This week has been a good week. We found a golden investigator and will soon meet his family. His name is Julio Espardella. Julio´s dad actually obtained the land for the chapel back years ago when it was built, and he remembers the missionaries coming over to his house when he was a little boy. He´s now 40 or so with a wife of 18 years and 3 kids. He was a reference from missionaries from another branch, and we´ve gone by his house twice and haven´t found him. We just happened to be looking for people on our list of inactive members and saw his house nearby so we felt we should stop by. He came out and was like "Hey Mormons". So we were like aw dang this guy is going to be a heckler. But he was way nice. He asked us to come in without even asking our names or anything, just opened the door and said "come on in, good to see you". We had a great lesson with him, found out a little more about his life, and taught him the message of the Restoration. At the end, we presented the Book of Mormon to him, and he said "Yeah, I´m going to read this tonight". Gold. And then we said that after he reads it, he´s got to pray and ask the Lord if it´s true. He was like "No, I don´t need to do that, I already believe it´s true." Who says that? Haha. Great man, and I hope his family is the same.
This week we had an interesting insight into temptation and how the adversary works. I´ll share the experience.
Last Wednesday, we started teaching English classes in church during the branch activity night. We printed up invitations a few days before and had been handing them out to everybody in the streets. We were waiting outside of the chapel 10 minutes before it started just to welcome anybody who came in and so they could see us and recognize that that was the place where the classes were. We were standing out there, and this man in a shirt and tie comes up to us and says "Hey, just the two people I´ve been looking for. I needed help with something, and immediately you two popped into my mind. I thought ´no, they´re not going to be at the church on a weekday´, but I came anyway and here you are!" We´re thinking like pfft awesome! Haha. So this guy presents himself as Daniel and says he has an invitation for us to do some service (which we love). It went something like this: "I work with CCPA, which is an institute that teaches English. Tomorrow, we´re doing a presentation in a school to get some kids interested in speaking English and coming to our institute to learn. I thought it would be great to have the help of two native English speakers, and I thought of you two (and we had never seen this man before, but he knew us). I would like you two to come tomorrow and do a little theatrical presenation with me to show them the need to learn English. You will be doing these kids a service, you will be doing us a service, and you will receive the blessings for helping out. Also, we´ll have a list of the names, numbers, and addresses of all these kids, so I could even give you that list so you could go and visit them to do your missionary thing. Much good will come from this."
Sounds incredible, right? As usual, right on cue comes the "but". "But here´s the thing. This is a private Catholic school, and it wouldn´t exactly be good to have two missionaries walking in there and have the kids make comments or the teachers/administrators hassle you, and we don´t want it to seem like CCPA is affiliated with any church at all, so it would be better if you could just take your nametags off and come as normal people." There was the catch.
I am ashamed to say that we agreed. I didn´t think much of it in the excitement of doing the service and having the opportunity, so we readily agreed to help him out. As we arrived at the school, I remembered what he had said about our placks, and a terrible feeling of guilt came over me as we took our placks off and walked in the school. How horrible I felt. I didn´t realize the full import of what we were about to do until we had already taken a step off the edge. We walked in that school and in front of all those kids and teachers, we were just as normal as anybody else in that building. And missionaries are NEVER supposed to be normal.
I think this is what Jesus referred to when he cited the Pharisees for being hypocrites in Matthew 23:23. They paid their tithes and did something good, but they neglected the weightier matters of the law that were more important. So it was with us. We were doing something good for a lot of people, and it was even going to help us along in our missionary efforts, but we had neglected and hidden the most important calling of all as missionaries of the Church of Jesus Christ. In exchange for doing something good, we had ignored the fact that our most important responsability was not to this man or these kids but to the Lord in being His representatives "in all times, and in all things, and in all places." I have to tell you, I felt horrible. In order to do something that was just "good", we neglected the "best" thing that was our identity as authorized messengers of the Lord Jesus Christ. We should have never hid that, and really it would have been easy to get in there with our nametags on, and it would have had even more positive effects than it did without placks that we realized only after it was all over.
The ironic twist: the man, Daniel, who extended us this invitation turned out to be a member of the Church. He is a less active member we have been looking for for a good 3 weeks now. Temptation comes from all sources, and is very subtle. Satan very rarely comes at you front on with alcohol or fornication, throwing sins in your face hoping you´ll give. He is a master at making sin seem justifiable, attractive, or even reasonable. He is a master at deception. It is not always distracting us from the good to the bad, but much more common is the discraction from the best things to the simply good things. And he slings it from all angles and all sources.
Let us put on the whole armor of God, that we may withstand the day. Be ready, even as the stripling warriors of Book of Mormon times were ready. I love and miss everyone.