[email sent Aug 29, 2016]
[email sent Aug 22, 2016]
Dear beloved family and friends,
The weeks are flying by right now. I am so grateful for the counsel of the wise men and women in my life. Ever since I received an email a few weeks ago to stop making excuses and start creating success wherever I go, with the Lord’s help, I have been working for success every second of every day.
I have always kind of worked hard since coming on my mission… But that’s the thing, I have only “kind of worked hard.” The Lord knows us best. He knew that I wanted to give my whole heart to the work, but He also fully knew that I had perfected the art of excuse making. He helped me understand that if I don’t make excuses when problems arise and instead engage all of my faculties into finding a solution, He will open another door. Each day, as I give everything to the Lord, He takes my desire and He does much more through me than I could relying on my own strength. Now I go about always looking for opportunities to be like Jesus Christ, no matter what happens. Instead of giving up when everything is hard, we just work harder. There is too much work to be done in the Lord’s vineyard for us to just sit back and relax. Because of the effort my companion and I are putting forth, the Lord is truly blessing us. Right now, we have way more people than we have time to teach. We had four referrals in one day last week and all of them really want to know the truth. My companion and I had not had a ton of success in our area when we first got here, but now we are preparing one person to be baptized next Sunday and more the following Sundays. Last week we had three investigators come to church. Next week we plan on having six or more investigators at church. The Lord really blesses us when we learn how to “create success” and we do this by involving the Lord and then doing everything we can on our end.
A fire has grown in me and it gets bigger every day. The missionary work I have started here in Ghana is only the beginning. I have seen how this work I am doing has become less and less like a job and more and more like a way of life. “Line upon line” my love for the gospel and for our Father’s plan is growing. The thing that excites me the most is that this work that I am doing will never end in my life time. I will continue to always share the gospel, wherever I go. I used to think it would be weird if I just talked to anyone about my religion and the gospel, but now I think it would be ridiculous if I didn’t share what I know with everyone! The gospel is sweet. And… just like delicious chocolate, I want to share it with everyone!
I think the most important thing I have learned so far on my mission is that “we are people to act and not objects to be acted upon.” I have helped the people I teach understand that they are agents unto themselves by teaching with questions, listening, and then expounding their answers. As I have done this, I have felt the Spirit more often and have understood the Plan of Salvation a little better.
The Lord is great. He loves all of us and knows us by name. I think the reason I have come to love bearing my testimony so often is that the more I do bear my testimony, the more I know it’s true. When I speak truth, the Spirit confirms it to my heart. God lives and I know it.
[email sent Aug 15, 2016]
Dear family and friends,
I got to meet an apostle. So, like, this week was epic! Elder Bednar is incredible! The whole week was awesome with teaching people, office work, health, and just everything. This week built from sweet level on Monday to code best day(s) of my life on Saturday and Sunday. I was so excited when I woke up on Saturday! It was like being a kid all over again and waking up on Christmas morning. My feelings of excitement kept on building until to the moment when the assistants to the president lined us up for a picture, and even then my excitement grew.
Our whole mission stood breathlessly still while waiting for Elder Bednar’s car to pull into the stake center’s parking lot and for him to join us for a picture. Then, his car came around the corner of the building, parked, and out hopped Elder Bednar! I couldn’t help but give the biggest, most cheesy smile I ever have in my life.
Elder Bednar joined the missionaries for a photo and then we all moved inside the building for our devotional. To begin the program, we had an opening prayer and then our small missionary choir preformed Elder Bednar’s song “One by one” to invite the Spirit. And… I was to solo for the first verse. Haha, not gonna lie, I was terrified. As the pianist played the intro, all I could hear was the blood in my ears and all I could taste was my heart in my mouth. Thankfully the Lord looks out for His children, because the fear went completely away as I began to sing. It felt really good to use my talent. 🙂 After the song, Elder Bednar stood up before anyone else could and congratulated our little choir personally. He told us we did a fantastic job. 🙂
Before Elder Bednar spoke to our little mission, the Africa area presidency spoke first. Wonderful talks, of which I took notes on, but forgot to bring them to emailing time today. Sorry! Gonna have to wait until next week for my notes! But I couldn’t forget Elder Bednar’s instruction. Elder Bednar is a man just like the rest of us and he teaches simply enough for everyone to learn, but he teaches with power. I will never forget the way he taught. One day, I want to be able to teach like Elder Bednar. His secret, he let everyone in the room speak, he listened to everything that everyone spoke, and he helped us all become agents unto ourselves. Every time someone asked him a question, he would ask “Now, can I ask you a question?” He didn’t force the discussion at all, but he let the Holy Ghost guide. I have never been taught so much in such a short period of time before. Also, never has time gone so fast! We had 3 hours of instruction from him and at the end I thought, “What?!?!?! It’s over already?” But at the same time, I felt refreshed. I felt renewed. He also invoked an apostolic blessing on us, that if we were to feast on the scriptures every day of our lives and always look outward towards the needs of others before our own, we would never fall into the destructive power of pride. He also taught about the power of the Atonement in such a simple way. He told us that most of the members of the church think the Atonement is nice, but does not apply to them personally. He told us that if we are thinking that the Atonement doesn’t apply to us, we should stop right away. That if we are thinking the Atonement doesn’t apply to us, we believe in Christ, but we don’t really believe Him. The Atonement happened “One by one”, meaning Jesus Christ died for each one of us, personally.
Really, I just have too many thoughts about Saturday to put into one letter… So find me after my mission for a full story and notes. At the end of the meeting, we got to shake Elder Bednar’s hand, which I got really excited about! He was mostly just smiling while he shook everyone’s hand, but when I got to him, he stopped me and ask “where are you from, elder?” Which I responded, “I’m from Missouri.” After that he said, “It was really nice to meet you, elder.” Now, I’m not saying that I’m special or anything… I’m just saying it was really cool that he stopped me. I loved meeting Elder Bednar.
Oh yeah! I almost forgot to write about the Sunday meeting! This meeting was held for the 2 stakes that are in Kumasi. It was also awesome. You will have to get my notes letter. The main message was look more outward at others and you will start to love the gospel and the Savior more. You will also understand His Atonement more. At the end of the meeting, he said something that blew my mind… Currently, there are 2 stakes in Kumasi. Elder Bednar said that soon, like 25 years soon, there would be 50 stakes in Kumasi. Mind. Blown.
Well, sorry for such a short letter after so much awesome, but my time is short… I love all of you very much!
P.S. Make men agents unto themselves, to act and not to be acted upon. That’s how you teach with the Spirit.
[email sent Aug 1, 2016]
Dear beloved family and friends,
I will try to make this letter nice and long since I will no longer be using the dropbox videos for my weekly report.
My week was good. The end.
Haha, leaving it at that would make it easy for me! But I guess y’all might want to hear about my week as much as I want to hear about everything happening back home… This week I spent a lot of time pondering the effects of being positive verses being negative. Believe it or not, the decisions we make every day, either positive or negative, have an effect not only on our attitudes, but also our ability to feel the Spirit of God. Even the little negative things in life such as irritation, having distaste towards something, and self-consciousness disrupt our sensitivity towards the Spirit. Because if something is not uplifting us, it is not of God. And if we are focusing on something that is not of God, then there is no room for the Spirit to dwell. “No man can serve two masters…” It’s important to focus on what you might be doing that drives the Spirit away. This is no easy task, I know. Yet, it is necessary to always be making some kind of improvement every day to make it back to our Father in heaven. Make a list titled “Lord, what lack I yet?” and then write down anything that the Spirit tells you to improve on. Pray every morning about your list and promise God you will change those things on your list. Once you finish your day, pray and ask for forgiveness in the things you fell short in that day. Commit to be better every day. You will not change all at once, so do not give up. “Line upon line” you will change. It is almost like bearing our testimonies. The more we bear our testimonies, the more they will grow. Because the more truth you speak, the more the Spirit will be able to confirm it to you.
Along with that thought, I have been thinking about something President Cosgrave mentioned while speaking to our zone this last week. We read the scripture that talks about having the same spirit in heaven as we do here on earth. Then, he taught that that scripture can be applied to our lives right now as missionaries. We will have the same spirit after mission as we have now on our mission. It really struck me when he said that, because it’s true! I started thinking about who I am right now and if that person is the same person I want to bring home in 14 months. I feel like I have improved since coming on my mission, but I want to be better. I want to be the best for my family, for my friends, for my future wife, for my future children… My goal is that no one will recognize me when I come home.
I love my mission so much. I can’t even say how I have loved it so far. I went on an exchange with one of the assistants to the president this last week and while we were talking, he mentioned how his mission went from a job to a way of life. As he said that, I realized how true that was! When I first came out here, I saw every day as a work day to get through instead of a precious treasure to spend wisely. Now, there are not enough seconds in a day for everything I need to do. Before, talking to everyone seemed so hard and I was so awkward about it. But now I have no problem talking to anyone that will listen to me when I share the gospel. I have such a burning passion for everyone to hear the gospel. Elder Anderson and I have not had a single baptism together, which could seem like a hard thing since every other missionary seems to be baptizing tons of people, but it just means that we are planting the seeds for future missionaries. It pains me at times when I see people I love so much not accept the message we bring, but I will keep my commitment to “invite all to come unto Christ.”
Well, I guess that’s quite a bit to chew on this week… A few other notes before I go are:
– I will be staying in the mission office for another transfer!
– Elder Dudley’s area was closed. He and his companion were transferred.
– I now have two companions. Elder Anderson still and now Elder Brandt from America.
– “Lessons are better caught – not taught.”
– The Ghana post is struggling right now, so it might take longer for packages and letters from home to make it to me.
[email sent May 30, 2016]
Dear loved ones,
As for this week, I don’t even know what to say. I have received many wonderful emails from friends and family, which have filled my heart with great joy. I am so happy I came on a mission.
For sure one of the best decisions I have ever made in my life.
I feel the Holy Ghost teaching and comforting me every single day.
When I make a wrong decision, because missionaries are not perfect, the Spirit teaches me and I am able to make an immediate correction.
I love this feeling of closeness I have slowly, and will continue to develop, with God. I guess that’s way I would say this mission has been the greatest decision of my life, because I have come closer to God, which has brought me more joy then I have ever felt before.
I don’t want the closeness I feel now to ever go away. The ways to keep such closeness are easy too. Read the scriptures every day, pray always, keep God’s commandments, keep the covenants you have made, magnify your duties, etc… Simple things! Keep things simple, “choose the right.” 🙂
Alright, lots of stuff happened this week, but nothing really of too much importance. So, if you want to know the details of this week, you’ll have to wait until I get home… Sorry.
With much love,
[Below are rest of the photos from this email.]
[email sent May 16, 2016]
Dear Family and friends,
“When we do what is right, increased faith always follows.” This is one of the messages elder Vinson shared with our mission during his time in Ghana. This principle of increased faith caused by action can be found in the thirty second chapter of Alma in the Book of Mormon. In this chapter, Alma uses the same teaching mode as the Savior to help us understand and see the simplicity of a topic that often seems like such a mystery to many people. That topic is faith.
By using something that we can relate to, Alma teaches that faith is like a seed. Once we take action, plant the seed of faith, and then continue to nurture that seed, our faith will grow. How hard is that? Well, when you have Satan lying to you, things can be pretty hard. Far too often, we as God’s children let Satan’s lies into our minds. We give up. Why?! Why do we give up on the brightly lit path that leads back to our Father in Heaven and everything we have and ever will hope for? Our Heavenly Father has given us everything we need to return to Him. He has given us a scripture for all of our problems. He has given us prophets that speak His words directly to us. He listens to and answers our every prayer (even when you feel like He is not answering you, He is. Sometimes we just don’t listen back or when we do get His answer, we don’t like it). He gave His Son, Jesus Christ, to die (and live again) for us.
Yes, we mess up. No, it is not the end of everything when we do go astray, because unlike us, our Father never gives up on us. That’s why I love this scripture on faith and the principle of light and truth. God has told us that “when we do what is right, increased faith follows.” When we choose the right, our light grows which also increases the amount of truth within us to expand. When we fully understand the Atonement of Jesus Christ, we will have an increased desire to be like the Savior, take His name upon us each week, and never give up. It all starts with a decision to act. “Decisions determine destiny.”
This topic has occupied my thoughts this last week, so I thought I would share some of what I have gained from my studies. This week has been a pretty chill week. Nothing overly exciting. One of the only exciting things from this week was transfers. I and my companion will be staying in the office together, so that’s good.
Whelp, I hope everyone has a most excellent time this coming week.
Remember this, “When our wagon gets stuck in the mud, God is much more likely to assist the man who gets out to push than the man who merely raises his voice in prayer no matter how eloquent the oration.” – Dieter F. Uchtdorf