Sunday, September 25, 2011

Walk With Me, Carry Me On

This last week was just amazing. I know I probably say this every week, but time is just flying. Everything is such a blur. I am glad I write in my journal at night because I would not be able to remember anything! Last Tuesday, we heard from an apostle of the Lord AGAIN!! Elder M. Russell Ballard! Two apostles in three weeks! That’s unheard of in the MTC. They tell you in your time here you might be able to hear from one. But two?! Tomorrow there is a bunch of hype of another one coming. I am keeping my fingers crossed. :)
So on Tuesday, my companions and I were waiting at the devotional in our choir seats. Then everyone just stood up. I felt overwhelmed by the spirit of the Lord as I realized we were going to hear from another apostle of the Lord. I took tons of notes on his amazing talk but here are the highlights. He said, "Learn everything you can about committing people and overcoming objections. God Almighty is guiding the course of this kingdom and it will never be rooted out of the earth again. He talked about what the early members sacrificed to establish this church. Go out as the most well-equipped, prepared, and prayed-for missionaries ever. We ALWAYS pray for you missionaries. We ask the Lord to bless you with strength, diligence, and courage. As we learn to put our self-interests aside, the Lord learns how trustworthy we really are. You all go out clothed with POWER and AUTHORITY. With you young men and young women I see the future of this church. I see potential bishops, stake presidents, general authorities, and maybe even apostles. But I don't know that. All I know is that the baton needs to be passed to YOU. No matter what may come upon you, round up your shoulders and bear it. HOLD up the Kingdom of God. Teach with simplicity and clarity. You will then have a better opportunity to create that connection between you and them. BE a “Preach My Gospel” missionary. Have confidence you can teach any principle in your own words. Exercise your faith in Jesus Christ. Heaven is close to you and your mission. Missionaries always suffer with rejection. You can overcome it, if you stay focused on the Atonement of Jesucristo. Keep a picture of the Savior with you; look at it and you WILL REMEMBER. The gift of tongues will ultimately come. Pray, Elders and Sisters, with Faith and Determination. Don't lose companionship study. Study the doctrine, treasure it up, and get it inside you. When they were creating “Preach My Gospel”, President Hinckley said, ‘Teach the Missionaries to be themselves and to stop giving ‘wooden discussions’. Teach them how to carry on a conversation and to be themselves.’ PREACH THE GOSPEL. The best thing on my mission was that I could bear witness that Joseph Smith was a prophet of God. Get it in your mind and heart. Don't be afraid to ask God if you are true messengers of God. Let God help us with the work. Do EVERYTHING in your power. Get close to everyone around you. I have asked this question to several new converts all around the world. When did you know this church was true? The answer is always, ‘when the missionaries were teaching me I FELT; when reading the Book of Mormon I FELT; in Sacrament Meeting I FELT’. Conversion happens through what we FEEL. The message is true; you are going on the Lord's errand. I am a servant and I am a missionary for the Lord, Jesus Christ. Be wise and don't compromise, follow the guidelines. If your testimony ever gets shaken, remember this. I know Jesus Christ is our Savior. The resurrection is REAL. This time on earth is the middle of the ETERNAL QUEST we are on. I bear this testimony with you my fellow missionaries; I say fellow missionaries because that's what we are. Trust, Serve, Pray, Dedicate, Commit." 
That was an incredible talk and how inspiring that was to hear that from an Apostle of the Lord. I hope Apostles keep coming! I am really soaking up every word they are saying and I can feel the sacred spirit they carry with them. I am so grateful for that and for this gospel because without THIS, without THIS RIGHT HERE, I would be nowhere. I would be lost, begging to be found. I know that Our Savior, Jesus Christ can and will ALWAYS find us if we go to him.
After that devotional on Tuesday, we had our district devotional. Everyone bore their solid testimonies of Jesus Christ. Elder Henstrom, our new District Leader, led the devotional. He is becoming one great district leader and he has ALWAYS been an example to me. I was the last one to bear my testimony. I bore my testimony on how I know the atonement of Jesus Christ is REAL. Because I have fallen and He has been there to lift the burden, and I have fallen again and He still helped me. I know that we were all born to be Celestial Missionaries. I know that Joseph Smith was a prophet of God. My testimony is sacred to me and I get all emotional because of that. I also get that from my mother. Jesus Christ has come, and He will come again. I was balling halfway through because of the spirit of the Lord within THAT room. I know angels in Heaven wrote our testimonies down that night.
After District Devotional we had some spare time and I told my other two companions, Elder Latham and Elder Green, to go practice teaching in another room and I would take Elder Black, Elder Henstrom's companion, and teach with him in another room because Elder Henstrom had a DL meeting. So Elder Black and I taught each other in Spanish; about how to receive revelation through church attendance. We had a few minutes left and I felt prompted to talk to Elder Black. Elder Black has been struggling a bit. He is shy and not very outgoing. It was hard for him to teach and a hard adjustment to live the ways of a missionary. But we were always encouraging and loving towards him to help him in our district. He studies hard and usually knows the words we don't in Spanish, but it was still hard for him to teach and talk with confidence. So I felt prompted through the Spirit to say, "Elder Black, Heavenly Father loves you. I don't think you realize how much Spanish you really know. You are great at Spanish; you just need the confidence to talk in Spanish. You probably know more Spanish than anyone in our district. Whenever someone needs a word you are the first one to either know the word or to look it up. Heavenly Father is looking out for you. The Gift of Tongues is REAL because I have seen it in YOU. I pray for everyone in our district. I know you have a special spirit that no one else has. You don't know it yet but you are going to be a great missionary. I always see you studying in your verb book; you probably study the hardest out of anyone. I promise you, we will all be on the same level when we leave if you continue to work hard. Keep doing what you are doing and BURST into the Kingdom with your prayers. Look at how far you have come." With tears streaming down his face he said, "thank you, I have needed to hear that for a long time." I told him he is my brother and what I said was ALL inspired by the spirit.
Last Thursday I received some news that literally changed my life and will change my life forever. I know that it was all done through my loving Heavenly Father. I got accepted to Brigham Young University. Yes!!! My mom “Deareldered” me that, and it was the best news ever. When I read that letter I almost cried, because I know the Lord has a plan for me and I am a son of God. I have always dreamed of going there, but when I got rejected my senior year of high school it was hard for me. Most of my friends were going to BYU and I was going to BYU-I. It turns out that BYU-I would change my life and would become my second home. I LOVE BYU-Idaho. I have friends, memories, and experiences there that have changed me for eternity. BYU-Idaho taught me many things and I learned many things there. BYU-I was the best stepping stone I could have had right out of high school. BYU-I helped me ease into college life and will always have a special place in my heart, FOREVER. So right before I came on my mission I applied to BYU. With a 3.4 GPA from BYU-I and not even being a returned missionary yet, I thought my chances were next-to-nothing. So when my mother sent me that news I knew that not only was it an answer to my prayers, it was an answer to my parents’ prayers. I need to be at BYU to further my education and to be with my family. I am positive that all of my sisters can and will graduate there and it would be amazing to be there to see that. I just feel like that's where I am meant to be and I thank my Heavenly Father every day for this opportunity. It is amazing to see how God is changing my life and helping me become better. I was planted at BYU-I for a reason, and now I am being uprooted to grow more at BYU when I return! :) BYU Fall 2013!!!
Hermano Culbertson, our first teacher, came and taught us on Saturday because Hermano Regehr was proposing to his girlfriend (haha). Hermano Culbertson has not been our teacher for 3 weeks and it was great to have him back and subbing. He taught us his formula for companionships:
1. ALWAYS, ALWAYS love your companion.
2. Make sure he understands that YOU always want to keep the rules and to work hard.
He said, "No matter who your companion is, or how bad of a missionary you think he is, you will ALWAYS learn something from him."
Gotta love Herman Culbertson!
This Sunday, the last district that was "Senior" to us left, I was called to be a Zone Leader with Elder Latham. It's weird because a week ago I was a District Leader and then I was released. Now I am a Zone Leader. Crazy, but the Lord has called me for a reason and I am going to do all I can to be the best example to those in my zone.

The Sunday fireside was by President and Sister Wilkinson. Sister Wilkinson talked about how much it rains in Brazil, and how an umbrella can protect us just like the Lord enables us to do our work. She said, "Miracles happened because we believed they could happen through faith in Jesus Christ. The Lord is giving us enabling power to carry out our work here on this earth. The rains will come, but we have the opportunity to open the gift of the Atonement, The Greatest Gift, and use its enabling powers."
President Wilkinson started with an awesome intro. He said, "The reason why my mission was so special to me is because I knew my mother was home on her knees praying for me." I know that is true in my case 100% as well. I know my mother is at home thinking about me and praying for me every day. I can feel her love every day. :) We then sang "I Hope They Call Me on a Mission", my favorite primary song growing up. It was the BEST. He also said, "All of you have left something, to come here. You have received the right to represent Jesus Christ.  You have been set apart from the world. Leave the worldly things behind. Being GOOD is NOT enough, but obedience is the key. The Lord sees the whole picture, not just part of it. We must be completely obedient. Do NOT live on the edge. It cannot be selective obedience; it must be 100% obedience. Be a part of the solution and not part of the problem. We must SEE the RESULTS the Lord wants. We must have our heart in the work. We need to be willing to do hard things. The Lord never apologizes for asking us to do hard things. He has done the hardest things. On your mission you have no PROBLEMS, only OPPORTUNITIES. You must have the language of the spirit to inspire you what to do. Teach by the spirit. Don't do it on your own! We can't get through all of our challenges by ourselves. There is nothing you have experienced that Jesus Christ has not experienced or gone through. He knows all of that. He has been LOWER than that. He will stay in a room if you put him there. He will not force His companionship on you. Ye are free to choose. As we invite others, invite YOURSELF to be part of all He is about. “The keys of the kingdom of God are committed unto man on the earth, and from thence shall the gospel roll forth unto the ends of the earth, as the stone which is cut out of the mountain without hands shall roll forth, until it has filled the whole earth.” (Doctrine &Covenants 65:2). What you are about is significant and The Lord will bless you forever for your diligence. It is YOUR TURN and YOUR TIME to make your mark on eternity." That talk was incredible by President Wilkinson, the President of the MTC District.
This inspiring poem is one I am sure many of you have heard, but it really struck me deeply this week.
Author: Unknown
One night a man had a dream. He dreamed he was walking along the beach with the Lord. Across the sky flashed scenes from his life. For each scene, he noticed two sets of footprints in the sand: one belonged to him, and the other to the Lord.
When the last scene of his life flashed before him, he looked back at the footprints in the sand. He noticed that many times along the path of his life there was only one set of footprints. He also noticed that it happened at the very lowest and saddest times in his life.
This really bothered him, and he questioned the Lord about it. "Lord, you said that once I decided to follow you, you'd walk with me all the way, but I have noticed that during the most troublesome times in my life, there is only one set of foot-prints. I don't understand why when I needed you most you would leave me."
The Lord replied, "My precious, precious child, I love you and I would never leave you during your times of trial and suffering. When you see only one set of footprints, it was then that I CARRIED YOU."

The Lord is ALWAYS with us. He has carried me through different parts of my life and I have seen him carry others in their lives. We may forget Him, but He will NEVER, EVER forget about us. We are His children. He is perfect and He is perfect in the LOVE for His Children. He has been carrying me since Day 1 of my mission, helping me learn a totally new language and helping me strengthen my testimony of this gospel. I know that Jesus Christ and Our Heavenly Father LIVE. I have felt His spirit and His love every single day. I know that if we go to Him in sincere prayer, He CAN walk with us, and He WILL carry us. En el nombre de Jesucristo. Amen.
The reason I created this blog was to share my experiences with my family, friends, and all who would like to read about an LDS missionary experience. Not only am I striving to be a missionary in the field, but I am also trying to be a missionary back home as well. I have family members that are going through hard times and I have friends that I want to help understand why I BELIEVE in the restored gospel of Jesus Christ.  I hope all of you feel the spirit while reading my blog because THAT IS MY GOAL. I love you all and I want you to all know you are ALWAYS in my prayers and that I do think about you often. This is His work and His glory, to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.
Amo mi mision,
Elder Vance

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