Thursday, July 21, 2016

July 17, 2016 Farewell Talk

Good morning brothers and sisters.  I would like to thank everyone who came to see and support me today. I am so very grateful to have you all in my life.  As most of you know this is my last Sunday here, until I leave for the MTC.  After that I will be in the California, Acadia mission speaking English. I am excited for what the next two years has to bring. I would like to say I feel so blessed to be a part of this ward. Thank you very much.

Many of you may wonder if I am prepared  or even what I have done to prepare to go on my mission.  I know my mother has lost sleep over it.  I believe the foundation of my preparation has been my opportunity to have grown up in this ward with great leaders and teachers that have taught me the gospel, shared their lives and been great examples to me.  I know that these experiences,  I will be better prepared to serve as a full time missionary as well as a missionary for life.  After all, isn’t that the goal.

I want to start this talk out by speaking about everything I’ve been doing in preparation for my mission. The first thing I want to share is that I have been reading an insane amount.  I'm reading more than when I was in High school. I'm reading all the time. I read preach my gospel, I read talks on missionaries, and read my scriptures. I’ve read my scriptures before, but nothing on this level. I'm reading multiple times during the day.  I’ve even caught myself reading the scriptures on my phone while I was waiting on something instead of playing games or wasting my time on Instagram.  Now everything I read, I read with real intent and real desire in my heart to hear the words of the Lord and his prophets.  (its never to late) 
The next thing I want talk about is prayer.   The story about when Nephi was commanded to build a ship to carry his people across the waters hits home with me. Nephi did not ask for a ship or even for tools to build this ship.  He humble asked where he could go to find the materials to build the tools to construct the ship. I’ve noticed that I have become more mature with my prayers and what I am asking for.  I still have the occasional I want this or I want that.  But now I know that I have to put forth the effort and seek the lords help and guidance.
When I do these things, I feel a peace come over me, and I feel myself becoming closer with the Lord. I feel the spirit more. I can recognize it more. Everything is more peaceful when the spirit is around.  I am very grateful that I am able to recognize those feelings for what they are.  It is a true blessing.

What I'm trying to say is, it took me filling out my papers and preparing to go on a mission to more fully understand this principle.  I could have done this all along.  I definitely regret it and I wish I could have taken charge sooner.

Regarding all future missionaries, L. Tom Perry had a lot to share about this topic in his “Raising the Bar” talk.

In his talk he reflects back about his son Lee who at the time was serving as a mission president.  Elder Perry explained that his son was on a high school track team.  He both sprinted and did the high jump.  His son practiced and practiced the high jump all summer long. One summer afternoon when Elder Perry came home from work, he asked his son “How high is the bar?” his son replied. “5 feet 8 inches.” Elder Perry inquired. “Why?” His son answered him back saying that it was the minimum height required to qualify for the state track meet. Upon further discussion his son Lee exclaimed that he could clear it every time and he hadn’t missed. 

Elder Perry pushed his son to RAISE THE BAR. His son feared that by raising the bar he might fail and not meet the expectations and was hesitant to do s. His father encouraged him again saying if you do not raise the bar, how will you know you’re full potential?

So they moved  the bar up to five feet, ten inches; then to six feet; and so on, as he sought to improve. Lee became a better high jumper because he was not content with just clearing the minimum standard. He learned that even if it meant missing, he wanted to keep raising the bar to become the best high jumper he was capable of becoming.

He said: “Be certain that you can easily clear the minimum standards for service as a missionary, however, you should be trying to continually raise the bar to prepare yourself to be more effective in this great calling.
We have been asked in this day and age to push ourselves, to do more than the bare minimum, to gain spiritual, emotional, and physical strength. All are needed as a missionary.

Elder Perry stated that missionary service is hard.  And that we must be physically be prepared to work 12 to 15 hours per day, walk 6 to 8 miles per day, ride a bicycle 10 to 15 miles per day and after that we must be emotionally ready to have no success that day, but to get back up the next morning and try our hardest like the day before.

So what I have learned and prepared for is to be physically able and willing to share the gospel.  Concerning sharing the gospel, I have learned that in D&C 11:21, the Lord tells us, “Seek not to declare my word, but first seek to obtain my word, and then shall your tongue be loosed; then, if you desire, you shall have my Spirit and my word, yea, the power of God unto the convincing of men.”
I know that being called and set apart as a missionary, I have all rights and privileges to obtain his word.  It is up to me to study, pray and seek understanding so that I may effectively share the gospel.
In D&C section 88 that speaks on the importance of sharing the gospel.  It states  Behold, I sent you out to testify and warn the people, and it becometh every man who hath been warned to warn his neighbor.

This is Elder Ballards comment on section 88.

Let’s think about that, every man that has been warned, needs to warn his neighbor. Because we have been blessed with knowledge of the gospel, whether we have always been a member, or if we have joined the Church later in our life, it is our responsibility to share the gospel to others. For young people, the best way is to serve a mission.

However Elder M. Russell Ballard said: If certain circumstances prevent you from serving a full time mission, do everything in you power to help the missionaries. Give them referrals; go with them when they teach lessons. Have them over for dinner, because if you do, the Lord will bless you. You feed them physically, and they will feed you spiritually. They need your support. 

Elder Perry further stated the need for improved support and performance of all the members of the Church in fulfilling our missionary duties.

He said, we need your help, brothers and sisters, to support and assist our missionaries in finding and baptizing many more of our Heavenly Father’s children. We need you to watch over, protect, and inspire the missionaries, who are servants of the Lord. If the bar is to be raised, it is raised for all of us. We must be more faithful. We must be more spiritually in tune. We must prepare ourselves to assist the missionaries in finding those of our Heavenly Father’s children who will embrace the message of the Restoration.

Something that has really strengthened my testimony has been the opportunity to email my sister Hannah while she has been serving her mission. She’s in the Chicago west mission and she left back in February. I can see the difference in the way she writes her emails from when she first left til now.  She’s really gotten lost in her work and loves what she does and the choice she has made to go on a mission, and I am very proud of her and what she has accomplished. She wrote something really cool in one of her emails that I would like to share with you.

This is what my sister had to say: There are two lessons that I am continually relearning on my mission. 

#1 missionary work is not as hard or as complicated as it seems. It can be as simple as telling someone what you did at church that week. The only recognizable thing that separates me as a missionary is my name tag. And honestly all my name tag is is a visual excuse for me to be able to talk to strangers about the gospel. Putting a picture of the temple as your phone screensaver or wearing one of those ctr rings can be your "name tag" and can help you have more opportunities to share the gospel. Tell people what you know when they ask, and then hand them over to the missionaries. Heavenly Father doesn't expect us all to go and serve full time missions. But he does expect us to stand as witnesses of Jesus Christ. So when opportunities for missionary work come, don't worry! be proud of your faith and don't hide it.

#2  The simple things are important.  All it takes is a prayer to talk with your heavenly father.   All it takes is a simple wave of the hand to teach someone about Jesus Christ.  All it takes is one persons testimony.

When I asked my Dad about how he is a missionary day to day.  He related to following advice that kind of mirrors Hannah’s.  He explained that he tries to be a missionary or witness of Christ by the way he treats people and by example.  He also said he shares stories about what he does on Sunday or Tuesday nights with his assistants or those around him.  He said you’d be surprised at how effective this may be.  He related how he was talking to his assistant about a recently returned missionary from the Marshall islands (the Schaaps and Wihongis nephew) and the stories of the hardship and faith that were experienced.  He has said that this has sparked a continued dialogue about missionary work among his staff.  My dad was also quick to explain that a lot of  time when you think of missionary work you think of nonmebers.  But he cautioned to never forget the the members.  We all need missionary work.  Weather that be for continued testimony or maybe just a positive or upbeat feeling in life.

Last Sunday the most sacred spiritual experience happened to me. I was able to attend Brother Walker being ordained to the office of and Elder in the Melchezidek Priesthood.  Brother White asked everyone who had been invited to stand in the circle to please come forward, While brother walker’s family and my dad along with brother Schaap all stood up, Brother Walker stopped everyone and asked if I could and would join the circle. Standing in that circle I don’t know if I could have felt the spirit anymore than I did.  It was so strong.  I was very honored that he asked me.

Sometimes I feel like I can’t live up to the missionary title or be a good missionary and by that I’ll be failing heavenly father and Jesus Christ directly.  As if they’ve asked me to do something simple and I will mess it up. But every time I come to church or I feel the spirit all those thoughts of me not living up to expectations and pressure are gone.

At the beginning of this month I was fortunate enough to go on a trip with my family down to Mexico.  We happened to be staying over a Sunday so we all decided that it would be a cool idea to go to church.  On a Wednesday my dad and I went to go find the church so we could know where to go on Sunday.  As we walked through the streets we passed houses upon house with barred windows, barred doors, six foot high fences and some of the scariest pitbulls I have seen.  When we got to the church it looked so beautiful it stood out.  The doors were open so we walked into this church building and met a man in a suit pants and a t-shirt.  He asked me if I knew any Spanish and I replied no that I didn’t.  I then asked him if he knew any English and he pinched his fingers and said small.  On the few words we both understood I understood that he was the bishop and that he had invited me to go to church on Sunday.  My dad and I were more than happy to tell him we were planning on coming to church. 
When Sunday morning came and my family walked into that sacrament room everyone that saw us and came a shook our hands.  After we sat down and new people came they would see us and come and say hello.  We think we were invited over for dinner but we don’t know for sure.  We sang the hymns in Spanish. Even though we didn’t speak the language the spirit was there. It was cool.  It was even cooler to see two missionaries walk in and sit down.  I came on a really good day and saw them confirm the Holy Ghost to a new covert, Give a baby a blessing, and pass the sacrament.  Those two missionaries do so much for that little growing ward.  I don’t know how big the wards will be where I go but I will serve them just the same. 

I hope and pray I can use what I’ve learned to be the best missionary I can be.
I just want to close with my testimony:

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