As my thoughts wandered while drifting off to sleep 2 nights ago in our little apartment in Moss Bluff, I pondered the storm which raged not far from my assigned area. A few months earlier and several thousand feet higher in the mountain valley I call home, it never crossed my mind that I would find myself 10 feet above sea level, eastward of a cat 4 hurricane, contemplating the greatness of it all. The sound of thunder cascading through the heavens has grown to be one of my favorite things to hear. That was our last night listening to it from our apartment cause I don’t know how much water is in it now, but we are dry and warm in a member’s attic the next town over, and even though they’ve banned us from traveling, we will be out proselytizing on foot in the rain for the remainder of the inclement weather. Yesterday before they pulled us out, we just walked holding our shoes trekking through the puddles along the highway hitting up the potential and past investigators and less active members within a couple miles of our apartment. Between cloudbursts the cool, breezy weather is nicer than I’ve yet experienced here. It is so amazing to see the differing reactions of so many members and nonmembers to the storm. When you have hope in Jesus Christ and knowledge of God’s Plan, it doesn’t matter how much water is in your house, you still have peace and joy. For those that don’t have this understanding, such a trial just brings misery! The people are so humbled and ready to listen to the gospel when they are temporally in need. Why is it that as a race we wait until such times to humble ourselves before God? It is so much easier in the long run to just be humble always, but that’s too simple of a solution, I guess. It seems to be for me anyway. 😉 I have far to go on the path of humility, but I believe it is paved largely with gratitude. Acknowledgement of God’s hand in all things is a good place to start, and I am more and more coming upon it. If He can hold the stars in place, He can hold my life and heart as well. His plan will bring us infinitely more happiness than ours will, even when we think those plans ought to be aligned. Why doubt the wisdom of Him who knows all things when our perspective is so limited? He knows what we truly need, and it has nothing to do with temporal comfort. Our most important growth will often occur entirely outside of such a state. One day, we will realize to what end that experience served, and we will be so deeply grateful to have been allowed to pass through that time.
An Atakapa man got a DNA test done so he could get his kids certified through his tribe, and the test came back saying he is 73 percent Jew. He was very frustrated and is having it redone because there is no questioning his family heritage in this tribe, (his great-grandpa was the chief and his parents were both born on the rez in FL) meanwhile, he’s ranting about the result at his mechanics shop in our area when a customer, who is a member of the church, walks in, listens to his ranting, and begins to laugh. Having the Native shop owner’s attention, he begins, “well you see, there’s this book, and it’s blue…” We received and contacted the resulting referral the same day, where this guy is waiting for us at his shop. He has been actively seeking truths about God his whole life. He is heavily tattooed and each one has family or religious significance. He has seen devils and visions and has been declared dead once, besides having should have died multiple times. He has lived to serve others and teach them about God, but he knows God is keeping him around for something, and after our first meeting, he said this might be it. Late that night from his shop, he called his wife to tell her he was reading the Mormon book, and she didn’t believe him because his reading glasses were at home. But he could read it. He read all we assigned him and more, and the next morning he repeatedly would hold some other literature next to a page in the Book of Mormon and say, “look, I can’t read that, but I can read this.” Needless to say, we had another powerful lesson and put him on date for the 26th. Yesterday, he found the church in the middle of the sacrament, walked in and about ten minutes later, walked up to the stand and bore his testimony on his heritage, the Book of Mormon, his family and how excited he is to learn more. He came out of church with a ton of questions and really fascinating ideas which we’ll get to talk about tomorrow, then we have a pass-off lesson scheduled for Thursday with the elders who can figure out where/how to teach him, his wife and six daughters who live two hours away in the marsh, but I am so excited to go to his baptism. Attendance is gonna be good cause he announced the date over the pulpit during his testimony yesterday, haha. About every member in the Calcasieu Parish seems to have heard about him by now. It is just so cool to see him get started on this path. I feel so honored to have been able to witness some of these amazing miracles and to teach a very real descendant of the tribe of Israel which was broken off and planted in this, the Promised Land. I am so grateful for my mother, who imparted to me the knowledge I need to understand this amazing person and address his concerns, and better serve so many other investigators we are teaching. I wish I had more time to write, but I know ya’ll have lives anyway, so it’s all good. I’ve said it before, but there are just so many miracles… I just want to briefly quote our prophet who recently said, if you do not have testimony of the gospel… do what is necessary to obtain one. It is true. Whether you currently believe it at the moment or not does not change the fact. Before you recieve that witness, miracles mean nothing. That knowledge will change your trajectory for ever. Every tiny decision you make changes that trajectory forever. If you know, then live every moment in a manner consistent with that knowledge. If you repeatedly contradict what you know spiritually, God will take away that spiritual knowledge so that you do not further condemn yourself, and you will not be happy. Conversely, if you desire truth and light, you will find it, and you may continue to grow in it indefinitely. It is there you will find joy. We will receive what we desire.
A couple days later…
Sister E. L. R.
Last week we recieved a bible referral, hunted down the address and knocked the door. A Native American lady quickly answered and, before we said a word, invited us in. She introduced herself as Abbie and expressed her desire to understand God better and her gratitude that we had come. Her testimony of the existence of God was so intrisically a part of her, she said there was never a time in her life she didn’t believe. I know that this gift of the Spirit was purposefully given to her for strength to overcome hardship she faced from her youth in an abusive environment surrounded by drugs and addiction. The vivid satanic power she described is not commonly surpassed. Though she has escaped the worst of that life, darkness has followed her and her family. Abbie described an experience a few nights before where the voice of a devil woke her and tried to bargain with her. She refused again and again. Afterwards, she knew that something good must be about to happen else why would Satan try so desperately to bind her soul? Then we came. We told her our message was the reason why; that it would change her life and give her the understanding she sought. As I began to teach her the restoration she stated “Truth is being spoken here.” The spirit was so strong, but Satan tightened his grip on her with a vengeance through her family and addictions. We never were able to teach her like that again. It so deeply saddens me to see person after person struggling through the mists of darkness in our fallen world. The tiniest fraction of mankind are blessed to have the understanding possible only through the restored gospel. Why am I so blessed? A line of scripture found in Mosiah 2:34 reads, “Ye are eternally indebted to your Heavenly Father, to render to Him all that you have and are.” So many with the purest desires are born into poverty, ignorance, misinformation or much worse. Investigators have asked how justice can possibly be served. How, I can only speculate, but I know that my sense of justice comes from the Father of my spirit, and that He counts every tear and knows every heart. The highest law I now understand is that vengeance is to be His. My role is to show others the path to peace. Through the lens of eternity, does any relative pain in mortality matter at all when the atonement of Christ can heal everything? The agency of man and the wisdom of God need not contradict. Still, I am left to wonder what is to become of me, who is and has always been so blessed. Every opportunity and every security has been mine. I’ve been raised in love and righteousness and taught that I can do anything. Whatever I truly desire is within my reach. How do I show my gratitude? My trespasses accrue, my will strays, my heart is so often turned within and I take for granted all I enjoy. The one thing that settles every doubt I can possible think of is the infinite love of my God and Father, and of my Savior and Brother Jesus Christ. Love really is the answer to everything, I guess 😉
Sister E. L. R.
In tribute to Fathers Day, I want to let you all know that as a child, my dad taught me how to read, using solely the Book of Mormon as a textbook. My dad taught me to love learning. He taught me to love the scriptures and the doctrine of the gospel. I remember seeing him reading the words of inspired men all through my youth. From him I learned that God is most important. My earthly father taught me to value toughness, sacrifice and freedom. He exemplified for me what it means to consecrate. Most importantly, he loved me. His love provides the foundation upon which my understand of my Heavenly Father’s love rests. I am eternally indebted to my dad for the principles of earth, heaven, and all existence which he has exemplified for me, and which have become intrinsic parts of my soul. Thanks, Dad.
After leaving home and watching a sunrise in Iceland, I enjoyed a gloriously deep sleep with my dad and Mary on a down pillow at Johannahof’s Gausthaus in Kaprun, Austria. Finding our first meal in 24 hours was the singular endeavor that drove me to extricate myself from bed at 6:30 this morning. The thought was to locate a grocery store so that when it opened we would have an immediate heading, but to our surprise we found one just over a mile away up and running! Only a portion of our spoils survived past the footpath home, but with more than half a kilo of nectarines in my belly, the alpine valley through which we moved was impossibly even more beautiful than before. I marvel at this world and at the blessing I have to see so much of it. God’s hand was definitely in our journey here. No one batted an eye in security or customs when Mary handed them a passport and boarding pass for different people. It was easy to call her Kristen, but she doesn’t exactly pull off 38 years old. Needless to say, getting her and ourselves over the Northern hemisphere couldn’t have been more smooth. Minor adventures of the last couple days would be driving on a bike path to avoid a construction zone and my own falsified identity to register to compete at the 70.3 on Saturday. To the Ironman World I am officially Rebekah Rushton, of the youngest legal competing age of 18.
… I have no desire to sleep right now, though it is the middle of the night. I listened to a conversation, first from bed and then from beneath the stars where it was held between my dad and a friend, Jason, who’s spent the last month in Europe. He spoke briefly of a person he casually met. This man had no title or visible sign to the world that set him apart, but as I heard about what he’d been through and the cause he had and continues to risk his life for, I knew that he was great in a way hard to describe. I realized that heroism is not in events or something that just comes out when the need is there. There is a greatness, a nobility, a courage, clarity and fire possessed by some people and cultivated over a lifetime. This man possessed it. As Jason gave him a ride to hut, far from civilization in the mountains of Italy, this man spoke of things that happen in the world that aren’t heard of in the US. You see, this man was from Egypt, where riots and civil upheaval abounded. Horrible things happened as part of the persecution and violence. There were rapes and murders within the crowd and people just walked around. People just walked around. Almost everyone, but not quite. Though it didn’t take anything to recognize the need for action, just a few did. This particular man joined with a group that protected women in the most literal way possible. He so casually related to Jason a recent time when he and 10 others were fighting to protect three women in the street. They were outnumbered, backed against a wall fighting desperately with anything they could, in a ring with the women inside. One of this man’s friends died that day, but the story just continued, for this was this guy’s life. People were killed, but more importantly, other people needed to be protected. This man spoke of the unbelievable events in his life as they seemed to him, just how things were: Ordinary. But the way he reacted is extraordinary. When so many disregard morality when it’s inconvenient, they become insensitive to its call. But there remain those who stand; those who understand what is right and do it, no matter the cost. Till they die, they will not remove themselves from their integrity. And in doing so, they not only are the means of saving others, but they preserve their own souls, burning so intensely with a depth of character and purity of heart because they never smothered it out of fear, out of convenience, or because no one else was doing anything, anyway.
We have an eternal responsibility to be guardians of virtue. We aren’t now told to cross the sea and die for the cause. At least most of us aren’t. Rather, it’s little things; the media we accept, our thoughts and our preparation that proves us. It’s hard and the glory is not obvious. Every day, it requires wisdom, discipline, kindness, faith and fire. The resulting power is held by ordinary people, but it is there. It is real and fierce and righteous, and it is never passive.
While I like to think of myself as pretty self-sufficient, as a girl and young woman I’ve always found a profound peace in being watched over by a guy who carries this mantle. I really can’t express how thankful I am that for me this need has always been met, thanks to my dad. I couldn’t ask for a better example of the provider and protector I strive to be worthy to marry someday.
Well, that concludes my first secret digital journal entry. The thoughts of my heart, often frivolous, intended for whatever small audience with whom I choose to share. Keep it secret, but share any thoughts that speak to you and please argue with me about the points upon which I am mistaken. Gute Nacht.