August 11, 2014
Picture 1: Thanks for the burgers Grandma Ruth! New Jersey doesn’t really do hamburgers (they prefer pizza), so it was such a treat. Sister Taylor and I were super hungry this week, and you were a life saver. Love you!
Picture 2: You know how I love animals!
Sister Taylor and I spent the last week studying the Christlike attribute ‘Faith’. It has been a huge emphasis for my entire mission, but we focused on it even more last week. Well, when the students are ready (me), the teacher arrives (the Spirit)! Heavenly Father taught us a lot about faith last week through the experiences we had. I’ve learned a lot, and the lessons I learned will change my entire mission, and hopefully my entire life.
1. A Lesson on Faith and Fear: “Look unto me in every thought; Doubt not, fear not” (D&C 6:36).
On Thursday, this wonderful couple from the ward took Sister Taylor and I out to dinner at a local Chinese restaurant. Before we sat down to eat, we were waiting in line to wash our hands. A woman and her daughter got in line behind us. The little girl was around 8 years old and she had some sort of mental disability. She started getting really upset about something, and her mother was trying to calm her down in vocal words mixed with sign language. To distract the little girl from whatever was upsetting her, I introduced myself to her in sign language. I learned that her name was Melanie, and that she really wanted a milkshake. All of a sudden, she calmed down a lot, preferring to talk to me instead of cry. We “talked” for a little bit (does this count as the Gift of Tongues…?) before the bathroom became available. We let Melanie and her mother go in front of us, and her mother really appreciated it.
Throughout dinner, I kept catching the mother looking at me. She was looking at me in the way I’ve seen people look at me all my life. She could see light. She could see love. She could feel the Spirit. She was drawn to it. I knew that we needed to talk to her again. The Spirit prompted me over and over again to go talk to her family. That morning, we had prayed to be led to a family, and here they were.
We were finishing our dinner at the same time as her family. We should have left at the same time as them. I had it all planned out in my mind. We would chat as we walked out, we would boldly testify of the gospel, and we would exchange numbers. She would want to learn more.
The problem is, my fear got in the way. When the family stood up to leave, Brother ***** was in the middle of a lengthy story. I didn’t want to rudely interrupt him, make him rush out the door, and offend him. I was torn. I knew I needed to go talk to the family, but I was so afraid of offending the *****. So I watched as our family left. I just sat there. I was panicking, trying to figure out how to dessert our hosts politely and drag Sister Taylor off to chase after the family. My fear of offending the ***** kept me rooted to the spot. I feared man more than I feared God.
That night, we went home, and I just cried. I sat on the floor and cried and cried. I have never felt so ashamed, heartbroken, and small.
Why was I so afraid? What was I afraid of? Offending the *****? I’m sure they would have forgiven me once I explained myself. They love missionary work. They would have understood. Why wasn’t I bold? Why didn’t I stand up and leave? Why did I ignore the promptings of the Holy Ghost? Why did I ignore the spiritual gifts I have been given? Why did I allow my fear to overcome my faith?
The weight of my calling and what I had (not) done crashed down on me that night. It felt awful. That family did not get the change to accept the gospel because I listened to my fear and not my faith. Who knows when we’ll see them again? Do I even deserve to meet them again?
I will never allow that to happen again. I will never allow my fear to overcome me again. I. Will. Not. There is too much at stake for me to be timid and shy. The message that we share has eternal consequences. Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ deserve all of the boldness, obedience, faith, and diligence that I can give. This will never happen again.
Heavenly Father and I had quite the conversation that night. I am so grateful for repentance and the Atonement.
2. “I. Have. Faith.”
We have been working with an investigator named ****** for the past seven weeks. I don’t remember how much I have told you about her, but she was quite the interesting lady and we loved her. She was set to be baptized on August 23rd – three weeks from now.
On Friday, we got a phone call telling us that ******* had passed away. Sister Taylor answered the phone, but I could tell what was being said. It was the strangest feeling – my heart stopped, and it felt like there was no floor beneath my feet. We are heartbroken, because ******* has been working towards her baptism for several years. She’s been meeting with missionaries for a long time (we call those kind of investigators “eternagators”), and she was finally ready to be baptized.
I remember going to teach her for the last time (we didn’t know it then), and we could tell everything had changed. Before, she didn’t believe that she could overcome her sins and her weaknesses in order to be baptized. She was planning on being baptized, but was unsure if she was ready for it. She had an enormous amount of faith in the Savior, but didn’t have faith that the Atonement could really heal her. However, when we went over this time, there was a new light in her eyes. She believed in herself and in the Savior’s Atonement. She was so excited to see us and learn more! ******** wanted to be baptized more than anything, and she was willing to do whatever it took to get there! ********* had been struggling with a lot emotional issues and addictions, which had been preventing her from being baptized. However, during that lesson, she completely committed herself to being baptized and to changing her life around. When we asked her how she knew she could do it, she got this HUGE grin on her face, pointed to her heart, and said, “I. Have. Faith.”
That was the last time we ever taught ********, and it was the most spiritual lesson we have ever had with her. It’s hard, because we do not understand the Lord’s timing. ******** passed away three weeks before she was going to be baptized, and it’s hard for us to understand why He took her at this time. As hard as it is, I know that this is all part of Heavenly Father’s plan. This whole experience has given me a new perspective on the Plan of Salvation and Heavenly Father’s plan for each of us. I am so grateful that we had the opportunity to teach ********. I am sure going to miss that lady.
3. M—–‘s Faith
I love M—– So much. She just climbed straight into my heart and stole it. She is so kind and humble, and she enjoys nothing more than making fun of me. Our lessons with her are always amazing (and it’s all because of her and her faith).
Anyways, we have been working with M—— on the Word of Wisdom for about a month. When we met her, she drank 10 cups of coffee and smoked 4 cigarettes every day. After we taught her about the Word of Wisdom, she committed herself to quit coffee and cigarettes. When we teach the Word of Wisdom, we like to help our investigators come up with a game plan to help them overcome whatever they are struggling with. Well, when we asked M—— what she was going to do to quit coffee and cigarettes, her reply was, “I’ll just pray.”
Typical M—— response. Whenever she needs an answer to a question, help understanding the Book of Mormon, or help with a current trial, her answer is always, “I’ll just pray. Heavenly Father will help me”. And He always does!
Within two weeks, M—— completely quit drinking coffee. She just stopped. Quitting smoking has been little more challenging for her, but she kept praying and trying! Even though it was really hard for her, she kept trying! She knew that Heavenly Father would help her do it. In order to be baptized on her baptism date (August 24th), she has to have been following the Word of Wisdom for at least two weeks. Her baptism date is coming up, so we told her that she would have to quit smoking by Saturday.
On Saturday, she told us that she was still off of coffee (as usual)! And then, she said, “Do you want to hear the good news?” and she had the most mischievous grin on her face. Then, her face broke into a huge smile, and she said, “I quit smoking! I had my last cigarette last night at midnight!” It was so exciting! M—— did it! Through her faith (which honestly blows me away most of the time… that woman could move mountains if she wanted to), she was able to quit smoking and drinking coffee. It was the greatest miracle. We have been praying for her for weeks! Now, we are praying that she can stay off of cigarettes and coffee so that she can be baptized next week. Hooray!
4. “Thank you for bringing faith back into my life”
About a month ago, Sister Taylor and I were introduced to two less active members of our ward, ===== and ^^^^^^. ^^^^^^ is =====’s son. They have been inactive almost since the day they were baptized, and are really struggling. I don’t think I have met anyone more humble than Sister =======.
A week ago, we went back to teach them for the first time. We went in with no idea of who they were, what they needed, or how they were doing spiritually. We spent a lot of time getting to know them and learning a little more about who they are. ^^^^^ is a hardened man in his early 30s. Nothing has ever gone right for him and he has no idea where God is in his life. He’s the type of guy who seems like he is ignoring everything you are saying. We taught them a pretty simple lesson about prayer and how to receive answers to prayer. We invited ^^^^^ to pray (he wasn’t very happy about that), and he gave a simple and heart-felt prayer. He hasn’t really prayed in years. I can only imagine how happy Heavenly Father must be when one of his children comes back to Him through prayer (It’s probably like getting an email from me on P-Days, only a million times better). We challenged them both to pray every single day this week.
Sister Taylor and I went back the next Saturday, and everything had changed. A new light had entered ^^^^^’s eyes. He seemed so much lighter. We all walked to a park for our lesson. It was so beautiful there. We sat next to the pond and talked for an hour. ^^^^^^ was so excited to tell us that he had been praying every single day that week. He also started reading the Book of Mormon every night, just because he thought it would be a good idea. He told us that the faith that we had brought back into his life (it was really the Spirit) had given him something to hope for. Now, he had a reason to try and change his life. ^^^^^^ has lived a really hard life; it’s been kind of like living in the middle of a hurricane. Now he has hope, and that hope has given him an anchor to hold on to (Ether 12:4). Seeing this miraculous change in ^^^^^^ was amazing. His mother was so happy and grateful to see her son like this. Through the Savior, we can have hope for a better life. He helps us change and move forward. He gives us the strength we need to overcome the mountains before us. And this week, ^^^^^^ started to overcome his personal mountains.
It has been quite the week. Heavenly Father has taught me so much about faith. It’s been an incredibly humbling learning experience.
I love you all dearly. Be Jersey strong!