Monday, December 30, 2013

Was That Really Christmas?

I forgot the cord for my camera this week, but then I realized I only took one picture the whole week anyway. I will be sure to have a picture for next week.

Christmas felt way different this year, that is for sure. Without my family to spend the whole day with, it felt so weird. It was still great though! I did get to see most of my family over Skype for 45 minutes. We had a lunch of waffles with a family from the church, then we had smoked pork with another family for dinner. However, there was no ceremonial present-opening or family mad-libs from my brother Tom. I'm not saying those things are bad, but maybe it will be good for me to have a couple of Christmas seasons out in the mission field. It really helped me to focus more on turning my heart to Jesus Christ, though my family was not forgotten. When we are truly converted to His gospel, well will naturally take the Christmas season as an opportunity to serve and help others in any way possible. This practice, even if it interrupts family traditional relaxation (especially if it does), will actually bring our families much closer together.

This week, apart from Christmas activities, we also moved apartments, so it was very busy. One night, we were surprised to find a cat in our new apartment. Then we looked at the front door and saw that we had left it open. Oops. Another funny thing that happened this week was on our way home from I don't remember where. My companion, who was driving, said a few things like "were they honking at me?" and "woah, that car just about hit us!" What I'm trying to say is: Casper is not lacking one-way streets. It was hard not to laugh and cry at the same time when we recognized that we were going backwards on one of them. By the way, this is my new address for at least a month:

Elder William Dudley
1025 S David St Apt A
Casper, WY 82601

Or, to be safe, you can always send things to the South Dakota Rapid City Mission address, and they will be forwarded to me.

Back to work. We have found a few Spanish speaking families to teach the gospel to, which is a relief, because it means we don't have to wander around the city the whole day looking for people. I am very excited to see them accept the teachings of Jesus Christ and find peace and direction in their lives. I know that if they accept His message, their lives will be able to continually improve. No matter how great or horrible life is, turning to Jesus Christ will always make it better, and following His gospel guarantees eternal life with God. 

Yesterday at church, I had the opportunity to speak in front of the congregation of the Spanish group. I'm not sure how my grammar was, but that doesn't matter as much as whether or not the message was felt. This is not exactly what I shared, but here's the general idea: I shared Mosiah 3:19 to introduce the principle of becoming child-like as essential to conversion. Jesus Christ told His disciples in the Bible that they must humble themselves as little children to enter into the Kingdom of God. There are attributes we possess in childhood that we should put away as we grow older, but there are many that will help us throughout life. Just think of how sincere a child is. But how can we possibly become as children? 3 Nephi 9:20 teaches that we must offer as sacrifices to God a broken heart and a contrite spirit. Imagine trying out for a sport team or applying for a job. After tryouts or interviews, you feel completely confident that you are qualified for the position. Now imagine the feeling you get if the coach or employer tells you that you didn't make it. Not the discouragement, but the humble desire to know what you can do better. This is the feeling we should have before God. Often in life we start to think of ourselves as qualified individuals. At these times, we do not rely on God, and we may ignore His counsel. He may not tell us during our life "you didn't make it," but that's why we have to be extra careful. We have to come before God, recognizing that we can always do better and sincerely wanting to know what we can improve on. When we do this, He will show us our weaknesses in a perfectly patient, loving way. Only through this process can we truly become childlike. He will change our hearts.


Monday, December 23, 2013

Definitely a White Christmas

Well, Merry Christmas everyone! The sunsets are beautiful as always here in Casper. It's been a slower week with the switch to Spanish and all, but it's all good. We should be moving into our new apartment by the end of the week We have spent a ton of time just driving around trying to find Spanish people. Luckily, a higher percentage of them are receptive to the gospel than are English people, so we should be able to find people to teach. We had the opportunity to teach one lesson in Spanish on Saturday, which was really cool. My Spanish never flows as well as when I am talking about Christ and His gospel. I know that God will support those who are striving to serve Him.

Hopefully I will have a lot more interesting things to tell next week. For now, just remember the importance of Christmas. We celebrate because we have a Savior. Jesus Christ should always be in the heart of Christmas no matter what other activities take place. He should always be the motivation for the celebration of the season. If we truly love Him and believe in Him, we will give as gifts to Him love and service to all those around us during this time of year and throughout. You don't need to hunt for opportunities to give or serve. Strive to love everyone without judgement, and the natural result will be that your conduct with others will become more Christlike. You will go out of your way, naturally, to assist anyone in need, as your heart truly turns to Him. 

Monday, December 16, 2013

Christmas is coming!

I hope you enjoy this week's picture selection. It was not a tough all. A wonderful family invited us to spend some time making gingerbread houses with their kids and the kids from another family. It was great! As you can see, Santa ate too many cookies at my house, and whatever cookies Elder Kirton ate had way too much sugar. Well, I guess I don't look too calm either.

It's always an enjoyable experience to spend time with kids. It is also a good reminder to always strive to be more Christlike. Jesus told His disciples that we must humble ourselves as little children. They might not be the most emotionally mature, but there are so many traits that children possess that would benefit us in all aspects of life were we to acquire them. I don't need to point them out to you; just think about it.

We also had a Christmas dinner at the church on Friday with our ward. It was a Mexican potluck! The food was amazing, and afterwards we had a music/nativity program. Someone from the ward played harp, which sounded beautiful. I want to play it now. Really, though, the program was amazing. It's so nice to have a place to go where the true meaning of Christmas is upheld.

In Luke 2, the story of the birth of Christ is told, and the message of the event is brought to a group of shepherds by an angel of the Lord. "And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord." (Luke 2:10-11) This is why Christmas is even celebrated in the first place. The reason for the excitement centered around this season is because of these "good tidings of great joy." The fact that we have a Saviour calls for rejoicing and celebration. We cannot comprehend how deep the meaning of this, because we do not see outside of the bounds of this life. Our minds do not remember before our birth, nor do they foresee beyond our death. What we do know is this: Because of the Atonement of Christ, and only through Him, we have the chance to return to live with God forever in a state infinite happiness. Only because of His death and resurrection will we be able to live once more in our physical bodies, in perfect form, after they pass away from mortality. If it were not for the Atonement of Jesus Christ, we would never be resurrected, and the sins of our lives would be on our heads forever, disqualifying us from eternal life with our Heavenly Father. Only by living the gospel of Christ, we can become clean before God and qualify to live in His presence. That is only made possible because our Saviour lived a life perfectly aligned with the will of the Father, and then continued to suffer and die, make an infinite sacrifice to pay the price for our sins. This sacrifice, or Atonement, could only be made by Him, being the Only Begotten in the flesh and living every single moment exactly how Heavenly Father wanted Him to. The steps we must take to receive the blessings of the Atonement are faith in Christ, repentance, baptism by someone holding the proper Priesthood of God, receiving the Holy Ghost as discussed in Acts 8, and continuing in faith and repentance our entire lives.

Monday, December 9, 2013

It's a Little Bit Chilly

This week has been the coldest so far of my mission! I've been out walking in about -10 degree weather. It's crazy, but I am generally staying pretty warm! Sadly, I can only attach one picture per post, so I'll have to make multiple posts if I want to show multiple pictures. It was a tough choice, but I thought that I would include a selfie this week.

Some of you may not appreciate this picture, but I don't care! I want everyone to know that my mission is not all work every day. We make it fun, even if it means taking humiliating pictures of ourselves with our breakfast. I can't believe I've been gone for over 5 weeks! It's crazy. I'm really getting used to the schedule, and I'm starting to develop some routines. As you can see in the picture, I am feeding myself quite well, considering my budget.

I have some news for everyone. Last week I mentioned the possibility of working in Spanish. It's official. Next week, my companion I will move to a new, more central apartment and I will work strictly with the Spanish speaking people here in Casper. It will be very overwhelming to teach the Gospel in a second language, but I'm really looking forward to it! I know that God will strengthen and help me as I enter this new phase of my mission, continuing to do His work.

The members here are very excited to have four missionaries working in Spanish, and the Spanish group leader has been especially welcoming. He has fed us three times this weekend, with two dinners and a lunch. I bring this up mostly because I want to brag about a new delicacy I have added to my diet. For the first time on Saturday, I tried "tacos de lengua de vaca" which were amazing! In case you couldn't interpret that, I had cow tongue tacos! The family shredded a whole cow tongue and fried it for us to put in tacos. I would really suggest trying it. It was honestly amazing. Just put some lettuce, tomatoes, onions, and salsa verde on it. OOOOH-EEE.

Another plus of this week was all of the opportunities we had to teach. We taught about twice as many lessons as any other week. I never feel the Spirit of God more strongly than when I'm teaching. When I present the gospel message to people, the testimony I have of Jesus Christ and His teachings quite literally burns inside me. There is no other way to describe it. I know that God lives, and I know He loves all of His children. I know that He teaches the gospel of Jesus Christ through men who he authorizes with the Priesthood. These men are called prophets and apostles, and there are some who God has called today to speak to us in His name. This gospel taught by Jesus Christ and the prophets will help anyone and any family with any struggles they are having if they are willing to change with their whole heart and follow Jesus Christ by having faith in Him, repenting of their sins, being baptized by someone with that Priesthood of God, receiving the Holy Ghost and continuing faithfully throughout their lives. If you live this gospel as taught in the scriptures, you will find peace and success in your life. Not the success you may currently be seeking for, but the success that God wants for you in your family and in your heart. You will find happiness and direction in your life, and you will ensure the blessings of eternal life with your Heavenly Father after your mortal life. It is through Christ's suffering and death that we can receive forgiveness and the other mentioned blessings that God has for us.

I am realizing more and more that my duty to share this gospel is not based on a to-do list or a desire for personal glory. It is rooted in my personal conversion to and love for the gospel of Jesus Christ, which is apparent to me because of the love I feel for my brothers and sisters all around me. As I have tried my best to follow Christ and live His teachings, I have felt sincere love not only for my friends, but for everyone I meet. We all have the same Father and have no business turning each other away. This love makes me automatically want to share the gospel and invite everyone to follow Jesus Christ and feel the same peace and direction that I have felt in my life.

Monday, December 2, 2013

We got pranked...

My companion and I do not currently have car privileges, but this is the car that the other set of missionaries we live with have been given to use. One morning, this is what we woke up to...and we have no idea who did it! I don't know what to think...missionaries don't really get pranked that often, but I guess that's cool.

After the snow we got last week, we've really had some warm days. The past five or so days have reached at least 40 degrees, surprisingly. As you can see, there is no more snow, but rumor has it that this week will be snowy as well, and very cold. The high for one day is less than 10, I believe.... D: I have never experienced that. And have I mentioned that Casper is very, very windy?
Not looking forward to it...but I'll live, and it will be worth it because I know that I'm doing God's work.

I got some huge news last week. Our mission president came to town and we had a big conference with him (There are 32 missionaries in the Casper Stake). While he was here, we discussed the work that is going on in the Spanish group, and he wants to add another set of missionaries full-time in Casper to get the Spanish work going strong. I will find out in a week or two, but as of now, the plan is for ME TO BE WORKING COMPLETELY IN SPANISH. WOW. I am very nervous for this, because I was not trained to do missionary work in Spanish, and the vocabulary is very different (In other words, they didn't teach me any gospel-related vocabulary in Spanish class). It will be overwhelming if it goes through, but I know it will be great. The only other concern I have is that some of the people I've been working with in the past weeks are just barely adjusting to my companion and I as their new missionaries, so it would be a roadblock for the work in the area I am currently serving in. It is great to know, however, that God is guiding the work here and knows what will be best for everyone in the long run. 

Another couple of big things. The first Sunday of every month, our church meetings open up some time for people to come up and share their testimonies. I was sitting there in the Spanish meeting, and due to the small number of the group, not many people were going up. Good news though! I have a testimony in Spanish, too, not just in English. That was my first time addressing a group of people in Spanish, other than the near memorized class presentations in high school. I was nervous for it, but it went well. I am sure the Lord will help me with Spanish if that is what he wants me to do. Then, last night, we were teaching a lady who has been coming to church for a long time, but has not been baptized. I won't go into too much detail, but the missionaries taught her several months ago, and she was going to be baptized, but someone in her family talked her out of it. We are not missionaries trying to start family drama, but we know that baptism is necessary to receive the blessings of living in the Kingdom of God after this life (John 3:5). That is why we are serving missions! To teach people about the Gospel of Jesus Christ and invite them to live it. Baptism is a necessary step in that process, no matter what (Mark 16:16). Not only does it allow for blessings in the next life, but we know that joining The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints through baptism will bless anyone with the guidance, direction, peace, hope, and joy that they need in this life, as long as they try their best to live the teachings of Jesus Christ. We are not out to tell people what to do or how to live, but to teach the Gospel and invite people to live a happier life. It is up to them to accept or reject it.

Oh yeah! Thanksgiving! I definitely missed having it with my family, but there is a wonderful family here that had us over for an amazing meal and great company. I really enjoyed it. I took the time to really ponder what I am thankful for in life, and then to acknowledge really what I would have without God. Really..would I have anything? Would I be here? I know that as we express our thanks to Heavenly Father daily for the blessings we enjoy, we will feel His love, we will be more content, and we will be able to recognize His influence more in our lives. On the other hand, if you include in your prayers any concerns or challenges you are having, God will help you resolve it. You just have to be open to letting Him work in His way in your life, putting aside all selfishness and pride. He knows whats best, He knows what matters, and He knows precisely how you feel. Open your heart to Him and accept His will. No matter how many struggles you have in life, the Gospel will help you focus on the positive and thrive off of that with God's help and faith in Jesus Christ. You will have hope and know that God has a plan and a purpose for you. (Proverbs 3:5-6; Isaiah 55:8-9)