Sunday, August 26, 2012

His Hand

The last week has been filled with amazing spiritual experiences. There have been so many people that were put in our path this past week that I know were placed there by our Heavenly Father. There are so many people out there that are searching and waiting to hear the fullness of the gospel. I know that is true because last week Elder Lenon and I were able to find many new people and our area continues to grow and be blessed. Elder Lenon and I continue to work on our Spanish. We both love testifying about and teaching the restored gospel of Jesus Christ to all we come in contact with in Santa Rosa. At times when I go on exchanges to English areas it is difficult to teach in English! I love the Spanish culture and I am grateful I have been called to this mission here in California. Elder Lenon has taught me so much. He is such a diligent missionary and I am grateful for his worth ethic and the sacrifices he has made to be here. I hope I can serve with him for another transfer because I am learning a great deal from him. Every day I am reminded that the Lord's hand is in this great work because I see the changes and blessings that come to those that open their hearts to this great message that we bring.

This past week I attempted to ask myself this question at the end of every day:

"Have I seen the hand of the Lord today?" -President Henry B. Eyring

As a missionary it is a rare occasion to have everything go as planned. Appointments fall through, you maybe feel sick or tired, people don't want to talk to you, or maybe your spirits are just not where they should be. I think in this life, things don't go as planned. We all are thrown into the perfect storm every once in a while and wonder how the Lord could possibly be reaching out to us. I want to testify that His hand is always in our lives and He gives us those tender mercies that we can all see. So last week I tried to ask myself the question above, and throughout the week I recognized that I always felt happy because I could see how the hand of the Lord blessed me or helped me throughout the day. No matter how long the day was, how many appointments fell through, or how many times we were rejected, I could always name off things that the Lord bestowed upon me and blessed me with each day. That is what has brought me happiness. That small question, "Have I seen the hand of the Lord today?", has helped me open my eyes and look for those tender mercies of the Lord. At the end of the day it brings me back to One who watches over all of us every day. I know He watches over us and listens to our prayers.

We talked to a woman named Lupita on the street last week. She was so open to the gospel and the message of the Restoration. She wanted to find out which church was true because she had attended so many throughout her life. Elder Lenon and I both bore testimony to her about the plan of salvation, the plan that God has made for us as His children and for our families. The plan, if we follow it, will grant us eternal life with our families. I told her that families are meant to be together forever and that death is not the end. She had such a special light about her and she was a true seeker of the truth from the moment we met her. She has four children and wanted to to know more. We got her information and told her we were going to stop by in a few days. The next day we went by to see someone. We knocked on the door and no one answered, but the next door over opened and it was Lupita. We taught her about the Restoration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ through the prophet Joseph Smith. It was such a spirit filled lesson. I know that Lupita and her family were put in our path by the hand of the Lord. In another lesson we had with her recently, she told us she was so confused and she wanted to know what was true. I remember saying, "Lupe I know that your search for the truth has ended. I know that this church is true with my whole heart and the only way you can know whether what we have taught you is true or not is through prayer. If you pray we promise you that you will recieve an answer through the Holy Ghost that all that we have taught you is true." Her final prayer at the end of that lesson is one that I will never forget. She pleaded with our Heavenly Father to show her the way and to give her an answer; to put an end to her confusion so she could follow Jesus Christ in the fullness of His gospel. There are so many people out there today that are confused and lost. Just like the young man named Joseph Smith in the year 1820, there are many who desire to know among all the churches today which one is true. I love all the opportunites we as missionaries have to testify to people and to promise them blessings. Lupita came to church today with one of her sons and that was such a blessing to see. I know she was given to us as a tender mercy from our Father above.

 I love being a vessel for the Lord in which the gospel of Jesus Christ is brought to my brothers and sisters. It has been such a blessing to be raised in a home that was founded upon the principles and doctrine of Jesus Christ. I do know that our Heavenly Father and His son, Jesus Christ live. I know that what we bring as missionaries to the homes of the people here in Santa Rosa is true. I know the Lord's hand is in every one of our lives. At times for me it can be hard to see, but when I do, I treasure the tiny tender mercies in which my Father above shows me that He knows me and He loves me. I know it is people like Lupita that are put in the paths of missionaries around the world, because God is our Heavenly Father and we are His children. I love you all and I invite you, as you go about your day, to ask yourself, "Have I seen the hand of the Lord today?".

Los Amo,

Elder Vance

Sunday, August 19, 2012

The Road To Take

I have learned so much in the last week or so in Santa Rosa. Elder Lenon and I are loving it here. This past week has not been the easiest; I was sick and it seemed like that the people were not being very open or receptive. I know that the Lord was stretching and testing us.  

"In your life there have to be challenges. They will either bring you closer to God, and therefore make you stronger, or they can destroy you. But you make the decision which road you take." - Elder Busche

I have seen in my mission how challenges have helped mold and refine me. We talk to a lot of people every day and it seems like almost everyone is dealing with some sort of challenge in their lives. There is a difference though; the people who choose to see their challenges as burdens seem to get down on themselves. They begin to blame God for the things they are going through. Others see challenges as blessings, and they take the road that leads to receiving strength and to change within themselves. I know this past week was hard for me, and there was a time that I was thinking, "Why isn't this happening?" or "Why is this happening to us?". I realized that the Lord was testing me and that it was my decision as to how I was going to react to the trials He put in my path. As the week went on I felt much better. I began to pray for more faith and more strength so that I could see every day and moment as a blessing from my Heavenly Father. My week did change and now that I look back on it, it was a blessing because I learned a valuable lesson. The lesson I learned is that I must always be humble and follow the will of the Lord. I must align myself with Him so I can follow the promptings of the Holy Ghost.  Life is not easy, nor is it suppose to be. We all will come across things in this life and wonder if we will be able to cope with or overcome them. But I know that if we pray and ask God to turn our challenges and trials into blessings, everything will change.

Last week Elder Lenon and I had a really long day. It was a very hot day here in northern California and I also was feeling under the weather with a cold. We didn't have too much success in finding new people or teaching some of the people that we are currently visiting. The day was coming to a close, and as we were driving out of an apartment complex, we saw one of our investigators named Jesus. It was such a blessing to be able to talk to him. I know the Lord grants unto us tender mercies. Jesus was put in our path that day for a reason. It was such a joy to talk to him and to see how he was doing. He is doing so well and the light of Christ beams from within him. It was amazing that just a little thing like that changed our day. I know that God lives and that he does grant unto us those little tender mercies.

On my mission I have recognized how much I have been blessed throughout my life. I know that the things that may seem hard at the time will become easier and lighter with the help of our Heavenly Father. Again, we must be humble and go to him in prayer on a regular basis so that we can align our will with His.

"A bend in the road is not the end unless you fail to make the turn."

As missionaries we meet with many members that are not active in the church. Many have gone through divorces, job loss, deaths in their family, and many other challenges that have a heavy impact on them. In all these cases, it was not the challenges themselves, but their attitudes toward these challenges and their lack of faith, that led them to leave the church for a time. I have found that all of them have one thing in common. Their faith has slowly faded. I believe they all deep down in their hearts still have a testimony that they know this gospel and church are true, but their faith has been lost. Faith is an action. Faith is not just a belief, it is what drives us to act. The way we acquire more faith is through praying for more of it, acting by keeping the commandments of God, living the gospel of Jesus Christ, reading the scriptures, going to church, and turning our hearts over to the Lord. It is through these small yet powerful ways that we increase our FAITH in God, our Heavenly Father, and His son, Jesus Christ.

I LOVE this quote below.

"The faith that can't be shaken is the faith that has been shaken." -Randy Alcorn

Throughout my life my faith has been shaken. I know that because my faith has been tested that it is now stronger than ever before. This life is a test. We can come closer to our Heavenly Father through these challenges, thanking Him for the hard things so that we can see them as blessings. I know that through that our faith will grow and we will reap the blessings of heaven and see the change within ourselves. Let us humble ourselves, repent of our sins daily, and follow the example that our Savior, Jesus Christ, has set for us. I love my mission and I look forward to the many challenges ahead of me in this life, for I know that those are the times in my life that the Lord is preparing me to return to His presence once again. The road to take is the one that leads us to thank God for our trials and tribulations so that we may be strengthened and prepared to be led home to Him and His Son in their celestial glory.

Los Amo,

Elder Vance

Thursday, August 9, 2012

It's Worth It

This past week has been an amazing week with Elder Lenon. The Lord has blessed us with so many people that are prepared to hear the gospel of Jesus Christ. Santa Rosa is going to be an adventure. A new chapter has been opened in my mission and I am grateful to be here. As many of you may know, tomorrow I will officially have been out for a year on my mission. What a crazy thing! Time does fly by. I remember a year ago today, I was set apart as a missionary and was preparing to enter the Missionary Training Center in Provo, Utah the following day. I look back and see all the ups and downs, but more importantly I see the change in myself. I recognize that I have changed a lot. It is a change that has come through gaining knowledge of my Savior, Jesus Christ and feeling the truth of the things I teach as a missionary. For one to come to know if this church and this gospel are true, one must pray and ask God. I do not know that these things are true through my own knowledge of scripture or of the life of Jesus Christ ... I know that these things are true because I have felt the spirit of God in my heart and soul testify to me that this church is true. Those feelings are somewhat hard to describe. They are feelings of joy, happiness, and peace. I know that they were and are sent from God. I know that I am a missionary, a literal representative of the Lord, Jesus Christ. I know that His church has been restored in these latter-days through the prophet, Joseph Smith. I know that The Book of Mormon is another testament of Jesus Christ; that it also contains the truthfulness and fullness of the everlasting gospel of Jesus Christ.

My faith has grown because I have acted upon the feelings I have received. Faith is action, and if one wants to know the truth, the only way to do so is ask the one that holds ALL truth. God, our Heavenly Father, will let us know through the Holy Ghost what is true and what is not. I know that this gospel blesses families and that through this gospel we can have more happiness and peace in our lives. We know where we came from, why we are here, and where we are going. I am filled with gratitude because over the past year I have come to realize that it is because of this gospel of Jesus Christ that my family has been so blessed, and that I have had the life I have because of it.

I look forward to another year of experiences and learning. This message we bring is for all who are willing to hear it. Everyone is our brother or sister. I know that all of these things are true. There are going to be challenges ahead but I know it is because I have this gospel, Jesus Christ, and my Heavenly Father that all will be well. I hope you all enjoy this poem below. I have slowly been adding to it over the course of the past year and it was inspired. I would like to thank my family for all the love and support they have shown me through this past year. I love being with my people and I love serving as a missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. It has been a life changing experience and it has definitely been worth it.
 "My Best 2 Years"

I've waited my whole life to be here today.
Saving up penny by penny,
It didn't matter what I had to pay.

My testimony becoming strong and pure.
Now it's my turn to take them the cure.
Two by two we walk and knock on doors,
Someone hollow or someone very poor.
Sometimes the great and spacious mocks,
That's all we hear, it's their heart that locks.

As a representative of Jesus Christ I do all that I can,
But it's sad to see Satan have power over man.
We are stronger when we choose the right.
Praying to God or singing with all our might.

The philosophies of man,
Confusing the children of God.
The armies of Helaman press forward,
Every step we trod.

I know that the trials and hardships
Of my life have been felt before.
By the one I worship,
The one who knocks on my door.

I remember what He had to pay
As those drops of blood fell for me.
While he hung from a cross on that dreary day,
And suffered in a garden called, Gethsemane.

Nails driven through his hands and feet, a spear pierced his side
The world He created, was the one for which He died.

For the pharisees He was dead at last,
The believers believed, it was 3 days that passed.
He rose in His glory and light,
The face of our Savior illuminating and oh so bright.

The light of Christ fills us from the inside out
As human beings it is this, that is often forgotten
Without it, we are merely living in a drought.
The Son, The Only Begotten
In whom we cannot live without.
Side by side He walks our same pace,
It is up to us to look and see His face.

The Gospel of Jesus Christ
Is something I can never deny.
The joy of bringing the truth to others,
Is the same that makes angels fly.

My people, my people every night I say.
It is them for whom, I hope and wish and pray.
Thank you Father for this opportunity.
I wish I could be here with them for eternity.

I hope they call me on a mission,
That wish has been fulfilled.
Here I am trusted to do God's will.

To lead them home to our Heavenly Father above,
Which I do, solely out of love.

I Love My Mission.

-Elder Spencer Guy Vance