Friday, March 12, 2010

Letters Home

As a missionary, communication with my family at home was limited to emails once a week. In this age of technology, it is very easy for communication to take over our lives and so this “fast” from the internet and cell phones helped us focus on what we were doing as missionaries. Once a week for thirty minutes I would type as fast as possible to try and create a little window into my missionary life for my family to peek through. Below are some silent sound bytes from those emails home:

The Missionary Training Center
• If the Jerusalem Center was Hogwarts, I think this [the MTC] is the equivalent of boot camp. It has been a bit of a hard adjustment to tell you the truth, for day or so there I wasn't sure what I had gotten myself into.
• All week we have been practicing and teaching the first lesson about the Restoration of the Gospel including the fact that we have living apostles and prophets. When I saw President Uchtdorf it made it very real for me -- there in front of me was a living Apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Temple Square
• In the MTC, President Uchtdorf told us that as missionaries we are extensions of the twelve apostles, called to preach the gospel.
• I talked to her a bit and then asked her if she would like a copy of the Book of Mormon and testified that it was another testament of Jesus Christ. She said she would like to read it!
• I am trying to work on my Christ-like attributes. So far I think my mission has pointed out all my weaknesses ... but hopefully it will give me the chance to improve myself and turn my weaknesses into strengths.
• On a more positive note, Heavenly Father has sent me some Jews this week! … She put her arm around me and said, "Who would have thought we'd find a Mormon Jewish girl."
• The three of us companions have been getting along well and I have adopted the name of Swartzalolo to fit in with my Tongans, Sisters Tau’a'alo and Taumalolo.
• After I bore my testimony about the Book of Mormon, I asked them if they had any questions. Ahsan, who had seemed very attentive the whole time, said, "Yes, how can I get a copy of the Book of Mormon?" Of course that is the kind of question we want to hear.
• So start praying for me now. I've been praying to go where the Lord needs me, but sometimes I put in a little request to go somewhere east coast or southern. [I got called to Georgia!]

Georgia on My Mind
• I didn't get very far with [the turtle] though because one of its claws touched my hand and I quickly put it down. Not long after that, a guy drove by in his truck and rolled down his window to see what was going on and when he saw the turtle his eyes got wide and he said, "That’s a snapping turtle!" So I don't know exactly what a snapping turtle does, but I guess I'm lucky it didn't snap.
• Things are always interesting in the south. The other day we went tracting [knocking on doors] and in one day we ended up having conversations with an ex-marine, a tattoo artist and an alcoholic.
• From the very beginning of my mission, I was praying that I would be able to experience finding and teaching someone and seeing them baptized. Of course I promised to work as hard as I could and so it is wonderful to see how the Lord will consecrate our efforts.
• I'm happy to preach the gospel and bear my testimony to those who will listen. And I guess I can better understand the apostles like Peter and Paul who rejoiced that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for Christ.

The End is Near
• Now that I have more of a sense of urgency because my time is getting short, I have to be bolder than before.
• This last week has been a very good one -- full of miracles!

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Returning to the real world ...

After an 18-month hiatus, I decided it was time to update my blog. I’ve been home from my mission for exactly two weeks now. I have put off writing because I wasn’t sure how I could adequately capture the last year and a half in one blog. Of course, that would be impossible, so I won’t attempt it. Instead I will do a short series of mission snapshots to give you a glimpse of my experiences.

Welcome to Temple Square

Nestled in the very center of Salt Lake City is a beautiful 35-acre plot known as Temple Square. This sacred spot of ground was my home for the last 18 months of my life. My assignment as a missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was to welcome the guests that visited and introduce them to the history and basic beliefs of the Church.

Many people came with very little knowledge about the Church and I loved being able to share our message of hope through the story of the sacrifices of the early pioneers.

You see, the early members of the Church traveled to the Salt Lake Valley in 1847 to escape severe religious persecution. Although the valley was uninhabited and rather barren when they arrived, to the pioneers it was a place where they would finally be permitted to dwell and worship their God in peace. They came with nothing but the few belongings they could fit in their wagons but their hearts were full, knowing that they were being led by God’s chosen prophet.

On a visit to Temple Square, the first structure to catch the visitor’s eye is of course the temple itself. However, this semi-gothic granite building represents more than great architecture – it represents the knowledge the pioneers had that God was in their midst. Knowing that God had again commanded his children to build temples where he could bless them, the pioneers laboured for forty years to complete this house of the Lord.

Every day I was able to stand in the shadow of that holy temple and bear my witness that God loves us today as much as he loved the people we read about in the Bible. But even without my witness, stepping onto the grounds people could feel a sense of peace. One man felt the difference immediately as he stepped inside the gate. It intrigued him and he was seen stepping out, pausing and then stepping back in again. One lady called guest services and asked what kind of air filtration system we had because she had never felt as good as she did when she was at Temple Square.

It is true, that Temple Square can boast of beautiful landscaping, heavenly music and lovely sister missionaries, but I think the peace people feel must be attributed to something else.

Another man who felt something was of the Jewish faith. As I talked to him, he told me he had felt these vibes in very few other places before. One was at the Temple Mount in Jerusalem and the other was at the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron. I found this comparison to be very significant. As members of the LDS church we believe that God has again restored the fullness of his gospel to the earth – the same gospel that he revealed to his ancient people. To me, the feelings of peace I experienced near that holy edifice confirm that.

What a blessing it was to spend 18 months standing on such holy ground.