Wow my family. I think it's been a whole month since I last wrote... which doesn't make sense because it was really just last Tuesday. But holy cow do I have a story for you! Ready?
It started Tuesday night, my first night out working in Petropolis. We made plans the night before to visit a member that Sister Santos previously started working with. It took a bit of time to get there and just before the entrance to her neighborhood, we found a monster staircase. There's only one entrance to that neighborhood and it's straight up! We climbed the stairs and sat down with our member, Cristiani and her mother-in-law Maria. We got to know her and Maria a little bit more. In the middle of our meeting, Cristiani turned to us and said, ¨Maria wants to be baptized.. is it possible for her to be baptized this Sunday?¨ I turned, looked at Sister Santos, and replied, ¨I believe it's possible¨. Sister Santos and I left surprised. We knew it would be possible as others have been baptized in shorter amounts of time. Frankly, it wasn't the time frame or the preparation that worried us... it was the fact that she's a 98 year old lady!
With determination we shrugged off the doubt. Everyday this week we climbed those monster stairs, prepped with the most simplified lesson plans. Maria is a very intelligent idosa (elderly woman). But she has cataracts in both eyes and can only hear slightly out of one ear. Everything we taught, we taught shouting into her left ear. And here I was thinking the Spirit only works through quietness. But Maria learned fast and even though she couldn't read the Book of Mormon or pamphlets, her testimony grew as we read to her. She passed some difficulties and challenges this week, but amidst the adversity she pulled through.
The day before her baptism was particularly hard. Maria had some troubling dreams and almost backed out. It most definitely had to do with the heavy side affects of giving up coffee which I imagine has been part of her life for a good number of years. As we sat comforting her with Cristiani, there wasn't much that seemed to be helping. We prayed, sang a hymn, shared thoughts and scriptures and held her hands but she still seemed to be frightened by the dreams that only could have come from a terrible source.
As we sat in silence, hopeless and a bit discouraged, I desperately searched my mind for one last solution. It seemed that nothing came so I turned to Cristiani and asked if there was one last thing she would like to say. Cristiani knelt in front of Maria and took her hands. She said, ¨Maria, you have to fight. Don't let the devil win. Are you going to let him win?¨
Maria bowed her head and said a prayer quietly to herself. She looked up at each one of us and said with tears in her eyes, ¨Vou me batizar¨
The next day she was baptized by her son after the church services. All went really well and Maria didn't even have terrible dreams that night. The actual baptism part was a little tough. An elder had to step in the font with his clothes to help- but she succeeded and after there was the best light spread across her face! She was so happy and as we got up to sing for her in the baptismal service, she couldn't resist giving me and Sister Santos the biggest hugs.
When bishop welcomed her into the ward, he mentioned that Maria was the newest and oldest member of the stake. I would also add the strongest! She has quite the spiritual force! And her physical force always seems to catch me by surprise as well. She always gives tight hugs and her pats on the back are more like slaps. For the record, she also cooks, cleans and bathes and dresses all by herself. She really impresses me this woman. But the way she fought off adversity will always impress me the most!
How incredibly grateful I am for this miracle. First week in Petropolis wasn't easy, but it was definitely worth it. The Lord placed us where we needed to be at the right moment. All it required was a few sore calves and a couple of tears. But that's just a small price compared to the blessings in return.