We received more amazing blessings from the Lord this week. Anita, one of the young adults that started coming to the San Jose State University Institute early this year decided to join the church. The baptism was wonderful and practically the entire branch came on Saturday to support her. The confirmation on Sunday was filled with the spirit. She has become a special part of our lives now and we hope we will see her at General Conference in October.
Its days like today that give us such great joy and keep us doing the work. Anita became very special to us because of how she found the church. During the time we were at San Jose State Institute, she came to the Institute one Wednesday evening. She was invited by a friend and then really enjoyed the evening. That first time, we met her and I asked if she would please come to my class. She attended almost every class from that week forward. I tried especially hard to teach in a way that would bring the spirit and help her understand the gospel.
Later, the sister missionaries started teaching Anita the missionary discussions. So I watched for her every week and made a special effort to make her feel welcome. There was a little game where I would ask here to tell me something new and wonderful in her life. It was a challenge for her to come up with something each week but it made her feel welcome.
Then about four weeks ago, she sent a text that she was thinking about us. She missed us. Jill and I both felt a special connection and started sending messages of encouragement. Jill just loves all the YSAs and works hard to get close to them. Anita loves her because of that. Me, I suppose because I taught her Institute classes and paid attention to her personally. On her birthday I sang her the happy birthday song and she thought that was really funny - but nice.
A few weeks ago she asked me to baptize her. That was a sweet tender mercy - there is no sweeter feeling than to have the honor of baptizing someone. Especially someone you really care about. Knowing that she has started on the path to return to God, and that the Lord used us to help her to find that path, is really gratifying.
The mission is winding down for us. We attended a recent transfer meeting where a number of missionaries were going home. They bore their testimonies. We knew many of them and had served in the same zone. It was bittersweet to hear their testimonies and then have to say goodbye. We hope to see them again and to maintain contact, but the truth is that we probably won’t see some of them again this side of the veil. Our feelings were tender and there were tears. In particular, we will miss Sister Canar who we have grown to love. She was very sad and nervous to go home. And Elder Peterson who we served with for a long time in the Fremont Zone. He was a regular at our evening missionary dinners.
After the next transfer meeting we will go home ourselves. That makes things doubly tender. There will be many tears and hugs. We aren’t looking forward to it, even though we are anxious to head home to see our children, grandchildren and friends.
Though the testimonies at the transfer meeting were all similar (of Jesus Christ, the restored church and how they were grateful for the opportunity to serve a mission), each one was unique and meaningful for us. We know that each missionary truly does strengthen their testimony. They work long and hard, try their best to find and teach, study scriptures a lot and face many discouraging days. Yet they persevere with the Lord’s help. If they didn’t have a testimony of this work and the Lord, they just wouldn’t do it. In the process, they become so wonderful, so impressive, speak with such power and authority. We really love them all.
And I suppose the same thing can be said about Jill and me. We wouldn’t do it without the testimony of Jesus Christ and our Heavenly Father to sustain us. We are much older than those missionaries, so the sacrifice feels greater - at least to us personally. We have given up our money, time with our children, time with our grandchildren, our job. If we didn’t truly want to serve God and serve his children, we just wouldn’t be here.
Jill is the favorite of about half the young missionaries in the mission. She cooks dinner or lunch for them frequently and is constantly encouraging them. We have taken so many to the Monterrey Aquarium for their Super P Day that we’ve lost track. She loves them and they know it - so they love her. I just stand around helping with the work and basking the her halo. The young missionaries and her service to them will be an especially sweet memory for her.
For me, the memory will be of the special people we helped move along the Lord's covenant path and how each one taught us. With every baptism, confirmation or ordination we learned more about the Lord and his goodness and how he helps his children. Some we baptized or confirmed. Ivan, Bharath, Sneha, Gloria, Eddy, Tako, Taiwo, Jenifer, Anita. Many others, we ministered to them and made their lives a tiny bit better by doing what the Lord prompted us to do. They are all very special to me. Being on the Lord’s errand with each one has been a precious blessing from God to us.
We are truly grateful for the opportunity to serve a mission here. We are grateful that, in the Lord’s wisdom, he sent us to San Jose, (a foreign mission with American food) rather than where we wanted to go. We are grateful for meeting people who added to our lives so much more than we ever thought was possible. We are grateful for new friends in the gospel of Jesus Christ. We are grateful for feeling the joy of being somebody’s missionary. We are grateful for the testimonies the Lord has given us of his gospel. We are, above all, grateful for the Savior’s atoning sacrifice that makes everything in our lives worthwhile.
Elder and Sister McDonald
The Sweet Sister Missionaries who taught Anita (missing Sister Needham)
Our seriously much loved Washington Square YSA's
Anita and Elder McDonald