Sunday, September 15, 2013

“Learn to Love First, and the Work will Follow” -9/9/2013

Good Morning!
It’s quite ironic just how spot on your jokes are in regard to the culture here...but make no mistakes that I love this culture so very much!
By the way, thank you so much for your package.  Hopefully this story will make you laugh:  I received a random phone call from a random number and was told to meet a guy near our office. It was pretty funny because although I knew what it was for, the missionary I was with just observed me walking up to this stranger as he walked out around his big black van. He says "Is it you?",  me agreeing, and he handing me a bag and walking off.  It didn't help that I gave a little "priest quorum" rendition of your work and all your spy encounters. So, a few of the elders are about as convinced as Jarod Maynes is – ha ha. 
You're absolutely right that it is super easy to talk about religion but harder to get people truly interested. I think that that is the best part about the promise from Elder Holland in Preach My Gospel is that if we listen to what people around us have to say and really just befriend them first, we'll be given what to say. Elder Jeffrey R Holland said this: 

“More important than speaking is listening. These people are not lifeless objects disguised as a baptismal statistic. They are children of God, our brothers and sisters, and they need what we have. Be genuine. Reach out sincerely. Ask these friends what matters most to them. What do they cherish, and what do they hold dear? And then listen. If the setting is right, you might ask what their fears are, what they yearn for, or what they feel is missing in their lives. I promise you that something in what they say will always highlight a truth of the gospel about which you
can bear testimony and about which you can then offer more. . . . If we listen with love, we won’t need to wonder what to say. It will be given to us—by the Spirit and by our friends."

I have such a strong testimony of this on my mission. The people here do not respond well when someone stops them on the street, puts a Book of Mormon in their face and asks if they'd like to know about scriptures, angels, and a story about an amazing young man from the 1800's. I think that it would be a little awkward to have that conversation myself if something of the like happened to me. I've come to learn that all of us have questions, all of us have opinions about our Father in Heaven, but it can be locked way down in there. Like Elder Holland said, when we ask inspired questions, listen to them, and listen to the Spirit, we will notice a truth of the Restored Gospel that will highlight their interest. We all relate to the gospel differently and because of that, different things of the Gospel entice us. I'm learning this quite literally dealing with missionaries and having the responsibility to lift and inspire the mission: For me, the Gospel is most effective in the teaching of pure doctrine and letting the doctrine itself inspire me. For example, to know the purpose of the family helps me greatly to do missionary work. For others however, it is the coach-before-the-game talk that pumps them up. We address those needs in our teaching and exchanges. 
If there's one thing that I am learning now it is that love is the only way to open hearts and move the work forward. We were able to look at some new apartments this week for all the missionaries that are coming in and in the process, we were with a taxi driver from about 11am-4pm. He was clearly living a worldly life and loving it. Unfortunately, we treated the situation as an opportunity for reproof when what he really needed was us to love him and teach. After the day was over, we had learned a lot about him, and he opened up to us quite a bit, however, because we didn't show him love in not just telling him to repent, but helping him do so and showing him how to do so, he was not interested in further conversations.  We learned to love.
Yesterday there was an incredible lesson from the life of President Lorenzo Snow where he opened a new area on his mission in Italy. The people that he was to be teaching were a firm religious people who had segregated from the Catholic Church to live more fully by the Bible as they thought. Elder Snow knew that he would not be able to preach immediately, otherwise the people would close their hearts and the word would not get within them. What did he do? He started to study the Bible with them, lived among them, showed love to them, became their friends, and then after 11 years and after a huge miracle of healing someone, he was able to preach, baptize and help the new Italian saints come unto Christ. 
The Lord is hastening His work, but that doesn't mean that we should be too hasty in preaching the Gospel; we should always follow the promptings that are given us by the Spirit, but should always remember that the preaching of the gospel is the most natural thing that we can do as simply faithful disciples of Christ. We love, we serve, we live the Gospel, and then we take the time to help our friends and family see why that is. I wish before my mission I realized that for a regular member it is so much more natural to share the Gospel than for missionaries. We need the help of the members to do the finding and fellow shipping, we the teaching, and together the introduction to church life. This work is the most rewarding thing there is. Thanks for opening your mouth to give the opportunity to others to be blessed as we are blessed. You always were the best example of missionary work for me!
I love you! Sorry my email was really just thoughts all jumbled and on paper.
Elder Claypool
PS - I hope that you received the letter regarding new policies on media and sending it home. With all that is going on in the world, the Lord revealed that we need to be a little more careful with our pictures, words, etc. You need to remove the pictures off the blog if there are any. Have you had a chance to save all the pictures that were emailed home to all of you? I have not had the chance. At least we'll have those pictures!
Love ya!

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