Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Say goodbye to dwarfed goals

Dear Mother and Father, 

Well this week I am exhausted! We were even busier this week with mission business and proselyting. 
We went on two exchanges this week. We exchanged with the Zone Leaders in Cedar City and with the Spanish Zone Leaders in St. George. It’s funny, I remember the first exchange I went on as a District Leader. I was nervous and I didn't really know how to help the missionaries or the area. I can't tell you how many exchanges I have been on now, probably more than 50.  I guess having a lot of them under your belt helps you to be a little more knowledgeable and confident with training. I still feel like a greenie all the time though. There is too much to learn and improve. 

We saw R baptized yesterday and I confirmed him today. He bore his testimony about the happiness that he has felt as he talks with members of the church and as he reads and prays. He was a miracle from start to finish. We had to really work hard last week to make sure that he made it here at this date, but he did it! I am always amazed by the obedience to heavenly father that these people demonstrate as they choose to be baptized. Baptism is one of the ultimate symbols of being obedient to God's commandments. 

We kept teaching S, S2, M, and J this week. J and S2 are getting baptized tomorrow for FHE. It’s kind of funny, J is so popular around campus that people keep texting us and congratulating us on her baptism. They are both pumped and ready for their baptisms tomorrow. 

I think the biggest news of this week is that Elder Holland came to St. George for Pioneer Day this week. He attended a Luau in Washington City on Tuesday night, and we were invited to attend along with President and Sister Center. We ate dinner with him and his wife at the same table. It was a choice experience.  It was good to be there with St. George's apostle.

This week we actually got referred to a less active girl. Her name is S3 and the Bishop of one of our wards asked us to teach her the lessons and help her return to activity. It will be more like coming into activity for the first time because she was baptized when she was 8 but never went to church. I have never consistently taught a less active member my whole mission, but teaching her feels just as important as teaching a non member. 

This work is true and it is vitally important. Helping people temporally is good, but I know that helping people accept the gospel is the most important work that I can do in time and in eternity. I know that this church is true. Elder Campbell and I have testified of that until we're blue in the face, and I know that the work that I am doing is true.

I love you all so much! Be an everyday missionary this week!

 Elder Michael Stewart

Monday, July 22, 2013

Saved in the Fourth Watch...more mountains to climb :-)

This week...was a fourth watch kind of week. We toiled, struggled, worked, stayed up, trained, planned....and we got blessings just poured down upon us. 
Wow....our God is a "Fourth Watch God". 
Mark 6:45-51
"45 And straightway he constrained his disciples to get into the ship, and to go to the other side before unto Bethsaida, while he sent away the people.
46 And when he had sent them away, he departed into a mountain to pray.
47 And when even was come, the ship was in the midst of the sea, and he alone on the land.
48 And he saw them toiling in rowing; for the wind was contrary unto them: and about the fourth watch of the night he cometh unto them, walking upon the sea, and would have passed by them.
49 But when they saw him walking upon the sea, they supposed it had been a spirit, and cried out:
50 For they all saw him, and were troubled. And immediately he talked with them, and saith unto them, Be of good cheer: it is I; be not afraid.
51 And he went up unto them into the ship; and the wind ceased: and they were sore amazed in themselves beyond measure, and wondered."

So, so, so many lessons from this story. The disciples were obeying a commandment of the Savior by sailing to the other side of the sea. A storm came, and they struggled from evening through till the "Fourth Watch" (almost before dawn). He was watching them the whole time, but he didn't come to them until the last moment. Then when they cried out to them "immediately" he calms the wind.

When we pass through trials and cry out for help, and it seems like help doesn't come, never, never never give up. Jesus saves us at the fourth watch, so if we are having trials and pleading for help, hold out and hope for the fourth watch. If we aren't saved yet, it’s not the fourth watch yet and we are going to be okay. I know that that is true. We saw that this week.

It was Zone Conference week: Manti on Tuesday from 9-3, Richfield on Wednesday from 9-3, and then twice in St. George on Thursday and Saturday. We had less time in our area, but taught more lessons, had more people at church, and found more investigators than we have in a while. All of that happened on Saturday and Sunday. Talk about the Fourth Watch of the week.

Don't get me wrong, I love Zone Conference. We saw every single missionary in the mission and trained them on using the Book of Mormon. I love all of these Elders and Sisters. It does get exhausting at times though. We exchanged with the Zone Leaders in Mt. Pleasant on Tuesday after their Zone Conference and so we were out of the area for two days. It was so worth it though.

On Wednesday first thing after we got back from being in Richfield in the evening we taught M and R. We were super tired, but M committed to coming to church, and she came!! R also solidified all of the details for his baptism on this coming Saturday; somehow we had energy and enthusiasm left to teach those lessons. What a blessing.

But all the real miracles came Saturday and Sunday. On Saturday we got a call from R saying that he appreciated our help and work but that he was going to get baptized with other missionaries. Now, that’s not such a big blow, but it would have delayed R getting baptized and it would have been kind of hard for us to get him to this point and then not have him go through with it. We went and prayed at the Institute (I mean really PRAYED for help) and pretty soon after that we were able to contact them, smooth over a slight conflict, and he is back on track. He went to church yesterday with M and they announced his baptism to the ward :-)

We kept seeing S this week too as well as J and M2. S slept through his assigned sacrament meeting and so we had to o shake him out of bed, not really, but we did get him to a later sacrament meeting and he made a lot of new friends. He loves the Book of Mormon and is preparing to be baptized!

Also, we got a call from a ward mission leader after church on Sunday "Elders, a kid has been coming to church for the past few weeks, and he wants to be baptized!" We got to meet with him yesterday his name is S, and he has had a rough past. But he wants to meet with us ever day and work towards getting baptized! Whew, that one was such a tender mercy.

BUT!!! The biggest miracle came on Sunday night. J was our last lesson of the night and we were teaching her outside of the visitor's center on the temple grounds. She has been fighting a commitment to keep a baptismal date. We have been teaching her for 3 months. She has attended church, been reading the Book of Mormon (and the Doctrine and Covenants), and she has committed to keep all of the commandments. She has considered herself an "honorary Mormon" for years. But she is also the type of girl that when she says she will do something she takes it seriously and follows all the way through. So we have known that we have to bring the Spirit consistently, invite patiently, and let the Lord work on her. And we saw that last night.

Right before the end of our lesson, Elder Campbell asked her if she has been praying about her baptism. That unfolded a whole line of thought and she told us that "there probably never will be a perfect time. I will always be busy with school, trips, student government. “So we invited her again, and waited, and waited, answered her questions, walked her through what a baptismal service looks like, and she finally committed to the Spirit. She will be baptized on July 29th at 6pm. That one was a fight for her and for us, but what a decision that will bless her life forever.

So in short, the Lord saved our tails this week. We tried super hard to make good zone conferences and to stay diligent and obedient in our own area, and I know that we have been working with the Lord at our sides. It has also made a difference to work more closely with the members of our stake. In J's lesson yesterday her friends did just as much of the teaching as we did, we truly are one in this work! It’s not mine, it’s not the members, but this work is the Lord's.

I love all of you!! Especially Jeanie! I was sitting and thinking of her the other day, and JeanMarie has always been one of the "pioneers" in my life. She pioneered high school, seminary, college, and even the MTC and the mission for me. She went first in just about everything and I just followed. I love you so much Jeanie!! You have really blessed my life and I love you.

Well, I know without a doubt that this church is true. I have seen and experienced way too much for me to even think otherwise. God has answered all of my pleading prayers, and I know that he hears and answers every prayer from all of his children. I want so bad to just be the best missionary that I can be so that others can receive the Gospel: my missionaries, my companions, and especially my investigators. This mission matters so much for me and I want it to be forever.
I love you!

Elder Michael George Stewart

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

I LOVE Finding!

Dear Mom and Dad, 

This week was full of blessings and challenges on my end too. I guess the family is all on the same page this week. We saw lots of blessings this week: new investigators, chances to train new missionaries, and students moving back to the area. I have been a missionary for a long time. Right now my focus is just to learn as much as I can about missionary work, get as good at it as I can, so that I can keep doing it my whole life. I do love this work, but I want both of my feet to be firmly planted here for my last transfers. I need to focus as much as I can on this work right now. Nothing is more important! 

Evan sent me a really nice message the other day in the mail, mention that to him if you get a chance at some point. It definitely lifted my spirits. 

Let’s start this week off with a miracle. Elder Campbell and I had to go meet with President Center one evening to plan the transfer and the upcoming zone conferences, and so we got out of an appointment and had ten minutes before meeting with him. There was one young man we both had in mind to visit and so we ran right over to his apartment and he was home! He ushered us both right inside and the first thing out of his mouth (even before the opening prayer) was "How long does it take someone to get baptized?" His name is S. He changed jobs last week just so he can "keep the Sabbath day holy" in his own words, great kid. He is well known by all, and we are excited to work with him. 

We did two exchanges this week, and I went to---RICHFIELD! It was very good to be back there and to find a lot of people. I love finding. 

And now, we are running off to Zone Conferences! Love you! I will write more soon! 

Elder Michael George Stewart

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Renewed Vision and Energy

Hello mom and dad :-)

It was a really good week. We stayed pretty busy even though some kids were out of town for the holiday weekend. We drove to Price again to exchange with the Zone Leaders. I got to go with Elder Miller who is a great brother. We had a great time finding and teaching. We saw a lot of miracles even though it was Carbon County.

This week was Mission Leadership Council for us just like it was for Sister Stewart. There is a pretty big push in the mission right now to concentrate our efforts at working with members. President Center was surprised at the performance of the mission to be honest, with 200,000 member missionaries in the mission there is no reason that every single missionary in the mission should not be very busy. We do need to find and teach a lot more.

Let’s start with Sunday. Last Sunday a young man showed up to church for the first time because a friend invited him. We set up an appointment to go teach him last week, but he had to cancel and then we weren't sure if we were going to be able to see him again. But, he went to church again this week with a different friend, came, found us and asked "So....when you meet with people, what do you do?" It was a nice little tender mercy at the end of the week after we had worked hard all week long.

We kept teaching our investigators this week. R, K, and P are all doing well. It’s been kind of hard to get a hold of K2 these days, we hope that he is still good for baptism this month!

We have also been working really hard at finding using members as well. At times we as members of the church have a difficulty inviting or helping our friends become involved in the church or learn about the gospel because we don't know what to do. President Center helped us to develop a sheet that we shared with our Zone Leaders at MLC that is aimed at helping members get organized and have ideas for inviting people. The idea is that you put the name of a less active or non member down, and then you pick something that you can do to move them closer to the gospel, and you put a date in the box when you're going to do the activity.

Ever since we changed our own mindset from doing it all on our own to having members involved in our work, we have seen a lot of fruit. There are just people coming out of the wood work now!

I think one important thing I have learned on my mission is to love what I am doing. We put in long hours this week: on the road, in the area, and in the office. But loving the Savior, loving the missionaries, and loving the work makes every single sacrifice worth it. 

Well, I’ve got to go! But I love you all and I love this church. It is true.

Elder Michael Stewart

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

It’s not about you

This was an unforgettable week for me. We learned a lot this week, from each other and about each other, from President Center. It’s crazy to think about, the man who trained, taught, and guided me for 18 months is gone and moved on in his life. I will sure miss President Leonard and Sister Leonard. They stayed in in St. George all this week still because their son was sealed in the St. George temple on Saturday. He will always be my President (well, one of my two presidents any way). Sister Leonard gave us their phone numbers and invited us to their lake house after the mission.  Elder Campbell and I are DEFINITELY going. But there are still people to baptize here!

This week we got a new mission president and wife, President and Sister Center. This church is true and these two are the right people to be here at this time. We went out and taught with President Center last week and it was a delightful experience. He has a lot of ideas to put to work. He definitely has a different style than President Leonard. A lot of the formalities and etiquette that President Leonard trained us on are not really important to President Center, but I am so glad that President Leonard took the time to teach us all those things: how to plan and conduct meetings, how to prepare in a timely manner, and how to organize a transfer. I am grateful for the opportunity to serve with two great men!

The miracle of the week for us would have to be when a young man from New Zealand walked into the visitor's center and expressed his desire to be baptized. His name is R. He has been dating a girl from St. George, and now he has moved out here. He loves the church and the lessons! And Elder Campbell and I love his accent.

We also had a really good sacrament meeting on Sunday. Our recent convert K spoke to a packed chapel of people including 6 of our investigators. She brought down the house. "For a long time in my life I didn't have a Dad, but now I know that I have a Heavenly Father who loves me and will answer my prayers." She just testified of her remission of sins, the long process it was for her, and of her love of the Savior. Not many dry eyes were in that chapel afterwards.

Lots of finding and lots of teaching this week. This mission is the best. I am so grateful for the chance I have to be here. They say that when a missionary hits 18 months it’s his time to shine. So let’s start shining, eh?
I love being a missionary. I want very much for others to come unto Christ and experience his healing and receiving a remission of their own sins. It’s not even about Elder Stewart and Elder Campbell having baptisms. It’s about helping people like K have their own special day and their own change of heart. The theme for me this week has been "It’s not about you" and that has brought me the most happiness. It simplifies my life and gives me a lot of drive and purpose as my thoughts and actions throughout a whole day are focused on others and on the Savior. I just want to do this forever, and I know God will make it possible for me too.

I love you all!!! If I had to make a would be to check out this new church website. And the book "The Power of Everyday Missionaries". Mom and Dad, you two can participate in the work of salvation too :-) Its so amazing.

Lots of love!!!!
Elder Michael George Stewart