And if it so be that you should labor all your days in crying repentance unto this people, and bring, save it be one soul unto me, how great shall be your joy with him in the kingdom of my Father!
- D&C 18:15
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Today we already took down the Christmas Stockings and little nativities and packed up extra presents we had. We get to begin using the short stack of gift cards. Telling people Merry Christmas is now instantaneously outdated. It was 80 degrees at noon, I finished my Skype call to my family. Now there's 364 days until Christmas. It's a little sad to think that it's all over now, but part of the joy in life is moving on, knowing that what came will come again. Just as powerful a experience itself, is memory. Memory is a key attribute of knowledge. What good would knowledge do if we never kept it? The past is in the past, and is not now, but many times the future is determined upon what we did in the past, and the now is just a filter of recognition.
At any rate, I loved Christmas. We had a beautiful sacrament service, and many investigators came. One of them we've been trying to help progress for a long time now, and her and her less active husband loved the beautiful music and spirit of the chapel.
On Wednesday we had a powerful lesson with a Lady who has not had a very merry Christmas. She's been working two jobs as a 75 year old lady, and hasn't been able to attend sacrament, yet alone buy groceries. But with youth she quoted Psalms 23 verbatim to the King James Bible, and let us know she will make it out on top. It was amazing to see her faith in the Lord. Sometimes, when you hear people approach such a sticky situation with confidence, you think they are foolish. Maybe it is a foolish thing to do, but faith is foolish to worldly sight. It was a touching moment to spend some time with her in the holidays.
Saturday we went caroling with the Elder that live with us. One of them played the guitar, I sang the melody, and the other two prayed for the ability to sing. It worked beautifully. It was wonderful to see family after family touched at our service to them. Truly Christmastime is a special time of year. When else will people appreciate you coming to their door to sing?
When I finished skyping my family on Sunday afternoon, I turned off the monitor, and wondered if they knew just how much I loved my mission. Did I miss my chance to let them know how much fun I was having? Could they tell that I was happy? It brought me back to something one of my brothers used to say when playing sports. "You gotta capitalize!" Did I capitalize on the situation? Maybe I did, Maybe I didn't. It was a little numbing to see all of them together, but I hope they know how much I've changed- even if I still like to be a little fashionable.
It was the most wonderful time of the year. It was time for chesnuts to roast on the fire. It was the time to watch Mr. Krueger's Christmas, but it will always be time to remember the savior.
NOT REALLY. But, I feel like it is worth noting that Christmas Eve will be my 18 month mark. What an extraordinary thought. In a mission conference that we had last week, we had a powerful testimony from a member of the seventy, saying that when you are on a mission, you count your time. I don't want to, but it might be a good idea. I love Christmastime. I remember in my later high school years that was thoroughly disenchanted with this time of year, but when we turn our thoughts to the savior, there is no reason to not love the spirit of Christmas. This week has been filled with many Christmas miracles and joys. We have contacted more referrals this week than I have at any point in my mission ever before. I tied my personal record for new investigators found in a week, and the members of the congregation here have been so charitable to us as we have been away from our families.
Everyone has a Christmas tradition. Even if it is as simple as singing Christmas carols on Sunday, or reading Luke 2, we all have something that our family does together for Christmas. Of the many holiday videos my family watches perennially, one of my personal favorites is Mr. Krueger's Christmas. Back home, I love watching an old but lively Jimmy Stewart run around with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and finding out that the little girl put all the animals around baby Jesus in the nativity. As a missionary, there are three things that I want to point out to add to the beauty of this great Christmas specials. For all of you that haven't watched this video, please do so. Not only will it help with understanding the rest of this email, but it also is a beautiful show.
1. Service pays itself. When Mr. Krueger is unexpectedly given some money in his hat- money which he could definitely use- he gives it almost immediately to the salvation army band. Sacrifice is needed to be obedient to the lord and to receive his blessings. If it wasn't hard, it wouldn't be sacrifice. Even in our times of need, there is something that we can sacrifice to the lord. 2. Inclusion is more important than Perfection. The group of Carolers that invited Mr. Krueger to sing with them didn't need him, instead, they wanted him to feel the love and joy that comes with singing carols. When we are invited to act, we should trust that they want us, they we are qualified for what we are called. Perhaps we are not as good as others, but it is still our place to answer the call to action. Besides, the cat does sleep a long time. 3. The crowning sign of love is always loyalty. As Mr. Krueger, the most humble man you'll meet, bows down and wishes he had something to give to the Savior at his birth, he is reassured that his love for him is enough. And then, after all of the glimmers of happiness that he had- almost buying a new suit, buying the smallest of Christmas trees, having his only visitors leave after so short a time, reminiscing of his wife with only a picture- he receives a fulness of joy from worshipping Christ. And then, the tender mercies of the Lord fell upon him.
Love the gospel. Live the gospel. What great feelings. And I can tell you, Mr. Krueger's Christmas really isn't that great of a production.
Thank goodness that it is Christmastime. I hope that you enjoy it with your families, and that you enjoy the spirit of Christ.
Saturday we had the first convert baptism in Schertz Ward since its creation over 15 months ago. It was a great feeling. The bishop was elated. He was signing the baptismal record and said, "you know Elders, it's been too long since I've signed one of these. Good work." Lots of members came to A's baptism and some surrounding missionaries had investigators show up. It was an awesome experience. A, the little 9-year old that was baptized, is such a great kid. It was a pleasure to teach him.
This week started with throwing my back out while working out in the morning. After finishing the set I dropped the weights, and I couldn't move. That was pretty fun. NOT. It turns out that to do just about anything, you need your back. By the time Elder V and I came home from a day of biking I wanted a back replacement. But what can you do when you have appointments and meetings all week? Out of the many lessons I've learned on my mission, responsibility is a huge one. If you don't do your job, who else is going to do it for you? And why would you want somebody to do your job for you? Responsibility, stewardship, whatever you want to call it, is part of growing up.
To try some different ways to use every honorable means to find somebody to teach, we ware going to be part of a radio talk show. Us and the Elders that we live with have been invited to be on a member's radio show. He said that over 30,000 people will be able to listen to us. That's a ton of people that we can talk to! What an extraordinary thought that we could be sharing the gospel to thousands of people all at the same time. Our mission president is all for having us on the talk show. The person who owns the station wants us to do it weekly, but I'll be honestly, I don't know what we'd talk about after the first few podcasts, but what an incredible thought.
Wednesday we were able to rake leaves for one of our investigators who has been having some major medical issues. Her front yard was ankle deep in leaves, and for that 70-year old lady, it would have been way too much. She came out so surprised. "You do this for people who don't go to your church? That's crazy!" She put on her favorite Christmas sweater and tried to help us. She's a funny old lady. I'm just glad we could spend a few hours helping her out.
Thursday I had a feeling that I've wanted to have for a long time. It was the feeling of being a new missionary again. New missionaries have this fire to them that is addicting. Every moment is a spiritual high, every experience is a treasured memory. Sometimes when you get further into the field, it's not that you run out of experiences, you just get used to them. But what a shame that is. Thursday night my companion, the bishop, and I were meeting with a less active part member family and the spirit was so strong, they were so grateful to have us there, for the first time in a while, I was overwhelmed with the spirit during a lesson. What a wonderful experience. I hope we all get overwhelmed with the holy ghost.
Elder Richard Hall
1. Some missionaries going through some sound checks at the radio station
When beginning my weekly email, I usually think, "it's a good thing
that I wrote in my journal this week, so I can transfer all of the
great stories I wrote down throughout the week to the email." Then I
reach for it only to remember that I left it at the apartment. So I
usually add in the thoughts that I remember, the most savory parts of
the week. Hopefully, they are memorable to you as well.
Early on my mission, days felt like weeks and weeks felt like days.
Then for a good chunk of time, days felt like days and weeks felt like
days. Now I've decided to give up counting the days because I know I'm
going to be wrong, and the weeks sort of blend together the same way
your vision does when you on a teacup ride.
Members homes tend to be easily recognizable, both inside and out. On
the outside there is almost always some child-friendly decorations and
a welcome mat with kind words. On the inside there are pictures of the
family, and the faint smell of seasonal candles- or doterra. There is
at least one picture of the Savior and one picture of the temple. A
few quotes from prophets and scriptures hang on the wall as well.
Figurines of the temple where the family was sealed, or maybe an
angel from the top of the temple. Everything beautifully matches. A
patch of chevron here, flowers either on the table or on the window
sill. It's always so well decorated and so homely. I may get to see it
every day, but I love it. The spirit is invited so easily.
We were having dinner with a member family where the husband was very
active, and the wife didn't believe in the church at all, but came
from a long line of active families and whose whole social group was
faithful members of the LDS church. While entering into the house it
looked much like the warm houses of other member homes, but there were
no pictures of the temple, no scriptures or church history books
laying around. It was almost like something was hollow. Yes, you have
the flower arrangement, yes, you have the perfect matching colors, the
argyle tablecloth you found on pinterest was perfect, but something is
missing. It is the gospel. It was almost strange to feel the lack of
the gospel around me. The branches were there, but the roots were
gone. The fruit isn't worth much if it doesn't taste likes much.
Sunday we said "amen" at the end of sacrament meeting, and we turned
around to see the first person I ever taught sitting in the back row
next to his friends. I left this area only six weeks into my mission,
and I've tried to keep tabs with this 19-year old. From what i last
heard, he stopped investigating the church because his parents
wouldn't let him get baptized without kicking him out of the house. I
was a little depressed, but it is understandable. I was so excited to
see him I ran up to him and had to say hello.
"Hey, how's it going?"
"I just really need to get baptized."
He pulled us over and we tried to make a plan to help him be baptized.
He said that he's been going to different churches for the past year
to try and see if he could find what he found in this church, and that
none of them come close to what he's found here. He said he was tired
of his parents telling him he couldn't be baptized, he was tired of
not being a member. He;s read the Book of Mormon 4 times. "I can't
live without the spirit."
It was wonderful to see A again, but painful to see him in this
state of longing. Hopefully, after meeting with our mission president
he will be given proper counsel on what to do in this situation. It is
amazing to see his courage, and his fire for the gospel.
We've been teaching two people on different sides of life who both
want to be baptized. One is a 9-year old, who wants to be baptized by
his Dad before his Dad is deployed out to the Middle East. He is a
sweet soul and actually understands the doctrine very well. He should
be getting baptized within the coming weeks. We are also teaching a
lady who recently had a bad accident. While laying on the pavement
after her fall she thought, "I need to let Bishop Schneider know that
he need to baptize me in proxy before I die! Thank goodness, she
lived. Unfortunately, she can't be baptized in proxy anymore. She's
fine with that. All we are doing righteous now is waiting for here
cast to come off, review the lessons she has been taught many, many
times, and she is ready.
Life is great. The gospel couldn't be any truer.
Elder Richard Hall
1. A picture we took with our mission president and general authority
when they came to visit our mission. Out of the 14 people in this
picture, only 1 of them is from Utah. Go figure.