Wednesday, December 7, 2016

December 7, 2016 - Temple, Refugees, & Michaels Baptism

Hey family & friends!
We switched our Pday this week to Wednesday in order to attend the temple this morning.

Merry Christmas
from the Temple Visitors Center!

I always love going to the temple! We went with Paul Heffron, he's a 65 year old man originally from Boston. He joined the church about a year and a half ago. This was only his second time attending the temple for an endowment session, and he loved it! It was a great experience! The spirit is always so strong at the temple. There is nowhere else I would've rather been this morning! After leaving the temple, I always feel an overwhelming sense of gratitude for the eternal perspective that the temple brings to me in regards to our mortal existence. There is so much greatness in store for us, so much joy and glory awaiting us. I believe that the joy we feel during our highest moments on earth will be so small compared to the joy we will feel in the life to come!
Tonight we are actually going up to the temple again tonight with the Penedo family for the Festival of Lights that goes on every night, for the whole month of December! Thousands of Christmas lights and nightly Christmas concerts from local groups from around the world
We've had a lot happen in the past week and a half! We have both been feeling a bit under the weather this past week with headaches and colds and whatnot, but have still seen many miracles. I'll just touch on a few of them.
One day last week, we helped deliver furniture to refugees from war-torn countries in the Middle East. Many of them have come here within the last month and they have an apartment, but nothing inside of it. We helped out a Stake Relief Society President deliver furniture to a few different families. They were all extremely grateful! It was interesting talking to them and hearing their thoughts about being here in the U.S. They explained how weird it felt at first to be able to just walk around outside whenever and wherever they want and feel completely safe. But they are all happy to start adjusting to the culture here. Such humble, happy people! Some of the happiest people I know in life often tend to be strong in the attribute of humility. It was cool to be able to serve in this way last week, especially since recently hearing the church leaders talk about helping refugees, this was the first time I've witnessed it first hand (see "I Was A Stranger" by Linda K Burton from April 2016 General Conference).

 Elders Hall, Ostendorf, and Burleson are in a trio, and they taught Michael a lot before the boundaries of the ward changed and he came into our ward. We are grateful to be able to continue to help him along the path! His baptism was an amazing service.

 Michael had his baptism on Saturday afternoon! It was right before our ward Christmas party, and there was great support from the ward there. He was so happy the entire day. He even got to the church super early with us to be able to watch the font fill up. He chose to have Bishop Leavitt baptize him, and was proud to be the first baptism in the brand new Lincolnia Ward. He bore his testimony at the baptism, at church on Sunday during sacrament meeting, and during Sunday school in the Gospel Principles class that Elder Judkins and I taught. Every time he bore his testimony he talked about Romans chapter 6 verse 4 which reads "Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life." He talked about how he truly feels like he has been born again and raised up to a new life, excited for the journey which lies ahead. He mentioned how he has prayed more in the last 6 weeks than he has in the past 6 years! And each time he talked about his conversion process and how he has felt like he has a greater desire to treat others kindly, and how he has felt so much happier now than ever before. His testimony is so strong! It's hard to believe he's barely been introduced to the church, he could easily be mistaken for a longtime member. Especially after seeing him at the ward Christmas party, interacting with everyone as if he has known them for years. I'm grateful for the small role we've been able to play in his conversion, but in reality, Michael was just prepared and the Lord has blessed him with understanding eyes and ears, ready to receive the truth. We are excited to prepare him to receive the priesthood, wherein he will be given greater responsibility and opportunity to serve the Lord and those around him! 

 Us at the ward Christmas party! Everyone liked our matching ties!

This was after Edgardo's lesson! (Julio is the one with the sweater on)

On Monday night we were able to teach this man Edgardo. He's from Peru, and has been in and out of different churches throughout his life, mainly Catholicism. His father-in-law in Peru was a member of the church and always told him he should check it out, and this week and took a leap of faith and reached out to us! His first time in our church building was Monday night, where he met us for a lesson. He was really receptive to the first lesson and curious to learn. After we testified of the Restoration of the gospel through Joseph Smith, he initially questioned it and said "You guys really believe this?" We simply responded "Yes! And it has blessed our lives eternally! And it can bless yours as well." When we teach people we always explain that we are not here to convince them. But our desire is simply to invite them to pray about the things we've taught and ask God if they are true, because he's the ultimate source of truth! Julio Penedo, a recent convert, joined us for the lesson and bore his testimony to Edgardo in Spanish. It was powerful! Edgardo is excited to come to church this Sunday and learn more! He wants to be taught by us instead of the Spanish elders because he wants to keep improving his English. He speaks it pretty well and understands everything we've taught, so we are excited to help him progress in the gospel! 
I saw a short quote today that I really liked. "It is in the stillness that we come to know God...and ourselves." I think that's profound. We can't truly come to know God if we are constantly hustling around from place to place, letting our lives become consumed by things going on around us. Sometimes we need to take a step back and take some time to ponder in the "still" moments of life. During those moments we can also come to know ourselves, particularly the potential that we have of becoming something greater.
I'm grateful to be here! I'm excited for the week ahead! I love you all tons! Hope you all have a great week!
Elder Jeremy Duvall
Washington DC South Mission

**Also, by the way, my Pday is going to be switched to Tuesday next week due to a mission conference we are having on Monday with a general authority that's coming to the mission.

This is us at church this past Sunday with two of our investigators David, and Fatmata. We weren't sure if they were coming, but they both showed up! This was David's second time at church, and Fatmata's first time in any church since she moved to the U.S. from Sierra Leone. Fatmata cooked us this African soup full of fish and other stuff and it was not appealing by smell or taste. Despite that, she enjoyed coming to church last week!

Next door neighbor Carl. He invites us over every now and then to help him finish off his desserts. This time it was his pumpkin cheesecake that was delicious! A great example of "loving thy neighbor" haha. He loves having missionaries live next door, and we love having him as our neighbor!

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