Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Thanksgiving, Cartoon Characters, and Refining

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Thanksgiving is great. It's quite a spiritual holiday if we do it right. Full of blessings... why? Well, because we eat a lot of food, but also because we make efforts to be aware of the abundant blessings the Lord has given us. Later today our district is getting together at the senior couple's apartment for Thanksgiving dinner. It's so funny to be a white person. Sometimes I feel like a cartoon character... or at least that some people feel like we're cartoon characters. :) Especially because of one elder, Elder Petersen, who is way white, has big eyes, and probably 6'2". I can't imagine the attention he gets here.

This week has been really good. Super difficult, (got dropkicked by a few really promising investigators) but I am starting to feel more like myself. All the missionaries throughout the mission are working really hard to accomplish our yearly goals before the end of the year... we're needing miracles. But they just might come if we have enough faith and work hard enough. It's so physically and mentally demanding, this work. We get rejected, or mocked, or even objectified/degraded (in the case of the sisters) at one door or during one contact, but the next door we need to be still full of love and strength and the Spirit so that next person gets a quality contact with us. It's hard. But it's cool. It's impossible to be a good missionary and not experience personal growth. It's so trying, so refining.

So there's this one investigator, who will be my first real baptism. His name is Martin and he is the coolest ever. I think I've mentioned him before, but I must talk about him again. He's so cool sometimes it's hard not to just laugh at how great he is, he so far exceeds expectations. He lives with his grandmother and cousin, who are both members of the church. When we first met Martin, he was shy, quiet, unsure of himself. He seemed to have a weight on his shoulders. We taught him about the restoration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. He didn't really understand a lot of it, he told us, but he felt good and decided to accept it. Since that day he has begun to pray several times a day, he reads the Book of Mormon into the wee hours of the morning, he teaches us about his favorite verses in the Book of Mormon, he's come with us missionaries to teach other people and has born his testimony to them, he's made great friends with the branch mission leader... he's open, friendly, funny, has a bright light in his countenance. He is preparing for a mission next year. He's getting baptized on December 3rd--our original plan for him was December 10th, but he is so beyond ready. When we told him we thought he could be baptized early, his face lit up. He's so so so amazing. Such a different person. What a blessing he is... how ready he was! He's progressed just because of his own personal choices. All we did as missionaries was present a testify of the principles, and extended invitations to act. He chose to accept all of it, and he has done more than we've even invited him to do. His desire to be close to Heavenly Father is so strong. He is willing to do anything. He is truly the "I will give away all of my sins to know Thee" type of person. I'm so excited for the rest of his life! and his baptism!!!

A few days ago I was reading a scripture and I saw the title "Lamb of God" in reference to the Savior. It sunk deep into my heart. Heavenly Father created this plan of happiness for us, gave us everything we have, gave us the way, gave us His Son. That is something I never recognized. Creating this plan for our salvation was not an easy experience. Just as people of old were asked to sacrifice animals as a offering to God, such as their best/purest lamb, Heavenly Father also was required to sacrifice His own Lamb. Jesus Christ, who was perfect, pure, good, strong, filled with full and perfect love. Heavenly Father's Son, Heavenly Father's Lamb, Heavenly Father's sacrifice. That was the price. What a sobering thought.

Also Alma 7:11-14 has been a big theme of this last week for me. The Atonement of Christ is real. He really does know exactly what each of us is experiencing. Although he was perfect, he chose to experience our trials exactly as we experience it, as a weak mortal. His understanding and compassion is complete and deep. He has conquered all our trials by completing His Atonement--He has paved the way. We need to follow Him. He will be beside us. We can feel that. I have felt that. I've been trying to make taking the sacrament a spiritual experience with the Atonement. If we want to have experiences with the Atonement, and we're willing to remember the Savior, we WILL feel His very real influence in our lives. He's walking beside us, and we are able to FEEL that, and know how real that actually us. No one else can experience that for you. Not even reading my testimony can give you an adequate understanding of how deep the Savior's love is for you. It's something you should experience firsthand. We do that by following His commandments, learning about His life and Atonement, making and keeping and renewing sacred covenants with Him, and striving to remember Him always. We do need to do our part but we get so much in return. Christ lives. He knows us, one by one. I bear my solemn witness of that. 

Sister Gopinath

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