This past week was.. incredible. I can't wait to tell you all about it. But first, I wanted to comment on all of the pictures from you all in Banff.. I can't explain how jealous I was! I love the matching toques. It sounds like you all had a great time and I couldn't be happier for you!
However.. I feel that I am SO unbelievably blessed to be a missionary during this time. I know all of you have probably heard of the He is the Gift video, but truly.. that video has had such a HUGE impact on my life and has grown my testimony more than I can even explain.
So, as a mission.. we set a goal to have 300 convert baptisms by the end of the year. As a goal for our zone we set a goal for 54.. At the end of November we had 13 baptisms. So.. guess what our baptism goal for December is.. 41. Yep. 41 baptisms by the end of December. We had a zone training this week and our awesome zone leaders just pumped us up so much. Seriously, Sister Coleman and I were ready to jump up and preach the gospel to EVERYONE. I don't think anyone was as excited as us. Awesome things are happening in Tirana too.. the video is being broadcast on the big TV screen at one of the main sections in Tirana and we have really big signs and posters and things and it's just... SO AWESOME. I love it. Anyway, I felt the Spirit at the zone training and I know that it is possible to meet our goals. But, what I loved was that the zone leaders emphasized the idea of "lifting where you stand." It's so true.. the overall goal of 41 baptisms looks pretty overwhelming.. and kind of impossible. But when you look at your own area you realize that you only need 3 baptisms to contribute to that goal.
I am SO grateful to be with Sister Coleman at this time. Truly, I know that our companionship is completely led by the Spirit and we have been SO blessed this week. We met with our investigator Sara, who we weren't able to get a hold of at ALL last week.. Called us last Monday and I pretty much screamed when I saw her name pop up on our phone. So, we met with her and found out that she's still SO solid!!! And guess what y'all.. she's getting baptized this Friday!!! She's incredible and I can't even explain how well she's doing. She's been with us everyday. I'm just so excited. Miracle #1.
The rest of the week just went really well too.. We found 8 new investigators through the He is the Gift initiative and we have been so blessed to have the Spirit with us as we declare about the life and ministry of Jesus Christ and about God's love for His children. I was so surprised as we started contacting, to find that so many people do not celebrate Christmas or really understand what the point of it is. We met with our investigators, Sidorella and Besmira and they accepted baptismal dates as well.
Sunday though was when things really got amazing. 4 of our investigators came to church.. Which truly was one of the greatest blessings ever.. One of them being Elona Hoxha, the wife of our 2nd counselor. She's incredible and I just have such a unique and special love for her. Brother Hoxha was conducting the meeting and so he had the opportunity to bear his testimony first and it was BEAUTIFUL. He got emotional as he talked about how wonderful it was for him to have his wife in church with his 1 year old daughter. He then went on to talk about how we (the sister missionaries) were angels sent from God to his family and he said that he has never been happier. I cannot express the love and gratitude that I felt in that moment for this family and for the opportunity that the Lord has given me to work with them. Sister Coleman and I were mentioned in several other people's testimonies for the work that we've done with them and their families and I was just so grateful to see that our efforts really are making a difference in these peoples lives.
So, after church we went to Elona's house to have a lesson. We taught the Plan of Salvation and talked about eternal families. We had committed her to pray about a baptismal date in our last lesson and so at the end of the lesson, I followed up with that commitment. She said that she had prayed.. but said that she "still didn't know." I was so overcome by the Spirit at this time.. and I told her all that I had in my heart. I told her that she ought not to fear for anything.. But that her Heavenly Father cares for her more than she understands. I promised her, as a representative of Christ, that all would be well if she would take this next step in her life. She was teary as I spoke.. But things just continually came to my mind.. Sister Coleman was silent, but I just had so much to say.. and as I did so, I felt my Albanian be more fluent than it has ever been. The words just seemed to flow out. I promised Elona that the words were not mine, but were the Lord's. She agreed.. hesitantly.. to prepare toward the date of the 27th.
As the lesson ended, we asked Elona to offer the prayer. We all knelt down, and she prayed.. In her prayer, she told her Heavenly Father to bless her to be ready to be baptized on the 27th of December.. and then, the Spirit came into the room stronger than I've ever felt before.. She ended the prayer, and she said that she was freed.. freed from her doubts, and freed from her fear of her family. And she was a completely different person. The smile on her face was incredible.. and her countenance was so bright. She then told us that we are angels to her. I literally witnessed the Spirit testify to her that our words are true and that this is the road that her Heavenly Father has prepared for her.
Sister Coleman and I pretty much floated out of that lesson. It was one of the most spiritual experiences of my life. I also had the opportunity of talking to one of my recent converts from Vlore this week. I called sweet Ledi and when she found out it was me on the phone she just started to SOB. Seriously.. she started to cry so hard. She was like, "I miss you so much!!!" I wanted to cry too.. I seriously cannot explain to you how much I love these people. They truly are so incredible and I know that their Savior loves them too.. I love being a missionary and being able to experience these things and understand the love of God a little bit better.
I testify to all of you that things are possible through the Lord. He grants us blessings according to our desires and according to our faith. I promise that He is in this work every single day. I know that He is the greatest gift that we have ever received. God so loved the world, and so loved each and every one of us that He gave His only begotten son.. so that we might be able to return to live with Him again. I pray that this Christmas season we all look for the hand of the Lord in our lives and see the greatness of His love.
I miss you and love you all! Share the gift!