Tuesday, November 23, 2010

"I Will Not Be Still"

In a recent award ceremony, wherein Staff Sergeant Salvatore A. Giunta was awarded the Medal of Honor, this is what President Barack Obama said of the men and women who serve in the military.
"Each with specialized roles and responsibilities, but all with one thing in common -- they volunteered. In an era when it’s never been more tempting to chase personal ambition or narrow self-interest, they chose the opposite. They felt a tug; they answered a call; they said, “I’ll go."
It is in that spirit that each missionary of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints goes out into the world to preach the gospel to each son and daughter of Heavenly Father. In a world besought with selfishness and greed, a select few young men and women choose to serve their fellow-men. It is a remarkable thing to see and to witness, that some so young are willing to sacrifice part of their lives - or all of it, in the service of their God, that they "perhaps... may be an instrument in the hands of God to bring some soul to repentance; and this is their joy" (Alma 29:9).

In the Singapore Mission right now, there is an Elder, Elder Schone, who lies in a critical state in Penang, Malaysia, far from home, fighting for his life after being hit by a car on his bicycle. 19 years old, thousands of miles away from home and family, so that some soul, some child of God might find joy in the gospel and be happy. What motivates someone so young to do something so selfless? President Henry B. Eyring, summed it up perfectly as he described the sons of Mosiah, and pleaded for us to be just like them, saying:
I pray that you will develop the bravery and love for Heavenly Father’s children that led the sons of Mosiah to plead for the chance to face death and danger to take the gospel to a... people. Their desire and their bravery came from feeling responsible for the eternal happiness of strangers in danger of eternal misery.
That's what a missionary wants, happiness for each child of God. Sure, sometimes it's easy to forget, sometimes we fail to look beyond the mark, but it's always there and always comes back, because God is leading the way.

It's been just over six months since I returned from serving a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The time has gone by so fast, I don't know where it's gone. There have been days that I am relieved that I am not on my mission anymore, but there days that I miss it so much that I just want to be there again, trying to teach anyone and everyone about the gospel of Jesus Christ. I have had the opportunity to spend time with my former mission companions and friends. How wonderful it is and how happy I am when I around them, because we have built such strong bonds of love and camaraderie. Even those whom I didn't get along as well with, I count my brothers because of what we went through together. I will probably never, we will probably never go through the horrors of war and be bound by a battle-hardened bond, but in our own way, we are bound by something better, that of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

I've thought a lot about my mission these past few months. It's sometimes a little hard to automatically move on when you have spent two years focusing on one thing! About a month ago, I was thinking quite a bit about my mission, and felt very inadequate, because I was reflecting on each of the baptisms that I had, and how I had felt at each one of them. So many missionaries talk about the absolute happiness and euphoria that they feel at a baptismal service, because they're filled with the spirit and all that great stuff. For me though, it wasn't exactly the same. Sure, I was happy that that person was getting baptized, but I was exhausted, tired, and not terribly excited. It was something that really scared me because my thoughts were that perhaps I wasn't working hard enough or worthy to have the Spirit's confirmation. It was pretty much that way throughout my mission, and something that I thought about from time to time after my mission. It wasn't till about two months ago that I was taught by the Spirit and was able to understand why that happened.

It was one of those days, when I was thinking about my mission and missing it more than anything, when I felt this overwhelming sense of peace and love, and at that point, I knew without a doubt that I had a Heavenly Father who loved me, and who was happy with me. As I felt that, the spirit taught me a wonderful lesson, that helped me to truly understand what Heavenly Father had wanted me to learn. He taught me that day that I didn't need to feel those feelings and learn those things then because I was already doing everything that He wanted me to do. It was NOW, after all those months that gone by, that He was in a sense rewarding me, but also strengthening my testimony with the work that I had done in the past, because it was at that point that I felt joy, not just happiness or euphoria, but true joy that can only come from the gospel of Jesus Christ. I was so so happy, I was glad that I had served a mission, I was filled with a joy that peace that really, in a sense, surpassed all understand, and that I still feel from time to time, more especially at the times when I need to feel His love.

Brother Robert E. Millet, a professor of religion at BYU, recently presented a fireside to my Stake, where he spoke about the Holy Ghost, and how it perhaps is not with us always, because the "Spirit listeth to and fro." Sometimes we wonder why we don't feel the spirit though we're doing everything right. He made the point that sometimes Heavenly Father wants us to learn to make decisions by ourselves, but also to build a kind of faith that cannot waver. He said, regarding his own experiences, "in my mind, I knew that Heavenly Father loved me, but I couldn't feel it." A complete opposite of what we normally think. An intellectual confirmation from within might not even come, but, as he said, it is in "knowing that obedience is more important than emotional satisfaction" that we eventually learn that Heavenly Father is ALWAYS watching out for us. Faith will always triumph fear.

I have felt my Heavenly Father's love so much these past few months, especially during the times when I think I'm alone and have had no one to rely on. I love my Heavenly Father for all that He has given me, and for His Son, Jesus Christ, who gives me life and hope through His Atonement. I am so grateful for the opportunity to have served a mission, to have the experiences that I have had. I love the people who I was able to teach and help convert. It was in that moment of feeling God's love, and at various times after, that I have felt an overwhelming sense of love for those who I have taught, children of God who have so much to offer Him, and who are each so special to me in my life. I just chatted with the fiance of my one my recent converts. They are planning and preparing to be married in the temple, and I can't think of any greater joy than to see them make the covenants that will allow them to be a forever family, that I too hope to have one day.

I never got to post the last couple of baptisms that I had on my mission, so here they are!

Frank was baptized Saturday, May 8, two days before I finished my mission. He is active and continues to grow and learn more about who He is as a son of God.

Zong Lu was baptized the weekend after, and I am so glad that I got to attend her baptism! Zong Lu brought a friend to Church who also took the lessons and was baptized a few weeks later!

Time continues to fly by, and the common stresses and activities of life tend to distract and detract me, sometimes, away from that which matters most. But, I always end up remembering, in one way or another, that the Gospel of Jesus Christ means EVERYTHING to me, that a loving Heavenly Father and Brother have provided me with a plan that allows me to understand why I am here on this life, and what I can and must do so that I can be happy. I am grateful for the Restoration of the Gospel, that all because a boy went into the woods to pray, I too, can know for myself that God is there, and that He loves me, without a shadow of a doubt.

The full-time missionaries visited our ward a couple Sundays ago and spoke. They are so lucky! They get fed and have member help and referrals all the time! :) But, they reminded me of one thing, to do my best to serve my fellow-men, and in so doing, serve my Father and Savior.

I'll finish with some of the lyrics that inspired the title for my blog, and that will remind always of why we do this work.

How can I keep this gift to myself, When I can lift somebody else?

I'll be a witness of his miracles and his mercy.

I'll put my future in his hand, Knowing he's made me all I am.

I put my faith in him and truth begins to speak.

His power is real,it moves me until,

I will not be still.

-Ee Chien