Thursday, March 6, 2014

From March 3rd:

This last week has been incredible.

Kevin prepared himself for baptism this week. He has friends, a testimony of the truth of the Church, and desires baptism. We were set for this Saturday but his family wants him to wait. It's understandable, because in the last 6 weeks his family has probably seen his activity in the Church as a social change and not so much a spiritual. Although a friend of his has seen some pretty incredible changes in his life since he's started meeting with us. We're having dinner with him today and will talk it over.

Crystal referred herself to us. She has a brain tumor, a 2 year old child and her foot was run over 2 months ago breaking it in 3 places. She was homeless but is now living with 2 other families in a house that her friend's mother owns. From her first meeting with us, she has felt really good, in contrast to the previous Christian churches she's gone to before, where she felt empty. She wants to learn everything she can, and she looked so happy to have been able to keep the Gospel Essentials manual from Church. It's really incredible. When I watched Ephraim's Rescue the Spirit was so strong throughout the movie. She really is like one of those starving pioneers that after months and months of privation and shortened rations were on the brink of massive losses. However difficult her life is, from Preach My Gospel, "As people are taught the restored gospel and live it, their needs will be met." We "preach [His] gospel by the Spirit, even the Comforter which was sent forth to teach the truth." (D&C 50:14)

We had another lesson with Vladimir with the Cowley family. They had the most well behaved and respectful children I've seen in a very long time. The father promoted Christianity during the Soviet Union (extremely dangerous) and was an evangelical minister in Ukraine. He's very interested in the Book of Mormon, seeing the difference between Church members and the other people he sees.

The conflict in Ukraine is bringing the work to a halt. It's looking like there's going to be a civil war, Russia arming the third of Ukraine that's Russian-loyal against the other 2/3s that ousted the President. People have no interest right now over there, and hopefully my small efforts will bring a small part of that great and marvelous work, as Joseph Smith's grandfather prophesied, that would "revolutionize the world of religious thought."

"And I would, my brethren, that ye should know that all the kindreds of the earth cannot be blessed unless he shall make bare his arm in the eyes of the nations.
"Wherefore, the Lord God will proceed to make bare his arm in the eyes of all the nations, in bringing about his covenants and his gospel unto those who are of the house of Israel."

Last night we had dinner with a couple where one set of their parents are serving as Mission Presidents in Ukraine. Other missions are having so much difficulty during this time preaching the Gospel. Missionaries are often confined to their apartments, with the possibility of being sent State-side because of the chaos that might erupt in Ukraine. They got all the missionaries out of Crimea before the Russians got there. I had the thought of why so much effort over trying to escape the Russian empire for the EU, but we had 10 years of terrible bloodshed over our freedom here from a similar empire.

"And I would, my brethren, that ye should know that all the kindreds of the earth cannot be blessed unless he shall make bare his arm in the eyes of the nations.Wherefore, the Lord God will proceed to make bare his arm in the eyes of all the nations, in bringing about his covenants and his gospel unto those who are of the house of Israel." (1 Nephi 22:10-11)

We ended up finally dropping Galyena and Yuri, they aren't taking the Restored Gospel seriously and we'll come back in a month or two, they brought some Pentecostal friends, but the teaching situation is too stacked against us. When we get our first Ukrainian convert we'll bring him or her to them and have that testimony. They will not pray to know if the Book of Mormon is true. They had me say a prayer for it, and she said she felt the Spirit really strong, but then when I asked if that could be evidence that God was telling her that the Book of Mormon is true, she said that prayer just brings the Spirit automatically. It's just really hard, they are from the Soviet Union and have such a faith and trial filled history and religious tradition, it just takes time to let the Restored Gospel sink in, as was Grandpa and Grandma Nebeker's experience with the Chinese in Oakland, so much fruit has been harvested of the years. It just took time for the seeds of the Restored Gospel to plant in even the most fertile soil.

The Spirit is so strong here in Boise. It's been incredibly difficult here, as I got my prescriptions refilled by a psychiatrist, who actually changed my dosages. I was still able to teach and interact with others but for several days I wasn't very stable. I'm just so lucky to be on the right dosages right now (go Mom!) and benefit from psychiatry, I can't imagine how much harder it would be to be off the medications. There's such a stigma to mental health, if men can function at all without seeing a psychiatrist they'll do it. It's just so important to have it down before your mission, because I would hate to be juggling dosages right now.

It was good though, because I became super sensitive to stress (things are back to normal now). If you think about it, life will never be this calm again, even though I'm actively proselyting 70 hours a week, to really meet the needs of my investigators and serve and teach the people we're working (assuming regular appointments) it would not take nearly that much time. Add school, work, family and Church assignments when I get back and it will be chaos. My patriarchal blessing says that I'll enjoy my responsibilities in the future, and if I'm terribly stressed out now, how much more will I be then? 

"And see that all these things are done in wisdom and order; for it is not requisite that a man should run faster than he has strength. And again, it is expedient that he should be diligent, that thereby he might win the prize; therefore, all things must be done in order." (Mosiah 4:27)

I was running faster than I had strength, or at least could find joy in the journey. It was really humbling having to rest from time to time from the work during those few days. Yeah there will be times when you have to grin and bare it, but a central purpose to our lives is to have joy, serving others at a pace that is productive but manageable.

I'll have to bring a sheet for how to deal with stress from a psychologist that gave a devotional on managing stress before I left (particularly on missions). Russians and Ukrainians not being interested or having the faith to keep commitments used to be super stressful and discouraging. Being in tune with the Spirit has really helped, bringing me comfort and the knowledge that I did my part and that they would be brought in soon enough. However one of the methods that I learned at a devotional to help deal with stressful situations is Decatastrophizing. 
  • Disputing the negative thoughts of the event, like "Will that lesson really negatively impact their salvation?" or "Is it really as bad as you think it is?". Our emotions can overstep reason in these times.
  • Distancing yourself from what has happened can also help, "What I think if I could see this situation from someone else's perspective? Would it really trouble me so much?"
  • Distracting my mind has been one of the best ways to cope with the stresses of missionary work. Memorizing hymns and scriptures has helped so much to take my thoughts from this world to a higher sphere. Scriptures like Mosiah 3:7-9, or John 13:34-35 can help me keep love between me and Elder Nelson when we disagree. Moroni 7:45-47 has been particularly helpful. 
    • "Great power can come from memorizing scriptures. To memorize a scripture is to forge a new friendship. It is like discovering a new individual who can help in time of need, give inspiration and comfort, and be a source of motivation for needed change. For example, committing to memory this psalm has been for me a source of power and understanding: (Psalm 24:1-5)" (The Power of Scripture, Richard G. Scott, October 2011 General Conference).
    • "Hymns can lift our spirits, give us courage, and move us to righteous action. They can fill our souls with heavenly thoughts and bring us a spirit of peace." (Introduction to the LDS Hymnal, p. x)
I'm going to find joy in this journey, no matter how difficult it may come or what circumstances will occur, with full faith in God's plan for us and in the Restoration of the Gospel and the sacred covenants that almighty God will fulfill for us and our families. No matter how difficult our circumstances or handicapped we may feel, my "dearly beloved brethren, let us cheerfully do all things that lie in our power; and then may we stand still, with the utmost assurance, to see the salvation of God, and for his arm to be revealed." (D&C 123:17). This work is true!

Much love,
Elder Szendre

Expect miracles! (and birthday letters)

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