Tuesday, October 17, 2017

"Joy comes from and because of Him" (August 7, 2017)

Winter actually started on August 3 and it was 57 degrees all day long. Welcome to Minnesota.

What an incredible week and blessing to be a missionary. First off, I was recently reminded of a promise I made before I left, that in my weekly reports I would be honest about missionary work, and be open about addressing the good and the bad. I think sometimes we try to be hopelessly optimistic, but that's not always how it works. It is easier, I will admit, to only share the good things. Because missionary work is meant to be hard. You work with and live with complete strangers, you are speaking a new language, and you go out and talk to people, most of whom do not want to listen to the message you bring, and will not open the door next time you come round. There is a lot of pressure to find, teach, and baptize, and everyone is always asking for numbers. People cancel, people change their minds. We are expected to be obedient to a set a rules and a lifestyle completely unlike real life and completely unlike anything we are used to. But each hard thing, happens for a reason. And there are things you HAVE to learn from the hard things, and can ONLY learn from the hard things. Companions I have struggled the most with, are the ones who have also taught me the most and the ones I am closest to. Knocking on doors and being rejected is not fun, and is very discouraging, but sometimes that what you need to do to find the one person on the whole street or in the whole city who needs your message at that time. There is so much pressure to be obedient and to be the best, most effective missionaries we can be, and so we use the Atonement, and come closer to Jesus Christ, and it becomes the only way we can begin to understand repentance and how to help those we teach understand repentance. There are so many joyful experiences as a missionary, but they inevitably mean we must get through the despair as well. There have been many, many times I have wanted to give up. There still are those times, and I'm sure there will be those times in the future. I have had days here that are 100 times better than the best days I have had, but I have also had days here that are 100 times worse than the worst days I have had. And that's what missionary life is. I love it, not because it's easy or because it's fun, even though at times it can be those things for blissful moments, but because we are spreading the word of Salvation, and I am closer to the Savior than I have ever before been. Teaching someone the plan of salvation who has never before heard it is the most amazing and rewarding experience I have ever had. I do miss real life, and we don't always love the strict lifestyle we live by, but for those many amazing moments of sharing the gospel and seeing someone be touched by the spirit, it is worth those things we sacrifice for only a brief time, and worth all the hard things. Companions are hard. Tracting is hard. Waking up at 6:30 every single day is hard. Not seeing your family for a year and half is really, really hard. Being a missionary is hard. We showed up to a return appointment the other day and this man pulled out his Bible, and started reading us all these verses telling us our doctrine was wrong, and that we are going to hell for reading and preaching from the Book of Mormon.Those types of appointments always tie my stomach into knots, but then we also have the privilege to meet those who are so prepared, and have open hearts, and want to learn everything about the gospel. It truly is amazing. 

One of the greatest lessons I have learned is very well put by a quote from President Russel M. Nelson in the October 2016 Conference "My dear brothers and sisters, the joy we feel has little to do with the circumstances of our lives and everything to do with the focus of our lives. When the focus of our lives is on god's plan of salvation...and Jesus Christ and His gospel, we can feel joy regardless of what is happening-or not happening-in our lives. Joy comes from and because of Him. He is the source of all joy." I think missions are so joyous even when they are so hard, because we have dedicated this time of our lives to focusing on Christ, and there is no greater calling than this. 

So now let's get on to why this week was absolutely incredible.

We set a baptismal date with George this week! We had two amazing lessons with him, one about the restoration and atonement, and the next about the Plan of Salvation. Introducing him to the power of the Book of Mormon was amazing. He had a lot of questions about the Atonement, and about blessings, and about repentance, and for every question we were able to point him to a specific verse in the Book of Mormon that answered his question and testified of a gospel truth. He was crying as we finished and read in Alma 36 about repentance. Teaching him the plan of Salvation was also a tender experience. He loved the idea that we lived with our Heavenly Father before this life, and after we leave this earth, he just brings us home. He said "He just sends us on a mission, but knows that we'll be back!" Oh, it's more like that then you know. He was so interested in learning more, and was so excited about all the new things he was learning. It is such a blessing to be able to teach him. And it was really cool because the more we talked about the plan of salvation, he started asking about when church is and how he can get there. And it was really cool as he began to understand the plan of salvation and the commandments, he started to have that desire to come to church and make those changes before we started to talking to him about them. 

We have also been doing a lot a lot a lot of finding this week to try to get some new people in our teaching pool, and found 8 new investigators this week. We are really excited things are starting to move along here, but we have also been so privileged to meet so many new people, and people who let us right in to hear a message about Jesus Christ. Yes, there are some we have taught who weren't there for the return appointment, but the more people we talk to, the more likely we are to find those who are ready for this message. And we are not willing to give up on anyone quite yet. 

Darlene came to church!!! And she brought her boyfriend Carlos. Our branch did an amazing job of fellowshipping and making them feel welcome. 

We had a great zone conference this week, and the focus ended up being on obedience and using time wisely. We talked a lot about the doctrine of Obedience, and it go us thinking about how Christ established his gospel. The Mosaic law was all about your actions, but when Christ established the gospel, the intents of your heart were what truly mattered. The point being obedience has a lot to do with your attitude, more than your execution.

This week we were returning plates to a member who had given us dinner, and I accidentally told him we washed the plates with soup instead of with soap. (Soup is sopa in Spanish, while soap is jabon). We had an amazing night where we spent 2 1/2 hours tracting in this trailer park, and set a goal to give out 5 books of Mormon and get 2 new investigators, and we only fell short by one Book of Mormon. It was great!! Apparently winter in Minnesota starts on August 3, just so everyone knows. I love it here so much, and I love all the incredible things I have been learning. 6 months has gone by much too quickly, and the time keeps going faster and faster. Sorry this email is really long but it's just been a great week! 

Love you all! 
They see us rollin'

Knocking doors in trailer parks for days

Meredith y Hanson
Happy Zone Conference!
There are lots of geese wandering around the Lakeville
area, so just another Friday afternoon

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