Thursday, November 24, 2011

Reflections, Gratitude, and Missions

"Even though I had left my mission, my mission didn't leave me. In fact, even after all these years, I still feel that my mission was the best two years for my life"
-Matthew O. Richardson


Seeing that this is my first Thanksgiving since being home from my mission, I wanted to express my gratitude for having the privilege to serve as a full-time missionary by sharing some of my thoughts as to just how influential my mission has been to me.

Since I can remember, I always had a burning desire to serve a full-time mission. I attribute that desire to having been raised in a fabulous family with each family member setting a good example for me to follow. When the time finally came for me to “put in my papers”, it was a no brainer. I had been waiting for this all my life.

I remember it all so well; waiting anxiously for the envelope to arrive, and when it came, opening it surrounded by people that I love – then reading aloud:

“Elder Jacob, you have been called to serve as a missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. You have been assigned to labor in the England London Mission…”

What I remember most about that moment was feeling that London was exactly where I needed to be. England had never before crossed my mind as I place that I would serve, but it was the perfect mission call for me.

I like to think that I hit the ground running as I entered the MTC and eventually the mission field; however, I had to go through my own growing experiences before I truly began to understand my purpose as a missionary.

It may sound cliché, but it wasn’t until I completely lost myself in the work, that I began to experience a fullness of joy that only comes through sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ.

“He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it.”
Matthew 10:39

My mission experience means everything to me because:

  • On my mission, I began to more fully know Christ as my Lord, my Savior, and my friend
  • On my mission, I saw and felt the healing power of the atonement
  • On my mission, I witnessed miracles
  • On my mission, I began to understand how the spirit works
  • On my mission, I began to appreciate the power of prayer and regular scripture study
  • On my mission, my priorities in life began to be aligned with God’s will
  • On my mission, I developed eternal friendships
  • On my mission, I had fun
  • On my mission, I worked hard
  • On my mission, I went through trials
  • On my mission, I learned how to rely on the Lord
  • On my mission, the love that I had for my family was magnified

Ultimately, the reason that I loved my mission was because it helped change me from the person that I was, to the person that I hope to one day become.

It has been six months since I last had the privilege to don the nametag that bears both my name and the name of my Savior. Despite how much I miss my mission, life could not be better now.

“The past is behind, learn from it. The future is ahead,
prepare for it. The present is here, live it.”
Thomas S. Monson


“Missionaries should have the understanding that their mission is not a two-year
mission; it is an eternal mission…”
Janet Brigham

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Fall: When You Eat Apple, Pumpkin, and Humble Pie

Let's see if I can share all these thoughts.

I am an active member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. As such, I count myself as a follower of Christ. His invitation, "Come, follow me" (Luke 18:22) has changed the way I live my life. In my efforts to follow Him, I strive to be like Him.

But sometimes I fall short.

I find myself prideful and contentious instead of patient and compassionate. Instead of charity, love, and time, I give excuses. Sometimes, I fall short. Maybe that sometimes is now.

Despite the fact that we all fall short sometimes, I feel horrible. Honestly, I feel legitimately miserable. I feel as if I've been left, abandoned. When I think about what's ahead of me, I realize that I can't do any of it. Not by myself.

This past Sunday, I was reminded of the story of when Christ calmed the storm.

He had beckoned to His disciples, "Come, follow me." And they did, onto the ship and the water.
And there arose a great storm of wind, and the waves beat into the ship, so that it was now full. (Mark 4:37)
As experienced fishermen, the disciples knew what they were doing. They knew how to handle a boat, and how to weather winds upon the sea. Yet now, despite their experience, their human strength was not an equal match to the winds that tossed the boat.  I can imagine the disciples looking at the sleeping form of their Master, and wondering, "How will we survive this storm? Why has He left us alone?"
And he was in the hinder part of the ship, asleep on a pillow: and they awake him, and say unto him, Master, carest thou not that we perish? (Mark 4:38)
And sometimes, it may feel to us as if we have been left completely alone. As if the tasks before us are so daunting, so difficult that they are impossible. As if the Savior sleepeth.

Upon awakening, what words did He speak? "Peace, be still." (Mark 4:39)

With His disciples, I ask, "What manner of man is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?" (Mark 4:41) Why do I so often forget of His power, and limit my understanding and abilities to that which I can do alone?  The Savior did not leave His disciples alone. They just had a limited perspective, they did not know. But He did.

He knew of His power, of his abilities to calm the winds and the waves. He knew He could perform a miracle.
He does not leave me alone.  I simply do not see what He can see; If I trust in Him, I will witness a miracle.

President Thomas S. Monson once said, "Do not pray for tasks equal to your abilities, but pray for abilities equal to your tasks. Then the performance of your tasks will be no miracle, but you will be the miracle."

It's true! Without my Savior's aid, I cannot do what I may need or want to do. It will be hard for me to be compassionate, charitable, giving, patient, diligent, and strong. At times, it will be difficult for me to be optimistic, caring, dependable, forgiving, and firm.

But with Him and through Him, I can.

For, "when you choose to follow Christ, you choose to be changed." (Thomas S. Monson, BYU Devotional 11/1/11)

And I am a follower of Christ.