This week was another unforgettable one!
It started out with such a neat lesson on Monday night! The circumstances were kinda funny... so it was super dark... he lives down by a river and away from everything... and the mosquitoes were on the search for food... and for some reason I was the only option on the menu! Haha! Not a single other person got one bite but I came out of that lesson looking like I had chicken pocks! They were getting a pretty good laugh at the fact that I couldn’t stop scratching myself. But the lesson itself was SO cool... kinda funny too. The first words he told us were “You know? To be completely honest... I hated you guys before. Like what on earth are two white guys doing in my country?”
Elder Ashman and I were a little unsure about how to take that. I was speechless. But then he opened his mouth again, “But you guys are pretty great! I look so forward to our visits and I love the church! I love the Mormon’s! This whole “Book of Mormon” and “Joseph Smith” thing is really starting to warm up to me.” So we are super happy and grateful to be able to keep working with him. Isn’t it incredible the difference this gospel makes in our every day lives? How is it possible that an old man can go from a hatred of two young men and a message to a profound love for two messengers and a 14-year-old boy who saw God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ? How is it that an old man can go from denying the Book of Mormon to reading it each and every day and striving to learn and live by its precepts? Only God can perform such miracles. Only God has such power... that I am sure of.
We ran into an Evangelist the other week and were blessed with the chance to talk to him for a bit. After teaching the Restoration, we gave him a Book of Mormon and set up another appointment for later on in the week. When we came back to the appointment we asked him if he had his Book of Mormon and he said “OF COURSE! I carry my Bibles around with me everywhere I go! I am even sharing with some of the guys at work what I have learned from this Mormon Book!” We were so excited! He had read so so much and was ready with tons of questions and the Lord’s spirit was more than ready with answers. I am not just converted by the Book of Mormon’s power... but forever convinced that there is no other Book that will change the life of an individual like it can.
In Ecuador there are guys all around on bikes that have little carriages connected at the front to take people to and from destinations... it is probably the most popular job here... that or working in the banana field... but Elder Ashman and I decided to take one the other day. The guy was so awesome. He was like 70 years old and pushing us around like it was nothing. Such a champ. So we got a solid photo of our homie, Manuel and us.
We gave a CTR ring to an investigator and he just about lost it. It was so funny but so touching. He asked what it meant and when we told him he nearly fell out of his seat. The best was when he said “never in all of my 70 years and almost 7 months of life, in the Caste llano (Spanish) language, have I heard such words that make me tremble quite like CHOOSE THE RIGHT. Beautiful!” He is such a stud. It really made me think... Do I rejoice in the words “Choose the Right”? Do I rejoice in actually choosing the right? What are the things that make me tremble because of beauty? Is it something or the world? Or is it of God? I decided then and there to only rejoice in the things of God and even more so... REJOICE in choosing the right. Even TREMBLE with joy because of righteousness.
Another awesome experience began about 3 months ago when we started talking to a random woman outside of her house. She told us that her daughter was a member, but is not going to church. We were blessed with the chance to visit her and help her to return to the church. She is a faithful member now and had an interview with the Branch President that she was super nervous for. After the interview she called us and said she needed our help with preparing a class for Sunday. When we got there she handed us a booklet and, super content, told us that she was called as the new Sunday School teacher... then she handed us a stack of other papers... TO APPLY TO BE A MISSIONARY! She is going on a mission in July or August! We were and still are over the moon happy! What would have happened if we would not have talked to that woman that day or been brought by the spirit to her? We would not have met this member who had not been going to church. What would have happened if the spirit had not helped us find this girl? She would not be going on a mission! Super interesting how the Lord works... how is plan is set up... and how the Holy Ghost leads us to those in need. Definitely a tender mercy from our Savior.
So the fans in our house are super old to the point where they don’t even have the protectors on the front... I guess you could say that those suckers give us fear. I just know any day now the propellers are going to come loose and take off one of our heads! But because it is so hot we usually sleep with our heads at the bottom of the bed where the death fans are so they cool us down a little instead of having the fan at our feet. It is just a little scary with the propellers going a million miles an hour without the front cage that keeps the propellers in. Anyways... I woke up in the middle of the night with a throbbing pain in my finger... I didn’t think much of it but when I went to the bathroom there was blood oozing down my hand and all over my clothes... so I went back to the room and there was blood on my sheets... after I washed the wound off with water (which is pretty much just making it dirtier in Ecuador) there was a big old clean cut from the fan on my finger. Haha! We got a good laugh out of that one. So I have always contemplated the question: Does the Indian sleep with his feet of his head to the fire? Well... Does the missionary sleep with his head or feet to the fan? ;) What would you choose? I think I will go back to the feet to the fan... and maybe just sleep with my shoes on!
I was taken back by a lesson and principle of this perfect gospel that permitted me to “endure to the end” of this past week. It does not only apply to that of Missionary Work... but to the entire world! If we analyze the 26th chapter of Alma we find a few of the trials and emotions they experienced as they preach the gospel to their brethren. Many of the things that occur to them we feel as missionaries... and many of the obstacles and afflictions they experience we face as children of God as we strive to be more like Him.
(Alma 26:27) “And now when our hearts were depressed... ” What is it you feel in your darkest moments? A depressed heart seems like a lonely heart... weak, saddened, and shattered. How many of you have felt this? How many are feeling this? I do know there is at least another that has felt your depressed heart. The sorrow and heaviness we have in our heart is only a fraction of the depressed heart of the Savior when His “soul began to be exceedingly sorrowful, even until death... ” (Matthew 26:38).
Later in the 27th verse of the 26th chapter of Alma, the Lord counsels these sons to “bare with patience their afflictions.” How is it possible that we can possibly be expected to have patience through something that, in the moment, we don’t even think we can overcome? Why is it that when you are so weak and so vulnerable you are expected to have patience? How can we have patience when “nobody understands us”? Think of your darkest moment... think of the most despair that you have ever felt in your entire life... maybe it is happening now... can you imagine experiencing that all over again? Or starting over only to feel the exact despair all over again. How would it be to suffer what you can hardly bear twice?... three times...?
“And He left them, and went away AGAIN, and prayed the THIRD time, saying the same words... ” (Matthew 26:44). Not only did the Savior feel His heart ripping from His chest once... but he felt it twice... then again. Not only did He fall on His face from an overwhelming and excruciating pain that would save you once... but twice... and then again. Do you think that took patience? Back in Alma we learn, “…and we have been casted out... .” Do you feel neglected? Forgotten? Alone? Rejected? “And He is despised and rejected of men... ” (Mosiah 14:3). So did Christ. What about when the sons of Mosiah say “...and mocked... ”? Do you feel unimportant? Made fun of? Insecure? Unappreciated? “And when they had mocked him, they took off the purple robe from Him, and put His own clothes on Him, and led Him out to crucify Him” (Mark 15:20). So did He who was crucified for you. Remember when these sons said “... and spit upon, and smote upon our cheeks... ”? Do you feel offended by the spit that the world tosses? Have you ever been smitten to the heart and asked yourself, “why me”? “And they smote Him on the head with a reed, and did spit upon Him... ” (Mark 15:19). The Son of God felt that. “... and we have been stoned, and taken and bound with strong cords and cast into prison... ” Have you been physically wounded? Are you overcoming physical pain? Do you tremble and cry because of the constant pain? Are you weak? Weary? Do you feel trapped? Taken advantage of? Used? Do you feel as if your thoughts and feelings have been bound inside? “And they laid their hands on Him and took Him” (Mark 14:46). Your Brother was taken by hands and taken advantage of. Your Savior was stoned. Your Redeemer was bound by nails. Do you think He knows? Do you think He has felt it before?
“And behold I say unto you, has there been so great love in all the land?” (Alma 26:33)
Brothers and Sisters, there is no greater love than that of a Father who sent His only Begotten Son for us. There is no greater love than that of a God who came so that he could succor us with all perfection and love. I know that He knows you. I know that He understands you. There is no wound that cannot be healed. There is nothing that can’t be mended. There is nothing that we cannot overcome, dominate, or triumph.
The Savior overcame all affliction, dominated all doubt, and triumphed every trial, tribulation, and pain. The Glorified Redeemer of the world has already won your battles...
Look to Him who knows. Search for Him who won your battles for you. Trust in Him. Find this Brother to find out how He won your battles. Ask our Heavenly Father to help you overcome your moments of despair just like Jesus Christ overcame that same moment... your moment. Take comfort in knowing what He became after having overcome your trials because that is your future.
I testify that the Son of God knows you. I know He knows me. I have asked God the Father to help me overcome my crosses in the exact way that the Lord overcame it during that very day that changed our lives. He gave us life because of the sacrifice that was made; and the answers have been so perfect, exact, and pure. And so will yours.
Missionary or not, He knows. He feels. He understands. That makes two of you. A bond that nobody else will ever share nor understand. Rejoice in that bond until it takes you to His everlasting and loving arms and presence.