It was so nice talking to you :). I think that's probably what made Christmas Christmas because nothing else felt like it. But that's okay, being a missionary during the Christmas season is the best. It makes up for everything else. We had wonderful Mexican style spaghetti, chicken and tuna salad for dinner, scattered with tamales throughout the day and scrumptious pina empanadas. I'll make those for you one day.
The next day felt maybe a little more like Christmas because it SNOWED!!!! Seriously, it snowed in El Paso!!! And it dusted everything and then melted, but it was still beautiful :)
Most of our week was spent tracking down people. We have a huge ward list and so to help clear it out, we went around visiting everyone we didn't know and as a result we found a lot of people who no longer live in their houses/apartments. So a lot of MIA members. We have #s for some of them, so hopefully with the help of the ward missionaries, we can track down some of these members and send their records to the right place.
We had one miracle visit as we were tracking down members. Since most of them had moved, we were getting an opportunity to teach the less active members and help them come back, but we found one sister who was baptized 3 years ago. Her story started when the elders found her. She had been going through some hard times, a rough divorce and financial problems and the elders found her and brought some peace into her life. And then after about a year of activity, she stopped going to church. Her problems have gotten worse and she has felt over and over again that God has forgotten her. Not completely forgotten, but mostly. And everything she went through, she said that she had to go through herself, because all her family lives far away.
Two thoughts came to mind as we talked with her (and she agreed that we could come back!). 1. Maybe with this point I'm being overly optimistic, but I believe that if this sister had been given visiting teachers 3 years ago she would still be active today. And not the visiting teachers that barely call or make a visit, but the ones that actually care. That's one thing that I've seen wards struggle with here, and maybe they struggle with it everywhere, but I've just been blind to the problem. The visiting and home teaching programs are so inspired and should be followed and loved. President Hinkley said that every new convert needs "a friend, a responsibility and nurturing with the good word of God." Through the visiting and home teaching programs everybody gets these, and everybody needs these. Imagine if 3 years ago this sister was given visiting teachers and a visiting teaching assignment. Right there, she would have 2 or 3 more sisters who would love her and care for her. They would have helped her testimony grown and they would have been able to stand by her and help her through the trials she was going to face. If the programs weren't inspired from God, we wouldn't have them, but they are, so we need to do them. I have seen so many families in the wards where I've served where maybe having a home or visiting teacher would have made a difference in their activity level. And as President Uchtdorf said in the October conference we "need to be faithful in making [our] monthly visits, all without missing the most important why behind this commandment: to love God and fellowmen." These programs are not just check boxes to do every month. They are requirements for us that we need to do, so that we our selves can be perfected in Christ, but also so that our brothers and sisters can be perfected in Christ. In my studies this week, I came across the purposes of Relief Society; 1. to increase faith and personal righteousness, 2. to strengthen families and homes and 3. to help those in need. Not only is that the purpose of relief society, but it's the purpose of the church. And it's the purpose of being a disciple of Jesus Christ. And since we're not perfect, God has given us ways to develop our discipleship, and through visiting and home teaching we can do that. So, if you get anything out of it.... it's to do and learn to love those inspired programs in the church. And to reach out to help others.
And the second thing that caught my attention while talking to this sister was 2. why do bad things happen to good people? Why do the righteous need to go through so many trials? Now, I've studied this all out before and I've gotten my answers before, but while studying this morning, I found new reasons (amazing how that happens :) ). I wrote a couple weeks ago about the attribute activity that President Miller invited us to do, focusing on one Christ-like attribute a week. Well, this week was patience and one of the scriptures that Preach My Gospel recommended we read was Mosiah 23:21-22. As background to the story, these were righteous people who had just fled from a wicked King and they were in the process of building up their city. They had made covenants with their God and they were trying to improve everyday. But we can read in Mosiah that "nevertheless the Lord seeth fit to chasten his people; yea, he trieth their patience and their faith. Nevertheless- whosoever putteth his trust in him the same shall be lifted up at the last day. Yea, and thus it was with this people." After doing everything right, the were once again put under bondage, made slaves to wicked people, YET their faith and their patience did not fail. We can see the result of this in the next chapter of Mosiah- chapter 24:9-16. Their faith and patience didn't not fail because they had their trust in the Lord, and in turn, they were delivered through divine guidance. Elder Jorg Klebingat shared something similar in this last conference. He stated: "millions of your brothers and sisters have been or are being thus tested, so why would you be exempt? Some trials come through your own disobedience or negligence. Other trials come because of the negligence of others or simply because this is a fallen world. When these trials come, the adversary’s minions begin broadcasting that you did something wrong,that this is a punishment, a sign that Heavenly Father does not love you. Ignore that!Instead, try to force a smile, gaze heavenward, and say, “I understand, Lord. I know what this is. A time to prove myself, isn’t it?” Then partner with Him to endure well to the end. Spiritual confidence increases when you accept that “often trials and tribulations are allowed to come into [your life] because of what [you] are doing right.” I love that he said we should partner with the Lord. We are put through trials and tests so that we can grown and be strengthened. God knows and understands our full potentials and he wants to help us grow. We can't do that without having these trials. And we're not going to reach our potential if we don't do anything. We are not here to struggle by ourselves but instead to learn to use divine guidance and help because He is always there waiting to give it.
I love you all and I hope you have a great week! I hope that as trials come your way you can more fully rely on the Lord to help you. Embrace the trials and the changes and look forward to knowing that one day they helped you reach your full potential! Have an absolutely wonderful New Year and I can't wait to hear what some of your goals are!