Wednesday, December 30, 2009
I guess I'll start off with a quick Christmas update. We had a wonderful time at my house for Christmas Eve. The whole Zone came over. It was a real treat to be home, to be able to meet up with some non-member friends. We got to share a little more about what we believe in. As we were leaving, President got us do sing some carols, which really brought the Christmas spirit.
We spent the next day at President's house, starting with a sleepover that night, then having an awesome breakfast and reading of Luke 2. We emailed, made calls home, watched The Grinch Who Stole Christmas, walked at the Botanical Gardens, had a great dinner, oh, and played Mafia multiple times! It was a good day, though I ended up getting sick after that.
The Bangladeshi men are doing great!
I had the privilege to be asked to perform the confirmation for a sweet little girl, who happens to be the daughter of a lady who was in Young Woman's when my Mom was the Young Women President.
So, I decided that my new year's eve spill could be a little about what I have learned this year.
As a missionary, you learn much. Talking to different people everyday, spending 24/7 with your companion, studying the gospel, looking at the world through a different set of eyes. It really is a learning experience. Once again, it has been a time of ups and downs, but something that I wouldn't trade for anything. When the gospel changes someone's life, and you have been an instrument in the hands of God to help with that, "how great is your joy!"
Over the course of this year as a missionary, I have learned, in no particular order (because they are of equal importance... that....
1. Family Matters Most
My family meas more to me than I can say. I just received a letter from a friend yesterday who said that the more times she spends in college, the more time she wishes she could spend with her family. How interesting and rather sad it is to only be able to understand what matters most when it's not right there anymore. I love my parents so much. Now, I love the nagging and whatnot. I know that that is part of my parents expressing their love for me, because I can see the care in their eyes as they "nag." It is not nagging at all, but rather, a parent dispensing all the advice and information that they can out of pure love. I am going to do all I can to spend time with my family after my mission. I wish I had spent more time with my parents when I was younger. But, I will not regret. Instead, I will do all I can to make up for it, and, hopefully into the eternities! Challenges and obstacles some along the way, but family is always there.
2. The Lessons Taught By The Spirit Are The Best
There are times on my mission where I've said to myself "That was a great lesson. I taught really well!" Wrong. I was an instrument in the hands of the Lord. The Lord spoke through me to those people, and the Spirit touched and moved them. My patriarchal blessing talks about the need for me to come to understand and remember that, and I have. For that I am grateful.
3. Seeing People Struggle and Change and Become Better is Priceless
With a few of our investigators who were baptized, some had to go through enormous personal challenges to become members of the Church. As I saw them grow and change, as I saw them cry and feel the Atonement in their lives, I gained a better understanding and feeling of the Atonement in my own life. I t truly is being in the service of others that makes our own lives better. I'm still learning that, one day at a time.
4. God Loves Me
Knowing that I am a son of God, and that He loves me. To know that he is watching out for me, knowing everything I go through, knowing that I can turn to him.... enough said.
5. True Friends Are Like the Wheat and the Tares
You learn on your mission how to differentiate between a real friend, and a not so real one. I won't go into how, but there are certain things, missionaries and non-missionaries say and do, that tell you all you need to know. Sometimes it takes awhile, but when the "harvest" is ripe, you know.
6. Diets Don't Work
I've tried to diet so many times and in so many ways. They don't work. At least for me they don't. It's ridiculous! :) Moderation seems to be the key. When you're on a mission, people feed, splurging and binging on chips and big meals from time to time is part of the whole game.
7. The Future Is Bright
The future holds much in store, both for the rest of the mission and after the mission. A positive attitude is key. The trick is to be able to keep that positiveness around you all the time. I can only hope that I can continue to do that. There are days when the world, and other circumstances get you down. But, we hope, we hope for the future that brings much, we focus on that oft cliched light at the end of the tunnel, because it really is there. As we do so, as I do so, I know that things will work out, that trials and adversities are for only a small moment. The Lord will bless us as we have that eye towards that light.
8. You Can't Receive Revelation On Who You're Going To Marry While You're on Your Mission
President Clark talked to everyone about that during Zone Conference :D
9. Budgets Are Great
I'm learning to budget. It helps so much, and it'll help after my mission too!
9 1/2. Planning Is Great
I've been working on that too. Helps a lot, especially with goal-setting.
10. The Gospel Is True
As we have talked and taught people throughout the year, we have been rejected many times. Some nice, some not. It is interesting to see how people react to us and our message, whether it's during a contact on the MRT, or a lesson at the Church. As these people have come by, in and out of out lives, it has been an experience in itself, learning what people are looking for in life, what priorities certain people have. Along with they, we've learned about new belief systems, about what people really think about us, and how to act with certain people. Working with different companions is interesting. You get along with some better than others, but you still have a common cause (most of the time). You love some people easily, and some takes a biy more time. But, all in all, I have learned that no matter the circumstance, lesson, or experience, the thing that I have a testimony of is that the Church is the Church that Jesus Christ restored to the Earth. I love the Church and what it has taught me, about how to be more like the Savior and the joy that comes from that. There is much to hope for.
To end off, the three stanza in the hymn, How Firm A Foundation has found its way to being my motto and motivator for the year ahead:
Fear not I am with thee, oh be not dismayed.
For I am the God and will still give the aid.
I will strengthen thee, help thee, and cause thee to stand.
Up held by my righteousness, omnipotent hand.
I am grateful to be alive in this world at this time, to be a missionary and a member of the Church. I am grateful for my family and friends, and for the love and care that they provide. Have a wonderful new year's eve. I'll write again next year!
Friday, December 25, 2009
First off, we met up with Jeremy, Sister Maureen's nephew on Monday. Jeremy had promised us that he would come to Church on Sunday, but he didn't make it, so we set up an appointment for Monday and went over. We were on exchanges so I was with Elder Stone. The lesson started off relatively normal. He's been doing good. We read through some of the scriptures that he had been reading, and things were going well. But, as we talked about why he didn't come to Church, he said that he wasn't ready yet. He said he wasn't able to explain it. But, as we continued to talk to him, the Spirit became the teacher and the Spirit prompted him to tell us what his concern really was. He told us that he hadn't been to his Church for three years, and when he went a few weeks ago for his family members' baptisms, he felt rotten about it. He had been dressed and ready to come to Church on Sunday, but felt that he couldn't come. It was wonderful to teach him about the Atonement o the Savior, and remind him of what it does for all of us. He was rather emotional about it all. It was really a good thing to see that mighty change working within his heart.
Met with Rick and Jean Howe again after a few months. I was on exchanges with the Assistants again, but this time with Elder Troxel. It was another great lesson. Brother Howe has a bad leg and suffers because of it. We talked about the need for him to come to Church and to bring his wife, who does want to come, and who isn't yet a member. We shared Alma 7:11-12, which, with the Spirit, gave me a greater insight and more especially a greater appreciation of the Atonement that I have yet had. Elder Troxel and I recited a couple of our favorite verses from How Firm A Foundation that taught me more again. Funny that you really learn with you teach people in service.
A member from Bangladesh has brought four friends here for us to teach. There is a huge language barrier, but through love, and the Spirit, we are now teaching them. The first lesson was amazing. We had an amazing time with them, and I love them. It is so intensely powerful when you are able to love someone almost immediately when you see them, or feel them for who they really are.
I gave a talk last Sunday (again), and I was asked to speak on gifts that we can give the Savior at Christmastime. I hope you enjoy it, it's my Christmas message to you all also for this year.
A Gift to the Savior
Giving is such a wonderful thing, because the feelings that we feel and the blessings that we receive surpass the supposed sacrifice of the gift. During this Christmas season, we focus much on the presents that we receive from loved ones and friends, and also find joy in seeing the excited and satisfied faces of the recipients of our gifts. While that might be good, what more can we do to give to the one who has given us all? We too often focus on the physical act of giving and receiving. But, true giving prevents us from needing that reciprocation. Instead, we give out of love. And, as we reflect on the true meaning of Christmas, then we know what we must do to truly give. This season is the time for us to reflect on the gifts that we have received from the Savior, but more than that, to proactively do our best to repay the Savior in the very best way we can.
The Savior taught His apostles a powerful lesson that very much applies to us as disciples of Jesus Christ. In the 21st chapter of John, we read of the Lord having a meal with His disciples. Verses 15-17 read,
So when they had dined, Jesus saith to Simon Peter, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my lambs.He saith to him again the second time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my sheep. He saith unto him the third time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? Peter was grieved because he said unto him the third time, Lovest thou me? And he said unto him, Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee. Jesus saith unto him, Feed my sheep.
My personal feeling is that the Savior's most wanted gift from his children is that of personal ministry, of ministering one by one to His children who need His love the most. We are to feed His sheep with the living waters of His gospel. In our world today, there are many who need to comfort and love of another human being, and we are those who are charged to serve Heavenly Father's children. In our day, it isn't so common to see angels ministering to the people of the Earth, but rather, it is the Saints who are given the charge to be, as the Savior said, "even as I am(3 Nephi 27:27)." As we do so, we will see the relief and comfort they feel, and in our very own way, receive of that peace and comfort that comes from a grateful Father and Son in Heaven.
The act of ministering is to literally act in behalf of the Savior to perform His work among His children.
Ministering to Heavenly Father's children is an expectation. Servants of the Lord Jesus Christ are expected to not only provide physical support to our fellow brothers and sisters, but also to be a guide with emotional and spiritual challenges. Heavenly Father wants us to minister to each of His children, one by one. As we do so, we will be able to draw closer to the Savior, because we will feel His love and approval for what we are doing. As we keep an eternal perspective, we will see that we are but helping each child of God return to Him, as we participate in that work of ministering in our own little way.
Amulek's great discourse on prayer reads: "But this is not all; ye must pour out your souls in your closets, and your secret places, and in your wilderness. Yea, and when you do not cry unto the Lord, let your hearts be full, drawn out in prayer unto Him continually for your welfare, and also for the welfare of those who are around you. (Alma 34:26-27)."
"For the welfare of those around you." We are to be mindful in our prayers especially for those around us. Personal ministry through prayer is a powerful tool.
Sister Bonnie D. Parkin, former Relief Society General President spoke of prayer in relation to personal ministry. She said, "We can become better acquainted with Heavenly Father through prayer. Personal ministry can answer prayers. We can offer a daily prayer that enlists the help of the Lord Jesus Christ as we ask: "Help me to be the answer to someone's prayer today." The Lord consistently answers this prayer as we tune our eyes and ears to discerning the needs of those around us…. Asking to be an answer to someone's prayer has a powerful impact. We become the hands of our Savior as we do His work. There are sacred, quiet experiences for those who participate with the Lord in answering prayers. As we go about listening, watching, and feeling for the answer to those prayers—even in the midst of our busy schedules—I testify that our earthly ministry unfolds by revelation and divine empowerment. Our testimonies, faith, and feelings of connectedness to the Lord expand in amazing, unexpected ways.
My challenge for you today, for the upcoming year, and for the rest of your lives, is to ask the Lord each day to be the answer to someone's prayer. As you (and I), live worthy of the Spirit, we will receive the inspiration necessary to be the answer to someone's prayer each day.
As a new year comes about, let us remember the words of Will L. Thompson which read,
Have I done any good in the world today?
Have I helped anyone in need?
Have I cheered up the sad and made someone feel glad?
If not, I have failed indeed.
Has anyone's burden been lighter today
Because I was willing to share?
Have the sick and the weary been helped on their way?
When they needed my help was I there?
There are chances for work all around just now,
Opportunities right in our way.
Do not let them pass by, saying, "Sometime I'll try,"
But go and do something today.
'Tis noble of man to work and to give;
Love's labor has merit alone.
Only he who does something helps others to live.
To God each good work will be known.
Then wake up and do something more
Than dream of your mansion above.
Doing good is a pleasure, a joy beyond measure,
A blessing of duty and love.
I know that as we follow the counsel of this hymn, as we do our best to minister personally to each of Heavenly Father's children, to "feed His sheep", that we will "help others to live" the true gospel of Jesus Christ. As we give of ourselves to serve and minister to our fellow men, we will be giving the Savior the best gift that we could possibly give Him, because we will be remembering and applying the great commandment that states, "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself." As we do so, we will truly become the instruments of God in His hands, serving His children, and becoming the people whom He so wants us to be.
I know that as we focus on what really matters, and what gives us true happiness, that we will be HAPPY! The new year is coming along! I am grateful for the wonderful opportunity to be a representative of the Lord Jesus Christ. The Savior has given us all, and I am grateful for it.
Be your own gift to the Savior.
Wednesday, December 16, 2009
We had a couple of teaching experiences this week that left me to think about the things that we teach to people as missionaries.
Oh, we had the yearly live Christmas nativity at the Stake Center, which worked out really well. We had a great time meeting members and non-members alike, who enjoyed going through the different stages leading up to the birth of the Savior. Elder Klemm acted as the scholar reading and studying the prophecies of Christ's birth, and he did a great job! It was rather hectic trying to man the missionary booth, and to talk to people at the same time, running around to get supplies and to do some caroling by the entrance. I'm just glad that I didn't have to act again this year. It all worked out though. Now we just have to sort through the referrals.
We met up with Shu Yang and Angel yesterday. It's the first appointment we've had with them in a month, so we went straight into the lesson, starting off on the plan of salvation. When we got to Earth life, I decided to start teaching them lesson three so that we could set a baptism date with them. But, when we started talking about that foundation step, faith in Jesus Christ, we found out that they were just beginning to work on developing that faith, so we talked to them about that, and helped them to understand the steps they needed to take if they really wanted to find out that Jesus Christ was more than just mortal. Inspiration comes during the times you need it most, especially when you are prepared. As we talked about church, prayer, and reading, it came into my mind how that could relate to them in school, needing to attend classes, ask questions, and to study! It was a simple thought, but one that I was grateful to use as I received it. As the lesson continued, we were able to promise blessings. As I promised them that they would receive certain things as they heeded the things that we taught, I once again received a confirming witness that those things would come to pass if they were obedient to that which we had asked them to do. It is a humble but motivating feeling, to know that you are acting in behalf of Heavenly Father and His Son to teach these people. To be an instrument in the hands of God!
Shu Yan met up with us in the evening, after a bunch of scheduling conflicts. She's such a good person and willing to learn, but I've never really come across her concern before, and I don't really know how to help her! Well, Elder Klemm and I are truing to figure that out. The thing is, she's trying to figure out what she believes in right now. She believes that there is a God, but she says that it is not necessary that God is a being, that He has to be a who, but rather, God can be a what. It is perplexing, because we do not know what angle to take, or how to even begin to answer her, or guide her through the steps that will get her to believe that Heavenly Father is a tangible being who loves us. It is interesting to see someone who is having a hard time reconciling the concept of God with an actual being. We're going to have to really pray and rack our brains on this one. The Holy Ghost, as always, but especially in these lessons, is going to have to play the main part in teaching Shu Yan.
Well, preparation day is on Christmas Day next week. Hopefully we do have some time to email. It's going to be busy. I hope that you all have a wonderful Christmas, whether you're with family and/or friends. I know that Heavenly Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, are very mindful of each one of you, because we are all His children. Thank you for your encouragement and support. I always appreciate it. I hope that we will all remember what truly matters during this time of the year, and know, really, the reason for the season.
The Christmas Spirit is always there!
Wednesday, December 9, 2009
Had another meaningful discussion with a Filipina lady as we were contacting. She was a retired professor of English and was here because her daughter married a Singaporean. However, she expressed her disapproval that her daughter had married a Muslim and given up her Catholic faith. It was interesting to listen to her talk about her upbringing, and her view of learning about other religions. There are a lot of members and missionaries where she lives in the Philippines, but she had never talked to them. I loved that I was able to bear a simple testimony about The Book of Mormon and some of the truths of the restored gospel.
We were walking in a mall a couple of days ago, and had some American yell, right after he walked past us…"Mormons…. Oh my gosh!!!" Just walked on, but it got on my nerves a little. I am learning bit by bit to love ALL men.
Went to the Daynes' for dinner (I home taught them for two years). Had a great meal with them, then shared a message that we came up with on the spot. It was actually interesting to really think about. We talked about how angels heralded the birth of the Savior. The angel Gabriel appeared to Mary and to Zacharias, an angel appeared to Joseph, as did a host of angels to the shepherds watching their flocks. Angels are those who announced the birth of our Savior, who taught of His coming and the wonderful gift that he would provide.
Right now, as members and missionaries of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we too have the divine commission to herald the birth of Jesus Christ, to spread that message of love, peace, joy and hope. Elder Jeffrey R. Holland recently gave an address that I mentioned a few weeks ago entitled "The Divine Companionship." He ended his talk, saying, "Welcome to the work of divinity, welcome to the work of angels." We play our part in teaching the world about the gospel of Jesus Christ. It is interesting to note that in the hierarchy of the Church, each person is in a sense helping each other, in whatever capacity that they might serve, teach the gospel, especially as missionaries.
Rhea is scheduled to be baptized this Saturday! We are so excited for her!
Well, I hope that you are all having an exciting lead up to Christmas this holiday season. Thank you for your support and your love.
The question I have for you today is this: What are you thankful for? In the news today, we see the stories of suffering and pain, of turmoil and death, of failed businesses in an ever seemingly corrupt world that is slowly degenerating into chaos. And, with school, work, and mounting bills to pay, where do we find peace in our lives?
As this holiday season comes around the corner, perhaps we find some of that peace, of hope and joy that can only come from something better than us. Perhaps it’s because we remember Christmases past, where we’ve had fun, where we’ve had our traditions each year that sears into our minds and hearts a feeling of security, because within that is a sense of constancy.
It’s that remembering, that foundation of good times past, that from time to time give us a better hope for the future. Because, when we remember what is good in our lives, then we are grateful, grateful for the things we have had and now have, and which we will have. It is a magical time of the year that allows us to forget our own problems, because we are remembering and focusing on something more.
What do we remember though? Do we remember (as my parents would say) the five stones that they got for presents, or the earrings that your husband bought for you? As we have often heard during this season, we are to especially remember the Savior, for His example and life of service and sacrifice. The purpose of Christmas is to celebrate the birth of the Savior. But unfortunately, people quickly forget the true purpose of Christmas. People spend too much time celebrating ‘Claus’ instead of ‘Christ.’
The Savior should be the center of our everyday lives, but more especially at this time, because we are celebrating the birth of Him who gave us life. As members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we have made a covenant that we “will always remember Him” (Moroni 4:3), “and keep His commandments”, that “we may always have His spirit to be with [us].” As we come to Church each week and partake of the Sacrament, we are supposed to reflect on our week, on our lives, and consciously renew the promises that we have made with Him.
The promise we make is “to always remember Him.” What are we consciously doing in our lives to show ourselves and others that we are remembering Him?
Gratitude comes in many forms, but they mostly come as gifts. The Savior’s gift to us is one of eternal life. So, what are we going to give the Lord to thank Him for that gift?
The golden rule is to “do unto others what you would have done unto yourself.” So, the Savior has given us that gift of eternal life. What do we want others to have and experience then? Joy through eternal life too right? We are so afraid to talk to people about this marvelous present we have received, while it is easy to us to show off those new earrings or shoes that we have been given! Why?
Yes, it is hard to do missionary work, it is hard for us to talk to our friends and family because we’ve already tried it, and we’ve been shut down and rejected again and again. But, here’s the thing. We might be rejected twenty or thirty times, but it only takes that one golden person or family to change that all. We need to believe that the next person whom we decide to share the gospel with is someone whom the Lord has prepared for us. If we will do so, if we will prayerfully counsel with the Lord, we will know who we must share this priceless message with.
We might not be the most eloquent or the most impressive people. But the Lord’s promise to us is that if we do what he asks, he will provide the way, show us the love, and extend His comforting hand. In John 16:33, the Savior says, “These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” To his disciples before He ascends to His father, he states: “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world”(Matthew 28:20). As it states in the sacrament prayer, we [will] always have His Spirit to be with us”, if we will but remember Him and keep His commandments. With those promises in mind, let us be as Nephi of old, courageously stating that “I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded, for I know that the Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them” (1 Nephi 3:7).
As the new year comes along, let us make a conscious effort to be better, to do better, to show gratitude to the Lord by truly remembering Him. Gratitude indeed does work both ways. We are grateful for what we have received by doing our best in all that we do, and Heavenly Father shows us His gratitude by showering us with blessings that can only come to those who are truly thankful. With all of us in mind, Doctrine & Covenants 62:6-7 reminds us of a promise that the Lord gave to the Prophet Joseph Smith: “Behold, I, the Lord, have brought you together that the promise might be fulfilled, that the faithful among you should be preserved and rejoice together…. with a thankful heart in all things.”
It’s still an open-ended question that I’m asking. We are thankful for the Savior and His Atonement, but what else are we thankful for? There is so much to be thankful for. This season will give us that needed time to ponder.
These lyrics sung by Josh Groban touches much on the message I am trying to share today. It reads,
Some days we forget
To look around us
Some days we can't see
The joy that surrounds us
So caught up inside ourselves
We take when we should give.
Look beyond ourselves
There's so much sorrow
It's way too late to say
I'll cry tomorrow
Each of us must find our truth
It's so long overdue
Even with our differences
There is a place we're all connected
Each of us can find each others' light
So for tonight we pray for
What we know can be
And on this day we hope for
What we still can't see
It's up to us to be the change
And even though this world needs so much more
There's so much to be thankful for
So, take the time to reflect on this question for a little while this month. What are you thankful for? As Christmas rounds the corner, and we receive Christmas gifts from our loved ones, we’ll open them with surprise and joy, because those gifts remind us of the love that our families and friends have for us. But truly, after all the hustle and bustle of this season draws to a close, what will we truly be thankful for?
Wednesday, December 2, 2009
We've had a decent week. Our investigators are slowly starting to progress. We have had two great weeks with a total of nineteen investigators at Church the past two weeks. We're working on getting them on baptism date. Slowly but surely.
Rhea's back on track for baptism next week. We had a wonderful lesson with her. We haven't been able to get to the root of the concern. But, as Elder Hall(we were on exchanges) and I talked to her, and the member bore her testimony, Rhea started to cry, and told the member that she was holding out because she felt that she wasn't worthy. It was an amazing experience when we then bore our testimonies about the Atonement and how much that really meant and can help us in our lives. It was a good lesson for me to remember, that the central focus of our doctrine is the Atonement of Jesus Christ. I know how much it can help us.
My Dad responded to the missionaries invitation to listen to their talks in sacrament meeting!
Been getting quite a few referrals from members and missionaries, which has been a little blessing for us this past week.
Teaching an investigator who used to learn from the Sisters. She's really good. Just helping her to see who she is as a daughter of God, and how she should not meddle with things of the occult. She has some items that are rather scary, and we're talking to her about that. The power of the adversary is real.
But, I learned something this past Sunday. Brother Jay and his family are moving. In his testimony, and then his lesson in Sunday, he talked about how, through the years, he has come to know that no man or spirit can have power over us, because as we put our faith and belief in God, we can and will be protected and guided. He bore a wonderful testimony of how the Savior has always helped his family. I can't really express it as well as he did, but it was moving. One great thing that he said was that he's learned that sometimes Heavenly Father counsels and teaches him through his wife. Good lesson to learn.
Found out that a girl I contacted a while ago got baptized. Passed her on to the Mandarin Elders and thought nothing of it. It was just a short contact, but she's now a member of the Church! No effort is wasted! Heavenly Father really does work miracles in our lives. I love these little blessings.
Gave a talk on Sunday. Wrote one originally that the Assistants and President though would get the whole congregation walking out on me. So, I changed it. I'll send it out/put it up soon. I talked about what we are thankful for in our lives. Well, Happy December. Do keep in touch, especially during this amazing season!
I love Christmas!