Monday, April 15, 2013

"Well Done, Thou Good and Faithful Servant

Dear Family,

This week's title brought to you by the weather here in Del Rio. Tuesday it got up to 104 degrees with a hot wind blowing that provided absolutely no relief. It felt like being in a convection oven. When Hermana B expressed this thought to one of the ladies in our ward, her response was "well, it gives a whole new meaning to 'well done, thou good and faithful servant.'" And truly, that's how we've felt a couple of days this week. Salt encrusted and baked to a crisp. Yum!

Mom, I LOVED your email this week!! It just sounds like our family, the way people chose to spend their time, how they all reacted to everything . . . it just makes me happy. Thank you for all the details.  I loved reading about the boys and the time they spent together this week. I've been in so many homes in Del Rio where the family dynamics are just terrible, and I am so grateful that I have siblings who love each other and are helpful and respectful and that I have parents who taught us all how to be that way. Y'all are so great, and I love you all so much. I'm really excited for Alan to be working on his mission papers. I can't wait to hear how all of that goes down!! I'm so excited for Carrie to go to Wood Badge too! That'll be a lot of fun, and a great experience. 

Also, I really appreciated your mentions of the things you have all been doing to help out with the ward this week, and how you said that this is all the same work. I had a testimony building moment of the same thing this week. Two nights ago, I was talking to Hermana B about working with less actives and ward members and empowering them to help and strengthen each other, and she asked the question "but is that really missionary work?" It is! As missionaries, we get to teach the gospel of Jesus Christ which is faith, repentance, baptism, receive the Holy Ghost, and endure to the end. Full-time missionaries try to focus on the first four steps, but the last step is just as important as the first four, and it encompasses a life time of obedience and covenant making. As members of the church, we are responsible for doing missionary work. We are responsible for helping the full-time missionaries in accomplishing the first four steps, but also hugely responsible for the bulk of step number five, enduring to the end. Everyone needs help enduring to the end, and missionaries are only here for just a short while. Yesterday during testimony meeting in the Spanish branch, a whole bunch of less active members we have been working with, or that Hermana B has spent seven months working with, got up to bear their testimonies, including J G who testified in two sentences that blessings come when we obey the commandments (he's the one struggling with the Word of Wisdom). During that meeting, I had a powerful confirmation that member work whether it's reactivating less-actives or giving service to the faithful members of the church is missionary work. I have a testimony of that principle. It doesn't matter where you are or what stage of life you are in, there is nothing more important in this world than helping Heavenly Father to take care of his children by leading them to eternal truths which bring happiness. I know that. Every soul is great in the sight of God. Heavenly Father has created worlds without end and could have put each of us on our own little world to work out salvation by ourselves, but that is not his plan. He put us together so that we can learn from each other and grow together and help each other reach our final destination. I love being a missionary, and I am so glad to know that this work will not end for me when I take off my black name tag.

Dad, glad to get your email as always. We've been talking a lot with our members and investigators about how to recognize the Spirit, and a lot of the investigators especially tell us things like "well I haven't ever had a vision or heard voices in the night, so I must not be righteous enough to receive an answer, but when it comes I'll let you know." Kings is a great reference for that. I'm going to start using it. Also, my kick recently has been the importance of keeping the commandments, especially prayer, scripture study and church attendance. Those three things are small and simple means, but when we do them faithfully, great things are brought to pass. We have the spirit as a constant companion, which as you said, is also a small and simple thing which brings great things to pass. I love it! Dad, I really love you. You're such a great example of what a righteous Priesthood holder should be. I love that you love your family, and you honor and respect your wife. I love how you're always happy when Mom is happy. We've had so much drama down here the last week, and I'm just so grateful every day for the example that was set in my home.

A and P: The worst of the drama is actually a mother-daughter duo. P is a young recent convert, who loves the gospel and got baptized even though her mother wasn't happy about it. She wants to serve a mission, but doesn't know how she'll be able to because of her mom, A. A is needy and does not have a very independent spirit and relies heavily on P to do things for her. She also has a lot of the Latina mentality of not wanting to let go of her children at all. Her son (older than P) is currently incarcerated, and she tries to pull the reins in on P as hard as she possibly can to the point of being smothered. The other day, we had a visit with P at her house while A was home, and for the first time, A was really nice to us. She sort of listened from the other room instead of leaving like I'm told she usually has. Last week, she came to General Conference to "surprise P" and we were all super excited because we thought this might be an answer to P's prayer to serve a mission. However, P found out her mom was there and wouldn't come to Conference. We all chastised her for not coming, until we figured out there was more to the situation. P had not been living at home the last couple of days because of a conflict with her mother. A. had not been able to get a hold of P, and was probably hoping to literally surprise P by being at church where A didn't think P would choose to run away from. We found out that P had been staying with the family of her recent convert boyfriend (also an interesting dynamic), and later that day we got a text from him asking us not to tell A where he lives. Interesting. So, the week goes by, and Saturday morning, we get about six phone calls from A before we are able to answer the phone. She asked us to come teach her, so we did, focusing heavily on baptism and the importance of making covenants. A. told us that she has decided she wants to learn more about the church and was very emotional as she talked about wanting to go to church with P and being closer with her children. I'm sure that desire is sincere. However, I'm not sure that her interest in the church is sincere in a way that will head her to that result. She didn't want to commit to baptism, and at the end of the lesson, asked us to drive her to "look at a house" she may want to buy because her son won't be able to live with them in their apartment because he won't pass the background check when he's released from prison. Fortunately, we can't drive investigators, so we said no. Yesterday, A. came to church again. P. did not. At the end of Sacrament meeting, after being pretty needy the whole time, A. wanted to talk to us again, and asked us again, even though we had said no, if we could help her to go see the house. She wanted to know where the boyfriend lived, because the house she was told about "is on the same street where he lives." We saw through that one pretty quickly, and told her we didn't know where he lived, which was a fib but not something we could figure out how to avoid at the time. The senior missionaries took her home, and about an hour later, we got two phone calls from A. that we didn't answer and a voice mail that sounded like she was in tears and needed to talk to us, because she "was feeling something." Ay yay yay! We have a lesson scheduled with her today, and we're going to have to lay down the law. We're not here to be manipulated, and we can't make P. come home. It feels like high school all over again!! Yipee!

That's the worst of the drama. We've also had a little bit with M who isn't sure she is ready to be baptized this coming weekend as planned, but that's good drama in so far as it helps her to better prepare. Also, K, one of Hermana B's converts, texted us yesterday and said she was going through something she wanted to explain in person, and we were afraid it might be more drama. It turned out that she hadn't been feeling the same spiritual drive the last few weeks (which we've been able to see) since she was baptized, and was really worried about it. She thought maybe she needed a Priesthood blessing (which we told her was a great idea) and we just counseled with her a little bit about how to deal with the spiritual slump. I will take that kind of drama! If our investigators and converts aren't feeling it and are worried about it, that's great!! The problem is, when they're not feeling it and they don't care. K will get through it because she is faithful and her desires are in the right place, which is the recipe for blessings.

Despite the drama, we've also seen a lot of blessings this week. On Saturday, we were able to teach seven lessons, which was one for almost every single hour of our day. It was exhausting, but that's the kind of exhaustion we want as missionaries. A, an investigator we hadn't been able to contact all week, finally pulled through and we were able to teach him Saturday night and commit him to come to church. He came and attended Gospel Principles (which Hna. B and I taught on the fly in Spanish . . . I loved it!!) where he was an absolute pillar in our discussion. We need him as part of our branch because his testimony is already amazing, and he understands things much better than many of our members. B and J  also took a leadership role in our discussion which was really rewarding to witness. Earlier this week, we had been discussing their family and what they needed to progress. We decided that B needs a real calling. She and J are "door greeters" which is more condescending than helpful, but it's more of a calling than just about anyone else in the 3rd branch has (something else I would love to make headway on is preparing all of the 3rd branch to actively hold callings). We brainstormed for a while, but couldn't think of any good solutions, so we moved on to calling our dinner appointment for the next day, Sister D, who is the YW President for the combined 1st and 3rd branch young women. While we were talking, she said something about, "man, I really need a laurels adviser." Ding, ding, ding!!! The words were out of her mouth and we pounced on them, explaining about B and what her needs were and matching them up to the needs of the young women. Sister D told us she already felt great about it, so hopefully, B will be getting a calling. Yay!!

Friday, Hna. B took me on a complete tour of our area. I saw Mexico and the Rio Grande (it's really just a glorified creek) and there were people on the other side of it standing on the cliffs next to the water. Either they were teenagers hiding from their parents so they could smoke pot, or they were about to swim for it. We also toured Cienegas which felt like being back in South Africa minus a few mansions here and there where the drug lords live. Exciting.

My favorite quote from the week. We were teaching an 8 year old boy and asked him how he felt when he read the scriptures. He said "it's like I have Jesus all over me." 

I have a testimony of the importance of keeping God's commandments. When we do, we get to have Jesus all over us. In fact, we have the incredible blessing to understand that when we keep the commandments, we can become even as Jesus is. Woah! That's so cool! The more I study the scriptures, the more I see that everything, everything, that is taught, points us to that potential. I love this gospel. I love being a missionary despite the drama. We scheduled our P-day so that we could go take a two hour nap, because we're pooped.

I love you all so much!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


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