this one in order to keep the sabbath day holy, but he doesn't quite have that faith yet. I've never felt such an intense battle against Satan as here in the last month or two of my mission. I literally feel as if at times I am doing hand to hand combat with Satan, for the souls of the people in this area. And when you lose and then he laughs in your face, I can't even describe what kind of a feeling that is. Disgust, Hate, and Incredible Sadness. It helps you feel a lot more for what Nephi, and Lehi went through with Laman and Lemuel. Alma also had many similar experiences. I love this part of Chapter 8 of Alma that says:
"Now Satan had gotten great hold upon the hearts of the people of the city of Ammonihah; therefore they would not hearken unto the words of Alma. Nevertheless Alma labored much in the spirit, wrestling with God in mighty prayer, that he would pour out his Spirit upon the people who were in the city; that he would also grant that he might baptize them unto repentance."
I feel the same way in Puli. Satan has some holds here in this area. He has a couple favorite lies he loves to spread in this branch. He says "Oh, Puli will never grow into a ward. Everybody goes less active eventually. Nobody in this place has faith." I am so sick of his lies. I can't tell you how happy I would be if I could but free one or two people from that sort of trap, and rescue them. Some less actives may be a ways away from coming back, however I know the Lord always provides a way.
Just like Alma, when he finally gave up hope, the people had spit upon him, rejected him. He left and then the angel of the Lord, (the same angel that had first visited him) came back and told him the Lord would prepare a way. What faith Alma had that when he had this message delivered he "speedily" returned to the city, and went through by the southern way and met Amulek.
I just read a very very similar experience to Alma's and mine. It was the experience of my great great great grandfather Parley P. Pratt that I read in his autobiography. I brought his autobiography on my mission, I hardly ever find time to read it, but the times that I do, it really helps me gain faith to be a better missionary.
Here's the experience of him and the city of Toronto. Which I found amazingly similar to Alma in Ammonihah, and I hope to me in Puli.
First of all he needed two dollars to get a steamer across lake ontario, but he was completely without money, and a complete stranger in the place. He says
"I pondered what I should do. I had many times received answers to prayer in such matters; but now it seemed hard to exercise faith, because I was among strangers and entirely unknown. Ther Spirit seemed to whisper to me to try the Lord, and see if anything was too hard for him, that I might know and trust Him under all circumstances. I retired to a secret place in a forest and prayed to the Lord for money to enable to me to cross the lake.I then entered Hamilton and commenced to chat with some of the people. I had not tarried many minutes before I was accosted by a stranger, who inquired my name and where I was going. He also asked me if I did not want some money. I said yes. He then gave me ten dollars and a letter of introduction to John Taylor, of Toronto, where I arrived the same evening."
He tried to preach for a while in Toronto, but was absolutely refused hospitality.
"Rather an unpromising beginning, thought I, considering the prophecies on my head concerning Toronto. ..."
He was planning on leaving, and had his hand on the baggage to go back when he overheard Mrs. Taylor talking to somebody, a Mrs. Watson who had been moved upon by the spirit to take a walk right then to visit the taylors. Mrs. Watson was more than willing to take him in and also desired to be baptized after hearing his testimony of the Restoration.
From that small beginning, eventually he saw huge miracles. Not the least of which is baptizing Brother John Taylor, The Fieldings, who later had some connections with church leadership, and many many other prepared souls in Toronto.
One little blessing is that now John Taylors descendants are all in the church. Including his direct descendant Elder Michael John Taylor who is now my companion in Puli! I shared that story with Elder Taylor yesterday, and now we're excited that we've basically got the dream team backing us up. I know that as long as we're worthy, try as hard as we can and focus and pray, we will be able to see the fulfilment of all the miracles pronounced on my head by a blessing from Elder Stark. One of which said that there were many prepared to receive the gospel in Puli, and that the time spent here in Puli would be worth more than the rest of my whole mission put together!
So, here we go to another week. Onward Christian Soldiers! I'm on the front lines, but we can do it. I'm teamed up with the best. I really felt the spirit so strong in a lesson last week when Elder Taylor bore his testimony.
We have a cute little investigator named Jin Shui (his name's pretty fitting I think for someone who we met and he gets baptized without a hitch. It means gold, water), he's eleven. The only thing is, his mom said she was a member, was baptized. She hasn't been since high school. but she didn't have a record. we had the mission recorder look. So now we're trying to prepare her to be baptized too! I was very pleased that yesterday he was able to make a good friend in the ward, the cutest little chubby kid with glasses. They had a great time sitting together and teasing other primary kids together. The ward should be able to take good care of him after I leave.
There are so many miracles. Maybe it's because puli is a smaller isolated place. But almost every investigator we bring to church seems to have a connection to one of the members, and thus automatically has a friend.
One other investigator, Sister Huang, the one we go and serve in her extremely weedy fields, came to church, and met her old teacher, and had a great experience.
Thank you for your prayers and help! Continue to help pray for the people of puli to be set free from Satan's grasp, and accept the gospel.
Love Elder Vernon.
p.s. I hope you remember how when we ran races I would always have a little left to sprint at the end. That's how my mission will be too. My companion and I just set a goal for this week, that if we say a movie quote, something about home or babylon (the outside world) we have to drop and do 15 pushups on the spot. I think it will be kind of fun. I can do it, but he sure likes his movie quotes. haha.
p.p.s. Another funny thing was I went to get the mail the other day, and was so excited to see a letter. But then it said to Elder Taylor. I grumbled and said, "who's writing Elder Taylor, huh?" I looked at the return address and there was a nice little sticker that said "Vaughn J. Featherstone" Turns out His Granps used to be a General Authority! we teased him that he couldn't write back because that would be writing "directly to a general authority" which is prohibited in the missionary handbook. He contended that emeritus doesn't count.