Merry Christmas from Kenora! Good to be here, but tomorrow I will be heading down to I-Falls to do District Meeting and for an exchange. Then next week on Tuesday I will be in Dryden doing the same thing and another baptismal interview! Then another possible baptismal interview in I-Falls the following week, and hopefully I will be staying in Kenora, but after 5 months, I never know, but I will know in 2 weeks what is happening.
Anyway, Merry Christmas! It is snowing up here and definitely looks the part. There is a huge 50-foot Christmas tree on Main St. in Kenora in the middle of the road. I love it. We have Christmas lights on the house and the tree looks great, thanks to Elder Perkins' parents sending him tons of stuff to load up the tree--I need to get a picture, I know, I know...
Speaking of Christmas, the Kenora branch had a Christmas party last Saturday and it was great. We brought our 2 new baptismal dates, Jim and Veronica. Ha, yup, we set baptismal dates with them an hour before the party and they wanted to come and so they did and they had an absolute blast! (BDs are for Feb. 4th--we're talking 2012 here) Elder Perkins and I tried to balance time between them and all the visitors we did not recognize, and the Less-Actives that came and members and other investigators. Phew...what a job! But I shouldn't be complaining, Elder Perkins was voluntold to be the merry, jolly, Santa Claus. Ha, he did fantastic and just took a few pictures with people and got out of there. He plays the part: a big red jolly guy. During the Christmas party we were shown a quick movie from lds.org that is part of a brand-new series of videos of the life of Christ filmed in the new Jerusalem set in Utah that they built. Wow, a wonderful, spirit-filled movie. Compelling for sure. I desperately wanted to watch all of the videos because they were so good.
Our other baptismal date Alex went to Winnipeg for the weekend and missed his bus coming back home to Kenora. He couldn't come to church, and Derold...well, let's just say I am learning patience. We woke him up and helped him get going off to church (he won't accept rides, but insists to walk the 4 or so km's to church) but he never showed. He ended up going to this other church and he gave us a lame excuse. But, enough of that. I wrote plenty in my journal, so those are the kind of stories you get to hear more about later. We have been teaching a lot of people and we feel that a lot of these people are taking baby steps, but, are still coming along. If they were stagnant, we would drop them. We were privileged to find more good people to teach this week, which is always exciting thinking of all their potential. It’s always a game in my mind to stay positive. For myself, it is easy to assume things if an appointment does not work out, when there are other possibilities. I am trying to always be optomistic. I am learning lots of life lessons out on my mission--more than I thought I would. I know that I would not have been able to learn many things without my missionary service.
Some things I have learned on my mission are these:
More gratitude for SO many things: the love and effort my parents and family have for me. Not many so-called families are based around love and wholesome things. Many are not even families, more of "fend for yourself". I have especially learned gratitude for the strength of the gospel where I grew up. It's been very different on my mission. In Winnipeg the ward had like 130 active members, in Saskatoon there were about 300, in IF (International Falls) about 40, in FF (Fort Frances) about 8 and in Kenora about 50 or 60. Wow. So, so very different. Each area a unique situation. Now, numbers do not reflect the strength of the members there, either. Sheesh. I am grateful for the spiritual and physical upbringing I had. Thank you, Mom and Dad. I am grateful to have had a temple so close to my house too. I never really went all that often, which I plan to change, but that temple was a beacon of light and a source of spiritual strength to the members. I have not even SEEN a temple for over 16 months. People here sacrifice a lot to attend a temple that is about 9 hours away. And I have learned gratitude for testimonies. I have been thinking about this for a long time and this morning I was reviewing a random talk that happened to mention that. I was reading Sis. Barbara Thompson's talk from the last Gen. Conf. (thanks Mom and Dad for the Ensign) and she said it clearly, something like this: "it does not matter how strong your testimony used to be, but how strong it is now". That was the gist of if and I have seen how true that is my life and especially in people in these small branches. Wow. Testimonies need to be constantly nourished. Constantly. No wonder we are counseled to study the scriptures every day. Hmm. No wonder. The Lord needs members with strong testimonies to magnify their callings and to bring other people to the gospel and to strengthen them.
Something I learned yesterday from the discussion in Gospel Doctrine about agency (abilitiy to choose) and compulsion: Forcing someone to do right is just as wrong as doing bad. That was Lucifer's plan in the first place and we would have done nothing in life to learn and grow. Did you know that the most successful people are those that fall the most? They fall and keep getting up again.
Something elder Perkins and I were discussing was the value of prayer rather than testimony. Which would we rather hear? A powerful prayer or a compelling testimony? Think about it. All too often I hear and feel powerful testimonies, but sometimes it is talking the talk without walking the walk, the DO without BE. There really is not anything better than hearing an absolutely sincere prayer from someone seeking truth. In that prayer you can FEEL the sincerity, and can listen to their concerns, their core beliefs, their testimony shines through, all of this through what is called the gift of prayer, which is communication between us and God. What do you think, which would you rather hear? A powerful, sincere prayer, or a compelling testimony?
That's all folks. I look forward to being able to talk to you Christmas morning. Talk to you soon!