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.

Monday, January 5, 2015

I Hope They call me on a Mission

A familiar refrain . . .

I hope they call me on a mission . . .

(Most photos are from our recent Zone Conferences, Leadership Training or recent transfer day)

A favorite line from a favorite song that inspires excitement even amongst the smallest of primary children.  And truly for many LDS youth missionary preparation begins from the earliest years spent in the Primary organization of the Church.

But what happens when everything you ever learned in Primary, the Young Mens organization, Young Women's, and Sunday School isn't everything one needs to be ready to serve?

President Gordon B. Hinckley emphasized the importance of having good mental and physical health while serving a full-time mission.

"This work is rigorous . . . it demands strength and vitality.  It demands mental sharpness and capacity" . . .

President Hinckley certainly knew what he was talking about.

Physical and Emotional Preparation

Missionary work 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 are essential.

Not all missions in the world are created equal.  In some ways . . . you could say - it's the missionaries against the elements.

The heat, cold, sun, rain, sleet, hail, rocky roads, insects, dirty water, no water, no electricity, hills, rivers, streams, mountains, rain forests, snakes, ants . . . each part of the world presents it's own particular challenge.

Here, as in most locations in Central America missionaries do not have the use of cars or bikes . . . an additional burden or challenge to be on their feet, walking and carrying their back or shoulder packs throughout the long days . . . day after day . . .

The effort required is actually much more than one would ever imagine.

Heavenly Father Blesses his Missionaries

Without a doubt, Heavenly Father blesses his missionaries!  Clearly, he desires to bless each of them so they can do their best to teach and testify of the Savior and his gospel.  But each missionary has a part to play as well in maintaining both physical and emotional readiness and good health.

It seems to be that whatever ailment or physical or mental challenge that a missionary brings into the mission field only becomes more aggravated, more challenging and more difficult under the physical challenge of a difficult and arduous work.

Therefore it is super important to enter the mission field with as much physical and emotional strength as possible.

"There should be an eagerness and a desire to serve the Lord as His ambassadors to the world.  And there must be health and strength, both physical and mental, for the work is demanding, the hours are long, and the stress can be heavy" ("Missionary Service," First Worldwide Leadership Training Meeting, Jan 2003)

The Lord has asked us to serve with "all your heart, might, mind and strength" (D&C 4:2).  Young men and woman planning a mission need to be sure to take good physical care of both their bodies and minds.   The opportunity to serve challenges many young people to seek and maintain both physical and emotional strength throughout their teenage years.  Avoiding risky behavior that may threaten life or limb, avoiding unhealthy eating habits  . . . while working to promote healthy sleep and work patterns, good personal hygiene, exercise habits and a healthy diet lead to the likelihood of adapting well to missionary service.

The Real Purpose of Missionary Work

We would do well to focus on the real purpose of missionary work and the need for a healthy mind and body in order to accomplish that purpose.

Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles emphasized the importance of daily care for our bodies both before the mission and during missionary service.

"Many people . . . have difficulty finding the time for sufficient rest, exercise, and relaxation.  We must schedule time in our daily calendars for these activities if we are to enjoy a healthy and balanced life.  Good physical appearance enhances our dignity and self-respect"

(Just lucky this year . . . everyone is getting flu shots for Christmas along with their
ice cream sundaes! Yippee) 

"We are not asking for perfection . . . the work of the Lord is done by ordinary people who work in extraordinary ways . . ."  Yet every person can change and improve.  If you're planning missionary service . . . now is the time to begin healthy habits in preparation.  Begin now to implement healthy habits into your daily activities!

Understand that a mission will likely include many of the same challenges we face in regular life . . . but even more so!  Finding time to exercise, preparing and including healthy foods into a busy schedule . . .

Prepare and Counsel Early with Bishops and Stake Presidents

If a young person has challenges with an emotional illness such as depression, anxiety, or obsessive compulsive behavior . . . now is the time to seek professional treatment and counseling before considering missionary service.  It's important to enter the mission field completely stabilized for a period of time, and functioning independently of parents or medical guidance.  Such guidance will likely not be available once you enter the mission field and are involved in the rigors of full-time service.  Our Heavenly Father gives each of his sons and daughters particular challenges that we may grow my conquering and overpowering them.  Use that determination to increase self worth and work towards service of our Heavenly Father, either as a full-time missionary or through the many other avenues available to give back to those around us.

Counseling early with your bishop and Stake President is an important part of your missionary service preparation.

There may be individuals who are honorably excused from full-time missionary service.  There are many ways to render meaningful service compatible with any physical or emotional challenges you are working to overcome.  Family history centers, temples, welfare projects, or service in local hospitals, care centers, shelters or other places are valuable and much needed.

The Work isn't Over until it's Over . . .

Missionary service doesn't end when the mission ends . . . one must continue to maintain good health and emotional habits to enable them to continue serving throughout their lifetime.  Each member will have many opportunities wherever they may find themselves to share a message of the Restored Gospel, to lead, to teach, to reach out to another . . . and lift them up . . .

Helping another to find the light of the Savior is frequently the best medicine, physical therapy or counseling one can provide for another and in turn increasing one's own health and well-being.  Sharing the gospel brings joy no matter which part of the world, far or near, at home or abroad, it's the best spiritual therapy for the soul, as we lose ourselves in the service of the Lord, we find ourselves on the receiving end of more blessings than we can imagine.

The message is the same for all . . . wherever we may find ourselves called to serve . . .

Cease to be idle; cease to be unclean; cease to find fault one with another; cease to sleep longer than is needful; retire to thy bed early, that ye may not be weary; arise early, that your bodies and your minds may be invigorated.

Therefore, O ye that embark in the service of God, see that ye serve him with all your heart, might, mind and strength, that ye may stand blameless before God at the last day.  (D&C 4:2)

Sunday, December 14, 2014

The Missionary Expectations . . .

Just what is missionary service?

And what are some of the day to day issues that LDS young men and women experience every day as they leave families and homes to teach and testify of the Savior?

In a previous post, The Realities of Missionary Life,  we commented on many of the realities of missionary service . . . we hope today to share some of the realities of a normal day and some of the challenges of life here in the Honduras, San Pedro Sula East Mission.

I would like to start with an example shared by Elder Bednar in a previous talk . . .

In his talk Elder Bednar describes a pair of missionaries he once invited into his home for breakfast.  After breakfast the missionaries lingered on . . . playing with the young children, watching cartoons with the family . . . and in general overstayed their welcome . . .

And then before leaving, they asked Elder Bednar, "So do you have referrals for us?"

In his typical gentle-but-stern tone, he told this missionary companionship,

"Elder, I would never give you a referral".

The missionaries were of course taken aback.  So,  Elder Bednar explained.  He told them that the missionaries to whom he would trust his friends and acquaintances would not have wasted so much time playing and hanging around in the house.  They would have been polite, kind and grateful, shared a brief spiritual thought with the family and left quickly so that they could get back to searching for new investigators.

About a month later once again the two missionaries found themselves in the home of Elder Bednar enjoying a meal . . . at the conclusion of the meal the missionaries pulled out their scriptures, shared a spiritual thought from the scriptures, bore their testimonies of the example of the Savior in our lives and put on their backpacks in preparation for leaving.  At the door as they were leaving, they once again asked Elder Bednar if he knew of anyone who would be interested in their gospel message.

To their surprise and delight he responded that now . . . they were the type of missionaries he would trust his family, friends and neighbors too . . . and proceeded to give them the referrals they sought.

One of the most important things that full-time missionaries can do is build strong relationships with LDS church members in their area.  As missionaries they are always observed by those around them, members, less actives, new converts . . . it's important to remember as a missionary you represent the Savior in every moment!  You wear the Savior's name over your heart and his attributes should be engrained in your heart.

What kind of missionary are you?

Sometimes from a full-time missionary's point of view, it can seem like members aren't being as helpful as they should.  Perhaps it appears they don't care about missionary work . . .

But it's not always that simple.  What kind of missionary are you?  Have you earned the trust of the ward members of your area?  Members can be cautious to give out referrals if they suspect they will just be another "first discussion", another baptism challenge or statistical dat reported at the end of the week.

Be the kind of missionary that inspires the comment, "I wish these missionaries were serving in our ward!" "He is the kind of missionary I would refer my friends and acquaintances to!"

 (Some of our missionaries arrived one day early this transfer)

What does that 'kind' of missionary look like . . . a missionary who is close to the Spirit, is well prepared, has a strong conviction of the gospel principals he / she teaches, has developed the Christlike attributes of charity, unconditional love for others, a desire to serve and give of themselves,  one who looks for opportunities to lend a hand, never misses an opportunity to help, arrives early to set up, stays after to clean up and take down . . .

(There's nothing sweeter  than an elder with a broom in his hand :)

Sometimes in the mission, the exact opposite is the greater problem . . .

There's no doubt that the missionaries can bring the influence of the Spirit into the home.  It's hard to send them back out into the dark of night, and perhaps the heat or stormy weather.  Sometimes well intended members ask missionaries to participate in activities that go against the missionary handbook, such as lingering for games or television programs, participating in non-gospel discussions or the current news of the day, or worse yet . . . the local gossip of the ward or mission field.  These activities have no place in missionary work and detract from the Spirit, leading to the loss of the Spirit for anticipated visits with others.   Once the Spirit is decreased or lost, it's much harder for missionaries to start over again to regain the Spirit for their next appointments.  Perhaps even resulting in much wasted time and wasted opportunities, the loss of an opportunity to bring the gospel to one of our Heavenly Father's searching children.

Please don't be a missionary who lingers . . . OR a member who invites such activities.  

The missionary lifestyle is very different for those who are not serving in full-time missionary service.  No doubt it is a challenging lifestyle, but also one filled with a special witness of the Spirit daily, great opportunities to teach and testify of gospel principles, many opportunities to bring the light of Christ into the homes of struggling investigators, recent converts, or less active members of the Church.  It is very important for missionaries to follow each guideline, rule and counsel found in the missionary manual and taught by the Mission President and experienced Leaders.  Each missionary has their own special set of circumstances as they come from varied backgrounds, cultures, language skills, family support . . . but what they all have in common is a call from our Heavenly Father, to take the gospel to all the world.  And here in the Honduras, San Pedro Sula East mission they are determined to do so and we are so proud of them :)

Sometimes . . . this happens . . .

A missionary companionship shared they were saddened because the members told them that they should be like the previous missionaries, that had been in the area before, that spent lots of time in their homes, or asked to use their phone or computer, or receive other favors, to call other areas, and when the missionaries explained that this type of activity was against the rules of the mission, and they didn't have time to linger for a longer period of time - they were made to feel bad because they weren't relaxed and fun like the other missionaries.

Remember to keep visits short, full of the Spirit, and leave while the Spirit is strong and bearing witness of gospel truths.

Missionaries share . . .

We know our Heavenly Father prepares his people to hear the gospel . . 
We found a new family and they already seemed like members of the church.  One day as we were teaching the Plan of Salvation, as we told them they lived with Heavenly Father before they came to this earth, they just got beautiful smiles on their faces, that we felt was the Light of Christ shining right through them.  Certainly a rewarding moment for a missionary!

An example of how missionaries themselves receive their own witness of the Spirit . . . 

This week changed my whole perception of the mission . . . we had two baptisms planned, a mother and her daughter . . . but when it came right down to it the husband and father wouldn't go along with their decision and give his blessing . . . and was very much against it.  It was a very difficult situation for me, but I went to my Heavenly Father in prayer and he taught me a great lesson . . . I discovered that God does love me!  And I'm not here only to baptize, baptisms are important, but it's important for all to have their free agency.  We are here as Heavenly Father's mouthpiece, to invite them to come to Christ, and he will continue to guide us as we go forward in faith.

Spiritual gifts abound in the mission, even the gift of healing . . . 

We received a call from a recent convert asking us to come to the hospital to give a blessing to a family member who was dying of cancer.  We arrived and found the sister in a great deal of pain with a very swollen and painful abdomen.  I don't remember the words of the prayer but I remember the peace and calming influence of the Spirit that day.  I knew she was loved by her Heavenly Father and he had a plan for her.  Today our recent convert called again to report that truly a miracle had some to pass.  When the doctors began the surgery her stomach was completely normal, and they had no idea how this could have occurred.  The sister told the doctors it was because she had great faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and through the blessing received from the missionaries. I know that the Priesthood is real and that we can be healed through the power of the Priesthood.

What missionary work is all about . . . 

The most exciting moments are finding the sheep Heavenly Father has prepared to receive his message.  One of our favorite investigators is sitting in her hammock each day as we pass by reading her Book of Mormon that we gave her.  She has a great desire to be baptized and is working towards getting married so she can get baptized.

Missionaries mature in many ways . . .

I've surprised myself a lot this week . . . I can tell I can growing and changing already in the mission. Before the mission I worried a lot about living continuously with just one person for six weeks or longer, and honestly, in the MTC I struggled in that area even though I was with an awesome elder, I was about to wring his neck many days :)  Surprisingly, already I am finding that my patience has increased and I'm developing a great love for my companion.  I'm grateful to be a missionary!

(A glimpse of the beautiful sights of Honduras!)

Sometimes the greater strength is demonstrated by the missionaries returning home!

One return missionary shares -

 . . . upon my arrival back home, I was very grateful for my mission experience.  It was difficult to return back home for many reasons, my previous friends invited me to parties, to drink alcohol, smoke cigarettes, drink coffee . . . go with women . . . But I thank my Heavenly Father that through the mission I learned to have control over my decisions, to say no to everything, even though they give me a hard time and ask why I wouldn't want to participate . . . but it gives me a great opportunity to share my testimony of the gospel with them and explain really, why I don't want to participate in those kinds of activities.

There really is nothing like watching these young missionaries arrive with uncertainty, less experience . . . and seeing them transform before your very eyes.  We see them truly become our Heavenly Father's hands, reaching out to others with confidence, teaching and testifying to all they come in contact with, sharing the Book of Mormon, living missionary standards and loving them, serving one another and those who surround them.

(Bright and early . . . welcoming in our latest arrivals)

(What gives you the first clue that many areas are flooded at this time of year??)

It may be a sacrifice to give of self, time, talents far away from home and family, but it is indeed a privilege also.

My dear brethren (and sisters), we have been given much, and much is required of us. May you young men (women)  more fully understand who you are as the seed of Abraham and become missionaries long before you go on a mission. After coming back to your homes and families, may you returned missionaries always be missionaries. And may all of us rise up as men of God and bless the nations of the earth with greater testimony and spiritual power than we ever have before.
--  Elder David  A. Bednar