The Refiner’s Fire

Sounds like it has been a week with many challenges put one on top of the other. Elder McConkie has felt the weight which can cause weariness or discouragement. You can hear it in his words. In his personal note, he asked us to write some of our favorite memories with him for a pick me up. Nevertheless, I am strengthened again as he asked the Lord what lesson he has to learn in these experiences. πŸ™‚ We feel God’s tender touch and enduring grace when to choose to believe…

     This week started off as a metaphorical calm summer breeze on a metaphorical beautiful sunny day. The metaphorical fluffy, white clouds gently blew across the metaphorical blue sky, metaphorically. And then THUNDER STRUCK and a fire burned the hillside, the smoke filling the sky with pollutants, thus accelerating the pace of global warming. Mosiah 12:6 says it perfectly: “They shall also be smitten with the east wind; and insects shall pester their [apartment] also, and devour their [sanity].” So yep. We’ll just start off with that.

     This last week has been one of the toughest weeks yet. Numbers wise, we went from 7 baptismal dates to 0, 4 progressing investigators to 1, and came 10 short of telling 105 people about the church (our mission goal).

     Some may ask why. pauses to allow them to ask why Well, let me tell you. πŸ™‚

     Alrighty, back to a note of seriousness. πŸ™‚ In 2 Nephi 2:2, Lehi is giving some final counsel to his son, Jacob. He tells him that because he knows the greatness of God – which I assume means that Jacob studies the scriptures, prays sincerely, and keeps the commandments diligently – that God “shall consecrate [his] afflictions for [his] gain.”

     Because of the nature of missionary work, we get to see the afflictions of many. I’ve watched as addictions have torn down families, as financial struggles place people on the streets, as abuse destroys all hope and trust, and as the regular struggles of life wear and tear. In all reality, this life is too hard. There are very few – if any – that can make it through on their own. And that is why we need a Savior.

     With a Savior, Lehi’s promise holds true – our afflictions will be for our gain. And how? Through an “atonement for [our souls]” (Leviticus 17:11). Matthew quotes Esaias the prophet when he says “Himself took our infirmities, and bare our sicknesses” (Matthew 8:17). What does this mean for us? It means that he suffered every pain, every affliction, and every temptation. Why is our relationship with Christ so essential? Because when we are torn down, he knows what we need to hear. He knows what will strengthen us, he knows what will turn our despair into hope.

     One of his titles is the Physician. When we are afflicted with a fatal disease, a doctor that listens, understands, and prescribes proper treatment is often the difference between life and death. Christ himself is such a doctor for our souls. As helpful as advice from others may be, as warm as the love from dear ones may make us feel, if we do not seek treatment from Christ, such aids may not be enough, and as a missionary I have seen them prove to fall short in almost every case when not coupled with the redeeming power of Christ and his healing touch.

     That said, this past week has not been a matter of life or death, it has not been full of life shattering experiences, but rather it has been a week of the refiner’s fire. Since mid last week, we have dealt with bed bugs. I had bites that covered my arms, legs, and even some on my chest and stomach. When they began keeping me up at night, I began using hydro-cortisone cream, which provided a brief respite.

     Early on, I woke up one morning with a rash all over my torso and face. My lips were raw and everywhere itched. Gratefully, the rash is hardly noticeable to the eye. Just a couple nights ago, I woke up at 12:30 or 1:30, unable to sleep. I roamed the apartment, sat on the couch, and struggled to fall asleep again. Finally – at 4:00 – I knelt down in prayer and told Heavenly Father of the situation. I told Him of the unwelcome pests, about the rash, about my lips being raw and hurting, about my struggles, I even told him of the day-long deep clean we had done of the apartment the day before. I told Him that I now realized that there was no way I could do it, or anything, without Him and that I needed His help.

     There was no miraculous change, there was no bright light, but I did hear a voice. I heard “My son, I have a work for you, so I am shaping you into who I need you to be.” I took comfort in that and finally fell asleep half an hour later.

     The reason why I share this is not to solicit pity or toot my horn. In fact, it is the very opposite. I share this to testify that Christ is the way. Our Father in Heaven has a plan for us, He has a divine purpose in every trial and success, every affliction and triumph, every sickness and time of peace. Our Eldest Brother has promised to walk with us, towards the outstretched arms of our Father in Heaven as long as we follow Him.

     In Whitney L. Claytons talk “Choose to Believe“, he shared a story of a 7 year-old girl, who was the lone survivor in a plane crash. It was a Kentucky winter, she had only a t-shirt, shorts, and a sock, and her wrist was broken, as well she had other cuts and scrapes from the crash. This little girl – after crying for her parents and hearing no reply – set off in search of help. She braved creeks and blackberry briars until from the top of a hill, she saw a light off in the distance.

     I am sure that Christ walked with her as she made her way. I am sure that when she dipped below the horizon and could no longer see the light, that Christ gave her the hope she needed to press onward. I am sure there were times when the girl thought of how easy it would be to lay down and give up or even return to the site of the crash. However, she maintained hope and courage and press onward, eventually reaching the light, finding safety and help.

     Often times we are like this little girl: hurt, lost, broken. We can take courage from her example that while in the midst of our refiner’s fire, there is hope. I am sure she offered wordless prayers, prayers which our Father in Heaven heard. If we but do the same, “[our] afflictions will be for [our] gain”. I am developing a testimony in this even as I see his hand in my life, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

     This last week we had mega-zone conference with Zone 8 and Zone 9. President and the Assistants taught one portion, one of the Patriarchs in the area taught another, and Sister Reynolds taught the third.

     Yesterday, we helped out with our Primary activity. Our primary president, Sister Asta, is very missionary minded and organized a primary activity for non-member kids to attend. She made tons of invitations and gave them to the missionaries to hand out. We had around 44 people there, including parents. I do know that a few of the parents that attended are now a little more interested in our church and are going to let the missionaries come over.

     Last night we had a dinner with an older couple that claims Catholicism but are actually LDS [at heart]. What I mean by that is they know nothing about the Catholic faith and their actual beliefs are similar, if not exactly what we teach. They are SO AWESOME! She reminds me of a Dr. Seuss character and he is an incredible example of patience and care.

     Our most powerful lesson this week was Saturday night. We taught a man named Omar. He’s from Jamaica. Yep, he has the accent, the culture, and even the laugh. I love it! He is so close to God and we love teaching him. πŸ™‚ In all reality, that lesson was perhaps the most powerful lesson I’ve ever had on my mission. We taught, listened, sang, and prayed. After our closing prayer, we sat and pondered for a few minutes before we left. We have high hopes for him and really hope he will be baptized.

     I love you all! I hope my letters make sense – I should probably proof read them, buuuut I hardly have the time. πŸ™‚ I love hearing from you all! You are all in my prayers. πŸ™‚ Love ya!



Elder McConkie

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