Why You Should Always Have the Interview Before the Baptism

This has been a very stressful week for us. Probably one of the most
stressful of my life. On Tuesday, we went down to Daegu for Sister
Wallace’s final dental appointment. They gave her a gold molar.
When she pulls her lip down in front and says “Arrrr” she is a straight
up pirate. It would be frightening if it weren’t so amusing. She
calls it her most expensive souvenir from Korea. I call it insurance
for a market crash/get-out-of-jail-free tooth. But I’m hoping that
she never needs to extract it and that it can just abide happily in
her mouth until the resurrection.

Her appointment took forever. We were at the dentist’s for a few
hours. We had to cancel our appointment up here in Gumi that was
scheduled for later that night. And the appointment took so long that the
President told us it was too late to wait for, then take, the train up
to Gumi. So we had to spend the night at the Sangin/Jungri Sisters’
house. But our phone was dead, so we couldn’t tell them that.
However, we serrendipitiously ran in to the Jungri Sisters on the
subway. They were quite surprised to see us in Daegu. Even more
surprised when we told them that we were headed to their house. It
ended up being kind of fun since there were six of us and their house
is giant. And they have a couch and a trifold mattress. Sister
Wallace and I don’t have mattresses in our tiny little apartment. We
just have 요 s–traditional Korean sleeping mats (i.e. a very beautiful
half-inch thick piece of batting). And because their house was so
big, it was very cool. So we slept pretty well. Minus the fact that
we were sleeping in our clothes and had no toiletries, etc. We left
about seven the next morning and then made it back to our wonderful
Gumi.

Still, it was a little stresful. But by far not the most stressful
part of our week. That would be our baptism.

Min-Chae is the 9 year old (American age) daughter of Gemma, a
Filippino woman in our ward. Gemma’s husband is not a member and
Min-Chae was not baptized when she was eight, so we’ve been teaching
her since we got here. Her baptism was scheduled for this Sunday.

On Friday, we had the baptismal interview. Because our district
leader lives up in the farthest north reaches of our mission (Andong)
and it costs a lot of money and about three hours round trip for him
to get down to Gumi and back, Elder Daniel in Kimcheon had permission
to conduct the interview. So he and his trainee came on over on
Friday night. The four or us and one of our 19-year-old ward members
headed off to Gemma’s house in the country. It’s about an hour bus
ride followed by a 2km walk. We got to Gemma’s house. She fed us all
a very delicious Filippino dinner. And then told us that Min-Chae,
who had gotten home just a couple of hours before from an overnight
school field trip was asleep. And she could not wake her. We took
turns trying to rouse her, but she was down for the count. We were
all sort of puzzled as to what we should do. We couldn’t get her up,
though, and Gemma said that if we managed to do so, she would be a
grumpy monster. Gemma said that she couldn’t meet on Saturday, so it
would have to be on Sunday.

스트레스를 많이 받았아요.

So we left. Apologizing profusely to the Elders the whole time, even though
there wasn’t really anything that we could have done about it,
anyway. They didn’t really seem to mind–they got to leave their area
and eat delicious food.

They agreed to come down right after sacrament meeting on Sunday to
give the interview right before the baptism. My stomach dropped a
little; although I recognized that this was the only solution, I
wasn’t really thrilled with the prospect. In retrospect, there was a
much better solution that I will take no questions asked any time in
the future should this same situation arise: postpone the baptism!

We spent Saturday getting ready for the baptism. Cleaning the font,
making the program, making the treats, preparing her presents, etc.
In Korea, from what I’ve seen, if you as a missionary want a good
baptismal service, you sort of have to do most of it all by yourself.
Which is what we did.

We went to bed on Saturday night pretty nervous. More so, because
Gemma had not responded to any of our efforts to contact her. We
started fasting.

Sunday dawned very gloomy. I was siiiiiiick. SO worried about the
baptism. What if they just didn’t show up?

We left our house pretty early and were a couple of the first ones at
the church, as per usual. We tried to act as if it were just another
Sunday. We made copies of our message card, cut them out and went
outside to greet all the members as they came in and give them said
message card. We were surprised when around the corner came Elder
Jang, our former AP who finished his mission this past transfer, but
was apparently still in the country with his mom, dad and brother
(they’re Korean but from Canada). He was still dressed like a
missionary–he hadn’t been released yet. It was kind of weird to see
him in Gumi, his second area, where he served about a year and a half
ago, but whateves. We had more important things to worry about than
the presence of former APs.

We wait outside for a long time, but no Gemma and no Min-Chae. We
skipped Relief Society as we were too busy worrying and trying to make
last-minute preparations for the baptism.

Sunday School started and no Gemma and no Min-Chae. Kick the stress up a notch.

Halfway through Sunday School, I see little pink tennis-shoed feet
outside of the door. I threw it open and there is Min-Chae and
Gemma. So much relief! At least she showed up!

We talked with Min-Chae for the rest of Sunday School. And she was in
a fit. She said she didn’t want to get baptized. She was pretty
adament about it. Her mom said that she was afraid of water (we
didn’t know this beforehand) and that she was mad because her mom
hadn’t bought her some sandals for the baptism or somehting. In other
words, she is a nine year-old kid. Who was tantrum-ing.

We finally get her up into sacrament meeting (it was a great effort
and involved us bribing her with the brownies that we made and showing
her the wrapped present we had for her after her baptism. And
some…urging…on the part of Gemma).

I’d been so stressed about Min-Chae that I hadn’t had any other
thought about well, anything, really. But there in Sacrament meeting
came in two of our other investigators! Whoa, what?! That was
totally an unexpected but nice blessing. Neither had ever been
before. Super great.

I was really happy about that, but it only slightly alleviated my
stress regarding Min-Chae and her tantrum/the fact that she’d not yet
had a baptismal interview.

Well, I really don’t know what happened during Sacrament meeting–I
was praying the whole time.

Then it ended. And next thing I know the whole ward is downstairs in
the primary room with a full baptismal font, a ward mission leader
dressed in white, and a somehow magically dressed Min-Chae all in
white saying let’s have this baptism. And me saying, no we have to
wait for the interview.

“What do you mean she hasn’t had an interview?” I explained and then
said that Kimcheon was on their way and that there wasn’t really
anything I could have done.

It was about 1:05 at this point–the baptism was scheduled for 2.

And they were all there just staring at me asking if they could just
go ahead and do it.

Crap. “No, you can’t ‘just do it’. We have to wait for the Elders.”

So I called said Elders. They were still in Kimchoen. Their high
councilman (a member or our ward) was supposed to give them a ride.
Instead he was making 팥빙수 for the branch members there. It was now
about a quarter after one and it was still a half-hour drive. From
whenever they actually left.

And the Bishop was giving me death glares. I’m pretty sure that
Sister Wallace and I were the only things preventing our ward members
from tossing the girl into the font without an interview and calling
it good.

So, in the face of much pressure, I called the President.

He said that the Bishop couldn’t do it. It had to be a missionary and
that the ward would just have to wait for Kimcheon to get there. In
fear for my life, I said,

“President, hypothetically speaking, if there were another Elder
here…let’s say a former AP who has not yet left the country and
therefore not yet been released. Could he by chance do the
interview?” I then explained about Elder Jang. The surprised
President then gave permission.

So I then had the fun job of grovelling. Elder Jang agreed to do it.
It was the longest interview ever. The now surly Min-Chae gave him
hell. Maybe just because he wanted to be done with it, he finally
signed the form and the service was under way.

This all had just caused Min-Chae to become more stressed and shy.
She was clinging desperately to Sister Wallace and would not let go.
So the three of us were sharing two chairs. Min-Chae was terrified.

In all of this, I had forgotten that I’d been asked to bear a
testimony. I forgot until it was announced. Oops.

But Gemma gave such a beautiful testimony and then I gave, what I’m
assumming, was a barely understandable testimony about baptism and the
gospel and how we must all continually work on our conversion, etc.
Hope someone got something out of it. I know that the white-knuckled
Min-Chae sure didnt.

After my testimony was the baptism. And Min-Chae, with some bodily
persuasion, made it to the font. And then all of a sudden, she
snapped out of her tantrums and became a different person. I’ve never
seen a nine year old descend stairs with so much dignity. She entered
that font like a little queen. And was baptized without a problem.
And came out happy and clean.

After the service was over, Min-Chae ran up to us to claim her
present. It wasn’t much–just a mini triple in Korean. But she was
still happy that she got to unwrap something. I lost the vials, so
she’ll get her baptismal water later (we give each convert a little
vial of their baptismal water as a keep-sake). And then she
disappeared.

I then went to the bathroom and threw up. I’ve never been so stressed
in my entire life! Holy cow.

We broke our fast and then headed upstairs for lunch with the ward.
After lunch, Sister Wallace was passing out the brownies. She wanted
to give one to Min-Chae, but couldn’t find her. She asked Min-Chae’s
older sister where she was. She replied that she was on the stage.
So Sister Wallace went up onto the stage. And there, nestled between
some boxes, was a very subdued Min-Chae, sitting cross-legged with her
new triple open in her lap.

“Min-Chae, do you want a brownie?” Sister Wallace asked.

Without looking up, Min-Chae replied, “No. I want to keep reading.”

Despite the stress of the day, it ended well. Maybe it wasn’t the
perfect, ideal baptismal service that we might have dreamt of, but there
was a cute nine year-old girl who proved that something we said,
something the Spirit had taught her, had helped her to draw closer to
her Savior and her Father in Heaven and had instilled in her the
desire to get even closer.

So it was a very, very successful week. But I learned some valuable
lessons, not least of which is: always have the interview before the
baptism!

(Now we just have to hope she comes next Sunday to get confirmed!)

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About gwenogjones

I am a missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, serving for 18 months in the Korea Busan Mission (as of September 7, 2011). I have a fanatical obsession with Snape and the Harry Potter series (in that order), I recently graduated from university majoring in Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations (Arabic). Prior to this major, I was working towards a degree in Jazz Saxophone performance; ergo, I love music. I also love reading, writing, painting, spending time with my friends, playing soccer, watching movies...the usual types of things early 20-somethings enjoy.
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