Monday, August 29, 2011

Press Forward

Welp, I just finished Week 5 of Transfer 1. One week until transfers! Life has started to settle into the daily ups and downs of missionary work. The general theme, which applies to us in every stage of life, is "press forward". I have absolutely nothing to complain about as we have a good number of people to teach and a good number of people progressing towards baptism in the Church. However, sometimes the individual days can bring you down. Some days are more successful than others. But as you keep the long-term perspective, you're able to keep on the mark.

Saturdays have become some of our "worst" days. It may be the same everywhere, but people cancel appointments, aren't home, or are busy with other things. We usually spend Saturdays without appointments going door to door with very few positive experiences. If we let that one poor day impact our outlook, we would quickly become ineffective missionaries. We continually strive to look forward in faith to the better days which always come. The other days of the week see us with multiple appointments and lessons.

To relate this to life, keep an eternal perspective. At times, we face struggles and challenges. Most times, they last a lot longer than a day. However, in the eternal perspective, those trials aren't any longer than a day. As we push through them with faith in the Lord, we will come to the next "day" that sees us return to happiness and success. All trials we face are designed to refine us and make us better individuals. As we face the future with faith, there's no doubt that we will be successful and find joy.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Hope and Faith

Missionary work is incredibly unique. I was told before I left that there was nothing quite like it and that I'd miss it once it's gone. That reality is beginning to unfold before my eyes. However, as I look at missionary work and the people I meet, I realize that it relates to life before and after my mission in many other ways. The most important way is with the principles of faith and hope.
As a missionary, the days are long, there aren't many breaks, and there are peaks and valleys. With hope and faith, the mission will be incredibly successful, pleasant, and rewarding. Without hope and faith, a missionary will become bogged down in the details of a day and you lose the drive to succeed.
In life, it's the same. Between work, family, social, and other responsibilities, the days are long, there aren't many breaks, and there are peaks and valleys. Yes, there are vacations and weekends in "normal" life, but there are also many more responsibilities. With hope and faith, your life can be incredibly successful, pleasant, and rewarding. Without hope and faith, your life will become bogged down in the details of a day and you lose the drive to succeed.
What are faith and hope? Faith is a principle of action. With faith, you press forward through the course of your life knowing that there will be a reward for your diligent work. That diligent work can take many forms. Family life, work, school, service, religious life, exercise, dieting - these are all examples of items that require faith. Hope is being able to see ahead to the future. As you hope for a tomorrow that is better than today, your faith will increase. As your faith increases, you hope for better things.
In short, with unbounded faith and hope, we can achieve so much in our lives. As we couple that with faith and hope in Jesus Christ, we can achieve all things. (Phillipians 4: 13) So press onward, look forward with faith and hope, believe that Christ can strengthen us in all things, and see how high you can fly.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Service With a Smile

Members are the best kind of missionaries. That is especially true in a Utah mission. Unlike in Virginia, everyone has an opinion of the Church. Those outside the Church usually get their information from nonmembers and therefore are uninformed. As such, it's hard for us to get in the door on our own. However, when members have a service-oriented mindset, give to their neighbors, are warm and inviting, and invite nonmembers to learn more about the Church, miracles happen.
As I was reading the book of Alma this week, I stumbled over a familiar story. It's the story of Ammon and King Lamoni. It starts at Chapter 17 and goes onward. Here's what I noticed and theorized.
When Ammon met King Lamoni, he was offered one of his daughters to be his wife. If Ammon accepted, he likely would have had much of the wealth and prominence that comes with royalty. Instead, he decided not to take advantage of King Lamoni but offered to be his servant. After tending his flock and saving them from enemies in dramatic fashion, all the other servants rushed back to brag to the King about what had happened. Did Ammon expect anything in return? Nope! Ammon continued working, and in Alma 18: 9, we see that while the King was learning about Ammon's feats, Ammon was "feeding (his) horses". He still kept serving even after doing a great act of service.
After such selfless dedication, we see in Alma 8: 12 that "the countenance of the king was changed". Ammon's selfless acts warmed the King to the message that Ammon truly wanted to share. That was the message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Ammon shared the message and King Lamoni was converted unto the Church.
Amazingly, it doesn't end there. King Lamoni then allowed Ammon to teach the Gospel around the city and many others were converted. Finally, Ammon was able to secure the release of his three brother missionaries so they could continue preaching the Gospel. Ammon's service, many thousands of hearts were changed.
The same can be true for us as members of the Church. If he will seek out opportunities to be friends, neighbors, and service-oriented people to those outside the Church, they will notice. Over time, the walls of misinformation will come down and they will wonder why we're different from everyone else. As this happens, their hearts will be softened to the Gospel. If this happened across the Church, imagine how many more people would be baptized! The Church could double its missionary efforts!
Members truly are the best missionaries - and the best way to preach the Gospel is to serve others and invite them to learn of the fruits of the restored Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Seeing Miracles

Fasting. I have fasted regularly since joining the Church, but thanks to blessings from above I now understand that the Lord answers us with promised blessings. Here we go...
Since coming into the area we had been teaching an 18 year old girl who has Protestant parents who very much oppose her joining the Church. She has been taught for 6 months with no progress towards baptism even though she loves the scriptures, loves the Church, and loves to pray. After sharing my background we committed her to baptism and have been meeting regularly to uplift her. She has been having doubts. On Saturday night, I started my fast asking for her to receive the comfort she needs as she prepares for baptism. That Sunday, we met with her. We invited her to a baptism that night at 5:00. At the end of the baptism, she came up to us with tears in her eyes and let us know that she knows she needs to be baptized. I didn't realize it until later, but the Lord answered my prayer directly. Even though I lack faith sometimes, and I know the Lord always answers prayers, seeing an instance so direct and so powerful really humbles you.
In addition, we got a call from a truck driver who was coming through the area who wanted to meet. He was very unsure how it all would work and we told him to call us back with details. I got a prompting that we needed to call him back and nail down a time. We found a member who was willing to drive him into our area (since his truck was being unloaded) and we taught him and his wife. The lesson would not have happened if we hadn't called him back after initially leaving it up to his own accord. Come to find out they have been reading the Book of Mormon for 10 years, want to be baptized, but since they're mobile have never been able to track down missionaries. The Lord blesses us as we listen to His will.
All in all, I've seen the Lord's hand in my life this past week in miraculous ways. It's both humbling and eye-opening. It's hard to deny the blessings of the Church after experiences like that. We truly are being directed as missionaries in the work. While I miss home and miss "real" life, I'm reveling in the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to have these experiences.

Monday, August 1, 2011

First in the Field

Hello everyone!

My first area is the Lone Peak and Crescent Park Stakes in Sandy, UT. Yes, each companionship covers two stakes! Overall, we have twelve wards that we cover. Even though we cover two stakes, our area spans a total of three miles. I have absolutely loved the first 6 days I've spent here - it's a wonderful area.

I am completely blessed. In the first week, I've only had to pay for one meal and haven't even had to go to the grocery store. While we knock doors, we end up leaving members' doorsteps with cookies, fruit, cartons of milk, or even full meals. Aside from that, our current residence is known as "the Palace". It's the basement of a members' home and let's just say that it's quite the residence. Okay, I'll stop bragging now.

I love the Salt Lake City area. For one, it's a lot less humid than Virginia. It can be hot but still comfortable, which is something I've never experienced before. I've also enjoyed getting to know the members. There's such a close-knit feel in the ward communities that warms my heart whenever I'm in a members' home. There's also a lot less traffic than I'm used to in the DC area. I'm grateful to be placed where I am.

My companion and trainer is Elder Witt. After 6 days with him, I think he's quite the good fit. He's been out for 21 months so he is well-versed in what to do in the field. However, he's very laid back and open to new ideas so I've been able to try some ideas that I've had as we've been on the streets.

Our first three days were not very successful. We were unable to get any referrals and our lessons canceled on us consistently. It was a frustrating entrance to the mission. On Saturday, however, that all changed. We were able to get 11 referrals in the morning, got in contact with a former investigator who wished to restart lessons, and committed an investigator to baptism. On Sunday, we had three successful lessons where the Spirit was very easy to feel. In just the first 6 days, I've felt the Spirit in amazing ways and am grateful I've had a small hand to play in those experiences. More on Sundays - whew! Sunday is not a day of rest when you cover two stakes. Not to worry, I was able to partake of the Sacrament 5 I've certainly had enough blessings to make up for the busyness of my day.

Overall, I'm excited to be here. I can feel the blessings in my life and also am loving the drive of missionary work. I know there will be challenges ahead, but I love my mission.