Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas........week 84

Well family,

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 18, 2010

The Infinite Power of the Atonement........week 83

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

What Child is This?........week 82

Hello family!

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.

“Hearken, O ye who have given your names to go forth to proclaim my gospel, and to prune my vineyard. UAdd a Note

Behold, I say unto you that it is my will that you should go forth and not tarry, neither be idle but labor with your might—

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.

And thus, if ye are faithful ye shall be laden with many sheaves and crowned with honor, and glory, and immortality, and eternal life.”

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

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Service........week 81

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