I remember several years ago when we lived in Ohio, I had the opportunity to spend quite a bit of time with the full-time missionaries because there were four of them assigned to our Ward. On one outing, I remember asking the Elders what they would share in their homecoming talks. One of the really humble missionaries looked at me and quietly replied "I will tell them about my conversion." He was speaking specifically about the changes he had undergone while on his mission.
I understand that on a completely new level. I find that things I took for granted are not so clear. For example, I have always been one who needs organization and notice. I like scheduled meetings with agendas and clear direction. That does not always happen in the manner I have considered to be normal. Here, the distance and culture create a much more relaxed perspective about meetings. Yet, I watch the organizations function here. Perhaps, though, it works because the Branch President is a master at understanding his flock and working within their culture, but still striving to help them improve. He has made me feel like Elder Dixon and I are an important part of the Branch. But he doesn't just do that with active members. He seeks out the inactive members and spends time with them. He spent four hours with one who has been inactive for some time. He is a great example of the principles he teaches.
I have really begun to question whether I have given adequate value to the baptisms of our young children. We had a baptism for a sweet little girl named Karynie. She was the only child being baptized and the program was her family members. Her family had created an amazing celebration in her honor. Here are a few of the pictures:
There was an entire Brazilian buffet with lots of delicious food. The watermelon below is actually that color!
I don't know that I would recommend a "wedding reception" level of celebration, but there is no doubt for Karynie that this was a VERY special event and day. In her little eight year old mind, though, she saw the celebration as being about her birthday more than her baptism.
I don't know that I did a very good job in creating that sort of "celebration" for my children's baptisms. Karynie even recited the poem about three white dresses and her sister sang "What Heaven Sees in You".
I think about the people here who are lost and do not have the guidance of the gospel. When we find them and they accept the gospel, it should be a tremendous cause of celebration. Without baptism, there are no other ordinances available to them. Elder Dixon and I also attended the baptism of a mother whose daughter was baptized 5 weeks ago. While the celebration was not as large, the Ward did a great job of welcoming their new member, and a sweet spirit was there. Every person who is baptized should never have any doubt that the day they were baptized was special.
The Elders had an investigator who met them for a discussion at the building where Karynie's baptism took place. We all had a laugh and let him know that it would not be like that if he gets baptized!
This week is transfers- the first we have experienced since our arrival. We are feeling sadness because the Zone Leader is going home and one of the Branch Portuguese Elders is also going home. I expect we will see even more change than that.
Atlanta novelty for the day: Cicadas. Every evening we have a serenade from the Cicadas. They are not shy about their music! I will try to get some video of their sound, but until then, Google them!
Love you all!