Wednesday, July 24, 2013

DC Week 24!

Well, it's happened.

They're switching me to the Spanish Program!!!
I got the call from President late Monday night. It was a short conversation (and it took everything in me to keep it inside until transfer meeting today). He simply said they have confidence that I would be a significant asset for them in that area, and that this is the Lord's plan for me. With the influx of new missionaries, and the odd numbers it just worked out. It was kind of cool to hear the gasps and excited chatter from all the missionaries today as President made the public switch. "Tongue nor pen" can describe how I feel. This has been an answer to so many of my prayers! God really does come through. Now I only hope I can do the same for Him. 

My new companion is Hermana Word, from Las Vegas. Our area is Olney North. It's just about a twenty minute drive south to the temple (if traffic is good). We are going full steam ahead this next six weeks, and I think it will be an eye opener for the both of us. There are countless opportunities ahead, and I want to seize them all. I have never felt such strength from the Lord before, and all I want to do is please Him. God will help me to magnify my calling, and I know I will need to rely on Him like I never have before. This will be an interesting chapter. Pray for me...

In other news, This last week, has been one of the most trying in my mission so far. I had blockade after blockade hit me, almost to my breaking point (mostly internal things: the adversary trying to drag my thoughts toward worthlessness, and inadequacy). And yet on the other extreme...this week has been one of the best. 

We met with Karla several more times, and now her whole family is beginning to come back to church, (right now only her mom is a member, but her older sister wants to be baptized as well). At our last meeting with them yesterday, we said goodbye, and confirmed her date to be baptized on August 25th. Each one of them shared their testimonies, and there was no denying the pure, innocent, blossoming Spirit that was present there. They will be an eternal family. 

My favorite part of the week was meeting with Brother Hutchinson. Brother Hutchinson is what you would call an eternigator, (an eternal investigator). He and his wife were first taught by the missionaries back in the seventies. She got baptized. He did not. Since then, they raised their children in the church, and they now have righteous families of their own. Still, he never got baptized. Many missionaries tend to shy away from/drop such individuals, because they have a well known history with taking the lessons, (there is no new material to cover, and it can be intimidating to approach someone so seasoned and sure that they don't want what you are trying to offer them). Well, such was not the case for my dear sweet companions, Sister Bowman, Sister Tembo and myself. 

With our time in Laurel, we have each devoted time and energy to figuring out God's plan for Brother Hutchinson, especially Sister Bowman. She spent six months in Laurel. I spent six weeks. Yet, yesterday evening, as we sat eating the vegetable stew he had prepared for us, we talked. And he talked. And as he talked, we began to see the chinks in his cold hard armor. He began to open up about his experiences with the missionaries. He began to confess his secret desire to be a member...but no one had ever worked for him to be. Every missionary who had ever come into the Laurel ward must have known Brother Hutchinson. He came to church every Sunday and sat with his wife. Third row from the front and in the middle. If they missed his physical presence, they would have at least heard the giggles from the little children who would flock to him as he would tickle their faces with toothpicks during sacrament meeting to keep them occupied. They would have eaten one of the many hamburgers he cooked and flipped for all the ward BBQ parties. Or maybe even had a brief, necessary conversation with him on his front porch as they visited other investigators in the surrounding area. After all, he does like to have a smoke or three every day in the comfort of one of his shaded wicker chairs, quietly observing the neighborhood...

No one had seen his potential. It wasn't their fault. He made sure to blend well enough. But how many of those do we pass by on a daily, maybe even hourly basis? I cringe to think of all those over the years I had not "seen"...or at least allowed myself to see. 

There is a poem I shared at my farewell. It's one of my favorites, and has served as a theme of mine throughout my mission. This is the last stanza:

And many a man with life out of tune, all battered and scarred with sin, 
Is auctioned cheap to the thoughtless crowd, much like the old violin. 
mess of pottage, a glass of wine; a game - and he travels on. 
He is "going once", and "going twice". He's going...and almost gone. 
But the Master comes, and the foolish crowd never can quite understand... 
The worth of a soul...and the change that's wrought... 
By the touch of the Master's hand.

Well, there we sat at his kitchen table. The four of us. Quenching his thirst. Having a meaningful, and much awaited conversation about the deep doctrines of the gospel. No fluff. No tips of the iceberg. Just the raw, rich principles we all know internally, but never get the chance to voice much with recent embryonic converts, let alone new investigators. Brother Hutchinson will be baptized. He admitted it himself. He just needed to know that he was worth it. He never wanted to be bought for a cheap price. He wanted us to work--to FIGHT--for him. So we will. Because every child of God has divine value. And they are so precious to Him. 

As we gathered our things to leave. He stopped us. We three stood, looking into his eyes. He just stared back. He mentioned he felt a special bond between him and us. A bond he hadn't felt in forty years. He inquisitively asked if we felt it too. With tears in our eyes, we nodded. Then my sweet companion, Sister Bowman, wisely brought to light, "You know, I've heard it said that on your mission, you meet up with those friends you knew before this life." Then smiling back at him, she firmly stated without any question, "Brother Hutchinson, I think we knew each other once before." Suddenly it all became so clear. Now I'm not sure what will immediately come of it, but I think Brother Hutchinson figured out what he needed to do in that moment. We left each feeling the same Divine love for our fellow brother. 

The second verse of the sacred hymn, Oh My Father, reads:       

For a wise and glorious purpose
Thou hast placed me here on earth
And withheld the recollection
Of my former friends and birth;
Yet ofttimes a secret something
Whispered, "You're a stranger here,"
And I felt that I had wandered
From a more exalted sphere.

Gotta run. Take the time to find the "Brother Hutchinson's" in your lives. Each one is worth saving. 

Hey, have I ever told you guys that I love you? ~Just sayin'. 
Keep on keeping on. 

Sister Graff
Enos 1:26-27

PS--Mama, Happy Birthday on Sunday! The family better be spoiling you rotten. Love you to pieces!!!    

PPS--Adam, hope your foot gets better, Bud. Man sitting on a throne all day, having everyone feed you grapes sounds pretty tough. On behalf of the entire family, I will pray for a quick recovery. 

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