Monday, September 22, 2014

Yue Zhao

(Me, Yue, and Sister Whipple)

Let me tell you about this amazing sister.

Her name is Yue Zhao (or Zhao Yue, since in China the surname comes first).  She is from Harbing, China.  She is finishing up a PhD in Civil Engineering at the University of Nevada Reno, and she has one of the strongest testimonies I know.

The missionaries in the Reno YSA 1st and 2nd wards run a booth on the UNR campus every Wednesday and Thursday for the LDSSA (Latter-Day Saint Student Association).  Usually they just hand out flyers advertising different activities going on at the institute and try not to get sunburnt.  I've gone out with them a few times.  It's pretty fun.  

On rare occasions, we talk to someone who is actually interested in the Gospel.  Yue was one of these people.  One afternoon, she walked by the booth and stopped to talk to Sister Whipple (from the YSA 1st Ward).  I don't know what words were exchanged in that conversation, but Yue agreed to take lessons from the missionaries.  Since she lives within the boundaries of the YSA 2nd Ward (my ward), the sisters handed her over to our elders, Elder Koster and Elder Stokey.  I had been begging to tag along to lessons so that I could practice being a missionary, so the elders kindly invited me to join them at Yue's first lesson.

So there we were, gathered around a table at the institute.  The sisters joined us for the first lesson to help Yue feel comfortable with the elders, so there were five teachers for one student, as Yue observed.  Although, as the lessons progressed, I ended up being more student than teacher, and I think the elders could say the same.

Yue had a million questions!  She wanted to know everything about everything, and she was so excited about the things we taught her.  I think that first lesson probably lasted a good two hours.  The subsequent lessons followed after the pattern of the first: Yue always came with a desire to know more, and she was quick to accept the principles we taught her.

The first time we approached the subject of baptism, she was reluctant to make any commitments.  We let it drop for a little while.  After we had been teaching her about a month, we tried again.  This time she was a little more amenable to the suggestion.  Still not making commitments, she said, "I would have to know more.  But I think I can see myself getting baptized in the future."  Finally, during the one lesson I was not present for, she committed to be baptized on September 6!

And of course, as luck would have it, the week after she made the commitment, both Elder Koster and Elder Stokey were transferred.  Our ward was "whitewashed," as the missionaries say.  But Elder Gambardella and Elder Fisher were excellent teachers, and Yue was unfazed by the transition.

The only hiccup came when we discussed the Word of Wisdom.  Everything was going well, and Yue even said, "I feel like these are things everybody should just do."  But then we got to the part about tea.  Tea is a huge part of the Chinese culture.  Yue was not sure she would be able to give it up.  "Maybe if I start slowly," she said.

A week later when we met with her, she had a large bottle of iced tea.  One of the elders casually commented on it.  "I need it!" she cried.  But when he gently explained the importance of adhering to the commandments, she readily agreed.  "I will stop drinking it today."  I never saw her with tea again.

The original baptism date, September 6, happened to fall on the same day as a regional YSA conference, so we pushed it back a week to September 13.  But then things fell through with building coordination, and we didn't have a place to baptize her, so we pushed it back another week.

Finally, on September 20, Yue Zhao was baptized by Elder Fisher.  You should have seen her when she got out of the font.  I have never seen a happier woman.  I swear she was glowing.

As I look back over the last few months, I can see how much Yue has learned and how much her testimony has grown.  She is full of the Light of Christ, and I am amazed at how much happier she is.  Not that she wasn't happy when we met her, but there is a certain joy that comes from the gospel that cannot be obtained through any other source.  

I also see how much I have learned from watching her.  Having been born in the covenant, I often take the gospel for granted.  But observing Yue, I have gained a greater appreciation for the blessings that come from the gospel.  Her testimony strengthens my own.

Me, Elder Fisher, Elder Gambardella, Yue, Sister Whipple, and Sister Eberhard

The Booth

Elder Stokey and Elder Koster

Editor's Note: I was honored to be asked to speak on baptism and the gift of the Holy Ghost at Yue's baptism.  You can read my talk here: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1_2tZRq2OCmZnM7FKVC6xjJ_tNbYPkhnQs6XMcngfx5c/edit?usp=sharing




Thursday, September 18, 2014

Called to the Work




"Therefore, if ye have desires to serve God, ye are called to the work."  (Doctrine and Covenants 4:3)

How can I articulate my thoughts and feelings as I read that letter from the Lord?  My call was everything I never dared to hope for.  I felt like Cinderella, fearing that at midnight everything would end and I would be left wondering if it had only been a dream.  

But this isn't a dream.  I have been prepared to preach the gospel to the people of Posadas.  I have been called to assist in this great work of salvation.  With great joy, I echo the words of Isaiah the prophet: "Here am I, send me."

Argentina Posadas!