Wow. Time Flies. Ain't no doubt about it. This week has flown by. But thankfully, in the whirlwind of time that was this week, I learned and saw in practice a very important principle.
My thoughts this week have turned towards Elder Bednar's April 2014 General Conference talk entitled "Bear Up Their Burdens With Ease." I didn't have a chance to really study the talk until this morning, but I have listened to it a couple times this week and have tried to live the principles that are taught by Elder Bednar. I will relate two experiences that I have had this week that have illustrated this in three different ways.
First, on Thursday, we had to go to the farthest neighborhood of our area. It generally takes us over an hour of straight walking to get there. The sun decided to really come out that day, too, so I was slightly dreading having to go out. Thinking of the talk I had just listened to, I prayed that our burden would be made light. Stepping out under the sun in faith and equiped with my new hat, we made our way to Akogbato. We picked a member up at the branch as we had to visit a few single sisters and needed an adult male with us. "[African missionaries] sang as they walked and walked and walked and walked and walked..." Then, "We're already here?!" We looked at our watches, and it had only taken 40 minutes!! Almost stupefied we went about our visits.
On the way back, I was again slightly dreading the walk back, but with a renewed faith in the principle of lightened burdens, we again set out in faith. The difference this time was that my legs were already exhausted. After about 10 minutes of walking, the first counselor of our branch, who speaks English and very limited French, pulled up and said, "Hey! I had just come to visit Bona [one of our investigators], but he said he's at the Church building. Hop on in I'll take you guys back!!!" I got in the car with a heart full of gratitude.
Second, on Saturday we were working with Frère Kazotti, the former Branch President. We finished a couple of lessons and then had one of our appointments canceled last minute. We called all of our back-ups, but no one was there. We finally decided to just go to the Branch building and see, but there was no one there again. We spent a few minutes there just wondering what to do. Frère Kazotti shared something that had touched him from his personal study a few days before. Just sitting there, I was starting to get a bit stressed because I don't like just sitting somewhere doing nothing as a missionary. So I suggested that we go inside and offer up a quick prayer for direction. As Frère Kazotti offered the prayer, the thought that came to my mind was just to go to the street corner and await further direction. So we did.
As we were standing on the corner, Elder Nkanza and Frère Kazotti were bouncing off ideas, but I just didn't feel right about any of them. We called a couple more people, but there was still nothing. I still had the same feeling to just wait. Finally, after about 2 or 3 minutes, a taxi-moto pulled up with a guy. The guy on the back hopped off and exclaimed, in English, "OH MY GOSH! I've been looking for you guys!! Where is the church in this area?"
We asked which church, and he said, "The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints!"
"Are you a member?"
"Yeah! I was baptized about a year ago in Nigeria!"
"Okay, well, the church building is just right here. Would you like to check it out real quick?"
So yeah. I was slightly shocked but more relieved. After we showed him the building a bit, he promised that he would be there Sunday, and sure enough, he was there even before us Sunday Morning! His name is Victor.
In studying "Bear Up Their Burdens With Ease," I was specifically marked by Elder Bednar's allusion to covenants. Sacred covenants kept and made with the Lord truly are essential to the Plan of Happiness. The word for covenant in French is "alliance." The base of this word is "lier" the verb which means bind or tie. With this background, I thought of covenants as cords that actually bind us to the Savior which allows Him to pull us through situations when we ourselves don't have the strength to do it, as long as we are faithful and true to these covenants. The more covenants we make with the Lord, the stronger this bind becomes and the more we feel His presence and His yoke.
The first principle that I felt is well described by Elder Bednar with the story of the people of Alma in the Book of Mormon. This people had several burdens literally placed upon their backs and were forbidden to pray aloud. They continued to pray in their hearts, and the Lord heard them. He promised that He would make their burdens light. What happened next was not that the burden was taken away, but the scriptures tell us that "the Lord did strengthen them." (see Mosiah 24:13-16) I felt this principle as we made our way to Akogbato. The distance didn't change nor did the sun go away (there were a few small, but friendly clouds on the way), but the Lord gave us the strength to persevere, and we felt that our burden was made light.
The second principle is the principle of tender mercies, which I have not ceased to feel during my 17 months on my mission. The Lord knew that the task ahead was extremely difficult, so He sent someone our way to help us carry our burden.
The third principle was the Lord giving us patience and direction. The time that we had to wait with nothing to do was a trial for me. I don't like not having anything to do. But He first gave me direction as to what we should do and then the patience to accept His timing. What I felt as a result of this was joy. The sweet joy that comes through the Spirit testifying of God, the Father, and of His Son, Jesus Christ, and of Their eternal and infinite love for us.
I testify of the Lord Jesus Christ's atoning sacrifice. I have felt but a mere particle of its power. I have felt my burdens made light through my faith in Him and my covenants that bind me to Him. I know that He loves each of us individually and perfectly. I invite all of us to seek to feel His love more in our daily lives.
Again, if you have not had the opportunity to contract a sacred covenant with the Lord through his prescribed ordinances--the first of which being baptism by one holding the proper Priesthood authority--I invite you to do so. I promise you that you will feel His strengthening power as you traverse the various trials of your life. You will feel those covenants pull you through the toughest times of you life. You will feel them pull you towards, and eventually to, Eternal Life.
If you have had the opportunity to contract certain sacred covenants, I invite you to stay true to these covenants. If you have strayed, the way back lies, as always, upon the principles of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and repentance. It may be hard, but I promise you that it will be so much more worth it. We cannot imagine the joy that we will feel at the last day if we contract and remain faithful to these covenants with our Lord and Savior.
I love you all so much. Have a great week!!!