Like the engine in the storybook "The Little Engine That Could," we are determined to keep progressing despite obstacles that may be put in our way. We carry nearly the same number of missionaries as other missions in our area, but our missionaries remain busy working with members from only four stakes and a district. Some surrounding missions have twenty or more stakes. They have many more members to work with. We have fewer members with as many missionaries. There are wards in this mission where as many as seven companionships are assigned to labor. This does not slow the missionary work down. Our members are great.
Last year, we set a goal of 1200 baptisms for the year. We knew we could do it. It would be nearly double what had been done in previous years, but ...we knew we could do it! Like the Little Engine that Could, we have been steadily chugging along, despite setbacks and challenges. We have kept a positive attitude. We have exercised every ounce of faith that we have to find those who are ready and bring them to Christ's church. The missionaries serving here have been amazing throughout the year and have kept their eyes on the goal.
Tonight the final numbers are in. We have officially baptized 1182 souls in the year 2011. We are 18 short. Failure? I don't think so. We learned a lot in the process. I spend a lot of my time teaching missionaries about the importance of setting and achieving goals. I teach them that it's not OK to continually set goals that are unattainable. We must faithfully and prayerfully set realistic goals that make us stretch and grow. As a mission, we did. We learned a lot in the process. We still have vision. We still maintain our positive attitude, and we will continue to be "The Little Engine that Could."
December was a busy, busy month. The mission set two new records. Last weekend, a new record was set for the number of baptisms performed in one week. The month of December ended in the most baptisms ever recorded in our mission for one month. Now I know that I sound like I'm focusing on numbers too much. But we must acknowledge that numbers help us see our progress. Behind every number is a child of God. We have seen miracles happen in December.
During December, a missionary was at church talking with a woman who he has seen at church many times. The bishop passed by and told the elder that is time to baptize her. The missionary was surprised and said, "You're not a member?" She said no. Of couse the missionary asked her when she would like to be baptized. She replied, "Next Sunday would be great- I want the bishop to do it." Both the woman and her son were baptized the next week.
Another missionary wrote: "I have a wonderful story to share about what happened this last Saturday when we were on splits. I was responsible for my area after only being here for about four days. It was a little nerve racking, but it turned out great even though it was hard to find my way around at first. I was with a great new elder who has a lot of greenie fire! We set out to go to "the way out in the middle of nowhere" part of our area. It was cold, rainy and wet, but we knew we needed to go there. We went about a mile or so when my bike got a flat tire. It's the first one I have had in a month, so it was really odd, but we changed it in the mud and muck and then kept riding to find the nearest gas station to clean ourselves up. When we walked out of the gas station, we said a prayer to see where we should go. Right after the prayer, my companion pointed to a small neighborhood across the street and said, "That's where we need to go!". So we went over and at the second home we were invited in by a man. We then had one of the most powerful lessons since I arrived in the mission. He accepted the invitation to be baptized. He came to church on Sunday and his fiance and son all accepted the invitation to be baptized. So, all in all, I know I was sent to this area to find this family. I testify that the spirit found him, not me or my companion.
Another missionary wrote: "We received a great referral this week. Her name is Colleen. Colleen's sister was baptized about a year ago and has been talking about the church with her sister for some time. When we invited Colleen to be baptized, she replied, "Yes, yes!" before we had even finished asking her. Colleen told us to tell her the day, and she would be there. She also has two children who will also prepare for baptism. She attended church yesterday and enjoyed it. She will be ready for her baptismal date."
I will try to show in pictures some of what happened in December. We had missionaries come and we had missionaries go. It's great to welcome them here! It's harder to let them go! We love them all!
Pictures of Incoming Missionaries:
Putting their bikes together:
Hidalgo Festival of Lights:
Zone Conferences. We stole away a little time from all the training to have some fun. Special thanks to parents who contributed gifts (and some who even added some for us!). We also took time to inspect cars and bicycles. Notice how the tape these missionaries are putting on their bikes reflects the flash from the camera:
We had the blessing of having our daughters join us for Christmas. Their visits were way too short, but worth it:
We took a day trip to San Antonio to take daughter Nicole to the temple. We're so proud of her. She's leaving in a few weeks to serve in the Cebu Philippines Mission. We are going to miss her: