As I look back over the week I really don't know where to start...there has been much that has happened in the field and also many things I have learned personally that the Lord is teaching me here...it makes the week seem like a month. First of all...did you all watch the World Wide Leadership Training Broadcast?!!! If you didn't...that is the assignment I am giving you today. I didn't want to leave the room and leave the moment and the spirit that was causing me to feel such incredible feelings of joy and gratitude. Let's just say that I was a mess of tears throughout...especially the musical videos. Sister Miller and I were just sitting there crying, then looking at each other and laughing, squeezing each others arms with love and support and understanding, because we knew exactly what each other was feeling. I don't think my heart could have swelled any bigger with love and deep gratitude to be able to be here serving as a missionary in God's Royal Army during this incredible time when the Lord is hastening the work and missionary work is changing and being done as has never been done before! If you can watch any part of it, please watch the "I'll Go Where You Want Me To Go" video....that is what this life and this work is ALL about! I am so thankful for the opportunity to serve a mission because I understand God's "work and His glory" and I understand what missionary work is all about...in a way that I never would have, and that comes through serving as a full-time missionary. I have never been more excited to help build the kingdom. I have never been more excited to be a great member of the church! When I get back I will actually get to be the one who KNOWS people in the area that can meet with the missionaries! I am so excited to be calling the missionaries some day and saying, "I have another referral for you!" It's like the hymn says, "We are all enlisted till the conflict is o'er".....and, "out in the desert they wander, hungry and helpless and cold....off to the rescue WE'LL hasten, bringing them back to the fold." How amazing this work is! How much our Father in Heaven loves each of His children! How incredible and great the trust is that He has put in each of us who are so blessed to KNOW! I hope each of you has caught the fire and the vision of all of this. We as missionaries can only do so little on our own....it takes every one...and the level of the missionary and the member is the same and each are equally important. I hope you will help the Lord in this hastening, and think of all of those you know that you could reach out to and invite. Will each of you pray throughout the next month specifically for opportunities to invite others to "come and see, to feel and to know?" (3 Nephi). "Few experiences compare to the joy of helping others learn and live the gospel" (True to the Faith).
Speaking of joy in sharing the gospel...we are teaching another amazing investigator! He was a referral from a MEMBER! ; ) She got our number and texted us and said she had someone who wanted to meet with us. His name is Jaques De Toit and he is from South Africa! He has been here in America because he got a job working as a first mate on a private yacht...yeah, I know. He actually quit recently because he felt he needed to make changes in his life to be closer to God and where he was working was surrounding him with bad things...wait it gets better. He has been dating Alexis (the member) and so he has already learned so much. She has taken him to church several times, he's been reading in The Book of Mormon and is now into Doctrine and Covenants. In our first meeting with him, we were testifying that as he listened and learned the things we would share with him, he would want to make promises and covenants with God...that he would want to be baptized. He said, "That's the goal." We were like, "Wait...what did you say?" Ha ha...he said, "Well in the scriptures it says you have to be baptized to enter the Kingdom of God right?" We confirmed. He said, "Then that's what I want." We invited him to set a date and he asked, "How do I know if the date is right?" We invited him to pray and ask God and that he would know when the time was right. He said, "That's what I would like to do." We taught him the Restoration and as I finished recounting the first vision he said, "Wow....that's amazing." We invited him to pray to know if Joseph Smith really saw God and Jesus Christ and to gain a testimony that it is true for himself. He said, "Isn't it bad to doubt? Am I allowed to ask? What if I already believe it?" OK....oh my goofy gummies this guy is for real!!! He has so much faith! He told us he wanted to be living a better life before being baptized. When we reassured him he didn't have to be perfect to be baptized he asked, "Really?" Jacques is so prepared he feels unprepared! Ha ha...he is unreal and it is an honor to teach him. He texted us this last weekend and told us he needed a favor...he asked us to pray for his dad because he had been robbed in South Africa and his car had been stolen. We promised we would pray and again were amazed at the faith that he already demonstrates. We said a special pray for his dad that night and also prayed that God would answer Jacques prayers as a direct result of is great faith. The next morning he texted us and thanked us for the prayers and told us he found out that a detective of some sort was driving around and spotted the car and impounded it just an hour before it was going to be driven out of the country...and that it was returned to his father unscratched with only a few small things stolen out of it! Faith precedes the miracle! And God hears and answers our prayers! We love him and I know we will continue to experience miracles as we teach him.
It was a testimony building experience to teach Katie this week. We taught her in the lobby of the temple the Plan of Salvation. It was so amazing to teach her about the pre-existence....who she really is as a daughter of a loving Heavenly Father and where she was before she came here. She has been taught many different things about religion and she has been feeling confused lately about what is really true...this is one of the reasons why we are so excited to teach her. But as she heard this, she told us of all the things she read in the pamphlet about the plan of salvation so far, she KNEW this was true...as we let the spirit speak, she started smiling and tears came down her cheek...she said, "I know I was there. I know I was with God." What a sweet and tender moment. It was scripture coming true: Romans 8:16 The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God." After we finished the Plan of Salvation, I asked her how she felt now that she understood it all better...and as she looked at the pictures in front of her, she said, "I feel like this is right. This is true." = ) Miracle.
We had another neat experience teaching a new member in our ward. We had planned on a lesson, but just before going in Sister Miller said, "I don't feel like that's what she needs...can we show her the video 'Mountains to Climb'?" I was feeling no such things so I just went with it and had to trust in the promptings my companion was feeling. We shared the video and discovered that this sweet, always happy sister, had actually watched it and wept over it just 4 months ago as she was in the darkest time of her life. I felt prompted then to share a scripture and part of my personal testimony of how the Savior lifts us from those places and can truly heal us...sometimes it takes time and we may never fully understand, but those times can sanctify us if we let them. I shared the scripture that always pulls me out of the dark, D&C 58: 2-4 and then the 4th verse of Hymn #85 came to mind,
"When through the deep waters I call thee to go,
The rivers of sorrow shall not thee o'erflow,
For I will be with thee, thy troubles to bless,
And sanctify to thee, and sanctify to thee,
And sanctify to thee thy deepest distress."
She had some tears as she smiled and said, "You brought me the perfect message just for me today. Now I know you sisters teach by the spirit." What wonderful lessons were learned on all sides that day. The Lord's hand is truly in the lives of EACH of His children and He proves that to me over and over again on a daily basis.
I had a tender mercy on Sunday of running into my MTC Branch President and his wife at church! We were visiting a ward we don't normally attend and we sat in front of them! It was amazing to see them again! They shaped me so much through the first and most critical days in the MTC. I have often used President Gubler's teachings with those I have taught, and even now when I go back and review the notes I took from his lessons, I feel a powerful spirit. I invited them to the Mormon Battalion to take a tour and see Sister Madsen and Sister Rasmussen (who were also in his district)...we did a special tour with 3 tour guides = ) We rejoiced together as we shared the things we have learned and he told us we were great a year ago, but how wonderful it was to see how we have blossomed and how there is a different light that shines in our eyes now. I am so thankful for my mission and for all the incredible people the Lord saw fit to place in it...it's provided relationships that will forever be sweet and sacred.
I have had some sacred experiences in my personal studies throughout the week...maybe it has come because of realizing I've been out a year and realizing how quickly my mission seems to be slipping away...I am not sure...but I definitely started 3 days in a row off by crying and wiping away many tears as the Lord has taught me by the spirit what I needed to hear. One thing I read that I did want to share with you was from President Monson's talk from this last conference's priesthood meeting. He said, "...I hope you appreciate the sacrifices which your parents so willingly make in order for you to serve. Their labors will sustain you, their faith encourage you, their prayers uphold you. A mission is a family affair. Though the expanse of continents or oceans may separate, hearts are as one." I want you to know that this is so true for me. I know that your sacrifices and prayers of faith are what uphold me out here...even on the most difficult of days. My heart swelled and tears of gratitude came as I thought back on the past year and realized, although I have been away serving, I have never felt closer to my family. I have never felt my relationships be stronger. I have never felt greater love for them and from them...there is no place else I would rather be and I know it is because of the sacrifices we are ALL making for me to be able to be here and serve the Lord. From he bottom of my heart, and with deepest gratitude, I thank you. I know Heavenly Father is aware of our family.
Sorry this was long...it just happened! I love you all and WELCOME my newest little niece to the world! I can't wait to meet you Presley! Congrats Shannon!
All My Love,