Who are we?

We are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. We are currently serving in the mission field of The Church
for a period of three years. This blog represents our own opinions and experiences for these three years. And does not represent or speak
for the doctrine or opinions of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Are you Ready for a Mission?

Part I of Advanced Missionary Prep
(stay tuned for Part II !!)
with photos of mission life, zone conferences and transfers . . .

A while back a popular LDS Magazine shared an article by Jeremy Goff entitled  -
"7 Ways to Come Pre-Trained for your Mission".

It is an excellent article! 

It is absolutely true that there are many things young men and young women of the Church can and should do so that they will enter the mission field more prepared and effective upon their arrival.  The Lord is hastening His work of Salvation, there can be no doubt.  We are seeing both the challenges and the blessings of increased emphasis coming to pass all around us daily. We see an outpouring of the Spirit and blessings upon those missionaries who have the desire and come prepared to serve.

Not very long ago young men and young women of the Church had an opportunity to spend a lengthy time in the MTC's (Mission Training Centers) of the Church located throughout the world. Amongst many things, a particular purpose was to educate and train them to be more effective missionaries, to help them comprehend gospel principles they did not yet understand, to help them increase the strength of their testimonies.  Young people do not have such a luxury at this time.  They need to come prepared. Although to loved ones, two years or 18 months seems like a long time . . . and it is . . . the time passes rapidly.  You will want to make use of everyday!

Missionaries come from many different backgrounds . . .

We see that not all missionaries come to the mission on equal footing.  They come with many and varied experiences in the gospel.  Some missionaries arrive after learning gospel principles from their days of Primary, Young men / Young Women and seminary and institute classes.  Many missionaries, especially outside of the United States arrive in the mission field as new converts to the Church.  Each has a fervent testimony and a desire to share, but their experience in the gospel is somewhat different.

The most important convert of a missionary is him or herself.  Each missionary will see long term blessings related to missionary service. Yet, the missionaries of the Church are the mouthpiece of our Heavenly Father and Savior in proclaiming His restored gospel here upon the earth.  They are called and set apart by Priesthood authority to be representatives of the Savior and to teach in His name.  They can fulfill their sacred calling more effectively and have more meaningful experiences by taking the time to come well prepared.

I would advise young people (and ALL people really . . . for are we not ALL missionaries and representatives of the Savior?) to read carefully the article referenced above.

In addition to strengthening your testimony and gospel knowledge in the weeks and months before your mission, there are some other important preparations to make.

The Importance of Emotional Preparation

Speaking to future missionaries, Elder L. Tom Perry explained, "Missionary service is emotionally demanding.  Your support system is going to be withdrawn from you as you leave home and go out into the world . . . " 

This can be a very difficult emotional time for new missionaries.  All missionaries go through a period of becoming more comfortable, and it will be easier if you are emotionally prepared to serve.  Your new emotional support will be in the form of your companion, district and zone leaders, sister training leaders and your mission president and wife.  Yet missionaries need to be prepared to act as adults, live and prosper in an adult world, and they need to make this transition rapidly.

The Challenges of Missionary Life - 

Suddenly you will be budgeting a limited source of money to provide for all your expenses, perhaps dealing with homesickness, living with an assigned 24x7 companion, perhaps in a difficult culture or environment, adjusting to a busy schedule of long days that begin very early.  Frequently those learning a new language will not understand their new companion for weeks, or anything those they are teaching or the Church members and leaders surrounding them are saying.  Some may struggle with weaknesses they are still trying to overcome.

All these experiences contribute to how quickly you can feel comfortable in your new role as a missionary.

It's not unusual for missionaries newly arrived in the mission field to experience stress related physical symptoms.  They are no fun!  Sometimes it can be headaches, back pain,  heart palpitations, insomnia, fatigue, stomach problems, dry mouth, frequent colds and flu bugs. Sometimes stress can even lead to panic attacks, anxiety, depression and difficulty functioning on a daily basis.

Growth through New Skills and Talents - 

Your Mission President and his wife, and other leaders will help you to learn new coping skills as very likely, the coping skills from your past will not be available.  You can't phone a friend . . . enjoy a relaxing game on your latest game system, watch TV, hug your dog, go for a swim, enjoy some alone time, read a novel, text message and tweet.  But you will find new skills that will strengthen and bless your life, not only during your missionary service but for all the challenging times that the future holds in store for you.

Yet, wouldn't it be much nicer if you came to the mission already prepared!  Already prepared with some great skills and advanced personal strengths!

President Gordon B. Hinckley phrased it very well when he said:

"This work is rigorous.  It demands strength and vitality.  It demands mental sharpness and capacity . . . Missionary work is not a rite of passage in the Church.  It is a call extended by the President of the Church to those who are worthy and able to accomplish it . . . Good physical and mental health is vital . . . There are parents who say, 'If only we can get Johnny on a mission, then the Lord will bless him with health.  It seems to not work out that way.   
Rather, whatever ailment of physical or mental shortcoming a missionary has when he comes into the field only becomes aggravated under the stress of the work.  We simply must face up to the facts.  We are spending millions of dollars on medical care and countless hours assisting those with problems that make it impossible for them to perform the work . . . There are other areas where those with serious limitations may work and have a satisfying experience.  And the Lord will bless them for what they are able to do . . . 
Permit me to emphasize that we need missionaries, but they must be capable of doing the work . . .

Mental and emotional health is critical to the success of a missionary in serving the Lord with - 
"all your heart, might, mind and strength"!  (D&C 4:2)

You can do it!

It is a great blessing in our lives to serve with young men and young women of the Church who have come from all over the world to serve as representatives of the Savior and bring the blessings of the Atonement to people everywhere.  They are fulfilling the words of the Prophet Joseph Smith who foresaw the day when - 

"the truth of God will go forth boldly, nobly, and independent, till it has penetrated
every continent, visited every clime, swept every country." (History of the Church, 4:540)

As prospective missionaries seek to become more prepared in every way, they will experience all the choicest blessings our Heavenly Father has reserved for his Latter-day missionaries, who are serving in this great period of hastening . . . as our Heavenly Father hastens his work to restore the gospel throughout the world.  As they share the message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, they will receive some of the most sweet and richly rewarding moments of their lives.

(Now that I've helped you realize the importance of preparation . . . you'll have to come back for many practical and important ideas you can put into practice!  
I should have it available soon!)

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

The LDS Missionary Experience . . .

The LDS Missionary Experience . . .

We continue to marvel at the amazing experiences that come to pass through the efforts of the many young people serving in all parts of the world . . . otherwise known as missionaries for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (aka Mormon Missionaries, LDS Missionaries, Sister Missionaries, Elders) . . .

LDS missionaries receive a charge to teach the restored gospel of Jesus Christ.  They are called by priesthood authority, by a member of the living apostles present upon the earth today.  They are called as authorized representatives of the Savior, Jesus Christ and are expected to represent him and do his work in all things.

Therefore they can teach with both power and authority . . .

 Wherefore, redemption cometh in and through the Holy Messiah; for he is full of grace and truth.   . . .  Wherefore, how great the importance to make these things known unto the inhabitants of the earth, that they may know that there is no flesh that can dwell in the presence of God, save it be through the merits, and mercy, and grace of the Holy Messiah, who layeth down his life according to the flesh, and taketh it again by the power of the Spirit, that he may bring to pass the resurrection of the dead, being the first that should rise.  (2 Nephi 2:6,8)

You can't miss them . . .

They have a very distinct appearance and they are pretty difficult to miss when you see them walking down the street two by two.  Our favorite moments, and it happens frequently, we will be driving down the street on our way to a meeting somewhere, and spot two of our wonderful missionaries from the San Pedro Sula East Mission.  We try to always carry treats in our car, or bottles of water so we have something to share with them when and wherever we find them!  They always have big smiles on their faces, despite the 100 degree plus temperatures, perhaps pouring pouring rain, dusty dirty shoes from walking through the dry and rocky paths and trails of the mission here.

It never fails that they have incredible stories to share from their teaching and testifying of the previous week.  We are amazed at all the good works that come to pass through their teaching and examples of service.  We have seen so many wonderful families and individuals change their life for the better, quit drinking, stop smoking, become more dedicated mothers and fathers and families, youth prepare to serve their own missions.  We love to see the light of Christ that comes into their lives as they change their lives to bring them more in line with the example of our Savior, Jesus Christ.

The Challenge of Missionary Work . . .

Missionary work is difficult, filled with daily challenges . . . but the many miracles and wonderful experiences make each painful moment worth while.

Not all missionary stories end happily . . . we can testify that miracles do not convert to a true knowledge of the gospel.  Proven gospel principles and irrefutable evidence does not convert one person to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  It is only through the witness of the Holy Ghost, by those who are seeking to know the truth of all things . . . that one receives that conversion to the gospel deep into their heart.  That's when the beautiful, filled with light transformation begins to take place in the lives of those who come to know their Savior on a personal basis.

(some of our past and present Mission Leader Council members)

Sharing Missionary Experiences

I thought I would share just a few missionary experiences with you all today -

(Just a reminder . . . when you share missionary experiences, be sure not to share names of members, other missionaries, investigators or the locations they are serving.  We want to protect the privacy of each of these people that we love so dearly.  Try to refer to them with initials, or in some other way to protect their safety (always an issue here in Honduras) and their privacy).

 . . . we experienced a great miracle this week!  This week, one of our new converts had the opportunity to go to the temple!  We were so proud of him . . . when we found him he was addicted to alcohol, and had a smoking habit.  He has completely changed his life, and this week he went to the temple with the names of 10 of his ancestors.  It is such a great blessing to see how this gospel really changes lives and makes people happy! . . .

 . . . this has been a challenging week, and even though we have been working so hard, we have seen very little progress, but we keep talking with everyone and know that Heavenly Father will guide us.  We did have a great experience teaching family history to a recent convert.  We have been helping him fill our his "My Family" pamphlet, and we are helping him get set up with an account in FamilySearch.  We are finding it incredible that this is helping him increase his testimony of the gospel and feel the power of the blessings of the temple . . .

(Bet you never thought your 19 year old missionary would be doing this)
 . . . it's been a little crazy this week.  A ward member suffered an emotional attack and locked the family out of the house.  The member remained inside distraught, with their youngest daughter, and holding a machete.  The bishop asked for our help, to visit the family and see what we could do.  We literally ran to the house and spoke to the member through the window.  The distraught member was experiencing many great family challenges and didn't feel able to go on . . . A priesthood blessing was refused, and we prayed mightily for help and guidance as to what to say or do.  We felt inspired to share Isaiah's words in Chapter 53 on the Savior's suffering on our behalf.  And bore a simple testimony that the Savior bore pain and grief and a broken body for exactly this sort of need, and that we CAN rely on Him.  After some time, the daughter was allowed to leave the house, and we were so grateful we had taken Elder Neil L. Andersen's challenge to memorize scripture to heart.  It was just what we needed today . . .

(Post General Conference lunch with missionaries!)

(Training the trainers of new missionaries!)

(So grateful for the kind words of the missionaries)
 . . . I wanted to share with you a cute story . . . a little girl in the family we were teaching looked at her father and said "Daddy, when I'm big, I want to marry someone just like you!".  It made me think . . . Thank you President and Sister Klein for your wonderful example.  Thank you for calming my fears, giving the answers to all my doubts and questions, providing for my necessities, thank you for your love and for all your hopes and desires for me.  Thank you for your energy, your spirit and for all you do! . . .

(We really are not like the other churches . . .)
 . . . this week went by really fast.  We did have one of our investigators go to church with us this week.  She loves meeting with us and loves learning more about Christ.  The only thing is, she was very confused on Sunday.  She asked us why we weren't jumping, dancing, singing and clapping our hands during the church service.  She has gone to an Evangelical church all her life . . . so I can see she has many questions for us in our upcoming appointments!

(More past and present Mission Leader Council members)

 . . . a miraculous week, a couple investigating the church needed to get married to prepare for their baptism, a very expensive experience here in Honduras.  After taking the required marriage class they went to a doctor appointment to receive the required medical exams, where they discovered the cost would be 1000 Lempira, a great deal of money for a Honduran couple.  They left discouraged and disappointed as they had spent all their money to receive the necessary paperwork to get married.  As they were entering a taxi to return home, an acquaintance approached them and told them he knew where they could get the medical testing done for free.  They couldn't believe it!  They arrived to find a group of doctors traveling through Honduras doing free marital exams.  The doctors had just barely arrived and they were one of their first patients.  So grateful to see the hand of God in his work, and he knows the needs of each of his individual children.

 . . . we had a good week this week.  We worked with the elders from our ward and some future missionaries, all good experiences.  I'm so grateful to be a missionary!  We had a very spiritual experience with someone we were teaching that had not prayed in three years because of some personal challenges in their life, feeling abandoned by God . . . but as we talked about repentance, the atonement, the power of prayer . . . the Spirit was strong and their hearts were touched. A baptismal challenge was accepted and this person was finally able to end their long spiritual drought by offering a first prayer, after a very long time.  This is what I love about missionary work . . .

 . . . we have been teaching a wonderful prepared person for the last four weeks that will soon be baptized.  We met him at church one Sunday . . . we saw a man arrive on a bicycle, who had obviously been riding for quite a distance.  He said that one of his friends had invited him to come to church, and although at first he didn't want to, he kept getting feelings like he needed to come.  He rode his bike for and hour and a half to arrive at the church.  We taught him the first lesson and he asked, "How long do I have to come to church before I can get baptized?"  We were stunned. We knew it was through the promptings of the Holy Ghost, that he was prepared long before we met him . . .

 . . . this week was super great, we have felt the Spirit so strong and experienced so much joy.  Someone we had been teaching was baptized.  The service turned out wonderful and we had so much support from the ward to welcome him.  After his baptism I asked him how he felt and he replied, "liberated", and he had the biggest smile on his face.  Yesterday he was confirmed, and received the priesthood as well.  But that's not all, he is also going to the temple this Friday and he is taking 10 family names!

(New missionaries just as they arrive in the mission field . . . soon to become just like the next photo!)

(Departing missionaries - who served with all their heart, might, mind and strength!)

 . . . I love this work, I love my area!  I love seeing miracles occur as we strive to invoke them through our obedience.  We had another person we had been teaching and who was going to church regularly, but hasn't wanted to be baptized yet.  While we were all participating in a family history activity, she came up to me and said she was ready to be baptized.  I don't understand everything about the Spirit of Elijah, but I see it testify to people, and touch and change their lives everyday.  It's inspired us to help all those we are teaching better understand the blessings of the temple.

Hastening the Work of Salvation - 

It's been incredible to witness the increased amounts of youth accepting mission calls to serve the Lord and dedicate all their heart, might, mind and strength.  They are responding to the prophets call to hasten the work of salvation.  Their task has been magnified and encompasses much more than previously was expected by missionaries in the past.  But we are seeing increasing blessings that occur everyday.

(Ummm . . . who is this guy . . . can't tell without the white shirt . . .)

As members and leaders we have the same opportunities to find ourselves in the Savior's work of salvation.

We are all in this together. With fellow ward members and missionaries, we plan and pray and help one another. Please keep the full-time missionaries in your thoughts and prayers. Trust them with your family and friends. The Lord trusts them and has called them to teach and bless those who seek Him.
Elder Neil L. Andersen

For behold, this is my work and my glory—to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.   Moses 1:39

Friday, May 1, 2015

Elder Neil L. Andersen visits Honduras

As a mission, and as a country we were greatly blessed to receive Elder Neil L. Andersen, of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles as a guest here in Honduras, and especially here in our mission. 

 He was accompanied by Elder Richard J. Maynes of the Presidency of the Seventy, Elder Dean M. Davies, second counselor in the Presiding Bishopric of the Church, Elder, Elder Adrian Ochoa of the 2nd Quorum of the Seventy, and Elder Valladares, our presiding Area Seventy.  It was a great opportunity to hear from each one of them as they addressed the youth of the Church both in a special fireside, and a meeting of both missions here in San Pedro Sula.

Whenever you have many wonderful General Authorities gathered and more than 450 missionaries in one place . . . you can certainly feel the spirit of the great work of the Church on the face of the earth today.

I have been blessed to be in the presence of General Authorities in my life, but I will always remember the feeling I experienced as I first met Elder Neil L. Andersen.  My immediate impression was he brought with him the love of the Savior for each person there in the room. I never really comprehended what the love of the Savior might feel like . . . but I experienced it that day in some small measure through Elder Andersen.

His eyes sincere, and each immediately felt an overwhelming sense of caring and concern for the one.  He and the other visiting authorities began to tour the room when they entered shaking hands and greeting as many people as possible.  It was marvelous to be seated on the stand and watch the expression of the many youth who had opportunity to meet and shake hands with these authorities of the Church.  We could tell, it was a lifetime experience, they will not likely forget.

The following day, approximately 450 missionaries from the San Pedro Sula missions gathered to hear the words of the visiting General Authorities.  I hope to share messages from each one, but for now will focus the remainder of this post on the words from the special witness of Christ, Elder Neil L. Andersen and his wife.

I was impressed with the words of Sister Andersen as she testified of the apostolic witness of her husband.  She spoke of how she studied the words of the apostles as a youth, never dreaming that she would find herself in a position one day, where she would bear personal witness of their great calling and responsibility.  She shared with us that she always takes notes, even though they have been married many years, as she always learns something new, something special and inspired, and that we should enjoy and make use of this great opportunity.  (What a great example for me of love and support in marriage!)

Elder Andersen clearly demonstrated the gift of tongues . . . he of course speaks English, he served as a young missionary in France, and later presided over the France Bordeaux mission, therefore speaking French.  Later he presided as the Area President in Brazil South Area, learning Portuguese.  And today he spoke to us in Spanish . . .  which kind of rolled off his tongue with a French / Portuguese sort of accent - so lovely.

Elder Andersen arrived with much experience of visiting Church members all over the world.  He acknowledged that each area of the Church is a little bit different.  In France it's difficult to find people to speak to, in Africa the people are very spiritual, in Russia, Americans can be unpopular and not well liked.  Each area has it's particular challenges . . . but here in Honduras, the people are very loving but they need help staying active in the Church, staying faithful forever.  Here it is not hard to teach the gospel, the difficulty lies in helping them become truly converted to the gospel of Jesus Christ.

It's especially necessary for each missionary to be personally converted to the gospel of Jesus Christ in order to truly help and convert and change the lives of others here in Honduras.  To help a person receive a change of heart, you have to have received that grand change of heart yourself first.  Each missionary needs to receive their own witness of the importance of the Atonement in their lives and put it into practice in their lives.  He taught the words from the Book of Mormon, the words of Alma the younger, speaking of his father . . .

 . . . "there was a mighty changewrought in his heart. Behold I say unto you that this is all true.
     And behold, he preached the word unto your fathers, and a mighty change was also wrought in their hearts, and they humbled themselves and put their trust in the true and living God. And behold, they were faithful until the end; therefore they were saved.
    And now behold, I ask of you, my brethren of the church, have ye spiritually been born of God? Have ye received his image in your countenances? Have ye experienced this mighty change in your hearts?" - Alma 5

How can we become great instruments like unto Alma, and Alma the younger?

By keeping our focus on the eternal principles that matter -
While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal. (2 Cor 4:18)
Each missionary is specifically called with authority, to act as a representative of the Church, and to teach with power and authority the principles found in Preach my Gospel.  We must teach the principle of the Atonement, as found in the scriptures, especially the Book of Mormon.  Many many scriptures from the Book of Mormon teach of the Atonement of the Savior.  It's not just important, that today the Savior lives . . . but what He did.  What He accomplished through the Atonement for us.

We were so impressed with a challenge Elder Andersen left for each missionary to memorize 10 scriptures that teach of the Atonement.  To commit them to memory, to be ready to teach and to testify at a moments notice the power of the Atonement.  (Each missionary may choose their own meaningful scriptures.  Five from the Book of Mormon and five from other scripture sources.  We have been implementing this wonderful challenge and have already seen great and marvelous things begin to come to pass! For myself it has given greater meaning to my scripture study, and greater purpose as I have tried to commit these special scriptures to memory).

Elder Andersen also taught the principle taught by President Spencer W. Kimball -
President Spencer W. Kimball, who gave such comprehensive teachings on repentance and forgiveness, said that personal suffering “is a very important part of repentance. One has not begun to repent until he has suffered intensely for his sins. … If a person hasn’t suffered, he hasn’t repented.” (The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1982, pp. 88, 99.)
The Savior taught this principle when he said that his atoning sacrifice was for “all those who have a broken heart and a contrite spirit; and unto none else can the ends of the law be answered.” (2 Ne. 2:7.) The repentant sinner who comes to Christ with a broken heart and a contrite spirit has been through a process of personal pain and suffering for sin.

As we experience and use the Atonement in our own lives . . . we can then teach and testify with power of it's greatness, as we help others become truly converted, truly ready to make great changes in their life through repentance and bringing their lives into harmony with gospel principles.  We are the instruments . . . that bring the gospel of our Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ to others . . . we are his hands.

He also shared Elder Bednar's quote from his wonderful address, "In the Strength of the Lord".

Thus, the enabling and strengthening aspect of the Atonement helps us to see and to do and to become good in ways that we could never recognize or accomplish with our limited mortal capacity. - Elder David A. Bednar

He closed with his greetings from the Prophet, President Thomas S. Monson and thanked the missionaries for their devotion, service and hard work, with a blessing for all that their knowledge would increase as they reach out to help all, to teach the Atonement, to strengthen the members, to elevate all together.  He blessed the missionaries that they might be able to see the things that can't be seen, to understand more clearly, to understand the situations of the people they will encounter.  He bore a powerful testimony that our Heavenly Father lives. He said, "Jesus Christ lives".  "I really know that He lives, was resurrected and directs the Church."  "One day we will all be in front of Him".  "This mission will be a great blessing".  "God is our Father".  "The Book of Mormon came from light".  "I love you, this is my witness of Christ, I testify He lives, I really know".

Powerful!  Yes, it was powerful.
The Spirit bore witness to us . . . that this apostle of the Lord
speaks and testifies as His special witness.

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