It was great to talk to you all. It was short but great to feel of your love and support and to hear your voices.
I am thankful for this Christmas season. I have been feeling better this Christmas Season than in any other time in my life. I think it is amazing that despite our distance, the difference in the culture and people, the different food, etc, I can feel the same spirit of Christmas. It asks us to love one another. It asks us to serve and be an example to the believers. It asks us to be a little more like the Christ who saved us all.
This week we were busy with conferences. I think it was the most tiring week of the mission. But I have felt the promise of the Priesthood fulfilled in that I have had a renewal of my body and spirit by magnifying my calling. While I was filling up water balloons in the wee hours of the night I asked myself if the Lord was happy with my sacrifice. I asked myself when the food was served, the games were planned, etc. if what I was doing was His will. A sweet feeling came. It was a special week.
I think about the simple Nativity in which many people were gathered to worship their King. Were the humble shepherds any less important than the later visiting kings from the orient who brought extravagant gifts of great value? In my opinion, Christ could have cared less about the frankincense and gold. He didn't care so much about being born in a stable either. It doesn't matter so much what gift we give the master for Christmas so much as we are there at his feet offering the best thing we can. I have offered my life as a sacrifice for him. I might not offer much but I do my best so that He will accept my gift. He is the Savior of the World, the only Begotten of the Father. He is the man who saved us all! I honor and praise His holy name.
Thank you family for being such great examples. May this Christmas day be one of peace and tranquility! May the Savior´s sacrifice and love towards all of us be shown upon our faces and our actions. I love you. May God bless you and may you all have a Merry little Christmas.
Elder Grant Russell
Saturday, December 25, 2010
Saturday, December 18, 2010
Well family another week passed and I can hardly believe that I am writing you again. It was one crazy week.
We have been running around like crazy to find things and prepare things for the Christmas Devotional and Celebration. It will be on Tuesday and Wednesday so we have very little time left now. I think I have felt more like an Elf in Santa’s workshop this week than a missionary, but in the end it is fulfilling. I will be happy to see the missionaries’ faces when they get to experience the conference. It will make all of the work we did worthwhile. I am beginning to understand how the parents feel when they wake up Christmas morning after having spent the whole night wrapping Christmas gifts. The season after all is about giving and I feel like I am beginning to understand the true meaning of Christmas.
But how is the family doing? I bet everyone is getting ready for Christmas day now with only a week left before the bells chime on that Sacred, special day. Where is everyone going to have Christmas anyway? I ask because we are going to have to have everything ready for the phone call. I will get only 40 minutes to talk so I hope that everyone can plan out their questions and such. It will be the shortest 40 minutes ever. I will call Christmas day but I will have a one minute phone call soon to say at what time exactly. But plan out a time when it would be best for everyone. Don’t worry about phone cards or any of that. It is really cheap to call the states from Nicaragua. Plus I will probably just call from the office and not pay anything. Great huh?
Despite the little time we had in the field, there were several experiences that I have had that have strengthened my testimony. Last Sunday we went to visit Danilo and his wife after church. He has been progressing miraculously with his goal to stop smoking and I couldn’t help marvel at what the atonement is doing for him. Three weeks ago we met the man in church and we gave him a Priesthood blessing to stop smoking. At that time he smoked two or more packets a day. When we asked him how he was doing with his smoking he said that he had only smoked one cigarette. He said that he didn’t really want to smoke anymore because he didn’t have a desire. He actually ended up giving cigarettes away and he denied to smoke to a neighbor. After teaching the first lesson, we testified that what had made his recovery from addiction possible was the power of the priesthood. As we drove away, tears came to my eyes and I realized that God really has given me His power to help His children here on Earth. I felt so grateful to have been able to exercise my Priesthood. I know that it is the power of God delegated to man to help God’s children come back into His presence.
It is truly amazing to see a person repent of their sins and come unto Jesus Christ. I know that He forgives us when we truly repent.
“I shall lengthen out mine arm unto them from day to day, they will deny me; nevertheless, I will be merciful unto them, saith the Lord God, if they will repent and come unto me; for mine arm is lengthened out all the day long, saith the Lord God of Hosts.” (2 Nephi 28:32)
I know that Christ is my Redeemer. I know He lives and that He works among the children of men. His Atonement is infinite in power and reach. It reaches the people here in Nicaragua. It has reached me in my own personal life. It will continue to bless all who earnestly seek its divine power. I am thankful for my Savior Jesus Christ. I love him. I serve Him as best I can. May we take advantage fully of the Atonement of Christ in our lives.
Elder Grant Russell
Saturday, December 11, 2010
We are another week closer to Christmas and the excitement is setting in. It is beginning to look a lot like Christmas here in Nicaragua. We have the normal Christmas stuff: lights on tin houses (half don't work and most strands are up all year long), roundabouts with large Christmas trees (instead of a large star you find Sandanista political party propaganda), people selling Nacatamales and coca cola (the Christmas jam of Nicaragua), and Spanish Christmas music in the streets. Ha ha, it is different but it feels like home. Kind of strange how it all seems so normal now.
The Christmas season brings many scenes from Christ’s life to my mind. Perhaps the most common image that I longer on is that of the Savior wrapped in Swaddling clothes and laid in a manger. I think of how peaceful he would have been in that small cradle. How very different was His life in that moment than only a little time before. Several lines from a famous Christmas song capture my thoughts and reflections today:
What Child is this, who, laid to rest?
Do we remember adequately the importance of that singular day when Jesus Christ was born? Who was this small baby boy resting in the arms of Mary?
Why lies He in such mean estate
Where ox and ass are feeding?
What made the God of this world give up mansions and thrones and glory to be wrapped up in something so unfitting of his eternal majesty?
On Mary's lap, is sleeping?
Nails, spear, shall pierce Him through,
The Cross be borne, for me, for you.
Maybe this of all nights would be the most restful. He would spend his life serving others, taking upon himself much suffering and heartache. His cross and ours He would bear willingly.
So bring Him incense, gold and myrrh;
Come peasant, king, to own Him.
What gift can we really give the king who had it all but gave it all up?
Joy, joy, for Christ is born,
The Babe, the Son of Mary!
What joy comes into our hearts as we think that through His sacrifice we can be clean from sin! We can live with God again because Christ came to this Earth. If we can but have faith in His name, repent, and keep His commandments and endure to the end, the importance of the birth of Jesus Christ and his life take on their full effect.
Serving as a missionary for the Lord in this holiday season is priceless. I wouldn’t want to do anything else. This week I read a wonderful verse in Doctrine and Covenants that I would like to share.
Lifting up your voices as with the sound of a trump, proclaiming the truth according to the revelations and commandments which I have given you.
It is a pleasure to serve the King of Kings. I am thankful that He chose to come. I know that He was born of Mary, a virgin, and that He is literally the son of God. Were it not so I could not have received the remission of my sins in his name nor would I have seen so many others experience the same. I know that He live and died for me and that He was resurrected the third day. He loves us and just wants us to obey him. May we do so is my prayer.
Elder Grant Russell
Saturday, December 4, 2010
Well family, it was nice to hear from you last week. I really enjoyed the photos that you sent of the family and the grandkids. Hey…but what a way to find out Joy is pregnant!? Sheesh. I was a little surprised about it but at the same time I thought that it might happen before I got home. Congratulations to her and Josh. It will be nice to have one more little sobrinito to hug when I get home. When will the baby be born by the way? I assume about when I get home right? I will be teaching him or her Spanish words before he or she learns to speak in English ha ha.
So the week was really busy again. 19 new missionaries came and 4 left, including Elder Miller who was in the office as a special retention assignment elder. It was interesting to see the wide range of emotions that come with missionaries leaving and coming. All come and go with a great excitement but the missionary leaves differently than when he came. He leaves knowing much more and being much more like Jesus Christ. There is a special spirit with the missionary that has honorably served our Savior and King for the full time required.
We spent a lot of late nights and early mornings getting things ready this week because of the changes. It gave me a lot more time to think about the service that I have been giving as financer. I have been doing my best so that everything goes well with Housing, payments, new areas, etc but at times it is overwhelming. I ask myself at times if all of this service is worthwhile in God’s kingdom. Haven’t we all felt like that at times…a busy mother who slaves away doing laundry and house work or perhaps a father who works late hours to provide for his children. Perhaps a Bishop passes precious night hours in interviews with troubled ward members, a nursery leader tries to round up the little ones for organized play time or a home teacher goes the extra mile to help an inactive come back into the fold…does this matter to God? He sees it all. Certainly, everything that we do in service to our fellow beings is of service of God. I know that He is happy when we make our best efforts to serve Him, in whatever it might be.
I have learned in my mission that if we just trust in God, He will always help us to overcome. I thought a lot about how service really just helps us. I feel that in my life the more I serve, the happier I am. Before the mission, I think I worried a lot about where I served, but now I am just worried about serving with all of my heart might mind and strength.
This week we had an awesome activity in our area that helped animate a lot of members. We had a short message and then we played the Christmas version of Simon Says...”Santa Says.” It was great! We challenged each one of the members and recent converts there to give a gift to Jesus Christ this Christmas by sharing the gospel with others. We handed out a bunch of Christmas videos and everyone was writing down their families and friends’ names to give them the materials. The happiest part of the whole experience for me was that we had the activity in the house of David Berrios. He is someone I baptized over a year ago in Monserrat the first time I was in the area and after the meeting we talked with his wife and him and they have a goal to go to the temple next June. He was really excited.
I love serving my fellow men. I have come up with a saying that helps me to remember that in serving others we are blessed as well: One can’t easily hug another without receiving a hug in return. Every time we help another, we leave just as blessed if not more. That is why I thank the Lord for the opportunity that I have to serve a mission. I love being a missionary. It is the best time of my life. I feel so close to the Savior and I know He hears my prayers. I have never felt such quick answers to my prayers until the mission. Truly, as we serve our fellow beings we are only serving our God.
Elder Grant Russell
Sunday, November 28, 2010
I have felt particularly thankful this week and for good reason. Tis the season to be jolly…and thankful and happy and joyful…I love the holidays. I love the Christmas lights on the roundabouts all over the city. I love that Latin jingle as you walk into the super markets and the classic Christmas music in the mall. There is a special spirit about the holidays.
It was a pretty nice week. We had a simple, normal meal for Thanksgiving but we had a member invite us over for Turkey and it was great! We are also cooking a Turkey dinner for President and his family today. Hopefully it turns out okay. I thought I had more experience in this but it turns out I have only seen Turkeys made for all of these years ha ha. I would be a better taste tester than cook I think ha ha.
I got my package and the sweets are going fast. I love those brownies mom. They taste just like home…at least from what I can remember. The stockings are great, so great in fact that we have them hanging in the office and President put his up in his house. He is very thankful for that mom. He really feels special when people remember to do things like that for his family. I didn’t know how to take the thanks for something I hadn’t done but I told him that I would relay the message.
I am thankful for all of you. I am thankful for your prayers and thoughts on my behalf. My thoughts were turned home for a moment or two here and there this week. I care for you all and miss you but I am super excited to be here for this time of year. I feel that this is the best time of year to teach people about Jesus Christ. Their hearts are open because the season.
I continue to marvel at the change that can come into our lives when we let Jesus in. I have seen serious progress in the lives of many this week that has caused me to think about the infinite power of the atonement. Last Sunday I witnessed the division and official formation of the Borgona Branch in the University Stake. I saw many converts that I had either helped teach in their early months or had seen them get baptized too. It was wonderful to see their excitement as they smiled to me and said that they had now completed a year as members of the church, and still active and strong. I remember the first Sunday when they began to see if La Borgona would be able to be self sufficient. There were only 25 people the first Sunday but now there is a large Branch. It is amazing to see how much people and areas can change.
As of Saturday evening last week we were starting to be a little discouraged because after having worked with so hard with so many families, we still only had a few investigators in church…none of which we considered possibilities for baptism. We had gone three weeks without baptizing and our possibility of going without a baptism was looking like fate. We prayed Saturday night for a miracle. I guess it was a long shot. I don’t really know what we were asking for but God did. We said something like this, “Heavenly Father, we want to baptize and we have been working hard both in the office and in the field. After visiting the investigators tonight we don’t think anyone will come tomorrow to church. We need a family to come tomorrow so we can prepare more for baptism. Please let a family come, even if it means having a member bring their husband or wife whom isn’t a member. Please help us to find these people to teach.”
When we arrived at church, the man was there. Jose Danilo came with his wife that day. He came to see his step sons participate in the Primary program and ended up staying the whole time. He loved it all. He came again today. We gave him a priesthood blessing so that he can stop smoking and be baptized the 18th of December. God really does answer prayers.
On top of that tender mercy of the Lord, I thank Him for letting us find Pilar and her two kids. They had been going to church for some time but for some reason we had misunderstood her. She wasn’t living with her partner anymore and was completely willing to keep the Law of Chastity. She was baptized this week. Thanks to our Heavenly Father in this wonderful time of year that He continues to change people’s lives.
I bear witness of the divine mission of our Savior Jesus Christ. I know that He lives and that He answers our prayers. I am thankful that He permits me to bear His name daily and I strive to be worthy to bear it. I try to have it upon my chest and within my heart at all times. Tis the season to be jolly, thankful, loving, and trusting in our Father in Heaven. We believe in a living Christ who continues to bless our lives. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
Elder Grant Russell
Saturday, November 20, 2010
Patience brings fruit
Thank you for your prayers across the miles. I have definitely felt them this week. I am sad to hear about David Whitney. My prayers are with them in this difficult time. I know that the hands of the Lord are in all things. It is in the trial that we make needed corrections and become more like the Master.
President Monestel and his wife went to a Mission President’s seminar in Guatemala this week and so we ended up taking care of his kids and running a lot of errands. I spent a lot of time in the car to say the least. AS a result, I had a lot of time to reflect on the mission, on my life, on the blessings the Lord gives me daily. The time continues to fly by and I am beginning to realize that I need to take advantage of every minute.
We were teaching Francisco and his sons this week when I received more light. As the scriptures say, precept upon precept, line upon line. I find myself learning new things every day. That is the most amazing thing! Francisco is a recent convert of about 2 months. Like most senior men in Nicaragua, he has been without work, in his case for over a year. When we taught him about the gospel we promised him that if he only put God first, that he would have food and everything else he needed. The amazing thing is that God blesses us immediately after we have been obedient to a given principle. But that can also be a challenge for some. Just after being baptized, he began to find work. The problem is that most times the jobs that come at first are only on Sunday. Many of the recent converts have trouble turning down a job when they have gone without for months or years. They have opportunities to show their faith. Unfortunately, many fall into Satan’s little trap and stop going to church.
Honestly I have seen this problem in many recent converts and less actives. It is almost as if the very blessing which God gives them becomes their vice. I pondered on and thought about how to teach these people. It was in the moment of teaching these three jobless men this week that the Lord gave me clarity. We used a parable like this one in the very moment that we were in the lesson to answer their question. I was taught myself.
A hungry man prays to God one morning, “Please give me food to feed my family. My wife is weak and my children small.” Upon arising from the prayer, the man exercises his faith and goes to the market to look for his answer. As he searches the small stands for something he might eat, his eyes rest upon a small fruit tree. The woman selling the tree throws out an offer, “20 pesos.” He humbly bargains away all that he has and he receives the tree rejoicing. Upon arriving home, he shares his good fortune with his wife and children, telling them of the marvelous fruit which the Lord will give them in years to come. He plants. He waits. He prays.
The days pass. Rain and sunshine couldn't keep this humble man from waiting for the tree to grow. Days turned to weeks and his excitement grew to be greater than his hunger. When the tree reached his height he thought, “Surely, soon the fruit will come.”
He saw the flowers come but the fruit was nowhere in sight. Would God answer his prayer? Where was the food he had asked for so long ago? As the month mark approached, the hunger became too much and his excitement turned into disappointment. His visits became less frequent and his trips to find quick food more common.
It was after such a trip that he took one final look at the tree upon arriving and he quickly decided to cut the tall, robust trunk. “Surely the Lord has proved true,” he thought. “With this tree I can sell wood in the market and buy food for my family!” He removed his axe from the shed and he made his first swings. Several minutes later the tree fell and he began to cut the branches. He collected them neatly and reviewed their lengths to make them uniform. When he grabbed one particular branch he was surprised to see his hand stained red. There was no pain, no cut, no rash. He realized it was something much smaller. There in his hand were the squishy beginnings of the first small tree fruit. The man looked at the fruit and then he looked at the freshly cut branches. He looked upwards slowly and then he fell to his knees and began to cry. If only he had waited.
How many of us give up God’s greatest blessings for partaking when they aren’t fully ripe. Surely God has answered our prayers and provided the ways, but He tries our patience too. Although all obedience has its answer immediately, the fruits require time to grow. These recent converts in impatience have cut the very tree that will give them future spiritual fruit for a simple monetary recompense. How many years would this family have eaten fresh fruit under the branches of a shady tree? Would healthy young children have swung from the branches or happily climbed its long limbs?
Really, much of the disobedience to the commandments (Sunday worship, Law of Chastity, Word of Wisdom, etc) takes root in not being able to see the future fruit behind the trunk of the tree. We put our own time table on God’s blessings and we lose the blessing all together.
I am so grateful for the blessings which our Father in Heaven bestows upon us. Let us not take them wrongly and create our own vice. Let us be patient in the difficult times for there is always something better waiting if we can out wait the natural man.
Elder Grant Russell
Sunday, November 14, 2010
Another week has passed. It has been filled with new trials and hardship and with greater joy and happiness. I find the two go hand in hand surprisingly. Peter said simply,
“The trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ. 1 Peter 1:7
We always teach the investigators that their trials are so that they can learn and improve but many times when we have problems, we lose the faith that we always teach about. Every once in a while the Lord lets us know how well we are living the principles we teach and learn about in church. These are precious experiences. I look back on my mission and I see that the most praiseworthy times were when I was passing the through hard times. Little by little, these experiences have changed me like a fire. I felt the heat at times but I wouldn’t change them for all of the gold in the world.
This week we were teaching Mauricio, a recent convert family’s son about trials. It was our second lesson with him and he had not come to church the past week. When we listened to his doubts and worries about falling into past temptations, the spirit came unto us and we were able to let him know that these trials were opportunities to choose between what is right and wrong. We encouraged him to choose the right and gave him confidence so that he would know that he could make good decisions. He came to Church today and will be blessed for exercising his agency correctly.
With opposition comes the ability to choose and with choice comes the consequences of obedience. Thank goodness we have opposition which principle allows us to be blessed in our lives. Alma 41: 7-8, 14 teaches,
“These are they that are redeemed of the Lord; yea, these are they that are taken out, that are delivered from that endless night of darkness; and thus they stand or fall; for behold, they are their own judges, whether to do good or do evil.
Now, the decrees of God are unatlerable; therefore, the way is prepared that whosoever will may walk therein and be saved.
Therefore, my son, see that you are merciful unto your brethren; deal justly, judge righteously, and do good continually; and if ye do all these things then shall ye receive your reward; yea, ye shall have mercy restored unto you again; ye shall have justice restored unto you again; ye shall have a righteous judgment restored unto you again; and ye shall have good rewarded unto you again.”
Our Heavenly Father wants to bless us so much! If we are obedient to His commandments, we will receive His promised blessings. We are our own judges, passing our own judgement and we are always taught with justly of the Lord. If we do what is right, we receive what is right.
The day after this lesson with Mauricio I was tried too. Suddenly, my role was changed. I became Mauricio and I was the one who needed to see why trials happen. It was tough. I realized that it wasn’t so easy. I asked for a Priesthood blessing and I was comforted in amazing ways. I continue to work and the Lord has blessed me for continuing to trust in Him. My trials this week have helped me to be a little better every day.
One of President Monestel’s mottos is: Am I better today than Yesterday? I can honestly say that through trials I become better. I appreciate them. I thank my Heavenly Father for the opportunity to be better and to realize my weaknesses. I join with Peter in saying that I praise and honor and glory them and that they will help me to be better prepared for when Christ comes. I put them at a value higher than Gold.
Sunday, November 7, 2010
It has been another crazy week in the office. Many days we have little time in the area. I feel like serving the Lord has never been so exhausting haha. But I feel great. I wake up with tired eyes but in good spirits everyday because this is His work and not mine.
At times, I have felt a lot like Alma when he desired to preach the gospel as an angel without stopping…
“ O that I were an angel, and could have the wish of mine heart, that I might go forth and speak with the a trump of God, with a voice to shake the earth, and cry repentance unto every people!” (Alma 29:1)
But just as he did, I have to realize that I have certain responsibilities to attend to and that I need to do what the Lord asks of me.
I felt prompted to read this chapter last night in the Book of Mormon as I was fighting with these thoughts, I felt comforted by verse 10:
“And behold, when I see many of my brethren truly penitent, and coming to the Lord their God, then is my soul filled with joy; then do I remember a what the Lord has done for me, yea, even that he hath heard my prayer; yea, then do I remember his merciful arm which he extended towards me.”
Seeing people change their own lives helps me remember when I changed mine. It helps me remember when I have had the remission of my sins and when I have felt the joy that only comes through obedience to the laws of the gospel.
I know that our Heavenly Father lives. He desires the very best for us and has given us commandments so that we might achieve the joy that comes with obedience to these established laws. I know that Jesus Christ is our redeemer and Savior. He has made it possible for all of us to change, me included. This is His church and Thomas S. Monson is His prophet today. I am thankful for what He teaches through the scriptures. They console us in our hardest times and they truly answer our questions.
This week I had a surprise call from the zone leaders from Las Palmas. They called to tell me that they were about to marry and baptize a family that we had found in Las Palmas before I was transferred. I remember the way the spirit directed us to contact that family and how we literally had to turn backwards after having passed by their house to talk with them. They came the next day to church and then I was transferred. It wasn’t until this week that I heard more news of them. The Lord really does know who is ready. We just need to be prepared. We need to be ready.
Thank you all for your prayers. They strengthen my spirit always. You are always in my prayers as well.
Saturday, October 30, 2010
Hello to everyone from Nicaragua!
It has been a crazy week here in the office. We were busy all week with a visit from Elder Falabella of the Presidency of Central America. He came Monday and left Friday and we were busy all day long every day with conferences and every behind the scenes. It makes me appreciate all of the work that goes on behind General Conference, Stake Activities, etc because when you have to plan something this big, it requires a lot of effort. We had another week without much time in the area but the Lord continues to bless us outside the office for the work we do inside the office. We had two baptisms and the office in total baptized 7 for the week and it was a great experience.
I was particularly impressed by Elder Falabella’s teachings in the conference about the atonement of Jesus Christ. He talked about “the why” behind missionary work. As missionaries, we sometimes get so focused on numbers, teaching lessons, baptizing, church attendance, etc that we forget why we are here. He explained that our biggest desire to serve the Gospel of Jesus Christ should come from our inner testimony of the atonement knowing that NOT EVEN ONE of God’s children can be saved from their awful state without it. We do it out of love for Him and appreciation for His atonement.
Joseph Smith said it like this, ““A man filled with the love of God, is not content with blessing his family alone, but ranges through the whole world, anxious to bless the whole human race”
As disciples of Him who only showed love, true love, we must reach out to others to help them come back. We offer them an inner peace and happiness. It is attainable only through our message of faith in Jesus Christ, repentance, baptism and receiving the holy Ghost, and enduring to the end. I am so grateful that our Father in Heaven has permitted me to be in this mission. I feel like it is everything I could have ever hoped for it to be and more. The experiences are endless the testimony building experiences daily. I love the mission!
Today Rolando and Orquiedia were baptized. They have a neat story. They have been coming to church now for almost 3 months. They haven’t missed a Sunday. They hadn’t been baptized up until now because he had to get divorced before they could get married. Finally everything worked out. I am amazed at their sacrifice. They have paid tithing. They have fasted and prayed and given offerings. They have participated in service at the church by cutting down long overgrowth in front and Rolando even went a few times when no one else was there to keep up with the work. They are faithful saints. Not to mention that they make the thirty minute walk to church one way every Sunday and every time we baptize on Saturday. I don’t think there have been more than one or two baptisms in the three months now in the office that I have where they haven’t been there. Yet she doesn’t know how to read and he stumbles over the words. Their testimonies are strong and their faith shows it. I have felt like I am in the presence of Kings in their humble home.
Wilman was also baptized and he is so excited to be a member. He has been reading the Book of Mormon and wants to know more about the doctrine. He will be a future missionary for sure. I am amazed at his progress.
I continue to stand all amazed at the power of the Atonement. It changes us. It makes us better. I don’t know how Jesus Christ was able to suffer for my own sins and all of those which have ever been committed. I can’t understand it. But I appreciate it. I have felt the cleansing power of the atonement. I feel like everyday He gives me more understanding of how this extraordinary act can help me. I trust Him. I know He lives. I believe that He can help me, change me, forgive me. Little by little, I hope to be more like Him. It is a process but He helps us along the way.
Thank you for being who you are. Thank you for your support and prayers and love. I feel the support across the miles. May our Heavenly Father always bless you with His spirit and may we bless the lives of others as He blesses our lives daily.
Elder Grant Russell
Dad, happy birthday this week! I am continually strengthened by your faithful service to and love for our Savior Jesus Christ. You have been a role model in my life and I strive to be more like you, my father. I wear my name tag with pride because it only has great names: Jesus Christ and Russell. I wish you the best and I hope that you can have a wonderful time on this special day. Maybe forget the diet for one day and celebrate...have cake or something. I miss the gardening and shed building "bonding time." Don’t worry, we will have plenty of that in the future. I love you Dad. Thanks for everything.
Grandma! I am so happy to know that you have another birthday coming. I am sad I can't be there to celebrate it with you all but I sure do wish you the best. Your conversion story has blessed many lives here in Nicaragua and you continue to be living example of how the gospel of Jesus Christ blesses families. Thank you for all that you do and for all that you ever taught my parents and me. Have a great day and save me some cake okay!
Saturday, October 23, 2010
Let’s live by faith
Everything is good in Nicaragua. I thought I would share with you a few more lessons that I learned this week. I hope they will benefit you as much as they have me.
I was reading this week in the New Testament when I came upon this scripture. I thought I would share it.
“For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith.” Romans 1:17
But to understand a little better this scripture I will show you what it says in Spanish.
Porque en el evangelio la justicia de Dios se revela por fe y para fe; como está escrito: Mas el justo por la fe vivirá.
I think the literal translation would then mean something like this…
Because in the Gospel the Justice of God is revealed by faith and for faith: as it is written, The Just shall live by faith.
I like the Spanish version because it teaches some very important principles I have not only conceptualized in the mission but also put in practice. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is the way we can become acquainted with God’s Justice. Think about it. Every time we receive a blessing it is because we have been obedient to a law of the Gospel. That’s faith. After the trial of our faith, we see the Justice of God revealed because He gives us according to our works. He blesses those who keep His commandments and as we see the bounteous blessings He bestows because of our faith, we have a greater desire to continue to do good, to exercise more faith and receive more blessings. That is how the Gospel gives us more faith. It is one eternal round of how faith feeds more faith if exercised. That is why in Alma it talks of faith like a seed. If we plant it and nourish it, it will grow and bring forth fruit.
I was led to this Scripture Friday morning and the same day I was even able to use the scripture to help a recent convert family and an investigator. They began to explain to me how they have had many trials. They shared with me how one of the family members has even been angry with God because He allowed a small nine year old girl to die so young. She was crossing the road when a car hit her. The whole family was devastated. One might think reading the before mentioned scripture doesn’t apply then because apparently our Heavenly Father will give to everyone justly according to what they deserve. Did a small nine year old girl deserve a punishment of death? Had this new member done something wrong to see such a trial?
I listened to their comments and I couldn’t help but feel the spirit fill the room as these suffering children of God questioned the Justice of Him who is mighty to save. Why wasn’t He merciful then and let her live? These are soul searching questions.
I thought about the Savior Jesus Christ and how He only went about doing good. Did He deserve to have such trials and sufferings? I think not. But they happened. I proceeded to explain why trials would be so necessary in our lives. What would have happened if Jesus Christ only received according to His works, that He only be blessed instead of tried? We would have no Atonement, no return to God. We would have nothing. In the end, trials are necessary so that we can have future blessings. Is God not just then for giving us trials from time to time that we feel like we don’t deserve? No. He is always just. He just sometimes doesn’t give us the blessing in our time frame. We choose to obey a certain law. God is obligated to bless us in His own due time.
God gives us trials so that we can show our faith. Because perhaps faith isn’t faith until it is tried.
Let’s add that in.
Because in the Gospel the Justice of God is revealed by (the trial of your) faith and for (the trial of your) faith: as it is written, The Just shall live by (the trial of) faith.
In our lives we live the gospel as we use our faith to overcome our trials. As we do so, God blesses us with more opportunities to try our faith and we will live by the trial of faith our whole life so that we can little by little become more like our Savior Jesus Christ. Day by day we prepare ourselves to meet the Savior by overcoming the little things. Line upon line and precept of precept we see ourselves change and this gives us more faith. Pablo had explained this phenomenon one verse earlier:
For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salavation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. Romans 1:16
If we but have faith and endure unto the end, we will be saved by Him who also had to have trials of faith and had to endure unto the end. We will meet Him and He will reward us with EVERYTHING that we have ever deserved and more than we could ever imagine. Really, all these things are for our good. I believe in the Justice of God. He is so just in fact that He will give us even all that He has. But we must have faith like He did and trials like He did too to be able to show the faith.
In my mission I have learned that the Lord does give us trials and difficult things but in the end they always make us better. When we show our faith, He ALWAYS blesses us. Briefly, I will say that this week was somewhat difficult for me too. I have been really busy with Changes and a Conference for next week. New missionaries came and a few went home. Thursday morning we had to make an emergency car trip to the airport before the plane was scheduled to leave because the leaving missionaries had ID problems. We had to travel about 20 miles in 20 minutes in the mid morning in Managua with traffic. It was an impossible task. But it had to be done. I said a little prayer, about 5 seconds with my companion so that we could make it there safely and intact. We got there but at one point we were hit in the car. A car hit the back left side of the President’s car. I got in an accident. I was devastated as I drove the remaining part of the trip. We dropped off the IDs and we parked the car to review the damage about 10 minutes later. We expected a huge dent, some serious damage. To our amazement only a little bit of paint and a small scratch. It didn’t make sense because when we felt the impact the car had shook and there was a loud noise. We had been swiped by another car. How could there only be a little scratch? I began to cry. The Lord had answered our 5 second prayer.
Upon reviewing the car later it seems that all damage was taken on by the rubber wheel which looked scraped. I did the statistics in my head I have decided that the chances of hitting only the rubber part of the wheel at the high speed we had turning are about a million to one. It was truly a miracle, a tender mercy of the Lord. I told the President how I felt and he said it was a great blessing that no one had been hurt on the way.
I believe in the Justice of God. I know that He blesses us when we exercise faith and upon experiencing the promised blessings, our faith increases. A 5 second prayer brought an incredible blessing and I now know that all things happen for a reason. It was a trial of my faith but I was able to exercise it and I saw a result. I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ because it is the power of God unto Salvation, unto everyone that believes. I choose to live by faith!
In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
Elder Grant Russell
PS The Google Translator wasn't too bad. I actually understood most of it but there were definitely some errors. But surprisingly good. I am now worried for the Spanish teachers...they are going to have a harder time finding the cheaters ha ha. Question... I like the ties that Joy is selling. My companions too.
Sunday, October 17, 2010
Jesus Christ taught a fundamental lesson of the Plan of Salvation in Matthew 26:36-45
“Then cometh Jesus with them unto a place called Gethsemane, and saith unto the disciples, Sit ye here, while I go and pray yonder.
It is apparent that the disciples had great faith as shown throughout the scriptures. However, I think we can see the weaknesses of man as he cedes to do his own will of sleeping when tired instead of the will of the Father in staying awake with His Son. Their natural man conquers the spiritual man. Surely, what they wanted and what they needed were in conflict. They needed to stay awake and support the Savior because as special witnesses of Him, it was their calling. But they wanted to fall asleep. They followed their want instead of their need. But let’s not be so hard on them…who of us hasn’t abandoned God’s will to what he most wanted? Just one, only One man.
Jesus Christ shows us a counter example. His soul was sorrowful, filled with anguish and in the dark hours of night, he prayed alone unto His Father. In this moment we can see what His want is too. Just like anyone, Christ felt the weight of His future sacrifice drawing nigh and He wanted out. He asked our Heavenly Father if He might be able to just remove this great burden from Him. That was the want. But He was perfect. His physical desires and natural man had been long before suppressed through His obedience and He let his want take second place to the greater need that we all had: that someone save us from our sins.
The story continues and we see that Jesus Christ overcomes his natural desires for give up the burden two more times while the Apostles continue to struggle with a simple burden of drowsiness. Even though He gives them two more chances, they fail to stay awake…
After completing his part of the sacrifice in the Garden, He comforted them saying, “Sleep on now, and take your rest” even though there would be no rest for Him.
Both the Apostles and Jesus Christ were confronted with a burden of relative difficulty. For both, their trials tested their limits but both were bearable and passable. Paul affirms that no temptation is stronger than what we can bear. What then did Christ do to have success and the Apostles not? What principle did He exercise that they didn’t? It was so clear to me when I read this that I can’t believe I had never before seen it…
“Nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt."
Every time Jesus was faced with the difficulty, He gave his own will up for God’s. In giving up His will to God, Jesus was strengthened and comforted and His needs were met instead of His wants.
Clearly, what we want is not always what we need. I had a long conversation with my companion one night this week about this and I ended up learning a lot more about why the things have happened in the mission.
At the beginning of the mission, I knew what I wanted! I wanted to be obedient. I wanted to baptize. I wanted to help people. I wanted to be a missionary. I wanted to feel the spirit and be directed by it find and teach others. I might say that my own wants were noteworthy and appropriate. However, many a time I found myself with a willing spirit and a weak flesh. I can’t count how many times I have nodded off in prayers like the apostles.
I was not willing to give up my own ways. Sometimes it was hard for me to realize that I didn’t know how to do some things. One companion taught me how to better relate with people. Another taught me more patience. Another showed me my weakness in teaching. Others showed my weak faith. Little by little I think the Lord point out to me that my spirit was willing but my flesh was weak and that I need to do His will instead of my own. As I began doing that, I had success.
It was hard for people in our area this week for example to accept God’s will when their little girl of nine years hit by a speeding car and killed. They were heartbroken and surely they felt they wanted their own daughter. We comforted them and prayed with them. We sang and gave them a blessing. But in the end, we all needed to accept God’s will. Jesus shows us how.
Jesus gains strength in prayer. I can remember a few nights in particular that I prayed and prayed and I turned my heart over to God. I, in many ways, said for His will to be done and I accepted the work, test, trial that He would require, however uncomfortable. It was in those times that I felt His strength and His rest.
I am thankful for my Savior Jesus Christ. I am thankful for my mission that has helped me learn how to better seek my needs through doing God’s will than my own wants through my own will. God knows best what is best for us. I many times wanted other companions, other areas, and other types of experiences but in the long run I have realized that everything that has happened in the mission has helped me personally.
I love the Lord and my prayer is that we can all be a little more accepting of His will and saying humbly in prayer, “nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt.”
In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
Elder Grant Russell
Saturday, October 9, 2010
Well family, my week has been a blur. I can’t really remember what happened. We had a ton of Conferences and Interviews and that means planning and running errands for me. But it turned out to be a rewarding week.
I had one really great experience with a man named Aquiles. He recently returned from Costa Rica and we began teaching him. His wife and daughters are all members and he has now come to church several times. As we have been talking about Baptism with him, there has always been one constant concern: he doesn’t want to fall away after baptism. I think it is a common concern because I have heard it several times in the mission. One is always scared to make covenants because with covenants come greater responsibility and consequences for not completing. I understand that one wouldn’t want to let the Lord down and so he may think that by not taking the necessary steps he is saving himself from future condemnation.
His concern stayed with me and when I was reviewing the talks from Conference, I received a revelation for him and for me. It was wonderful. Living Prophets do that. It happened as I was listening to President Monson’s from the Priesthood Session of General Conference. He said that God’s greatest gift to man is his agency but when he continued to talk I began to ponder on the eternal nature of agency.
Agency is a divine gift that existed before the earth life. While our options were few and our ability to further explore the freeing effects of such choice were limited, we enjoyed making decisions and some extent of progression. We decided in one point or another to accept God’s plan and come to Earth and experience life’s struggles and difficulties. That is when I realized what Aquiles needed. He needed to realize who he was and what decisions he had already taken before even being born. Every one of us before we came to Earth made the decision to be put in an environment where we could potentially fail. He once decided to come to Earth and we all even rejoiced in knowing of God’s plan as it explains in Job:
One might ask himself, why would we have rejoiced in knowing that the future would bring sin and heartache? Why would we have wanted to come to the Earth if we didn’t feel like we were completely prone to have success? The answer comes in the fact that we trusted in the Promise of the Savior. When Christ said, “Here I am, send me,” we found a way back. Only this time we would be coming back better and it would all be worth it.
The same thing happens in the church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. We make covenants knowing that we wont be perfect but we know that God will help us along the way. We do our best and we know that His atoning sacrifice will let us come back daily. What He asks is that we keep His commandments and covenants. We explained this to him and I think it helped him realize how important baptism would be for Him.
I am thankful for our Heavenly Father that sent His Son to rescue us from the inevitable mistakes we would make. I too am worried from time to time that I make mistakes even after having committed myself to God. But I take solace in the fact that the Master has promised that as many times as one repents, he shall be forgiven.
Covenants in the end enable us to have more agency and unlock the blessings of Heaven in our lives. I hope that we can all take them seriously and that we can honor such covenants. We rejoiced once for the ability to come to Earth. We rejoice now for the covenants that make it possible to go back.
Adam fell that men might be. Men are that they might have joy. As in Adam all die, even so in Christ, shall all be made alive.
Elder Grant Russell
Sunday, October 3, 2010
I am thankful today for the Gospel of Jesus Christ that has redeemed my past and made my future have a purpose. I am thankful for my Savior Jesus Christ and for the wonderful lessons that He taught through example and principles. I am thankful that my Heavenly Father had the love great enough to sacrifice His Son for me to bleed and to die and to make it possible to my family to come back to Him.
The blessings have been daily and my heart is full upon thinking of what He has given my family. I feel caught up in the middle of a chain of blessings that has always existed and continues to grow. Just as the Seventy said in Conference, in the temple the mirrors on both sides of the Celestial Room help us to realize the eternal nature of blessings. One cannot really bless a person without blessing his whole family and future generations.
I think of what little the missionaries really knew they were doing as they knocked on Bruce Turner’s door so long ago. They had no idea that upon teaching and answering a few questions they would reactivate a Priesthood leader and baptize later his wife. They didn’t know that they would later be sealed and have an active family with each child walking in the same path. Did they know that many of the grandkids would serve missions in all parts of the world blessing literally thousands of lives? I doubt it either, but God did.
Thanks be to God that things happen when missionaries aren’t there. Did the missionaries know that their faith and teachings would eventually reach Nicaragua? Did those two missionaries know that in a small humble Nicaraguan dwelling two more missionaries would find recent converts conversing over doctrines found in the Book of Mormon? Did they know that their faith would promote many to walk 30 minutes one way in blistering sun and heat to watch Conference on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon? Would they know that Nicaraguans because of their teaching to the Turner family would invite others to come unto Christ, leave on missions; put goals to be sealed in the temple too? I don’t think so. I doubt it. But God did.
I thank Him for His wisdom. I thank Him for seeing everything I have seen. The chain continues and more people will be blessed but I am especially concerned about thanking the chain link most near and dear to me: my family. I cannot adequately express my love to you. I thank you. I know that you were good to me. Using President Monson’s story as a base, I don’t know how many times I forgot about the light bulbs and thought of the turnips and jackrabbit instead, but I now realize that my days were brighter and happier because of all of you. I thank you for the changed diapers, the nights in the rocking chair, the tummy rubs and warm showers. I thank you for the tickling (even when you didn’t like giving only 15 more minutes). I am thankful for sleep monster and family vacations. I am thankful for Father’s blessings and help from mom on School projects. I am thankful for your testimonies. I am thankful you made me play piano. Thanks for your examples in church service, temple attendance, and scripture reading. Thanks for web cam and cell phone chats, BBQ Sundays and Christmas pajamas. Thanks most of all for being you. I LOVE YOU. Thanks the spankings, the counsel and thanks for being there always…second grade graduations and soccer games. I think you model ideally our Heavenly Father for He says that He will be with us even unto the end.
In all of this I just hope that you realize that I am who I am because of you. There are people we meet on the course of life that give us direction and we end up in a much better destination because of it. I am in Nicaragua and being here continues to give others direction and purpose in their lives. I think I had lost track of all the blessings…but I am trying to live in the spirit of thanksgiving so that my heart can touch Heaven.
God lives. He shows His love but blessing us with SO MUCH. May we be grateful for everything He gives.
Elder RussellP.S. As for the menial, the mission is great. People continue to progress. I will keep you posted on the progress...