Hello, everyone! It was a wonderful week here in Philly. It always is, I love it here, I love the people even though they may not love us so much haha! Just kidding--they respect us and what we do, well most of them.
This week I think I got the most angry I have been in a while. I was talking to this Catholic guy on his doorstep. He was smoking a cigarette. Anyways he was "content" with being Catholic - somehow... I introduced the TRUE church (Church of Jesus Christ) and he blew the smoke right into my face and then threw his cigarette at my face and cursed me out. *deep breath* Interesting how someone who claims to "know everything about Christ" can do that as you try to talk to them MORE about Christ.
This week was filled with blessings and miracles - you see them often out here as you do the Lord's work. Philly had the most snow it has had in YEARS! We were told Friday night that we had to get inside immediately. We didn't get the text because we were in a lesson, but when we walked outside it was snowing and Scepta (local transportation) shut down. My companion, Elder Lake is not very fond of walking, so I got to hear his thoughts :-)).
(The next morning.)
Anyways we got home and called it a night, woke up the next morning opened our door and no joke a yard or so of snow just fell inside our house... The streets were completely covered with snow.... Most snow I have ever seen in my life! It was beautiful, however, and I truly was excited for it. We were told that the proselyting would be off for the day, but we were never told that we couldn't go do service!
So the Spanish missionaries joined us and we spent the first six hours of our day doing service. It was frickin freezing, windy, and obviously snowing hard, but we all loved every second of it. We were able to shovel over 30 houses and get a solid dozen cars that were stuck because they tried driving in it (why, I don't know) which was pretty hard! Members of our church are familiar with the Book of Mormon passage in Mosiah 2:17 which reads: "And behold, I tell you these things that ye may learn wisdom; that ye may learn that when ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God." This is what we all kept stating as we worked. Many people continued to say, "Let us give you money, let us give you money!" We, of course, denied it and continued on.
We were able to establish every time that we were missionaries for our church and that we were blessed with the opportunity to be here in this area to help these people with whatever they stand in need of. People's mouths dropped and eyes widened, they were amazed! Almost every single time we were able to share a message about Christ and left many with a smile on their face.
I want to share a few experiences of the blessings that came from this.
1. This man had his Audi (it was like 1000 years old; don't get too excited, Parker) just completely stuck - buried. We went and started helping him, started talking to him. Quickly getting into his life story he told us he was in Chicago for years trying to get his "certificate" to be a pastor, priest or missionary. We smiled and told him, "You don't need a certificate, look at us! We are 19 year old young men that just got out of high school. We got CALLED to be here." We were able to explain how Christ's original apostles weren't scholars, they were fisherman, tax collectors etc. and how Christ gave them authority and that authority wasn't given by going to school, it was given by someone who already HAD authority. We asked him if he thought authority was necessary to baptize etc., which he answered yes, and we asked him if prophets and apostles for Christ's church were necessary which he of course said yes. Anyways, long story short--we were able to give this man a Book of Mormon and will be meeting with him this upcoming week. It's funny when you come across someone logical and willing to listen, they would know what we say is the plain and simple truth... But it's hard to come across those people! Haha.
2. After we were "done" with our service, we were all just frozen, hands were purple, eyebrows frozen, yknow that good stuff - so we called it quits finally and everyone insisted that we go down 4th street because there was less snow, but I felt impressed to go down 6th street, didn't know why, but we did - turned the corner and this lady opens her down and shouts for our help, so we go and shovel everything and she tries giving us 50 bucks and we are like, "It's okay it's okay, we are missionaries for our church etc. Then she immediately is like, "I love Jesus, I love God, please come back and teach each of us. We want to know." That continued for a while and her begging for us to take her money, but we just asked if we could come share a message. She rejoiced and said, "Absolutely!" No doubt in my mind she and her husband will get baptized - I saw them both in white.
3. "PAY IT FORWARD" -- this man got his car stuck, completely on ice, so we helped get him out, took a bit of time but we got him out. He asked us how he could repay us. I told him he could "pay it forward" and come help us help another person. He accepted, anyways this process continued on and before we knew it we had a group of ten people or so just shoveling and getting cars unstuck etc. Really neat experience. It's interesting how when something happens to an entire community, everyone forgets themselves and tries helping everyone - everyone comes together, it's awesome.
Of course many other things happened, but those stuck out to me at least. Hmmm this week on Wednesday we had interviews with our mission president. That guy is amazing....... When you look at him, you're just in awe, he's great. Anyways, lovely, much needed interview; not everything is always great, the work is always great though, I guess I should say.
We received a missionary training through a worldwide broadcast from a few of the Apostles of the church - really enlightening. Those guys are called of God and just know what is UP. If you ever listen to them speak, you just instantly feel the Spirit.
One thing that has been my biggest frustration out here is seeing the lack of support the members give and the lack of fellowship. We must all recognize that when we were baptized we took upon as an oath/covenant that we would help those around us, strengthen others and be there for others, but it seems as if now everyone is just "TOO BUSY"' to serve. I think it takes a step back and actually think about the big picture, what we are doing and why we are on this earth. I look at all these return missionaries that are like 30 years old in our branch and they all are just so focused in their little cliques and it's just like, "Yes, you served a mission but you are still commanded to help those around you." Elder Oresteugi, the Spanish missionary, was like, "Some go on a mission, some SERVE a mission." So true. Our whole life as members of the church is a mission to help those around us.
I want to share some thoughts out of a talk. First this scripture in Luke says it all: "But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren."
Elder Robert J. Whetten in a conference talk says a few things that I had to share with the branch president.
"Yes, brothers and sisters, like Peter before, we have testimonies, but is conversion a continuing process in your life? Isn’t each of us a work in progress in the hands of our Maker? Is God blessing others through you? Do you pray and ask whom the Lord would have you bless by lifting another’s burden? Do you love others as much as you love yourself? Conversion means consecrating your life to caring for and serving others who need your help and sharing your gifts and blessings. The Lord didn’t say, 'Tend my sheep when it is convenient; watch my sheep when you aren’t busy.' He said, 'Feed my sheep and my lambs; help them survive this world; keep them close to you. Lead them to safety--the safety of righteous choices that will prepare them for eternal life.' Every unselfish act of kindness and service increases your spirituality. God would use you to bless others. Your continued spiritual growth and eternal progress are very much wrapped up in your relationships--in how you treat others. Do you indeed love others and become a blessing in their lives? Isn’t the measure of the level of your conversion how you treat others? The person who does only those things in the Church that concern himself alone will never reach the goal of perfection. Service to others is what the gospel and exalted life are all about. In your journey through life, you are to reach out and bless the lives of your fellow travelers, to give of yourself to those who need you. 'For whosoever will save his life,' the Master said, 'shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel’s, the same shall save it.'
"Many active members believe that the less-active members and new converts that fall by the wayside behave differently because they don’t believe the Church’s doctrine. Studies made do not support this assumption. They show that almost all less-active members interviewed believe that God exists, that Jesus is the Christ, that Joseph Smith was a prophet, and that the Church is true. In numerous wards and branches, there are many good, upright, honest men and women who just don’t know how to come back to church. There are good mothers and fathers among them. They have just left, and no one has come to check up on them, leaving them with the idea that no one really cares. When men or women of faith visit these individuals and become their friends, strengthen them, pray with them, and teach them the gospel, they and their families will come back. 'Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.' Who are 'the least of these my brethren?' Might the Lord be referring to the newest coming into the fold or to those who have wandered into the shadows of inactivity and would return if extended the hand of true fellowship? In this great battle for the souls of men, the rules of engagement in missionary work are more clearly defined for each of us. Members are to accompany full-time missionary companionships as they teach the lessons and play a vital role in the conversion process of others. Missionaries are 'to preach my gospel by the Spirit' with words from their own hearts, words of truth treasured up by much study and prayer.
"Our missionaries’ roles in the continuing conversion process of others do not end at baptism. They are to continue to teach new members and others who need spiritual nourishment. Brothers and sisters, if the conversion and transformation process is to continue in each of us, new members and old alike, we must love, serve, and give spiritual nourishment to others. We must help others receive the full blessings of the Restoration, including the blessings of the temple. Love is not just a word or a declaration, but the first and great commandment, a commandment that demands action--'If ye love me, keep my commandments' and 'Lovest thou me? … Feed my sheep.' You must do what our Savior and His prophets, both past and present, have always taught: serve, strengthen the faith, and nurture those who need your love and blessing. You have the Lord’s promise: 'And whoso receiveth you, there I will be also, for I will go before your face … and my Spirit shall be in your hearts.'
"Brothers and sisters, as you reach out in love to bless the life of another, you both will be blessed with His Spirit. The Lord teaches that both will 'understand one another, and both [will be] edified and rejoice together'."
My companion asked if I thought I was a little too bold when I read this with him so I asked him, "Are the only people you want at our next baptism the branch presidency again?" I love you all and thank you for what you do for me.