I was relieved to read a lot of positive letters in my inbox this morning, because the tendency for the quality of my week to reflect in the weeks of friends and family sometimes makes me feel uneasy when I have a week like this one.
But! The Church is still true and God answers prayers. And all things work together for good to those who love the Lord.
I'll be completely honest, this week was the hardest of my mission. But I also consider it a pivotal point not only in the way I view my calling, but in my own character growth and the direction I want my life to take. It's humbling to see that during the hardest of times you discover strength you never knew you had, and your character grows in ways that surpass any understanding you previously had about your own potential.
The greatest blessing of all is how close you feel to the Savior in times of turmoil. Granted, you should always strive to draw near to Him, but the things you learn about His character during the trials of your faith are precious gems that you carry for the rest of your life. In preparation for Easter Sunday and the commemoration of the birth, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, this week was excellent timing to learn more about the Savior's character and what it means to me that He died and lived again.
So now that I have been incredibly vague, I will share the details of the week (as much is appropriate, anyway) along with the lessons I learned--or was reminded of--about the Savior's atoning sacrifice.
Because He lives, hope can be restored to those who feel that all hope is lost.
We met with a less active this week who had high hopes for her son. He had been mingling with the wrong crowd, but one of his friends just got baptized, and his mother hoped that as soon as he met with us he would want to change his life around. We showed up for the appointment but he wasn't there. Turns out he had been involved in gang activity, had run away from home, and had the cops chasing after him. Trying to console his broken mother broke my heart. I opened to the scripture in Mosiah 27, verse 14, which talks about Alma's experience with seeing an angel after his father had prayed for him. I told her to never underestimate the power of prayer from a concerned parent. I saw hope come back into her eyes as she realized that there was still a glimmer of hope. I wish I knew the end to this story, but I do know that all that is unfair about life can be made up through the Atonement of Jesus Christ, and that He understands all fear, pain, and sorrow.
Because He lives, those who mourn shall be comforted. Those who are sick, afflicted, or broken can be made whole.
Tuesday my heart broke again as, once again, a person very near and dear to my heart uncovered a spiritual wound that was too deep to heal without professional assistance. This left Sister Day and I completely heartbroken. What made matters more heartbreaking was that this person grew 'comfortable' with her miserable lifestyle and didn't want any assistance. The only reason I found out was because as I had been praying for her I received a strong prompting to ask her about it, and she trusted us enough to open up. She had carried this burden alone for years but intends to continue carrying the load alone. She feels as if God has abandoned her and has ceased answering her prayers, so her testimony has begun to dwindle. I have never seen anyone so broken as this woman whom I have come to love here in Soddy Daisy. I felt that there was so little I could do. As I watched her sob, I just walked up to her, put my arms around her, and cried with her. The scriptural charge to "mourn with those that mourn" took on a new meaning to me in my efforts to help this woman. Many loved ones may seem broken beyond repair, but a certain strength flows to both of you as you mourn together. I believe that's why Jesus wept for Lazarus's family. He knew everything was going to be okay. But he understood the heartache of losing loved ones, and the tool He used to comfort His sister was empathy; he wept with her. God will allow us to break so that He can create a stronger whole. No matter how distant He may seem, He always stands ready to heal our broken hearts.
Because He lives, we can be instruments in His hands to "bear one another's burdens, that they may be light" (Mosiah 18:8).
Thoughts of this woman have stayed with me all week. I have prayed for her, fasted for her, and have done all I could to persuade her to seek assistance. After she opened up about feeling abandoned by God, I found myself kneeling in prayer that evening and crying out to God, "Where are you??" The answer came almost immediately, "I am in you." The reality of my calling hit me with surprising force. I felt more humbled than ever as I realized that God has sent me here to this person to help bear her burden until she would be fully healed, whether it be in this life or in the next. God calls upon angels in heaven as well as on earth to help us in times of need. I have been blessed with heavenly and earthly angels throughout my life, and I am profoundly grateful for this chance to help ease the load put on the shoulders of the people whom I love so dearly. The opportunity to bear the burdens of others has been the most fulfilling experience of my life, though witnessing this suffering breaks my heart. I have felt so much closer to Jesus Christ as I have reflected on His atonement. He understands the pain of emotional and mental illness. He understands all the pains of mortality. He knows exactly how to help ease the burdens that have been placed on us. Even though He may not always take the burdens of our loved ones away, He will call upon us to lighten the load in times of need. That is how much He trusts us. And that is how much He loves us. And as we cling to the hope of His resurrection, we can find peace in the reality that one day every burden will be lifted, and God will wipe the tears from our eyes.
Because He lives, we can find hope and joy through the darkest of times.
God has blessed Sister Day and I this week with incredible strength. I have been so impressed with Sister Day's ability to laugh in the face of adversity. After a particularly rough night, we found ourselves walking through the church parking lot, where the entire sidewalk had been torn up for construction. I commented that this would make our church look bad for the open house we're hosting on Tuesday, and Sister Day replied with a high-pitched hostess voice, "Welcome to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints! Don't mind the sidewalk, it's just here to show that we're all a work in progress!" We laughed at that one for a really long time. Throughout the week we have laughed at the dumbest jokes and have done what we can to keep morale high. I am so incredibly grateful that she is my companion.
Because He lives, blessings flow every day, from tender mercies to miracles.
God has blessed us with so many tender mercies this week to compensate for the heartache. We were able to put together a program for Ethan's baptism, and it's always a joy teaching that child. We had the opportunity to see Shirley, who always brightens our week with her happy attitude and her desire to make herself worthy to attend the temple. We saw James and Hayes twice, who openly told us that their lives have been changed from our visits. A family in the ward threw us a huge Easter dinner on Friday, and another family threw another one on Sunday, to make sure we were taken care of during the holidays. The sunshine and the blossoms seem more beautiful than ever. God has given us the constant reminder that He is here.
Because He lives, many lost souls are finding the truth.
This is my favorite part. :) We have had a lot of success in what little proselyting we have been able to accomplish this week (another long story). James and Hayes came to church!! We didn't have time to see them because they left so quickly afterwards, but it was so awesome to see them there!
We also got to see Ronnie twice this week. We told him to read and pray about the Book of Mormon, because it was only through the Book of Mormon that he could truly come to know that the Church is true. When we followed up with him during our next visit, he said he had prayed about it and knew it was true! Woohoo!! He is so excited to be baptized, and is humbly accepting everything we teach him. Though the work in Soddy Daisy has been slow, we have been reminded that God is still preparing hearts, and will lead us to those people once they're ready.
Speaking of, the greatest miracle this week is Amanda and Justin. They just moved in next to some members in the ward, and Amanda has been looking for a church. We taught her last Thursday, and I have never seen such a hungry soul. We asked her what she wanted to get out of her visits with us, and she replied, "Everything!!!!" We taught her the Restoration and she soaked it in like a sponge. We showed her the video and she was rooting for Joseph Smith the whole time, and even got mad at some of the characters who didn't believe his story. She is so solid! Justin, her husband, wasn't able to make it to that lesson because he was taking care of their sick baby, but he came to church yesterday and loved it! We'll be teaching them both again tomorrow evening. Amanda is the most excited investigator I've ever taught, and it felt so refreshing to be able to teach a hungry soul.
Yeup! The Church is true, God answers prayers, and He is always there. :)
So. Poof. There ya have it. Even though this week was the toughest of my mission, I can also honestly say it was one of the most life-changing. I wish I could put it into words, but I simply can't. Nor can I include too many details because of the personal nature of the problems we faced this week. But I can say that Jesus Christ lives. I know He loves us. He still leads us, guides us, and walks besides us. He is the only way to true and lasting happiness. He will never allow us to be tempted above that which we can handle. He trusts us. He wants us to bear one another's burdens. The messages from this past conference burned in my heart this week as I reflected on what it means to truly love someone, and how much Jesus Christ truly loves us. Though the latter is still something I cannot fathom, I am eternally grateful for my knowledge of His life, His death, His resurrection, and the path He showed that leads to endless happiness and rest from all trouble, care, and sorrow. I love Him more than words can describe, and I love the ministry to which He has called me. Know that Sister Day and I are doing well and are well taken care of. We are in the best of hands because we are in His hands. And I pray each day that all my family, friends, and loved ones will also be in His hands.
I love you all and thank you so much for your prayers and support. May God be with each and every one of you! Until next week,