Family!!!! (Well...and everyone else ;)
That's so amazing to hear how good life is going! The twins are practically going to be pros by the time that I return! not to mention that they'll be in crazy good shape too...I'm still trying to get there ;) And I'm super excited to hear your dedication in going to the temple even in the Tri-cities. There are plenty of excuses in the world, but not enough people that just say to an excuse "So?" and then get the task done. :) And I would absolutely love to see some pictures and will send some next week probably.
For this week...
For all of you in the states, I hope that you have the opportunity to watch conference last week, because I finally got to see it and it was incredible! Do you realize just what a blessing it is to have a prophet and apostles on the earth today? That they can speak the mind and will of God today? And that as an individual you can receive personal revelation from them today? We were able to watch conference as a zone here in Donetsk and essentially watch two sessions Saturday and three back to back on Sunday with a pretty tasty potluck in between. Aside from the fun atmosphere and food though, there was a spirit unlike any that can be replicated. General conference is an incredible opportunity twice a year that we have to receive the will of God for our time, strength, and comfort from 15 men who are called and set apart to a calling just above missionary service to be a special witness of Jesus Christ. While watching, I was able to gain very specific revelation for myself and for the work here and how grateful I am for it! When President Thomas S Monson spoke, I received reaffirming witness from the Spirit that he is the Prophet of God. The call to serve is extended to all and I would hope with all of my heart that an individual would not put off receiving the greatest blessings a man could ever receive in the work of the Lord for simple blessings that they may deem more important. Serving a mission is a once in an eternity experience that should become our lives.
This last week was a wonderful week trying to continue the work forward and learning, but one specific experience was especially significant, so I will share that (and I don't have time to say anything else after it ;) We have an investigator named Oleg who we had found morning contacting my first transfer here at a bus stop on Petrovsky road, gave him a Book of Mormon, and received his contact. When we first contacted him he said "call back in two weeks"...this is never a very good sign and happens all too often. However, when we called back, he said he could meet, and soon after that, we were meeting and teaching this incredible man. He loves the Book of Mormon, knows the Bible like a scholar, and loves the Liahona. After meeting for a while and talking about the Gospel, he decided to quit smoking. Just like that. He still going strong. He understands that the Book of Mormon is true and recognizes Satan's influence in trying to keep him from meeting with us even! To say the least, he is just an amazingly prepared guy who we really don't do much to help. This is the Lord's work and He is involved. Anyways, this week of course, we wanted him to attend General Conference even though his work schedule was crazy. He usually works 3 days and has one day off but the schedule is always changing so he doesn't ever know. He'd never been to church because of work, but we found out that this week he had Saturday and maybe even Sunday off! So we set up to go with him to General Conference, (hopefully with a member since we wanted to watch in English in a different room) and then after that there was even going to be a baptism in the same building. What an incredible way to get him started! Meet members, hear directly from the Prophet, and see a baptism to help him become more assured of his growing testimony...well there's always a wrench that gets thrown in ;) We found out that all of our members, who we'd like him to meet, were going to be in our area of Petrovsky at our building, whereas we were planning on going to Center Donetsk to see it in English. After hours of making phone calls and stressing over the situation we had done all we could and we still couldn't figure it out. Oleg was looking like he was going to have to go by himself to our branch building and we would be 40 minutes away. Even though in my mind it didn't make sense, there wasn't a way this was going to work, etc, in my heart, I knew every thing would be okay. So, the next morning, we met him at the church, gave him a quick message about prophets to prep him, lent him some church clothes, and left the ball in his court. There was nothing more we could do than leave it up to the Lord. And I am pleased to reaffirm that the Lord took care of it. We called him during the day later to find out that he had not only gone completely alone, but he had loved it, met the members, and took notes! He talked about the members that he met and their kind nature, and the special messages that he liked. And though he wasn't able to go Sunday, we as missionaries of the Lord Jesus Christ, were able to see how Christ himself, the Master and Missionary, is in the work.
I have such a strong testimony of the truthfulness of the Gospel. This gospel is so much more than simply knowing though, it is becoming. First we must know, then we choose to do (and the word choose is critical in this equation for conversion) and then, we become. The Savior is our friend, He wants us to succeed and does all that He can to help us. We just need to choose to humble ourselves and stop being like the old babushka (old grandma...hey its just what they call them selves ;) ) here who, even when she had fallen to the ground, cut her face up and was bleeding profusely, would not accept our help. "I can do it, I don't need your help," she said, and all we could do then, was sadly keep walking. One of the biggest issues here in Ukraine is that the circumstance of how they are raised teaches them to depend only on one person: themselves. This of course cannot work because when our faith is only in ourselves, we end up like the old babushka who with bloodstained hands and face says, I can do it, I can overcome it. We cannot do it with out complete reliance and submission to our Savior. And you know the best part? There is no more beneficial choice or option either. In fact, choosing the Savior is the most eternally important and the choice with the greatest return that we can ever make. Choose the Savior.
I hope that you all have some very specific ways in which you're applying conference! Pick a few things, set some goals and pray about them. You cant do it all at once anyways! But you can do a few things here and there to apply what the spirit whispered to your heart. Read the conference talks as President Monson suggested, and receive the blessings of having a modern day prophet on the earth today. I know he is a prophet. I also found these sights that are super good if you are wanting to learn more of prophets and want a good Spiritual boost:
I love you all so much! Thank you for all your love too!
Elder Claypool :)