I must say that any perfection that I have received I learned from my parents, right? While I've learned a lot on my mission from various leaders, nothing can change the foundation upon which it is all built. More and more I feel like I'm learning more and more just of your nature and character...kind of a mini lesson on how life is like for us as we try to come to know our Father in Heaven. I'm grateful for you.
The last week was a lot better in regards to missionary work and time is just flying by. I was able to read a journal entry from my first area and just feel the change. Although my writing style and words haven't changed all that much, the spirit behind the words have.
It was pretty shocking to hear that Bryce (Elder Samuelson) was already sent home (six missionaries left early from our mission until Ukraine settles) and that threw me into a huge ream of needing to get back focused. But, the Lord has kept me here for a reason. I could have just as easily been in his shoes, and he in mine, but we all have our different callings and our own times. This was something that I needed to realize this week. If the Lord needs me to be here for another three months then I will be here and serve with all my heart, might, mind, and strength. It is a daily battle to keep our covenants...but it is so worth it. The people need hope.
There were moments this week where I had incredible spiritual experiences with the scriptures, investigators, and new members. President Lochhead came up to Sumy for a few hours just to meet and talk about the current situation...but his presence just helped me to get back up again and do my best. Never expect any less from me. The kind of leader and disciple that I want to be is one who always does the will of the Father...this in turn helps others to do what is best. At times it is difficult for anybody to do the right thing...but when I think of how many people that one right choice will influence, the decision becomes second-nature. Like the Savior said: "And for their sakes I sanctify myself, that they also might be sanctified through the truth" (John 17:19). When we sanctify ourselves for the sake of giving others the example to be sanctified, the strength come to endure.
This last week was really wonderful and super fast! Our investigators are doing well, but we are trying to find more. Nicholai is just moving on closer and closer to baptism, but is waiting for the weather to warm up to be baptized in the river...besides that minor set back, he is a Priesthood leader prepared from before the foundation of the world. :) We also were able to find a lady that is just looking for so many prophecies to be fulfilled including the restoration of Zion, the gathering of Israel, and the outpouring of the Holy Ghost. Such an incredible blessing it is to be a missionary and have the truth!
Volodia has been going through some post-baptism trials of his faith that are rocking him pretty good. The last Sunday he was struck on the side of his head from behind and woke up in his apartment shortly thereafter. At first I didn't believe his story...and then we saw him a few days later with lots of swelling etc. It ended up turning into a pretty bad infection which has left him at home for the last few days. On top of the physical and far more dangerous is that his testimony is really shaking. He came a long way to believe in God and put off his atheistic roots...but they are rearing their ugly head again and causing a lot of doubts in him. From the outside it is so interesting to see how much his personality changes from happy to unhappy when he abandons his faith and sticks to his atheism. For me it was super stressful! I didn't want him to go less-active right from the start...so with blank paper ready for revelation and lots of prayer and study I was able to learn some really important lessons this week: (1) How does our faith cause the miracle of conversion in the hearts of others. We cannot change their choices, nor can we take away their agency. We also can't have faith in them nor hope in their conversion unless they choose to repent and change. So how then does our faith play a role? When we have faith in Jesus Christ we have faith in not only his word (his commandments and promises), but we also have faith in his power. This puts us in the perfect situation to give opportunities for another to become converted. No matter how strong our faith is, we cannot change some one else's heart simply because. No matter how hard I prayed that because of my faith Volodia would receive the same, I couldn't control his agency. However, because of my faith in Jesus Christ, through me and other means, the Lord can work the might miracle of Volodia's conversion by providing him opportunities to become converted. (2) When someone is having a hard time believing, what should we do. We had a lesson with him yesterday where he came out and said just the different problems that he was having with faith in God. At first, the instinct was to pull out scripture after scriptures to help convince him to believe in God...even though we used scriptures, the Spirit taught something different: It's okay if he has doubts. In fact, faith by definition is not perfect knowledge. There is nothing wrong with a person if he has doubts. Faith is a gift from God that is given to us through qualifying efforts of reading the word, hearing the word, keeping the commandments, and praying to name a few. The problem occurs not when a person has doubts, but when a person stops qualifying himself to receive faith from God because of his doubts. Faith isn't faith until its tested, and the difference between faith and proof is that proof is human and faith is a gift from God. The message helped Volodia and taught us a lot too! Elder Evalde is just doing wonderful as well and carries the Spirit with him in all his very humble testimonies! When ever we have doubts in our faith, the words of Paul should ring clear: "call to remembrance the former days, in which, after ye were illuminated, ye endured a great fight of afflictions...Cast not away therefore your confidence, which hath great recompense of reward. For ye have need of patience, that, after ye have done the will of God, ye might receive the promise. For yet a little while, and he that shall come will come, and will not tarry. Now the just shall live by faith: but if any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him. But we are not of them who draw back..." (Hebrews 10: 32,35-39). Hold to what you've received even in times of darkness. Cast not your faith away from you but be patient with faith. We are not of them that draw back.
I love you mom! Thank you for you ever constant prayers and support! It is much needed!