Sunday, July 11, 2010

Whoa!

Sunday, July 11, 2010
When you think that there is nothing more that can go wrong, you might want to reconsider what you are thinking. The reason I say this is because, literally, EVERYTHING that could have gone wrong did. At least Spain won the world cup!!!! The game was so freaking awesome!!!! I think that is what has kept me sane through this whole mess of a week. Any who...I honestly hope that everything went well for all of you and that you are all safe, healthy, and happy. I have learned a lot this week, despite the chaos that has gone around here. The quote that says "whatever doesn't kill you, makes you stronger" is soo true. The good news is that we are safe and healthy, that is such a blessing that I never really appreciated before.

So onto all the "chisme" of the mission, where do I begin. I will start with what came most recently. Elder Carroll last night got in a huge bike accident and had to be rushed to the emergency room. A neighbor, I might add a drunk African American lady, called an ambulance as she was sitting on her porch and saw the entire thing. Crazy huh? Elder Hoggan called and told us that we had to go pick up because the ambulance people didn't quite understand the whole idea of companionships because they said family only can go in the ambulance. After all, our companions are our family for, at least, 6 weeks. Anyways he was left stranded there waiting for a supposed cop that was supposed to come, so he was all alone waiting in the middle of Wilmington. So we rushed over to the hospital and I tried to frantically call the mission president and his wife and after an hour of calling they finally answered. At first they didn't understand the situation (but that is probably because they were in shock) but they finally got organize and headed to the hospital. Elder Carroll is pretty banged up, the front windshield is all smashed, as well as the hood, and unfortunately he doesn't remember anything that has happened in the last 4 weeks. Also, his face is pretty messed up BUT he released late last night, if it wasn't early morning. Please pray for him and his family that he will be able to continue his mission after this whole ordeal is situated. Now if that wasn't enough bad/interesting news, the Santoyo family dropped on Saturday after we had an awesome lesson with them about the commandments the night before. It was so awesome because we talked about their baptism that was coming up and the mom and the kids were all excited and were asking all the questions like "Do we have to buy white clothes? Am I ready? Do I have to do anything before then? Oh my gosh let me get a pen I have to put this on my calender!" I was in CVS trying to copy some pictures for Tracy and the fam when the husband called and said "Thanks so much for everything that you have done for me and my family, but I talked to my family and we decided that we don't want to continues with any of this. We thank you for the invitation
and I thank you for the effort that put of me but I'm not interested, I actually have been avoiding you and since I'm the head of the house what I say goes." Whoa. I definitely didn't see that one coming. They were all doing so well, except for the husband, of course. We were both depressed and frustrated at the situation because they were the only people that had baptismal dates within the transfer. I think that once again the Lord is really trying to teach me something about His timing and also, that this is His work not ours. After all, if it is our work and our timing, the mission wouldn't be too difficult and we wouldn't really learn anything from it. Hopefully we will be able to settle things in the coming weeks, but we as missionaries are not going to go there anymore to not cause a bigger problem with the husband. The Bishop and the Relief Society President said that they would stop by and try to figure things out with them, but it's all up to the Lord what happens with them. It's really frustrating though, not going to lie.

Moving on from the bad news, we still have some investigators. Victoria is still hanging in there. We have been working with her for awhile but she hasn't gone anywhere, so we might have to drop her. I hate dropping people, have I ever said that before? The Sisters found a really awesome family, Marta, who has a 4 kids and a husband. We taught her and her daughter the first discussion and talked about the importance of prophets, and they both really liked it. We left them with a baptismal date for August 1st and to not repeat history, like with the Santoyo Family, we are not going to work with them unless the husband goes somewhere with the family as well. They seem ready to me, at least. They had been taught before but had never gone to church, and as a manner of fact haven't gone to church, in general, in a really long time. We received them as a referral from a member that had talked with the wife at a dentist appointment and I guess that she said that she wouldn't mind having the missionaries over again. Even though, we have had some disappointments during this past week, we have seen,once again, that the Lord is providing and helping us along the way. Hopefully, they will progress and be able to enter the waters of baptism and enjoy the blessings of going to the temple, and be sealed to their family for time and all eternity. I'm so thankful for the gospel and for the knowledge of why we go through hard things, because to me that gives me confidence that, at least, it is supposed to happen and second, that it is for our own good. Another interesting story that happened this week, was that I had to give two talks this last Sunday. Apparently, I have been thought of a lot and am in high regards with people. It's a little strange. So on Thursday I got a call from one of the members of the high council and they said, "Elder Leavell", "yes", "We have been think a lot about you and we decided to pick you to speak at the Carson Ward this Sunday." First off, I'm not in that ward and, second, the Carson ward is an English ward, so it's not even in the language that I'm called to serve in. Then Saturday night I get a phone call from Bishop Madrid, our Ward Mission Leader, saying that he was thinking of me and he wanted me to take his spot and talk in the Harbor 3rd Ward. So I had to do one in English and one in Spanish.

So here is the one that I wrote in English:

A wise person once wrote:

"Master, where shall I work today?
My love flowed warm and free.
He pointed out a tiny spot.
And said, tend that for me.

I answered quickly, oh no, not there.
Not any one could see
No matter how well my work was done;
Not that little spot for me.

When He spoke He was not stern,
But He answered me tenderly,
Little one, search that heart of thine;
Are you working for them or for me?
Nazareth was just a little place.
And so was Galilee.

As a missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints we do such everyday-not because we have to but because we have been called to tend this part of the vineyard and have been found ready to love the people, just as the Savior. I'm so grateful for the opportunity to serve, to serve with love because I know that this gospel changes lives and I know it because I'm the product of this work.

As many raised in the gospel, the thought of becoming a missionary is a long term goal, a golden treasure, or, in other words, the highest honor. I, on the other hand, never thought of becoming a white shirted nerd but when I came to know and believe the gospel of Jesus Christ the thought of being a missionary was natural. I first encountered the missionaries after the STRONG encouragement of some member friends that wagered me that I could not be Mormon for a week. I took that wager and went to seminary (even though it was WAY early in he morning and even past the fact I was struggling going to school), tried my best to adjust my language, my weekend habits, and went to church for all 3 extraneous hours. Not going to lie, I didn't feel much different than what I was doing at the baptist I was going to with my parents. I didn't feel much different because I left that week at that and didn't think much about it. That was until I decided to meet with the missionaries and hear what they had to say. I don't remember what they told me, I don't remember what trey showed me but from them on it changed my life. To confirm this belief my parents asked me to meet with their pastor and boy was I scared because all I knew about the church was some boy prayed and saw Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. Before I met with him I prayed more fervently than I had ever before, most likely, to know if what I heard was true and I asked him to give me a sign if it was, a sign of knowledge. I testify to you that I received such knowledge. When the pastor started to ask me about baptism and where it said it was required in the Bible, I was shown, and I was shown every time I was asked a question. I got baptized a year later, when I was 18. Two years later I'm here on a mission being a white shirted, changed guy, having served a year already. Yes it has not been easy to get to this point but neither was it for the Savior, all He said was that it is worth it.

I remember a story given to us during a General Conference session, it said:
"In 1968 a marathon runner by the name of John Stephen Akhwari represented Tanzania in an international competition. 'A little over an hour after [the winner] had crossed the finish line, John Stephen Akhwari...approached the stadium, the last man to complete the journey. [Though he was suffering from fatigue, leg cramps, dehydration, and disorientation,] a voice called from within to go on, and so he went on. Afterwards, it was written, "Today we have seen a young African runner who symbolizes the finest in human spirit, a performance that gives meaning to the word courage. For some the only reward is a personal one. [There are no medals, only] the knowledge that they finished what they set out to do." When asked why he would complete a race he could never win, Akhwari replied, "My country did not send me 5,000 miles to start the race; my country sent me to finish the race." He knew who he was-an athlete representing the country of Tanzania. He knew his purpose-to finish the race. He knew that he had to endure to the finish, so that he could honorably return home to Tanzania." Elder Hales continued, "Our mission in life is much the same. We were not sent by Father in Heaven just to be born. We were sent to endure and return to Him with honor...We learn to endure to the end by learning to finish out current responsibilities, and we simply continue doing it all of our lives. We cannot expect to learn endurance in our later years if we have developed the habit of quitting when things get difficult now."

The same can be applied to missionary work. As members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints we are not only asked to endure but, also, help those that stand in need of comfort and mourn with those that mourn. That's our baptismal covenant, brothers and sisters. We, as members, have the benefit to be a little ahead, in some circumstances, in our race to our Heavenly Father because we have the gospel, BUT there are many that are without. I have seen that as a missionary, I'm not only running through my own personal trials but, also, running back to help those that are facing trials of their own. Yes, it's exhausting; yes, we become weak; yes, we get injured; and yes, we are sometimes damaged, but yet, we still go out and walk the streets of Los Angeles because we love the people. We have all heard the scriptures, "(45)And charity suffereth long, and is kind, and envieth not, and is not puffed up, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil, and rejoiceth not in iniquity but rejoiceth in the truth, beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things. (46)Wherefore, my beloved brethren, if ye have not charity, ye are nothing, for charity never faileth. Wherefore, cleave unto charity, which is the greatest of all, for all things must fail— (47)But charity is the pure love of Christ, and it endureth forever; and whoso is found possessed of it at the last day, it shall be well with him." But wouldn't it be great to apply and live it? When we develop a natural love for everyone, we are able to carry the burdens of others and the reason is because of charity. The reason why these scriptures are so famous is because the Savior did just that. He showed and did everything with charity. We are also asked to do the same, and the wonderful blessing is that we can also reach the same potential as Him—meaning that we can also carry things that we could not possibly carry on our own. Additional strength is a promised blessing when we do these things.

I challenge all of you to take a leap of faith, a leap to better serve others, to magnify and take advantage of our baptismal covenant. I know that we will be blessed for our service, when we do so with charity, not because we want the blessings and not because we have to. I know no better way to do this, than the way Harry Ward Beecher showed us, he said:

"If you want your neighbor to see what Christ's spirit will do for [them], let [them] see what it has done for you."

I know that this Church is true and that everything that the church professes is true. I know that we will receive additional strength to carry the burdens of others, and I know this because I'm currently and will do this during my mission. Take the leap of faith and you will be blessed.

I love you all and hope you have a great week.

Elder Leavell

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