This has been a very interesting week. It has been full of some very good experiences and some not so good. If I learned anything this week, it's that a mission isn't split into good and bad experiences, but rather it is spiritual and learning experiences. It's been a struggle this week partially with missing home and with cultural differences in the apartment. One of the things about the mission is that we have very specific rules set in place both to keep us safe and to help us be in touch with the Spirit of the Lord and of the work we are doing. The Africans have a very different interpretation of a lot of these rules, which at times this past week has led to some times of tension in our apartment. To sum up my week, I shall paraphrase a bit from Thursday in my journal this week:
Yesterday was a very interesting day. I was still in quite a bit of a down mood from the day before. When we got back to the apartment for lunch, I decided to take some time for myself after lunch to listen to soothing music (Paul Cardall) and read the latest Conference issue of the Ensign. (For those of you who don't know, every six months our church has a church wide conference that is based in Salt Lake but is broadcast all over the world. In this Conference, all of the leaders of our church, men who are called of God, share a spiritually uplifting message. This is then transcribed into our church magazine (The Ensign) so that we can go back later and study those inspired words.) I had been praying to our Heavenly Father for guidance and comfort during these trying times. I put myself in the Lord's hands and said whichever talk I randomly opened up to, I would read all the way through and try to find the message. I soon learned that it wasn't random at all in the Lord's eyes. The first message that I opened up to was by Elder Bruce R. Porter of the Seventy, entitled "Beautiful Mornings." Immediately I felt such a Spirit of peace and comfort, even to the point of almost weeping. This provided such a simple, but powerful message of light in a time which was, at the time, seeming so dark. This gave me such a message of hope that I knew that it had to be the words of God, merely spoken by the words of one of his servants. When I finished reading this talk, I wondered how a man that I have never heard of before could bring such a change in my life during a time of need. I now realize that this is exactly what I am doing as a missionary, which brings me even more comfort, to know that it can be done. The phrase that affected me the most was when he stated, when speaking of missionary work in our church, "no man can stay its course, for God is the author of this work and Jesus Christ is the chief cornerstone." I know, without a doubt, at this moment, that I have been called of God to perform this work.
I then looked back to see which session of the conference this was given (Sunday Afternoon, April 2013), and I saw the first message of this session was given by Elder Jeffery R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, entitled "Lord, I Believe." Again, I felt this same feeling of peace and comfort come over me as I remembered being in the building and feeling the Spirit of this message. Elder Holland started by recounting the New Testament story of a father and his sick son. When the father finally meets the Savior, he pleads for help, or in the least, compassion. Christ then replies in asking if he has faith, for "all things are possible to him that believeth." The story then continues, "And straightway the father of the child cried out, and said with tears, Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief." (See Mark 9:22-24) I thought of how this situation could apply to me, and I immediately opened my heart to the Lord and tried my hardest to turn myself to Him. Something about the mission is that you cannot just call home to Mom when you're struggling; I can only email home one day a week. In this instance, I think I really learned for the first time how to lean upon the Lord for help through prayer. For the first time in my life, I felt truly converted unto the Lord, even amongst all the noise and turmoil in the world around me. What a marvelous feeling this was, and I intend to carry it with me for the rest of my mission and the rest of my life.
This was indeed a very special experience for me. I believe it has changed me and with that I can continue forward in this marvelous work. I have shared this with all of you to bear testimony and witness that we all have a Heavenly Father who loves us all so very much. I share this to bear witness that Jesus Christ really suffered and died for all of our pains, sicknesses, and afflictions so that we can lean on Him in times of need. Whatever you are going through, He has felt the same way you have and worse, and He was able to make it through in order to help us, merely out of love and obedience. For that I am eternally grateful and I love Him so much. Finally, I share this to bear witness that I have been called of God to share His holy message of His restored gospel in Togo and Benin. I love you all, and I thank you for all of you support.
Je vous aime tous!
P.S. I think I found the next Ziggy Ansah this morning. His name is Ambroise and he's on the Togo national basketball team. He doesn't have the means to contact or get to BYU, so I said I can use my sources to get him recruited. He's a member and I met him this morning while playing basketball. He's pretty dang good.