Monday, March 9, 2015

Here Comes the Sun

My new comps name is Elder Gustafson, he's from New Hampshire and he's awesome!
Here comes the sun! When I saw the sun this week I was like Tarzan when he saw Jane! The past week has been absolutely beautiful. The grey skies went away and we've been enjoying some nice warm weather. I'm even wearing a short sleeve shirt right now! Let me give you the run-down of the week.

Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday I was in Vigo waiting for my new companion. Tuesday was an incredible day. I'm not sure what we did exactly but we got so pumped, it was insane! First off, the 3 of us are pretty happy positive people but for some reason it was overflowing that day. During nightly planning we were so happy that one Elder started crying from joy and the other Elder and I started singing the Hymn, "Have I Done Any Good in the World Today?" The stereotype of missionaries is true! Overly-happy people! It was a great day.
We do know what happened though. We felt so much of Christ's love that day that it was overwhelming.

We talked to a man in the street and saw that he was having a pretty hard day. We did the best we could to help him feel better. After talking to him we didn't even know how much we had actually done for him. He called us about 2 hours later and said, "You guys really did something special for me this morning. When can we meet so I can hear your message?" We asked him when he could. He said, "Today at 4?" We met with this man and he completely opened up his heart to us. Through tears he painfully expressed trials he's been having in his life. We comforted him with the message of Jesus Christ's love for all of us. This man now has a new found hope for life and continues to meet with the Elders in Vigo. That feeling we felt, by helping others feel Christ's love, brought us an incredible amount of joy that day. I've been striving my whole mission to do my very best to make every day like that. I've seen miracles because of it.

We had District Meeting on Wednesday. The spirit was there and we learned so much together. We focused on finding new and prepared people to teach. People who, "...hear my voice and harden not their hearts..." (D&C 29:7) We also talked about "The Role of the Holy Ghost in Conversion." At the end of district meeting I pulled out my mission call and read a part of it to everyone there. (This was on March 4th 2015, I opened my call March 5th 2013.) Looking at the date on top of my call made me react similar to how I did when I first read my call 2 years ago. Through choked words I testified of how much I love my mission. The Lord has been so good to me.

People in the streets often ask us about how we can change the world and make it a better place. I often think of the song by Michael Jackson called, "Man in the Mirror." In that song it gives us the answer, "If you want to make the world a better place, take a look at yourself and then make that change." Wise words Michael Jackson.

On Sunday we learned a lot about Forgiveness. The Lord tells us that we need to forgive everyone, "I, the Lord, will forgive whom I will forgive, but of you it is required to forgive all men. And ye ought to say in your hearts - let God judge between me and thee, and reward thee according to thy deeds.(D&C 64:10-11) God is the judge and each of us need to work out our own personal salvation.

I also wanted to share this scripture in D&C 122:7, "And if thou shouldst be cast into the pit, or into the hands of murderers, and the sentence of death passed upon thee; if thou be cast into the deep; if the billowing surge conspire against thee; if fierce winds become thine enemy; if the heavens gather blackness, and all the elements combine to hedge up the way; and above all, if the very jaws of hell shall gape open the mouth wide after thee, know thou, my son, that all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good." God has prepared the way for us to return to Him. Whatever may come our way, we must endure it well and "press forward with a steadfastness in Christ." If we do, this promise awaits us: "Ye shall have Eternal Life."

I know that our Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ love us, more than we can fully comprehend. Their love for us is eternal and pure. We will be with them again. I'd like to share a few words from one of my favorite hymns,

"Jesus, lover of my soul,
Let me to thy bosom fly,
While the nearer waters roll,
While the tempest still is high.
Hide me, O my Savior, hide,
Till the storm of life is past.
Safe into the haven guide;
Oh, receive my soul at last.
Other refuge have I none;
Hangs my helpless soul on thee.
Leave, oh, leave me not alone;
Still support and comfort me.
All my trust on thee is stayed;
All my help from thee I bring.
Cover my defenseless head
With the shadow of thy wing." (102 Jesus, Lover of My Soul)

I wanted to finish with a story I remember hearing back in my Seminary days in High School. Many of you have probably heard this story but there are those who haven't.

The Room, by Joshua Harris

"In that place between wakefulness and dreams, I found myself in the room. There were no distinguishing features save for the one wall covered with small index-card files. They were like the ones in libraries that list titles by author or subject in alphabetical order. But these files, which stretched from floor to ceiling and seemingly endlessly in either direction, had very different headings. As I drew near the wall of files, the first to catch my attention was one that read "Girls I Have Liked." I opened it and began flipping through the cards. I quickly shut it, shocked to realize that I recognized the names written on each one.

And then without being told, I knew exactly where I was. This lifeless room with its small files was a crude catalog system for my life. Here were written the actions of my every moment, big and small, in a detail my memory couldn't match.

A sense of wonder and curiosity, coupled with horror, stirred within me as I began randomly opening files and exploring their content. Some brought joy and sweet memories; others a sense of shame and regret so intense that I would look over my shoulder to see if anyone was watching. A file named "Friends" was next to one marked "Friends I Have Betrayed."

The titles ranged from the mundane to the outright weird. "Books I Have Read," "Lies I Have Told," "Comfort I Have Given," "Jokes I Have Laughed At." Some were almost hilarious in their exactness: "Things I've Yelled at My Brothers." Others I couldn't laugh at: "Things I Have Done in My Anger," "Things I Have Muttered Under My Breath at My Parents." I never ceased to be surprised by the contents. Often there were many more cards than I expected. Sometimes fewer than I hoped.

I was overwhelmed by the sheer volume of the life I had lived. Could it be possible that I had the time in my 20 years to write each of these thousands or even millions of cards? But each card confirmed this truth. Each was written in my own handwriting. Each signed with my signature.

When I pulled out the file marked "Songs I Have Listened To," I realized the files grew to contain their contents. The cards were packed tightly, and yet after two or three yards, I hadn't found the end of the file. I shut it, shamed, not so much by the quality of music, but more by the vast amount of time I knew that file represented.

When I came to a file marked "Lustful Thoughts," I felt a chill run through my body. I pulled the file out only an inch, not willing to test its size, and drew out a card. I shuddered at its detailed content. I felt sick to think that such a moment had been recorded.

An almost animal rage broke on me. One thought dominated my mind: "No one must ever see these cards! No one must ever see this room! I have to destroy them!" In an insane frenzy I yanked the file out. Its size didn't matter now. I had to empty it and burn the cards. But as I took it at one end and began pounding it on the floor, I could not dislodge a single card. I became desperate and pulled out a card, only to find it as strong as steel when I tried to tear it.

Defeated and utterly helpless, I returned the file to its slot. Leaning my forehead against the wall, I let out a long, self-pitying sigh. And then I saw it. The title bore "People I Have Shared the Gospel With." The handle was brighter than those around it, newer, almost unused. I pulled on its handle and a small box not more than three inches long fell into my hands. I could count the cards it contained on one hand.

And then the tears came. I began to weep. Sobs so deep that they hurt started in my stomach and shook through me. I fell on my knees and cried. I cried out of shame, from the overwhelming shame of it all. The rows of file shelves swirled in my tear-filled eyes. No one must ever, ever know of this room. I must lock it up and hide the key.

But then as I pushed away the tears, I saw Him. No, please not Him. Not here. Oh, anyone but Jesus.

I watched helplessly as He began to open the files and read the cards. I couldn't bear to watch His response. And in the moments I could bring myself to look at His face, I saw a sorrow deeper than my own. He seemed to intuitively go to the worst boxes. Why did He have to read every one?

Finally He turned and looked at me from across the room. He looked at me with pity in His eyes. But this was a pity that didn't anger me. I dropped my head, covered my face with my hands and began to cry again. He walked over and put His arm around me. He could have said so many things. But He didn't say a word. He just cried with me.

Then He got up and walked back to the wall of files. Starting at one end of the room, He took out a file and, one by one, began to sign His name over mine on each card.

"No!" I shouted rushing to Him. All I could find to say was "No, no," as I pulled the card from Him. His name shouldn't be on these cards. But there it was, written in red so rich, so dark, so alive. The name of Jesus covered mine. It was written with His blood.

He gently took the card back. He smiled a sad smile and began to sign the cards. I don't think I'll ever understand how He did it so quickly, but the next instant it seemed I heard Him close the last file and walk back to my side. He placed His hand on my shoulder and said, "It is finished."

I stood up, and He led me out of the room. There was no lock on its door. There were still cards to be written.

Elder Giforos

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