Monday, August 20, 2012

This has been a really interesting week for me so far. I have really started to learn a lot and learn to love Fairview Heights. I have no idea how I love it here so much. But I am really thankful that I do. It has been a really interesting situation to go from Jacksonville where we had 21 member present lessons my last week there to Fairview where we have had 3 since we got here. I could not be more thankful for the cool weather though. With hours of walking around talking to people each day it has been great to have some cooler weather. It is really obvious to me that God loves me a lot because He is blessing me with a love for the people and the area that I’m in. Elder Waldron has made it really fun to be here too. His first name is Matthew and he is just about to turn 22. 3 of my 4 companions so far have been 21 so apparently God knows that he has to put me with someone mature to balance me out. He played football and wrestled in high school and he goes to Weber state now. He is originally from Kaysville. He is kinda like Elder Jensen in the way that I can’t figure him out at all haha. It seems like every day I find out something new about him that throws me off. But he is a great guy and a great missionary. He has really taught me how to follow the Spirit.

Something that Elder Waldron told me on my first day here was that one of the most important things for a leader is to earn respect. He also told me how hard that is. Especially because I am like the 2nd youngest person in the zone so it’s going to be tough for people to look up to me. The first week I was here that was pretty tough. Everyone was nice enough but no one really took me that seriously it seemed like. This week it has been really fun to have the challenge of earning respect from everyone. One of the things that helped the most with that was our district leader zone leader meeting. It was an interesting experience because I had never even been to one before and then I had to organize and conduct one. It was a great learning experience. Me and Elder Waldron ended the meeting by giving a training on obedience and how that leads to our own personal conversion. The Spirit during and after the training was very powerful. The thing that made me really happy was in Subway after the meeting having a few of the district leaders come up and tell me how good of a training we gave. It was just one of those small things that made me feel really good and helped me to know that people are starting to respect and listen to what I have to say now as long as I am willing to give them the same respect.

Saturday was a crazy day that ended up being one of the best I have had so far. We started with DLZL which I just talked about. Then after that we had pretty much nothing. A really long day of knocking doors and appointments falling through. The very last thing that we did that night was check the mail. I was really excited to see that I had a letter from Elder Anderson. I knew that EJ and TJ were supposed to get baptized this last weekend and I was really curious if it had all worked out. I was thrilled to open it up to pictures of all of them in their white clothes. It sounded like everything went perfectly. But the thing that made me breakdown into tears of joy was what the letter said next. A couple weeks ago me and Elder Anderson decided to gather up some letters from around the ward and mail them out to Carlos (the investigator who was baptized but never confirmed). Turns out that last ditch effort was just enough. He contacted the missionaries and told them he wanted to come to church and receive the Holy Ghost. After being interview by the bishop and some other steps he was found worthy. I found out last Sunday EJ, TJ, Bryan, and Carlos were all able to receive the Holy Ghost. I do wish that I had been able to be there. But just finding out that they made those steps made me so happy. Carlos made a lot of sacrifices. When his mom found out he went to church she kicked him out of the house. He is living with some members of the ward right now from what I understand. That is not a small sacrifice, but he knew what was most important and he was willing to give up anything to get closer to Christ.

The good luck and great feelings from Saturday night continued right on through Sunday. We went to church which was great like always. Right after church there was a really cool experience though. A recent convert named Ron was called as a ward missionary. He is an older black guy who lives in the roughest part of our area. He has had a life full of trials but now full of blessings. He doesn’t have a car so he has to ride the bus and train for a couple hours to get to church each week. And the couple dollars that costs him is a huge sacrifice. But even though it’s hard he makes it to church every week. After church we got to sit in on his setting apart to his new calling. Being called as a ward missionary was cool to me but I didn’t really think of it as that big of a deal. About half way through the setting apart Ron started to bawl. It kinda shocked me and at first I was worried what was wrong. After we finished the setting apart I realized why he started to cry. He knew how much this gospel had changed his life. He knew how important it was. The fact that he now gets to be a part of the missionary effort and help change other people lives meant the world to him. It made me very thankful for the opportunity that I have to be a full time missionary. I have seen people’s lives change so much and seeing that has been an incredible blessing to me.

The last thing we did on Sunday was go and see Sis. Kremer. As always it was a great lesson with her. It is an amazing experience to get to see the smile on her husband’s face the entire time that we teach. The thought of getting to go through the temple with his wife in a year brings him so much joy. Sis Kremer could be the most golden investigator ever. She read the lessons in Preach My Gospel before we could even come over and teach them to her. We are so excited to see her get baptized. There wasn’t anything super special about the lesson on Sunday. No tear jerking moments or anything like that. But while I was there during the lesson I took just a minute pause to really think about what was going on. The feelings that I got are impossible to explain. Knowing that I played a part in changing this family’s life brought me so much joy. There is nothing else I could be doing right now that would bring me the joy and peace that this mission has brought me.

I want to end by just sharing a quick testimony about obedience. I have thought a lot about it this week and discovered that I have a lot of changes to make in my life. I have always known that being obedient was one of the most important things that a missionary could do. When I first got out I was obedient because I knew if I didn’t God would not be able to help me. And if you don’t have God on your side as a missionary you’re going to be miserable. After a few months I moved up to being obedient because I knew it was what I am supposed to do. Missionaries are supposed to be obedient. I thought that was the final step. However, recently I have discovered I have another reason to be obedient. I should be obedient out of love. Love for the people, love for my companion, and most importantly love for God. That has made a huge change in the way I look at missionary work. Anyone can be a good missionary, and almost anyone can be a great missionary. But great isn’t good enough. I need to be a consecrated missionary. The same thing applies to all of us as members of the church. Going to church and living the commandments simply because that’s what Mormons do isn’t good enough. Not even close. To become truly converted to this gospel we have to love our Heavenly Father and love the commandments that he has given us. When I realized this earlier this week it was a very humbling experience. I have a ton of work to do. And I have a feeling the better I get and the more I learn the more work I will realize I have to do. I know that all of us can become truly converted to this gospel and become consecrated members of the church. We have a promise from God that it won’t be easy, but it will be worth it.

-Elder Banks

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