Tuesday, May 23, 2017

November 6, 2016: Missions are Hard, Missions are Beautiful

Thanks so much for the email, Mom! I really love your uplifting emails and encouragement. I really like your advice on "Our thoughts create our feelings, our feelings impact our actions, and our actions create our circumstances or results."
Here in Australia it can get difficult to maintain a positive attitude: We always experience these amazing miracles (such as finding incredibly solid new investigators, having strong spiritual experiences with them, etc.) and then they always crash and burn (solid investigators stop coming to church, our most keen investigators don't push through to baptism, etc.). I'm not sure if it's a lack of faith on my part that's causing these things to happen, or if it's more to do with things outside my control. My biggest frustration is seeing the positive build-up at the beginning followed by the consistent likelihood of people winding down to level zero again. If you have any advice on how to change that, whether it be from your own experience or from a talk, I would really appreciate it. :) It feels like investing a huge amount of money in the stock market, hoping and working for a big return (positive outcome for investigators), and then the stock market always crashes and we're into the Great Depression again. 
On the bright side, I've had some really good experiences lately. One missionary finished his mission and went home, so I'm temporarily with his companion in their area, Glenelg, which borders on our area, Oaklands Park. We're waiting to see what the long term plan is. In Glenelg the other day we went to see two investigators from Iran, Hamid and Solmaz, who met missionaries in the past but somehow never got followed up with. In their first lesson (before I was there), Hamid and Solmaz felt the Spirit strongly. Hamid described his experience to us perfectly--an experience I've had so many times but never been able to put into words:
He described how he always found it difficult to imagine there was a God up there, sitting on his throne in the Heavens, watching us down here on earth like ants--it seemed like such a fairytale. "But then," he said, "I realised that maybe the way I understood God wasn't the way God actually was...Maybe His understanding and life is in a completely different plane from us--maybe He understands and lives on a higher level, something we can't quite understand yet.
"I've found that through reading the scriptures and learning from the missionaries, everything makes sense now. I can see with a clarity and understanding I've never had before: I just had to open my mind to find it. I used to be critical and closed-minded, thinking I knew best and my understanding is what really matters, and if something doesn't align with my understanding, then it's false. But then I thought, maybe knowing everything about God isn't what really matters...What we do here, what we experience, what we learn, and what we choose in this life--that is what really matters."
Hamid went on to share that in his first lesson with the missionaries, he felt something powerful during the prayer: "At first I just thought it was my own feeling. But I started talking with my wife afterwards, and she felt the exact same feeling at the exact same time...It was a feeling of overpowering love, a feeling of safety and protection. It was as if someone said something so clearly without saying anything at all: they said everything through a feeling."
It was an amazing experience to see how someone without any real Christian background recognised the Holy Ghost. It added another witness to my testimony of the Spirit: it doesn't matter who you are or where you come from, Heavenly Father loves and speaks to all of us in the same way. 
Thanks so much for your constant love and positive attitude, Mom! I enjoy reading and seeing updates from home, and I look forward to seeing you and the family soon on skype! I love you, Mom, have a wonderful week!
Elder Koch 

Dear Bradley, 

To answer your question, and in the words of Elder Hales, "Come What May, and Love It." This is the title of his 2008 General Conference talk, and a quote you may remember prominently displayed on our kitchen sink windowsill. I will send you a copy. His mother shared these words with him when as a boy he was disappointed after the loss of a football game. She taught her children to get back up after discouragement and disappointment, to give their best effort, and not blame others for their misfortunes. We will all experience adversity, heartache, and sorrow, but as we trust in the Lord, and continue to do our best, all things will work for out for the greater good. When things don't work out with investigators, the temptation is to blame yourself or other people, but remember that the Lord has a greater plan. One that is not limited to the here and now. He works on an infinite, eternal timeline. Not only does He give everyone their personal agency, but He is working on more dynamics than just the investigators. He is also working on YOU. These very experiences are the ones that will invite you to grow and allow Him to shape and mold you along the way. God is not concerned so much about our immediate comfort and success as He is in our overall growth. He is patient with us as we should be with ourselves. Allow the fruit to ripen in the right way and in the right time. Try to feel at peace in knowing, "EVERYTHING you are experiencing right now is PERFECT for your growth and learning." Remember this is one of my mantras I shared with you a while ago? Repeat this to yourself in difficult moments of the day, "Everything I am experiencing RIGHT NOW is perfect for my growth and learning." Embrace what IS and then go to work. Do your part and the Lord will take care of the rest. What if you could look back on your mission at the very end and say, "everything happened exactly as it should have happened." Even all the frustrations and failures. How would you view things from that perspective? What would it mean to you personally? As long as you are doing your part in working to improve, being obedient, diligent, and kind, then you will have that reassurance. It will bring you peace of mind and allow you to embrace what IS."  Finally, my last mantras are ..."Live and Learn," "Trust in the Lord," and "Press Forward in Faith." I invite you to adopt these and use them. Repeat them to yourself often. I promise that as you embrace this mentality, it will provide the motivation, direction, understanding, and peace you seek. Heavenly Father is a God of miracles. Continue to exercise your faith and He will ultimately allow it to work for good. Be patient and humble. I know He is aware of you and watching over faithful missionaries and the work of building His kingdom. 

Much Love and Prayers for you ALWAYS,

Hi Mom, thanks so much for your email :) I feel that's exactly what I needed. I initially expected my mission to be a grand experience of seeing many people get baptized, feel the Spirit, and make a huge life transformation right before my eyes. I have seen each of those things happen, just in smaller and less frequent ways than I had envisioned. I have witnessed people feel the Spirit and change because they know this message is true. I have seen the light and comfort of Heavenly Father's love enter people's lives; like each of us, however, they occasionally turn back to their old habits. They need their own life experiences to learn lessons the missionaries cannot teach.
Thanks for reminding me to always look for the good and enjoy each one of life's experiences. I have come to realize what Charity is on my mission. In no way am I a perfect exemplar of it--not even close yet. But I have felt the power of loving people who criticize and seek to tear others down--the power of loving people beyond my natural ability to love them. And that perfect love transcends every other emotion, every other force, every other motivation. It is a feeling of wanting nothing but to give. It motivates us to build, uplift, and transform our brothers and sisters. They may not see it yet, but we can. I am so grateful Heavenly Father sent me here and provided these experiences for me, my companions, my leaders, and my family. Everybody and everything has gained a new value and beauty to me because of those experiences, and I wouldn't trade them for anything else.
Thank you so much for being an incredible example of true love and compassion! I always reflect back to my childhood memories of you taking me to the park, to school, and loving and supporting me all throughout those times. I appreciate your sense of humor and desire to be happy all the time :) Let me know if there's anything you would like me to do for you or the family.
Have a wonderful week, Mom!

Elder Koch

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