Hello all and happy Easter!
I apologize profusely for the short email last week. I had less than an hour to check and respond to emails. I have much more time this week, around two hours!
I am serving in Caldwell, Idaho! I really can't believe I'm here. God has blessed me so much and I've had several experiences that have proved to me that I am supposed to be here at this time.
What I do in a typical day:
-Wake up at 6:30am
-Go outside for a brief run/walk as the sun is rising. I can see the mountains in the distance as my companion, Elder Mosher, and I run. It's beautiful.
-Prepare for the day which includes eating breakfast. I'm about to polish off a box of Cap'n Crunch that a family gave to us after one of our visits.
-Study the Bible, Book of Mormon and other Church materials for an hour on my own.
-Study with my companion for another two hours. He is my trainer, which means he is helping me adjust to missionary life and understand how I can become the missionary the Lord desires me to become. We both learn, so we are really training each other.
-Eat lunch. We just bought a huge ham (Easter deals!) and are going to be having sandwiches for a while! Delicious!
-Afternoon work: bike around, talk to people, visit people who are learning about the restored Gospel of Jesus Christ and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, bike around, visit members of the Church, bike around, help people, and did I mention biking? The winds here can be fierce, but overall the land is flat which makes traveling easier.
-Dinner is over at a Church member's house. We get to know them and their family, eat all their food, and then share a message with them. It has been a blessing to get to know so many people and they are so nice! I've only been here for two weeks, but already I feel like I've known some people for a lot longer.
-More missionary work and visiting/teaching. Typically, we get driven around in a Church members' vehicle from place to place and they visit people with us.
-Return home and record everything that happened during the day in our journals and other paperwork. We review the day and think/pray about the people we've met and are teaching. We set goals for the next day and plan accordingly.
Within this framework, I've had several great experiences. We were visiting a Church member family on Mon. Apr. 7 and after eating peach cobbler after dinner, we were invited to their Family Home Evening. It's typically called FHE and is basically a family meeting that Church members are encouraged to hold in their homes on Monday evening. Everyone participates, whether through giving a lesson, praying, singing a hymn, making treats, telling stories, creating an activity, or any other family bonding moment that FHE may include. It's all about strengthening the family and the relationships within it.
That evening, one of the daughters gave a lesson about the Restoration of the Church and specifically the First Vision (http://www.mormon.org/beliefs/restoration). The mother asked her children some questions about it. Specifically, she asked them why God wants us to choose Him as our Father in Heaven and obey His commandments. One of the girls, 5 yrs old, answered, "When we do bad things Heavenly Father and Jesus feel sad." My heart melted.
People seek after knowledge in this world. This is good. However, many people become prideful in what they know and it becomes a competition in life to know and understand more than someone else. I know I've felt this way and it really doesn't make me feel good about myself in the long run. Many times, the understanding of little children far surpasses that of us adults. Jesus Christ told his disciples that they had to become like little children in order to enter the kingdom of heaven. I believe this is true. It doesn't mean I can't seek for more knowledge and understanding. It's all about my attitude and how I use that understanding in becoming a more humble, sincere, and loving person. Again, children are often way ahead of us on this effort. I'm trying.
My challenge to you this week is to identify a trait that children have, like humility, and to identify a part of your life where you could develop that trait in your own life. Many of you may have relatives who are little children. Try to pay more attention to them. I believe that as you do, you can simplify your life and also develop a more positive outlook on life. I will be trying this week to do the same. We can do this together!
Another great experience was Apr. 12. Two people were baptized and confirmed members of the Church! When a person is baptized into the Church, they are making a sacred covenant with God promising to remember Him and His Son, Jesus Christ, keep His commandments, serve their fellowman, and live worthy of the Holy Ghost. The baptism is done by complete immersion, which is symbolic of Christ's death and resurrection as well as the death of the person's old life and rebirth into a new spiritual life in Christ. It washes away all past sins of the person being baptized. Baptism is followed by confirmation where the person receives the gift of the Holy Ghost. They also become members of the Church through the confirmation. Being baptized is a mark of great faith in Christ and a desire to follow Him and apply His Atonement in your life.
The two people who were baptized and confirmed had been taught and developed a strong faith in Christ prior to Elder Mosher and I arriving in the area. We have been getting to know both of them and they are awesome people! One gave up smoking and is the last person in his immediate family to be baptized. He is the father in the family and so his wife was very emotional during the baptism service. The other person was a woman who is married to a Church member and her husband was the one who baptized her.
During the service I met a woman who has a son currently serving in Minnesota! Elder Gertsy (sp?) is his name, I believe. I strongly believe that there are no such things as coincidences. We meet people in our lives for a reason.
In addition to all our missionary work, the missionaries gather together once a week for either Zone meetings or District meetings. Basically, a group of missionaries in an area is a district and a group of missionaries in a larger geographical area is a Zone. My companion is actually a District Leader, so he oversees and helps all the missionaries in our district. We have 6 Sister missionaries in our district, four Elders, and one Senior missionary couple. It's already apparent that the Sisters are way better missionaries and better people than us Elders. So real life applies in the mission life as well. I have been learning a lot from these Sisters and Elders and have been able to get to know them gradually. We all visited a Seminary building last Friday morning to hold a panel discussion among the students there. Seminary is the name for the religious education the youth of the Church can receive during high school.
I hope you all are doing well and that you have an enjoyable Easter weekend. Easter is a fantastic time to remember what Christ went through and begin to develop and strengthen Him. http://easter.mormon.org/ The great thing is that every day can be Easter because we can remember Him anytime.
"He is not here, but is risen: remember how he spake unto you when he was yet in Galilee, Saying, The Son of man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again. And they remembered his words." - Luke 24:6-8
Have a wonderful Easter! Spend time with family and love them. I am thinking and praying for you.