Monday, March 28, 2011

"Put me in Coach, Put me in"........week 97 & 98

Well family,

I write you from the beautiful highlands of Jinotepe. Surprise, surprise! I am not in the office anymore. I was emergency changed out on Wednesday because the President wanted me to help out as zone leader here. Elder Woods was a little caught off guard but he is doing alright. He has only needed to call me like 5 times in the last five days ha ha. But boy is it a change of pace. It feels great again.I love being with the missionaries and building their faith. That has been the biggest challenge and goal for the zone in Jinotepe. We have the biggest zone and we should have the biggest goals and numbers. But lately the zone has been having low numbers. We are about to change the history of Jinotepe.

I arrived Wednesday and we worked in the afternoon trying to meet the members and see the investigators that the missionaries had been teaching. My new companion is Elder Ward from Utah (another Gringo...ha ha) and he only has a little over a year in the mission and one change as a zone leader. I feel like the Lord is depending a lot on me to change things here. It has been a hard change for me but I have hit the ground running.

Thursday we had a Zone Leader Council meeting to set goals and we basically looked like crazy people with our goals for the zone. The zone only baptized 9 people last month between 26 missionaries. Our goal for the month of April is 60. I feel like it is going to be the biggest trial of faith I have had in my mission. I am trying to remember everything I have I learned since the beginning to put it into practice. The missionaries are determined to work harder. Seeing the daily numbers we have seen that they have nearly doubled in many cases. The Lord is going to bless.

I think the world is full of three types of people: those that make things happen, those that watch things happen around them, and those that look around them and wonder what is really happening. We need to be the force to change things for good in the lives of members and nonmembers alike. We need to be more than listeners and watchers. We must be doers.

I love the council given in 1 Timothy 4:14-17

“be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity...neglect not the gift that is in thee, which was given thee by prophecy, with the laying on of hands...for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself and them that hear thee.”

We must not let our limited experience and vision cripple our faith. When things don't happen at first, we regroup and we work harder. When we don't see our strength as enough to do what the Lord requires, we begin to have real faith.

Jacob teaches about how our weakness really strengthens us.

“Nevertheless, the Lord God showeth us our weakness that we may know that it is by his grace, and his great condescension's unto the children of men, that we have power to do these things.

The great missionaries of the book of Mormon understood this principle.

“Yea, I know that I am nothing; as to my strength I am weak; therefore I will not boast of myself, but I will boast of my God, for in his strength I can do all things; yea, behold, many mighty miracles we have wrought in this land, for which we will praise his name forever.” (Alma 26:12)

When we feel weakest, we confide in our Father in Heaven. I know that he gives unto us according to our faith. Our faith gives us power.

I am very excited to leave it all out on the field. I feel like one of those players who has been watching from the sidelines for so long. Now I am warmed up and I ask coach, “put me in coach, put me in coach.” I will not give up. I will keep going unto the end. I am so thankful for the opportunity to be a special representative for the Lord in this place and in this time.

Well family, I love you. I pray for you and I hope that you can be blessed continually for your faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Remember that when we feel the weakest, we have the opportunity to ask for divine help.

“For behold, by the power of his word man came upon the face of the earth, which earth was created by the power of his word. Wherefore, if God being able to speak and the world was, and to speak and man was created, O then, why not able to command the earth, or the workmanship of his hands upon the face of it, according to his will and pleasure?” (Jacob 4:9)

If He can create the world and keep everything in place, why couldn't he help us in our daily lives?

Elder Russell

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Believe in the Lord's Promises........week 96

Good afternoon family!

I had a great week this week. I feel very thankful for lessons that I have learned. Every day is a new opportunity to do what we left undone yesterday. Every new day is another chance to be more compassionate, more serviceable, more studious of the scriptures, more obedient to the Father. We should seriously ask ourselves daily if we are better than we were yesterday. We should care about each moment because in the eternal scheme of things, our time here on earth is as if it were a small moment.

That is how I feel the mission has been for me…every new day that I wake up, my past seems to fade away. I remember only the missionary schedule and daily routine and my thoughts, actions, words and worries are that of the mission. Every day adds more moments onto the list of things that I have made happen on the mission. Interestingly enough is the fact that despite the time I have on the mission, I feel like I have been here for so short a time. I can trace the week by week and month by month with journal entries, and a fast replay through my mind makes me realize that it is longer than just a moment, but it doesn’t feel like that. In the mission I have learned how to live more in the moment. I enjoy the little things a lot more.

For example, the time in the office seems to just eats away at my field time some weeks. This week was one of those weeks in particular because we had multi-zone conferences with the whole mission. In summary, lots of spending and cash flow and work and record keeping, etc. We only got to teach a hand full of lessons…but they were powerful lessons.

We continue to teach Santos and Lizet about how they can prepare for baptism. They are ready but they need to get married. Hopefully, this week they can get all of their paperwork worked out so next week they can get baptized. While my companion was interviewing the wife this week for baptism, I spent some time reviewing with Santos about the Book of Mormon. With very little education, his recall is somewhat limited but he remembered the importance of the book of Mormon. I proceeded to explain the different tools for studying it and then I gave him several promises. I promised him that if he read the Book of Mormon daily that he would over time become more fluent in his reading and upon finishing it he would be completely capable of reading. I also promised him that the book would strengthen him against temptations and that it would bring a spirit into his home, distilling the doctrine of the kingdom in his heart and mind. He was excited about the promises and is committed to read it in its entirety.

Now mind you, I remember a certain day in the MTC when I had a disagreement with a few companions. The conversion had to do with the promises that we can give as missionaries to investigators. I was very hesitant to promise anything to my investigators because I was afraid it would happen as I promised. In the mission, I have realized what kind of promises come to people when they keep commandments. Plus, I follow the spirit a lot more. I have come to realize that God blesses according to the needs of the people too, if they have faith in him.

I believe in the promises of the Lord. I wouldn’t have promised something like that at the beginning of the mission. But I will have you know that I feel completely confident that the Lord will bless him and his family with these things if he keeps his part of the contract. I choose to believe in the Lord´s promises.

Do we live our daily lives with faith in the lord´s promises? What promises do we not believe in quite yet? I think if we were promised by our boss a pay raise by getting to work early every day of the week that we would do so without a doubt. But do we believe in the Master? But do we read the scriptures daily to receive milk and honey without price? Do we pray on our knees with all energy of heart early in the morning and at night so that the Lord can more abundantly bless us in our lives with what we need? We should believe in the blessings of the Lord. I believe but I stop believing sometimes. Surely, from time to time we will doubt the Lord´s promises. Peter did when he began to sink. Thomas didn’t believe in the Lord´s resurrection at first either. But we should live by faith knowing that the Lord will bless us if we do all that we can. Life become so much more enjoyable.

I love you all. Thank you for your examples of faith. Thank you for your prayers. I feel of your love and support. May the Lord extend his all merciful hands over you to bless you with what you desire and most need.

Elder Russell

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Repentence and Sincere prayer........week 95

Well family,

I have very little time to write. Everything has been going well here. It is just busy. I can´t believe another week has gone by already. The work in the area is still progressing. We had a family baptism this week. We have been teaching Eliza and Jon Kevin now for a month and she was baptized to complete the small, young family. She is expecting her first child already. It has been good to her conversion to the gospel.

We also continue to work with other families. Santos and Lizet are doing great! They both attended the baptism. It felt good to see them there. We had a very special lesson with them the night before. They had both fallen into their bad habits. She drank coffee and he smoked after having dropped them for two weeks. We talked about the repentance process and the importance of changing completely. We may have said things pretty strongly in their small, humble home but the spirit was there. Up until then, Lizet had been the only one to profess she had received an answer about the restoration. Santos always just changed the subject when we asked him about his prayer. But Saturday when Jon Kevin was going into the baptismal font with Eliza, Santos leaned over and whispered something to my companion. “I prayed,” he said. “How did you feel?” my companion replied. “Really good,” he responded.

God answers prayers. He cares about his children. He wants us to repent…sincerely. He honestly feels sad when we sin. He forgives and forgets when we truly repent.

I am thankful for the Atonement of Jesus Christ. It heals me daily. I feel like in this time of my mission, the Lord is helping me understand this much better. I have come to trust more in the healing power of the Atonement. I have powerful personal prayer. It helps me get by every day.

I love you all and I pray for you. May the lord bless you always. Pray unto him with all energy of your heart so that he might lift both your spirit and heart from your bended knees. We reach our highest heights when we lower ourselves humbly to our knees.
Elder Russell

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Rejoice........week 94

Well family,

I am pretty much out of time after having sent all of those photos, but I will try to fill you in on a few of the things that have been happening here in the office.

I continue to train Elder Woods as the financier and he is getting the hang of it now. I am trying to give him the reigns as much as possible and at times I feel like I am not doing anything. Oh well, I guess consulting every few minutes isn't that bad. We are always busy it seems...I don't know where all the work comes from but it seems to keep coming. One of these days I will figure it out.

I have learned quite a bit from personal study this week and I would just like to share a short scripture with you all. Right now I am in 2 Nephi. When I was reading about the plan of salvation verse 11 of chapter 9 struck me. I was particularly touched by the descriptions Jacob uses to talk about the members of the church. He says,

´´Therefore, the a
redeemed of the Lord shall breturn, and come with csinging unto Zion; and everlasting joy and holiness shall be upon their heads; and they shall obtain gladness and joy; sorrow and dmourning shall flee away.´´

Perhaps the words like ´´singing, everlasting joy, gladness, and a freedom of sorrow and mourning´´ were what caught my attention. I thought about how we as members of the church have the right to feel good all of the time. Surely there are trials and difficulties that come. I guess we could assume that in those times that it isn't expected of us to show such happiness. But that is a wrong assumption. No matter the circumstances, trials, etc that we might have, there is something to rejoice about. But how can we be happy in the difficulties? I read a little further in 2 Nephi 9:52...

´´Behold, my beloved brethren, remember the words of your God; pray unto him continually by day, and give athanks unto his holy name by night. Let your hearts brejoice.´´

We let our hearts rejoice when we remember what wonderful things God has given unto us. When we pray unto him thanking him for the blessings we have our hearts are changed. Our heart is full of gratitude and there is no more room for sorrow. The sorrow and mourning shall flee away! I thought of Job for example. When he had trials, what made him rejoice?

´´And said, aNaked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return thither: the Lord gave, and the Lord hath btaken away; cblessed be the name of the Lord.´´
(Job 1:21)

He thanked the Lord for what he had been given and recognized His hands in all things. The trials continued but his faith never faltered. He had a grateful heart and the sorrow wasn't there. He walked as a redeemed one of the Lord, singing with everlasting joy the glad song. What greater blessing can we have then life itself? Can we ever truly be so tried as to forget that Jesus Christ has paid the price for our sins? Can our problems ever be bigger than the love our Heavenly Father has for us? When we remember this and thank him for everything, our problems seem forgotten and they are resolved with his help.

I know that God loves each and everyone. I know that we should be the happiest people. I hope that we can always remember who we are, where we have come from, why we are here, what we have been given, and where we can go after this earth. If we do so, than earth´s sting shall be swallowed up in Christ. He is the reason for us to be happy. I am glad, are you?

Elder Grant Russell