Thursday, June 19, 2014

Letter #55 (June 15, 2014) Brother Tony Nobleza

This week was kind of rough. It started out really good and going strong, but ended with devastation. This week I'm writing my email for our investigator, Tony Nobleza.
Tony used to be a Catholic Minister and a very smart/strong "Catholic Defender." Although very strongly planted in his beliefs, he was always very kind and generous to us as missionaries of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day saints.  When I first got to the area, I was very weary about teaching him because he wasn't reading our assignments, going to church, or really keeping any of his commitments that were unrelated to his own beliefs. But we continued to visit him from time to time because his house is in a really central location to all of our other appointments.  He is only about 50-60 years old, but often has a hard time breathing because of his Asthma, sometimes even talking was hard for him.  I used to be a little freaked out by him because he would give us so much fruit. Mangos and Papaya. I love fruit, but I thought it was a little creepy that he kept giving us things without a desire to actually follow what we were teaching. I was a little worried that he was just looking for some friends who were young adult women.  But we kept praying for him and reading with him from time to time. Then, one day we just had a very frank, straightforward meeting with him, much like the needed DTR (determine the relationship). We basically told him we would never come back to his home, unless he read in the Book of Mormon. We left the reading assignment, and told him to text us after he read. That night we received a text that told us he had read and he wanted to come to church that Sunday. We returned and started teaching a sincere investigator who began searching for truth from God, not just from the bible.  It's important for investigators to learn to use all of the resources God gave us: The Bible, Book of Mormon, Personal Prayer, revelation from the Holy Ghost. Once Brother Tony started learning from God, and not just from his brain, his progression was unmeasurable. He came to church that week and progressed toward his scheduled baptism for June 7. After a few weeks, we realized he had a harder repentance process ahead of him because of his involvement in some underground movements of the Philippines Government, but he was able to be interviewed by President Lopez and set for baptism. Every time we visited brother Nobleza, he would give us fruit and hamburgers. Every day he would send us scriptural texts of hope. He lived all alone, but would always call to cancel the appointment if it was raining for fear that we would get sick walking in the rain. (Even though we continued to work anyway) Before his baptism, he told us that he didn't actually believe that Joseph Smith was a prophet of God. We gave him the restoration video and told him to pray and ask God. He believed in the Book of Mormon, but was having a harder time accepting a living prophet. I made the decision to move his baptism date to June 14 in order to help him feel more at peace about his decision. After much sincere prayer, he came to the realization that this church is true, everything in the Church, including our living prophet today and that Joseph Smith really was called of God. We were visiting him every day preparing him for his Baptism and he was getting more and more excited every day. He is one of the most humble men I've met here. On Thursday night we had a lesson about a dream he had. He said that God gave him a vision in his dream the night before where he saw the vision of Ezekiel. He said he could now understand what everything looked like, but asked us what it means. (Ezekiel chapter 1). I honestly have no idea, so we told him we would discuss it the next day. He even told us he had been talking to the other ministers and preists about the church and was trying to get them to go to church with him, even just one time. It was a really peaceful lesson.
On Friday Morning, we received a text from a member who lives down the street from him that brother Tony Nobleza was found dead in his home leaning over his table while reading the Book of Mormon, his reading glasses still on his head. They said it was a stroke. I'm not sure the reason for all things in this life. I'm not sure why Tony was taken from the earth mere hours before his baptism. Maybe he has another purpose in the spirit world. Maybe it was my mistake by delaying his baptism. Maybe, Maybe, Why, Why. The questions won't help us cope with what happened. But I have to choose to have everlasting hope in the plan of God. I've come to the conclusion that Tony Nobleza is among the other spirits in spirit prison, as the best fellowshipper ever, just waiting for his family to find the truth and take his name to the temple for his Baptism. I feel that he will be able to reach people that no other can. All he wanted to be was a missionary, I feel that maybe he is helping the missionaries on the other side, helping bear his testimony to the spirits who are still lost. Whatever the reasons, the truth is the same. All will be made right for those who love and follow God. I know that this work can bring sad times, good times, heartaches, miracles, devestations, powerful emotions, powerful feelings, and full-on rollorcoasters. But either way, I'm lucky and glad I was able to meet, teach, talk to, and see the miraculous conversion of brother Tony Nobleza.
I love you family and I hope you know how lucky we are to have such a knowledge and confidence in the plan of God. I hope you are following the commandment given to us last conference of finding someone for the missionaries to teach every quarter (that's four times a year). :) I know that if you ask God for the opportunity, you will be able to help someone. I love you all so much!
Love, Sister Smoot

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