San Pedro Sula East Mission
2013 - 2016

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 

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Women of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

There's no going back now . . .

Things will be forever different in the Church, referring of course to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints . . .

The influence of women in the Latter-days is going to change the face of the Church and likely the world.

There you have it, my prediction for the future.

I will add immediately, that this change is not going to come about in many of the ways you are thinking right now.  I am not at all referring to the current events and issues of the day as to the outspoken few who are asking, or demanding rather, greater exposure and rights, including the Priesthood, for women in the Church.

No, that is not at all what I am talking about here . . . .

The Church is changing . . . and it is changing subtly each day according to our Heavenly Father's plan.

Sister Missionaries strengthen the Church

What exactly is our Heavenly Father's Plan?

This sensation that I am referring to began approximately two years ago, at this Autumn time of year, immediately after the President of the Church, President Thomas S. Monson gave his now famous "Welcome to Conference" talk and immediately caught everyones attention by announcing a change in the missionary service age qualifications.

He already had everyone spellbound listening for the anticipated new temples to be announced.  What everyone didn't see coming were his next remarks . . .
"I am pleased to announce that effective immediately all worthy and able young men who have graduated from high school or its equivalent, regardless of where they live, will have the option of being recommended for missionary service beginning at the age of 18, instead of age 19. I am not suggesting that all young men will—or should—serve at this earlier age. Rather, based on individual circumstances as well as upon a determination by priesthood leaders, this option is now available."
 . . .  "we have also given consideration to the age at which a young woman might serve. Today I am pleased to announce that able, worthy young women who have the desire to serve may be recommended for missionary service beginning at age 19, instead of age 21." 
"We affirm that missionary work is a priesthood duty—and we encourage all young men who are worthy and who are physically able and mentally capable to respond to the call to serve. Many young women also serve, but they are not under the same mandate to serve as are the young men. We assure the young sisters of the Church, however, that they make a valuable contribution as missionaries, and we welcome their service." 

Sister missionaries role today - Mormon Church

Sister Missionaries Honduras

Sister serving as missionaries - LDS Church

A Mighty Change . . .

Amazing . . . and that is where the mighty change in the Church as far as the influence of women in the Church is going to come from . . . and it came from our Heavenly Father, through His Son, Jesus Christ who we believe stands at the head of His Church, and directs the workings of His Church, through the voice of his prophet . . . even the current prophet, President Thomas S. Monson.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints growing missionary program now includes 20,000 young single women, voluntarily, without thought to Priesthood duty, leaving home and family to share what is most precious to them . . . their testimonies of our Savior, Jesus Christ, and the love our Heavenly Father has for all people.

LDS Sister Missionaries a great strength

Role of LDS Sister Missionaries

After that change in October 2012, missionary applications jumped from an average of 700 a week to 4,000 a week — and more than half of those applications came from women.

Since the early beginnings of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ here on the earth by the prophet Joseph Smith on April 6, 1830; missionaries have had a profound and lasting influence upon the strength, growth, leadership and the influence and blessings of the family unit throughout the Church.  Try to imagine where they Church would be today without it's powerful missionary program.

LDS Missionaries - sisters

What can we expect to see . . . 

Now prepare to see the exponential growth that will once again occur in the influence for good in the Church and throughout the world as these 20,000 young women begin to return home with their increased gospel knowledge, communication skills, efficient study and planning habits, and powerful testimonies and witness of our Savior Jesus Christ.

The principle that I love most about this phenomena, is that it is being done in the Lord's way, and in his own time and according to his plan. 

The Lord is strengthening the Church from within by increasing the strength of the women of the Church.

LDS Sister missionaries have a strong role to play

Bringing experience back home . . .

As their missions come to an end, each sister will head back home with an incredible repertoire of abilities they've gained through their missionary service . . . self-confidence, foreign language skills, financial budgeting, self-disciple, independence . . . and most of all a deeper, more rooted in the foundations of the gospel, testimony of the gospel principles that they teach and study everyday.  They will have seen these principles at work, blessing the lives of those they teach and changing their own hearts each day of mission life.

As they return home, these abilities will help them succeed in whatever course they choose to pursue . . . education, marriage, mothers in the Church, careers, service, teachers.  And in each and every role that women today assume, which are many and varied, their mission experience will have a profound influence.  

LDS Missionaries - sisters

LDS missionaries, sisters, mormon sister missionaries

LDS sister missionaries go about doing good!

Mormon sister missionaries - make a difference

One of the challenges of missionary service for any missionary is knowing that in many instances, they will never see their internationally serving brothers and sisters again after their missionary service ends.  Many precious companionships serving side by side for many months, conquering daily challenges, will hopefully be maintained through the convenience of modern technology.  But they will leave their new converts, and reactivated members, companions, and leaders behind as they return to their homes and lives outside of the mission field.

LDS sister missionaries - a tremendous force for good

Causing a mighty change of heart . . .

I enjoy watching the companionships bond with one another . . . sisters of many different colors, races, backgrounds, styles . . . all coming together to serve their Heavenly Father.  They laugh at shared experiences, common mistakes made, adapting to make do with what little the Lord has provided them here in the field . . . think cold water bucket showers, toilets that don't flush, dinner every night from a microwave, uncomfortable beds, the greasy lingering aroma of OFF insect repellant at the end of each day, the insects (actually they have been blessed with an abundance of insects!). 

I watch them share belongings . . . those who have more always sharing and leaving behind whatever they can for those who have less.  

Missionary rules dictate that although we have many lovely beaches in the mission, there is no swimming, no wading, no enjoying the beautiful waters of the Honduras coastline.  There is no television, no movies, no radio and no Internet, except where approval has been granted by the Mission President.  Only inspirational music is allowed, and only books and study materials from the designated missionary library are authorized.  

Yet, all these apparent challenges seem to lead them to an amazing maturity and increased blessings of the Spirit.  They really become the hands of our Heavenly Father as they reach out to each other, their ward members, neighbors, investigators in kindly service. 

LDS Sister missionaries - Mormon Sister Missionaries Honduras

LDS Sister missionaries - Mormon Sister Missionaries Honduras

It isn't easy!

It isn't easy . . . many struggle, and just as one obstacle is overcome, another is presented by the adversary on almost a daily basis.  Yet almost all remain approachable and friendly each day as they leave their homes and begin to contact all that they meet.  

I have been amazed to see even the most timid survive and thrive!  It just feels my heart to overflowing when I see the amazing growth of character that takes place as they overcome the fears that they initially arrive with.  They have learned to be cautious in potentially dangerous situations, yet feel and seek their Heavenly Father's protection.  

Even though they are much younger than us and usually arrive in good health . . . I am impressed with their dedication and stamina.  They can run circles around us as their daily scheduling can be grueling, with the heat of the day, and the rockiness (literally!) of their paths. 

LDS Sister missionaries - Mormon Sister Missionaries Honduras

LDS Sister missionaries - Mormon Sister Missionaries Honduras

LDS Sister missionaries - Mormon Sister Missionaries Honduras

More Like the Savior . . .

And at the end of the day . . . when they are obedient to mission rules, Heavenly Father's laws . . . heed the whisperings of the Spirit . . . they develop Christ-like attributes and become more and more like the Savior each day.  When they do all these things . . . the numbers of baptisms, while important, in bringing many to a knowledge of the Savior, are not the determining factor in their missionary success . . . it's what they will take away from their experience . . . 

Of course, it's not necessary to serve a mission to learn life's experiences and blessings and develop the attitude described here . . . but there's no doubt that it certainly "hastens" the process.  That's what we are about, that is our business . . . to "hasten the work of salvation", to move our Heavenly Father's plan ahead at an unprecedented pace.

LDS Sister missionaries - Mormon Sister Missionaries Honduras

LDS Sister missionaries - Mormon Sister Missionaries Honduras

Women and the Mormon Church Today a force for good throughout the world

Women and the Mormon Church Today a force for good throughout the world

There's no doubt that this is what is going to change the Church from the inside out . . . that will strengthen the position of women in the Church . . . and change the roles of women in the Church for future generations to come . . . Women who know that it's not all about them . . . women who serve unselfishly and put the focus on others. Women who go about cultivating the Spirit in their lives, in their homes and with their families and those who surround them.

It is a wonderful time to be a woman in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints today, of that I can testify.

Women and the Mormon Church Today a force for good throughout the world

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