For my last letter, I would like to briefly share three fundamental principles, which I hope will govern my actions for the rest of my life. I would like to title this: “My Personal Constitution.”
First of all, who I have become and who I am becoming is the product and result of the amazing examples and invaluable guidance/assistance I have received from the Spirit and the people that have surrounded me in my life. The people I speak about are the people that have been my young men’s leaders, my bishops, my stake presidents, and my many other church leaders who have taken the time to think about me and guide me through many life experiences. These people also include my Mission President, my mission companions, other missionaries I have served with and all of the amazing members and nonmembers I have come to know these past two years. In addition, these people include my great friends, and family members (aunts, uncles, grandparents, cousins, siblings, etc.) who loved, supported and labored with me prior to and during my mission. And, most notably, I owe so much of who I am to my incredible and loving father and mother:
“You may have riches and wealth untold,
Baskets of jewels and caskets of gold,
But richer than I, you will never be
For I had a mother who read to me.”
I also would add: “and had a father who played basketball with me!”
Without these great people who have been in my life, I would be far less than the person I am. The following guiding principles and truths were all introduced and/or taught to me by them and then confirmed by the Spirit.
- Love of God and love of fellowmen
“Then one of them, which was a lawyer, asked him a question, tempting him, and saying, Master, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” (Matt. 22:35-40)
In all that I do in life, I am going to strive to always remember what Christ said to this questioning lawyer. I will love God with all my heart and always seek to find ways to love his children. I know the way we love God is by obedience to his commandments. I know the way we love others is by serving them.
- I am a child of God (and so is everybody else).
“ALL HUMAN BEINGS—male and female—are created in the image of God. Each is a beloved spirit son or daughter of Heavenly Parents, and, as such, each has a divine nature and destiny.” (The Family: A Proclamation to the World)
I am a son of God! I am the literal offspring of the most powerful being in the entire universe. Am I worth something? You betcha! Can I do great things? You betcha! Are others worth something? Yes, every single person! Everybody in the world is a son or daughter of God just as I am. He loves us all equally. We should all love others as much as our Father in heaven loves us.
- “There is no chance, no destiny, no fate that can circumvent or hinder or control the firm resolve of a determined soul.” (Ella Wheeler Wilcox)
There are going to be really hard trials that come my way in life. There are going to be obstacles that stand in my path. There are going to be distractions that try to pull me away from my purpose. There are hills that I will need to climb and rivers that I will need to cross. Through it all, I will remember this poem. I will remember that I am in the driver’s seat as I go through my life. I will remember that I am in control of who I become!
I know Heavenly Father lives and loves us. I know Jesus Christ is our Lord and Savior. I know his church is on the earth today. I know the Book of Mormon is the word of God. I know Joseph Smith was a prophet. I know Thomas S. Monson is a prophet today. I am inexpressively grateful for my mission. I love and miss everybody back home and I am excited to see you soon!
Steadfast in Christ!
This has been one tremendous week! Have you heard of the game “Pokémon Go?” It has gotten really big here where I am serving in Birmingham! People are going crazy over it. It is really good though because it gets people out so that missionaries can talk with them! Another companionship in our district sent us a text this last week and said, “The key to missionary work: set up a lemonade stand at a Pokémon Go hotspot!” We haven’t tried it yet, but I am sure that it would work great. I can’t believe how fast that game has become so popular!
In other news, we had a baptism this last week! It was absolutely amazing and the story behind it is even better. Right now our group leader is an “RM” (returned missionary) from Utah who served his mission in Pohnpei. When he was serving in Pohnpei, he taught a family in one area for nine straight months!! The children always wanted to get baptized, but the mother and father never gave their consent. The father was a less active member and not interested in coming back to church. The mother was a nonmember, but never entertained the thought of getting baptized herself. At times the mother and father would even run into the jungle when they saw the missionaries coming so they wouldn’t have to talk to them. After our group leader left the area, missionaries continued to visit the family and the children eventually got permission to be baptized. The mother was still very against getting baptized herself and would run away from the missionaries. Time passed and the whole family moved to the United States. The children lived with their aunt in Birmingham (and they helped us start the Pohnpeian group) while the mother and father lived in Mississippi trying to get established. Word soon reached them that a Pohnpeian group with meetings conducted in their language had started in Birmingham and that their children were a part of it. They told us that they had tried to run away from the church while living in Pohnpei for many years but that the church kept finding them, so they moved to the United States in part to get away from it.
Then not only the church, but the very same missionary that found them in the first place, found them again. They took it as a message from God that they couldn’t run anymore. They came to Birmingham and for the last three weeks we taught the mother all the lessons. This last Thursday she was baptized and now the whole family are active members! They plan to go through the temple as a family in a year. Moral of the story? Heavenly Father is mindful of all of his children! People’s hearts can change! The church is true! I love and miss everybody back home and hope you have an amazing week! See you soon!!
This has been one great week! First and foremost, we have a baptism in the Pohnpeian group on Thursday of this week! We have been teaching the family that I wrote about last week and it has been going great. We have been mainly teaching the mom because she is the only one that has not been baptized. We visited their home almost everyday last week. She doesn’t speak any English so we asked the returned missionary from Pohnpei to translate everything for us and help teach her. During one of our last visits, before we could even bring up the topic of baptism as we had planned during that lesson, she told us that she wanted to be baptized! She said that she has seen what an amazing change the church has made in the lives of her family members and she wants to be part of it as well. She is super excited for it and super excited to one day go through the temple with her family also. We are really looking forward to Thursday!
This week was also great because yesterday several of us had the opportunity to visit Tuscaloosa, Alabama and see the University of Alabama! We went on a stadium tour conducted by a member of the church that works at the stadium and the tour was terrific. People in Alabama sure know how to build a stadium . . . it is humongous! I am so grateful for all of the great experiences I have had. I love and miss everyone back home and hope you have a great week!
This has been a tremendous week! I have some very exciting news! For a long time we have been waiting for a Pohnpeian family to move from Mississippi to Tarrant and become a part of the group. Through a series of events, it appeared as though they weren’t going to be able to make it and that the group would have to carry on without them. Last week we drove by the house of one of the Pohnpeian families we work with. There were a few people sitting on the porch outside and when we took a closer look at them, it was this family from Mississippi! My companion and I nearly jumped out of our moving car to run up the steps of the house and greet them. After restraining ourselves and parking the car, we went to talk with them. Apparently and surprisingly, they told us that they were actually able to come to Tarrant to live. We were ecstatic!! The father of the family is a returned missionary and the mother in the family wants to get baptized! We have already taught her a few lessons and she seems very excited. They are going to make a tremendous addition to the group and hopefully will be able to help others come as well.
We had a great 4th of July! We went over to one of the Pohnpeian homes for a huge BBQ. Like most other 4th of July gatherings I have been to, they barbequed a lot of chicken and beef. However, unlike all other 4th of July gatherings I have been to, they prepared a lot of Pohnpeian foods to go with the meat. One dish in particular is called “rice en uht” or banana rice. They take a bunch of bananas and cooked rice and mash them together. It is actually pretty good! We had a great time stuffing ourselves and then we all played volleyball until it was time to watch fireworks.
We also had another great week of attendance at the group meeting. We were able to get a few of the members who live in Decatur and Cullman to drive down for the Fast and Testimony meeting. Apparently, in Pohnpei it is very common to bear your testimony through song. A lot of people stood up and sung a song as a part of their testimony. It was an unforgettable experience! I am so grateful for all of these amazing experiences I am having. I love and miss everybody back home and hope you have a great week.