Christmas has come and gone and the New Year is upon us. Here in the DR they really only celebrate Christmas by eating ridiculous amounts of food and the New Year is usually welcomed in by unreasonable amounts of drinking. Never the less, we managed to have a wonderful holiday season as missionaries and even brought some select souls to baptisms. I think it´s now safe for me to sing ¨I'll be home for Christmas.¨
Three weeks ago I received my first child in the mission, Elder Forsyth. He hails from Seattle, Washington and already knows a great amount of Spanish from having worked at an orphanage in Peru for 6 months. Makes training him that much easier. He has learned how to teach the basic lessons and is quickly transitioning to Dominican life. The freezing cold bucket showers can be a real deal breakers sometimes.
During my first week with Elder Forsyth, I had the privilege to head back to my last area, Cristo Rey, to participate in the baptism of Roman and Ingrid. Elder Adams and I had worked with this family for almost 4 months and they were finally able to get married and get baptized only recently. I watched Roman transform from simply a curious investigator to a true man of faith. His wife, amazed from the conversion of her husband, accepted the gospel into her life as well and they made the necessary changes in their lives and family. I was able to perform the baptism of Ingrid and it was a very powerful experience overall. I was able to talk to Gladis, who I also taught back in Cristo Rey, and found her preparing to be married and on the path to baptism. I think I will always have at least some portion of my heart resting back in Cristo Rey.
During my second week with my newborn child we busily prepared four investigators for baptism. After overcoming the minor setbacks that always seem to appear when anticipating baptisms, we finally got all 4 baptized. Two of them were young boys named Juan Luis and Miguel. Juan Luis is 12 years old, has prominent, adorable buck teeth, and has attended church for 4 years despite his parents not being members. Miguel is 9 years old, has strong member parents, and is probably the cutest little Dominican child I have ever met. He is so short that when Elder Forsyth baptized him he came up flailing his tiny little legs trying to find the bottom of the font. One of my favorite moments while teaching him happened as I reviewed the principle of repentance. He understood the principle and I asked him if he felt that he had repented and felt ready for baptism. He responded with a look of offense and a stern ¨no¨. I was a little confused and his mom was little more than concerned as we questioned him, very lovingly, why he felt that way. His response was one of humble, childlike essence: ¨Well, I haven't repented because I haven't done anything wrong.¨
Our other two baptisms included a man named Santo and a woman named Argentina Dia. Santo is a 40 year old man who was found by earlier missionaries as they contacted and who has completely converted to the gospel. He has overcome a fierce drug addiction and made many changes in order to finally become a member of the church. He has come a long way and is showing no sign of slowing down. Argentina Dia is probably the most interesting baptism I have ever had. She was contacted by the missionaries some time ago when she began to attend church and felt the spirit very strongly. She has slowly learned and accepted all of the doctrine that the restored church offers. She is also 82 years old and can hardly walk. Being so old we had some apprehensions about how we would physically baptize her, but her fierce desire to do so overpowered our fears. We slowly got her down the stairs, into the font, and situated her to perform the ordinance with my companion standing alongside to assist in case she had trouble. She had a short moment of shock during which she couldn't understand any of the instructions I was giving her. She very sweetly began saying the cutest little personal prayer under her breath and then told me she was ready to ¨just get it over with already¨. As I went to submerge her in the water, she must have forgotten the instructions I gave her and did not plug her nose. I wasn't about to let a little water up the nose interfere with months of hard work and preparation, so I lowered her down into the water and brought her up sputtering. She recovered quickly and exited the font cursing her knee, although very happy to finally have been baptized.
My third week with Elder Forsyth was unfortunately the beginning of a severe investigator drought. We baptized everyone we had and now we have to find more. I guess that's a good problem to have. Reference fishing and street contacting have become our best friends as the Dominican sun remains as hot as ever. We hope to find more investigators and maybe get a nice tan out of the deal. Merry Christmas everyone, and have a wonderful New Year.