Sunday, February 21, 2016

How do I wrap up the most sacred 18 months of my life?

How do I wrap up the most sacred 18 months of my life? There aren't words that can do it justice, but I will try to wrap up the sacredness of this week.

We had an awesome stake activity where the youth (ages 16 and up) went out to work with us for an entire day! We got to the stake center early Saturday morning, had a breakfast, and were assigned our "companions" for the day. I was put with Lissett Quinteros, a girl from the ward I'm serving in. We ended up having an amazing day! She just recently decided to serve a mission, so it was fun to work with such an excited kid! 

We taught this less-active woman and her two grand-daughters for the first time. It was heartbreaking to hear this woman talk about how she jsut felt like the gospel wasn't for her. She told us the she envies those people who find the strength to live the gospel because it's something she would love to do, but feels like she just can't. Lissett just followed the Spirit and bore a powerful testimony to this women, telling her that Christ is there to let us lean on Him when we feel like we can't. This lady's face changed as she felt the Spirit tell her the truth of Lissett's words. What a blessing it was for me to see the HOPE that those words could bring to Monica. That is what the Savior does, He fills us with hope. 

We also got to teach Elena (who is getting baptized this week) a couple of times. She is such an incredible woman. She needs a lot of your prayers this week, so please remember her! We found out that she recently started smoking. She was heart-broken when she learned about the word of wisdom and realized that she wasn't living a commandment. But that night, she prayed and just told Heavenly Father that she was sorry because she didn't know before! She told Him that she wants to keep this commandment and asked Him to help her do so. I was so amazed to see the faith that she put in Him as she prayed that way. She told us "Sisters, I made a promise to God and I'm going to keep it. He's not mad at me, I feel that. He just wants me to keep moving forward." That is repentance! Christ offers us JOY as we rely on Him and it's something that brings PEACE. 

Lissett bore her testimony at the end of this stake activity. She said that making the choice to go on a mission wasn't something easy for her, but that she can now feel that it is a choice that will bring her joy! I felt bad that she got assigned to work in her own ward that day, but she stood up there and said that she was grateful to work with me...that weeks earlier, I had been a part of Heavenly Father giving her the answer to serve a mission. I don't know when or where...I don't remember, but I'm so proud of her. She is giving things up to go, but I can speak from experience when I say that the reward will be so much greater! Heavenly Father's work is the most glorious thing!! 

Yesterday, we were contacting in the street and a man asked us why we were here in Chile. He wanted to know why in the world we would give up our family, friends, and opportunities to walk in the sun and talk about Jesus to people. I couldn't help but smile and him and say "What we share must be the truth!" 

In Matthew 13:44, the Lord shares a parable: "Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto treasure hid in a field; the which when a man hath found, he hideth, and for joy thereof goeth and selleth all that he hath, and buyeth that field."

I am that man who found treasure hidden in a field. I found the gospel of Jesus Christ and the JOY that it brings as I live it. Then, like this man, I "sold" all I have to buy the field; to enjoy all the blessings of the gospel. That is how the gospel works! We each have tasted of the sweetness of finding this little piece of treasure. To fully enjoy all the Christ has to offer, like the man, we must give up what we have to buy the field and have all the treasure there. Just like Elena, we have to give things up to enjoy the treasure of the gospel. Just like Lissett, we have to give up some things to really feel the JOY the gospel offers. 

To this man in the street, it seemed crazy that I would "give up" so much to be here. But, I'm just like that man of whom Christ spoke. It may seem like I have "sold all I have," but I really just bought the whole field of treasure.

As we continued talking to this man, he told us that he has suffered a lot in his life. His wife left him and he left his children in Peru. He doesn't want to be burdened with that pain anymore. He doesn't want to keep dweeling on the wounds from the past. We invited him to be baptized in march, right there in the street. He looked at us, a little surprised, then said "What day?" He decided that finding joy is worth giving up a few things and moving forward without the burdens.

That's something I want to constantly ask myself: "Is there something holding me back from feeling the joy of the gospel?" As I've prayed about that, Heavenly Father always speaks clearly and simply to my mind. Sometimes He tells me to apologize to someone or to look for a way to serve more. The gospel of Jesus Christ is a path of joy and it is walk-able for each of us.

These months have been the most sacred of my entire life! How do you put into words the feeling of having the Savior carry you? How do you put into words what it is to have Him speak through you? How do you put into words the joy of seeing a child of God return to Him? These are experiences that I would not trade for anything. Like the lamanite king said to Aaron, "I will give up all that I possess, yea, I will forsake my kingdom, that I may receive this great joy" (Alma 22:15). 

I have never felt joy like I have felt here in the service of my God. This is not a joy that we need to wait for. It is not a joy that comes from just serving a mission. As Aaron taught "If thou desirest this thing, if thou wilt bow down before God, yea, if thou wilt repent of all thy sins, and will bow down before God, and call on his name in faith, believing that ye shall receive, then shalt thou receive the hope which thou desirest" (Alma 22:16).

I know that is true! The Atonement of Jesus Christ can heal any broken heart and makes any transformation possible! I have seen that in the lives of countless people here in Chile; I have seen it in you guys as I have been here; I have FELT it in myself. The last testimony I bear to you guys (through email) is that Jesus Christ lives and is our Savior. That truth makes everything you can possibly imagine a beautiful reality.

I love you!

Love,
Hermana Aponte

P.S. In case you're wondering, I'm excited to see you guys! I'm pretty nervous, as well haha I feel just like I felt when I boarded the plan to come to Chile. That was the best choice I've ever made, so it must be something right if I feel the same way by going back! See you soon :) MUCHOS BESOS!