Saturday, February 26, 2011

To Know the Mysteries of God........week 93

Good afternoon family,

I don't really know what to say…this week has been a blur. We had transfers this week for the mission so we ran around a lot trying to finish up last minute things. It is always a busy week but it is always rewarding too. I feel like it is always a time of reflection and meditation on the things we have learned in the last change. Now that I am in my last change as financier, my thoughts and desires are shifting towards the field. I am so excited to get back in the game and give it all I have, to leave it all on the court. My desire grows everyday to serve the Lord even if my energy is less and less. I don’t wake up as easily as I did at the beginning of the mission. My shirts are worn and my socks have holes in them too. Most ties have multiple stains and my shoes are almost ready for their third pair of soles. My scriptures are heavily marked with cross references and lessons learned and I have two journals full of experiences to show why. But of all of the noticeable changes that have come over me it is the spirit that I feel daily, the revelation and daily learning that has caused my own person to change. It is that spirit that keeps me going. In my own strength I am weak, but in the Lord´s strength I can do all things. The more I serve the Lord in his kingdom, the more I realize that I have so much more to give and that I will forever be indebted to him. I have pledged my life and heart to the lord and I am willing to do whatever He asks. He will support me along the way.

I am now training like I said. Elder Woods is the new financier. He is great! He is short, blond, and he fits the stereotype financier for our mission. Hopefully, he won’t go bald too like the rest of us ha ha…He is from New Jersey and he is going to do a great job as financier. He has a year and a half in the mission and will be finishing in the office. This week we had success in marrying a few people. No, lawyer responsibilities aren´t a part of the duties of the financial secretary but we are supporting the people we are teaching to be married. It was a nice wedding. I admire the faith of the Nicaraguan people and their simple testimonies of obedience. They are willing to keep the commandments without a moment´s notice. For example, these couples knew that the Lord expected them to get married because they have already started their family. Both have babies on the way and they knew that the Lord required this of them urgently. We arranged the marriage as if it were an every day event. There weren’t a lot of ribbons or bows, invitations or family preparations. It was just a simple ceremony with a nice cake to celebrate. It was great! They understood the reason behind the activity.

Why do we complicate things so much? I think from time to time the members of the church can get so involved in Homemaking night and scout camp outs that they forget about the reason behind everything we do. They forget the reason behind the activity. Surely they are important though. I have never understood this so much as I do now. The Lord wants us to keep our covenants and be obedient and endure to the end and if we do these simple things, then everything else is just a support, an appendage. Why do we do activity days, mutual, church basketball and other programs? The lord teaches that by small and simple things great things are brought to pass and that by simple things he brings about the salvation of many souls. How did seminary activities get some many of my high school friends baptized? I don’t know but in the end it worked. The Lord cares about everyone and tries to embark everyone´s interest with the goal in mind that their activity in other the aspects will enable their continued activity in church.

I am thankful that I grew up in an environment where these programs and activities were a part of my life. I am most grateful that I was taught the importance behind the activities and that my family´s focus was on covenants more than activities. I was impacted by a scripture this week in my personal study.

´´And now Alma began to expound these things unto him, saying: It is given unto many to know the mysteries of God; nevertheless they are laid under a strict command that they shall not impart only according to the portion of his word which he doth grant unto the children of men, according to the heed and diligence which they give unto him.

And therefore, he that will harden his heart, the same receiveth the lesser portion of the word; and he that will not harden his heart, to him is given the greater portion of the word, until it is given unto him to know the mysteries of God until he know them in full.´´

(Alma 12: 9-10)

We in our lives have the capacity to know the mysteries of God. However, we receive according to the portion which we are prepared for through our diligence and obedience to the Lord. I then asked myself this question:

How many times in my life have I received only the lesser portion of the word?

I would have us ponder upon what we do in our lives. Are we focused on the best things? Are we just busy or are we anxiously engaged in a righteous cause? Everything we do we should do it with the eye single to the glory of God. We should recognize that we are part of a great work and that our diligence will help us know the mysteries of God to a greater extent. As we do so, our callings become joys and blessings to us. The loving nursery leader knows the mysteries of God when she realizes that in her hands she holds the future leaders of the church. The Boy Scout master knows the mysteries of God when he resists to yell at the rambunctious boys late at night because he remembers that these same voices will proclaim the gospel of peace in all nations and tongues. A father and mother know the mysteries of God when they pray with their little child who will have no recollection of the prayer or the night they prayed to together.

These things have made the difference for me. Thank you Mom and Dad, brothers and sisters, scoutmasters and young men's leaders.Thank you for knowing the mysteries of God and being there for me in the times when it seemed it didn’t matter. I now know the mysteries of God a little bit more because of your diligence and faithfulness. My goal is to continue to learn and one day know them in full.

Let us magnify our callings not by making our jobs difficult or complicated but by seeing more clearly that our service has eternal consequences for ourselves and others.

Elder Russell

Saturday, February 19, 2011

God Know Us........week 92

The Lord knows each and every one of us. Our thoughts and worries and struggles…He has felt them too. More and more I realize that God cares about the one and will stop at nothing to help them get back on track if they have been lost. That is why He came to this world.

From time to time, I have fallen into a common trap that Satan has for missionaries. When missionaries see a convert that goes away from the fold, the enemy of all righteousness tells them that their service was in vain, that the person is doomed to an eternal destruction and all sorts of other nonsense. Honestly, it is pretty tough when we see a child of God who has made covenants go astray. One almost falls into the trap. It has happened a few times in the mission for me. But I have seen so many examples that are contrary. This week I received an answer to my prayer, a prayer I have had in my heart since about a year ago.

When word had gotten to me that my converts Carlos and Fatima had moved from La Borgoña about a year ago, I was worried for them. They moved to Pochomil where there is no church and barely any members for over an hour and a half in bus. Apparently they had been meeting with a few other members in a makeshift nucleus. That at least comforted me for a while until about 8 months ago when I heard that the nucleus was abandoned. The only way that people could go to church was in bus and the trip would be both costly and long. The family had nothing they could do. I have thought about them weekly since then and prayed that they might be strong and that they might keep the faith. They are special to me and I know that the Lord has something really special prepared for them. Since my time in the office I have tried to contact them and there was no luck. I had no phone number, no direction, no member that could talk to them and I certainly couldn’t go look for them. I was stuck. The only thing I could do was pray. But the Lord was preparing the way for them to come back, little did I know.

In my normal routine of coiffure duty in the office, I took the AP to La Borgona for the District Meeting they were having since he didn’t know how to get there. I began talking with one of the members that I always worked with there and it was amazing to feel of her faith again. I suddenly felt prompted to ask her about Carlos and Fatima. Perhaps she would have heard something…it turns out that she did. They had returned to La Borgoña for a few days to see how things were with their house and she had seen them that day. They were right there! I was so excited. She we took a quick detour and went to see them.

I can’t adequately express the feelings I had when I saw them from about 30 feet away. Fatima did a double take and she beamed from ear to ear. Then Carlos walked around the corner and gave me a big hug. I didn’t want to let go. I had had to let go for so long from them and they had been left out to dry. I just wanted to protect them and help them and make sure that all was okay. We entered the small house like I had done so many times over a year and half ago. The house almost looked the same, it just didn’t have their possessions inside. But the spirit was there. That I can say.

They began to relate the long, sad story and history of their struggles in Pochomil. The families who had participated were overtaken by pride and worldly desires and shortly after they had moved there the nucleus was nonexistent. They explained to me that they always read the scriptures and that they had all of the manuals but that it just wasn’t the same. They had been trying to find a way to make things work out but their faith was hurt by their circumstances. They shared with me how the Lord had been blessing them with work and how they were now expecting a baby and how so many things were going well. Then Carlos´ mom died. They were looking into how they could make things work. In that moment, I asked them to bare their testimonies. It was an amazing experience to hear of their conversion stories from their own mouths. They both know it is true! We read 1 Nephi 3:7 and Fatima remember the scripture and she testified that the Lord would help them go to church, even if it were only from time to time as circumstances permitted. They committed to go to the temple and resume church activity. We said a sacred closing prayer.

I walked out of the lesson in awe. How did the Lord know? How does He make things work out like that? I too can sing the song ´´I stand all amazed.´´ He knows them. He heard my prayer. He helped me be there at the right time in the right place. I was so thankful. I said a silent prayer.

God will never abandon us. Our trials will be but for a small moment and then we will be rewarded for our sacrifice. The family will come back. I will be in their sealing. I know it. Satan´s traps never work out.

May we be in the right place at the right time, always!

Elder Grant Russell

Saturday, February 12, 2011

The Prayer of Faith........week 91

New Pillows Anyone?

It was a busy week again in the office. I think that might be so redundant now in my letters that I might as well omit it completely…but it is nonetheless true. We finished interviews and had a few training meetings with the Elders. I have been trying to finish up everything from January and February now that they finally gave me my budget for the year. It was a lot of paperwork and number crunching but I finally got through it with only some minor headaches and sleepiness. But it was a fulfilling week as well. They always are when we do our best.

President told me this week that I will be training a new financier next transfer so I am getting everything ready for him. I am updating all of the system and making sure that his head doesn’t explode when he gets here. Transfers are in 10 days so that means that shortly I will have a new companion. Then I will go to the field again! Watch out Nicaragua, here I come! I am a little excited now for it. I guess I am trunky (anxious) to go the field…but it is a good sort of trunky I think.

I have been reading the Doctrine and Covenants the last few days and I have loved some of the counsel that the Lord gives through His servant Joseph. One particular verse in Chapter 10 was so simple but so powerful to me. It talks about the Book of Mormon and the faith of the disciples in the Americas and how their faith would let the gospel come forth in the latter days.

“And I said unto them, that it should be granted unto them according to their faith in their prayers” (10v47)

By the simple faith that they had in the Savior, their words ring in our ears, their spirit fills our hearts and minds. I am thankful for their faith and their prayers.

Elder Gardner and I have been worried about a certain recent convert for a few weeks. He had been so excited and zealous for weeks after his baptism but then one day he just suddenly changed. We were shocked by his sudden busy schedule and we were worried when he denied our visits for almost two weeks. We prayed a lot for him. When I read this verse I believed that it would be okay. One night I prayed and asked Heavenly Father to help him get through whatever it was. I felt a comfort. I knew everything was going to be alright. Then a few days went by.

Thursday night we got a call from the Ward Mission Leader who informed us that the convert had been sick and had been operated on. Who would have thought?! So we called him and to our amazement he answered in high spirits. We went over and we had a very pleasing visit and everything was alright. His surgery went great and now he felt better. It turns out that his condition had made it difficult for him to receive us especially because he wasn’t feeling so hot. We left feeling grateful that the Lord had answered our prayer. He had taken care of him. In that lesson with him, we talked about gratitude and we gave him the Conference Liahona with President Monson’s talked marked inside. It was a great lesson for all of us. We were all able to recognize the hand of God in all things.

I am so grateful for the Lord. I am grateful for the gospel and I know that it is the sure path to happiness in our lives if we walk in it always. Thank you all for your support and love across the miles. I love you all. I try everyday to be worthy of the privilege to wear His name over my heart. It is such a blessing.

Elder Russell

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Time to Meditate........week 90

Baptism of Rodolfo and Ana

I have had a lot of time to meditate the last few days. It hasn’t been a result of lack of this to do but rather due to long drives doing the many errands we have in the office. We continue to have conferences for interviews for the Elders in all of the parts of the mission. We have all been trying to just keep up with the work and keep everything moving. The week just flew by though…I can’t believe I am writing you all again.

Mom would be proud to know that I have successfully become a real estate expert in Nicaragua. I have visited tons of new houses looking for a new one for the office. The President has asked us to look for one that is closer to the church and office so we spent an afternoon doing that. The things you learn on the mission huh…who would have thought?

Yesterday was a really fulfilling day. I never thought that driving for the most part of the day could be so satisfying but it was. I like a long drive because it helps me ponder on eternal truths. Let me explain.

We started at 9 am and we drove to a zone about 40 kilometers away to get some items for them for another area. Then we drove another 30 kilometers to pick up an Elder for emergency transfers. He was going to be flying to Bluefields, a coastal town with two small branches on the Caribbean. We then drove back to Managua to take him to the airport. Then we helped recover a materials shipment from Salt Lake. Then we picked the AP from the bus stop and went back to the office. Then it was 5:00pm. I proceeded to help update finances and other office work until we left again to pick up another Elder in the Bus Stop. He had come from Bluefields in small boat and Bus. We got him some food and then we drove another 40 kilometers to drop him off where the other elder had left the same morning. We got home after 11:00pm. I hit the bed and fell right asleep.

Like I said, these long car rides have been blessings for me. I have begun to think a lot about Jesus Christ and how he was in certain circumstances. I have asked myself for example how I can be a better representative of Jesus Christ as an office Elder. I appreciate Sean’s story about giving service. I have seen similar experiences in the mission when we serve. The people really feel the difference and recognize a missionary as a representative of Jesus Christ when he does what the master did.

I feel like right now I have to give a different type of service. Maybe this experience in the office is helping me understand that being a representative of Jesus Christ goes beyond all boundaries of knocking on doors, teaching lessons, helping paint houses, etc. I think the Lord wants me to be like him but he is giving me opportunities to see how I do in a different environment. I see new weaknesses and trials. I felt like I have been able to grow and change a lot in the office. I hope that I can develop attributes of Jesus Christ that will endure beyond the limits of the mission. One day each missionary has to say goodbye to the name tag but he won’t say goodbye to his attributes that he has acquired as a missionary.

It was at 11:00pm last night on a dark freeway that I was left alone to think about all of this. The Elders in the car were quite with drowsiness and I was meditating. I thought about when Jesus Christ first signed up for his Earthy Ministry. When the plan was all presented, He realized that his job would be the most grueling, the most difficult, the most tiring. He knew he would have to be perfect. Yet he willing suffered the will of the Father in all things. He said, “Here am I, send me.” He tells us to rest from our iniquities, trials, struggles, but yet he would suffer alone and would go to bed very tired many days. In fact, He wouldn’t even have a place to call home. I appreciate Him. I appreciate how he lived and his commitment to his first covenant with the Father to save us from the fall. He is our Savior and Redeemer. He is the man that made it all possible. I love him. The more I study about him and the more I experience, the more inadequate I feel to bear his name over my heart. But I do so with all respect. I am honored to be his representative and I join with Elder Russell in Mexico in saying that when one in is in the service of his fellow being, he is only in the service of his God. Godly attributes are acquired through faith and diligence in keeping the commandments when there is opposition.

“For it must needs be, that there is an opposition in all things. If not so, my first-born in the wilderness, righteousness could not be brought to pass, neither wickedness, neither holiness nor misery, neither good nor bad. Wherefore, all things must needs be a compound in one; wherefore, if it should be one body it must needs remain as dead, having no life neither death, nor corruption nor incorruption, happiness nor misery, neither sense nor insensibility.”

We show him in all things, in all times, and in all places that we may be that we will be faithful to his name. We become like him little by little and not only others, but we ourselves, recognize the change within us. May we be willing to do what the Savior asks, where he asks, when he asks!

Elder Grant Russell