Saturday, October 30, 2010

The Atonement changes everything........week 76

Elder and Sister Falabella

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........week 75

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

Wants verses needs: The Spirit indeed is willing........week 74

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.

And he took with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to be sorrowful and very heavy.

Then saith he unto them, My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death: tarry ye here, and watch with me.

And he went a little further, and fell on his face, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt.

And he cometh unto the disciples, and findeth them asleep, and saith unto Peter, What, could ye not watch with me one hour?

Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.

He went away again the second time, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if this cup may not pass away from me, except I drink it, thy will be done.

And he came and found them asleep again: for their eyes were heavy.

And he left them, and went away again, and prayed the third time, saying the same words.

Then cometh he to his disciples, and saith unto them, Sleep on now, and take your rest: behold, the hour is at hand, and the Son of man is betrayed into the hands of sinners.”

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

Rejoice for Agency........week 73

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:

“Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth? declare, if thou hast understanding.

5 Who hath laid the measures thereof, if thou knowest? or who hath stretched the line upon it?

6 Whereupon are the foundations thereof fastened? or who laid the corner stone thereof;

7 When the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy?”

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

Flying activity

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Thank You........week 72

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 Russell

P.S. As for the menial, the mission is great. People continue to progress. I will keep you posted on the progress...