Thursday, February 21, 2013

Mission Scripture

For some reason I had an incredibly difficult time figuring out what scripture I should use on my plaque. I wanted a scripture that would express how I felt towards my Heavenly Father and towards my mission. For a while I was thinking of using Alma 29:9 which reads:

I know that which the Lord hath commanded me, and I glory in it. I do not glory of myself, but I glory in that which the Lord hath commanded me; yea, and this is my glory, that perhaps I may be an instrument in the hands of God to bring some soul to repentance; and this is my joy.

I really liked this scripture because I want more than any thing to be an instrument in the hands of God in bringing others to HIm. It is not only the goal of my mission but the goal of my life. Yet I noticed some thing. It seemed like everyone and their dog was using this scripture. I didn't want to use a scripture that every one else was using. I've always had this rather strange characteristic of wanting to be different from those around me. I never liked following the crowd and I think that was some thing that helped me stand up for my beliefs when the time called for it in high school

So I decided to think about another scripture that would I felt the same way about. Then it hit me. I thought of Isaiah 41:10. This scripture had touched me when I needed comfort and reminded me that God was in charge no matter how dark the night I had been called to pass through appeared. It made me understand that even when I had no one I had Him and I feel, even now, that it is a wonderful motto to carry in my heart in regards to the 18 months I will spend in 24/7 service to Him. It reads:

Fear thou not, for I am with. Be not dismayed for I am thy God. I will strengthen thee. Yea I will help thee. Yea I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.

I think as a missionary we definitely need to remember that God will uphold us. I am so grateful for this opportunity to serve and to feed His sheep in Panama. My God bless you my dear readers until you read again. 

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Planning For Ana

So for the past three weeks Catie (a girl is reporting to the Guatemala MTC 2 weeks before me and also serving in Panama) and I have been having mock planning sessions for fake investigators. These investigators are individuals we have come up with that need the Gospel and are prepared, in some ways, to receive it into their lives. I was originally going to post about what it was like to plan for one of our investigators named Ramone, that is, until I helped plan for an investigator named Ana.

During the part of our planning sessions that we set aside for Ana I felt the spirit stronger than I have in a very long time. So much so that I started shaking from the sheer power of the Holy Ghost working on me. As we planned for this investigator that didn’t exist and that we would never teach I found myself aching to share this lessons with the woman. Rather then just sum it up for you let me get a little in depth. That way you’ll get an idea of what our planning sessions are like and how it is preparing us to be better missionaries once we get out in the field.

First, we come up with an investigator. Catie came up with Ana. Some key things about the single mother in her late twenties is that she has four boys ages 3, 4, 7 and 10. The oldest three from one father and the youngest from another father. Their dads are not in the picture. Ana works all day to support her young family. Culturally she is Catholic  but her worship does not extend beyond worshiping a picture of the Virgin Mary that hangs on her wall above a candle. Ever night she lights the candle and pray to the Mary for relief from her troubles.

So to begin our planning sessions we always start out with an opening prayer. This time I asked Catie to say it in Spanish because I want to see what words I could pick out. Unfortunately my  phone is horrible at picking up noise when it’s on speaker phone so I only caught a few phrases. We started with  Ramone and with about twenty minutes left in the session we started planning for Ana. We both felt like we should teach her about Jesus Christ and expressed this feeling to one another.  Catie suggested the sub point of faith in Jesus Christ as a main focus and God is our loving Heavenly Father. Almost at the same time we amended it to, Christ’s earthly ministry and atonement found in Lesson 1.
Now that we had the basis from which we would draw our lesson we talked about commitments we would extend. We both felt that Ana would be open to a commitment to be baptized. Plus we had talked earlier about the importance of bringing up baptism from the beginning so that its not a surprise for you investigators. We also talked about extending the commitment for Ana to come to church with us that Sunday.

We then  got into the meat of what we would teach from. We discussed the importance of first helping her come to know Jesus Christ. We felt this wouldn’t be a hard transition for her because she had a Catholic background and already faithfully worshipped the Virgin Mary. I felt prompted to use the story of the woman at the well found in John 3. I admitted to Catie that it was kind of weird connection. I felt like we should draw a connection between Ana and the Samaritan woman. In many way Ana, is like the woman at the well. Seeking for the living water that Christ has to offer. We planned to emphasize to her that Christ could give her the living water of faith. Christ could also give her peace in every aspect of her life. The way she feels when she prays at night to her painting could be experienced all the time if she would just return to Him. Catie like it and we discussed that concept a little further. I think at this point we both felt the Spirit very intensely, bearing witness to us  that what we were planning was true and would be very powerful.

We then moved into how to teach  Ana about the atonement. Catie talked about reading Mosiah 11 in which Abinadi is quoting Isaiah regarding the coming of Christ. We decided to use verse 3-5 to help Ana understand that Christ knows her sufferings and understands her in her trials. We connected to Christ’s experience in the Garden of Gethsemane found in Luke 22:42-43. We talked about how she could relate to feeling as Christ did, asking the Father to let the bitter cup pass from Him. We also discussed the next verse of how an angel was sent to strengthen Him in His suffering. We decided we would talk with Ana about how when she prays to God in the name of Christ, her Heavenly Father can send angels to her aid to strengthen and uplift her.  We thought that would be a good lead into committing her to be baptized and to come to Church with us that Sunday. We decided we would close with asking her to give the closing prayer.

We did not plan homework for Ana. I think it is best that Ana just be challenged to ponder on the things we have taught her but Catie and I will talk about tomorrow and that may be changed. To be continued…

At point in the planning session we felt like that was enough. What we had planned for Ana was powerful and we both knew it. We both knew that the Spirit was there and that we had been guided in planning for these fake investigators. When we were evaluating how it had gone (after a closing prayer given by me in Hebrew) I for one could barely speak because I was shaking so bad (that’s what happens to me when I feel the Spirit strongly, I shake, kind of like I’m shivering because I’m cold. We talked about how we would like to be each other’s companions and what went well with the session. Catie will send me Ana's reactions before our next planning sessions.  I look forward to many great sessions and cannot wait to get out in the field and actually teach God’s children in Panama. I am so grateful for this opportunity to serve and how He is preparing me to do so. May He bless you my dear readers, until you read again. 

Friday, February 15, 2013

Vaccine Adventures

You might wonder why in the world I am dedicating an entire post to my mission vaccines. It’s quiet simple really. I am one of those lucky 1 in 40,000 people who actually experienced a reaction and it was quiet the adventure for me (hence the title of this post). I guess it’s just one of the perks of going foreign. I got four shots in one day and my mom and I both knew that it would probably affect me to some degree; we just didn't anticipate that I would be down for the count for the next week.

The one that gave me the most problems was my yellow fever vaccine. It hurt like crazy going in too (they did warn me that it would so I was able to mentally prepare myself). I didn't feel bad at first. It just felt like someone was trying to rip my arms off, they were so sore! I still worked out that day hoping that actually doing stuff with them would help. That night though I felt terrible. I was chilled but at the same time hot because of all the blankets I had on me. I got maybe three hours of sleep and that morning took an Advil and went to babysit. The kids cheered me up some but after four hours I was ready to come home.

When I did, my mom took my temperature and learned I had a slight fever. We thought maybe I had the flu which would have been quiet the coincidence seeing as I had received my flu shot exactly a week before. So I took it easy. That night was as rough as the one before and when I woke up I had a fever of about 100. We also noticed a red swollen circle around where the nurse had injected the yellow fever vaccine. We decided to just keep an eye on it and hope that we could battle it out with come good cold medicine and lots of fluids. I did not go and babysit that day and instead took the opportunity to read some from my El Libro De Mormon and Predicad Mi Evangelio. After a while though I got too tired and just dozed on the couch. When I woke up and I just felt gross and went to bed early that night.

So that next day was Friday, that morning we took my temperature and it was 101. Plus my whole upper right arm was swollen and painful (not the side with the yellow fever vaccine). So we called the doctor. They said there was nothing they could do but if I started having seizures or my fever got over 102 I should be taken to the ER. That was when I decided that I should call on God for help. So I called the missionaries. They came over and admitted that they actually had to consecrate the oil which was something I had never seen done. They talked with me for a little while about what I was doing to prepare and what they were doing to find people (that is my favorite chapter in Preach My Gospel right now!). I suggested they have like a game night at the church for the youth. It could be something nonmembers could come to and not feel uncomfortable; just something fun. The missionaries actually ended up doing one but I was babysitting and unable to go.

Anyway, back to the blessing. So they consecrated the oil and then I was asked to choose who would do the anointing and who would give the blessing. I hate being asked that. Sometimes I wish they would just establish it beforehand. I feel like by choosing I’m sending a message that I think one elder will give a better blessing than another. Anyway, I chose the elder from Peru to anoint and the elder from New Zealand to give the blessing. Poor Peruvian Elder, I could tell he was nervous and was glad that I hadn't made him feel like he had to give the blessing. I think he would have been so nervous! Anyway, the New Zealand Elder has an awesome accent that makes it hard to understand him some times but there were a few things that really stuck out to me in the blessing.

Multiple times he praised me for my exceeding faith in my Heavenly Father. He assured me that God was aware of me and my faithfulness. I am always so grateful for those reminders. They comfort me when I feel I am falling short of the expectations my Father in Heaven has for me. He also told me that this blessing and my healing would be a testament to the power of God that is found in the Church. That others would learn from my example of faith and steadfastness in my beliefs. He told me to listen to my mom to help me get better quicker. It was a beautiful blessing and I am so grateful for the priesthood. I look forward to the day when I will have my own home blessed by an eternal companion who will be a worthy priesthood holder. A lack of it growing up as made me want it that much more for myself and my children. I just look up to those who hold it worthily so much; I admire them and am so grateful for them.

Well the blessing was over and the missionaries hung around for a little while, offering to help me study the discussions if I wanted it. I asked them for the number of the sisters in the area over since we did not have the luxury of having sisters in my area. They said they would get me the number and they also informed me that we were getting 17 sisters in the Reno Nevada mission that week. The work is going forward and it is so exciting to see! We said goodbye and that night my fever broke. My arms still killed for a few days but by Sunday I felt completely normal and was able to teach my class at Church (which I was worried about). God is wonderful. I am so grateful for the trials He puts into my life because I know that through them He brings to pass miracles to strengthen my testimony and the testimony of my family members. I now have 45 days until I leave and I feel God teaching me new things every day. May He bless you my dear reader, until you read again!

Friday, February 8, 2013

What Are You Doing To Prepare?

For some reason I have been asked this question a lot lately. I received my mission call back on December 5th ( I remember it well) and don’t leave until April 3rd. I must admit that when I first received my call I was frustrating about where the date fell that I was leaving. I had told my stake president that if I was called to serve in April I would like to leave at the end of the month so I could go another semester at BYU. However, my stake president told me something that I have thought about a lot since getting my call. He talked to me about how there are two facets of being prepared to serve a mission. The first is being worthy and the second is being willing. Within the idea of being willing is not only being willing to go wherever but also being willing to go whenever the Lord needs you to go. It reminded me that I needed to use the time the Lord had given me to prepare to do just that, prepare.

So that’s what I am focusing my post on today. What am I doing to prepare to be a better missionary when I leave two months from now? I have actually come to be very grateful for the time that I have been blessed with to get ready. There are three things that are missionary related (so aside from spending time with family and babysitting to pay off student loans) that I want to address in this particular post. If you are also getting ready to serve and have other suggestions that I am not doing that you are I would love to hear it! Now on to what I’m doing.

First, I am reading Preach my Gospel every day. Right when Christmas Break started I established a schedule for reading to make sure I would finish the whole thing before I leave on my mission. I have been studying a little bit of every day and trying to do a chapter a week. I am just finishing chapter 13 this week and will start studying the discussions. Along with reading the chapters I do the scripture studies and write down talks to read from the quotes in the chapters. I love that I have so much time to really study the manual that I will be using my entire mission. I am trying to become really familiar with the chapters so that when I start studying them in Spanish I won’t be completely lost. I think my favorite chapter to read right now is the one on finding people. I am just so excited to get out and do it. To find my Father in Heaven’s lost sheep; to feed His wandering lambs. It is why I am serving a mission and I am excited to go out and finally do it every hour of every day.

Second, I am studying the scriptures as much as I can. I just finished the Book of Mormon two weeks ago and even though it feels kind of strange I am following the prompting to reread the New Testament. I took the first half of New Testament at BYU last semester and it made me realize (kudos to my professor) that I do not know the New Testament like I should. I do love it though. I can’t wait to come home after my mission I really start my classes focused on that, especially my Greek classes. I have tons of stuff to look forward to and I know that God will be with me every step of the way. It is weird not studying the Book of Mormon as part of my personal scripture study in the morning and the evening. I justify by reasoning that when I study Preach My Gospel I always study the Book of Mormon and ponder scriptures from it. I know its important to understand and be familiar with both. After all the Book of Mormon is a major key in the converting process but most people that I will teach in Panama (who have a Roman Catholic background) will be drawing all their knowledge from the New and Old Testament.

Third, go on splits with the missionaries if you can. I know that its hard for some people. I am currently in a position that I cannot go on splits with sisters because there are no sisters to go on splits with. If you are in the same position as I am might I suggest something else. I talk on Skype every week with another sister that is going o Panama two weeks before me. We have decided that we are going to go through chapter 3 of Preach My Gospel together like we would if we were a companionship. We are even coming up with imaginary investigators so we have someone to tailor lessons to. I think it’s really important that we get used to teaching people, not teaching concepts. I also think it is a really good thing that we are becoming familiar with not only doing things our way and we have the chance to listen to how we would each approach a certain teaching situation.

Those are a few of the many things that I am doing to prepare and I hope this gave you guys some ideas and I you have any suggestions please let me know. I am so grateful for this opportunity to serve a mission and to serve God’s children in Panama. I am so grateful for the time God is giving me to do this; to draw closer to Him and to learn from His Son what it means to be a good missionary. May God bless you all now and until you read again. 

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Remember Families Are Forever

It is a sad day when someone, especially a child, is taken before we think they should be. It is even harder when it is without warning and it seems that we are helpless to do anything but stand back and watch. Today, at around 3am, my friend's 16 year old brother was called to do work for our Lord and Savior on the other side of the veil. He had been fighting a staff infection, then he got the flu and because of the strain on his body the veins (particularly in the lining of his stomach) became weakened and bacteria escaped from his stomach into his bloodstream. His body was then attacked from all sides. He went into cardiac arrest twice, suffered kidney and liver failure and had to put on heart and lung bypasses just to keep him alive. At around 3am this morning, Heavenly Father decided that it was enough and called him home.

It is hard for everyone. It especially hard for the family, but it is difficult for those who know the family because everyone feels like all they can do is offer words. Empty phrases that will never fill the void; they will never bring Parker back. Many people would get angry and ask why? If He loved His children so much why would He cause them to grieve like this? So many people lose faith in the Gospel because of tragedies like this. They claim that if there really was a loving Father in Heaven he wouldn’t allows these kinds of things to happen. Yet I invite you, my dear readers, to consider some thing.

We experience this grief and this pain and this loss because we love, deeply and completely. God has blessed us with that emotion; to love, to give ourselves wholly to someone; to open ourselves up to them and allow them into our heart. To let them toy with our emotions for good or ill. God has given that ability to it because through that emotion stems the family. The love between spouses, the love between parents and their children, the love between siblings , friends and Church families. We grieve because we love. If we did not love we would not grieve and that my friends would be a wasted existence in my opinion. Those who claim that God does not love us because He took someone from us suffers from bitterness because they cared.

It is important to remember that we came from the presence of God and inevitably we will all return there. For some it will be too soon. For others it will be after a long life full of joys and sorrows, happiness and grief.  Forefront in my mind at the moment is found in 2 Nephi when Lehi, who is on his death bed is speaking to his son Jacob. He tells him “For it must needs be that there is an opposition in all things. If not so… righteousness could not be brought to pass, neither wickedness, neither holiness, nor misery neither good nor bad…” He goes on to say that if all opposition should cease then eventually God would cease to be God. But because He loves us so much He gives us the ability to choose and to love and to grieve. It is part of the mortal experience. It is  part of becoming like God.

Finally, remember that families are forever. It is, in my opinion, one of the most beautiful doctrines of the LDS faith. That through proper covenants and ordinances established and performed under the right authority we have the opportunity to be with the ones we love most in this life forever. It is one of the many reasons I am serving a mission. I cannot wait to go teach the people of Panama that they can be with their loved ones forever. That especially in times of death and loss they can find peace, as the Allred family has, knowing that they will see and be with their loved ones again. It is beautiful and it is sweet. It is the good news of the Gospel and I love it with all my heart. May God bless you my dear readers, until you  read again.