This has easily been one of the best weeks of my mission. We'll see if I can fit everything in that I want to. We started off the week with exchanges. I've always quite liked exchanges, I enjoy the chance to get ideas from another missionary, and to work with someone new for a day. This time around I worked with Hna Overy, she is in her 2nd transfer and we spent the majority of the day working on Spanish. It really made me realize what a blessing it was to come out already speaking my mission language. I still had a lot to learn, but for the most part I could communicate and get a general grasp of what was going on. I was able to work with her a lot on methods for learning a language, and trying to help her progress with that. It also made me realize just how much I pull music habits into everything I do. I realized as I was walking her through some ideas of how to study Spanish, that I approach my daily Spanish studies like a practice session... I got a good laugh at that one. Some habits are pretty strong I guess.
Thursday and Friday zipped by, as we were working to get everything ready for Leonila's baptism, and also trying to get as many people to conference as we could. Leonila's baptism was incredible. It was easily the best moment of my mission thus far. I've spent 6 months working with her and watched her go through a lot, and so seeing her finally take this step was so cool. The Spirit in her baptism was incredible, and I loved being there. It was also fun because Mary, one of our other recent converts gave the talk on the Holy Ghost. When we told her earlier in the week that Leonila wanted her to speak, she was pretty nervous. We went over and spent some time helping her put together her talk, and it went really really well. It was so cool to see her progression and to listen to her talk about her conversion. Also, Hna Graves came to the baptism! I was so excited to see her. Unfortunatly, things were crazy and we really didn't get to talk too much. It was cool in the little time that I did get to see her to see how she has progressed as a missionary. She was a really good missionary when I had the chance to serve with her, and she has only improved.
General Conference was really good for me. I needed so many of the talks. Mom asked in her e-mail about changes that I have noticed as I have served, and it was interesting because I had reflected a lot on that over the course of this conference weekend. I thought a lot about how 1 year ago as I watched conference I was terrified. I had only been a missionary for a few weeks and I was so nervous about everything that was coming. I was nervous about the time commitment, my Spanish, my future companions and just about anything else I could think of. As I looked back over the last year, I was really hit by a huge sense of gratitude. I feel so incredibly blessed. I feel like here on my mission I have gained far more than I have been able to give. I think one of the biggest blessings from my mission is a love of the scriptures. I enjoyed studying the scriptures before my mission, but now I really love it. I've gained so much as I've studied daily, and I know it's a habit that will really bless me for the rest of my life. I've learned a lot about patience as a missionary. I thought I was a pretty patient person before my mission, but looking back I really wasn't. I've had a lot of experiences here as a missionary where I've had to learn a lot about being patient, both with myself and with others. I've also learned a lot about service and charity. One of the coolest things about being a missionary is that you feel the most incredible sense of love for the people you serve. I would do anything for these people. It's hard for me to imagine my life with out them, they've made such a huge impact on me. Even some of the people I've only met or worked with briefly have helped me grow. I feel a lot more committed to serving for the rest of my life. Before my mission I was willing to serve... in the right situations. Now I have learned that it really doesn't matter where or how we serve, but that we do it and we give all that we can. I've realized as a missionary just how blessed I am. There is nothing like seeing people who don't have the same oportunities and blessings as I do to remind me how much the Lord has blessed me in my life.
That leads me to one of the biggest things I learned at General Conference. I've been pretty worried of late about what will happen in 6 months when I go home. I'd not worried about that since the begining of my mission, but people are starting to ask me in the ward (because I've been here a really long time, and so they think I'm headed out pretty soon... no matter how often I remind them I've still got a while). As I watched conference and thought back on all of the blessings I have seen in my life, I realized that those blessings won't stop when I go home. I realized that I will be blessed for this time and service, and that all I have to do is give everything I can for these 6 months, and that God will take care of everything for me. There is an Elder I have served with who is a pianist hoping to study music when he goes home... I've watched as he's been less than obedient about piano and music on his mission... and I've thought a little about that. I may be pretty (okay, really, really) rusty on the flute when I get home, because even with a flute here I won't actually be able to really practice, but I'm glad that I will be able to turn to my Heavenly Father and tell Him that I did what was asked of me, and know that I will be blessed.
The last really good event was taking Oscar and Ariana to the temple Sunday evening. I have been working with Oscar for about 4 or 5 months now. When I first started working with him, he really wasn't interested in coming back to church. But we kept coming by, and working with him and trying to answer his questions. After conference he caught me and thanked me for the months of persistance. He told me he finally got his answer at General Conference and really felt like he was in the right place. He was really excited and a completely different person when we went to the Temple with him and his daughter. He was showing her stuff, and talking to her about how much he loved all of these things. We were able to have a good talk about the blessings of the temple, and it was cool to watch Ariana (she's 8) look around and say "I think Mom would have liked this". Her mother passed away from cancer 2 years ago, and while we were at the temple, I know she really felt her Mom's presence there. It was really special to be able to be there with her and her father, and to reflect on all of the blessings of the temple in my life and the life of my family. It's really an incredible thing to know that our families can be together forever, and that death isn't the end.
Well, this has been a pretty long letter. I've had a lot to reflect on, and you all managed to get some of it. I love you all. Thank you for your prayers, letters and support. I really appreciate that.
Ps. For a funny moment of the week, I learned why Grandpa Okeson's #1 running goal is to not fall. I took my first really big fall while running this week. I was sprinting and hit a crack in the pavement and flew throught the air only to skid on the right side of my body across the pavement. I'm pretty beat up, but no worse for the wear. I do have an impressivly black and purple knee... it's huge and a little stiff. Sorry, no pictures of that one. It looked pretty impressive though, I caught some pretty good air before I hit the ground. :)