Tuesday, March 20, 2012

The Kingdom of God is within you

¡Hola y salutaciones mis amados padres y amigos!
(Hello and greetings my dear parents and friends!)

Thank you so much for your prayers and support; thinking about how much you love me truly makes a difference in my attitude and work ethic. I love you so much!

This week was so BUSY! We taught 27 official lessons (consisting of prayer, teaching principles, leaving a commitment, and making a follow up appointment) and had countless other small teaching opportunities. I think I really have figured out how to plan well now. Elder Paiz basically lets me be in charge of planning sessions, and we always make sure to have 2-3 back up activities for every 30 minute block of the day. I guess I should thank Brother James Taylor  for giving me a leg up on the planning with all that work in the Priest Quorum (I recall one YEARLY planning session with him that literally destroyed my brain-I guess it was good for me though). Seriously though, having a busy day and busy week makes so much difference! We are happier, more productive, and can help so many more people. It’s amazing.

On Wednesday of this week we had a mission wide temple trip. I am so grateful we get the blessing of being able to attend the temple on our mission! Apologize to Sister Hilton for me though, because I forgot to hand names to the Elders beforehand---we were running a little bit behind. We will do better on next Preparation Day and during the next temple trip in three months. The St. George Temple is beautiful inside and out. You can really feel the connection to the pioneers in these temples (like Salt Lake and Manti as well I'm sure). It was a privilege to kneel in a room in the temple with Elder Paiz and pray for each of our investigators. If there is one lesson just engraved onto my soul from my mission already it is that prayer works. When we communicate with our Father, we open up the windows of heaven to feel His presence and also to invite His blessings to be poured out upon us.

When I got through to the Celestial Room I looked in and it was PACKED! Seriously it was a full, full session. Normally in these rooms I am drawn first to the beauty of the room and the peaceful Spirit that is there. But this time, I was drawn to the PEOPLE, the missionaries and the brightness in their faces and the Spirit they emanate. It reminded me of when Jesus said in Luke 17:21"behold, the kingdom of God is within you." That is so true! The Church, the Kingdom of Heaven, the world is made up of people. Not just people, but children of God with the ability to grow to become as he is (Mat 5:48). It is amazing to realize the divine potential that just burns within every humble human soul and to think about the good that everyone can do. When I look at it this way, it so just so easy to find something worth admiring and loving in everyone we meet.

I just have to tell you one other story about a baptism and confirmation that was in our district. While he wasn't our investigator officially (he was baptized into the Squires' English Ward) Elder Paiz and I were intimately involved in his conversion. So this man named W. G. has been married to a less active woman for about four years and they have a little kid. He was a very vocal opponent of the church and scared away many sets of missionaries. Nevertheless, our Sisters Box and Sister Powers (they sound like super hero names) saw his name on a Former Investigators list in the area book and felt they should go by. When Wendell opened the door for the first time Sister Box described feeling/smelling "a rush of alcohol, demons, and all sorts of bad stuff" coming out of his door (it is interesting what you can know about a person based on smells).

Our sisters weren't swayed by his attitudes or habits, but boldly told him how he needed to change his life, and he was touched and listened. They worked with W for about 4 weeks helping him put back together his marriage and overcome addictions (Elder Paiz and I got to give him a blessing for this) through the restored gospel. He was at first, literally the last person anyone expected to get baptized, but he completely changed! W asked Elder Paiz and I to come to his baptism and help in his confirmation the next day. Now he is totally cleaned up, walking the straight and narrow, and planning to go to the temple. It is so awe inspiring to see the atonement work miracles like this.

Sorry I had to be so quick with this message. President just changed our schedule around a little so now we have a couple more extra Preparation Day assignments. Keep praying for us and we will keep working hard. Really, it is a privilege to be serving the Lord right now. I can't do it perfectly, but I can be obedient and provide Him was a fitting instrument to work with. I love you so much!

Vaya con Dios,
Elder Michael Stewart

p.s. The Squires took us to Zion National Park last preparation day and it is pretty much gorgeous. We took a lot of great pictures. My personal favorite is the one where Elder Paiz and I are standing in front of rocks that mirror our height difference. Bien chistoso. (Very funny)

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