The Storms of Life

IMG_2431    The Mission. This is the best time of my life. I am at the best I have ever been. I absolutely love serving here in the Plainview Ward. I am so grateful for Elder Snell.

     I’ve been thinking a lot about storms recently. As I’ve studied the scriptures, heard stories from people we teach, and pondered over events from history, I’ve noticed that often times, we have little to no volition over the “storms of life”. However, there is a storm that I can have very real control over and it’s my personal climate. Pretty much 100% of the time, I have no understanding of the why’s [in the storms]. However, despite all circumstances, my personal storms can be calmed by the touch of the Master’s hand (see Mark 4:39).

     Using the experience of the apostles, I love what Christ teaches them in Mark 4:40. They had been at sea in the middle of a great tempest and they feared for their lives (which makes complete sense). They called on Christ, saying “Master, carest thou not that we perish?” They were scared for their lives.

     Christ, in response to their petition, “rebuked the wind, and said unto the sea, Peace, be still.” The storm calmed, the waves settled, and the wind stopped. It’s in verse 40 that he says, “Why are ye so fearful? How is it that ye have no faith?” The Savior most certainly has the power to calm all the storms in our lives. However, He often doesn’t because He says, “I will try the faith of my people” (3 Nephi 26:11).

     In the middle of a great big storm, Christ’s disciples were fearful, and understandably so. However, Christ taught that where there is fear, there is not faith. The opposite is just as true: where there is faith, there is hope. No matter what circumstance I find myself in, I take confidence in that fact that I know I can feel peace no matter what. Despite all the storms raging, I know that my internal storms can be calmed by the touch of his hand. If I find myself lacking, I remember the promise in Helaman 5:12 and I will do everything I can do walk closer with Christ. It always takes work, but after all, so does all that is worthwhile. 

     Elder McConkie was faithful through a difficult trial before his mission. I asked him, now that he is a little over a year out of it, how he has overcome the depression which weighs so heavily in hard trials. His insight is of great worth to any of us who struggle in burden caused depression. Here is what he shared in his letter to me:

     As far as the depression, it is totally gone. There isn’t an inkling left of it. Okay, I’m sure there are ink trails left from the whole experience, but I am who I am today because of what I’ve gone through. How did I get rid of it? Well, President Reynolds has played a substantial role. He has encouraged me from day one. I actually had my interview with him today and he said everything I needed to hear; I am so grateful for his inspired leadership. Him and his wife are a light to the mission. 🙂 That said, what has played the most substantial role has been a few things. I’ll list them off as I think of them (I’m sure there are so many things that went into it, so I’ll just try and name the main ones). 

  1. My increasingly personal relationship with Christ. Mom, I can hardly speak of Christ and think of his Atonement without becoming emotional. I absolutely mean it when I say Jesus Christ is my best friend. 🙂  
  2. Humility to say, “I’m wrong.” Also, when I’m right, having the humility to listen and still feel confident with my opinion.
  3. Standing up for myself. I don’t need to “Take the beating” or “take one for the team”. If anything, I’ve learned that respectful, open communication (where feelings are honestly expressed) leads towards the real solutions. What this usually looks like with my companions is I let them know there is something that is bugging me and I explain why it bugs me. I then encourage them to share their thoughts with me. And even before and after that, I will express–honestly–what they mean to me. Recently, it’s been by telling Elder Snell what I’ve learned from him and thanking him. Then I’ll say I do have something on my mind that I want to talk about. I guess long story short, it’s come down to “standing up inside” #ldsconf :). 
  4. Studying Christ and making his ministry personal. 
  5. No more poor me attitude. I had to recognize that the attitude that my mission was harder or that people just don’t understand or any of those other things that encouraged me to feel bad weren’t healthy. Nor were they usually true. Actually, thinking back, this was the first thing that had to go. It was probably the cherry on top of all my pride. 

Here is the rest of his group letter:

Brother *Oyster Bay
     Brother Oyster Bay is a man we have recently been working with. We first heard about him when we were at the Mansuettos. They told us that there was this member that lived over in Oyster Bay. He sounded like a pretty awesome man, but we totally forgot his name a couple days later and we couldn’t remember where he lived. The Mansuettos also couldn’t remember whom they had told us about. So we just kinda let it settle.

     About 3 weeks later, Brother Zac Villaran called us up and said that he had called a member named Joe Oyster Bay. He asked us to come with him in a couple days. We did and it was a super pleasant visit.

     Brother Oyster Bay is one of the most pleasant people ever. He exudes kindness. There was not one bit of guile from him as we got to know him. Of course, he had his complaints about life, but that was it. We learned that he had been baptized 20 years before and he was still in contact with that missionary. Over the next couple weeks, we came back, though without Brother Villaran (he didn’t have a lot of time). Each time we came, Brother Oyster Bay would take us out to a local diner and treat us to lunch. –And WOW. The burgers at the diner are INCREDIBLE– We answer his questions and help him address his concerns after or before. Most recently, we arranged a lunch at the Mansuettos. That was this last Saturday and it was so much fun! We all got to know each other better and we felt the Spirit as we watched the Easter Initiative for this year.

     He hasn’t come back to church yet. However, as we keep going over, there are small changes taking place. I attribute any progress to the fact that he is feeling the Spirit in answers he receives to his questions. He professes to have no faith and to have only doubts, however that is not the impression I get. I really do hope and pray he will come back to church soon.

     Also, during one of our visits, his atheist friend walks in. After hemming and hawing about religion and God and about how his soul is “un-savable,” we asked him to sit down. We listened to him complain for a bit more and started to teach about the nature of God. We would share our thoughts and feelings, bearing testimony. We opened the Book of Mormon a few times. And wouldn’t you believe it, but by the end of the visit we had a return appointment. Since then, he canceled on us, however because of the impressions we received, we know he felt the Spirit and he is more interested than he is willing to let on. We’ll be dropping by his place this week. 

Missionary Fireside

     Last night, there was a fireside that was put together to exhibit missionaries’ musical talents and inspire with brief speakers and videos from the church. It was a good time. Some parts of the fireside dragged on just a bit, however, it was a special experience.

     On my end, I was playing the piano for 2 of the musical numbers: 1 for our zone and 1 for Elder Snell, Sister Staker, and Sister Gourley. I was really nervous before hand, so I said a few prayers that I would play the pieces well enough that it would bring the Spirit. I felt my nervousness melt away over the next few minutes. When it was time for the first musical number, I got a bit nervous again. Then, I sat at the piano and started playing, the nervousness dissipated as I felt the overwhelming feeling that I was playing solely to praise God.

     Was the piece perfect? By all means, no it wasn’t. In fact, there were a few parts where I had to make up the piano part because I lost my place in the music. However, I felt the Spirit testify to me that I was singing, or rather playing, praises to God. It was quite a special experience which carried through the second musical number.

     During the fireside, recent converts bore their testimonies and told a bit about their conversion story. Each testified to the power of the Book of Mormon in their conversion. I was touched by their testimonies and I realized that people like them really are out here in New York–they are possible to find. I felt a renewed desire to find.

New Investigators
     Elder Snell and I have been slightly discouraged because we’ve had a hard time finding new investigators. We attributed it partially to just getting out to work. We aren’t lazy by any means, in fact we work pretty hard. It just came down to working a bit harder and a bit smarter. We fasted to find some new investigators.

     The first one we found was while we were knocking. We shared the Easter Initiative with her and she starts ranting about how evil [another certain religion] is and some crazy conspiracy about New York being bombed. We listened and asked questions and were able to step inside for a few minutes. We talked about [her religion] and Mormonism. We introduced the Book of Mormon and she was quite interested. The only problem is her native language is Turkish. And the Book of Mormon in Turkish on the Gospel Library wasn’t working. We said we would get her a print copy and said we would come back in two days.

     We called the mission office as soon as we left, not certain if they even had a copy of the Book of Mormon in Turkish. Sister Shapiro (Senior couple sister in the office) answered our phone call and said we just so happened to have some. We were able to pick it up and drop it off two days later. She was on the phone when we dropped it off, so she told us to call her to find another time to drop by.

     Irma Rochford is an older widow in our ward whom we eat dinner with every Friday. A couple weeks ago, we asked her to share her Book of Mormon with a friend and since then, her friend has apparently been reading. We saw her today and she brought us her copy of the Book of Mormon to sign. When she opened up to where she was reading, she was already in 3 Nephi 16 and loving it! She told us that with her age came the problem with memory, so she wanted to read it again. Wow! Irma is absolutely ecstatic.

Mr. *No Last Name

     Well, it wouldn’t be missionary work if we didn’t run into a crazy situation every once in a while. We found this man this last week who wouldn’t give us his first name. Only his last name. Also, he is super atheist. Also, he tried to convert us. Really, it would be impossible to describe just how bizarre the visit was.

     Some of the highlights were when he was going on and on about the antiquity of religion. He turns to me and says, “Religion is outdated. You’re coming at me from the Medieval Ages.” I just smiled and said, “Actually, we’d say we’re coming at you from much earlier than that–we’re coming at you from the very beginning.”

     He just sort of let his mouth hang open. Anyways, the 15 minute visit was full of all kinds of that. We testified a few times, shared some scriptural thoughts, and left.

     The most interesting part? We’re pretty sure this devout atheist felt the Spirit. Hopefully he’ll find the Book of Mormon and Restoration pamphlet we left on his shelf….

Love you all! Have a great week!

Elder McConkie

 

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Elder Snell, Brother Miglino and me.

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This gravestone is in a graveyard in one of the member’s back yard.

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Elder Weisler and me for our day at the temple.

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An impressive piece of artwork. Also, some cheetahs in the background. 🙂

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The mission cars. The two gray ones in the middle usually block us in (the Spanish missionaries). So this time we blocked them in. We win.

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Elder Snell, Elder Corbett, Elder Weisler and me (Zone Leader exchanges)

 

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