Sunday, March 30, 2014

The Prodigal Bug Returns and Brings International Travel Documents‏

March 24, 2014

So the real news of the week is.... I am no longer waiting for my visa! Now my visa is waiting for me!
That's right, this past week I received my visa to Brazil after like 13 months, but I've decided that South America is really not all its cracked up to be and I would rather stay and speak Portuguese in Mass. So that's what I'm going to do. 

Hahahahaha not really though. I was tapering off my meds and was off them at the beginning of March, and lo and behold the lyme symptoms started to return. They've grown progressively towards where they were last summer, and now I'm sorta in full blown lyme disease mode again. So wouldn't you know it, the day I talk to the mission doctor and email home to Mama Jackson, I see an email from her with a screenshot of my visa application... ALL BUBBLES FILLED IN. Oh irony. 

So this past week has been a scramble of talking to the mission doctor, President Packard, and mom and dad, driving to New Haven to apply as a patient with some Lyme guru at Yale, and trying to figure out if I really should be hopping on a flight (scheduled for yesterday) to Brazil.

Needless to say I am not emailing from another continent, so you know what the decision was. I will stay here in the MBM until my lyme is figured out and resolved. And whenever that is, I have the visa to start my second mission in Brazil! 

The secondary news is... I'M GETTING TRANSFERRED! To Brockton, MA, to serve in the Portuguese ward (or branch, not sure). So I will be falando portugues for the next few months which is incredibly exciting. The ward is super productive and on fire. They have like 20 baptismal dates or something. It's gonna be real. I'm nervous as all get out that I'll hurt the work there because 1) I gotta go to the doctor and get blood work and etc., and 2) I don't speak portuguese. But I guess we'll just have to figure it out :)

So I say goodbye to the magnificent members of the Bloomfield ward and to our three investigators. Ella? She's still old and "in a dither" about religion, but I love her like a grandma. Tom? He's still stubborn but opening up about what he really believes. Someday he'll be ready to change. Jerry? Recommitting to study and progress towards baptism. I learned from a Jamaican member that Jamaican take a crazy long time to commit to anything, but when they do, they're in it forever. Aka Jerry will someday be the most stalwart member of this church. But he's gotta get there on his own time, with the Lord's help. 

Thank you so much to all who have sent up some extra prayers for me-- they're sustaining me right now, I promise. 

Next weeks letter: all in Portuguese. MUAHAHA.

Com amor,
Elder Jackson

Maple Syrup and Tiny Horses

March 17, 2014

Hello faithful friends and family, I hope you drank some green milk today because it’s ST. PATTY'S DAY!!

Not too much time to email because our district had a St. Patrick’s day shindig with George Foreman panini-maker hamburgers, green milk and mint cookies. Then we made slow motion videos jumping over tables and stuff. It was awesome. 

This week was good, bad, ugly and beautiful. Aside from the unwelcome return of a few Lyme disease buggies we are healthy and moving strong with transfers coming next week. My internal color wheel will no longer match St. Patrick ’s day! WHAT?

This week:

We participated in making real life maple syrup. And as far as I'm concerned that was my official initiation as a New Englander. We took sap from sugar maples and dumped it and boiled it and chopped wood for the stove and generally just felt manly and like unto Paul Bunyan. And on Sunday we received our divide of the glorious finished product. Unh. Ate it on my pancakes this morning. Like Rat from Fantastic Mr. Fox.... "like liquid gold."

We drove past a woman riding in the suburbs on a cart pulled by a tiny horse. One of the most beautiful sights I've seen so far...

Ella confided in us how she was starting to get wrinkled and how frustrated she was that it was happening. We reminded her that she's 93 and possibly allowed some wrinkles before she becomes a centenarian. She didn't seem to care, and told us to love what we got while we got it... Also discovered her family is all Jehovah’s witnesses. Except her. #tension

But she's really thinking about baptism. And if she decides to, and can get permission to first leave the building and second be baptized, we'll have to get creative on how to make it happen. A delightful problem to have!

Jerry opened up because he connected with a member that came with us. We know a little more about what's holding him back and our plan is to reteach the lessons according to his needs (what he wants to be more confident on). I really love the guy so much. He's like the Jamaican grandpa I never had or knew I wanted until now.

Tom... our "practice" investigator... first lesson we covered abortion, euthanasia, capital punishment and reconciling the Old Testament with the New. So that was fun! But second lesson was better and we challenged him to read Alma 7 and find out why Jesus Christ came to earth. What His purpose was/is, and we need to do about it. We'll keep working and praying and see what happens!

Last night after we gave a family a challenge and they accepted, their 8 year old son gave us a challenge. To read... 80 chapters of the Book of Mormon before we come back in 2 weeks. He was considering going higher... so I guess we should be thankful that he kept it to the more reasonable 80. AKA I'm reading from Mosiah 14 to Helaman 2 in two weeks! HAHA! ALL THE WAR CHAPTERS! Feel free to join me. 

This Sunday and this week in general has been all about the Atonement. 

“Years ago there was a little one-room schoolhouse in the mountains of Virginia where the boys were so rough that no teacher had been able to handle them.

“A young, inexperienced teacher applied, and the old director scanned him and asked: ‘Young fellow, do you know that you are asking for an awful beating? Every teacher that we have had here for years has had to take one.’

“‘I will risk it,’ he replied.

“The first day of school came, and the teacher appeared for duty. One big fellow named Tom whispered: ‘I won’t need any help with this one. I can lick him myself.’

“The teacher said, ‘Good morning, boys, we have come to conduct school.’ They yelled and made fun at the top of their voices. ‘Now, I want a good school, but I confess that I do not know how unless you help me. Suppose we have a few rules. You tell me, and I will write them on the blackboard.’

“One fellow yelled, ‘No stealing!’ Another yelled, ‘On time.’ Finally, ten rules appeared on the blackboard.

“‘Now,’ said the teacher, ‘a law is not good unless there is a penalty attached. What shall we do with one who breaks the rules?’

“‘Beat him across the back ten times without his coat on,’ came the response from the class.

“‘That is pretty severe, boys. Are you sure that you are ready to stand by it?’ Another yelled, ‘I second the motion,’ and the teacher said, ‘All right, we will live by them! Class, come to order!’

“In a day or so, ‘Big Tom’ found that his lunch had been stolen. The thief was located—a little hungry fellow, about ten years old. ‘We have found the thief and he must be punished according to your rule—ten stripes across the back. Jim, come up here!’ the teacher said.

“The little fellow, trembling, came up slowly with a big coat fastened up to his neck and pleaded, ‘Teacher, you can lick me as hard as you like, but please, don’t take my coat off!’

“‘Take your coat off,’ the teacher said. ‘You helped make the rules!’

“‘Oh, teacher, don’t make me!’ He began to unbutton, and what did the teacher see? The boy had no shirt on, and revealed a bony little crippled body.

“‘How can I whip this child?’ he thought. ‘But I must, I must do something if I am to keep this school.’ Everything was quiet as death.

“‘How come you aren’t wearing a shirt, Jim?’

“He replied, ‘My father died and my mother is very poor. I have only one shirt and she is washing it today, and I wore my brother’s big coat to keep me warm.’

“The teacher, with rod in hand, hesitated. Just then ‘Big Tom’ jumped to his feet and said, ‘Teacher, if you don’t object, I will take Jim’s licking for him.’

“‘Very well, there is a certain law that one can become a substitute for another. Are you all agreed?’

“Off came Tom’s coat, and after five strokes the rod broke! The teacher bowed his head in his hands and thought, ‘How can I finish this awful task?’ Then he heard the class sobbing, and what did he see? Little Jim had reached up and caught Tom with both arms around his neck. ‘Tom, I’m sorry that I stole your lunch, but I was awful hungry. Tom, I will love you till I die for taking my licking for me! Yes, I will love you forever!’” 

He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised and we esteemed him not. Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.

Elder Jackson

Friday, March 14, 2014

Forget Yourself

March 10, '14

So first thing I've discovered in writing this email is that my medium-term memory is terrible... I don't have my planner with me and thus cannot honestly remember what we did this week. I blame it on lyme disease. bugs in my BRAIIIIIIN

We swiftly approach the 1-year mark since I first applied for visa to Brazil! LETS CELEBRATE! haha. I'm not bitter. My life just never goes how I expect, and that's okay. It's like teaching a lesson to an investigator-- you plan out all nice and neat what you're gonna do, and then when you get there your plans go to left field and something totally different, and usually hilarious, actually comes to pass. life is like that. so don't sweat the changes. we're meant to improvise! 

One miracle: we prayed and fasted for Elder Benedict's family a few weeks ago because his mom was in the hospital and dad having job trouble. and she's out now, and his dad got a new job with full benefits and a promotion on the way. seriously. 

-In other news, and following the pattern of the second paragraph above, we went in to listen to a talk with Jerry on Saturday and ended up talking about priesthood authority and Joseph Smith. And Elder Benedict talked about how Jesus went a long way to be baptized by John, and asked Jerry why He did that. And Jerry was like... I guess he was chosen? Called by God?
so we taught about how baptism today is the same way. we need to go to someone chosen. and Joseph Smith was chosen like that, and passed that authority down to us today. and Jerry was like, yah man! that makes sense. It makes SENSE!!!
AND he talked to the executive secretary at church, who's from Ghana, and said he wants him to come over and study the BoM with him. 
so happy. one little progressing investigator, but that's enough for me. 

-We picked up a "practice investigator" who's wife is a member, Brother Hahn. He's taken the discussions like 12 times but agreed to let us teach him again. word. should be interesting.

-And I learned that the power of a mission is that it is not ever even a little about you. Before this, I lived a pretty selfish life. All human beings do, especially teenagers. But when you are a missionary, all your capability (heart, might, mind, strength) is turned outward to help others come unto Christ. We get to live like Christ did, forever focused out, never (ideally) turning inward in selfishness and withholding our will from God, who gave us everything else in the first place. And that's really the only unique thing we can offer to Him; our agency. He gave it to us, and over the days, months and years of this life, we gradually give it back to Him. Faz sentido? Acho que sim. 

Last, D&C 128:9 opened my mind when I was fasting last week. The sealing power. If you act in authority, in the name of the Lord, truly and faithfully, and keep a faithful record of it, it becomes A LAW on earth and in heaven. Somehow it finally clicked. Eternal marriage by proper authority is an immutable law. 

And for your listening satisfaction, I have attached a recording from church this week-- I Wonder When He Comes Again/I Am a Child of God with yours truly on the cello (kinda hard to hear), Sister Nola Campbell on viola, and Bro. Dr. Ken Shelley on piano. they're married, and they're both music teachers. word.
enjoy it!

Elder Jackson
Brenton's Zone

State Capitol in Hartford

Love the Truth

March 3, 2014

Oh how the tables have turned. So while you bundle up and start the fire, we'll be driving from home to home trying to get folks to come back to church! YEEHAW. Can't complain though... its 100 degrees in Brazil...

Hey. We worked super hard this week. I'm taking a more active role in planning out what we do and who needs us and how to find the people that are prepared as I learn the area and all the members in it. We're pulling out all the stops to try and find-- talking to everyone, contacting formers, asking all members who they're working with, etc. It's a little slow going but we just keep on trying. And our big focus with our less-actives is getting them to come to church and prepare for the temple. This whole Hartford temple thing... really inspired and needed in this area. It's giving people the standard to look towards, the goal to reach for. Something BIG and new. And even the workers on the temple ground have been feeling something different about this, plus the members in our ward send them treats so best construction job ever.

This week:
-found out Brother B (the guy whose kitchen/house we cleaned from water damage and a broken sink?) is in a nursing home after falling and injuring himself, and calling 911 to help him. Probably for the best. His birthday is tomorrow and maybe we'll find a way to do something spectacular for him
-I got sick with flu-like stuff, so I slept half the day on Wednesday. subsequently that day felt super weird and I reminisced those fog-filled Lyme disease weeks back in July... thank goodness that's over
-we went on SPLITS. And had like 6 member lessons. Which is a lot for us. and a missionary who served in this area called from home and told us to go visit some people.
-it was too cold for Jerry to come be taught at a members home. according to him. #wimp
-WE TAUGHT JERRY. FINALLY. And it was beautiful. We made a plan for members to come over and read the BoM with him (fellowshipping and worship-two birds with one stone.) He opened up to us about how he's waiting for "family issues" to resolve before he "does the baptize." I love Jamaicans. 
-We finished the Restoration with Ella and taught the Plan of Salvation with VISUALS. She was amazed to learn that people lived on earth before Jesus, but also gave a perfect account of Adam and Eve, complete with personal commentary. She is a women of endless mystery to me. I guess when you're 93 you can do that.
-----We were like inches from getting her to church yesterday-- in her wheelchair, had coat and gloves and Book of Mormon in hand, when the nurse told her she didn't have clearance to leave. ARGH. We had members there to take her and everything. So next week we will make sure beforehand that she's good to go. I guess she's never wanted to leave the nursing home until now, so they were surprised. The lady wants some church! LET HER HAVE CHURCH!
-we went on exchanges with the zone leaders we live with, and elder jensen told me I have a lot of desire. to find and help people. and that he was impressed that the toughness of the mission hadn't diminished my desire. that was probably the most needed compliment of all time-- and I don't plan on losing it anytime soon. 

I have one sentence to give to you to ponder this week. I bore my testimony and quoted it yesterday in church, and it continues to open my mind to the meaning of "enduring to the end". Taken from "According to the Desire of [Our] Hearts" by Elder Neal A. Maxwell. 

"Do you,” President Young asked, “think that people will obey the truth because it is true, unless they love it? No, they will not” (in Journal of Discourses, 7:55). Thus knowing gospel truths and doctrines is profoundly important, but we must also come to love them. When we love them, they will move us and help our desires and outward works to become more holy."
There are many gospel doctrines I know are true. A multitude. But how many of them do I love? If there's one thing I learned from Ender Wiggin, it's that when you truly understand someone, you love them. Like the Buggers, the truth can so often be an alien species, offensive because it is different and doesn't mold to our cares and concerns. But when we seek to understand these truths by finding how and why they came to be, we recognize their worth. And we begin to love them. Obeying them becomes as natural as breathing. 

I love you all more than I can express. Keep on learning and loving life, and God will give you freely.

-Elder Jackson

moving time=tea time (Elder Jensen on the right)
throwback to pre-tag times with the elder of Jacksons