It is great to see that the family is doing wonderful! Also, thank you so much for your pictures. They were incredible and great memories. We all need to take time to see just how much we've grown...and it has been a blast to show all the people in the mission office my pictures ;)
Tell the twins that I played soccer for two straight hours on Monday after I wrote you last and was dead tired afterwards. I was playing with the Kharkov zone and really had a blast...who knows, maybe I'll be able to school the twins when I get back ;)
This last week was wonderful with being able to fight the tendencies to relax, move on, and not endure to the end. But I really like what I heard one missionary say while he was giving a blessing to another sick Elder: Enduring to the end is where all the real blessings are earned and merited.
When I was with Elder Harrison, a dear friend of mine, he expounded Helaman 3:35 to me that talks about how the people waxed stronger and stronger in humility and firmer and firmer in their faith in Christ, which change came from yielding their hearts to God. How did they do it? Of course they prayed, fasted, and served, but it was interesting that the verse before describes that they were severely persecuted. Sometimes we let persecution or trials in general get us down and it has a negative effect on us; however, we should use it for our benefit. Like the people in the verse, we can use our trials and persecution as an opportunity to give our hearts more fully to God.
I think that has been one of the most life-changing things of my mission: Being able to learn a truth that literally frees me. I'll show you what I mean: This week I was having a rough time opening my mouth, talking to people and inviting them to come into the waters of baptism and be baptized. In a very inspired district meeting, we talked about baptism and just what it means in the scheme of things and the question was posed: "What is keeping you from having faith to baptize and expecting to do so?" The Spirit whispered to me: understanding. I realized again as I already had before that what keeps me from performing was first and foremost rooted in my understanding. President Packer has taught: "The Study of true doctrine will improve behavior better than the study of behavior will study behavior". When we understand the key truths of the Gospel in our hearts (which understanding in our hearts can only happen when the Spirit takes what we know in our minds to our hearts), it just clicks and all of the sudden obedience to a law isn't so hard, choosing to serve the Lord isn't so much of a chore, and in the end of it all, we are more equipped to endure to the end when we are founded upon eternally enduring truths. After the conclusion of that meeting, all of the sudden talking to people on the street wasn't just a chore, but a privilege trying to allow all to partake of salvation.
Whenever a person is not performing as the Lord would require, reproof is rarely the remedy. Teach when understanding lacks, reprove when repentance is needed.
One of the most amazing things that we were able to experience this week was just how much we need members to help us with our brothers and sisters. I've thought about it long and hard and realize that members doing missionary work (meaning the finding, baptizing, and fellow-shipping) is just so much more natural that a kid in a shirt and tie walking up to you on the streets and asking you what may seem like overly-personal questions. When the members invite their friends to just experience the love and joy that they feel, they are going to see much more success than a missionary will his whole mission walking the streets. The missionaries as divinely sanctioned teachers of the word will teach thosethe doctrines needed, call to repentance (or give commitments), and then with the members work the investigators closer and closer to their eternal destinies. We haven't got here yet, but we are well on our way.
We have members on our lessons. its just a given for us because we see the blessings of it. We have an investigator, (took name out), who we met with a few weeks ago who had prayed to meet with the missionaries. We had an incredible lesson about the Restoration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ through the Prophet Joseph Smith and she was more than captured by the ideal of our message's potentiality to be true. The member was able to bear testimonial about the Gospel. This is an incredibly powerful method to share the Gospel for members and missionaries alike: It's not necessarily an "I know that..." statement for that is a testimony. A testimonial is when the member relates a story that clearly displays the effect of applying the Gospel in their lives. Its like a testimonial of a great new car; "This is a great new car! I can't even express what life is like driving in the nice leather seats with the car windows down and my MoTab blasting! Not to mention it has a GPS navigation that leads me to the promised land...etc." Disregarding me be a little silly, every member can bear testimonial to their friends in a non-weird, abrasive way. Not only that, but she felt the Spirit greatly on the lesson, agreeing to be baptized. However, she expressed an incredibly serious phobia of water. The member that was on the lesson assured her that if the Lord can do all the great miracles he has done, he can surely help with her phobia. The next lesson, another member was informed before hand of her phobia and when we showed her the font, the member was able to calm her fears and assure her that all would be wonderful! More than that, She received an answer to her prayer that it was true and that she should be baptized! What aided in this was the member on the first lesson explaining how she felt the Spirit in a practical way that She could also recognize the Spirit. As a member before my mission, I had no idea how much aid I could have been to the missionaries...but repentance is an eternal principle and I will be the best member-missionary I can in the future.
Next week we'll be in our new area, , companionship, and chapter! Here we go to baptize thousands of families. We will bring salvation to the people there.
I love Ukraine. I love the people. I love Jesus Christ our Redeemer.
I love you !