Dear family and friends,
Lest you think we spend all our time doing mundane things, I thought I would share some of the other kinds of experiences that we are having.
We have spent a lot of time with people who are in a great deal of emotional and spiritual pain. It is often hard to know how to help or give any comfort. We often leave these homes feeling frustrated with ourselves, wondering if we made any difference in the lives of these people. Other times we definitely feel the hand of the Lord. The other day we were visiting with an inactive sister who was recently separated from her husband. During our visit she had an emotional breakdown. It was hard to know how to give her any comfort since I knew that I didn't have any answers for her. The only thing I could tell her was that God knew her and loved her, and that Christ's atoning sacrifice covered her pain and anguish. (Alma 7:11) Elder Merkley offered to give her a blessing for comfort and strength. It was amazing to feel the power of the Spirit come into the room and fill it with peace where just moments before it had been filled with pain.
We had a much harder experience with an inactive brother our first week here in Rio Gallegos. While still living in a hotel and spending a great deal of time apartment hunting, we tried to spend a little time each day contacting members. We had a branch list so we started knocking on doors of members in the area closest to the church. The second house we tried, a man opened his door and came outside to talk to us. At first he would not admit to being the member that we were looking for. After a short conversation where we thought at any moment he would tell us to get lost, he finally admitted to being a member of the church. Elder Merkley asked him if he remembered his baptism and the missionaries who taught him. He replied that it was a long time ago. His body language was still very antagonistic. We were getting ready to walk away, when suddenly something changed inside this man, and he invited us into his house. We sat around his table where he proceeded to tell of all his struggles and some of the reasons why he hadn't been to church for many years. His pain was so great that it hurt to be in the same room. It was one of the few times I was very grateful that I didn't understand a word he was saying. But I felt his emotional distress. Elder Merkley promised him that God still loved him and again asked him if he remembered his baptism. This time he responded by telling us the names of the missionaries that baptized him almost 20 years ago. He spoke of them with great love. He then told us he had been a former branch president. Then he walked over by his TV and picked up a magazine there. It was the last Liahona he had received in 2006. He showed us a picture of President Hinkley and we felt of his great love for this prophet of God.
We still don't really understand all the reasons why this man hasn't been to church for years, but we do know that God wants him to come back. We've tried stopping by several other times, but he has never invited us back inside. He seems almost embarrassed about having let us in that first time. But we keep running into him in the grocery store. The last time we ran into him, Elder Merkley mentioned an article found in the Liahona that we thought he might be interested in reading. Last week we dropped off a copy of "Su gracia es suficiente" and he agreed to read it. We haven't managed to catch him at home to see if he has read the article, but we don't think it's a coincidence that we keep running into him.
Our days are filled with many small miracles like the examples above. We haven't really seen anything that most people would recognize as truly miraculous, yet we have felt God's hand in our lives time after time. We know he is there, and we know that he cares about the people here in Rio Gallegos.
Sister Gwen Merkley