Wednesday, February 3, 2016

3 February 2016

Dear All,

This week was kinda tough again.

I woke up with a 103.2 fever and that was after resting on Wednesday. So we stayed inside most of Thursday and all of Friday too. We went out on Thursday to do some interpreting for a deaf person, but by the time we got back I was completely exhausted. The worst part was that we had to get up at 5:30 the next day for another New Missionary training meeting in upstate. But I must say, that meeting was with President Smith again and it was pretty sweet. There were two big things I took away from it. Elder Wulf, one of the assistants, made one of those comments that stuck out to me. He said something like, "When you get home and people ask you about the coolest experience you had on your mission, that experience won't have happened on a P-Day. It won't be when you were writing home or when you were doing your laundry. That experience is gonna come on a day when you were working your butt off for the Lord." That was something I needed to hear, because I generally enjoy my P-Days. Getting to write home and getting food for the week is nice, because it's just a little less tiring. The thing is, these two years I'm here aren't my time. This is time I'm giving up for the Lord, and I need to make sure I remember that. If I'm getting too distracted by my life in Oregon, then I'm not truly serving with all my heart, might, mind, and strength. So far, the best experiences I've had have been on days when I'm exhausting myself in service to my God. Really, that's why I'm here; to serve my Heavenly Father. The other thing that really stuck out to me was something President Smith said. He said this, "Oftentimes missionaries come up to me with a giant list of weaknesses. You better have a list of your strengths with it, and it better be twice as long. Don't you dare be ungrateful for all the numerous gifts of strengths that God has given you. You should have more strengths than weaknesses, because God doesn't create junk. He didn't create junk." That was another great thing to hear. I think it's very common for people to classify that as being humble. I was actually studying humility at some point and one thing stuck out to me, "Humility isn't saying you have no talents, humility is acknowledging that your talents are gifts from God." This is so true, just beating yourself up can't get you anywhere. But we are human, so we can't accomplish much of anything on our own. I believe that the only way we can accomplish miracles is by working as hard as we can to do something, and only at that point will God come in and make the task accomplish-able. It's really confusing when I type it out. Kinda like something I've said before: without the help of God we can do very little. The power of a human is pretty insignificant, especially in comparison to Heavenly Father's power.

Our lesson with one of our investigators fell through. So we wanted to stop by this other person's house but no one answered, so we went to a sister's house and she was sleeping. I was sad that we had no lessons again, so I was like, "Alright we're finding someone to teach on the subway." We got on one and it was almost empty...I was like what the heck. So I looked around for someone or something that caught my eye and nothing. Eventually at one of the stops a woman walked on and I felt like I should talk to her. I said, "Hello, how's your day going?" She responded, "Fine, thanks." She seemed to be totally uninterested. So I just kinda sat there thinking about how I could continue the conversation. And then she starts reading a book. The book was titled, "The Everyday Life of a Normal Christian". I was in luck. How could I not try to chat with her about Jesus now? So I waited for a time when I wouldn't be interrupting her reading. The problem was I couldn't gather the confidence to just be like, "Yo, so you love Jesus?" But I was thinking, "If I don't ask her then I may miss an opportunity to help her know about the Restoration, or to just know who the Mormon missionaries are. Ugh, why do I have to be nervous at all?" Then I realized that by not opening my mouth, I was fearing man more than God. I knew that if I opened my mouth with the right intent, then my mouth would be filled with some kind of words to help this woman. So eventually I said, "So, judging by the book, I'm guessing you believe in Jesus Christ?" We then had a real conversation about Jesus and religion and church and other stuff. She let me know that she was actually searching for the right Church and that she felt it was time to move on to a new one. She said she had a Book of Mormon and loved it. She said she reads it often, and I was like, "Well, come to church!" We found the church that would be nearest to her and she said she'd definitely show up. It really was a great experience. I learned that sometimes I just need to open my mouth. I also learned if my day or week seems slow because we haven't taught many lessons, to find someone and teach a lesson. It's not that hard. Nike's got it right: "Just do it."

Sunday was crazy because the classes at church got super off-topic and honestly, the Spirit just wasn't there. People were arguing and there was a lot of confusion, and it was just no good. But something that happened outside of church was interesting. (By the way, crazy people really like to shake the missionaries' hands.) So, on the subway a guy was reading a magazine about some guy coming out that he was gay. There was something different about this man but I just couldn't put my finger on it. I wanted to talk to him but for some reason I just didn't. Eventually a man with a suitcase sits down next to him and after like 15 seconds says, "I hate the subway because of nosey people like you." (He actually used many choice words but I took them out.) The strange man was kinda looking at the guy with the suitcase but then immediately stopped once the other man flipped out. The guy continued to rant about the subway and how annoying people are and whatever. He was just yelling curse words on the quiet train. He seemed drunk, or maybe just not all-there mentally. The strange man seemed nervous and I noticed him looking at our nametags. At the next stop Elder Holloway and I got off the train, and the sad-looking guy reaches out his hand for us to shake, kinda looking like he needed saving. So of course we each shook his hand and as he shook mine he kissed it too. I wished him a good day because the other guy was still just screaming a ton of curse words. It was kinda funny because he said, "I hate how people can't just keep to themselves! It's just so annoying how people can't mind their own business and be quiet!" By the way, he was screaming this out loud. It was quite ironic. People just really like to yell and scream on the subways here. This was one of the New York moments for the week.

Later in the day we went to a fireside. Elder Holloway and I got to interpret, and one thing we interpreted was very interesting. There was a musical number with two people, so we decided that I would be one character and he would be the other. I interpreted as the prophet, Mormon, who was being chosen to lead the Nephite army. Elder Holloway was interpreting as Mormon's mother. It was actually very touching for me because it made it all feel so real - how it must have been for Mormon to be chosen to lead an army of wicked people, and to imagine how his mother must have felt! It may be hard to watch your child leave on a mission or to college, but imagine sending them off to lead an army destined to fail. In Mormon 8:3-7, Moroni (Mormon's son) writes about that group of people that Mormon lead. It's very sad to read: "And my father also was killed by them, and I even remain alone to write the sad tale of the destruction of my people. But behold, they are gone, and I fulfil the commandment of my father. And whether they will slay me, I know not." Can you imagine being the last person of all your people alive? And the Lamanites were looking to kill Moroni too! Moroni goes on to say that he has no friends or family left, but he still has the task of hiding the records (Book of Mormon) so that they can be found again at some point in the future. Pretty much Moroni's sole purpose at this point is to "preserve the record of (his) people". Can you imagine how much different life would be if Moroni had been slain before he could hide the records? We would have no Book of Mormon! And to those of you reading that think, "so, what's the big deal? It's just like another Bible," think again. The Book of Mormon is convincing evidence of the Restoration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ in these latter days. As I continue to read it, I learn more and more. It applies to our lives so, so much. It contains the fullness of the Gospel within its covers. That book will show you the way to happiness. As missionaries, we're told that our main tool in our work is the Book of Mormon. If someone is interested in the Mormon religion and reads that book with an open heart, they will know that it is true. By reading that book, you're allowing the Spirit of God to testify to you of the truthfulness of this Church. It's just so amazing I could go on and on, but I've got more to write. Just read the book, it will make you happy. I promise.

We saw a guy at the subway with a Denver Broncos hat on, AND he was reading the Bible. I looked at Elder Holloway and signed, "Yeah, we're gonna teach this guy on the subway. He's probably an awesome guy based on what I've seen so far." I'm really trying to focus on opening my mouth to everyone, and I figured this was an easy opportunity to have another lesson for the week. So I started asking about the Broncos, and we talked about them a tiny bit. Then I asked him about the Bible. We got to talk for a little and talked about the Restoration and such. It really helped motivate me, kinda like re-energize me to open my mouth. His name was Henry and he's an awesome guy. This is something that I didn't think I'd struggle with, opening my mouth to all people. It's a lot harder than expected. But what's the worst someone can do, tell me I'm wrong and mock me for being a missionary? Okay, cool. So I figure that's the worst that can happen, so why not just always open my mouth? The more people I talk to, the more likely I am to find someone who's been prepared by God to meet me. That's kinda been the theme for this week. 

Oh my gosh, you don't know what it means to be on a crowded subway until there isn't even room for your bag. Your entire body is being pressed up against numerous other people's bodies. Yeah, there was a subway that was packed so much that no more people could fit on it, and then it broke down. It got delayed hardcore. Like enough where we were stuck on the track for a solid 20 minutes, so we just got off at the next stop and started walking. I'm sure we were traveling faster by walking than by train. Oh yeah, and on the stop before the train that was super-crowded, something interesting happened. There were two older men, one had a suitcase. The one with the suitcase was kinda pushed onto the train by the other one. The guy's like, "Come on, you can make it! There you go man! Now don't fall asleep! Get off on 125th, and do not fall asleep!" It sounded like he was gonna die if he fell asleep, super dramatic. And then the train started to move and the suitcase guy starts falling over onto people (lucky for him, at this point it was crowded enough that he was falling into people.) After falling into them he'd apologize and stand back up, only to fall back asleep and into a different person 5 seconds later. I have no idea what was going on with that guy. He just kept on falling into people and apologizing and standing back up, then doing it all over again. Eventually someone offered him their seat and he just fell asleep on the seat. It was super-weird: just another New York moment.

Yet another crazy Subway experience! The subway ride home was even more packed than the other ones. So packed, in fact, that I was pressed up against the railing. I really didn't think there was more room, but a mother of 6 sure did. She squeezed her way in with her kids and people were not happy about it. At this point there wasn't a part of me not being touched by something or someone else. By this point, every time the train slowed down, the momentum from the crowd of people behind me would just slam me into this barrier-type of railing. Even if I had wanted to say something to this lovely mother of 6, I wouldn't have been able to move my lungs to get the air to speak. So obviously the train was ridiculously packed. And then a woman gets on, and there really just wasn't enough room for her, but then she must've pushed up against a person because she starts flipping out. She accused the guy of touching her inappropriately, but the guy denied it continually. It escalates and she's talking about how the guy needs to back off because the last time she was in court it was for hitting some guy with a hammer, so yeah, she's wacko. At this point people are all looking in my direction because this fight-thing was happening right next to me. People are telling the woman to quiet down and to have dignity and telling the man to quiet down, and he stops talking but the woman just keeps on going. She yelled about how she values her personal space, and then some random yells came back from the crowd: "Yeah, well, welcome to a crowded 2 train during rush hour". She didn't appreciate that and just continued acting like a child. She was screaming all kinds of profanity and people were like, "Yo, there're kids on the train, relax." Luckily, Elder Holloway and I were getting off at the next stop, so we didn't have to hear much more of that. Just another New York moment. You know, people here are sometimes super prideful. They often try to prove their dominance or how they're right and someone else is wrong. It's really hard to talk to someone about anything when there's a screaming wacko on the train, or when someone is doing illegal drugs on the train, which we also saw today. Oh New York, you never disappoint.

I'll end on a spiritual note. This is something that I'm sure many of you have heard or seen before. So there was this amazing demonstration of the Atonement that I saw a couple years ago in a Seminary class. There was a person chosen to do some push-ups. There were also some Twinkies, and a lot of hungry teenage boys. So the class leader asks a boy, "Do you want a Twinkie?" And of course the boy responds, "Yeah, I do." So the leader says, "Alright. (Name of the person chosen to do push-ups, who we'll call John for now), do ten push ups." John then does 10 push-ups with ease. The leader asks the next person, "Do you want a Twinkie?" "Yeah, I do." So again, the leader says, "Alright. John, do ten push-ups." John does 10 push-ups with ease again. This process continues for a while and eventually John is starting to get tired. At some point people are saying, "No I don't want a Twinkie because John's obviously tired out." But the leader still responds with, "Alright. John do ten push-ups." This continues for another long while. At this point John is really struggling. He's sweating pretty bad and needing to take breaks and clearly in pain. Boys are now saying, "Come on, I'll do the ten push-ups, John is in pain. Just let me do it for him." The leader responds with, "No. John is the only one. He volunteered. He's got to do this for every single one of you." It didn't matter if the boys wanted the Twinkie or not. They couldn't take John's place. John had to work for every single person in the class. It was an extremely powerful demonstration of the Atonement. Jesus Christ has already suffered for our pains, afflictions, sins, and every other bad thing that happens to us. "Here I am, send me". Can you even begin to imagine how much He did for you and me? It's incredible what He's done for us. He knows each of us and our struggles better than we know them. He wants us to take advantage of the wonderful gift of repentance. Just do it. All the guilt and pain we feel is known by Jesus Christ. I hope everyone is happy and ready to change, because we all need to change all the time. We are not perfect, but we sure can try. The way to do that is by becoming more like Jesus Christ. We need to be humble. We must humble ourselves before our Father in Heaven and accept His love and grace. We must acknowledge how imperfect we are, but how much better we can become. President Smith always says, "Don't let 38 seconds of embarrassment stop you from the powers of the Atonement." Show Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ your love by doing what you can to come unto Them. They love you. I can promise everyone reading this that you will be happier if you are willing to change your life to be in harmony with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. 

Anyways, keep on being great! I hope everyone is still happy.

"The tiwi made me cry."
"Mmm, hydrolyzed corn protein."
"There's nothing like that sprint down the stairs to the subway when you hear the subway through the grate from the sidewalk."

2 Nephi 33:1 - when we speak by the power of the Holy Ghost, He will testify of our words.
Jacob 2:18 - Seek God before you seek money.
Omni 1:26 - Come unto Christ
Enos 1:4-8 - Beautiful representation of the repentance process.
Enos 1:27 - Our Redeemer has made it possible to live with God again.

Keep on Truckin

-Elder West

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