Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Some things change, some things stay the same

I send my love and greetings to you....once again from Wilmington! If I'm here much longer, they may have to change the name to "Livingston". Nonetheless, I was very excited when I found out that I'd still be here, and there must be something here that the Lord wants me to do. My new companion is Elder Remington from Kallispell, MT. I think that's how you spell it. He was actually my district leader for my first 4 1/2 months in Wilmington, so I'm very excited to learn from him and spend this time serving together. And he bought a GPS today, so we'll never get lost or have a problem with miles!

I'm very much looking forward to this transfer and seeing what we can accomplish here. Elder Remington has an enthusiastic spirit so I think we'll do real well together. I loved how Mom mentioned the Christlike attribute of patience, which coincidentally I studied yesterday morning. The part that stuck out to me was when it said that we have to wait for the Lord's promises to be fulfilled. The great thing is that He ALWAYS keeps His end of the bargain, but it's conditional on whether or not we keep ours. And, considering all that He desires to bless us with, why would you want it any other way? I'm pretty excited for the next Zone Conference, because it will be our annual sports conference which pretty much means we play sports all day. Boy, would it be nice to have those all of the time. We're actually brainstorming new ideas to find people to teach, because I've basically tracted all of Wilmington since I've been here. We're going to draw up some kind of flyer inviting people to a scripture study class, a fireside, or something along those lines. We also are going to spend a lot more time walking around so we can talk to more people; I don't know about you, but it's hard to talk to people when you're in a moving car. I've definitely gained a lot more confidence in talking to everyone as my mission has continued, which is something I am very grateful for.

Glad to hear things are going well for all, and a big congrats to Kent and Carol on ANOTHER boy! Sheesh, there's going to be a lot more cousins trying to tackle me once I get back. I will try and find time to write Cal and Ellie today, it's been somewhat hectic because of transfers but I won't let that stop me.

Oh, I almost forgot! Anthony Ingersoll really enjoyed the Tabernacle Choir concert, I'm pretty sure he felt the Spirit on more than one occasion. Right now we're focusing on getting him to Church each week, especially on helping him to act on the promptings he receives. He reads and prays everyday, so the only holdup is in recognizing the Spirit, but with the Lord's help we will get through it.

And thanks to Kenz for those letters she sent, I really enjoyed reading them....even if one of them was from March! :) I am definitely not the only one that has grown since I left, it is absolutely remarkable to see what the Lord has blessed us with and still has in store for us. His Arm is most definitely sufficient for all, but it's up to each of us to "lay hold upon every good thing" and then we will become what God wants us to become. Thank for your love, prayers, and concern for me during this time of much spiritual growth. Couldn't have asked for a better family or friends. Have faith, the Lord is with us! God bless!

Monday, June 15, 2009

The Parable of the Sower

Dear Family,
I have learned a great deal about adversity and hard times these past few weeks as I have struggled to see the fruits of my labors. The counsel you each have imparted to me has brought me great inner strength and peace. I know the Lord is pleased with the work I'm doing because He is blessing you in every way, as evidenced by your weekly letters!! Nothing could bring me greater happiness and motivation to know that those I love are happy. It's very difficult, as Dad said, to see someone you care about choose not to make those decisions that will bring them lasting happiness....but you have to move forward with an inner conviction that it's the Lord's will. All I can really do is trust in Him and do what He has asked through His prophets, apostles, parents, and leaders. I was studying my notes from Bro. Watson's Zone Conference training this morning, and one thing I'd written was that everything in chapter's 10 and 11 of PMG must be done in every lesson. So I've started going through each point in detail and outlining the criteria for each lesson. This will definitely give us a better idea of how to help investigators understand just how important the gospel really is. It's not simply about seeing people baptized, but rather our vision for each person should gaze to the temple, where sacred ordinances help us qualify for the celestial kingdom. We struggled this past week to find the elect, but once again the problem rests with ourselves. We haven't been inviting everyone we teach and contact to be baptized, so of course we're not seeing baptisms yet! My goodness, the scriptures and PMG are so clear and obvious!! The apostles and prophets don't beat around the bush, so why should we? If people aren't ready to take the next step, then we can't keep going over and prodding them until they do. We can, however, pray that they WILL keep commitments and see the eternal importance of our message. My goal starting today is to state our purpose clearly to everyone we come in contact with. This will no doubt help us to recognize, by the Spirit, those who are ready and waiting for our message. I know this is the Lord's work, and it is to be done His way and on His timetable. I really enjoyed the Banana Split Festival last Saturday, it was a lot of fun. They had us taking people's orders, so we were in the perfect place to allow people to talk with us and see us with our name tags. There's a lot we all can do as members to improve the image of the Church, and it begins by giving people a good first impression. I'd say we did pretty well at that, hopefully it gets people interested in talking with us in the future. I'm excited to be able to attend the Mormon Tabernacle Choir concert this Thursday, and we have a few investigators who will be going as well! I just know this is going to open doors for the work in Cincinnati! It is unfathomable to think that nearly a year has passed since I began my mission, and it's likely that the second year will be even faster! I guess I ought to make the most of it, it's gonna be gone in the blink of an eye. I do still need Shawn and Emily's address, and also say thank you to Kent and Carol for their letter last week. It's fun to know that I will get mail from them at the beginning of each month. It's even crazier how many cousins are joining the family, holy cow! Also, say hi to the Madsen's for me! I was thinking about them this past week, so hopefully I can find some time to write a letter congratulating Kaleb on his Eagle. And it sounds like we finally have a backyard as well, after all that mowing and shoveling and weeding. I'll be excited to see what it looks like and to help out once I get back. The branch has a pretty good garden sprouting up behind the Church, we've been helping them work on it. I suppose you could liken it to the Parable of the Sower, in that some plants will grow faster than others, and some won't even grow at all. In order for it to blossom, it takes steady, consistent effort. Now from a missionary perspective, the seeds are people, we're the ones tending it, and God decides how fast each one grows. The goal is to nurture each person with the help of members so that their testimonies become firmly entrenched in the gospel, then sit back and patiently watch the Lord mold them into the person He wants them to become. Hopefully that makes sense to everyone, but I thought it was a fitting example for the way things are right now. Well, Dad already shared that scripture from 1 Corinthians, so he beat me to it. :) I pray that the Lord will continue to pour out His choicest blessings upon you, and that He will also give you opportunities to teach others the eternal truths we all cherish.
Elder Isaac Livingston

Monday, June 8, 2009

Work is good medicine

Work is good medicine. I'd say I discovered that once again this past week, and the Lord immediately raised me above what I was capable of reaching alone. The miracle of the Atonement is that we don't have to walk alone, because truly the Savior is the only one who ever did. I have been seeking to turn my life over to God, and He has responded by shaping me for the better. In fact, He may even be physically shaping me right now, my lower back kind of hurts at the moment. :) I decided to start reading through those talks Dad sent me again, and I have learned so much about how the Lord's will is the ONLY will.

This past week, we finally were able to teach 20 lessons, a goal that was established by the First Presidency and the Twelve for us to accomplish each week. It required a great deal of faithful prayer combined with unwavering diligence and hard work....ALL led by the Spirit and nothing else. The fact is that you can want something more than anything in the world, but if it isn't the will of the Lord then it's not important. I give all the credit for the success we've experienced to God, and I know He has a lot more in store for us. This next week is already looking real busy, and I'm excited to wear myself out by serving others. That's an easy way to drive out the selfish stuff, just getting out there and focusing on other people. I'm excited that we get to help out at the Banana Split Festival this week, and we're hoping Pres. Robbins can come as well. If there's two things that missionaries can aim for on their missions, then I'd say it would be developing charity and a love for the people. To me, those two are inseparable.

I'm also excited that we are allowed to go to the Mormon Tabernacle Choir concert next Thursday the 18th in Cincinnati! Luckily, we have an investigator who is going and so all we need to do is find a member to go with us.  I view these two upcoming events as excellent opportunities to share the gospel, and I can't wait to see the miracles take place.  I know this is the Lord's work, and there is nothing I'd rather be doing right now than this.

I felt compelled to share my testimony in sacrament meeting yesterday, and the words I spoke could not have been crafted simply by my mind. That is the miracle of the Holy Ghost, and members of the Church have the RIGHT to constant companionship. The power that is in the scriptures as well as the words of modern prophets provide us with a never-ending wealth of knowledge to guide our everyday decisions. As I have sought to study, ponder, and apply their teachings, I have noticed that I've become bolder at teaching and testifying of the gospel truths....especially to those who just want to get their point across. No matter how receptive these people are, NO ONE can refute a pure, sincere testimony.

The Lord has infinite mercy, in fact I can picture Him on the edge of His "seat", anxious to help us face life. I have no desire to complain, for there really isn't much to complain about. The works, designs, and purposes of God will go forever forward without ceasing. I pray that the Lord will continue to rain His blessings down from the heavens onto you, and I hope I may become what the Lord wants me to become. Have a wonderful and blessed week! THE CHURCH IS TRUE!!

Monday, June 1, 2009

Pray for me

I am nothing. The teachings that were given at Zone Conference opened my eyes big time, and caused me to realize that ANY decision made that is contrary to the Spirit is also contrary to the plan and will of God. I admit I am guilty of this way too much, and my prayers have already become more humble and more of a conversation with God, because that's what it's supposed to be. And yet, in many ways I still feel that I am not contributing to this work the way I know I am capable of doing. I'm humbling myself as much as possible and seeking to lose myself in the Lord's service. It's just hard when you know you can do more and do better but don't know how to tell others that. Nonetheless, I am grateful to be serving God by serving others. Wilmington needs it more than ever, and after Zone Conference I have a much better idea of how to follow the Spirit no matter what. Missionary work can't be done without it, but I forget that way too much and it's no wonder why we're not baptizing or teaching 20 lessons a week. Ironically, it's because we pray for opportunities to serve and teach, then they come to us and we ignore them! Satan is hard at work, and it's sad to see how strong of an influence he can have on each of us....but only because we let him! It's no use getting discouraged about, just another of Satan's tactics as he seeks to distract me from true happiness. I really liked those scriptures you shared in D&C 11, they describe this past week in a big way.

Right now, I really need everyone's prayers. This is a trying time, not just for those in this area but also for myself. Luckily, fast Sunday is next week and it couldn't come at a better time. I was reading through some old letters the other day, and came across something Mom said back in April, I believe: Satan wants us to forget, while Jesus wants us to remember. Lately I have forgotten that the Lord issued this call to serve through His prophet, that he sent me to this area, and only He knows the good that I can do here. Everyone has tasks and assignments that only they can perform, and I think I've been trying to hard to be like other missionaries. It won't happen, because I'm not them and they aren't me! The strength that comes from mighty prayer and diligent scripture study have been tremendous sources of peace and consolation during those difficult days.

I am grateful to know that the Lord is richly blessing you. Hard to believe that the school year is over, I'm sure the kids are excited for summer! I hope you enjoyed my letter, my hand definitely got a workout! We had quite the storm the other night, there was actually a tornado warning. Sirens were going off constantly, there was some crazy thunder and lightning too. The sky was pitch black as well. We happened to be outside at around 8:30 PM talking to someone when some guys started yelling to look at the sky. So we did, and there was some circulating clouds right above our heads. There were reports of several funnel clouds that touched down in various places, but luckily not on our apartment. The Lord is so merciful to us, and especially when we acknowledge His hand in all things. I pray that He will continue to watch over you and guide you each day, and that your prayers will be answered as you exercise faith. This is something I am also working on, and I just know that the Lord will prepare a way for all His commandments to be accomplished. Have a wonderful week, I love you all!