Merry Christmas Everyone!!!
It's been a phenomenal week! On Monday Gray was baptized and that entire process was a miraculous and terrific experience to witness and be apart of.Look at the timeline of this miracle:
Dec.7 Wednesday: We meet with Gray for the first time. He teaches us most of the lesson, we fill in a couple gaps and details he asks about and realize that we just need to do everything we can not to get in the way of his progression. He was already reading and had already prayed about it.
Dec.11 Sunday: Gray's girlfriend, Shantel, a returned missionary, speaks in two different Sacrament meetings in Arizona that Gray attends (2 times of Church).
Dec.13 Tuesday: Gray gets back into town, we meet with him for the second time. We have a church tour/lesson. In the lesson we cover all of the doctrine-Plan of Salvation, the faith, repentance, baptism, the Holy Ghost, enduring to the end, the Priesthood, baptisms for the dead, temple work, etc. He sets his own date for the 19th, 6 days later... Elder Dean and I looked at each other in awe and decided to go over the baptismal interview questions to gage where he was at to see if that was even possible. We go over it and he answered everything with near perfect understanding. Since the last time we had met with him he had even done some studies on the Word of Wisdom and committed within his own heart to live it and had started doing it already. We were absolutely shocked and looked at each other trying to find some possible reason why he couldn't get baptized and finally, after no success, realizing he was ready and that was indeed possible, we complied and set his baptismal date for the following Monday, December the 19th. We knew that the only thing that we would have to hammer out of the park was fellowship for Gray into the ward so that he was welcomed in with loving arms to our ward family.
Dec. 14 Wednesday:
We made calls, and calls, and calls. We called President Mansell to make sure this was something we could do and after relaying to him the story and our experience, he assured us it was absolutely something he supports and that was definitely okay as long as he was fellowshipped and welcomed into the ward. We had talked to Bishop Silfies the nigth before, after our lesson with Gray, and he was on board and excited for it all. Shantel called us, slightly dismayed by the whole thing and so we talked with her about it all and the plan of action and by the end of the conversation she was on board and excited for him (she was always on board and excited but a little nervous, as anyone would be, about how quickly it was all happening). We then proceeded to call handfuls and handfuls of members.
Shantel gets in town to visit. They go over to the Wilson's to build friendships.
We had our ward Chirstmas party. They got to see lots of the ward members but had to leave early to make it to his work party as well but just to show his dedication even further, he went a half hour late to his work party so that he could make it to at least the beginning of the ward party. I'm quite impressed with this man.
We met at the Church that morning and our Elders Quorum President came. Then we went and saw a the baptism of two youth in Edmond so Gray could see what he would be experiencing in a few short days. We went to lunch at Chic-fil-a with them and went straight over to our Stake President, and His wife's home. We had a great experience there with President and Sister Gray and they share their conversion story as well and expressed their love and excitement and asked if they could attend his baptism.
Church- President Mansell was so blown away by this guy's story that he came to our ward for church to meet him! Gray met everyone, had a meeting with Bishop Silfies and had a wonderful experience-the ward just soaked him, and Shantel, right in. Right after church Gray had his baptismal interview.
Shantel's mother flew in, and Gray was baptized and confirmed, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost. From the first day we met him to the day he was baptized was a collective total of 12 days. Elder Dean baptized him, President Gray confirmed him, and amidst the whole thing there was a tidal wave from the baptism causing the water to go over the wall, under the glass soaking the carpet so that was exciting and the cherry on top of this whole unusual and spectacular conversion.Then End. Amen.
Crazy extension to this story: (written by Elder Ricks' family)
We went to Phoenix for Christmas this year. We didn't tell Braeden until about a week before we went. As soon as he found out he said, "That's where Gray and Shantel will be for Christmas. You guys should get together!" He ended up giving them our phone numbers and they did call us. We were able to meet them at the Mesa Temple (we wanted to go see the lights) on Christmas! It was a fun experience for us to be a part of!
Meeting Gray and Shantel in Arizona:
Christmas conference was this last week and we had such a great time! We received some exciting news there also! Our mission is expanding east, now covering Tulsa and Bartlesville! We are receiving 3 stakes from that area. The Arkansas Bentonville Mission covered a lot of area and didn't have enough missionaries to cover all of the units in their mission (a set of missionaries per branch/ward) but in our mission, many units had 2-3 sets of missionaries serving. With this new change, there will be 31 areas closed from what we already have and those missionaries are being taken to cover the new 31 units we have received from those three stakes. It is some really exciting news! President Mansell was serving in this mission 25 years ago when the mission split Tulsa from OKC and now he is back serving here again when they are brought back together! I'm so excited and I am thrilled that I get to be apart of so many changes!
Elder Dean is going home:(. I've absolutely loved his companionship and guidance and experience and knowledge but most of all, his friendship. I'm excited for his next step in life, he's amazing! My new companion is going to be Elder Yamane! He actually came out with me and he's spectacular! I am so excited to get to serve with him!
I love you and I love the Lord and this sacred experience and opportunity to serve him.
Keep the faith,
Talking on Christmas: