Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Truly Converted

Man, time flies. I can't believe my time here in the mission field has gone and how fast this transfer has gone. I really am starting to understand what it means when it says in the white handbook that "the period when you are able to serve the Lord with all your time and all your efforts is extremely short". I know, I still have plenty of time left, but with how fast this time is going I really have a renewed sense of urgency--I don't want to waste any second of it. That being said, I am glad that I am learning so much from Elder Fischer on how to use my time most effectively and how to fulfill my purpose as a missionary. I am grateful for the increase in my conversion, the excitement I have for the work, the success I've seen, the joy I feel serving everyday, the tools I've been able to utilize and just the closeness to the Lord that I've felt this transfer. It is such a great experience, and I really feel like I am a completely different missionary than I was even a few months ago. I really feel like I know how to work hard and smart. Obviously I am far from perfect, but I don't feel like I am just spinning my wheels anymore. 

We read in 1 Nephi 3:7 all the time how we can do all that the Lord asks of us. He calls us to do a lot, and I think it is easy to become discouraged and lose faith of what we can accomplish, but the promise that is mentioned in Alma 16:16,  "And there was no inequality among them; the Lord did pour out his Spirit on all the face of the land to prepare the minds of the children of men, or to prepare their hearts to receive the word which should be taught among them at the time of his coming—" and in Deuteronomy 31:6,  "Be strong and of a good courage, fear not, nor be afraid of them: for the Lord thy God, he it is that doth go with thee; he will not fail thee, nor forsake thee" really helped me see that I can be an amazing missionary if I let myself trust in God's promises. Why should I be discouraged? The Lord wouldn't want that! I have no reason to be. My trust in Him has really grown. I can fulfill that which the Lord has called me to do. There is no talent or trick involved--it's all based on my faith in the Lord. Do I really believe? You bet your boots I do! And when you have that belief, you are motivated to work as hard and as smart as you can to accomplish what He's asked. We really can "do all things through Christ which strengtheneth [us]" if we simply trust and then act. I have seen miracles as I've been working my hardest here with Elder Fischer; miracles that I wouldn't even imagined possible a few months back. But my faith has grown and I have learned so much and want to continue to grow as a missionary and as a disciple of Jesus Christ. I love Him and am grateful that He cares enough for me to help me grow.

We had an amazing multi-zone conference this week and I felt the Spirit so strong. I really learned a lot about extending commitments to investigators, teaching clearly, using the Book of Mormon as an effective tool, and relying on Christ. It was super cool because it was with the Jurupa Zone as well, which is the Stake I spent 6 months in and so I got to see a lot of my old missionary friends there. It was so great to be reunited! I also saw Sister Turner, who was in my MTC District and so that was really cool! 

I am loving life out here. It is so great. That being said, I miss you so so much and love you a huge amount. I am so grateful for wonderful parents like you and Dad and all that you do and have done for me. Have a great week!

Love you!!

Your Elder Jackson

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Hooked on "Failing Successfully"

This week was another great week for Elder Fischer and I here in the El Cerrito Ward. I am really enjoying this work so much! I'm feeling a joy that I have never before felt and a love for the people and the Savior that was previously not nearly as strong. I am so grateful for all that He does for us and how through Him we can overcome many of our mistakes and improve. This really is the most important and most rewarding work there is. The joys of laboring because of our love for the Savior are immense. I am just amazed at all the change that has happened, in me and in our proselyting area, as we have taken to heart the promise in Alma 16:16 that the Lord is preparing people in this land right now. That really boosted my faith and my excitement to find them. There are people in every corner of this land thirsting and yearning for the gospel, and if we are diligent we will find them. That just makes me smile thinking about that! There is nothing better.

We had Ward Conference this week and, as always, it was a spiritual high. I think one of the most powerful parts was Brad Wilcox's talk that they showed. It was about grace (which was a happy coincidence because I had just finished reading a talk called "Failing Successfully" by  the new BYU President, and they seemed to go hand-in-hand). I was floored by it. It was probably one of the best talks I have ever heard. It was all about learning to recognize what grace is, since we as members of the Church often think we have to do a certain amount  or be at a certain level of worthiness before we are worthy to receive His grace. He used the analogy of a kid learning the piano. The mom pays for the lessons, and therefor the piano teacher is satisfied. The child cannot repay the mother, and no matter what the child does, the lessons have already been purchased. The child's practice does not compensate in any sense for the monetary payment from the mother to the teacher, but it does show thanks to the mother for her payment. And when the child practices willingly and with a happy heart it makes the mother even more excited. No matter how much the child practices, he or she is always bound to hit a few wrong keys, or even fail completely once or twice. However, the loving mother does nothing but urge her beloved child to keep trying and to keep practicing. There are more than two levels of playing the piano: quitting and playing at Carnegie Hall--there are so many more places in between. Just because we pluck a few wrong notes does not mean we are unworthy to get up and try again. We only fail when we completely give up. That is exactly how the Lord feels about us. We are only failures when we stop trying. We are bound to make mistakes, but through His grace we can be changed and become more like Him. Through His grace we can overcome those things that set us back time after time after time. We must just keep practicing and learning how to be more like God. "To prove" ourselves to God means learning by experience (according to Failing Successfully) how to be more like Him through our failures and then choosing the correct path after the new enlightenment. As we continue to practice the commandments and try to improve our skills on this piano we call life, we will come closer to God and be able to stay in His presence. I know that is what I want for myself and everyone else. I know it will be worth more than anything and I thank the Savior for making that all possible.

P- Day Pics

We met a hilarious atheist this week and had a fun lesson with him. He is probably the only happy atheist I have ever met, and he has no problems with religion, other than he doesn't believe. He has some friends who have some friends who are Mormon and apparently some things got lost in translation when they were talking. He had heard that Mormons believe that Jesus is up in heaven, wading in fields of billions of babies that he brings to this special machine that sucks them through a tube down to earth. This is a perfect example of that you cannot believe everything you hear and that you need to seek truth from the source and pray about it. It was hilarious though and I could not stop laughing.

That is crazy that you will be in KY again! Yeah, I can more than likely call both you and dad. I don't think that will be a problem. I can't believe it's almost time to call home again! I feel like I just called. This whole mission thing is flying by. After this transfer I'll only have two more left until I am at a year! I feel like I just got off the plane here in smoggy, I mean sunny California. It'll be great to call again! I can't wait! Do you think dad knows how to use FaceTime on his phone too or should I just call the house o talk to him and I can Facetime with you? It's kind of strange because Elder Fischer is going to be calling home on that Sunday and then he finishes his mission and returns home on that Tuesday. It'll be really weird for him but cool! 

I am pretty sure that that friend that joined the church is named Jose Romero. You can look him up on Facebook or in the ward directory. He is a really really nice guy and I am so happy for him. I talked to him a little bit before I came out here. I think he would love the support. He will make a great missionary. I hope he writes me.

I am glad to hear that your date was so fun! That sounds awesome! Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat is such a great play. We should go see it when I get back! I listened to the album a few weeks back and I remembered how fantastic it was! 

I can't wait to see Bishop Wadsworth again. He is awesome. Tell him hi for me next time you see him. Prophets really are important and they are real! 


Your Elder Jackson

Monday, April 11, 2016

Feeling the Spirit

I am so incredibly impressed with the members of our ward. They are all so spiritually strong and are such great examples. They are successful church members, successful financially, and successful parents. I admire them so much and have learned so much about what I want to be when I have my own family. The Lord really is the most important thing. I am also amazed by the youth here. They are so much more spiritual and prepared to face the world than I was. They are so strong and have such great faith. I wish I had been as focused as they are on the Lord at their age. That being said, I still think I am the luckiest person on earth for  having the best parents imaginable as well as such great youth leaders and amazing bishops. 

I am really looking forward to our Ward Conference next week. I've come to love conferences. They have so much we can learn from and there is so much love from the leaders. It has really changed my perspective on things since we get to sit in on ward councils every week. 

It's been another great week here in El Cerrito! I have really been enjoying my time learning how to be a more effective missionary thus far this transfer. Elder Fischer is like a well of knowledge and I have picked up so much from being with him. I think my favorite is just having the faith that we can have baptisms--that the Lord has prepared people in every area to receive this gospel and be baptized and that we can find them if we work hard, are diligent and have the faith to do so. I have really felt my faith grow in that we can find people to baptize--here and now. The previous notions or reputation of Corona doesn't matter. We are really going to focus on getting more progressing investigators and more at church though! The Lord loves all of His children and if we work with faith, we will find them.

I also really had a powerful experience at church this week. I had been praying to feel more of a close relationship with my Savior so that I can be a more powerful teacher. I want to deepen my conversion, but I kind of felt at a loss of what more to do--I had already tried feasting on the scriptures and praying. But the Lord is so aware of all of us. On the list of concerns, me feeling a little more distant from the Savior than I would've liked is microscopic compared to the scores of momentous trials others around the world are going through (such as poverty, starvation, political unrest, failing marriages, death, etc.), yet my small plea for a greater connection with God was heard, in spite of all the other things going on in this world. He heard my prayer and sent someone to answer it. 

The Young Women in our ward planned a really cool trip up to Utah to see BYU, Welfare Square, Temple Square, and the Saturday morning session of General Conference. They had a great time from what was reported and many of the young women and their leaders got up to bear their testimony. One girl in our ward, Kinsey O'reilly, got up and talked about how she was walking through one of the museums by temple square when she saw a picture of Christ sweating blood and clenching His hands in agony during His loving Atonement for mankind. She said the emotion in His face conveyed His pain but also his immense agony. Tears were filling His eyes, and this girl's, and mine. The Spirit hit me so strong that I could not restrain my tears. Who would've thought that the simple yet powerful testimony of a 16 year old girl could have had such an effect on me. I felt as if I were there and Christ were looking at me with tear filled eyes of pain and love. "He is our Brother," she said. And He is. He loves us so much. Needless to say, my prayer was answered. God put that testimony into my path to help me feel closeness to Him. I will never forget that experience. I hope I can convey that same love I felt from our Heavenly Father to those who have been longing for it for much longer than I was. That's why we serve. That's why we sacrifice for other's. That's why He sacrificed for us.

I am glad to hear so much rain hit Winnemucca! It needs it! Rye Patch is almost gone! We had a little bit of rain here too. I am just glad it isn't hot yet. But I know that day will come. I guess facing summer in Southern California is sort of like facing the Second Coming unrepentant, just not quite as intense. I guess the only difference is that you can repent, you can't avoid summer--or taxes, so I hear.

I haven't really taken any pictures this week!! Sorry about that. I'll do better! But I love you so much! I hope you have a great day and week! Miss you bunches!

Love ya!

Your Elder Jackson

Monday, April 4, 2016

Best Week of My Mission Yet!

New Companion

Wow! This week has been amazing. Easily the best on my mission. We picked up 10 new investigators and taught so many lessons. I have felt the Spirit so much and I have learned a ton from Elder Fischer. I saw so many miracles given to us from a loving Heavenly Father who helps us with His work in more ways than I can imagine. It was so amazing to see the powers of Heaven poured out on us as we worked hard, smart, and with diligence. I never knew how much the Lord would bless you just by increasing your faith and vision of what can be accomplished in an area and then promising to do all that you can to achieve that to which the Lord has called you to do. Just by adding those little things, along with a sprinkling of more boldness and a dash of persistence, the mood and success of the work here in the El Cerrito Ward did a complete 180! The amount of people we were able to find and teach went up tenfold. The Spirit and joy I felt while laboring in the Lord's vineyard also exponentially increased. I never have felt so happy working so hard while being so tired at the same time. I only wish I had known this earlier in my mission so that I could have seen this much more success earlier and I feel sorrow for the lost opportunities of having people brought unto Christ that means. I never want to go back to that. Thank goodness for the Atonement that makes it possible for us to always progress and never have to settle for who we are! I am excited for the rest of this transfer and the rest of my mission, to see what the Lord can accomplish through me if I keep up this hard work with faith.  

General Conference Weekend

The traditional conference brunch for the missionaries, Corona area, hosted by the Jones Family

General Conference was awesome! I swear it seems like all 10 hours only feel like 2 when you're a missionary. It goes so quickly and you learn so much. I am so grateful for prophetic council and guidance we receive and how it blesses our lives. It is amazing. We were really hoping our investigator Chris, who is now going through a nasty divorce, would come but he wasn't able to. Elder Fischer and I felt like there were so many talks meant just for him. Hopefully he can come next week! 

I agree, I think writing is very important! I just got done writing you a letter for your birthday and will try to send it soon. Hopefully it's not too late in getting there. I also got your Harry and David box. Thank you so much! It was so delicious. I really appreciate all you do! It sounds like your spring weather is great up there! It's been hot here the past few days. I really liked the pictures of Water Canyon. They look great! Elder Fischer complimented your calendar you sent me on how professional it looks. He likes the Gunpowder Creek pic because it looks like his home (he's from High Point, North Carolina).

Thanks for the pics of Brad and Taylor and sending him my email! That is really nice of you! That'd be great to hear from him. I'm glad things are going great for him. 

This week we played trashball (it's like ultimate Frisbee, but indoors with a soccer ball instead of a Frisbee) with glowsticks in the dark. It was super cool! I'll try to get pictures from other missionaries.

I miss you lots and it is so good to talk to you, as always! I love you so much! I hope you have a great birthday! Tell dad to give you a big bear hug for me! I hope it's the best birthday ever!

Love you!!

Your Elder Jackson