Sunday, September 22, 2013

On American Soil

You know you’ve just gotten back from a mission in Brazil when eating American food gives you diarrhea, and not ‘feijao e arroz’; when 50 degree weather makes your teeth chatter; when you eat more than the guy who took you out on a date; when you accidentally throw Portuguese words like ‘também’, ‘vixe’, and ‘acho’ into your normal conversations; when you wear high heels for the first time after 18 months and just about break your foot; and when you receive 2 hugs throughout the day and feel that you were hug deprived!  It’s interesting how much a person can change in such a short time.  I know I’ll adjust, but I can’t help but feel a bit like a stranger on these Rexburg streets.  As I walk around campus, wheezing because of the high altitude and cold, I can’t help but think to myself, “I’m not a Rexburgian, sou Paraibana!!”  Yet, whether it be on the streets of Brazil or the sidewalks of Rexburg, the adventures keep coming and the life lessons keep multiplying!

My first Sunday home was fantastic!  Even though I had a short time before I headed back out to school, I had time to visit my home ward.  After Sacrament meeting, my Mom asked me if I would like to join her down in the primary.  I happily accepted, not only to spend more of my meager ration of time with her, but also to enjoy the spontaneity of the primary children!  At one point, the chorister asked the young children to introduce themselves to her.  One girl raised her hand and said, “My name is Amanda, or Mandy, but I prefer to be called Amanda.”  At this point, another girl sitting two chairs over, looked at ‘Amanda’ with horror in her eyes and exclaimed, “What?! You mean you don’t want me to call you ‘Mandy’?!”  hahaha  It’s always rough when the ‘best friend’ doesn’t get the memo on the latest name change.

Monday I flew out to school, and by Tuesday what had been my ‘life’ and ‘soul’ only a week ago (a missionary in Brazil), suddenly seemed to be but a dream.  The life of a college student; classes, homework, studying, reading, work, and social life, gave me no mercy and jumped right into ‘advanced mode!’  The already hectic schedule is great for me; I have no time to think, I just kind of walk around in a daze from class to homework to work to apt, and repeat!  It’s pretty much the best!  My first day of work, I happened to be wearing a skirt because later that afternoon there was a campus Devotional and I wanted to be dressed up.  While my new boss was training me, he stopped for a second, looked down at my skirt and said, “and just for the future, you should know that this job requires you to NOT wear a skirt!”  My whole soul screamed, “wooohoooo”, and I smiled and said; “now that’s my kind of job!”  Blessings from a mission, right!  Not only do I have an awesome job, but it also doesn’t require a skirt!!

As I was studying my scriptures this week, I came across the story of the Anti-Nephi-Lehi’s and their resolve to bury their weapons of war to keep themselves unspotted from sin and firm in their resolve to follow Christ.  Alma 24:18-19 states,  “And this they did, it being in their view a testimony to God, and also to men, that they never would use weapons again for the shedding of man’s blood; and this they did, vouching and covenanting with God, that rather than shed the blood of their brethren they give up their own lives…and thus we see that, when these Lamanites were brought to believe and to know the truth, they were firm…” These Lamanites experienced a ‘change of heart’.  They were truly converted, and resolved to remain so, come what may.  They also understood, that this change that they had experienced would require sacrifices, courage, and diligence to maintain.  Each of us has experienced a change within us.  We too have also had experiences when we have become truly converted in some aspect of the Gospel.  What have we resolved to do about our personal conversion?  Can it be said about us, “When (insert name) was brought to believe and to know the truth, they were firm?”  Maintaining our personal conversion will never be easy.  It will require sacrifices, courage, and diligence, but if we resolve to be true to our personal conversion, like these faithful Lamanites, our posterity and we will be greatly blessed.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Whatever It Takes

As I enter the week of 'lasts', I savor each tiny moment, smell, sound, feeling, and view; placing them securly in my memory to last for a life time.  The small girls playing in front of their home, but randomly running out to hug my companion and I as we pass by.  The smell of fresh fruit and vegetables as we walk pass an open market while picking up investigators on a Sunday morning. The lively forró playing loudly from the back of a car parked in the street.  The love that sweeps over me as I stare out at all the members of the Bessa ward as I direct the music on Sunday.  And, the sun setting behind a scene of magestic palm trees and a row of red tiled homes, lining a cobble stone street where a man returning home from work passes by on his bicycle.  All these memories, and many many more, have been engraved upon my heart and will stay with me for eternity.

This week, we had the privilage to prepare Terezinha to be baptized.  Terezinha is our amazing 68-year-old investigator!  As we were preparing her for her interview before the baptism, I asked her the question, "When you are baptized, you will make a promise with God to take the name of Jesus Christ upon yourself and obey the commandments for the rest of your life.  Are you ready to make this promise with God?"  Terezinha looked at me, and very simply replied, "If I wasn't willing to make a promise like that, I wouldn't have agreed to be baptized in the first place!"  What an example of immense desire to serve the Lord and be faithful to him.  As I pondered on Terezinha's response, I was led to Alma 22:15 when Aaron was teaching King Lamonhi's father.  As the King learns the powerful truths of the Gospel, he asks Aaron a profound question.  He asks, "What do I need to do in order to be born again, to receive the spirit of the Lord, and to not be cast off at the last day?  I am willing to do whatever it takes to receive this eternal happiness even if it means that I have to give up my entire kingdom!"  All of us have the same opportunity to be born again, to receive the spirit of the Lord, and to have eternal happiness.  It is through our obedience to the principles of the Gospel that we can receive these blessings.  But the question that we all need to answer is, "what are we willing to give up in order to receive all that the Father hath?"  Do we have enough faith in our Savior to say, "I'll do whatever it takes to follow you and receive the salvation for which you have paid the price."  Brothers and Sisters, this Gospel is true!!  The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is the only true church on the face of the earth!  We have the priesthood power of God to perform the ordenances of salvation!  We have a living prophet and 12 apostle who lead and guide us!  We are a blessed and chosen people!  Let us be willing to do whatever it takes to live worthy of the many blessings that our Heavenly Father is ready to pour out upon us!!!