Hey Family, Friends, and Fans --
Sorry if this has a morose tone. I may have very well (in fact its looking like I have) lost all of my pictures from my entire mission. Three cheers for me. I'm an idiot, and I'm suffering the depressing consequences.
On a less miserable note, I shall try to muster up enough positivity to write you a decent e-mail. So let's start with the best news:
We have made a real difference in Young Women's here. There wasn't even a program when we got here. Now they meet every Sunday, and every girl in the class said they're preparing to serve a mission. Dope.
We were able to help Pres. Morrison build his house this last week. It was fun, difficult, and rewarding.
The miracle of the week was that Kristopher, whose mother has previously been the devil's advocate, was able to sit in on our lesson Monday night and he proceeded to ask a bunch of questions out of some anti-mormon book his mom had given him ... after all of our responses he simply said "I don't believe any of this. Anytime there is something good, you always find people who try to tear it down ..." and put the book away. Cool kid.
Our recent convert Odain is in love with another recent convert Ann. He told her yesterday he's been praying about her to see if she should be his wife (they're not dating) and then she came to church yesterday and sat behind him so he's taken it to be his answer. She didn't look at him like that, but now she is. She told us that if the Lord sees fit that she should be with Odain, who is she to argue? It makes me giggle. She's like six foot, he's shorter than me. She's like 31, and he's 24. But hey, love is love I s'pose. They're gonna start "talking" and see what comes of it. She loves that he's really into the scriptures, a priesthood holder and shares her same beliefs. Considering her last boyfriend was a total toolbag who tried to get her to break the law of chastity every five seconds, I say its a good switch.
Demetri bore his testimony in church yesterday about how the book of mormon has blessed his life. Well that's just adorable. He also rattled off the entire plan of salvation doctrine, from pre earth life to the kingdoms of glory in the correct order during a lesson last week. He's a genius and will be an excellent missionary in 8 1/2 years.
During Relief Society "land down under" by men at work starting blaring outside loud as if it were playing through the microphone on the podium in the chapel. Gotta love church in Jamaica. That just wouldn't happen back home.
Pres. Clarke gave a great talk that was a good reminder for me to not ever rationalize sin. God never "understands" a sin or pardons a sin - a sin is a sin and needs proper repentance, no ifs ands of buts about it.
Sis Wilkinson calls me "payne-a-rain" .... Not sure where that came from but there it is.
I'm overwhelmed with love for this place and these people. Jamaicans give God credit for everything good that happens to them, and give Satan credit for everything bad that happens to them. The first is good, the latter isn't so good. Still I admire their faith and diligence in "staying in the word" as they say and striving to see the work of God in their everyday life. If they get a taxi right before it starts raining, its not luck - its divine intervention.
The Golgar family has struggled with being offended a lot at church. What was great this last week was to see them get offended last Sunday hardcore by something offcolour a member said, and then still come to church this week. They explained how even though they were mad at that person who was a leader in the branch, they wouldn't let him rob them of the experience of going to church and receiving the blessings from worshipping God and Jesus Christ on the Sabbath. It was admirable, and they've really come a long way. It's been a blessing to see it.
I have seen many blessings from my service now. I know I have yet to see many in the future ... even greater blessings await me.
I've been blessed to be able to take the sacrament every Sunday ... when worthily taken it has a sanctifying affect - maybe after a lifetime of taking it I'll actually be the person God wants me to be.
I had a revelation about effective studies, that has helped me lately to improve my personal and companion study. It's all about the people - what they need me to study instead of what I want to study. Nothing I do matters until I lose myself in the service of others. It's a difficult thing to lay aside all personal desires and affairs, but it is what the Lord expects of me while I am consecrated to His service.
Last but not least, after reading Pres. Uchtorf's talk from conference in the Priesthood session, I thought a lot about "going through the motions" ... some of us are so good at being Mormon but not so good at being Christian - as in we do what is expected of us, but our heart isn't in it. We perform our duties in the gospel as if its just a job that we have to do and complete, yet there is not completing loving others. We can't ever check off "serving my fellow man ... done" or "proclaiming the gospel.... check" ... if we really look at our divine commission as children of God and members of His kingdom, we'll see that until we love what we do we're not really doing it at all.
That's all I've got this week. Here's hoping I find my pictures.
Here's a couple in the meantime, in case they get lost too.
Wa'ta'gwaan Family, Friends, and Fans --
You good? Everything cool? We have had a tropical depression here in Jamaica - nonstop rain all week. Never before in my life have I seen it rain from the minute I wake up til the minute I go to bed without stopping. It's amazing. If this is any indication we're going to have a very moist hurricane season. It has made finding a bit difficult, since no one is outside and no one wants to talk, but it has cooled the weather down a lot - which made for a GREAT day today!
We had a zone P-day at treasure beach in st. elizabeth ... we found an abandoned football field and had a hardcore game. It was like Spain vs Brazil out there. I scored four goals (that's what's up) thanks to some great assists from Sis. Wilkinson, and our team ended up winning 10 to 6. Somehow a mud fight broke out. I don't know how that happened, but it got a little out of hand. We ended up having pizza at Jack Sprat and heading home. We were lucky to get a taxi since no one wanted to let us in because of our dirtiness. As we were walking to the taxi park in Junction a guy asked me what was all over my face so I gave him the "rock on" sign with my hands, which means nothing here, and he apparently misinterpreted it for horns and starting shouting "DEVIL! DEVIL!" at the top of his lungs until we got in the taxi. Never a dull day. This was probably the most fun P-Day I've had on my mission - it's up there at least.
Still no memory stick. And my watch broke. I found it ironic that I lost my pictures and my watch broke - almost as if the Lord was like ... quit counting the seconds, and make 'em count! I still have a lot of pictures that I sent home and that my companions have on their cameras - and the memories, which are the most important, as Dustin pointed out - so I took a deep breath and moved on. No use letting that ruin any of my mission. Matthew 6:19-21.
We had a zone meeting on Wednesday at the church in Santa Cruz. It was a great meeting focused on finding new investigators, extending baptism dates, and having excitement for the work/enduring to the end. Church yesterday was silly - because it was pouring rain and most members taxi/walk we had only 20 people there - two families basically. That meant everyone got to bear their testimony, haha. It turned out to be really uplifting and a good time was had by all. I've had zero budgeting skills this month. Ever since Sister Everette, who found a way to talk us into buying a candy bar or a milkshake every five seconds, we've had a hard time not buying treats or shenanigans. So we're having to slow down a bit and make our leftovers count.
On a mission, I appreciate that you have to live a higher law. It occurred to me that if I can live the Spirit and the letter of the missionary law, it will make me that much stronger when I return and that much easier to live the not-as-high law. I should say, the Spirit of the law remains the same when I get home - its only the letter that changes. I'm grateful for the good examples around me that make obedience a priority, and for a loving mission president that teaches us correct principles and lets us govern ourselves.
We met some cool people this week - CJ who lives in Trelawny and is GOLDEN AND A HALF but lives so far away. I mean, he devoured the restoration pamphlet and The Book of Mormon, understood it, loved it and wanted to meet with us A.S.A.P. He lives 40 minutes away from the church and it's impossible for him to get a taxi on Sundays. So we're still trying to work with him during the week, but just hoping that it is a good seed planted for future harvesting. We also met a former investigator Nikki, who loves the church and loved meeting with the missionaries. She had a baptism date six years ago, but stopped meeting with the Elders because 1) her grandparents wouldn't let her (she was only 16 then) and 2) the missionaries left and the next set didn't find her. We have high hopes for her. Rhuel, of the Golgar family, set his own baptism date for July 1st. Missionaries have been working with him for YEARS, but I feel he's closest now and we expect great things from him. We sang hymns at a nursing home last week. That was so fun - those people were so cute... a lot of them could barely talk but they still managed to say "thank you". :)
I've learned some good stuff this week ...
A. D&C 46:18 -- the gift of knowledge comes with a responsibility to teach ... that is my responsibility in life and wherever life takes me I've gotta teach!
B. We watched a short movie called "Treasure in Heaven: The John Tanner Story" -- that was legit! It really helped me to see that no sacrifice is too great for the Lord ... He makes up every loss, and then some. "Consecration is the only surrender that is also a victory" - Neal A. Maxwell.
C. "When you drink the water - don't forget the well from whence it sprung"
D. If we are in a war - which we are - between good and evil, we must study the opposing side's strategies, their playbook if you will. This doesn't mean doing bad things or going bad places, but rather learning how temptation comes, how to avoid the trap of sin, and how to recognize the influence of the Holy Ghost vs the influence of any other source ...
11For behold, a bitter afountain cannot bring forth good water; neither can a good fountain bring forth bitter water; wherefore, a man being a servant of the devil cannot follow Christ; and if he bfollow Christ he cannot be a cservant of the devil.
12Wherefore, all things which are agood cometh of God; and that which is bevil cometh of the devil; for the devil is an enemy unto God, and fighteth against him continually, and inviteth and enticeth to csin, and to do that which is evil continually.
13But behold, that which is of God inviteth and enticeth to do agood continually; wherefore, every thing which inviteth and benticeth to do cgood, and to love God, and to serve him, is dinspired of God.
14Wherefore, take heed, my beloved brethren, that ye do not judge that which is aevil to be of God, or that which is good and of God to be of the devil.
E. God is the same, yesterday, today and forever!
the 12 tribes of israel - genesis 49:28 ... num 7:2
the seventy - num 11:16-17
the 12 apostles - matthew 10:1-5
the seventy - luke 10:1, 17
the 12 - d&c 18:26-29
the 70 - d&c 70:25-26
Last but not least, the greatest thing I learned this week is that nothing matters but LOVE - our love for God and our love for our fellowmen. Without that, nothing else matters. With that, EVERYTHING matters.
I'm grateful to be engaged in this work - to have made such great friends, learned such great lessons, been through trial after trial after trial to have been brought that much closer to Jesus Christ. I'm grateful for the prophetic counsel we have in our day that helps us stay on the straight and narrow path in a world that is so confusing. I'm grateful for the truth, for God is not the author of confusion, and has not made multiple truths but one, so that we can have peace of mind in this life and eternal life in the life to come. I'm grateful for The Book of Mormon that makes plain so many doctrines that have been confused throughout time. I'm grateful for the church, with all of its many imperfect members, that is there as a place of refuge for a sinner like me. I'm grateful to be in Jamaica, this beautiful country, to make my small difference in the lives of these people.
I love you all. Until next week,