Thanks so much for sharing your story with me from your mission. That's one thing that I wish I did more growing up was heard stories from your mission to get more prepared to serve. This is the biggest learning experience of my life and is causing me to become more and more who I want me to be: Who Heavenly Father wants me to be. That experience with your handicapped friend was very tender to me. I have realized in my hardest times on my mission that the unfailing antidote is often to find someone else who is suffering more than you and help them out. It is just the most amazing thing to strive to serve all those around you.
This last week was a week of service in many ways, but in ways more than one, we were able to be literal hands of God in answering prayers of others. The first experience this week was with our investigator that has been investigating-ish for fifteen years! He has an incredibly hard heart and it is frustrating at times to talk with him...but the Lord is using us as one of the means to help him out. Can you believe what life would be like if you didn't know that God loved you? He thinks that God does not love him because of his lack of material blessings...but that God doesn't hate him, because he has more than others. One of the most incredible divine interventions of the week was when he came to our meeting, we started talking, and it led to him sharing an experience that was an answer to our prayers and fasting: He was on his computer late at night just downloading pictures for his latest English text book when a spam popped up on his computer asking for 200 Hrivna by a certain date. Michael quickly turned off his computer and then figured he'd turn it back on in the morning. All night however, he was worrying about it and could not sleep. Apparently it was such a worry to him that he felt backed into a corner more than ever before. He got down on his knees and prayed to God stronger than he had ever prayed before to ask if God was there and if he cared enough to help Michael out. During his prayer, Michael described that he felt a quick, fleeting, unexplainable joy fill his heart that quickly left. He recognized it as potentially being the Spirit! Can you imagine it! Our friend that is super hardhearted and the last in the world to budge. He was given a trial that only God knew would drive him to his knees. He is slowly moving forward now that he has gotten a bit of a taste of the Spirit. I absolutely know that this happened by prayer and fasting from many missionaries who have served him.
This was only one of the many things that happened this week that made us stop, pray, and thank our Heavenly Father. This really is His work as was pointed out in the broadcast this Sunday (Which was amazing!).
There really is no greater purpose in this life than to live for the sake of another. You (parents) do it constantly for us (children) and sacrifice your time, talents, and means for the bettering of our family, the church, and others around you. You do it with an incredibly willing heart. You are an example to me of charity in its purest, fullest, and yet quietest sense. Yes, mom's actions are amazing and often end up being seen eventually - though she is humble and doesn't want people to know what she is doing for others or her acts of kindness. Many actions are often unnoticed, quiet, and are recognized long after you have left the premises. I love my parents with all my heart for the example of service you are to me. I think of the things that I witnessed and the things that you did that I never witnessed but heard about through the grapevine - and I am brought to emotional pride in my heart to have a man like you for my dad, and the best mom! Why would you do all you do? From where do you take your courage to continue? It is from your love for each of us that is so unconditional that it is almost unfair. The words of the Savior describe you:
Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.
So I get to end my letter in like-fashion with the man you freely helped: God bless you for all you are as an example to me. I love you. Never doubt that or forget that. I love you for who you are and are becoming too.
The work is going wonderful mom! We were so blessed this week that I can't even count it all! We don't have the conference talks yet because well...we are a little far from the rest of the world ;) We'll get them probably next month or so. That is wonderful to hear about your wonderful missionary experiences and just how much our ward is growing back home. There is really no greater joy than missionary service!
We have been able to see one less-active woman that the sisters are working with coming pretty regularly back to church and our handful of less-actives are moving forward too! They really do just need love, support, and the Spirit to nudge them back to what they always knew was right in their hearts. We haven't been able to see any baptisms yet, but we have some absolutely incredible investigators that are progressing and really a miracle in their humility and readiness to receive this message from our Heavenly Father. One such is a woman named Olya. She is the daughter of a member that just recently passed away due to her 4th stroke. We had made contact with her as it would so happen on the day that her mom had the stroke. We were able to provide assistance, support, and comfort to help her and her mom out in her trials. We were even able to give her mom a blessing as she laid on the bed writhing in pain. A few days later, Olya's mom passed away leaving her to take care of the funeral service. Again, we were there to help and were able to make almost all the arrangement for the funeral. It was a tender moment to be able to testify of God's magnificent plan of salvation for all of his children and that we will all live again. Death is only a part of the plan. Time settled down a bit and we were able to go over a few days ago to check up on her and really start to help her through this trial with God's comforting truths. Our wonderful member on the lesson was so crucial to befriending her (she actually had known her from before), and helping her realize just what Heavenly Father was doing for Olya: reaching out to her so that she would reach back. We started to talk about prayer as we had planned and asked if she had had any experiences with prayer. She thought for a moment and said she did and then related to us the experience of when her mom had had a stroke, she had injured her back trying to pick her mom up. She was sitting on the couch, not knowing what to do since funds were already so tight, and just hung her head in her arms asking God why he was giving all this to her...that night not long after that, we called. Yes, we did feel that night that we needed to call and were able to be the answer to her prayer and now can help her continue to move closer and closer to her Father in Heaven. He is reaching out to all of us and we can reach back through his restored truths and church on the earth today. She's already referring to our church as her church and wanting to know all that she can in order to head the call that her trial sent to her from God:
Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.
He really does answer our prayers and helps us to move forward in our trials. The question is not whether or not life will break us, because we know that this life is given for us to be changed, reborn, and become like our Heavenly Father, the question is how will we heal? Will we let our broken bones grow back crippled and deformed, or will we take upon our souls the healing balm of the Atonement that will make us into that which our creation was intended?
I love you mom! I think that I have all that I need for winter so there is no worry there! Plus, there's no snow yet :) Keep praying for these people and the branch!