What a whirl of a week. So we had a special visitor to the mission this week, Elder Michael Ringwood of the Quorum of the Seventy and his wife came to do a mission tour for the past three days. It was such an uplifting and inspiring experience. Elder Ringwood is the current president of the Asia North Area, so he basically is in charge of everything churchy on this side of the globe from Japan and Korea down to the Philippines and other Pacific islands. Elder Sugimoto and I had the opportunity to accompany them along with President and Sister Yamashita as we traveled all over the mission and the Ringwoods and Yamashitas provided some valuable training to all of us missionaries.
The interesting thing to me was how different each meeting was; I had figured that they would generally keep their messages the same because they were meeting with different groups of missionaries, but each day was a different message, and I could tell that each message was specifically tailored to the needs of the missionaries in that meeting. It was a striking example of spiritual inspiration to me.
One of my favorite highlights was Sister Ringwood's message, in which she centered on the Christmas theme and compared us missionaries to the shepherds in the story of the birth of Jesus Christ. The shepherds were among the most humble and lowly of the time, yet they were among the first to hear the glad tidings of the birth of the Savior of the world.
Then they immediately went about telling everyone they could find about the glorious tidings of peace and goodwill, without hesitation. It made me see the greatest story ever told in a new light and I felt a closeness with the shepherds as Sister Ringwood spoke. I certainly can relate with them; as missionaries, we are among some of the least-experienced people of the world, and yet we have been entrusted with the most glorious message the world has ever known.....the Gospel of Jesus Christ.....and given the opportunity to share it with the nations of the earth. It is a big responsibility for someone so young and uninformed. I honestly feel overwhelmed with the task. And I cannot count the number of times I have had to rely on divine help to fulfill this calling.
This divine help is very real. I have been on my mission for about a year and a half now and I still don`t really know what I`m doing, honestly. But I am comforted to know that I am not alone. God called me here, so why would He leave me to fend for myself? There have been distinct moments during my mission where I have prayed for help and felt words come out of my mouth that I didn`t really think to say. At other times I have just felt a feeling of comfort when I was scared or confused.
The divine help I have been blessed with has been a result of sincere prayer and effort. I also know that I really can`t do anything without it. It took some time to recognize that.....to finally get my head around the notion that it`s not about me. But once I have started to realize that and let go of all things me.....my worldly desires and passions, my homesickness, my ego....miracles have happened. And I want to hold onto this for as long as I can.
Once you forget yourself, and lose yourself in the work of God, you can find real happiness. This is honestly so much more enjoyable than worrying about myself, haha. I still have lots of personal vices and problems to let go of.....still too many.....but to look back and see how I have progressed so far is a miracle in and of itself. And I just want to share this miracle of personal growth through the perfect Gospel of Jesus Christ with the world.
We are teaching someone right now who is so close to touching this light....he has even tasted a bit of it through a powerful personal experience through prayer a couple weeks ago....and I think he is starting to see how the Gospel is helping him already. Once he fully realizes what this is doing for him and his eternal potential, I know that he will decide to come and stay. But the decision is completely up to him, and all we can do is give him the means to make the decision himself.
I love the gifts of God, especially the gift of agency, or freedom to choose. God respects and honors this gift so strongly that He cannot and will not ever be able to hinder our personal decisions. That is both the most beautiful and most frustrating part of missionary work, haha. It is wonderful to see someone decide for his or herself to draw close to God; it is heart-breaking to see someone turn away. But when they do turn away, we thank God that they are even given the opportunity to say no.
I cannot contain my love for the Gospel! I am just so full of happiness because of it. Yes we have bad days, and yes life is rough, but the mountains and valleys are what make the landscape more beautiful in the first place. To look back and see how far we have come is priceless.
I love you all so much, and I know that our Eternal Father loves you even more. Thank you for all you do. Always remember the potential for change within you.