Sunday, September 8, 2013

Assignments, Blessings & Some Farewells

So, a lot has happened in the last couple of months and I apologize to my devout followers for not posting. There are seriously so many things to talk about that I could go on forever and ever and still not even share everything. Anyways, I will try to do my best:

A little before school started back in August, I was assigned with another young man waiting to go to Brazil as well to assist teach early morning seminary. To be completely honest, when I was extended the assignment, I felt absolutely overwhelmed and completely inadequate. Nonetheless, I accepted the assignment with faith and knew that the Lord would provide me with the necessary attributes and abilities to best serve the freshman class and empower them spiritually if I but do what He asks. One of the many things that I have learned from teaching seminary came to me while preparing a lesson one evening and it was so profound that I seriously had to Google what I had received to see if anyone else had quoted it before, and it was this: Action without preparation is a waste of energy. Preparation without action is a waste of time. To me, this was very comforting because I could be "preparing for my mission" for the remaining months but not actually applying what I would be preparing. I am so grateful to have inspired Stake leaders who recognize a need and are able to give me the opportunity to both prepare and act on almost a daily basis. I am going to be teaching quite a lot while in Brazil so why not begin now and prepare by doing just that: teaching. 

Another thing that I have learned is how to teach with the spirit. I am not perfect at this yet but I am beginning to do all that I can and then relying on His arm to guide me in presenting the material that I have prepared. Sometimes, I will find myself spending hours preparing for a fifty minute lesson, which is great because I just combine it with my daily scripture study, but other times I will only have about thirty minutes to prepare and I sometimes doubt my abilities the following morning. However, nearly every single morning that I have taught, I feel as though I am inspired to share something or ask something that comes to me in the moment and every time this happens, the lesson goes far better than I could have ever imagined. My only regret about this is that sometimes-- and it has happened a couple of times--I will get home from seminary and within the hour, find something that would have worked wonderfully with the lesson. Anyways, to use a Spanish phrase which has a similar meaning in French: El ingenio de la escalera or L'espirit de l'escalier. This is used to describe a situation in which either a retort or some other thought comes to you when the opportunity to share it has passed. But not to worry, as long as the spirit is felt--which I can say that it is there almost on a daily basis--there is no need to worry about opportunities passed. To use a Brazilian expression "Águas passadas não movem moinhos" which basically means that "passed waters do not power mills" and one should not be too caught up with the things of the passed that they dominate the future. This is beautiful to me because it is a perfect illustration of repentance. Once one has repented and left their old life behind, they should "look not behind thee". 

This past Tuesday, September 3, 2013, I got to attend my first transfer meeting and I'm not even in the mission field yet! Anyways, it was bittersweet to see all of the missionaries that left the Augusta area while welcoming in the new ones. New to our area is Elder Sato from Japan. He went to BYU-Hawaii for about a year to learn English and while there he submitted his mission papers and was called to serve in the Georgia Atlanta Mission which as I understand it has been acquired by the Georgia Macon Mission recently. Nevertheless, in sacrament meeting today, Elder Sato gave a talk and then bore his testimony in Japanese and it was simply beautiful. I could feel the conviction that he has for the Savior and the way that he reveres the prophet Joseph Smith. I hope that I will one day be able to have such power when I speak in Portuguese.

On another note, I have been pondering blessings and how we can better align our view with that if the Lord's. To quote something that I shared on Facebook I said:

"'When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.'

Truly inspired words! I have recently come to the conclusion that this is the way that the Lord intends for us to look at the blessings He gives us. Borrowing the logic from Sister Lowry that "you don't HAVE to, but you GET to" do things, has greatly influenced me as well. We are told that if we serve others, we are only in the service of our God and this is exactly the point that I have to make:

When we serve and do the will of the Father, we are promised to be blessed, but I submit that "being blessed" is far more than just good health, security for us and our loved ones, getting a job that we so desire, or even getting that much needed raise. I admit that these ARE blessings in and of themselves, don't get me wrong, but I also think that if we take the quote made so famous by Wayne Dyer (above), we will realize how much more we are blessed. Blessings also come in the form of further service as we are being continually converted and sanctified in the Lord. Not only do we receive blessings of health and safety when we serve others (and ultimately the Lord), we also receive more opportunities to serve, which are just as much blessings as the much needed raise or the promise of good health.

That being said, I know that I will definitely look for more of these blessings as blessings and not as things that I HAVE to do but that the Lord invites me to do, in order to be strengthened and benefited."

In closing, I must say that fewer things are more difficult than having to say goodbye to a family member that I will not see for two full years. I said goodbye to Addison today, who leaves for BYU-Idaho on Tuesday. I wish her and Chandler all the best as they go off and begin adult life together:

"God be with you till we meet again;
By his counsels guide, uphold you;
With his sheep securely fold you.
God be with you till we meet again."

Monday, June 24, 2013

The Tender Mercies Begin

So, I got looking online a lot today to try and learn some of the language, culture and information as well as the different sites to see on my preparation days or "P-days" while in Brazil. P-days are usually on Mondays and are the one day out of the week that I will not be proselyting. It is reserved for a companionship of elders to go grocery shopping, site-seeing, writing letters home, and doing laundry-- in addition to all the other things that may need to be done that had been put off during the previous week's work.

Somehow in my search I came across a couple of videos that highlight the many major cities in Brazil that are sure to receive tourism during the 2013 FIFA Confederations Cup that is currently underway as well as during the 2014 FIFA World Cup. This is one of the videos that I found that talks about Fortaleza and the sites and people there. If anything, these videos are just making me more and more excited to go to Brazil!

In addition to searching for interesting and informational videos today, I found out that I co-worker of mine who grew up in Rhode Island actually took four years of Portuguese. When I walked into work he hadn't been told about where I would be serving. Some time passed and he asked me if I was excited about getting my call and I told him that I had received it and had been assigned to serve in Brazil. He instantly perked up and became quite excited. I think that my news had made him quite jealous! Come to find out, Rhode Island has a huge population of Brazilians and so it was part of the high school curriculum to learn Portuguese. He said that he may still have some Portuguese grammar books from when he was in high school that he would be more than willing to let me have. I am so excited to get a jump start on this adventure and so many wonderful tender mercies of the Lord have been manifest so that I will be better prepared for the upcoming two years. I know that Fortaleza is the exact mission for me and that none other could possibly teach me as much as this one will. The people of Fortaleza are the people that I need to meet and the people that the Lord has prepared me to serve. This is the will of God and He has laid these stepping stones in my path so that I will be able to successfully do His work.

“The Lord's tender mercies are the very personal and individualized blessings, strength, protection, assurances, guidance, loving-kindnesses, consolation, support, and spiritual gifts which we receive from and because of and through the Lord Jesus Christ.” -Elder Bednar

The Call, a Myriad of Emotions, and Progress with Paperwork

"Dear Elder Evans:

You are hereby called to serve as a missionary of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. You are assigned to labor in the Brazil Fortaleza Mission. It is anticipated that you will serve for a period of 24 months. 

You should report to the Brazil Missionary Training Center on Wednesday, November 6, 2013. You will prepare to preach the gospel in the Portuguese language. Your assignment may be modified according to the needs of the mission president..."

Today, June 24, 2013, I got my passport application submitted, and hopefully $211.20, two to three weeks, and one visa later (this could take months), I should be cleared to travel in and out of the country. I also heard a couple of days ago that if my visa is approved early, that I may be able to leave for Brazil early which will be pretty exciting. 

Friday, June 21, 2013

The Beginning and THEN Some...

I started my mission papers in September of 2012 with very little incentive to finish them while attending BYU-Idaho due to the fact that I would only turn nineteen at around the time that I would be returning home in April of the following year. General Conference came and passed that October with the announcement of the missionary age change and I called my parents shortly after. We came to the consensus that with little progress on my papers and with my housing contract still signed and on the records for the winter semester, I should attend school and get a year of school secured under my belt.

Yes, the months following that October conference were full of several friends of mine (primarily of the female gender) that decided to begin, finish, and submit their paperwork all within the matter of what seemed like days...

Shortly following my fall semester, I had a roommate that left school to pursue a young woman that had "caught the wave" of missionary work and was quickly submitting her paper-work. To both of their families' surprise, he caught her just in time and proposed before she had made her decision to serve final-- a picture of the temple in her "mission call" sure made an exciting and unexpected announcement. In addition, I also had the sad experience of hearing about a former roommate who had been left by a girl who had decided that serving the Lord was a greater priority than marrying him-- AFTER he had proposed to her and she accepted. While I do not stand to judge either of their decisions, I sure do wish him luck in coping with the surprise. 

By winter semester, I lit a fire and made sure to keep it lit until my papers were submitted. I made time to get the last few provisions taken care of and had everything done: shots, physicals, records transferred; etc. and even had a meeting with a member of the YSA 7th Stake presidency scheduled for the week after April conference which I attended and wholly enjoyed. Somehow, I thought that my paperwork would be submitted shortly thereafter but apparently the Lord had another plan. The week after conference, I met with my bishop who asked me if my wisdom teeth had been removed. I hardly even had to think about the question. Of course my wisdom teeth had been removed. Who could forget the horrible pain that followed? I answered him by saying that they had been to which he informed me that my dentist back in Augusta had mistakenly marked that I indeed had not had my wisdom teeth removed. Following the meeting, I quickly contacted my parents and my dad came to the rescue and was able to have my dentist in Augusta fax my bishop the updated and corrected paperwork. 

It would seem that at this point, all was smooth sailing, however, somehow along the digital sea of paperwork, I had neglected one thing. My meeting with a member of the stake presidency was scheduled and I had allocated the time necessary to meet with him and finally submit my paperwork- even though it was finals week and the final week that interviews were to be conducted. I had gotten dressed in my Sunday best and went to a friend's apartment for dinner. While I was there, I received a call from my bishop explaining my fatal mistake. I had somehow neglected to properly submit my paperwork and my bishop said that at this point, I would have to just finish my paperwork when I got home. 

After returning home, things didn't get any easier. It took about a full month from the time I got home again to the time I finally had all of the paperwork transferred over and then turned in --but I had done it! My papers were finally in!