Thursday, January 30, 2014

The Power of Three!

It was a week with a lot of growing and learning. I am so happy to still be on my mission. The biggest motivator right now is that we have several baptisms scheduled for every weekend between now and when I go home. It’s a blessing that is sure to keep me motivated. 

This week was busy with a new companion, a wedding, and a baptism!

MONDAY: Right after I emailed you all, Elder Becerra and I went and taught a lesson to S, a new investigator we found a few weeks ago. He had wanted to be baptized, but he and his fiancĂ© weren't married. They were talking about getting married "sometime this decade". We taught them the Law of Chastity and read to them from the "Family Proclamation" Those are some powerful words. And honestly, I still reverently remember the powerful spirit that filled that small room as we testified of the importance of them getting married. In that same lesson, they committed to be married on Friday so that S could be baptized on Saturday.  One of the most spiritual lessons I've ever been in. When we asked them "Will you all be married before Scott's baptism?" S immediately responded "Yes, definitely, we will do that." It just strengthened my testimony that when someone is ready and willing, the Lord can do miracles with them.
We called the bishop and ward mission leader right after that lesson, and asked them to take care of all the arrangements for the license and wedding. They did a great job, and I am so grateful for their help.
After that lesson, we packed some overnight bags and hurried to Salina so we could get on the van to St. George. The mission picked up all the missionaries who were in the MTC with me, they all left on Wednesday. I sat next to Elder Gomez and Elder Barboza on the way down. What a privilege to come full circle with those elders. In the MTC I sat by Elder Barboza every day, and we have served around each other several times. And Elder Gomez has been around me in one form or another my whole mission. I have a lot of strong feelings about these brothers and the experiences we have shared.

Monday night we proselyted in a walking area with the Sunset English Elders. I slept on a couch that night.

TUESDAY: Elder Lopez picked me up and we went to see all the missionaries boarding the transfer van.
Then all of the departing missionaries went to a temple session with President and Sister Center. There is a new movie again! That was a really spiritual experience for me. Brother Bott told us in mission prep, to "return and report" to the Lord at the end of our missions in the temple. And I took an opportunity to do that in the celestial room as I mentally reviewed all the areas, companions, and converts I have had. I felt clear and at peace about everything I've been able to do for 2 years. What a blessing. It’s not a sacrifice at all to serve the Lord; it’s my privilege and lifelong desire. It’s all about the people you’re with and the lives you’re able to touch.

After the session President and Sister Center answered some questions for us in the celestial room then we had a meeting with the temple president. He talked about making the temple a priority in post mission life. And MAKING TIME to be there. Definitely something I want to do in Provo, probably once a week.
My new companionship is Elder Becerra, Elder Joens, and yours truly. Elder Joens is a great missionary. Very diligent and he really wants to do a good job. He is the only active member in his family. I am always shocked at the missionaries who made big sacrifices to be on their missions. Also our combined weight in this companionship is almost 700lbs. We are all over 6ft tall.

WEDNESDAY: So after being trained, we loaded up on the transfer van and went all the way back up to Salina. I got to sit by Elder Campbell on the van and we talked the whole way up. Alma 17:2 "...and what added more to his joy, they were still his brethren in the Lord..." That’s the way I feel about that man. Eight months is a long time to serve together.  I am just so grateful that we will see each other every Pday and every district meeting each week till I leave. His example and service are big boosters to me, and I am grateful that I can be there for him too.

Wednesday night, we taught two great lessons, introduced Elder Joens to a bishop, and went to bed.

THURSDAY: This day was our District Meeting.  We learned about "How to Begin Teaching" principles from preach my gospel, got Elder Joens some groceries, went to lunch with Elder Campbell and his greenie, Elder Sanders. We taught the D family. The lesson was hectic; the kids were kind of unruly. They still want to be baptized though!

That night we had lessons with the S family (getting baptized on February 1st), K (Feb 15), the H’s (Feb. 8), and S (Jan 25). We had an awesome lesson with S about the Atonement and repentance. One of the biggest lessons I've learned on my mission is the importance of repenting and that we only can repent thanks to Jesus Christ. While it’s true we need to recognize our sins, confess them, stop sinning, make restitution and commit to keeping the commandments in order to repent---the most important step is the acknowledge the Savior's power to redeem and let that take effect in your life.

FRIDAY: Taught S about the restoration (or maybe we did that on Thursday, in any case he had all the lessons), introduced Elder Joens to President Rosenvall, taught the D family again about baptism, found a new investigator, and then we had S’s wedding The ward did a great job.

SATURDAY:  Reviewed S for his interview, interviewed him and baptized him. It was another spiritual day.

SUNDAY: Have I mentioned that our correlation meetings are Sundays at 6:30 a.m.? So we wake up at 5:30 a.m. to be ready on time. It’s fun. At 7:30 we got a call from a new Bishop, his whole sacrament meeting program had fallen through. So we offered to speak in his ward at 1 p.m. on top of our confirmation at 11 a.m. and our speaking assignment at 9 a.m. It was a great day. At the end of the day we had a lesson with K. She has asked me to baptize her which will be my first time baptizing someone personally in months! What a big motivator to keep me going for a few weeks.

I am so grateful for this week. It’s been an emotional roller coaster but at the end of it all, I know my head, heart, and feet are where they are supposed to be. I am so grateful we stayed so busy this week. Along with all that is listed here, we gave several priesthood blessings, had some run ins with drunken people, and managed to keep going to the gym every morning.  It has taken prayer, pondering, and good old fashioned hard work, but I know these last weeks will be my best ones yet.

I love you so much! Keep praying for us to find new investigators!

Elder Michael George Stewart.

Monday, January 20, 2014

This will just be a brief note today.

My companion and I will be staying together for my last 4 weeks! And we will be training a new missionary together! I am excited to have "the power of three" with us for a little. Even better news, Elder Campbell will be transferred to Snow College. So we will be in the same district for 4 weeks. All this is better than I could have hoped for. 

We kept the Richfield AP tradition going too. I trained Elder Campbell to be a ZL in Richfield, and then he was an AP (for 9 months by the way). And after I was transferred from Richfield, Elder Campbell trained Elder Captain to be a ZL, and now he will be the new AP. It’s a good life.

 I am going down to St. George in a couple hours to do the departing missionary activities, so all I can say now is that I love you.

I really love what I am doing. I feel so grateful to Heavenly Father for all of His blessings and for the work we have been able to do together. On my mission I have truly changed my life. I feel like for the first time I am doing EXACTLY the work that Father in Heaven has always wanted me to be doing. I am so grateful for the things that we have been able to do together.

I love you so much.

Elder Michael Stewart

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

This is why I extended!

We have been extremely blessed this week. One of our bishops referred us to a nonmember family of 11 to teach. The D family who are related to another family we are also teaching.  The D’s lived here in the summer and attended church a lot. They moved to Phoenix but, didn't like Phoenix for their family, and have moved back. The mother and father have been married for 17 yrs and there are 9 children. We met them on Friday, and then we went with father and one son to clean the chapel on Saturday. We had a lesson with the parents about baptism that day. They recognize that God wants their family to be in the Church, and they want a fresh start to their marriage and to their lives. On Sunday three children came to church with us (the rest committed to be there next week), and last night we also had a lesson with them about the Book of Mormon. THE WHOLE FAMILY was reverently seated, listened, and read scriptures when it was their turn. There is a very special spirit about them. They really love their bishop; he has done repairs around the house and helped them out quite a bit.

That is why I extended. To be blunt, this family is really close to baptism, and I know that Heavenly Father wants us to help them get there. It’s very exciting to teach families like that!

This week K was baptized by one of his cousins. Later that week K got hurt at a wrestling match, so we went to the High School. His coach carried him into a separate room, and my companion and I gave him a blessing. That was a very special experience. By the time he got to church on Sunday to be confirmed, he was walking, but it was still painful. He is a great kid! I can't wait for him to come on splits with us. Actually, I can't wait for him to go on his own full time mission.

There were just so many miracles! A grandma in Fayette called us and asked us to come help her get her grandkids ready for baptism. A bishop in Gunnison called us and told us an older man approached him about getting baptized. I definitely don't want to "count my chickens before they hatch" but I am just so grateful for Heavenly Father, my companion, the members, and everyone else who is making this work go forward. As Elder Campbell always said, "it’s a team concept", and none of this would be happening if any one piece was missing.

This week has been one of those "stand back and see the hand of the Lord" kind of weeks. We have been working so hard for so long! And there have definitely been fruits, but this week, the Lord definitely showed that he is able to do his own work. His children are in his hands, and he has all power to help them.
I know the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is God's kingdom on the earth today. President Monson is a prophet of God, and he and the apostles are guided by Jesus Christ to lead the church today. There is "one Lord, one faith, on baptism" (Ephesians 4:5), and we have the priesthood authority to administer that to the world. I love being a missionary to echo God’s commandment "Repent ye, repent ye, and be baptized in the name of my Beloved Son" (2Nephi 31:11). Repentance is hard, but is joyful, and all men need to do it! And it is very exciting to partner with God to bring souls unto him--nothing could ever be more important or more fulfilling.

I love you so much! Take care, and do what you can to share the Gospel with others each day! Small and simple means are the best ways to do it.


Elder Michael George Stewart

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Cheerfully do all things!

January 6, 2014
Thanks so much for the birthday package.  That sweater is VERY NICE! WOW! I don't think I've ever owned something like that before, thanks.  I was very well taken care of for my birth-day. Sister Judy made a chocolate sheet cake and the football coach invited us over for a New Year dinner featuring deep fried everything. It’s a good thing we've been going to the gym so much.  At the rate they are feeding us I hope you recognize me when I come home.

At N's baptism and then at his confirmation on Sunday Sister W shared her adopted son's conversion story and how it affected her and her family. She shared how the first couple of missionary lessons were pretty rough (he is from Ethiopia and had only been in the states for a week before met him, not much English there). Later as we kept coming back, she said her prayers were answered and she knew that the Spirit was able to convey the message of the Gospel to him according to his own understanding. It really is a miracle that as my companion and I prepare ourselves spiritually, and do our best, the Holy Ghost does all the work! Sister W shared how one night she asked N if he had been praying about our message. He said yes, and that he knew that it was good. The Gospel is for all men, young and old, bond and free! You don't need an education or a lot of experience for God to speak to you.

A few exciting highlights from the week.
J came to church again!  She is becoming a lot more active. Also, you might remember C who Elder Campbell and I taught in Richfield, he was baptized the week I transferred to Dixie. We met his younger brother in Richfield at that time, but he wasn't too interested back then. Well, it turns out that J is his biological mom, and he splits his weekends between Richfield and Mayfield, and we started teaching him up here. He is a much more interested now. It’s interesting how you can come full circle in teaching a family on your mission.

K is getting baptized on Tuesday! We had to do that day because it’s the only time they don't have a wrestling meet this week. His coaches are ending practice early and telling all the boys to go to his baptism. He has been fellowshipped very well! His cousin V will be able to baptize him too.

We got an amazing new investigator, and it’s the PERFECT story of member missionary work. The new investigator is named K S; she is 19, has 2 kids and is married to Z who is a less active member. She and her husband live with Z's parents who are active. C (the mother in law) has been slowly taking her to church, talking to her about the Gospel, and helping her over the years. This week C invited K to meet with us and K agreed! She is very ready and she wants the church to help her become a better mother. Love and serve your family and friends. Don't be afraid to invite them to church and to meet with the missionaries too. If those invitations are made out of love, they will never come off as being pushy.

There are so many great things going on. The Lord is really blessing us. And I feel like I am becoming the missionary that I had always dreamed and wanted to be. It took two years and I know that Heavenly Fathers expects me to stay converted and to keep serving Him and His children my whole life. As Elder Bednar taught us, we all need to become missionaries, not just go on missions.

I know that the Gospel is true and that the Lord restored it in our days through the Prophet Joseph Smith. I am always amazed at how the simple principles of the Gospel are so powerful. I have really only learned 5 principles on my mission: faith in Jesus Christ, repentance, baptism, receiving the Gift of the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end. But those principles and the Doctrine of Christ that they make up are in and through every part of the church and the Gospel. We pay tithing to show faith in Christ and to help us remain faithful to the church all through our lives. We read our scriptures to help us to repent of our sins and to receive the Spirit in our lives. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is in everything we do. Preach My Gospel teaches us to "Preach the first principles of the Gospel. Preach them again and again…" It’s kind of like chemistry, in that if you know the first principles and foundational laws, you can describe and solve almost any situation you encounter.

I am so happy with what I am doing right now. It’s going to be bittersweet saying goodbye to the mission. I have 6 weeks left. But right now my goal is just to "cheerfully do all things that lie in [my] power; and then stand still with the utmost assurance and see the salvation of God and for his arm to be revealed...." (D&C 123:17) I love you so much! And I love this Church. It definitely is the Kingdom of God on the earth.

Elder Michael George Stewart