Sunday, October 28, 2012

Another crazy week!

Man, life as a Zone Leader again is just as crazy as life as an Assistant. It's incredible how we can always magnify our callings and occupy our thoughts and time no matter the scope of the stewardship or challenge. It was a pretty awesome week though I'm now struggling to remember all of the things that have happened. We've been able to find quite a few cool people recently and our days have been filled with appointments all day every day! I honestly don't think I've ever had so many appointments as we do now. A lot of them are with Less Active members and we've been able to have some cool experiences as we've met with them. It's interesting how I've felt such a pull to so many of these Less Actives and a desire to help them probably more than at any other point in my mission. There are a few that are progressing really well in the Gospel. One of them is Scott, he's a guy that hasn't been to church in 20 years but has now discovered that he needs God in his life and the other day after a lesson we had with him he texted us thanking us for the spirit we'd been able to bring into his life. It's funny how your perception on life and people changes once you've got to know a few people. I think before the mission I would've seen this guy and just wondered how in the world he was going to clean up his life. He has two kids with two different women, tattoos, he smokes, etc. but it's been incredible to see how much of a desire he has to follow the Savior. He was worried about coming to church because he's going to smell like tobacco and he's worried that he won't be able to live all of the commandments as a member, haha I'm pretty sure before the mission I would've said something along the lines of, "well if you love the Lord you'll definitely stop smoking and you'll do this and that, etc." now it was completely different. It was the idea of "you know what, that's ok, you just come and you feel right at home and start feeling the atonement in your life. The rest will eventually take care of itself, as for right now just come and feel the spirit and the love." It's been cool to see the change in perspective on sin, its consequences, repentance, mercy, and the nature of God. I believe He's a lot more merciful and loving than we maybe sometimes give Him credit for. Obviously it doesn't erase the gravity of sin, but it's interesting to put it into perspective and hate the sin but love the sinner.
This Sunday I also gave what was only my second talk in Sacrament meeting. Haha it was an interesting experience, the High Councilor that also spoke had come up to me the Sunday prior and assigned me a topic, the topic? "Why do we need to repent in order to be forgiven?" Yeah, I'm just glad that there weren't any Born Again Christian investigators in there. Still it was a fun topic to study and prepare for and once again it made me realize how much I've grown... It's strange to be able to stand in front of the congregation and not be too nervous, still nervous, but confident that the spirit was going to testify of what I was going to say and that was really all that mattered. Strange how the mission changes you so much...
We've also had the opportunity to go on several exchanges with some missionaries that have struggled to take off in their missions. It's amazing how each of us struggle and try and struggle alone when if we would just step outward a little bit everything would be so much easier. This particular misisonary was struggling with a number of things, negativity, depression, feelings of inadequacy, etc. and just hadn't expressed it to anyone for quite awhile. I think that exchanges and helping the other missionaries has become one of my favorite parts of the mission. It's an opportunity to help others see and realize their potential even though they already have the gospel. It just shows the universality of the Gospel as it applies to all of God's children whether missionaries, non-members, or anyone in between.
We've also been helping out this one guy named Adam, man the guy's life is crazy... He was doing really well, progressing in the gospel, leaving behind bad habits, etc. and then in just the last 36 hours he's lost everything... He was kicked out of his house, lost custody over his child, has no money and no job, all because of a single decision that snowballed and escalated.... It was a sobering realization that our lives really do turn on small hinges and that each moment and each decision carries with it heavy consequences. Thankfully he's been able to maintain some hope, but it's going to be a long road to fix up his life... Still, it's been cool to see how the Lord is teaching him, and then teaching us as we've been able to help him.

Another Week

This week for me has been an interesting one. I thought it would be a little harder for me to get back into the swing of things in the field, but surprisingly it hasn't been hard at all, in all reality I feel like I was never really an Assistant. Unfortunately that feeling comes with some pros and some cons, but overall it has been good to be back in the field. I am currently in the city of Waldorf/White Plains in a ward that's pretty cool, a lot like our ward at home, and with lots of potential. Also being with Elder Sanchez has been good. Haha we're already back to having those revelatory conversations that we always seem to have. Still, we've seen some awesome miracles in the zone as well as in our area. We've met people talking to them at their door that "love the Book of Mormon because it just seems to clarify so much stuff that must have been taken out of the Bible". Yep! We met a lady that had that had already read some of it and just loved it before we spoke with her. Then we had leadership meeting, a trip to the National Mall and to the Arlington Cemetery with a bunch of sweet pictures that I'll be sure to send you some time, as well as a lot of other cool things that have been going on. The Lord continues to work and I continue to be amazed at how much He can use us. I'll share briefly with you an experience that happened just yesterday and was an extremely powerful experience for me. I was on exchange, and the long of the short of it is that God's plan is perfect. We randomly were in the right place at the right time to have a member come with us to an appointment, which wasn't going to happen if God hadn't orchestrated it, and then the appointment wasn't there and we went to check on a potential investigator that they had and this lady needed to hear from us! She started out asking us about what made our church different than the rest, we of course told her of prophets and modern revelation, and then she proceeded to say she had a serious question to ask us. So we were able to go in, and she unloaded her entire life story on us... She said she was amazed at the fact that she was unloading all of this stuff on us because she only ever told her husband these things and for her whole life had never trusted or loved hardly anybody. Yet she said that she trusted us and that she could see Christ in our eyes and in our countenances and that she wanted the peace and happiness that we had.... It was one of the most gratifying moments of the mission because it was just so real. We were unable to do anything really, we have no experience, the scriptures we read only do so much, but the spirit that the Lord blesses us with to accompany us is real, and that's what mattered. We honestly said almost nothing, we just listened and shared our love, concern, faith, and hope, and that made all of the difference. It reminded me once again of the "why" behind missionary work. After and during that lesson all peripherals fall away. You're not worried about your teaching skills, you're not worried about numbers, goals, or being extremely effective, it all just falls away and you remember that the reason why we're really here is to be representatives of the Lord no matter what, and in whatever place we may be in. It was a reminder that this stuff is so real, so necessary, and that it's only by the grace of God that we are able to accomplish anything. All you're thinking about when you're in that lesson is that you're just praying that she can feel something because you have no idea what to say or do. It was a powerful experience, and I direct this next part to Rachel and to Jared and to Jonathan as they think about serving missions. Really all missionary work is is being real. It teaches you how to be real, not just the "real you" but the real Christ. It teaches you what He would do, what He would say, and then it shows you how to best do it in order to help other people. It's amazing how real the changes are in these people's lives as well. We are blessed with the knowledge of the Atonement, and not only the knowledge, but the power to activate it in the lives of the people we meet. This lady knew all about Jesus Christ, she had faith in Him, but she needs the Atonement to be activated in her life and we are the only ones that are able to do it. It is probably the biggest blessing we could ever ask for. That's about all I have to write about though. I hope you all could feel a little bit of what I felt in that lesson, it was a special moment, and a special blessing and I share it with you all in hopes that it can maybe show you a little bit more what we're really doing out here in the mission field, because the mission field makes no sense until you're there and have experienced it for yourself. So little siblings hopefully that's been of benefit for you :)

Another week (transfers)

Well, this week was transfers, and as usual it was a crazy week, full of stress, lots of crazy last minute changes, meeting the new missionaries, and now, getting released as an Assistant... Man, it was a week just full of emotions but a lot of learning as well. I've now finished being an Assistant and these last three transfers have probably been some of the most intense months of my life, spiritually, physically, emotionally, everything! I have learned so much serving in this capacity and I'm going to miss it, but I'm more than willing to be released as well. It reminded me of what Dad said about being released as Bishop, he mentioned a leadership training where they said our time serving is limited and that one day it will be over. Well, my service as a missionary thankfully continues but I will miss the close association I've had with the Matsumoris and the opportunity I've had to work and care for so many missionaries. It has been a lesson on love, understanding, seeing people with God's eyes, and a ton more. Not to mention the organizational and time management and leadership skills I've been blessed to have the opportunity to develop. It really was the craziest ride. Still, the work continues even if we serve in different capacities, and that brings me to these transfers.
Transfers brought no surprises for me, haha since I've known for quite awhile what was going to happen, but I'm pretty sure it shocked the rest of the mission. I will be staying in the English program and I will once again be a Zone Leader back with Elder Sanchez but this time in a different zone where there are only English Elders. Feelings and thoughts on the matter, well, it's going to be very different.... When I found out a few weeks ago that I wouldn't be returning to the Spanish program I was definitely saddened... I've loved the Spanish program, the people, the culture, the love, and everything about it, and now the Lord has called me another way... Being an Assistant and serving a mission has taught me the lesson of "the Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord." It's super sad to think that I'll probably never serve in a spanish ward again, or teach hispanic people... I honestly consider myself half hispanic! Still, I know the Lord has a work for me to do and it's been humbling to see Him direct my path. It's going to be a fun time!
This week also brought some other experiences, meeting with the new missionaries was of course incredible as usual. It's fun to be able to feel of their spirits and it's been interesting to see myself change with each testimony meeting. Each time we meet with them I've had the chance to bear testimony and it's been cool to see how my testimony and understanding of the Gospel has developed. I wish I could be where these missionaries are now, at least in some ways. I wish I had as much time left as them, but I am definitely grateful for the growth that I've been able to experience and I wouldn't trade that growth for anything in the world! Then I also got to teach with President and go on splits with him for an hour and a half. It was a cool opportunity to be able to receive counsel from him and just talk. He is an inspired man and I am so grateful that I've been able to serve so closely with him and learn from him.
Then there was also General Conference.... Man, that was a crazy experience as usual. I don't think I have ever received so much revelation, both for myself and for those under my stewardship, as I have in these two last conferences. I also particularly enjoyed the talk by Elder Holland, as I'm sure everyone did, because it was the same talk that he gave when I was in the MTC, two weeks into my mission. I felt it was directed very personally to me, that the Lord had given me that talk as a direction at the beginning of my mission and that this was the interview near the end to see what I've done with it. There's still a lot left to ponder on that one...
I'm really not sure what more to say. It's weird, being released from an Assistant feels like the end of a major part of the mission, a huge learning experience, and it's made me change so much... My depth of gratitude for the mission just gets deeper everyday. It is such a gift to be able to serve the Lord full time, I always knew that it was never much of a sacrifice and more of a blessing, but that understanding has been deepened and amplified in the last few months. I am just grateful that the Lord decided to let me serve Him as a missionary. Each day is, has been, and will be a gift straight from Heaven. I'm excited to serve more closely with all of these Elders and to be able to grow in my love for them even more. It's amazing how much you can come to care for all of these missionaries... Just as God lets us feel His love for the people He teach, He has definitely let me feel His love for all of these missionaries. It's honestly pretty overwhelming, 126 missionaries.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Time flies by too fast!

Man, time is just moving by faster every single day... It's ridiculous how much stuff we do, how quickly it goes, and that it is once again P-Day. So this last week was spent doing the finals on transfers. Unfortunately it had a couple of bumps along the way, like Elder Brown and I totally messing up all of transfers, but in the end it turned at alright. Let's just say that it was probably one of the most difficult times of the mission up until this point. It's silly too, because it ended up not being too bad, but it's amazing how the mission seems to amplify both your strengths and weaknesses. We strive so much for perfection as missionaries, perhaps more than at any other time in our lives, and because of that any little thing seems like a huge problem. It's taught me a lot about myself, as well as about the things that I need to work on with the remainder of the mission.
However, we have had a few pretty awesome experiences. The church recently constructed a huge new chapel on 16th street and Emerson NW in Washington DC. It's a street that is just lined with tons of churches and the church had to fight a huge legal battle in order to get a hold of the property and then get the zoning permits to build a chapel on it, but in the end it is probably the most impressive chapel I have ever seen. To kind of kick off the opening of the building the church spearheaded a service day here in the DC area and hosted it at the 16th street chapel. It was so big that the city and the state jumped on board and made it a public event. The church even sent 6 semi trucks with $40,000 of food to the chapel and surrounding food banks as well as $1,000 deposits to the bishop's storehouse to various food banks. Then a bunch of members as well as non-members of other faiths got together and we packed tons of boxes of food at the chapel. It was an incredible experience to see so many people there serving, many of different faiths, and to feel the spirit of service that prevailed in the area. It was an awesome experience and it was the epitomy of deseret, haha it just felt like a beehive in there!
This week we've also had a number of meetings where unfortunately we've had to "drop some cane" or "lay down the law" as they say in English. Haha yeah, we had to clarify some issues that have been going on in the mission, nothing major, but some little things, I've got to say that that is still my least favorite part of being in leadership, though it is still a good thing, it means we get to help people reach their potential, which is what really matters. We also went to the temple again today which is always an enjoyable and enlightening experience. Other than that, not too much out of the ordinary has happened, but I'm sure that this next week of transfers will bring a number of surprises that I can't quite tell you yet ;) Let's just say that it is going to be completely unexpected for anybody in the entire mission...
Meanwhile, Conference is coming!!! I've got some questions prepared, it's going to be sweet!

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Another Week

Well, I cannot believe how much has happened in this last week! It's been insane! We finished off zone conferences which was good, we were a little bit worried about this one since one of the zones had been struggling, but there was a good spirit there and the missionaries were able to learn quite a bit. There was a new Senior Couple there that has served 4 missions and they said it was one of the most uplifting Zone Conferences they've been to, so we were pleased that everything went smoothly and that the spirit was able to be there for everyone to learn from. After that the week just picked up, we had another meeting on Monday, Zone Leader Council yet again, which was held in a new chapel that the church has built in DC. It's a super awesome chapel! It's huge, new, and really nice. Hopefully the wards that attend it will be able to take care of it well. We've also been on two exchanges with different areas, and I got to be back on bike for at least a few hours! Haha it was sweet to be back and to be able to talk to a bunch of people at metros, in neighborhoods, etc. We had some cool experiences with some people that were intially very cold and even almost hostile, but once we were able to be a little bit persistent most of them opened up! It was really cool to see. We spoke to a less active who is now Catholic, and a Jew on the street that both started out talking to us completely not wanting to hear anything, but by the end of it it ended as an extremely positive contact and they were able to get some things off of their chest that were clearly bothering them. Though they didn't accept return appointments it was just fun to be able to be the Lord's messenger to them in that moment.
Then this week there were also two incredible experiences. We went to visit a less-active man who was in some desperate need. His mother called us and informed us that he had been in a car accident that morning, that he'd recently been diagnosed with pneumonia, and that a good friend of his had recently died. As soon as she called us we felt impressed to obviously call the Bishop and we were able to immediately go and visit him with the bishop and give him a blessing. It was yet again another experience of just being clearly on the Lord's errand. However, what was even more incredible was to be able to see the mantle of a Bishop at work. We said very little, since John is under the Bishop's stewardship rather than ours, and so the Bishop just spoke and it was incredible to see him say things that were clearly coming directly from the spirit. It was literally as if he were saying exactly the words that the Savior would have said had he been there. It was a lesson on leadership and ministering that I will definitely never forget.
Then, even more incredible, I was able to attend the sealing of the Del Orbe family this past Friday!!! This is the family that was baptized at the beginning of my mission when I was with Elder Shinost, and it was one of the most incredible experiences... It was just amazing to think back to the first day we met them, and then to think of all the lessons, all the worry, all the prayers, and all the progress that has happened for them to be able to come to the temple to be sealed. The only way I can honestly describe it was that it was so real. It was as if I were no longer a missionary, I was just there as me, not their missionary, just their friend, who was so grateful that they had been able to reach this point. It makes you think of the day when we'll all be gathered together in heaven, we'll all just be brothers and sisters, grateful that we were all able to make it there together. It was a good reminder on the purpose of everything, of life, of missionary work, of the Gospel, of everything. The purpose is eternal families, it is returning to the presence of God, it's the happiness that comes as we live according to Gospel principles. It was just a sweet moment to see them all in the sealing room, and to see Valentin and Austri in the Celestial Room, I honestly cannot describe all the feelings that I experienced, or how incredible and sacred of an experience it was. It strengthened and amplified my testimony of the Restored Gospel and it strengthened my resolve to ensure that I one day reach that point, and that I help as many people as I possibly can reach it as well. There really is no greater joy than this... I'm just grateful that God has allowed me the opportunity to serve a mission, it's such a gift of time and experiences. There really is nothing that can compare, no amount of schooling, dating, sports games, whatever it may be, God has allowed us the gift of 18 months to two years of getting to know Him. Of understanding His purposes, and of allowing us to become more like Him as we serve Him and our brothers and sisters. The Church is true and that truth is wonderful!