So when I came into the area our ward had an attendance of about 105, which is super low for them. Normally, it was more like 140 or 160. Well we were trying to visit less actives and everything but it just didn't seem to be helping. We also don't have a bishop right now so it was really tough. But then, one of the counselors of the stake presidency became our acting bishop! So he's at church every Sunday. His name is President Wong, apparently there's actually a lot of Chinese people here in Costa Rica. Anyways he came in his first week and gave a really good (I think, obviously I didnt understand much) talk about being excellent members and reactivating our brothers etc. Well this week, we had 133! We had 25 increase in attendance in ONE WEEK! It was loco man! It is great to see how the Lord works when everybody puts their 100% in! We hope to have 140 next week, our goal is to go up 10 every week.
I sent some pictures of my study journal by the way, which I am really proud of and thought you'd be amazed by. Good old disorganized me is finally getting organized! Every topic in Preach my Gospel has 4 pages, each page dedicated to different things (Doctrine, Scriptures and quotes, Examples, Questions and Commitments) and I number each doctrine point, each question, etc. that way I can cross reference (ex: See D1-II page 139 would mean see subpoint II of Doctrine 1 on page 139). I love my study journal haha it's my babyy.
So back to reading through my journal, We had a really good Saturday. We got to have lessons with all of our progressing investigators except for Ronald and Nazaret (they had work) and they all went pretty well, some of them spectacular. I used my faith train example, which I'll email probably when I draw a good picture of it in my study journal, but it explains the Gospel of Jesus Christ (Faith, Repentance, Baptism, Gift of the Holy Ghost, Enduring to the End) and it worked super well. Since Anamaria is super on board, we taught the whole lesson in like 10 minutes! (to give you perspective, we normally teach a lesson through 2-3 20-30 minute visits). Examples and pictures are a really powerful way of teaching principles, because they build off of what people already have. And that's what we're here to do as missionaries! Not tear people's faith down, but rather fulfill people's faith with the restored gospel that we've been so blessed to receive ourselves!
So sometimes I get impatient with Spanish, go figure, but it really is going along just well. I sat next to a joven on a bus today and mostly just talked to him (and of course shared some gospel principles) but I was really pleased with how well I was able to talk to him about University, his hobbies, and we just had a good conversation about "What do you think about when you have nothing to think about?" (Shoutout to Brother Holman for talking with us about that in the MTC). He talked about how he thinks about school and his hobbies (soccer and videobgames) and I shared about how before the mission, I was always thinking about League of Legends because I played it so much and desired to improve. Then I told him about how much I've come to love breaking down and pondering on the things of the gospel in the same way, and challenged him to ponder on what it would mean to him if real prophets were again in the world! I felt that it went very well, overall.
Flipping a little farther back than last Saturday, I want to talk to you about 5th grade. In 5th grade I had the most awesome school teacher in the world, Mrs. Smith. I learned a ton of things that year, and for the first time I can ever remember felt that I was excelling, that I was using my God given intelligence to expand my understanding as well as I could! What I boiled it down to in the MTC is this. This is what I learned, above all else, from 5th grade:
I don't have to stay at society's standards of 'good'. I can go above and beyond.
And then middle school happened. If there is a place in this world which is solely constructed to make you feel average and unimportant, it's middle school. That drive was sucked out of me and I became 'good' in school, rather than putting my full effort in.
High school was a little better, I felt I had the liberty to be myself. But my grades still barely dragged up, and there wasn't that much improvement.
College rolled around and I was given a little more on my plate, and I excelled a little better. After a few quarters, I achieved a 4.0! That was amazing. I really felt like I had excelled! Then my whole story with League of Legends happened, and I proved to myself with a surety that I was able to go above normality.
If there is one thing I understand at this young time in my mission, it's frustration. Frustration that I'm not even at average yet! But I'm progressing. The important thing is that when I hit that 'average' mark, when I can get along just fine, that I will drive myself to excel. I have gotten SO frustrated at various times throughout my mission because I can't just skate along with the minimum effort (how could I, when I'm doing such an important work)? But I know that the only times that I've been pleased with myself are when I go above the minimum of what's expected of me. I guess that I just want everybody who reads this today to run an extra quarter mile tomorrow. Or read 5 more minutes of scriptures. Maybe you'll help one more person than you normally do, or maybe you'll study for 10 more minutes than what's normal. Maybe you hang out with one more friend than usual, that one who's more of a service project than a party to be around. Whatever it is that you do, it should be something that makes you dig within yourself to find that extra motivation to do it. Because when we lay it all out on the table, when we emotionally physically empty ourselves over a project, that's when we can look back on it and say "I did that, and I'm proud of it."
In God's eyes, we're all pretty much five year olds. No matter what we make of ourselves in this life, it's not really going to be impressive, the same way that my kindergarten finger paintings were no Mona Lisa's. But when we put all that effort in to doing the best we can, that's when he's gonna pick us up, hug us, and say: "Good job. I love you so much for the effort you put into this. I'm going to go hang it up on the wall where I can see it every day, because I know how much this project meant to you and how hard you tried."
I want that. I know that everybody wants that. We can all have that; The love of God is extended to all of us. We are all his children, he loves us all. Let's make him proud.
From the questions Mom asked:
Life has been going well. I was really homesick on Friday but then I got to thinking about how much the Lord has blessed me and that made it all a lot better. I've been doing well since :-)
I love my trainer by the way. We're getting along sooo well and our area is improving, slowly but steadily. We're up to 10 progressing and 7 with fecha :-) Also, Elder Johnson, one of the zone leaders we live with, is like my second dad! He was Elder Ritchie's companion in the MTC and he's really cool and helps a lot too. I get double the training :-)