Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Salvation is Not a Cheap Experience

Begin with Prayer
This week has been one of drama and inspiration. So it was more than appropriate that the week began with a devotional recording of Elder Richard G. Scott speaking on Prayer. It was the happiest I have ever seen him. The gist of his message was how to receive answers to prayer, outlining three types of answers and what they might mean.
1.  Good feeling. Sense of peace = "yes" answer
2.  Unsettling feeling. Stupor of thought = usually "no"
3.  Silence = God wants us to study & ponder & continue trusting Him.
Elder Scott also urged us to not complain but ask God what we need to learn in the process of prayer.

The More the Merrier
We received another new District into our Zone! Four sisters and six elders in this crop. And, I am happy to report that they are all going to Chile (northeast and Concepcion south).

Is There Such a Thing as an Islander Who Cannot Sing?
A highlight of the week was during Sunday School class when Six Polynesian missionaries sang "Love At Home."  Verse 1 - English. Verse 2 - Tongan. Verse 3 - Spanish. It was the best rendition of that song I have ever heard. Is there such a thing as an Islander who can't sing? I don't think so.

Fun Facts:
-  They give one haircut here - military short. I think I need hair gel.
-  While running to get the doctor for the sisters, I learned that sprinting in mission clothes is surprisingly easy.
-  My Branch President is the coolest guy who works for the Church with financing Temples and helps with logistics for visiting Authorities.
-  The Spanish word for "Sunburn" is "Toastarse" = To toast oneself.
Makes me think of the Seinfeld episode where Kramer covers himself in butter and falls asleep on the roof.
- The Spanish word for "dinner" is "cena"....Cena...JOHN CENA (trumpets: doooo-do-do-doooo). Sorry, couldn't resist that one.
-  My MTC teacher was robbed at knife-point and despite repeated attempts at stabbing and slicing, she escaped with only a tiny cut on her finger. So cool.
-  Outside the MTC there are these giant sculptures that look like Quidditch goals or giant Lego arms.
Quidditch sculpture or Lego arm monument? The Locals don't even know.
Infirm Drama
Some strange sicknesses have been sweeping through our District this past week, mainly with the sisters. Sister Doxey started getting a splitting pain in her side so bad she was taken to the hospital for overnight observation. When she and her companion returned the next day, Doxey's companion, Sister Hawkins began having fainting spells. Doctor said it was stress, but the following day she was more sluggish and ended up fainting again, this time I was there to catch her. We were having a one-on-one teaching session and I looked up from reading just in time to see her eyes roll back and start to fall.

Sunday, we all fasted for the health of our District. In the meantime, our teachers noticed that we have been giving blessings in English, and they say we must learn to do them in Spanish (my goal is to learn the Baptism and Confirmation ones by tomorrow).

Anyway, after some more blood work and another fainting spell, Sister Hawkins is now getting around via wheelchair. We're hoping they can figure this out so she can get back to full capacity.
Christmas day, the hill was on fire, but stopped at the city's edge
It's Never Been Easy!
In the middle of this fiasco, our teachers showed us video talks from Elder Eyring and Elder Holland about how missionary work is hard, but we need to press through. It made me think of the conversation between Jack and John Locke in Season 2 of Lost.

Here's the Scenario:  Both Jack and John are arguing about pushing the button in the hatch when Jack (a man of science) asks John (a man of faith) why he finds it so easy to "Believe." John's response was an impassioned "It's never been easy!"

Salvation is Not a Cheap Experience
And that's the thing. Faith is not easy. Salvation is not easy. If it were easy, people would be flocking to churches in droves and lining up at the baptismal font en mass. But Elder Holland's message, like John Locke's, was that "salvation is not a cheap experience" and has never has been easy. Not for us. Not even for Christ. So we should expect (especially missionaries who are in the work of salvation) that our faith will be tried. We will have to undergo testing to grow our faith. Elder Holland said:
"Why is missionary work so hard?... If you wonder if there isn't an easier way, you should remember you are not the first one to ask that. Someone a lot greater and a lot grander asked a long time ago if there wasn't an easier way...
"When you struggle, when you are rejected, when you are spit upon and cast out and made a hiss and a byword, you are standing with the best life this world has ever known, the only pure and perfect life ever lived.  You have reason to stand tall and be grateful that the Living Son of the Living God knows all about your sorrow and afflictions. The only way to salvation is through Gethsemane and on to Calvary."     (Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, Missionary Work and the Atonement)
Then he ended his talk with an amazing scripture on why missionaries are out serving and enduring. We are sacrificing to bring a message of salvation, of Good News.

Bougainvillea Tree outside Monson Bldg
2 Nephi 2:6, 8-9
6  Wherefore, redemption cometh in and through the Holy Messiah...
8  Wherefore, how great the importance to make these things known unto the inhabitants of the earth, that they may know that there is no flesh that can dwell in the presence of God, save it be through the merits, and mercy, and grace of the Holy Messiah, who layeth down his life according to the flesh, and taketh it again by the power of the Spirit, that he may bring to pass the resurrection of the dead, being the first that should rise.
9  Wherefore,...they that believe in him shall be saved.

Experiencing Gratitude
While being here in the CCM, I've really come to appreciate my upbringing. I did not know how uniquely versatile I was until I got here. This isn't a prideful thing - just increased gratitude for my parents in raising me to have knowledge and practice and experience in many things. Thank you.

Well, this is officially my last P-day in the CCM (Mexico MTC). When you next hear from me, I will be writing from the streets of Chile. I head out next Monday afternoon and arrive in Concepcion 10am Tuesday. Looking forward to it.

I have loved my time here, but I'm looking forward getting to work.

Tenga Una Buena Semana!
Elder Connor Nef

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