September 15, 2014
I don’t think I’ve ever had so many meetings in so short of time – within the past five days we have had a 9-5 zone conference, a youth fireside, and two sessions of stake conference. Roughly 20 hours of meetings total, when you include the driving time, awkward waiting, and prep time for each of the events.
This week we had a few great opportunities to serve, which was a huge blessing. Missionary stress is best combated by service – getting out of proselyting clothing (with your tag still firmly attached above your heart) and just getting in there and helping out. Twice this week we were able to go to a local base to help out with Operation Gratitude, a non-prof that sends packages to troops overseas as well as their families stateside. It was a blast being able to talk with vets and their families as we sorted, boxed, and labeled all sorts of things to send out. Operation Gratitude is the best kept secret in our zone – we get to go work hard, give back, and relieve some stress (who doesn’t want to cut the tape from three hundred boxes in one sitting?). I’m thankful that the Encino elders let us in on it, especially since it’s something that is already close to my heart.
We also got to help do some serious yard work for an older sister in our ward. We spent a few hours hacking at some dead vines and pulling out dying foliage from the hedges, which went a lot faster once the Ludovico boys showed up. They were able to do twice what we had done in about a quarter of the time. It was a lot of fun – especially because you could tell that the energy that the Ludovicos and the Elders brought really cheered up the sister we were serving. She’s one of the sweetest ladies, and always is so grateful when we stop by to visit, even if only for a few minutes. I first started visiting her when I was in Mission Hills the first time (affectionately referred to as “Mission Hills Round 1”), and she was one of the first sisters that Sister Flake and I visited when I got back to Mission Hills. The first thing out of her mouth was, “Where have you been?” She’s the cutest.
Sister Johnson, Sister Ryane, and I were also able to host a workshop for the Relief Society and Young Women on scripture study. Only 4 sisters showed up, but we had a lot of fun and learned a ton. We are making it a more regular thing, so that we can help each other to study and learn the scriptures better. I’m really excited about it, especially since the two young women who came were on fire. I love studying the scriptures and learning from them, especially because although it might be the same words that we read (i.e. ‘and it came to pass’), it’s a different message to each of us. I equate it to how a dad says the same words to each of his children, ‘I love you,’ and yet it is a different message to each child because of their individual relationship. The scriptures are written for everyone, but we each get a different ‘I love you’ from Heavenly Father.
Our week of conference was a huge blessing, despite the restlessness that hit about 3 hours into our meetings. We were blessed to have Elder Carlson of the Seventy and his wife, Sister Carlson, visit us for a few days, tour the mission, and hold 2 zone conferences (1 Spanish, 1 English/Korean/ASL). Elder Carlson retired from the US Air Force as a five-star general, so I honestly had been expecting a bit of a “come to Jesus” about obedience, but he delivered a training that was so full of love and compassion, I think it was much more effective for our mission. He focused on applying the scriptures not just to our investigators, but to ourselves and to our futures.
[side note: all of a sudden every training we receive from President or a general authority is very marriage centered. Yes, it’s as awkward as you could possibly imagine, and equally as amusing to watch 18 year old elders squirm in their seats away from the sisters.]
I’m still processing and studying a lot that Elder Carlson shared, so prepare to be bombarded by thoughts in the next few weeks. One thing that I really loved was that he gave us “Elder Carlson’s Rules” – super straightforward, honest, and something that I really appreciate:
3. Be Obedient.
4. Work hard.
Throughout his rules is the edict that we are to interact with everyone we meet in a way that is edifying, not destructive or negative. Interact to edify.
We were also super blessed to hear from Sister Hall twice during our stake conference. She’s a crack-up, and everyone just loves her (or they had better love her…) because of how honest she is, but also for her sense of humor. On Saturday night, during the adult session, she talked about using social media to share the gospel more effectively, and using social media and the internet the way that the Lord intended it to be used – to share the gospel, and to connect family and friends. I love how on-the-ball our youth are with sharing their beliefs simply by what they post and how they present themselves online. She said something that really struck a lot of people, “do missionary work by being yourself.”
She also challenged all the members of the stake to be online as a way to connect with other members and non-member friends and family. It was so cute, we walked out that night to see two of our oldest ladies in the stake talking about how they were going to bribe their grandchildren to put facebook on their phones and teach them how to use it. :) Elder Bednar recently gave a talk at the BYU Education Week about using the internet to flood the earth with messages about the Gospel of Jesus Christ, check it out!
One thing that she shared in the morning session of conference was “the Mormon accent.” It really comes down to being ourselves, to showing others that we are disciples of Christ simply by how we speak, not necessarily what we say. Let’s be honest, Mormons (and most Christians in today’s society) really personify 1 Peter 2:9, “But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.”
Let’s be honest. Christians are weird. We act differently, we speak differently, we stand out. We’re peculiar people. That’s what Sister Hall was getting at – be honest about who you are and what you believe, especially when it means using your ‘Christian accent.’ Speak to edify, to teach, and to strengthen. The world is telling us it’s okay to be harsh, crass, and crude. No where did Christ say that was alright – we strive to be in the world, not of it. I love the General Conference talk that Elder Richard G. Scott gave in October 2012, entitled “Being a More Christian Christian.” I’ve mentioned it before, but it’s definitely worth your time to read and ponder.
I’m out of time, but get out there and use your Christian accent!!
PS – I am so excited to hear that the steel structure is completed and the roofing is in progress for the Hartford temple!