Monday, February 27, 2012

"When All of His goals were on the line...He prayed"........week 83

My dear family,

Well family, another week going by faster than the last. We have a lot of work to do. I am glad to hear that the family is well and that the projects are going well. I hope and pray that you all can continue to be blessed as you anxiously serve our Master and King.

This week we had our Zone Conference which was extraordinary. I was very impacted by one comment from President Spannaus. He mentioned, ¨Elders, the Lord´s school is rough. Realize that it has to be because it is the preparation for eternal life.¨ I was rather impacted by such comments.

Something that has really stood out to us this week has been the importance of setting and keeping goals. Let me try to explain how it I learned it. We set goals. Why do we set these goals? Well, to achieve them because they bring about our purpose. Ok, how is it then that we can set a goal, achieve it, and continue to become better? What we realized was that it requires a dedication to bring them about. How do we obtain that dedication? We learned that it has to do with the commandment to pray always. Why? Why would God ask us to pray always? Because He wants us to achieve every worthy goal. We began to ponder about the example of our Savior. Did He have difficult things to do? Yes. For example, 40 days of fast, the utter rejection of the Jews, and the Atonement. During these difficult times, there occurred something very important. The righteous goal or desire was put to the test in front of the desires of the flesh or our bodies. The spiritual was at war with the physical. And in these times of great trial, how is it that the Savior was capable of putting the spiritual above the physical? It is called prayer. I pondered of the Savior´s sacrifice in the Garden of Gethsemane. In the most crucial moment of the life of the Savior, when all of His goals were on the line, when all of His work could be brought to an end, and when the mental, emotional, and physical pain was all but unbearable, what was the decision of the Savior of Mankind? He prayed. As the goal of the Atonement seemed to be impossible, the Savior prayed more fervently. As He continued in His trial and the final crucifixtion, He was able to focus in His goal. But when He reached the final moments of the crucifixtion, He felt utter despair. Why? What was the cause by which He would plead from the cross, ¨Father, why hast thou abandoned me?¨ It was in this moment that this faithful servant of the Father, as in previous times, needed to focus. But in this occasion, the Father had to leave it up to His Son. He had to focus Himself. He had to show His complete and total conversion to the goal of the Father. As Elder Holland explains it, "Christ walked totally alone so that we wouldn´t have to do so". As I reflected upon these truths, the Spirit bore testimony to my soul that there is nothing in which we, as sons and daughters of the living God, cannot accomplish. It depends nonetheless, upon our ability to focus, or put the spiritual above the enticings of the flesh. This was the lesson that I receive this week. I obtained a greater testimony of the power of the Gospel unto Salvation to all those who desire it and who are willing to focus.

This is the Church of God. I know it because God has revealed to me in my heart and in my mind by His Spirit. There is no going back. May we go forward in this great cause is my prayer in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Elder Russell

Monday, February 20, 2012

We learn, focus, do, repent, and repeat. ........week 82

Dear family,

Wow, I am impressed at all of the work that has been going on everywhere. It is really amazing to see how the Lord prepares His children and He guides them to where they need to be and in the right time.

We have been thinking a lot recently Elder Gosnell and I and we have realized that we need to better coordinate the work of finding through the members of the church. We have been working well with our Ward Mission Lider to teach with the members present. There is a tremendous difference in the results of a lesson when there are members. We have been doing well in our teaching and retaining but we need to improve in finding through the members. We are excited and we are going to try some new things this week.

There is a bit of news from the mission. Today they told us of our new Mission President who we be functioning starting the 1st of July. Here is the info.

Bruce C. and Alynda K. Kusch

Bruce Calvin Kusch, 60, and Alynda Kidd Kusch, four children, Rexburg 6th Ward, Rexburg Idaho East Stake. Brother Kusch is a counselor in a Young Men presidency and is a former stake president, counselor in a stake presidency, high councilor, bishop and missionary in the Guatemala/El Salvador Mission. Associate academic vice president for curriculum, Brigham Young University-Idaho. Born in Lynwood, Calif., to Zygfred Sylvester and Laura Stocking Kusch.

Sister Kusch is a gospel doctrine teacher and is a former counselor in a stake Relief Society presidency, adviser in a stake Relief Society presidency, stake seminary supervisor, counselor in a ward Relief Society presidency and seminary teacher. Born in Orange, Calif., to Ralph Cicero and Ora Lundquist Kidd.

It is really strange to think about a new mission president. I will have the opportunity to know him for a few weeks but that is about it.

This Sunday we had a family of 7 come to church named the Pichardo family. We have been teaching them for quite a long time. They know more than just about any other investigator that I have taught. They came to church and they really liked it. We are going to continue teaching them and helping them to make the social transition that they need to make with the help of the members. As well as the Pichardo family, we are teaching a man named Felipe Perez who came to church the second time. We are going to begin to teach his family so that they can progress alongside him. Felipe makes me laugh a lot because he is a professor in the University of Technology in Iguala. Therefore, not only is he an engineer but he creates more engineers. I mentioned Dad that you are a mechanical engineer and he just lighted up. To say the least, I´ve been thinking of you :)

The work is going very well. We learn, focus, do, repent, and repeat. There isn´t anything better.

May God bless you my dear family. I pray for you across the miles. Pray for opportunities to preach the Gospel and they will be given to you. Of that I am certain. It is my prayer in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.


Elder Russell

Monday, February 13, 2012

No, No, No...It wasn't Me!........week 81

Dear family,

That is great news. Congratulations Tyler. You are being put to work really early :) I am glad.

Before I talk about all the really good stuff I wanted to tell you this story of a young couple and their baby. We are working with a couple to get them married and baptized this week but it has been rough. We were at their house a few weeks ago talking to the mom and the little one year old girl. The mom had to run to do something in a room in the house so we stayed in the living room directly in front of the little girl. She was sitting there looking at us with her cute little face when all of the sudden she let out a huge fart. We were like, ¨what!?! Are you kidding me?¨ The little girl then stuck her finger out and pointed at me. ¨No no no, that was not me,¨ I told her. She then pointed at my companion. ¨No no no, it wasn´t him either.¨ Then, with a face of shame, she pointed at herself and dropped her head to look at the floor. ¨That´s right little baby. Don´t go blaming the missionaries.¨ It made me laugh a whole lot.

Well we realized something super important but really simple this week. We realized that in order to involve the whole ward in missionary work, we had to involve them in it. And we cannot involve all of the ward in the process of finding, teaching, and baptizing unless we have daily contact with our ward mission leader. We took your example Dad. We knew that we should have done it beforehand but we didn't understand why. But when we did, we started right away. To our convenience he was out of town this week but we started what we were going to ask him to do: coordinate the efforts of the members and the missionaries. With our work in the last few days of the week helped us to achieve more than we had done ever. We felt how powerful are the members of the church. We realized that there really is a disposition to do the work but they need to be notified and reminded. We have many families that were beginning to fall away but as we worked this week, almost all of them began to progress. We are super excited. We realized how important is the Progress Record and our ward mission leader to involve the whole ward in the work of salvation. We did this as well with inactives and it was fruitful. We saw clearly how the people progress when they can hear the testimonies and feel of the love of the members. It was drastic. We have a lot of work to do but this week we are getting ramped up to get all of the members involved in the work.

And something really interested happened this week as well. When we plan well who are the members who come with us these members begin to ask themselves, ¨I knew this person for a long time. Why didn't I share the Gospel?¨ As the members have participated actively in the process of teaching, they begin to invite their non member friends to learn more about the church. And this process is guided by the Spirit within the members, not because the missionaries are trying to suck out all of the references that they have. We saw this with a few families this week. We are going to get everyone involved. We have a few baptisms planned for this month but we are getting ready for a blossoming March.
Family, the kingdom of God is built upon small efforts of ordinary people. As Elder Ballard says, ¨the gospel is simple, no matter hard we try to complicate it.¨ Let us draw deeply from the fountains of happiness which God has given us. May God bless you all. It is my prayer in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Elder Russell

Monday, February 6, 2012

"There is No Greater Joy than This"........week 80

My dear family,

I want you to know that I have been almost yelling here in the Internet Cyber while I was reading your last letter. As I was reading about the baptisms that you have been having I´m saying out loud ¨Atta boy Dad!¨ ¨Yeah, get them wet!¨ I am super excited to hear that the work is going well there. I can tell you that the work here is going crazy. We have a lot of work to do. We have been limping along the past few weeks without ward missionaries. We fasted this past week that we could get the families that we have to church so that they can be baptized. We are teaching a bunch of families and most of them already have testimonies of the Book of Mormon. We just need to get them to church. This is the part where it is super important that the members get involved. For not having ward missionaries we have been limping along with our assistance to church. However, in our fast we prayed with the purpose that we can get these families baptized in this month. We showed up at church and one of the Counselors in the bishopric came up and asked us ¨Elders, do you have correlation with your ward mission leader?¨ We told him, ¨the truth, no. We don´t coordinate the investigators well for not having ward missionaries.¨ He turned to us and said, ¨you are going to eat with us this week, afterwards we are going to get some ward missionaries and we are going to coordinate so that this work gets done.¨ Can someone say, CHACHING! Miracle. Answer to our prayers.

I have learned here that if we coordinate well with the ward missionaries for the investigators, they are going to progress and be baptized. We do this in our meeting with our Progress Record. After they are baptized, within the ward counsel we work with the Record of the New Members and those who have become Active. If there are problems of retention in a ward it is because they haven´t heard of or don´t use this record. If you already are using it, keep doing it. If not, do it. It is a map of exactly what the ward needs to do so that these converts become strong and enter in the temple. We have put it into practice here and since our time here and the recent converts from other missionaries, we have a 100% retention rate. Actually, one of our converts blessed the sacrament Sunday. Elder Gosnell and I had what is called full joy. Its so cool because the members begin to realize, ¨hmmm, the missionaries baptize everything that walks and they are all active and they all have testimonies. Hmmmm...¨

I am so excited for you all. How amazing is the Gospel of Jesus Christ! The truth is that this past week we were filled with a joy that I cannot explain. We are growing rapidly here. The work is growing and the power of God is being manifest in the lives of the people. I would like to share something that has made a large impact in me these past few weeks.

In Alma 15:12-14 and Mosiah 6:1-3 we learn how it is that the work of the Lord is done. The best missionaries are the converts. When an investigator is baptized, he full of light and desire. When we help these converts through the teaching of the ¨priests¨ or the members who are involved in their progression, they don't just go to church every week, they preach the Gospel through their examples. Through these examples their friends, families, and acquaintances pull from their light. And as it says in Alma 15:14, they will come in groups or in families to be baptized. And they will do it solos. Why? Because the light of God is reflected in the eyes of His converts and those people will follow them. It happened this week at church. We have been trying to teach the mom of one of our converts but she is never at home. We went to his home to teach him one of the follow up lessons. It was powerful. And due to this, his mother came to church with him. The work that we wanted to do was not our work. It was his. But we needed to give him the tools and the strength to do it. We don't need to hunt down the family members of the converts. We just need to strengthen and retain the converts.
This is the work of the Lord. There is no greater joy than this. It is one thing to see a baptism and it is another to be the reason why he was baptized. It is one thing to see a young man go on a mission and it is another to be the reason why he went. And it is one thing to stand before God in the presence of your friends and family and it is another to say to Him that we were the reason why they are there. Do not rob yourself of the joy of the Gospel. Don´t stand before God saying, ¨oh, how nice that they are here, ¨ rather live so that you could say ¨Father, I did my part. Here are my fruits. And are they few? No Father, they are not.¨ You will have a fullness of joy.

My dear family, my God bless you. Know Him. Do His work. Become as He is. It is my prayer in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Elder Russell