Sunday, August 18, 2013

The true test of our faith: Abundance

 Aug 18, 2013
The work here in International is so different. As Zone Leader, I'm still connected with several companionships accountable for Chinese work and will occasionally go on exchanges with them to help with any challenges and to lift, encourage, inspire and bless. However, I still feel like I stepped into a completely different world.
The Filipena sisters are seriously the best people I've ever associated with. They are so humble, so friendly, so teachable, so willing and eager to learn, so patient with affliction, and so willing to be unified and to help one another. Sure there's a personality here and there who will keep you on your feet, and sometimes the sisters who aren't members will say things to the Elders that are uncomfortably friendly, but as a whole, these people are incredible. I'm afraid when I go home I'm going to feel really stupid, because I feel like it isn't difficult at all to amuse people here and the caliber of my humor will be so downsized to ridiculousness that I'm going to get a lot of blank stares and awkward snorts. Oh well.
Tagalog is like dominoes. You say a verb, and depending on how you conjugate it and add aspect markers, the rest of the sentence just kind of falls into place. It's got a lot of spanish roots as well, so all the Nacho Libre accents of old should come in handy.
We've got several baptismal dates out for next month, which I foresee being pretty solid. Teaching in English is really nice, honestly. I love Chinese, but speaking straight from your heart is a lot easier with your mother tongue no matter who you are. I feel like I can more quickly incorporate the doctrines, analogies, and teaching skills I've learned in a lesson setting. People who serve stateside should be wary of what a blessing it can be to preach the gospel in their native tongue.
It's only been a week and a half, but I feel like I've been here forever. I've fallen in love with these people almost immediately, and have been blown away by their faith in Christ. And I feel like I've learned something very profound already as I've paid close attention to the differences between Chinese and International work. As is evident, my mood is excellent, and the same has been for so many others who have been privileged to serve here. But I've already noticed how easy it can be to feel complacent when everything is going so well. I didn't realize how principles of exact obedience and exercising faith are actually easier when conditions are more difficult. In Chinese work, I daily felt inadequate and felt like I was pushing so hard to get something going from either nothing to something or something to a little bit better. When suddenly being placed from that condition into International, everything suddenly feels easier. These sisters have the principles of "the Work of Salvation" down. Every lesson is a member present lesson. Members are always attentive, always let the missionaries teach, and always bear powerful testimony that touches the investigator. Members call and follow up with us about investigator friends they met at church. Members go finding with us and talk to people they've never met before on their own initiative and invite them to hear the gospel. Members always invite friends to come to church with them. It's seriously the epitome of IDEAL. If every member of the church was a filipena or idonesian domestic worker, God would need to send another flood to accomodate all the people lined up for baptism.
But that leads me to my point: It's a whole different level of exercising faith in International because even a little bit of input gets a lot of output, so the trend here has been complacency. The scriptures often speak of the rise and fall of nations in direct correlation with level of abundance and pride. The struggle with International work when a missionary's backdrop is high rejection, little numerical satisfaction, and comparatively little Ward support is ultimately to find the willpower to make what is already good even better. It's almost like running into a wall of "it doesn't get any better than this" and facing the temptation to agree instead of pulling out the sledgehammer of "yes it does" and pounding it down with power and authority. Sometimes, I think, those are the most difficult walls to break.
But I know the other side is worth it. When we start to see things in the perspective of eternity, we realize that we should never be satisfied with fine, good, no problem. If we are not doing our best, then we are not doing enough. That is what we learn when we understand the grace of Jesus Christ, that the results of his Atonement do not become sufficient for us unless we use it by our continuous efforts to keep the commandments of God and be anxiously engaged in a good cause at all times, in all things, and in all places. It is my prayer that we International missionaries maintain the fortitude of mind necessary to break down the walls of complacency that come because of abundance, and allow God to work even more miracles here. The true test of our faith is if we'll continue to be exactly obedient even when we are not faced with the heat of affliction.
I love God's work. Let it hasten.
Elder Hazen

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