Monday, October 26, 2015

The Forests on Fire!‏

 Me and Elder Dawson recording
Beautiful fall colors
The ward had a halloween party, mostly populated by people from our group

Whaddup everybody, just letting you know that the work continues up here in the smallest state in the union!

This week was interesting, not a ton of crazy things to report, but some quick highlights. 

Tuesday we finished up writing the music for the project President gave me and Elder Dawson and we recorded Wednesday night (see pics). Its kind of a secret for most of the mission so I've edited the recipients of this email... But President is creating a cd with the testimonies of Christ of all the living Apostles and Prophet, plus the past several prophets. It's a 20 minute continuous track of testimonies, and he gave me the challenge of writing/recording underscore for the whole cd. At first I almost said no, but it's turned out to be really pretty exciting. I've even had some spiritual experiences writing, as entire songs came to mind and came to be in just a few minutes. So we finished doing our writing on Tuesday, then recorded on Wednesday!  A member of the church in Foxboro, MA will be mixing the cd. So he has to do most of the work :)

On Wednesday we had zone conference. I learned a lot and had a lot of ideas. One thing I liked  most was our discussion about personal gratitude and accountability to the Lord. It reminded me of a habit I started in Boston when we just barely started with the Portuguese group. My district leader gave me the idea. Each night in prayer before bed I would write a list of all the tender mercies and blessings of the day and actively express gratitude for each one. Then I would think of the missionaries, investigators and members and ask God questions about each one, how I could help them, and record the answers as action items for the next day. Then in the next day's evening prayer I would account to the Lord whether I did what he told me to do. Because of this exercise I feel that my time during those transfers was the most grateful and some of the most productive of my mission. I lost that habit, and I restarted this week. About half the time I fall asleep doing it but that's ok! It's the effort that makes the difference.

In terms of people, one of our families that didn't make it to their baptism resolved a lot of their concerns and issues this week. They all came early to church this week for the Primary program. Also, our awesome Brasilian friend Ademar, who cold called us 3 weeks ago and asked to meet, set a date for his baptism on November 29. It was awesome. He's a man truly transformed by the gospel, to an extent that I've never seen pre-baptism. He's so ready; now we just have to convince him that he is :)

Life is good.

One thought: in Mark 1:17-18, Jesus called his future apostles from their work as fisherman, and they "straightway forsook their nets". To the extent that we realize our true calling, each one of us, as fishers of men, we also realize we have a lot of "nets". It's super evident as a missionary which ones are still holding on to their nets with one hand while they try to swim to the Savior. It's sometimes too heavy of a load to make it "to shore". What nets does the Lord want us to forsake?

Elder Jackson

Monday, October 19, 2015

Winter returns, a little opposition, and trusting the Lord's timing‏

 Cape Verdean babies!
Birthday pranks.........

Its cold here in Rhode Island.... this morning when we left our apartment it was 25 degrees! And I, like Darren, turned on the heat for the first time, thus ushering the official start of winter. With this cold front has come a little bit of spiritual opposition.

Last week we were preparing two families for baptism this past sunday, but in the end it wasn't the right time for anyone. As Elder Holland says, salvation is not a cheap experience, and some of our people are paying a token of the Savior's price as they work through bad habits and addictions. It was hard because in both cases we found out, not directly, but through other people, that they were suffering/falling to temptation behind the scenes. 

I learned a few lessons this week:

1) Addiction likes to be hidden. I was reminded of an ad I saw on the side of a bus in Brockton: "Hunger is hidden". The adversary convinces so many that they shouldn't tell the ones who can help them about their struggles, for shame, sharp guilt, or fear of punishment. I think we all know what that feels like. Even after weknew of an addiction this week, and asked the individual everything we could to help her confess her struggles to us and let us help her, that "wounded animal" inside would not come out into the open. She just couldn't tell. So we keep working, praying, reading with her. And we shared these:

2) Trying to force conversion/change never works -- we must invite and trust in the Lord's work behind the scenes. 
Our missionary work is like trying to move a wet spaghetti noodle across a table. If we try to push from behind it just spreads all over the table and goes nowhere. But if we pull from the front, tracking the path ahead, it follows a straight line behind our hand. 
In the shower (where I get most of my best ideas) I asked what we should do. Actually, I asked if we should keep trying to get to overcome their struggles before sunday. The answer was surprisingly clear... like a big knot inside just unloosed and the Lord told me to chill out, and trust his timing. That He's not working on cosmetic changes with these people, but deep transformation. And I felt instant peace. 

At church I compared how I felt about my people, compared to how I felt 20 months ago. There's a love there for them that I couldn't access before; a trust in God I didn't know before; and a happiness that actually makes me a lot smarter and a lot more perceptive. 

So long story short, all is well :) Sorry if this email came off wicked dramatic, but I learned a lot this week. The work goes on, and I'm learning a little more of the father-of-king-lamoni sacrifices required to really know God.

I love you all! Go kill it this week!

-Elder Jackson

Monday, October 12, 2015

The Fun Begins

Thanks to Jenna for once again sending the dopest planners! Since I only have one transfer
after this I'll have to give one away... or use it as an RM planner hahahaha
Greetings everybody! Its a monday holiday so we don't have too much time to write (sharing computers at the church), so I wanted to drop a quick line to let you know I remain alive up here in Providence. 

This coming week will be insane! Were trying to prepare 7 people (two families: mom+dad+2 daughters, mom+two daughters) for baptism next sunday (a Herculean task here) with a few exchanges and a pretty hefty musical assignment from President Miller. If I don't email next monday, its because I died. muahaha

What happened this week? I'll give you two things:

The woman we gave the priesthood blessing to a few weeks ago was baptized on Saturday and it was one of the most spiritual baptisms I've seen. The best part was the testimony she bore afterwards; she talked about her past abuse and anxiety and struggles with self-worth, and how the gospel and especially prayer had changed her life completely. She mentioned the blessing and how it had helped her and bore testimony of the restoration of the church. It was a true picture of conversion.

The other miracle of the week was our meeting with a man named Ademar! Two weeks ago he called us at 10:40 saying "Did you call me?" to which we responded... no but we speak portuguese and he said, Good because I'm from Brazil! Turns out he met with missionaries two years ago, but stopped because of work and because he wanted to investigate every church he could to find which one was the true church. His number stayed saved on our phone and on his phone for two years and we had the chance to teach him this week. The first thing he brought up was how much he loved the idea of the Melchizedek Priesthood... so I knew it was gonna be good. He described how his family was back in brazil but he was here working trying to bring his kids over. He followed the voice of the Spirit through every church but kept coming back to the truth he had learned with the missionaries. He went to Cumorah and the Sacred Grove. He testified that finally the spirit had told him "é lá.. a verdade é lá". Then he told us he wanted to be baptized before his birthday :)

The Lord has been working with him so long and he delivered himself to us. We take no credit. He is, without a doubt, the most prepared person I've ever taught.

I'm so happy here and I hope you're happy to. My scriptural invitation comes from Mosiah 28:3, the scripture me and Elder Araujo are ponderizing this week:

 Now they were desirous that salvation should be declared to every creature, for they could not bear that any human soul should perish; yea, even the very thoughts that any soul should endure endless torment did cause them to quake and tremble.

Is this what we desire?

Elder Jackson

Monday, October 5, 2015

Just Another Week in Funkytown‏

 Our tinfoil lampshade

A painting by Rose Dall in the Machado's house! I said, "I recognize that painting!" Turns out Sister Dall used Bro. Machado's daughter as a model for Mary in all her paintings! Small world.....

Boa tarde meus amados, dropping a note here to say hello and hope you're all doing stellar! 

My first order of business is to say woooooooooooooooooooooooooot for Darren and Carey! Baby Grace looks great. She looks like she wants to learn the saxophone and how to rollerblade. Don't worry, I can help with that.  (#sendmepics)

My first full week back proselyting was soooooooooooooo good. The highlights:

Had a chance to do interviews with President on Wednesday! Me and Elder Araujo did a pretty good job we thought on our trainings. He asked me to the Senior prom to demonstrate solid commitments, including jumping on the table to spin me around (he's about 5'4 so the effect was nice) and stabbing a lamp covered in tinfoil to demonstrate connecting true doctrine with the Light of Christ. I'm on the lookout for the next spiritual gifts that I can pursue, and what I can sacrifice to achieve them. 

We went with the English sisters to give a priesthood blessing to their investigator who's being baptized this coming saturday. In the blessing I felt to tell her that her study of the gospel would help her overcome anxiety and find peace when she would otherwise be distraught. Then on Sunday at church she came to us and said "What you promised in the blessing happened; I had times this week where things happened that would normally set off my anxiety, but I couldn't get anxious, even if I tried"; felt honored to have been a part of that experience for her.

The highlight of my week came when we were walking through one of the sketchier streets in town. We passed a recent converts house and talked to her neighbor, Ade, who Elder Araujo already knew. We shot the breeze and she was super friendly. Then E. Araujo paused.. looked at me and I looked back, and we said... lets teach something. It was a small prompting. We sat down with her as the sun set and it started to rain. Sitting on the ground on her porch we taught about repentance and baptism. Like a dam breaking she told all of the struggles she was facing, the trials and disappointment in her family, her worries for her daughters, her desire for change. Essentially she said "somethings gotta give". We offered her the restored gospel, testifying from Isaiahs words about the Savior. The street is usually noisy and packed but it was powerfully quiet, and she asked if she could be baptized with her daughters. We said... of course... and set a date for October 18th. She came with her two daughters to watch general conference on Sunday and said she "learned a lot", and the three of them are set for the 18th. 

God knows the needs of everyone around us, and he is constantly, constantly sending us messages to try and get us to help him. We are his hands on the earth, not because he couldn't accomplish his refining work on His own, but because he knows we need the experience of giving and sacrificing and ministering of ourselves. We reach out to lift; we are also lifted. And simultaneously he is prompting, prompting everyone to reach out to us to; to fill our needs. If Araujo and I hadn't looked at each and made that choice to stay, rather than walk away, what would change? How big of an impact can 15 minutes have on the Ade's posterity? Or any stranger?

Conference taught me to simplify, but not to go easy. I learned that we need to be centered on Christ to hear God's whispers in our lives, and we need to diligently follow His promptings in order to be truly happy. He loves us so much. He loved our friend Ade enough to send us there and tell us to stay a little longer. May we all listen a little closer, be a little bolder, and turn outward a little more :)

Elder Jackson