Monday, June 18, 2012

The Effects of a Baptism

What happens when one person gets baptized?  Here is a perfect description of how lives are changed.  Thank you, Sister Ana-Lisa Clark, author of this post.  

Sister Clark, left, and Sister Nishimuro
This story begins in September when my companion Sister Nishimuro and I were trying to chase down 10-year-old girl who was scheduled to be baptized a week later.  We had to finish preparing her for her interview the following morning and were a little stressed out when she didn’t answer the phone and couldn't be found at home.  Her mom told us she had gone to play at a friend's house. Sigh! Fortunately, it was only next door so we decided to go and see if we could meet her.

We knocked and to our surprise, a kind-looking , beautiful brunette woman opened the door.  “Is Yara here?” we asked apprehensively.  “Oh yeah, she’s in here playing with my son.  Come on in,” she said warmly as she let us inside.  We talked to Yara and invited her to come with us so we could prepare for the interview.  As she was getting ready to go, we started talking with the pretty brunette mother, and found out she was Brazilian and spoke good Japanese.  She had been in Japan several years and was both working and studying at a  university.

We started telling her about being missionaries and found out that she had grown up Catholic.  We explained our purpose and started talking to her about prophets.  I asked her, “What would you think if there were a real prophet on the earth today?”  She paused…”I don’t know.  There are fake prophets, too…”  She then described a man she had seen on TV--a man in Brazil who claimed he was Jesus Christ.

We gave her a restoration pamphlet, exchanged names and numbers and promised to come back.
Over the next couple of months we weren’t really able to stay in touch.  We talked on the phone a couple of times, but whenever we came to her home she was gone.  We kept checking and didn’t forget her.  

Left to right: Sisters Clark, Takatsu, and Goodale
(We haven't yet baptized the "sister" in back.)

A couple of months later we came back—this time I had two new companions, Sister Goodale and Sister Takatsu.  We were able to meet her and teach her more about the Restoration. When we asked if she wanted to know if Joseph Smith was a prophet, she answered, "Yes."  Yay!

We started bringing Brazilian members to help us teach, and that was how the miracles really started.  We first brought a 22-year-old girl (Midhore) who could translate from Portuguese to Japanese.  As we finished the lesson Mayumi suddenly asked the girl, “What’s your last name?”  “Aratake.”

“No way!  I work with your mom!  And two years ago my husband worked at the same place as your dad!”
Wow!  What a connection!  Not a coincidence.

 The next week we brought Midhore and her father, Brother Aratake with us.  He brought such a great priesthood presence.  Despite his slight build and soft voice, he invited Mayumi and her husband into the lesson and set the stage with gentle but great authority.  When he taught, he taught with power, emphasizing and expounding on our simple statements as a second witness.  We sat in awe...and then as we invited Mayumi and Andre to be baptized, he took the next step, telling us to take out our planners and invited them to commit to a date.  That night he was our hero!

Mayumi continued to progress, waking up early in the morning to read the Book of Mormon.  She even brought it to work.  We heard reports from Sister Aratake that she was talking about the church at work, and refusing to hear bad talk about it from others.  Sister Aratake was impressed.  She told us Mayumi was seeming brighter and happier.

With Aratake’s help, Mayumi attended church for the first time and found she knew other members there from past jobs.  Though it had been several years in some cases, they remembered each other and welcomed her warmly into the Brazilian members' circle.  We couldn’t believe our luck.

We continued meeting with her.  We started bringing either Brother or Sister Ashikawa, English-speaking Brazilian members who lived near Mayumi and Andre, actually in the next building over.  Mayumi read almost everything we asked her and warmly welcomed our daily calls/texts.

One Sunday, however, when we were expecting her to come to church, she didn’t show up.  After our meetings when I called her to see what happened, she said, “This morning I got up and ready to go to church on my own.  But when Jean (her 7-year-old son) saw that I was leaving he cried and said, ‘Don’t go!  You’re always leaving!’”

When I heard her say those words my heart was pricked—how could we encourage her to do something that would hurt her family?  Her precious son?

We testified the Lord wanted her and her family to come to church together—and asked if her son (and husband) could come.  She said, “Jean said, ‘I don’t want to go.’”

Sigh.  We just continued teaching and praying for her--praying for a way for her son and husband's hearts to be softened so they would go to church together.

The next Sunday, Christmas Day, she came!  Apparently my face really lit up when I saw her because she laughed and said she wanted to take a picture (of my face).

We knew it must have been a sacrifice to come on Christmas, away from family, etc., but the challenge wasn’t over.  We knew we had to figure out a way to win over her son so he would come to church with her, but we felt powerless to do so.  Before he had always seemed to like us, but for a while he hadn't been responding to us.  Perhaps he felt we were taking his mother away from him.

One evening, on our way to a lesson with Mayumi, we stopped by the Ashikarwa family as we often did—and to our surprise found that Jean was there playing with the Ashikawa children.  Sister Ashikawa explained, “Mayumi called this morning and asked if he could come here because her and her husband have to work.”

We were excited.  Mayumi and Andre trusting members like that was a really good sign. They were becoming friends.  Later at Mayumi’s house, we asked Jean, “Will you come to church with us?  Rebekah and Helaman will be there."  He looked up with big eyes and said, “I’ll go.”

Since then he accompanied his mother and the Ashikawa family to both church and our Saturday children’s Eikaiwa class. The Ashikawa family thrived as they helped Mayumi and Jean.  They started making it to church in time for sacrament meeting--quite a fete with three young children!  The Ashakawa family children were especially happy.  They love church and they were excited to have a new friend to play with there.  The Primary teachers were thrilled, too.  “Jean is such a good boy.”

Mayumi was happy when she attended Sunday School and Relief Society combined with Priesthood for Brazilians.  She was always absorbed with what was discussed and really had good comments of her own.  For example, to the question "How can we work to decrease the power of evil in the world?" she answered, "We can share the Gospel."  Wow!

A few weeks later when she was getting closer to baptism, she shared a dream she had had, with the Portuguese Sunday School Class.  (They were discussing Lehi's Dream.)  She dreamed she had been standing near the dirty river that runs by her home in Brazil.  But when she looked up at it, she realized it was clean.  Then she saw me and Sister Hunt beckoning to her, inviting her to come into the water.

The whole Ashikawa family participated in the baptismal service for Mayumi.  Sister Ashikawa prayed.  She always gave beautiful and heartfelt prayers. Rebekah and Helaman sang “I Am A Child of God” in Portuguese for the musical number.  Afterwards the Primary president came to me and said, “I have never heard Helaman sing—that was amazing!  Thank you!”

Best of all, Brother Ashikawa was able to perform the baptism.  Both he and his wife, but he especially had been strengthened as we used them to help us teach Mayumi.

Though it was no doubt challenging with three young children at home, they gave up time in the evenings to come teach with us.  And because of it, they found a new friend and renewed motivation.

The morning of the baptism was beautiful.  Sister Hunt and I were riding our bikes on our way to church when we heard a familiar sing-song voice cut through the frosty air. “Hey girls!”  It was Sister Ashikawa.  The whole family, all loaded in their van pulled up next to us.  “Today is a good day,” she said.  “It’s a wonderful day!” I answered back.  We arrived at the church together and began to prepare.  I was so impressed-- with three young children they made it to church so early.
Left to right: Mayumi, Andre, Sisters Clark and Hunt
Front: Helaman, Andre (son of Mayumi and Andre) and Rebekah
After Sister Ashikawa watched her husband baptize her new friend she came to me amidst a crowd of people, hugged me and with tear-filled eyes said, “Thank you for everything you have done for us.  I am so happy!”
Mayumi and Andre

One of the best moments ever!  Not only was one daughter of God baptized.  Two families were brought together and brought to church.  We couldn’t have helped either family without the other, and we had tried.  But God knew the way to bring them to Him, through each other.  I’m so grateful we got to be a part of this beginning of an eternal journey and friendship.

Brother and Sister Ashikawa, Mayumi and Andre, Sister Aratake

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