Monday, August 27, 2012

The Strength of Priesthood Power!

Queridos y bondadosos padres! Que los quiero mucho! Thank you so much for all of the prayers and support you have sent my way, I really feel the power of your faith helping me too!

Mom and Dad: Yes I know Elder Wood! he was in our district two transfers ago, and we are really, really similar! He goes home soon, but it is such a small world.

I learned a lot this week about priesthood power and I am very grateful for all of the lessons that Heavenly Father gave me. The sister missionaries have had a flu going around (working in the visitor's center half the day is conducive to spreading germs) and so there have been a lot of sick sisters in our district. That means...that there were a lot of priesthood blessings to give :) One sister told us "that was exactly what I needed, after that blessing I knew exactly what I needed to do, and I feel so much better" I really have just a lot of confidence now though that I can be worthy and ready to give a blessing and I can rely on the Spirit for the words to say. I know that as I just focus on being humble and let the Spirit talk, that the blessing the Lord wants to be said will be said.

I also know that the priesthood is "to have the privilege of receiving the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, to have the heavens opened unto them, to commune with the general assembly and church of the Firstborn, and to enjoy the communion and presence of God the Father, and Jesus the mediator of the new covenant." (D&C 107:19) Basically, as priesthood holders we have the right to receive revelation for our spheres of influence. Here is an example: This week I was looking for a way to just lift the district up and in the middle of sacrament meeting it was like the Lord opened my mind, poured a quart of revelation in, and slammed the lid, and I knew that I had to call all of the companionships to share a scripture with them. Well, we did it, and everyone commented that they felt very uplifted. I am really just learning to recognize that feeling that comes when I know the Spirit has place a thought in my mind.

The Lord was so good to us this week. I have had to be really patient in these last’s just been so different in the area since I first got here. I honestly feel like I know everybody, I am even starting to learn who is who in the English wards (we cover more than 20 English wards all together...) The Lord poured out several tender mercies for us this week. 

We have been working for so long to reactivate the L family and baptize their son too. N (mom) and J (the son, who we gave the clothes to) have been coming to church so consistently, and they love it. This Sunday we had a funny experience getting J's cousin to church too. We stopped by to pick up D, the cousin, and he didn’t have a shirt or shoes on or anything. He really doubted whether he'd go to church, but as soon as we said "We'll go get J then" he said "Oh! I'll go get ready!" it was so funny to see his cousin run into his home and get him all ready for church. They even made it to church on time :) That is the power of having a friend in the gospel.

This week Elder Killian and I spent a lot of time studying the doctrine of Christ, as He describes his gospel in his own words and how it applies to everyone. As I have been reading the Book of Mormon this last time through (a blue pass along copy) I have been highlighting in red everywhere that it mentions Christ or his names, and underlining in blue the elements of his gospel (His atonement and mission, faith in Christ, repentance, baptism, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, enduring to the end--3Ne27:13-22). My testimony has just been so strengthened that the atonement of Jesus Christ is the central fact that governs our lives. He came to save us, to suffer for our sins, and make the way back to him possible. He just asks that we believe in him, repent and obey his commandments, including getting baptized by the priesthood authority. When we have read that from the scriptures with investigators, the Spirit always testifies of "following the example of Jesus Christ by being baptized" and it has helped me see too how our purpose is centered in the doctrine of Jesus Christ. We have had a lot of success teaching Christ's doctrine in his own words to people. September and October are going to be great months!

There are just so many amazing stories I want to tell from this week...but I will limit myself to two. We had a recent convert lesson with G and her family this Thursday (they are receiving the recent convert lessons from Preach my Gospel!) and she and her mom told us another part of their story. The night after they failed their baptismal interviews they both prayed really hard. I guess that was a way that Heavenly Father used to make sure they had real intent, because they wanted to know if they should go through with the interviews with President or not, and ultimately if they should be baptized. Well, you can count on the Holy Ghost to answer prayers, because that night they both dreamed multiple times about getting baptized, and they knew God answered their prayers. In the lesson L (the unbaptized father) was there, and he said: "just go slowly with me, baby steps. I'll read the Book of Mormon, I've just been Catholic for a long time." I can't wait for this family to go to the temple! I want you all to meet them some day.

My other amazing grace we experienced this week came from working with the Powells to fellowship recent converts. The Powells are an answer to my prayers, I have wanted for a long time to have a way to keep these converts active, and the lord sent us Brother and Sister Powell! They will be working with us to fellowship the recent converts!

Pues, casi se me ha expirado el tiempo, pero, les quiero dar mi testimonio de que yo sé que cristo vive, y que esta involucrado en nuestras vidas, A medida que tengamos fe en él, y le seamos obedientes, él nos muestra su mano en nuestras vidas. Miro su mano mas y mas cada dia, y estoy super agradecido por la oportunidad de servirle como un misionero. 
(Well my time is almost over but I want to give my testimony that Christ lives and is involved in our lives. As we have faith in him, and obey him; he shows his hand in our lives. I see his hands every day and am super grateful for the opportunity to serve as a missionary.)

Los amo! Haz lo justo!

Con amorcito,

Elder Michael George Stewart

Monday, August 20, 2012

Walking in Newness of Life

Mi querida familia,

First of all I just want to give a huge congratulations to Sister Stewart for her baptism this weekend! That is the best!!

This week was really great. (This will be a short letter, sorry!!) I honestly think I went through the hardest day of my mission so far on Friday, but it was also one of the best. Friday was hard because...mostly because I couldn't get to sleep on Thursday. I was just really uncomfortable on the small bed. But in any case, I "woke up" at 6:30 and told the Lord "if you want me to serve you today, give me the energy, because I am spent" And he definitely gave me the energy. It was honestly a fight to just physically move around that day, but I know the Lord was testing me because we got so many miracles after that. On Friday we got three amazing referrals from another area! We hardly ever get referrals in Spanish work! We contacted one of them right away and she wanted to learn more! I think the biggest miracle for me though, was that I physically made it through the day, I had a good attitude, and I woke up on Saturday feeling physically and spiritually better. One of the things I have had to learn is that I can rely on the Lord for strength. It’s true :)

So, that amazing referral that we contacted is named C and she has lived with her husband in an area I have tracted many times, but I have never met them! C and her husband haven't been going to any church in a long time, and want to feel more peace in their lives. They are so open and kind we committed them to coming to church right there on Saturday. They didn't come, but we still have a return appointment with them for this week. It is so exciting to find new people!

We have also kept teaching O during this week as well. She took a big step this week by praying in front of us asking if this message is true and if she should be baptized. She said she didn't feel an answer right there, and honestly, that’s okay! I remember the first times I prayed to get an answer; I didn't feel anything, but mostly because I didn't know how to feel an answer. As she keeps praying and reading and coming to church (she came again!) I know she'll get that answer.

The other thing that really impacted me from this week is how much Elder Killian is learning Spanish. It’s incredible! I've taken it upon myself just to speak Spanish around him (which is better for both of us anyway) and sometimes he does give me blank looks, but I can see his progress from just two weeks ago!

Another fun thing we got to do this week was speak in Sacrament meeting in an English ward. That’s the first time on my mission I've been asked to do that! I feel like I didn't chastise the congregation too much ;) It was actually an excellent opportunity for both of us though

Otra vez, me tengo que disculpar por cuan corta esta carta es. Pero tambie quisiera compartir mi testimonio de que yo se sin ninguna duda que el evangelio de Jesucristo es verdadero y que tiene poder que nos puede transformar. Yo se que nuestro Padre Celestial vive y que el se comunica con nosotros si tan solo lo eschuchamos. De veras este mes me ha sido dificil! Pero he sentido tambien la paz del espiritu diciendome que he hecho lo que Dios queria que hiciera; esta paz es la recompensa mas dulce. Me hace querer ser misionero para siempre :)

Los amo tanto! Cuidense mucho!
(Again, I have to apologize for the shortness of this letter. But I do want to bear my testimony that I know without a doubt that the gospel of Jesus Christ is real and has the power to change us. I know that Heavenly Father lives and will talk to us if we will listen. This month was really difficult, but felt the peace of mind that this was what God wanted me to do. This peace is the sweetest reward. It makes me want to be a missionary forever.
I love you both. Take care.)

Que vayan con Dios,

Elder Michael Stewart

Monday, August 13, 2012

Hope, an Anchor to the Souls of Men

Hola mama y papa! De verdad, les amo muchisimo! I also love the mission and serving in the heat of summer :)  We had so many great experiences this week, a lot of trials too, and I want to give a big a thank you to Bishop Baker for his very timely lesson and letter. For the first time on my mission, it has been kind of hard to find new people, bring them to church, and help them accept a baptismal date. I have been praying super hard to know what I need to do, and what I need to change to get things back on track in the area.  One of the things that I learned on this Sunday was just to job is to work hard and to trust. I really am working on that attitude of giving my all to the Lord without caring about personal success. BUT! This week we did see miracles still!

One miracle was that we found N again! Elder Paiz and I contacted her in a park about...6 months ago :) She was really open with us and wanted to learn more and grow closer to the Savior, but we lost contact with her for months (her husband wasn't supportive). Well...on Wednesday we got the referral for her again from one of our great member families, we stopped by...and she was home and very interested in learning more! It is kind of sad though...her husband got deported so she is very down right now. But as it has happened so many times on my mission, the Lord sent us to her right at the time when she needed us most.  My testimony of the atonement really has grown so much while I've been out here. Christ strengthens me every day, and I have seen the promise of a remission of sins, and spiritual healing spark hope in the eyes of so many people. This is the best work ever!

We are super excited to work with N. And also, we are working on reactivating a family and baptizing their nine year old son J. They have been at church for a month straight now! J at first didn't have any church clothes, so Elder Killian and I bought him a white shirt and tie and when we gave it to him he ran into his home shouting "I'm a Mormon! I'm a missionary!" =) We had a great talk with him and his family after that about how he could get baptized, get the priesthood, go to the temple, and then be a missionary, and there was really just an enthusiasm in his face. As far as it is possible, I have seen this nine year old repent, and gain his own personal hope too.

We taught Brother C the plan of salvation this week (he already knew it...he should have been baptized a year ago!) and just lingered for a while over the importance of the atonement and following Christ. He still has that great attitude for his baptismal date and said "alli vamos, echandole ganas" basically "we're going for it" The Lord does not just send missionaries out to bring more people into the church, but the Spirit has taught me that there are eternally important reasons for why we do things. Obedience to Heavenly Father is the first thing we need to learn if we want to make it back to Him someday. With that in mind, Elder Killian and I studied the plan of salvation this week, and it was so funny that he left that companionship study saying "we need everyone to repent and be baptized now! no...they all need to get sealed too!" We have the best companionship ever (he reminds me a lot of Mitch...just a thought =] ).

One last miracle...we had so many non members at church this week! I counted nine! We had 5 investigators there, and 4 "future investigators" =] If you remember the O we have been teaching this last week, we finally got her to church as well! It was a little bit of a process, as she has a new born and a 5 year old with Down’s syndrome. For whatever reason...I was the one that was in charge of folding and unfolding the stroller. That thing was complicated! And here I was thinking that strollers where years down the road....but! The best thing was getting her to church with the English teachers, and having her thank us for all the help we've given her. I am super hopeful for the work we can do with her.

Heavenly Father really loves us so much. I have developed a real personal understanding of faith and hope (thanks again to Bishop Baker for showing me the ropes in all those interviews we had). Faith is when we confide in Christ as the savior and when want to keep His commandments. Hope for me is a little more personal. I have the hope that "My Jesus" (2Ne33:6) can heal and shape me through my faith in Him. I have the hope that He can help me become a successful missionary, and an instrument to bless the lives of these people. My ultimate hope that I've learned about this week, is that He can guide ME back to His presence, and that I can enjoy eternal life some day.

La Iglesia de Jesucristo de los Santos de los Ultimos Dias es verdadera! Cristo es nuestro salvador y el quiere que tengamos esta esperanza muy personal tambien---El puede ayudar a cualquier persona que viene a El. Amo a estos hispanos y a mi querida rama. Mas y mas siento como un miembro de esta congregacion y he crecido a amarlos aun que no sean perfectos. Los amo a ustedes tanto! Seguiremos adelante!
(The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is true! Christ is our savior and wants us to have this hope too---that He can help anyone who comes to Him. I love these Hispanics and my dear branch. More and more I feel like a member of this congregation and have grown to love them more perfectly. I love you both! Onward!)

Que vayan con Dios,

Elder Michael Stewart

Monday, August 6, 2012

The Best Mission Ever!

Whewie! ¡Hola mis amados padres! Estoy super duper agradecido a comunicarme con ustedes al comenzar una nueva semana. Esta semana...he estado mas emocionado que jamas antes en mi mision. ¡Muchas cosas buenas estan pasando ahora en nuestro are!!
(Hello my dear parents! I'm super duper grateful to write to you at the start of this new week. This week ... I've been more excited than ever before in my mission. Many good things are happening now in our area!)

First thing is first! There goes Elder Barrales in the transfer wagon all the way to Moab...but we say a big hello to Elder Killian! He is the best! Fresh out of the MTC he comes from Kennewick Washington and is a great Elder. The first thing that he said to me in the car was "It is really important for me to be obedient" :) Well Elder, you've come to the right place :) 

Going to the trainers' meeting and meeting Elder Killian was actually a really good experience for me. I have been in those trainers' meetings three times now (once as a greenie, and now twice to train) and they have always been extremely spiritual experiences for me. It’s as if the Spirit was just feeding me and knows all of my needs to get me ready for 3 more months focused outside of myself again. I know that President Leonard is inspired of God. Doing what he asks is not hard at all because the Spirit always bears testimony that it is what the Lord desires for me too. Soooo....we are training again :) I know I have a few more ideas and a little more experience now, and I am so excited to work with an Elder that is so ready to work and learn! Seriously, I have never felt this much unity in a companionship from right off the bat. 

So we left that meeting on Wednesday, and the first thing we did was definitely a miracle! We knocked the door of a family that has never answered before...and they opened up! Elder Killian was amazing, and just got a little tongue tied inviting them to be baptized. But...they accepted! I love it. We have appointments with this family to follow up on their commitments. The most amazing thing though is that the 15 year old son has been praying and reading the Book of Mormon every night for 2 weeks! I have been in this area for 6 months and knocked that door countless times...but apparently Heavenly Father was just waiting until the right man came along for them to open up to us :) 

We had so many amazing lessons this week, I just can’t tell you about all of them! One of the best was with a man named Brother C . His wife got baptized 1.5 yrs ago and he has come to church with her for a while. I love this man so much...he is an example of hard work and selflessness to provide for his family, and he has soooo much faith. He has read half of the Book of Mormon!! But in that lesson we told the Joseph Smith story again then I gave the time over to Elder Killian.  He looked sooooo scared, but in all the Spanish he could muster he just bore the humblest testimony,  "I testify that I know that these things are true. I know that Joseph Smith was a prophet."   That alone did more to flood the room with the Spirit that anything else. But it’s not over yet!! Bro. C said "I just really want to keep the commandments" and my Book of Mormon pretty much flipped by itself to 2 Nephi 31:10-12, and then Elder Killian bore his humble testimony again. And Brother C sat there, then said "¡Echemosle ganas!" which being interpreted means "lets go for it!" We are a team as a companionship already! It's the best! 

More than anything else though, I know that its the power of the Lords' spirit that does this work see D&C 35:13-14. 
 13 Wherefore, I call upon the aweak things of the world, those who are bunlearned and despised, to thresh the cnations by the power of my dSpirit;
 14 And their arm shall be my arm, and I will be their ashield and their buckler; and I will gird up their loins, and they shall fight manfully for me; and their benemies shall be under their feet; and I will let cfall the dsword in their behalf, and by the efire of mine indignation will I preserve them. 

How else can we be effective servants of the Lord right out of the MTC, or even at all? I just know that God lives, that Jesus is the Christ and that they have poured out the Spirit over this area to prepare people to receive two 19 year old Elders just trying their best to share the Gospel. I am so weak as a leader and a trainer, but I know that the Spirit is the most important element in this work. We are just going to baptize everyone these two transfers! 

En todo seriedad, tengo un testimonio de la restauracion del evangelio. Puedo imaginar como se sentia el profeta Jose Smith, al ser llamado para efectuar una obra much mas grande que el. Asi me siento yo casi todos los dias. Comparto mi testimonio tambien de que yo se que la Iglesia es verdadera, que es guiada hoy dia por el Salvador viviente. El Libro de Mormon contiene la palabra de Dios, y me ha cambiado la vida.  Los amo tantisimo! Obrare duro todos los dias, no se preocupen por mi!
(In all seriousness, I have a testimony of the Restored Gospel. I can imagine how the prophet Joseph Smith felt to be called to make a much larger work than me. I feel that way every day. I bear witness that I also know that the Church is true, that today it is guided by the living Savior. The Book of Mormon contains the word of God and has changed my life. I love you so much! I will work hard every day, do not worry about me!) 

Los amo!!
Que vayan con Dios, 

Elder Michael George Stewart