Tuesday, March 29, 2016

The Hero in Our Stories

[This week, Andrew sent a very thoughtful (and deep!) blog entry.  Admittedly, I had to read and re-read this a few times -- especially the first paragraph.  But each time I did, I gained more insight and understanding.  I don't know everything that he is experiencing in Peru, but I can tell those experiences are making an impact.]

If we speak in terms of stories, reality holds an interesting place. Unbound by tethers of entertainment and popularity, God can direct our lives in the most necessary course rather than what we would find to be the most compelling narrative. As a cohesive story--one with obvious causes and effects--fades as far as our mortal minds can see, some lose faith. Debilitating and harmful experiences that have no immediate explanation go so contrary to a loving and almighty God that belief seems illogical. In a culture of stories filled with modern sarcasm, anti-heroes, and moral debates, simplicity becomes weak. How can a humble teacher who taught about kindness and love be our Savior? How can a perfect person (modernly portrayed as some comic holiness) know anything about the world? What's real perfection, anyway, when Utopian literature always points to something sinister, and flaws seem so philosophically important to ground a society?

We worry too much. God is our loving Heavenly Father. He sent us here to gain experience and grow. Weakness and sin will oppose us, but as we struggle, we gain spiritual strength. Faults are not eternal, nor is pain. They are part of a very brief experience. We overcome such obstacles through Christ, who was strong enough to overcome not only his temptations but all of ours. Though He suffered all, He ultimately conquered and rose again, taking up immortality and promising His real and complete joy to all who accept it. Yet it requires all our attention, and all our acceptance. He will not force salvation on us.

But if we choose the Gospel, He'll heal the young man panicked at the responsibility of the two-year-old "mistake" he loves more than anything. He'll heal the man consumed by the weight of his calling in life. He'll heal the drunk cripple, and the overwhelmed mother who's running away from her past. He'll heal them who plead for forgiveness and those who need to grant it. I've seen each one of these characters either accept it or run away after they've experienced a moment's repose.

In the end, we just need to recognize we're not the hero in our own story. In the name of the Hero, Jesus Christ, amen.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Multi-Zone P-Day

This will be a short blog this week! Just a little update: This week we had a multi-zone conference. This also meant we had a multi-zone P-Day, with a good number of missionaries from the surrounding areas. We played soccer on a correctly-sized field, which is too rare here. After feeling content and tired with the few hours we'd been playing, Elder Cornilles and I decided to head back to our area. Perhaps it was inspiration. We heard the next day a giant gust of wind rose up in the park. One of our friends rose up his hands and jokingly shrieked, "Repent Ye!", only to be alarmed as the wind turned into a small tornado, whipping the roof off a nearby building and sending it flying toward the missionaries. One of them actually got gauged in the leg, but thankfully he's alright now. 

The following day, we had the conference, in which President Henderson focused on Ezra Taft Benson's "Beware of Pride" talk he had previously handed out to us. That took center stage this week. Sorry for the short post- I'll write more next week!

Monday, March 14, 2016

Acting on the Promptings of the Spirit

We are privileged as missionaries to witness the power of the priesthood. We intend to change the lives of those we teach yet see such a change come far more readily from the power and authority of God than from our own knowledge or lesson plans. Ordinances such as baptism with the proper priesthood authority are pivots in lives that align us with the Gospel. Blessings can be far stronger witnesses of the validity of our claim than lectures. We follow the same steps as were instituted in the New Testament, as seen in many scriptural accounts. One such example is found in James 5:14-15: "Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord: And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up..." 

We performed a great number of blessings this week- six, I think, in total- with faith in the assurance that the Spirit will guide us in what we say. While we can always count on some form of guidance, at times it's stronger than others. I gave a blessing to a cousin of a member, and the confidence and faith that anchored me in the appropriate words to give were tangible. Very few times do I feel comfortable declaring someone will be healed rather than that they'll receive patience and spiritual strength during necessary trials. This time I could promise healing and an ensuing testimony in the gospel without doubt.
I remember President Monson saying once the happiest feeling he'd ever found was acting on a prompting and later finding out he had been the means by which God had answered a prayer. In the same vein, I think in general acting on the whisperings of the Spirit gives the greatest sense of fulfillment in life. It's a powerful and peaceful rest I receive from so frequently worrying over what lack I yet. Complete freedom from doubts would result in spiritual stagnation. A healthy fear of disappointing our Father in Heaven spurs us to follow His guidance. Yet momentary repose from such fearful self-reflection, when based on spiritual promptings, is welcome. I know we will receive them more frequently as we continually strive to do what is right. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen. 

Monday, March 7, 2016

A Day in the Life

We wake up each day and we exercise, shower, and go to breakfast at our Pension. We start up personal study afterward, and I try to study for things we'll teach during the day. Our primary goal is to teach according to the needs and situation of each person, but the doctrinal basis- the lessons found in Preach My Gospel- are requisites for all looking into the Church. 

After people are converted for a while, we're just supposed to keep them animated and learning more. I like this time because we can form fun lessons from the scriptures suited to their life, and I'm a big fan of scripture stories. For instance, one morning this week I turned Meshach, Shadrach, and Abed-nego's fiery experience into a lesson for one convert who works at this super tasty bakery. In companionship study, we try to figure out how to better teach and what our investigators need. For instance, the Fall of the Adam and Eve is a bear to teach and difficult to understand. My companion thought of this great visual aid we'll use where the "bridge" Adam and Eve had to speak with God directly was broken and later rebuilt through Jesus Christ. 

After language study, we head out in the mornings for, at times, a service project before full-time proselyting in the afternoon. Quite frequently, our appointments fall through. Sometimes we get in and things go better than planned. We spoke to one man who was also speaking with missionaries of another church. We promised him if he read a portion of the Book of Mormon and prayed about it, he would receive his answer. We also specifically promised that if he did so, the sickness he was dealing with- the lack of clarity in his head- would clear enough to understand the message. The next day, he said he read the scripture and prayed at night. He felt a great sense of peace, and belief in our message. That night, he dreamed we were leading him through the wilderness to a great and peaceful garden that he wanted to find very much. He awoke to a perfect confidence in us and the Book of Mormon, and a new health and clarity in his mind. We explained we were guiding him to a wonderful place, and the gate was called baptism. We're excited to progress with him this month in preparation.

And then the day ends with dinner and planning...and then we go to bed, and then we start over. It's a good life. I hope this explained a little of what a day in the missionary life is like. Hasta la proxima semana!