Monday, October 26, 2015

Family Reunion

This was about the most up and down week ever. Here's a sum-up:

Monday: I manage to leave the keys in the apartment, and without any way to contact the landlady and the back up keys hours away in the offices in Quito we had to go and sleep with the zone leaders for the night. I thought it was pretty funny, but we lost our appointments. The good thing is that President and the assistants were already scheduled to be here in Otavalo the next day so they dropped off the back-up keys without any problem and we got back in.

Tuesday: We found a new couple to teach! A huge blessing, considering the fact that we've had almost no new investigators these weeks. They might not progress at all because they're pretty catholic but it's cool because we found them contacting and it just so happens that the brother of the husband is the high priest group leader in our ward. Built-in fellowshipper.

Wednesday: We were with President receiving training. It was pretty great because I got to see a bunch of people I hadn't seen in a while (there were two zones there in the training), including my "parents" in the mission, Elder Budge and Elder McPhie! I hadn't seen Elder McPhie since like January so it was great. He's an awesome missionary, and now serving as a zone leader in the other zone.

Thursday: Surprise divisions with the zone leaders. It wasn't a very good day but my zone leader taught my something incredibly important.

I've felt like something has been missing from the work I'm doing as a missionary and I think I received at least part of the answer. It makes me remember a talk that a Seventy gave in the April Conference about the "Music of the Gospel." Basically, if we do the dance steps but don't hear the music it doesn't work at all. And I think I've been pretty deaf to the music, which is charity. It doesn't matter how much work we do or how obedient we are - if we don't do it with charity, it doesn't matter at all. Really, everything Christ did was motivated by love. So it should be with us, too. Paul explains it best: 

 1 Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels,and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.

 2 And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have al lfaith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing.

 3 And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity,it profiteth me nothing.

Friday: We found a new less-active to teach and his non-member wife!

Saturday and Sunday: Probably two of the worst days on my mission. On Saturday we almost literally had nothing. Just a few contacts. Every single appointment fell through.

I'm not sure why things are happening. It's hard to know when they're just the things that happen or if we're doing something wrong.

But things will get better.

Something one of our assistants said Wednesday really, really struck me. He said in effect "You'd better get used to doing this work now. Because it's not like it's going to stop after the grave. No, it just keeps going. In the spirit world, and for all of eternity. This is the work you'll be doing. So get used to it, and love it."

It reminded me of something in Brad Wilcox's excellent discourse on grace:

I know a young man who just got out of prison—again. Each time two roads diverge in a yellow wood, he takes the wrong one—every time. When he was a teenager dealing with every bad habit a teenage boy can have, I said to his father, “We need to get him to EFY.” I have worked with that program since 1985. I know the good it can do.

His dad said, “I can’t afford that.”

I said, “I can’t afford it either, but you put some in, and I’ll put some in, and then we’ll go to my mom, because she is a real softy.”

We finally got the kid to EFY, but how long do you think he lasted? Not even a day. By the end of the first day he called his mother and said, “Get me out of here!” Heaven will not be heaven for those who have not chosen to be heavenly.

In the past I had a picture in my mind of what the final judgment would be like, and it went something like this: Jesus standing there with a clipboard and Brad standing on the other side of the room nervously looking at Jesus.

Jesus checks His clipboard and says, “Oh, shoot, Brad. You missed it by two points.”

Brad begs Jesus, “Please, check the essay question one more time! There have to be two points you can squeeze out of that essay.” That’s how I always saw it.

But the older I get, and the more I understand this wonderful plan of redemption, the more I realize that in the final judgment it will not be the unrepentant sinner begging Jesus, “Let me stay.” No, he will probably be saying, “Get me out of here!” Knowing Christ’s character, I believe that if anyone is going to be begging on that occasion, it would probably be Jesus begging the unrepentant sinner, “Please, choose to stay. Please, use my Atonement—not just to be cleansed but to be changed so that you want to stay.”

The miracle of the Atonement is not just that we can go home but that—miraculously—we can feel at home there. If Christ did not require faith and repentance, then there would be no desire to change. Think of your friends and family members who have chosen to live without faith and without repentance. They don’t want to change. They are not trying to abandon sin and become comfortable with God. Rather, they are trying to abandon God and become comfortable with sin. If Jesus did not require covenants and bestow the gift of the Holy Ghost, then there would be no way to change. We would be left forever with only willpower, with no access to His power. If Jesus did not require endurance to the end, then there would be no internalization of those changes over time. They would forever be surface and cosmetic rather than sinking inside us and becoming part of us—part of who we are. Put simply, if Jesus didn’t require practice, then we would never become pianists.

Pretty great stuff, huh? Well, I know God's grace is sufficient for us. And it's something I need to be constantly reminded of out here. More than anything I know he loves us, and that's got to be one of the most important things I can teach people out here.

Hope you all have a good week!

 I ate oyster (I think?) today. I'm sure it's not as good as what you can get in the coast, but I liked it.
OH and I received some great news that one of the people I was working with in my last sector, Dina, got baptized! The guy on the right is my old companion!

                                        Me and my companion from the MTC. Great guy.

The Zone

The Plaza de Ponchos, where lots of people buy the native handicrafts.

I've been in the same zone as the guy on the right for like half my mission up till now and I had the good luck of seeing him Wednesday as well. We're good friends, so that means he can take selfies with my camera without punishment.

With my trainers!

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