Saturday, July 18, 2015

July 13, 2015 Letter

Wow. I can't even begin to describe this week. I have no words. English and Spanish are both so insufficient. I have so much joy in my heart right now and I can't express it. This week, I truly discovered the Atonement. For the first time ever in my entire life, I have sung the song of redeeming love. And I honestly can feel so now.

So I will start from the beginning, I suppose. The last two transfers have probably been the most discouraging transfers of my entire mission. I lost a lot of desire and a lot of excitement and just a lot of love of the work. I got tired. I remember one morning, back in Barrio 8, we had one hour left before we went home for lunch, and we were contacting on our good ole Calle Albufera. I looked down the street, filled with people ready to receive the Gospel, and something inside me cracked and all the sudden, I just couldn't do it anymore. I looked at my companion, looked back at the street, muttered something about not wanting to do it anymore, and sat down on a bench. I didn't attempt to make calls, I didn't attempt to write cards, I didn't even attempt to smile at anybody walking by. I just sat there. It was a moment of real distress. And although I fought it off, those moments kept coming back and kept coming back. There was the moment at the beginning of a planning session last transfer, my first in Gijon, when I finished the prayer, laid down on the floor and started crying because I felt that although we were trying and fighting and walking literally miles every single day, nobody was progressing or even accepting what we were trying to teach them or even say to them. There were the little moments on the street, getting hit by the unexpected feelings of extreme homesickness, triggered by things as random as people eating together in bars or seeing Rafa Nadal on street signs. Like, who thought seeing a picture of Rafa in Spain would make me miss Utah, eh? Anyways. That's just how it was going, there for awhile. In the meantime, I was praying really, really hard. And even though I felt like God wasn't listening, I kept on praying. They were sort of desperate, sad sort of prayers. Without a lot of hope, but I kept on praying and I kept on working the best I could. We improved our teaching, we worked with the branch, we expressed love for people even when it was hard to feel it. We did our best.

And then God sent us this week. Because you know what? God is a loving God. That is a true statement. God loves us so, so much. I've never been so convinced.

It started last Sunday, the beginning of our second transfer together. We sat down together and decided that the work goes a whole lot better when we're happy about it. We looked back at all the times when we felt really down and realized that the work subsequently went really down, as well. So we just made the decision to be happy. It was as simple as that. We decided to do all that would could, trust in God, and let Him do His work through us, and just to let the results be what they were. It was a good decision.

Then, on Wednesday, we had one of the most solid district meetings that I've ever attended. Our district leader, Elder Maxfield, talked about success and what it truly means to be a successful missionary. He asked my companion and I to both speak about times when we've felt successful. Preparing for that talk was a little bit hard, because I realized, as I looked back upon my mission, I have never quite known what success truly is. I've always, always, always ended up feeling like a failure missionary, or like I'm never going to succeed. But as I was preparing for that talk, I realized that the reason that always happened is because I have no idea what defines success for me. So I told my district that. I expressed gratitude to Elder Maxfield for listening to the Spirit and assigning me that topic, because I realized that I needed to define success for myself and for my mission. It was a clarifying moment for me, and I realized that although I may be a successful missionary, I will never recognize it until I know what success actually is.

There was a lot of little things that happened this week that I look back and see that it was truly the hand of God, working towards helping me and those around me. God was answering my prayers little by little. And then, we met the new mission president and his wife and family. They were amazing. It was such a defining experience in my mission. We had a zone conference in Oviedo and, seeing as our zone is pretty small, we all got some quality one on one time with the new President and his wife. They both presented messages about obedience, about how much they loved us and about how much they love Jesus Christ. The Spirit was there in a way that I've never felt it before. It was just so powerful. And I had the distinct and clear impression that God loves me. And that Jesus Christ atoned for me. He knows me. And that they were both working together to give me a second chance. I don't consider anything in my mission, up until this point, a failure. I have made mistakes and I have been tired, but all those tired times and mistake ridden days have gotten me to the point where I needed, more than anything else, the Atonement of Jesus Christ to take place in my life. And I felt as if last Friday was a point of starting over again. It was a point of repentance, and that is why I feel so overwhelmed with gratitude and love right now. I had the chance to talk to President Pack and just tell him how anxious I was to do the Lord's will. I told him how little I care about leadership positions, about the cool areas where I could serve or about the numbers that seemingly define success. I told him that I just wanted to do the Lords will. And I think, in that moment, I was given a blank slate. I felt it, I think he felt it. And that is the miracle of the Atonement.

I went to bed on Friday night with such a sweet spirit surrounding me. And it hasn't left. It's the peace that surpasseth all understanding, and I know it's comes from my Heavenly Father. I feel the joy that comes from the Gospel, and now, I finally can say that I know why I am here. I feel as if I am a changed person. I can't really explain why. It was just like every prayer I've ever prayed, every answer I've ever needed, every time I've pleaded with Heavenly Father to just let me know that He really is there- He saved them all and then gave me all that I was asking for and more, in a few simple, short hours in a zone conference in Oviedo. I can't even.. There aren't words. I love my Heavenly Father, and I know my older brother, Jesus Christ, is there. He is always there. He is right by our sides, always, helping us do what we cannot do on our own. I hope that everyone can have the chance to come to the knowledge that I have come to. And that hope is what will drive me for the rest of my mission, and for the rest of my life, as well. Nothing else compares to the love that God has for us, and the love that He is willing to show for us, if we just listen. Any sacrifice, any change, any good things put away for better- it is worth it to feel what I have felt in the last four days. I want to feel this way forever. I want to continue to change. And I will.

Ok. I'll try to wrap up the sermon with some more details of the great things that have happened this week. Sorry to get preachy. But hey, it's what I do.

Number one is P. She's this 15 year old Dominican girl that we found in her house. We contacted her mom on the street, and she invited us over to teach her and her daughter, P. We had a great first lesson, and invited them to come to church. M., the mom, couldn't, but P. could. And she came. She also read the chapter in the Book of Mormon, loved it, and has been telling us how much she loved Nefi, how stupid his brothers are, etc.  She had now come to church twice, various church activities, has become best friends with an investigator of the Elders that is also very awesome, and has accepted the invitation to be baptized. We don't have a date because we have yet to be able to talk to her mom, but she's so sweet and just loves the Gospel. She's a miracle and I can't figure out why we were so blessed to find her, but we were. And we love her.

There is also Y., another 15 year old. She's highly spiritual and loves what we teach her. She hasn't been able to come to church yet, but she has a lot of potential. I feel like she has a special spirit and that God just really, really loves her. Found her on the street, and although we have a lot to go with her, she is really special.

We are teaching a plethora of other people right now, and that in itself is a miracle. Finding is hard here, but the people that we have found are such blessings. The branch is amazing, as well. My companion is an angel. Such a blessing in my life. I'm so grateful to be where I am. I wouldn't have it any other way.

Gospel Doctrine Selfie

Church in Gijon

I love my compa!

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