Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Be A Star

Well, I am halfway done with my time here at the Missionary Training Center! Where has the time gone? This last week was bittersweet in a couple areas. I was released as a District Leader because you can only serve 4½ weeks. Elder Henstrom is our new district leader and I know he is going to do an excellent job. I loved serving as the District Leader and I have grown so much in that position the last 4 weeks. My Spanish is starting to improve dramatically. My pronunciation and grammar have improved tremendously. It is truly a miracle of God. It is hard to believe that there are almost 2700 young men and women learning languages and training here. I am so happy I am speaking Spanish. First, because it is the easiest language to learn next to Mandarin and Finish (haha), and second, because I know Heavenly Father called me to speak Spanish for a specific reason. I don't know why yet, but hopefully I can answer that question at the end of my mission. I have a testimony of the Holy Priesthood of God. Hermana Bailey in my district, has been sick since her first day here in the MTC. So Elder Latham gave her a blessing our first week here. It is now week 4 and she is still sick. On Wednesday she was very ill and was going back to her room to rest, but she asked me to give her a blessing. So my companions and I had the opportunity to give her a blessing. It was an amazing experience. It was only the 2nd blessing I have ever given and I could feel the Lord working through me to bless her by the Holy Melchizedek priesthood with health and strength. Sometimes as priesthood holders we forget that we are merely instruments in the Lord's hands. We are the vessels that carry His priesthood and His work here on the earth.
At choir last week we sang "Marvel at the Miracle" - such amazing lyrics. I love the third verse, "I pled with God to shed His grace and take away my sin. He did, and yet I turned away and stumbled again. At last I knelt before His throne and offered Him my soul. He wept, then gave back to me renewed and washed and whole".  I applied this to my own life. As many times as I mess up and however imperfect I am, God still loves me enough that he sent His only Begotten FOR ME". After we sang we had a devotional by Elder Jay E. Jensen of the Seventy. He talked about submissiveness and harmony. He said, "How do you think we know this? Because Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ DID appear to Joseph Smith. Conversion is about what we feel, not what we know. Go into your missions so you can submit vertically to the Lord and the Savior, Jesus Christ. Carry the Convincing Power of God." After devotionals we have district devotionals where everyone goes around the room and says what they took away from the devotional and bears their testimony of this gospel. The spirit in that room is amazing, every single week. I love my District. They are ALL special to me and they are like my family to me. There is something about sharing spiritual experiences together that link you back to your premortal friendships. Our District Devotionals are incredible and I love the spirit they all bring into my life. After our district devotionals for the district and zone leaders we have a leadership meeting with a member of the branch presidency. Last Tuesday it was with Brother Mosher. At the end of the meeting he turns to me and asks, "Elder Vance, you know you are going to be a great missionary, right?" Caught off guard, I gave a weak, "Yea". He asked me again, "Elder Vance, you know YOU ARE going to be a great missionary, right?" With tears quickly coming to me eyes I responded, "Yes." He then went around the room and asked everyone that question. I know that everyone in that room has been called in the premortal life to be missionaries and to come at THIS time. We will ALL be great if we do ALL we can. Doctrine and Covenants 138:56 "Even before they were born, they, with many others, received their first lessons in the world of spirits and were prepared to come forth in the due time of the Lord to labor in His vineyard for the salvation of the souls of man."
I grow here every day, why would I NOT want to be here and be a part of helping people come unto Christ and give them a purpose in their lives? Decisions DO make destiny. This decision to serve a mission WILL change my life and IS changing my life. Brother Heaton said last Sunday, "We have a front row seat to the biggest miracle on the planet".  It's so true, and I am so grateful for a family that loves me and supports me in all I do. Without them I would not be here today. No wonder God gives us families; families MAKE us who we BECOME.
The other day, my companions and I were out walking past the MTC entrance and saw a missionary with packed bags leaving with his parents. I could tell something was wrong and they all seemed terribly sad. I saw the missionary with the help of his father put his suitcases in the back of the van. They all got into the car. We watched as his parents started the car and drove past us. His mother was balling her eyes out in the passenger seat. I looked at my companions and said, "That is the worst!"  I used to tell my companions, "I am never going to go home early. None of us are - we are here to do the Lord's work. The only way I am ever going home is in a coffin. If they wanted me to go home for a surgery or something I would fight them every step of the way.”  But right then I told them seriously, "None of us should ever do that to our mothers." It was one of the saddest things I have ever seen. We had no idea why this missionary was leaving and we didn't assume anything. It could have been for any number of reasons.
Last week I got my jaw checked out because it kept popping. (Mom and Dad don't worry it’s all good, just got it checked out) It didn’t hurt, it was just more of an annoyance. So they sent me off campus with my companions to see a specialist. I talked to the dentist and he said, "Well, we have a couple of options. Your jaw is too big for your skull young man. We could send you home to get 3 years’ worth of orthodontics and corrective jaw surgery..."  I stopped him and said, "Doctor Wilson, I don't think you understand, there is no way I am going home, or going home for this."  He then said, "Well that's not what I would have had you do anyway. If it’s not bothering you, you will just have to live with it and be careful chewing."  I was relieved. Then as my companions and I were waiting for our shuttle ride we were opening doors for people by the dental office and people would walk in and say, "Thank you, Elders."  The best thing though was when young families would walk by and the parents would stop their little children and say, "Look kids, the Missionaries!"  I used to be one of those little kids who ALWAYS looked up to the missionaries. It was an amazing feeling. I am so grateful for parents that taught me the importance of serving a full-time mission. That made my day.
Yesterday we had choir practice. We sang a special arrangement of "Jesus Once of Humble Birth".  Our director talked about the song and some of the things he said hit me so hard. He said, "Heavenly Father had to send the star into orbit that was a sign to the Nephites millions of years before the earth was ever created. He had to send the star so it would appear on that one special day to the Nephites. If he cares that much about a star, imagine how much He cares about us. BE THAT STAR going into orbit for those you teach! Don't fail them and go home. You don't know what you could have helped them change in their life if you leave. There will be no salvation for them. We all have stars in our lives; be a star for someone else. Bring ALL unto Christ and talk to everyone. There is not a single person on this earth that can drop SO LOW that the Atonement of Jesus Christ cannot touch them. Jesus Christ went as low as possible so we can have happiness in our lives. He suffered so WE DON'T HAVE TO. Do all you can."  I loved that. BE A STAR for people!
For our devotional we watched a video on 9/11 and the attacks. I got choked up because I remember that day like it was yesterday. I was in the 4th grade at Hillside Elementary in Wisconsin. My teacher told the class what had just happened and I just remember when I got home my mom was watching the news and they kept showing the planes flying into the twin towers over and over again. 10 years really does fly by. We also watched, "Music and The Spoken Word" by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. That was so uplifting. The message was the beauty of earth and the joy of life. One of the lyrics touched me, “And I'll return to you somehow."  President Brown spoke after the video and said, "More people found themselves closer to God after 9/11. But most people have turned from Heavenly Father once again. It is our challenge as missionaries to bring peace to people. The only antidote to overcome wickedness and terrorism is the Restored Gospel of Jesus Christ. What we have is for ALL of God's children. We have a responsibility to teach people about Joseph Smith and The Gospel of Jesus Christ. The people who died on 9/11 should NOT die in vain; they MUST not die in vain. Go forth now and teach the Gospel of Jesus Christ. NEVER be ashamed to be a missionary."
I am so happy I am on a mission. I get to take 2 years to gain a true knowledge of the Book of Mormon and the Gospel of Jesus Christ and bring people unto Christ. I AM RESPONSIBLE for the sins of the people in my area. I AM RESPONSIBLE for their salvation (Jacob 1:19- AMAZING SCRIPTURE). My companion and I are the ONLY people that have the authority and power to do this. The Lord will always meet us halfway. If we do our best, the Lord will do the rest. :)
Thank you everyone for the love and support. I have never been happier. AMO ME MISION.
Elder Vance

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