Monday, February 2, 2015

One Year Musings

Branch in Bourail

Bonjour to my family and friends,

It's official. This week I hit my one year mark.  And let me tell you my head has been filled to the brim this week with thoughts and emotion. Not only my head, but my heart as well and my tear ducts a few times too.
As dear Nephi said,  I can only write but a hundredth part, but I thought I would share a little bit of my reflections looking back on my mission so far.  I just finished Our Search for Happiness, by Elder Ballard and he says it so very perfectly and so very beautifully and eloquently.  "Many of our missionaries begin their missions thinking they are going to repay Heavenly Father for His goodness toward them by serving Him for 18 months or two years.  But before long they learn an important eternal truth; you can never do more for the Lord than He can do for you."
He could not be more right.  I started my mission hoping to end it feeling like I had somehow paid the Lord back a little bit for all the goodness He has always showered upon me.  But now I know that as life goes on I will only feel continuing, accumulating, overwhelming gratitude to my Lord and Savior.  I cannot pay Him back.  I'll never be able to.  What an incredible powerful and humbling realization.
Elder Ballard also talked about how our weaknesses, trials, challenges, and adversity are turned into strengths and opportunities, and triumphs  and adventure.  That is real and amazing and miraculous and nothing in me can deny the truth of that.  I know it and I've lived it and live it each day.
But I've also learned that the second, lovely, positive things can't come without the first hard, less positive things.  I will be very real.  Missions are hard.  My mission has not been all rainbows and sunshine and adventure.  Behind each miracle and blessing is a lot of hard work and ache and struggle and sorrow.
My mission, is not a mission of many baptisms.  I think the goal for last year was 40 baptisms for the whole island.  I have been blessed to see and take part in a baptism because I got to Bourail 2 weeks before their set date, but aside from that, no one I have taught and loved and cried with, and encouraged has made it to that wonderful point yet.  And sometimes it is hard and exhausting to pour your heart and soul into people and then to have them turn away from the "everlasting" gift you are trying to offer them: the gift of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
I rarely talk about what  is the "real" or "average" day .  I like to focus on the miracles because the miracles are what make it all worth it and in the end, outshine the rest.  But I realize now that it is deeply important to understand the other side too.
 To give you a tiny picture…Plenty of days we spend all day following up on previous contacts—walking all over Bourail—and no one lets us in.  After a long, hot day of asking and offering and testifying, we return home that night, having taught zero lessons.
For every prepared wonderful ami we find, there are at least 70-80 people who reject us or drop us or are simply uninterested.  Aka, lots of "searching" is required before the "finding" happens.
No matter how much you love and pray for these people, they ultimately have their free agency.  Yes, the Lord can change their hearts and the spirit can touch their hearts, but if they themselves do not allow the change to take placle in themselves, it cannot continue.  This work is completely in both directions.
We invite, we act as instruments in helping them come unto Christ.  But they must accept our invitations.  And in the end, THEY must COME.  We do the best we can to fulfill our half of the process.  Unfortunately, it is rare that we find those sweet children of God who have both the desire and the willingness to fulfill their half.  When both halves come together and the spirit is there, that is when the miracles of conversion take place. 
Sometimes as missionaries, we could really use a "Mom" hug or a "Dad" hug.  The Lord is with us and sends us love and comfort.  But sometimes a nice, tangible squeeze of affection would be much appreciated.
Anyway, that's just a teeny tiny bit of real life. This last year has doused me with just about every emotion (not anger/hate).  I've learned to both tuck away my feelings way down deep and share  them and expose them in a way I never thought possible.  The Lord has stripped me down and showed me my absolute weakness, but He has also woven me with a deep enduring strength.  I have cried tears of profound, overwhelming joy and  soul-aching sorrow.  I have been humbled down and lifted up.
What have I learned in a year?  A mission is sacrifice.  Being a disciple of Jesus Christ is sacrifice.  He asks a lot of us and He asks us to give it all to Him until our last day. But oh does He GIVE.  He asks and asks and gives and gives and gives.  God is so infinitely Good.  He is so merciful.  He is so patient.
This past year has been so much more than incredible experiences in a foreign land.  I'm not on vacation.  I'm not on study abroad learning about world culture and the French language. I am on a mission.  I am a representative of the Lord Jesus Christ to the people of la Nourvelle Caledonie.  I love them with all that I am.  I love the Lord more.
I keep saying this but I just feel filled to the brim.  Everything I experiences seems richer, deeper, and more immense.  I think D&C 123:12-17 sums it all up pretty well.
12 For there are many yet on the earth among all sects, parties, and denominations, who are blinded by the subtle craftiness of men, whereby they lie in wait to deceive, and who are only kept from the truth because they know not where to find it—
 13 Therefore, that we should waste and wear out our lives in bringing to light all the hidden things of darkness, wherein we know them; and they are truly manifest from heaven—
 14 These should then be attended to with great earnestness.
 15 Let no man count them as small things; for there is much which lieth in futurity, pertaining to the saints, which depends upon these things.
 16 You know, brethren, that a very large ship is benefited very much by a very small helm in the time of a storm, by being kept workways with the wind and the waves.
 17 Therefore, 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."

"A very small helm."  I wasn't called to a mission with lots of acceptance or thousands of lessons or many baptisms.  And looking back I am so grateful for that.  God has taught me to rejoice in the smaller victories, the more subtle successes.  I rejoice in the sum of all the little blessings.  And when the grand miracles come, it is all the sweeter!.
I love you all.  Thank you for all that you do and all that you ARE.  May we all "cheerfully do all the things that lie in our power."

Soeur Evans

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