Upon Leaving Home
I left a quiet harbor
in favor of another, I know not where.
But first, there are seas to cross
And storms to brave.
How could I prefer the foreign deeps
to the encircling arms of my bay?
Because some things
Can only be learned at sea.
Yes, my craft is watertight,
I can navigate the unknown,
And Lo, the winds that fill my sails
Blow from home.
- Steffanie Russell
Aloha Family, Friends, and Fans --
Allow me to tell you about a ROUGH WEEK that Sis. Smith and I are glad to say farewell to. We had blowout after blowout, cancellation after cancellation, rainstorm after rainstorm, and not a single new investigator all week. Needless to say a lot of time was wasted and a lot of reevaluating was necessary. But now, on the other end of things and moving into faith week, we're not letting it shake us.
My mission is a very humbling experience. Everyday I am reminded of my weaknesses, which humble me, or of my blessings, which also humbles me. I am realizing how much I need to improve and how much I've already improved, as well as how much my Heavenly Father has given me and truly what my life's purpose is, and what my purpose is here on my mission. You cannot come to this part of the world, visit with the people I've visited, be in some of the homes I've been in, listen to experiences people have had, knowing that they are children of God, and not be humbled by it. I continue to be in awe at the strength of the people I've met, at the trials they have to face. And to think about some of the things I used to complain about -- it really is ridiculous. I am so incredibly blessed and I don't think I've ever realized it more than I do at this time in my life.
This week (the first half of it anyway) I went jogging/power walking with Sis. Smith. Man alive, there is nothing I hate more than exercising at 6:30 in the morning. I absolutely cannot stand it, but after the first few days wore us out we had a hard time just getting out of bed on time. I've started this week fresh, with the bench press, crunches, and calf raises. That's gonna be my routine every morning until I leave Nassau - I'm determined. Not because I'm getting fat, and not because I particularly care whether or not I'm in shape, but because in order to be obedient I've gotta exercise. It is all a matter of faith!
I read a little bit in Sis. Ockey's History of the Church 7-volume set. My golly, I want those bad boys when I get home! There is just worlds and worlds of information that I have not read about the church and it is so incredibly interesting. Not to mention those volumes are references so much in conference talks and Ensign articles, it will be such a fantastic resource to have when I get home. I love reading and studying after all ... why not fill up my library with the most important stuff first! Speaking of studying, I memorized the timeline of the restoration (at least I did at the beginning of the week, I need to review it again). But it has been cool to be able to just go into my head for that knowledge instead of having to go into a book. I want to get more of that information in my head, scriptures, timelines, etc so that I can teach with more confidence. I'll be working on that! Currently I'm creating/setting up a fireside for the 24th of this month that is kinda my brain child. It's entitled "The Song of the Heart" and is going to be all about music in the gospel, and be a very hands-on experience for the branch. I hope it is successful.
Lucea and Falmouth back in Jamaica have been shut down officially as of yesterday, and are now dissolved into two other branches. The work here is seemingly neverending. It seems like we could have all 50,000 missionaries in this one mission and still would have endless amounts of work to do, so you can imagine how it feels being the only two missionaries in New Providence. With great responsibility comes great power however, if we trust in the Lord! I got a package from the Skyline branch the other day, with little letters from each member at FHE. How wonderful was that!? I felt so loved -- it was very cool, and very appreciated so thank you good ol' skyliners.
I need to tell you about Morris Ford. Morris was a friend of a member, he's 37, and he came to church three sundays ago after the member had been inviting him for years. He told us he's just felt recently like God has been telling him to find a church, get involved in faith, and put Him first. So we've been teaching him, and right from the get-go he's been really excited about everything. When we taught him the first lesson and I recited Joseph's account of the first vision, he said he'd heard that before but he didn't know where - but it sounded so familiar. When we watched The Restoration DVD, he asked us "how come sometimes you feel so good you want to cry?" He's ready and willing for everything, and he's set to be baptized this Saturday. We can't wait! When we gave him a Book of Mormon and asked him to pray, he came back the next lesson and said he'd been praying all night and he couldn't sleep. The next morning he'd gone to work and had the book in his car, and flipped it open and started reading Joseph's testimony. He said when he read the part about Moroni talking to Joseph all the way until morning, it was exactly like his experience. He said he felt someone was talking to him all night, and he kept getting thoughts into his head and next thing he knew the rooster was crowing and it was time to go to work. He said when he read that, he had a "whoa" experience. He asked me, "What was that all about?" So I told him, "that was the answer to your prayers." His response was the best -- "Really? Cool man. That's so cool." Everytime we ask him if he has any concerns he always tells us "I'm ready. I'm not afraid, let's do this." My favorite Morris quotes are "church is cool, man" and "Jesus is cool, man" and "you Christians know how to rock". He's so incredibly rad.
Allow me to leave you with some thoughts and impressions I've had this week, due to the Spirit and I believe my Heavenly Father answering my desparate, feeble prayers. The first is something that was shared by a tourist from Chandler in relief society yesterday. She said that "time is the most precious and charitable commodity we have to give". Now I don't know if that is the most correct grammatically, but the principle is absolutely correct and something I had never thought of. The world so often says "take time to yourself" or "you need 'me' time" and more often than not we feel like any time we have available deservingly so goes to ourselves. Because time is such a valuable resource, when we give and sacrifice of our time it is one of the greatest gifts we can give to anyone. When we love someone, we can truly show them how much we love them by giving them our time. The Savior gave all His time to doing His Father's work -- the ultimate manifestation of His love and devotion was what He did with His time. I feel priveleged to be able to give this small amount of time to my Heavenly Father, but in all aspects of our lives we can be more charitable with our time -- with our families, our loved ones, our callings, etc.
The other thought that was really a paradigm shift for me and will not be the same as I try to explain it in words, is the concept of the Lord's grace being sufficient for all. Brother Eyers, a member from England, gave a talk about this in sacrament meeting yesterday (can you tell I had a good Sunday?). He talked about 2 Cor 12:7-10, and how the Lord most often will not remove our adversity -- even though that's what we always expect or desire. How often do we pray and ask God to take away our weaknesses, our trials, our hardships ... when really what the Lord will actually do will bear us up to be able to meet our adversity and allow US to conquer it. It is not a matter of what He can or cannot do, but a matter of what we will or will not do. So much of us being faithful and overcoming life's obstacles is our willingness to do so. It is not our ability, but our focus and determination that will help us succeed. Our ability does not matter. We are all too weak to do it alone, BUT if we have the desire and are obedient to the Lord in all He asks of us and WE put in the footwork, then is His grace sufficent. THEN is His strength enough to make us strong, to bridge the gap between who we are and who we want to be, and who He expects us to be. It is so much US!
The last epiphany I will share with you is this quote, and I believe it is by Richard G Scott but I don't know it word for word off hand, but he says that Satan's most powerful tool against good people is distraction -- filling up our time with good things, leavning no room for the essential things. I have found this to be ever so true in my life. In fact, I have specific counsel regarding this in my patriarchal blessing. This has been and will continue to be a struggle for me, but I have learned to rely on the promise found in Ether 12:27 ... if I humble myself and have faith in my Savior, then will my weak things become strong.
Your commitment for this letter is to determine your talents. List out at least five talents that you have, and then ponder about how you can use those talents to help others. Why did God give you those talents? Then -- GO AND DO! Use at least one of those talents to help someone this week, and sit back and enjoy the blessings.
All the love in the world,
1 Timothy 4:12
Salutations Family, Friends and Fans --
Hello again from the land of a million churches. I hope everything is fantastic in your respective areas and that you are loving each day of your life. As Bryce Avary says, "every day there is a choice - and through the joy, through the pain, I will rejoice!"
The latest Liahona has a wonderful article about finding ourselves in Lehi's dream. We're all in it! I thought the most profound part of it was reading how we today are no longer walking alongside the great and spacious building, but rather the iron rod runs right through the building. The building is all around us! It really puts in perspective how difficult times are now, and how important it is, now more than ever, to grasp ahold of the word of God and our covenants and give it all we've got. Your commitment this week is to read that article!
Well the week started off by being invited by some tourists from Orlando, Bro. and Sis. Parker of Parker Boats, taking us out to Carmine's restaurant over by Atlantis. Talk about stush -- we had so much food, for days! It was definitely deliciously decadent - and quite a treat. We felt like rich people for a day, and we got to go to The Dig aquarium at Atlantis and check out all the crazy fish -- eels and piranhas... scary stuff!
There is a ridiculous conflict here between Haitians and Bahamians. We had this guy come take a tour of our church building, and at the end of it ask why we had a Haitian church. I can't stand any of that -- I simply let anyone with that issue know that God is no respecter of persons and the gospel is for everyone, and if they can't understand that they don't truly understand the gospel of Jesus Christ. It is a frustrating thing to deal with. Also frustrating was some random lady on the street yelling at us -- "are you Normans? I'm APOSTOLIC! You know the church that believes in JESUS CHRIST?!" All I kept thinking, as she kept yelling in my face, was 1) this lady had absolutely no idea what it meant to be Christian. Christ never yelled at anyone, and she was making me very afraid of her church ... and 2) 99.9% of the people here don't know the name of the church. When they read our name tag they say "I've never heard of that church where is it?" ... We'll let them know it is on Soldier Road, big yellow building. "Oh the Mormon church! You don't believe in God!" ... and then more yelling. Soemtimes it feels like damage control here, clearing up stupid rumors spread by other congregations. But we're still finding those who are looking for the truth, and know not where to find it -- even amidst this chaos.
This week has been a great week. We had some jerk chicken and peas and rice Jamaican style from Sis. Capita in the branch. That lady is hilarious! I also got to try my first vitamalt, a Bahamian energy/vitamin beverage. That'll probably be my last too - it tastes like bread. Not exactly a refreshing drink. And I've gotten a bunch of marriage advice from various members of the branch, which has been pretty dang funny to listen to. It is all positive though, and though none of them have met David they're all positive we're meant to be together. Gotta love it! Bro. Raymond gave a talk in sacrament meeting, but he doesn't speak much English. It was awesome - he gave it his all and did a lot better than I would if I had to give a talk in creole. Sis. Pascal who is the funniest lady ever has already started to make plans to take me to Haiti when I come back and visit after my mission, and anytime she goes out teaching with us she buys us Twin Brothers Daquiris. DELICIOUS and ADDICTIVE! There's so many awesome people in this branch, its crazy.
In other news I ate a fish with the head still on it. I'm not a fan. And of course, last but certainly not least -- THE WORK THIS WEEK WAS FANTASTIC! Morris Ford was baptized Saturday night and confirmed on Sunday. He's so incredibly solid, and had tears in his eyes at his baptism. He told me "Ya know, I was gonna go look around for other churches, but I found the right one on the first try. Someone was lookin' out for me!" He shared his experiences in Sunday School, and is already bringing his friends to church. I love this guy! I can't wait to see his progress in the church. Also, a less active we've been workign with -- Jude, was at church yesterday. He told me he was 'back home', and told the branch president he was here to stay and not turning back. That was like music to my ears!
Allow me to end by sharing a cool epiphany I had, due to the Spirit during study. I'm pretty sure my whole life I've always believed in the atonement, and had a testimony of the reality of it. I don't think, however, that I've ever truly understood it. I'm understanding it more and more each day, but this week I realized something very significant. I think I always assumed, because the Savior bled from every pore, that all of our pains and sins and sorrows were converted into physical pain when He took them upon Himself. Though His suffering would still be significant even if that were the case, and the atonement still be real and perfect, a shift in my perspective really changed my life. I realized that He lived every day of our entire lives -- every fear, insecurity, everything. Christ felt, not in some manifestation of physical pain, but in reality - just as we do, he felt sorrow, guilt, shame, apathy, indifference, fear, inadequacy, loneliness, embarassment, awkwardness, anxiety, etc etc etc. The Savior, even though He was perfect, felt the painful consequences of sin -- the guilt and fear that accompanies the darkest of sins. HE FELT EVERYTHING I HAVE EVER FELT, EXACTLY HOW I HAVE FELT IT -- but beyond what I could even imagine, because He felt it for all of us. No wonder He bled from every pore. If anyone has ever felt the pain of a loved one dying, their heart breaking from a relationship ending, the sorrow and regret for bad decisions, or the fear of what life has in store for them, they will know how profound the pain can truly be. That is amazing to me -- the perfect nature of the atonement. Understanding that, for me, has given me hope and strength. It has made me realize there is never a feeling I am experiencing that the Savior has not felt. My emotional woes were not converted to physical pains. He didn't feel agony in His stomach for my anxiety -- He felt nervousness and a rapid heart beat just like I do. The plan of salvation is for US - not for God. Heavenly Father didn't have to do any of it, but He did because He loves us. He sent our brother to save us! So anytime we feel like there is no way to overcome something, no way to conquer it, or we've fallen too far backward, too far down, that we're sunk and we can't make it right ... we can turn to the Lord with all we have, use the atonement and know, He suffered so that we don't have to. That's the miracle of forgiveness, and it is real and right there for the taking if we just reach out and grab it. What profound love ... it consumes me. (Hebrews 2:17-18)
I love you all and know that you're in my prayers. I hope this week you find renewed strength in the Savior and His atonement, and make and keep goals to improve your life and let your light shine to those around you. Thank you for your prayers and encouragement. They mean the world to me.
All my love,
"Faith or Fear"
its time to get behind the wheel and drive
time to really live while i'm alive
today is the day that i decide
if i'm ready for the fight, ready for the ride
will i trust in faith or fear
i still haven't a clue what i'm doing here
but i know that i will either disappear
or let you steer and kickstart my heart into gear
i won't lie - i lay awake at night
sometimes i hurt inside - but You won't see me cry
cause i'm in Your hands - its Your call
and i finally understand
i'm tired of wishing for greener grass
tired of thinking about the past
i'm so tired of excuses for coming in last
i gotta make a change and make it fast
i'm waiting for that kindly light to lead
lead us to the souls that stand in need
and i trust that the blind can surely see
Your amazing grace will set them free
just like it did for me
(with voiceover of Alma 32:21, 27)
Como Estas Familia, Amigos, y Todos los Otras --
I just got done eating at Senor Frogs, with the Senior Couple - The Bradleys. They served here about a year ago, and they just left out of Ocho Rios while we were in Lucea. They have a timeshare here, so are back visiting and took us out to lunch. They're from Cherry Hill New Jersey, and are quite pleasant people indeed. I had a chimichanga. Wasn't close to as good as back home, but I'll take it for sure! Yum. We also got to listen to a fantastic selection of Michael Jackson hits while we dined. It was pleasant.
I'm working on learning more and gaining a stronger testimony of the repentance process this transfer. This last week was devoted to godly sorrow. It is a very interesting thing, developing godly sorrow. It isn't very easy either. So much of the natural man in us only feels bad about things when we see negative consequences for our actions, or when we are punished. It isn't always easy feeling genuine sorrow for something simply because we know we let our Father in Heaven down. It has been a good week for me, learning more all the while and working hard on repenting every day. I have also been thinking a lot about the differences between conversion and testimony. Conversion is decision to follow what your testimony has convinced you is true. It is pretty easy to have a testimony I think, but conversion is the real trick -- what we want for our investigators, members, and for ourselves. I'm working everyday on becoming truly converted. I've got a long way to go! I guess that's why they say the most important convert you'll have on your mission is yourself -- ain't that the truth!
Most of our investigators just aren't progressing. We took some time out this week to really analyze our teaching, what we're doing right and what we can improve on. One man we're teaching, Bro. Major, is at church every Sunday and has read the entire Book of Mormon -- but he is not progressing toward baptism at all. Some people are just stubborn, but I know if we can truly get him to gain a witness through the Spirit, help him facilitate his conversion, he'll be runnin' to jump in the water. We had a member fireside and did not have a great turnout. But the people who were there were so solid. Our point was to get new investigators, which didn't happen at all. BUT we did strengthen the members for sure. It was all about music, and strengthening our testimonies through music (yeah, I planned it. what can I say I love music?) We got numerous compliments about how uplifting it was and that made us feel good. It is part of our mission to strengthen the branch here after all, and I know testimonies were strengthened. One member told me, as I introduced my favorite hymn, How Firm a Foundation, how that was her favorite too and how it really aided in bringing her back to activity in the church after years of inactivity. She said she was crying as we sang it -- that was worth it for me, to hear that she was helped at that point.
We're also teaching a girl Clarisa, who is quite possibly my favorite lady of all time. She is hilair, and lastnight she was telling us how much she's gonna miss us when we leave. We're gonna be here for a while! She's progressing, reading all the time and praying. I know her life is about to change forever. Other than that we're having a really hard time finding new investigators. Unlike Jamaica, street contacting here is totally ineffective. No one is outside in this heat, or this tropical storm weather. So we're trying to make the most with the people we are teaching. It is hard sometimes, when nothing is going well, to want to keep going. But that's why you just hit your knees, repent for thinking negatively and being lazy, and get to work.
It is nice being able to fast and pray so much. That is a habit I want to develop for the rest of my life, because I was not taking advantage of the blessings before my mission. Now I don't think I could survive without them. Oh, another cool piece of news: I will soon have the opportunity to teach English to the Haitians here. I've been waiting for such an opportunity and I can't wait for the program to get off the ground.
A temple reccommend! Always have one! I was reading something by Pres. Hinckley earlier this week that called it his "credit card with the Lord". That is a rad way to put it, and it is totally true. Even out here, when I can't go to the temple, I love knowing that I have one in my wallet.
In other news, we had a crazy lady Patsy who we met call us like 60 times over 2 days and keep asking us to bring her stuff back from the States. She's not all there, but her niece and her daughter were calling us too and they were totally coherent so I don't know what their excuse is. Thankfully they've got the hint and quit calling us. It was mostly annoying, getting ten phone calls at four AM from random lady wanting a laptop. Blah. Oh, and the Ockeys are probably the richest people I've ever personally known. No, in fact they are. They have a private jet. And their grandkids have Ferraris. Its just too much. They're really nice people though, so it proves that not all rich people are jerks! Besides, they take great care of us so it works out well.
Your commitment this week is to be doers, not just hearers only. So many of us go to church, watch conference, or whatever -- just waiting for others to uplift and strengthen us. But how much of our personal time do we actually spend studying, learning by faith, and uplifting ourselves? We can be change agents in our own lives, and part of that is ACTING upon the counsel we receive. So many times in my life I received counsel from leaders and thought "that doesn't apply to me". Oh, how I wish I would have listened to that inspired counsel and avoided much regret and sorrow. What a better missionary I would be -- what a better person I would be. No longer do I want counsel from Apostles, the Prophet, and local leaders to fall on my deaf ears. ACT. USE YOUR AGENCY TO ACTIVELY PURSUE YOUR EXALTATION.
I have an earache. And I don't like it.
Until next week,
**Have you written to Sister Payne lately?? Get her address from the sidebar and send her some lovin**