Sunday, December 22, 2013
Dearest family and friends,
My hands are freezing as I write to you from this computer screen in Grenoble, a French city lost in the middle of the French Alps. We are here so that my companion, who just served here might finish his legality, which he started just before being transferred. Its been a nice trip, but I'm really looking forward to being back to Nice, the warmth and the sun.
Did you know that Jesus Christ cried when things went wrong instead of getting frustrated or reacting otherwise? Just a thought.
This week my companion and I met a Californian. Her name is Elina and she lives in Nice for half of the year. She likes to do good things for other people. She is not that super into religion, but she does it out of good conscious. For example, when she sells something to someone on eBay, she will stick some little candies into the package before sending it to the auction winner. We met Elina on a street not to far from our apartment and talked to her for a good half hour. She started getting emotional at the end of the conversation when she expressed how grateful she was to have made our acquintance. We told her that she needed to come to our ward Christmas party in order to meet more happy and kind people like us. She enthousiastically said that she wanted to. She was so set that she wanted to go to the church beforehand just to make sure that she could find it. We offered to give her a tour of the chapel and the following afternoon we found ourselves with her in the house of the Lord.
We told briefly and simply about the mission of Jesus Christ. Then we taught her about the Great Apostasy. Then we taught her about Joseph Smith, who prayed aloud in the grove. She felt the Spirit strong and said that she would be baptized when she knows it is true. When she has a testimony.
God gives us the testimony after la mise à l'épreuve de notre foi (the put into test of our faith). She did not exercise her faith after this. She did not show up to the activity nor to church like she said she would. Actually, after the activity, we saw her on the same street that we met her on. She was on a brand new pink and purple skateboard. In the conversation that we had with her on the street, we talked about how there is a void in our soul that we all try to fill. Some with drugs, some with fornication, some with overeating. She shared with us that she loves shopping and buying unnecessary things. I found ironic, then, that we saw on the street at that time.
The void can only truly be filled by the love of God.
I think that I learned an important lesson through this experience. It is that even though we may have extraordinary experiences, like Laman and Lemuel getting rebuked by an angel or the Jews being literally in the presence of the Son of God, it does not guarantee that this will change us. The change comes, like Alma the Younger said, "after praying and fasting for many days", or in other words, after exercising our faith. The change comes when we receive a testimony after the trial of our faith, which will push us to continue on our road to conversion. I do not mean to compare Elina to Laman or the Jews. She is an excellent soul. I think that she will except the Restored Gospel someday. At her time and place. But God is not going to force anything upon her. She has her free agency, complete and pure.
Missionary work is beautiful. It is like offering 100 dollars to every single person. Even if people say "No, thank you", it is still 100 dollars that is going to buy someone either 100 little cheeseburgers, or like 2 video games, or an iPhone if you could find it cheap on eBay.
One of the coolest experiences of this last week was being able to do some Christmas caroling in the hills of Nice with the other missionaries here in Nice! One of my favorite carols is "I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day" or "Voici Noel, Avec Ses Chants" in French. The message is powerful. I invite all of you to read/sing it this Christmas season.
I testify that God manifested His love for us in sending His Son. Let us "Hear Him" this Christmas season!
God bless and MERRY CHRISTMAS! JOYEUX NOEL!
PS. The 25th I will be on skype atNice time, which equates to pacific time. I look forward to seeing all of you! I will have 30 minutes with mom and 30 minutes for dad.
Friday, December 6, 2013
Monday, November 11, 2013
Dearest family and friends,
You know the hymn "Did you think to pray?" Hymn number 140 in English. Well, the translation in French is Prayer is like a lighthouse.
On the waterfront, there is a lighthouse at the end of the city, past downtown Nice and before Monaco and Italy. In the dark mornings when we run along the Promenade, we run towards the lighted lighthouse. I like to let this hymn run through my mind in French, "Dès le matin dans ta chambre, frère as-tu prié?"
There is a quote from Gordon B. Hinckley that says, "Do your best. Your very, very best. Say your prayers and work hard and leave the harvest to the Lord."
This last week Elder Smith and I did not teach a single investigator. We did not talk to very many people who were interested in hearing the name of Jesus Christ. But I think that I learned more this week than any other week of my mission.
This is the Lord's work! I am a missionary for the Lord's true church! What an amazing calling I have.
There is a woman who lives in the apartment building just in front of ours. She met the missionaries (the other companionship of Elders here in Nice) about 3 weeks ago. I had the opportunity to teach her (Sariah) with her two young children, both under 8. She comes from Portugal and is divorced to the father of the children, who is actually a returned missionary who is still in Portugal. She is very believing and comes from a Catholic background. She is not in agreement with many of the Catholic teaches. When we told her that Joseph Smith went around looking for the true church, she laughed and said that it would have been useless. Then we shared the First Vision. She prayed at the end of the lesson to know if it is true. Her prayer was in Portuguese, but all of us understood the meaning and the magnitude of her prayer. She prayed sincerely and powerfully to know if the Book of Mormon is true. No one appeared. No angel came down to tell her that these things are true, but there didn't need to be one. There were tears in her eyes when she closed the prayer. She came to church and met all the Brazilians in our ward (yes, there are a few families from Recife). She accepted to be baptized at the beginning of December.
God is willing to speak to our hearts and to our minds, but he requires humility. That is what I have learned. Humility comes before Faith, Repentance, Baptism, etc. Humility is the key ingredient. Finding humble people is tough, though. So as missionaries it requires humble prayer, humble searching, humble diligence, humble obedience.
I hope that in your efforts to hasten the work of salvation this week, you remember what the Lord said in DandC 12 that no one can assist in this work except he shall be humble and full of love, having faith, hope and charity, being temperate in all things, whatsoever shall be entrusted to his care. I love the word whatsoever. Its like nevertheless. Three words packed into one.
PS. Jonah might be interested in knowing that there was a convertible Lamborghini Gallardo, orange and black, new and nice, roaming the streets of nice the other night. But I wasnt able to take a pic, because my camera is broken!