Tuesday, July 8, 2014

living on a prayer

Getting through this week was hard, but I can now humbly say that I'm more than halfway through my nine weeks in the MTC! This week was all about prayer and keeping a constant conversation going with God all day, every day. Someone once made the observation here that we're a lot like the apostle Peter walking on the water to the Savior; and "when he Peter saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink, he cried, saying, Lord, save me." (Matthew 14:30) It was because Peter was distracted that he began to sink, because he looked around at the world around him and realized what a scary situation he was in. And in that instant after he began to sink, he cried out to the Lord. "And immediately Jesus stretched forth his hand, and caught him..." (Matthew 14:31). That's pretty much how this week has felt. When I keep up an ongoing conversation with the Lord throughout my day (in addition to praying on my knees and with my companion/investigators), I feel like I'm metaphorically hanging on to the Savior's arm in a world that I would never be able to face on my own. Even with all that, I often trip and get distracted, but gratefully, the Lord is ever-patient and merciful and willing to help me back up to try again and again and again.

On Wednesday we had the opportunity to serve as hosts in the MTC, which meant we helped all the new missionaries as they arrived with getting books and getting them settled into their rooms and classrooms. The first person I hosted was an international sister from Bombay. She spoke decent English but overall seemed very nervous being alone in a foreign country with just a medium-sized suitcase. I was humbled to talk with her and serve her because she sacrificed so much to come here, thousands of miles, to serve the Lord and do his will.

In addition to this wonderful sister, I hosted three elders and another sister. It was so touching to see the enthusiasm and anticipation in the eyes of the missionaries. One of the Elders I helped was going to Argentina, and as we were walking down the sidewalk with all his luggage, he quietly admitted his feelings of inadequacy. I almost dropped all his luggage to hug him right where he was. I opened my mouth and heard the words, "Elder, the Lord needs you here. He has called you. He loves you. I promise you you're doing the right thing." And that was all we said on that topic for the rest of the time until I put him on a bus to west campus. The coolest part of that experience, though, was that I didn't say any of those words. Those words were spoken by the spirit through me. I've had experiences like this many times in the MTC but it never ceases to amaze me to feel the power of God. I am humbled and grateful to be in a position to be the servant of the Lord.

Being a missionary has made me so aware of God's love for everyone in the missionary equation: the investigator, the member, the missionary, and the companion. Our purpose is to invite others to come unto Christ; that means EVERYONE! Once this week, in a moment of exasperation, I asked God, "what would you have me do?" and immediately I thought of a scene from Lord of the Rings where Eowyn asks her Uncle King Theoden the same question as he leaves her with the tremendous responsibility of ruling a kingdom. He puts his arms around her and says in response, "I would have you smile again." In spite of the darkness of the world, in spite of everything she had to do, her uncle (and father figure) just wanted her to be happy. Doesn't our Heavenly Father, who loves us infinitely, want the same thing for us? I know He wants that for all of us.

Friday was the 4th of July, obviously...I've never been the most into celebrating holidays but my companion more than made up for it with the most patriotic outfit and accessories. But that night was possibly the best night of my life thus far. We started the night off with a musical show that got us all hyped up because we have some insane talent here in the MTC. Then there was a devotional that brought the Spirit like crazy, and then we watched 17 Miracles, which I've heard loads about but never seen before. It's about the journey of the companies of Latter-Day Saints who crossed the plains in handcarts and the miracles that made it possible for them to arrive in the Salt Lake Valley. It was inspiring to see and remember the tremendous sacrifices that were made by those who went before us, but my favorite part was when the main character said, "I can't remember how many times I turned around to see who was pushing my handcart, but saw no one" and as the camera pans behind him it shows angels and people helping him by pushing his cart as he pulled it -- it is the same with us. God does not leave us alone, he sends help, though often we can't see it or even realize it until later.

Then we went and watched the fireworks for the Stadium of Fire! I've never seen a fireworks show that big, so I'm sure there were stars in my eyes the whole night, but as it came close to the finale I remembered that the last time I watched fireworks was in 2012, a few nights before my family and I left Wisconsin. At that time in my life, I had recently graduated high school. I was scared and felt purposeless; I did not know who I was or what I was going to do with my life. The future appeared dark and uncertain, and I did not know what to expect or what to do. Whether aloud or in my heart, in the form of a prayer or just a desperate wish, I begged that the next time I watched fireworks, I would be a different person, I would feel my life had purpose, and I would be happy. That night, at that time in my life, non of that seemed possible, but three nights ago I stood outside watching fireworks from the MTC on my way to Thailand, and I am a better person than I ever thought was possible then. God heard me. The Lord has been in the details of my life since its beginning, and I am and will be forever grateful for all He has done and continues to do for me. As I stood there watching the beautiful fireworks, I was hit with a wave of gratitude that overwhelmed me. I love the Lord and this gospel. The Lord has led me this far and he will not abandon me, now, or ever. And if He has done all that for me, don't you think He's done all that for you, too?

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