Monday, July 20, 2009

Faith is work

I don't know if another week can go by without being informed of a new addition to the family! Congrats to Leslie and Eric! It's gonna be exciting to see all these new faces, and also see how much everyone else has grown! I always remember to thank the Lord each day for the many ways that everyone back home is growing, especially spiritually. Hard to believe that Kenz is done with another semester of college! She's definitely a lot more diligent about learning another language than I was! I just find it remarkable how quickly missionaries at the MTC are able to learn another language.

I'm sure it's no different anywhere else, as long as you have the faith and the desire to accomplish it. The work in Wilmington continues to move forward, and great are the blessings we have received thus far. I don't know where I'd be without faith! It's not a stretch to say that every good thing is based on faith! Everything! This is a topic that is brought up every day, particularly in missionary life. The Lord's thoughts and ways are not like ours; the key is to trust Him enough to know He will always open a way for us to do His work, but on His timetable. That's an attitude I have tried hard to develop lately, and it has definitely shoved doubt and discouragement aside. Those two D's are tactics of Satan designed to make us think only of ourselves, which will absolutely kill missionary efforts if we allow it to fester. I have received assurance multiple times in the last few weeks that God answers the prayer of faith, but only after we do our part. The teachings I've learned from Alma 32-34 will help tremendously in the days and weeks to come! The scriptures are so rich with eternal truths, I'm just getting started!

Another aspect of faith I've understood more lately is that faith isn't really valid until it has been tested, as Dad pointed out today. In regards to our investigators, we are finding and teaching many who are receptive to the gospel and have no hesitation to ask any questions that are on their minds. This, I believe, is a way to know that investigators have real intent because they aren't shy about asking questions or bringing up any concerns they have. They really want to know the right way, and we have the sacred obligation of making sure they understand our message...but also that they don't MISunderstand. I am once again excited to see what lies in store for this week, and I will continue to put my faith and trust in the Lord to see His purposes fulfilled in their season. Missions aren't about seeing people get baptized, although that is important. The greatest successes in the Lord's work is seeing people develop and then exercise faith in Jesus Christ unto repentance. In short, it's seeing people change, even if they don't join the Church. That can be especially difficult to understand why they would do that, even if they've received a spiritual witness that the Church is true. People have their agency, and we need to always respect it. If I can know at the end of each day that I taught so clearly that people couldn't possibly misunderstand, then I know I've done the best I could. From Alma 32: 41 (surprise), I learned more about what exactly enduring to the end means: "But if ye will nourish the word, yea, nourish the tree as it beginneth to grow, by your faith with great diligence, and with patience, looking forward to the fruit thereof, it shall take root; and behold it shall be a tree springing up unto everlasting life." From this verse, I came to the conclusion that enduring to the end involves exercising our faith, and being diligent, patient, and optimistic. When we do this, then our faith becomes firmly rooted, or in other words, our TESTIMONY becomes anchored deep within the gospel soil. All of us that have joined the Church, even some who haven't, have gained a testimony that it's true. The rest of our lives are then spent weeding out our brains of doubts and fears and continually GROWING our testimonies.

I know I've covered a lot and hope that this makes sense to all who read it. I guess to sum it all up, true conversion is something that takes all of our lives to try and accomplish, but the Savior has promised us this from the scriptures: "But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved." (Matthew 24:13) I pray with all my heart that each of us will seek to become converted to the gospel of Jesus Christ, and one of the best ways to do this is by living it and then sharing it with others. Every day I ask the Lord to give you missionary opportunities, and I hope that your prayers on occasion ask for the same thing. May this week bring continued happiness and success for each of you! Have faith, things will always work out the way they're supposed to!

Monday, July 13, 2009

Hot, humid and happy

Zone Conference was a lot of fun, I really liked being with missionaries and just relaxing. Then again, I spent the whole time running around and sweating like crazy, so I was anything but relaxed when it was over. It was fun to see Pres. Robbins playing basketball with other missionaries, he wore them out! He said we'd have to play one-on-one sometime, although I don't know when we'd get the chance!

We had a great experience of answered prayer this past week, due entirely to the fact that we put our faith and trust in the Lord. We had failed to get any appointments with our investigators, so we faced a day that was extremely wide open. We were in desparate need of getting at least one member present lesson, but we didn't have any appointments. As we were planning, a member called us and said he was off work the next day and wanted to come teaching with us. That was the Lord doing His part. Now we needed to exercise our faith, which we did. We decided to stop by each of our investigators with him in a 90 minute period, and hopefully get a lesson or two out of it. One by one, we went to each of our investigators and found them home! In fact, each of them were outside almost as if they were waiting for us! The last ones we stopped by, Ryan and Kim, invited us in. We had found them at the park the week before playing basketball, so of course we went over to talk to them. They had many questions for us, and they accepted a Book of Mormon and a Restoration pamphlet. The day we stopped by with the member was our first real chance to get a lesson with them. We spent the whole lesson answering Ryan's questions from 3 Nephi 11 and the pamphlet, both of which he had read thoroughly. The pamphlet had questions written all over it, and he had written his questions from the chapter on a notepad. He told us that he stayed up one night until 4 in the morning reading what we'd assigned! When we initially gave them the materials, I asked them to pay attention to their thoughts and feelings as they read, and then afterwards to get on their knees and pray to confirm those feelings with the Lord. Ryan told us that the same question came across his mind when he read and then when he prayed: "Could this really be true?" They, along with Kim's brother Britt, are seriously investigating now. In fact, Ryan and Britt came to Church yesterday!!

I firmly believe that this all started with the faithful prayer of two missionaries seeking the Lord' s guidance, all the while trusting in His purposes. I don't think it was a concidence that we found them playing basketball, and not simply knocking on their door. We had a similar experience by doing service at the Taylor's these past couple weeks. They have a construction company remodeling part of their house, and they were surprised to find a couple 20 year olds who wanted to help for free. To make a long story short, the company owners (father and son) both have copies of the Book of Mormon now. Elder Remington and I have discovered that our best contacts have come through means other than tracting. President Robbins asked us to use our talents, and I'm finally realizing that you can do that and still keep the rules. You can talk about the gospel no matter what you're doing, as long as you create the right environment.

This promises to be a great week, and I am excited to see what can happen as we continue to have faith. We truly worship a God of miracles, but faith has to precede the miracle. Throughout the course of my mission, I have changed from someone who was frustrated at talking to so many uninterested people, to being someone who understands that they are not prepared yet. I am grateful to be a part of this mission, and to be serving in such a neat area at this time for as long as I have. I hope that my efforts will have at least laid a foundation that future generations of missionaries can build on.

I really enjoyed what Mom wrote about, boy do letters strengthen me! I imagine the basement is much more comfortable during these months, but just be glad you don't have to face Ohio humidity. It's crazy, even at 6:30 AM!! I loved your reading experiences from the Book of Mormon, there is so much we can apply from it. I am getting ready to start studying Alma 32-34 this week, really looking forward to it. A big thanks to Kent, Carol, and Co. for their letter last week. I don't know if that house can fit anymore kids! I think that's everything for this week, so I will leave my blessing and prayers on each of you as I always do. Keep the spiritual experiences coming!

Monday, July 6, 2009

I am only one

Well, the 4th of July was a little bit on the wet side, but there were fireworks nonetheless. Too bad we couldn't see them because we had be in by 9 PM, but we heard them pretty easily. It's always humbling to think of how much was sacrificed by those early colonizers so that we might have freedom. Such an environment was necessary for the Lord to restore His Church to the earth, so there's no doubt the Founding Fathers were inspired of God. We talk to so many people each day that lament how the country is headed in the wrong direction and in my mind I'm thinking, "Our message can solve those problems." I then do my best to present the restored gospel in a positive way, which will leave no doubt in their mind of the peace and happiness that it offers. Far too many, however, are not yet ready for it.

Well, this was a rough week as teaching goes, only 7 lessons taught. I think a big part of the problem was that we didn't take advantage of every opportunity to teach. I wish that the seeds previous missionaries had planted were ready to grow and harvest, but obviously it isn't the Lord's will. I have to keep telling myself that I'm not in charge, I'm just called to be a servant in the Lord's name. This has not been easy by any stretch, but not a day goes by that I don't learn something, and for that I am grateful. We did have several great experiences that came from giving selfless service to others, something I felt we weren't doing enough of the past couple months. Most of the service was rendered to members, which is a "piece of cake" way to earn their trust and confidence. We all have tasks that only we can perform, and all the Lord asks is that we give everything we've got and then wait. This was illustrated very well by President Monson in the most recent issue of the Ensign:

"Remember that you are entitled to our Father's blessings in this work. He did not call you to your privileged post to walk alone, without guidance, trusting to luck. On the contrary, He knows your skill, He realizes your devotion, and He will convert your supposed inadequacies to recognized strengths............I encourage you to reach out to those you serve and to love them. When you really love those you serve, they will not find themselves in that dreaded "Never, Never Land"---never the object of concern, never the recipient of needed aid. It may not be your privilege to open gates of cities or doors of palaces, but true happiness and lasting joy will come to you and to each one you serve as you take a hand and reach a heart."

Preach My Gospel teaches us that the ultimate measure of success is not in achieving goals alone, but in the service you render and the progress that others make. For me, this has been a great source of comfort lately. I realize that many people have in some way been positively affected by the message I've been called to share, even if they don't get baptized. With that mindset, I am confident that we can move the work here to another level, and our focus will be on helping the members join that cause. We have nothing to be afraid of! This is the truth, and those who choose to listen to us will never regret it. Lastly, here is a short poem that I keep in my journal to help me maintain a positive outlook when times are tough. It's called "I Am Only One":

I am only one,
But still I am one.
I cannot do everything,
But I still can do something;
And because I cannot do everything
I will not refuse to do the something that I can do

I am grateful for this once-in-a-lifetime chance to serve the Lord in His vineyard for two years. If this Church is anything, it is service; for without charity we are nothing. It's time for the work to go where it has never gone before, and I intend to spend my remaining days in Cincinnati and elsewhere in life seeing that fulfilled. The elect will not only hear the voice of the Savior, they will follow it. People that choose not to listen are not yet the elect, so therefore WE CANNOT BE DISCOURAGED! It's wonderful to hear of the Lord's infinite blessings being poured out upon each of you, and humbling also to realize that some of them are coming simply because I chose to serve a mission. I am not deserving of all that the Lord continues to give me, but I simply plan to continue doing my best. As Steve Prefontaine, the famous Oregon track athlete once said, "To give anything less than your best is to sacrifice the gift." The Lord has assured me repeatedly that those I love and pray for are likewise doing everything they can to give all to God. I will most definitely study those chapters in Alma that Dad suggested. Coincidentally, this is where I'm at in my personal study of the Book of Mormon, so the timing is definitely right. And congrats to Mike and Ashley on the newest addition to their family! The pictures are good! Sheesh, cousins are popping out of the ground like the corn fields out here!

This promises to be a great week, plus we've got our Sports Zone Conference on Tuesday and that will be awesome!! Amazingly, we have appointments w/members every day this week! We will help them develop FMP's with meaningful goals so they can boldly and lovingly invite others to Christ. In addition to that, our branch president has asked us to find out which members don't have Preach My Gospel, and then to help them learn to study it regularly! I know this will strengthen their understanding and testimonies of the gospel to the point where THEY will be finding and we can focus on teaching.

Great things are ahead in Wilmington, I'll keep you posted! God bless!