September 1, 2014
Elder Villejo, during district meeting, always has a water bottle filled with ice and kool-aid, and I finally figured out what he had scrawled across the bottle this past week – ‘shaka at trials.’ I love this mindset, because 1) throwing out a shaka randomly (a sign that means ‘all is good’) is becoming a rampant tradition in this mission, what with all of our Polynesian missionaries, members, and investigators, and 2) trials have been something I’ve been thinking a lot about lately. Our trials are meant to draw us closer to the Savior, to help us to become stronger and to overcome our own weaknesses. Brother Snook, our Elder’s Quorum President, gave the lesson for our fifth Sunday meeting (when the men and women are combined), and it was all about facing trials with faith and keeping an eternal perspective. I really appreciated it, especially with his examples of being yoked with the Savior in all things (see Matthew 11:28-30). I’ve learned over the course of the last 12 months that one of the best things that comes from facing trials and overcoming hard things is the deepened compassion that you have for your fellows. The words ‘I know how you feel’ are no longer hollow after facing similar situations and making difficult decisions in the face of adversity. I love the words of comfort and counsel that the prophet Alma shares with his son, Helaman, in the Book of Mormon: “…whosoever shall put their trust in God shall be supported in their trials, and their troubles, and their afflictions, and shall be lifted up at the last day” (Alma 36:3). Shaka at trials! Everything works out, and the Lord is there with us 100%, even when we feel like we’re facing it all alone. That’s the power of the atonement, that’s the power of Christ’s love, and the beauty of Heavenly Father’s plan for us.
Hitting my year mark was weird. I was on exchanges with Sister Lewis, and it ended up that we were companions again on our year mark in the field. I feel like I’ve not grown or changed much in the past twelve months, but at the same time I’ve seen how much my district mates have changed over the year we’ve been here in California, and then I realize that I’ve [hopefully] changed along with them. We’re still the same people, but at the same time, we’re different. We’re better versions of ourselves. We know how to follow the Spirit with confidence, we know how to teach, we know how to be missionaries. And better yet, we’re not just doing missionary things, we are simply missionaries. It’s who we’ve become, and it’s who we continue to strive to be.
This week we had the opportunity to go orange picking with a non-prof that donates all the fruit to local food pantries, called Food Forward. We had signed up our entire district, which turned out to be a blast. We had a lot of fun picking oranges, playing with the dogs that were on the property, and hanging out with our district. It was pretty funny, all of us are relatively dignified as we’re trying to get the fruit from the tree tops, and then I look over to see Elder Lee and Elder Villejo hanging from the branches like monkeys. It was pretty hilarious. We had tons of fun, and harvested about 250 pounds of oranges between about 10 of us. I love being able to serve and have fun at the same time.
Elder Villejo and Elder Lee are such a pair – I love being able to work with them. It’s like having two ridiculous Filipino brothers that never stop teasing you or joking around. But both are such good examples to me. They work so hard and have such a good sense of humor no matter how long, hot, or hard the day has been. They’re the best. I’ve been really blessed to work with them, especially in our little Filipino Branch here in Mission Hills.
Sorry for the short email this week – hope all is well on the home front!
Villejo and Lee always keep me laughing – it’s like having two Filipino brothers.
Picture 1 – MH elders and sisters, pro orange pickers.