Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Christmas Lights, Challenging Lives, Wasted Time

"Haha, it was once again a good week! This week we had the confirmation of the .... kids [who were baptized last week], they're super cool, and it was just cool to see them sitting on the church bench afterward as they listened to the testimonies of all the people in the ward and realize that they are all members of the church and that they're just going to keep going and getting better and better! Man, they're so crazy, they've already read up to Jacob in the Book of Mormon, something most members that have been members for a long time have never done! Super awesome, then we invited them to share the gospel with their friends and they commited to share a Book of Mormon with them this week! Super incredible! They're going to be like the best missionaries ever!

"Then the lights started here in Washington D.C.! Yeah, unfortunately they're nowhere near as impressive as the lights in Salt Lake City but they're still very beautiful and they have a different concert here every night which has been cool. We've been there for three nights I believe and it has been cool to enjoy the spirit of Christmas as well as see the look of awe on our investigator's faces as they pull into the parking lot and it's all lit up with lights!

"Then we've had some other interesting experiences, some good, some interesting, and some not so good. [One investigaor] has been having some interesting doubts. We taught her about the Law of Chastity and the Word of Wisdom, and she has some problems. She's very set on the worldly view of things, in that there's no real view of right and wrong because whatever a man does is no evil. She seems to want to believe that there is a right and wrong but has had a hard time reconciling her beliefs with those of God. She wants a reason for the commandments and sometimes we just can't see all the reasons. Nevertheless we've been doing a lot of thinking and studying about it and I think I've come up with some good reasons. She has a specific doubt about the Law of Chastity, in that if "preventive measures" are taken to ensure that children don't come about because of it then there shouldn't be anything wrong with it if it's done for the sake of love and not just for the satisfaction of it. Yeah, it's an interesting concept, and we've tried to explain it to her but eventually just told her that she'll probably have to wrestle with God like Enos and try and figure out God's reasoning for herself. While she has some fairly large doubts she's still progressing, and does have a sincere desire to understand God, she's just a little too intellectual about it all and a little bit lacking in the spiritual. Still, we have high hopes for her.

"Then we had this crazy experience where we ran into this lady, a referral from a member that had had something terrible happen to her... Her son in Honduras was kidnapped... When we heard that our hearts about dropped and I had no idea what to do... I've never been placed in a situation quite like that, where something so drastic has happened and these people were looking to Elder White and I for comfort, solace, direction, and hope... It was very intimidating and my heart cried out to our Father in Heaven to let me know what we could say to help her. Luckily, the promise is real, God truly does speak to us, and our minds and hearts and mouths were opened to the spirit and we were able to share some things with her that really helped her. We were also able to give her a blessing, and it was a very interesting blessing to give... It was one of those times in blessings where some very specific promptings come to you, it wasn't about whether her son would be ok, but some other very specific things, something that doesn't always happen when giving blessings. It was a special experience for me, and I testify that God is very aware of the needs of his children, and that he can work through us even though we are imperfect servants... We pray her son will be alright...

"Then we had a rather terrible experience on Monday... I'm ashamed to admit it but we wasted a lot of time... A member took us out to eat somewhere super far away and because rides were late and such we ended up wasting almost four hours... It was terrible. I've never quite felt that bad on the mission. I could feel very strongly our responsibility to use God's time wisely and how much I had failed in it that day. I still feel that I'm repenting of that, but it was a very humbling experience for me and a reminder that this is not my time, that I only have a year left, and that I can never afford to waste even an hour or minute of the Lord's time, especially when I have so very little left... Needless to say it helped refocus and re motivate me even more.

"We also had a pretty funny experience yesterday that I think Rachel especially would like. We taught two super old ladies that were just super funny. One at first didn't believe that we spoke Spanish, and so tried to speak to us in really broken English, and then she could hardly hear at all and so we had to speak very very loudly the whole lesson. Haha and then she just told us all these crazy stories. It was super funny! A cute old lady. Not gonna lie, it reminded me of what Rachel could be like as an old lady. Slightly crazy, but good and funny. Haha it was a super funny experience.

"And that was about the week, ups and downs as Jessica says, but over all super good! We continue to find some cool people and our recent converts are super strong! [One of them] is doing so well! Man, he had been drinking coffee and he felt so bad about it he confessed it to President Ortega without us ever even knowing about it, and now he's well on his way to receiving the priesthood and it was a sign to me that he will be faithful because he was willing to repent so quickly after an offense. He's so solid!

"A sad side of things... My eyes are ever more opened to the sad state that some of these people are in. There's a lot of poverty, a lot of drugs, violence, lost hope, kidnappings, everything. There is a great need for the Gospel to be preached to every person. They all seem to be trapped in a darkness to which they can't see an end. It's been amazing to see the light of the gospel pierce the darkness and give them hope where they had none. Haha D.C. is kind of a dark city as you all may remember, a lot of crazy things go on, but there are a lot of good people as well. A lot of people that are fighting for the right, and looking for something better in their lives. I'm very grateful that I have the opportunity to be a bearer of that light and hopefully warm their souls a little bit in the midst of the winter of their lives. (I think I've been reading too many talks by President Monson ;))

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

One of the Best Weeks of the Mission

From Derek's November 30 letter.

"This week was super awesome!!! haha probably one of the best weeks that we've had on the mission! I'll pretty much just focus on Sunday since it was a day of miracles! The... family was baptized this Sunday by their Father who recently received the Melquisedec Priesthood, [the other investigator who was baptized the week before] also received the Holy Ghost, in short an amazing day at church!

"The baptism was once again incredible just to see a family fully united in the Gospel. It's always super touching to see them all dressed in white and know of the eternal significance of the step their about to take. It's super incredible!

"[The brother's] experience was also incredible, he's super solid and has a very firm desire to follow his Savior and recognizes the difficulty and the joy of the path he has decided to take. We're excited for him and he's already starting to get more involved in the branch, tonight he'll be helping out with a service project, and there's definitely no better way to fellowship than through service!

"So that was the beginning of the awesome day of Sunday! Then we had some other super sweet miracles. First of all this girl we've been working with ... finally came to church! We've been working with her for probably about two months now, and two months ago she didn't even believe in God. She's been faithfully reading and praying and has felt the spirit strongly on so many occasions, and now she finally decided to come to church and really loved it! Man, it was so sweet! She loves the unity that is felt there and just the way it is, she says she's looking to see if her life will change at all by living a "religious" lifestyle, meaning going to church. We assured her that it most definitely would! Later that night we went to the Visitor's Center with her as well where she almost accepted a baptismal date, but at least accepted to be baptized, just not yet with a specific date. So she's doing super well and God continues to give us so many miracles!

"So earlier on in the day on Sunday we also had an incredible lesson with a lady we were trying to teach but whose husband hadn't seemed too interested, luckily God works in mysterious ways and opened up the way for us. We were coming back from checking on their door when we ran into them and it turns out they were coming back from the doctor because she'd been assaulted and robbed a few days earlier and they were doing some check ups on her. Yeah, crazy place! Anyways we were able to offer to give her a blessing and the husband was also there. It was honestly one of the most spiritual experiences on the mission. As we gave the blessing and explained the implications of the authority of God on the earth, namely eternal families, the spirit of the Lord filled the room and clearly testified to these people that this was God's church and the path they should take. We asked them to describe their feelings and the hermana said that it was like her heart was opening up to God again, and the Husband said that he just felt a peace in his home that apparently he hadn't felt in quite awhile. It was so cool and the wife accepted a baptismal date, and the husband did, just not as firmly as the wife. Unfortunately since that point, as happened with Jessica, Satan has been working hard through his family members to convince them to no longer listen to us.

"In times like these I've learned that all we can really do is pray, work hard, and trust that the Lord will do his work and touch their hearts. It's interesting, because it breaks our hearts, and then I think of how Heavenly Father must feel and how it must just tear him apart, but at the same time he is their father, and these are his children and he is very aware of the plan that he has for them, and they will never be lost or dropped to him, even if we may lose them or have to drop them.

"That same thought was also manifested in another incredible miracle. Do you remember ... the guy that ditched us at the metro stop? Well, Sunday he randomly called us and asked if he could come to church or the visitor's center that day! Yeah, super weird, but we went with him to the visitor's center that night and had a lesson with him. Haha it was kind of weird because we went on splits inside the Visitor's center so I ended up teaching [him] kind of alone. It helped me realize how important companions really are! Nevertheless we were able to figure out his doubt. It turns out he ran away from baptism and from us because he felt so bad for something that he'd done pretty close before his baptism. Luckily we were able to help him and give him some hope again and help him to repent, he is once again on date for the 18th! We'll see how it goes this time! Haha still it was crazy, definitely a testimony that God is very aware of his children and will touch their hearts at the appropriate time.

"In short, we are seeing so many miracles it's ridiculous. While it is at times stressful, like when church is started and none of your investigators are there yet, even though they're supposed to be baptized that day, it all seems to work out in the end. Like them showing up in the middle of the sacrament hymn. Yeah, super crazy, stressful, fun, joyful, and legit! ;)

"Haha as for the other things during the week, it flew by, haha I honestly only remember Sunday. Oh, and Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving was sweet! We went to the former Branch President's house... We ate dinner with all of their family and we all dressed up as pilgrims and Indians, haha super crazy! The food was great, as was the pie, ah so much pie! :) It was also cool because they really made us feel included in their family and not just like the outsider missionaries, so I was grateful for that, and Mom you can rest easy knowing that a kind lady out here in Maryland... is super generous and made your son feel at home on Thanksgiving, so no worries ;)"

"Well that is it family. 11 months have already gone by, ugh terrible. Have a good week though! Until next time! :)