March 17, 2014
I miss you all so much and I love you so much. The last couple of days it has been pretty rainy and I’ve been missing the sun. I had the words to a song come to me yesterday morning as I was up early and sitting at my desk.
“I like to look for rainbows whenever there is rain, and ponder on the beauty of the earth made clean again. I want my life to be as clean as earth right after rain. I want to be the best I can and live with God again.”
I love the words to this song. With baptism we experience this cleansing. We become clean again – clean form sin, mistakes, and impurities. And even after we are baptized we have the sacrament, we have repentance, and we have the spirit to help us stay clean, happy, and in the right place.
Before we are baptized we must first have faith in Jesus Christ and in His Atonement. This faith brings peace and strength. The spirit helps us to know in our heart and have the understanding that we need. Then with this faith it helps us recognize how much we really need and depend on Jesus Christ. Why is Jesus Christ referred to as the Savior and Redeemer of the world? Because he saved us and redeemed us all. We all make mistakes, we all live as fallen individuals in a fallen world. But Christ made it possible for us to overcome these conditions. Christ made it possible for us to OVERCOME and BECOME. He made it possible. We decide. Do we accept Jesus Christ and His Atonement? He suffered for the sins of the world. He bled from every pre. He paid the price for our sins. And then he gave up his life on the cross.
“For God so loved the world that he sent his only begotten son.”
God is our Heavenly Father and He LOVES US . Jesus Christ is the Son of God. HE LOVES US. How do we show God that we love Him? How do we show Jesus Christ, our elder brother that we love him? We accept God and His plan of happiness for us. We accept Jesus Christ…and out of love and gratitude for Him we apply the Atonement to ourselves. Believing in Christ and having faith in Him, we make changes in our own lives so that we might become something better. Because nothing unclean can enter the presence of God, we repent, bringing the spirit into our life, bringing joy, bringing peace.
Sometimes on my mission I have been frustrated with myself and my circumstances. I feel stuck like a stationary object. All I want to do is move forward. I want to become. I want to overcome the things that are blocking my path or tying me down. This week I became so enlightened and I found the answer that I should have known the entire time. It is REPENTANCE. Repentance helps us move forward. How is repentance possible? Faith in Christ and God using the gift of the Atonement. Isn’t my motto “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength? That means so much more now that I think about it. Christ can give us so much strength in so many ways.
As a missionary I invite people to repentance. Sometimes it is hard to offer that invitation or extend that commitment to people. I think I just developed a new desire to preach repentance even louder and cleared now because I understand more what it is and how it blesses us. Repentance means to change. We turn to God and we align ourselves with His will. In the Bible dictionary it says, “Without repentance there can be no progress in the things of the soul’s salvation.”
We all have weaknesses and shortcomings and we make mistakes. But these things don’t have to define us. Repentance isn’t just about big changes or big sins. It’s also about making small changes that make big results. Repentance on a daily basis hasn’t really been a habit ofmine , and I see how much I’ve been missing out. I’ve really felt the spirit so much more in my life lately and as a result I feel so much more aware of my actions, words, and thoughts and the consequences of such. It is said that”[the Holy Ghost ] acts as a cleansing agent to purify a person and sanctify him from all sin.” (Bible Dictionary, Holy Ghost ) I feel like I am experiencing this purification process. As I ponder on my own I recognize ways that I have potentially hurt others or myself because of my actions. Maybe it was something as small as a word or a thought, but they still affected someone even if it was just me. To confess something really requires humility, but it feels so good knowing that it is a step of putting the past behind. Then, actually going and apologizing or seeking restitution brings healing in itself. To give forgiveness and to receive forgiveness is one of the most amazing things.
At the end of my day as I am praying I like to think about my day. So much to be grateful for. I usually have questions. I always need to ask for special blessings and help. But I can also look at myself. Where am I today and where do I want to be tomorrow?
Yesterday I sat in the sacrament meeting and I did my best to focus on the Savior and on His sacrifice. This can be such a special time if we choose for it to be. Dad, I remember sitting on your lap as a young child during the sacrament. It was the older Yale Ward chapel in Salt Lake City and we were lucky to have a beautiful stained glass window there. Before the sacrament was being blessed you and mom would quietly help us put away our books and coloring supplies…you taught us reverence. I remember you whispering in my ear about Jesus Christ and directing my attention to the image before us- the stained glass window picturing Christ outside of a door. He is knocking. Mom and dad, you have really taught us kids how special the sacrament is. Your testimonies have helped me as I have grown up- and now I have developed my own testimony. I don’t need a reminder to be quiet during this time because I want that on my own. I want and I love this time to pray, to think, to remember to repent. What does the sacrament mean to you? Is it just a piece of bread? A tiny cup of water? Or is it something more?
You know how much I love the chapters in third Nephi in the Book of Mormon. I love reading about Christ’s ministry among the people there. I love seeing His character. As Christ went to leave the people “the people were in tears, and did look steadfastly upon Him as if they would ask him to tarry a little longer with them.” ( 3 Nephi 17:5) Do you know what Christ’s response was then? He tarried a little while longer. He called for the lame, the blind, the halt, the maimed, the leprous, the withered and the deaf. He healed the people of their afflictions .( 7 )
And the people loved him “ and they did all, both they who had been healed and they who were whole, bow down at his feet, and did worship him; and as many as could come for the multitude did kiss his feet, in so much that they did bathe his feet with their tears.” ( 10 )
He blessed the little children. And Christ himself prayed unto His Father in prayer and he wept himself in behalf of the people.
The ministry of Jesus Christ is personal. He loves us. He is our advocate with the Father. Jesus instituted the sacrament among these Nephite people. How special was the sacrament to them? As they ate the bread and water in remembrance, what would they have thought and felt? Just because we didn’t have the same opportunity to see Christ and be in His presence in the same way doesn’t mean that the sacrament should mean something less for us.
So a few weeks ago we had a zone training meeting and I remember so clearly the spirit I had felt there. I felt so at peace. I had been praying so hard for J***, that he would receive the confirmation from the spirit that he needed. Pretty much right after we invited J*** to be baptized on March 15th he became fearful and very cautious when the word came up. We witnessed the growth of his faith so incredibly. We witnessed the formation of one of the sweetest testimonies. He told us every time that he would not be baptized at this time. Maybe in the future. Maybe if I lived in America. Maybe if I wasn’t Chinese. He had felt the spirit though. He had experienced the power of the Book of Mormon. I just knew that everything would be okay. Sister H and I came to the point last week where we didn’t know what more to do. She wanted to give it a break with J***, back off, and just give him time until he came around. That was hard for me because I just knew that he was so close and he needed us. We prayed for him and as I prayed I had tears running down my cheeks. You won’t understand the missionary – investigator relationship until you experience it yourself. That night was hard. Sister H and I seemed to be misunderstanding each other over everything and it was hard. We set up a lesson with J*** for the next morning. Before going to bed I said jokingly, and with a little lump in my throat, “Sister, what would you do if J*** told us tomorrow that he would be baptized?” There was a little chuckle with some obvious annoyance.
The next morning I was praying and I hear Sister H call out my name. J*** had texted us in the night and had told us that he would be baptized. He couldn’t wait to tell us. Oh my goodness. I thought I would cry right then. I was so happy. At our lesson he seemed nervous. He seemed to recognize how special baptism was- it would affect his whole life. What had brought about his change of heart? We went through the baptismal interview questions with him and read D&C 20: 31 and unfortunately he overwhelmed himself with all of the belief. We don’t have to be perfect to be baptized. We just have to have a desire. We have to be worthy. (Faith and repentance J) Hours later though, J*** told us that he didn’t feel like he would be ready. Perhaps we could just postpone the baptism?
I just don’t understand…. He lives the standards of the church, he’s keeping the commandments, he’s praying, studying the scriptures, coming to church..We won’t give up on him though. Today I was praying. What more can we do to help him? Just keep studying for him. Keep praying for him. That is what we will do. I do believe with my whole heart that God touches hearts and he answers the prayers of the faithful.
In the moment when we sat before J*** and he told us about his decision to be baptized I just couldn’t believe it. But oh wait! I had already known that. I had already received that confirmation from the spirit. Everybody has their own agency though. God is real and he loves us. He answers prayer, but we have to act on the answers we get. So that’s the story with J***
I felt so much joy hearing about his change of heart. He hasn’t been baptized yet, but I can understand and comprehend but a little bit more the joy it talks about in the scriptures- the joy you experience of bringing even one soul unto Christ.
We can’t really teach the D*** family from Serbia anymore because they might get sent back to their country on the 20th this month if they can’t renew their visa. It’s challenging because we can’t teach them on our own ( we need a translator) and because of their lifestyle and mentality they have a hard time keeping the commitments we give them. I guess it is just in the hands of the Lord. We will do what we must.
The work here has been really hard this week though. We have had some conflict in our companionship and I feel like we are suffering the consequences now. We can’t just have faith in miracles and expect them to come. We have to have faith in miracles and actually work on our own
Mom. I thank you again so much for sending me the talk on Becoming a Consecrated Missionary by Elder Tad Callister. Wow. His words had such a big impact on me. I really want to become a consecrated missionary myself. I don’t want to just be mediocre or good. I really want to do the BEST that I can do. So I have been pondering about sacrifice – how can I give more? It also goes along so much with repentance- making little changes and refinements. 1) Give up disobedience. 2) Leave your fears. 3) Don’t be distracted by romantic passions 4) Give up pride 5) Give up negativism and sarcasm and have instead optimism and be positive.
Some of my favorite quotes or ideas from this article:
Sometimes in life we just have to square our shoulders and do it.
Somewhere, sometime, somehow one must face the wall square up and climb it.
Choose between rationalization and repentance.
Don’t just change behavior, change nature.
Be obedient because you want to, not because you have to.
Whatever the excuse is, it must eventually be overcome.
”If ye believe all these things, see that ye do them” (Mos. 4:19)
Eventually we must do more than just tell the stories of the Book of Mormon; we must live them.
Rise above it.
Discipline your passions.
Hunger and thirst for instruction as to how you can be better.
Go the extra mile. Be an extra miler.
Be a winner and a finisher.
Consecrated missionaries (or people) never give up on the Lord’s work. When you are exhausted and feel like you have nothing left , rely on your faith.
If you expect to change the world, to change lives, to change yourself, it comes with a cost.
God will not let us be content with our weaknesses.
The Lord doesn’t expect immediate perfection from us, but he does expect immediate progress. With progress comes consecration.
I really do hope to become more on my mission and to accomplish great things. Did you realize that I hit my half way mark last week? Wow, the time has gone by. I’m not going to let myself become discouraged more though or disappointed because of the rate of the work here or the uniqueness of this mission. I feel like this has got to be one of the most difficult missions of the world. But I am strong and I can take it. Maybe I won’t see anybody baptized while I am here. Maybe I will. I can’t control the agency of others. I can open my mouth though and spread the restored gospel to many who have never before heard it. What a wonderful opportunity.
Today on the bus going to do emails a very friendly man began talking to us. He recognized us as missionaries and he himself was from Pennsylvania in the U.S. He said, “ I just love having you Mormons around in the neighborhood. You are so friendly and you just spread so much good.” It’s not very often we get such a compliment. It really mended many of the blows we’ve taken the past week. People really do notice us. People know who we are. And even if we feel like we really aren’t making a difference I know we are.
So, can I ask you to pray for some special things for me? Pray for me and my companion that we might have unity and understanding that we might have the spirit with us. Pray for us that we can help each other in obedience. Pray that we won’t fear the judgments of those we meet. That we won’t fear to open our mouths and speak. Pray that we might really recognize how precious our time is and that we can use our time carefully and not waste it. It can be so hard to be in a companionship sometimes. I am so scared of conflict and contention because it chases the spirit away. But at the same time, I have had a hard time addressing certain issues and concerns that I’ve had. I just really want to help my companion and I want her to help me so that we can both become something better- someone better.
I should be bringing this to a close. But I am so grateful that I could write to you all. I hope my words and experiences help you in some way. Remember I am here and want to hear about what’s going on in your lives. I have made a new commitment to myself to write letters home each week. (not just email ) If you write me, I promise I will respond. I would love to hear from you.
Stay strong, be safe, and have fun back home.
I’m praying for you all. Thank you as well for your prayers in my behalf.
I LOVE YOU!!
Love your daughter, sister, and friend,
Sister Heidi Elaine Shelley
Please, please forgive me for my neglect at regular letter writing. I’m repenting of it! :D