|Elders Aldana and Avery, Peru Lima West Mission|
So after my two years as a missionary, I want to share some of the important things I've learned. I'm going to do it in a sort of chronological order.
In the Missionary Training Center (MTC) my main lesson was that of true repentance, and especially of putting God above everything. I remember making the commitment with the Lord that I would not think about rock bands, but rather about hymns. That would be the way I would show the Lord that I love Him and desire His Spirit. I haven't been 100% perfect, but I now know the words to all of the hymns. I also remember promising the Lord that I wouldn't be mad if something happened to a member of my family while I was on my mission (then actually having that happen was so hard). I promised Him that I would strive to be obedient. I began a mighty change of heart in the MTC.
In Rosales I remember having my testimony burst out like a redwood in a rainforest. One day I was real frustrated when so many people were telling me that Saturday was really the sabbath day, and I didn't know how to respond to them. I prayed that God would help me know what to do and fortify my personal testimony. I felt inspired to read "True to the Faith," and found a scripture that answered my question to my satisfaction (Acts 20:7). When I told my mission president what I'd learned, he said something to the extent of, ''That is great and all, but really it simply depends on if you believe the prophets. If a prophet says that the sabbath is on a Tuesday, that's how it's gonna be because he's a prophet.'' Reading that changed a lot about how I taught, and it fortified my testimony of Joseph Smith.
I learned the importance of families, and I trusted my mission president when he told us to stop baptizing children and to begin baptizing families. Not surprisingly, the mission baptisms have gone way up since he trained us on that. The retention and sealings have also gone way up too. It's because the family is eternal and is ordained of God.
In Yungay I learned a lot about how to be open and have a good relationship with Elder Aldana. He was definitely the most hyper and funny companion I've had, but also a spiritual giant and a very wise person. He taught me how to speak openly without getting offended and how to love people. I have only good things to say about Elder Aldana. He had some rough times too, and I saw how important it was that I had other experiences earlier in my mission that gave me the testimony I needed to keep things moving forward. We worked hard together.
In Los Olivos I learned how important it is to sustain your leader. Sometimes it is better to lose one than to lose the whole flock. Due to huge social issues in the ward, I had to call my mission president and see what to do and how to react in some delicate social situations. A few people went inactive and were offended because of the things we stopped in that area. We stopped visiting single women and houses with all women living there. We also stopped unnecessary visits with active members. A few people even called my mission president and asked him to take me out of the ward, but he kept me in there even longer. We had 10 baptisms there, six of them were in one family.
In Vegueta I learned to accept the will of the Lord. Sometimes he didn't want me to have a huge baptismal statistic, but he needed me to nurture a struggling branch. I also learned how to plan really well and how to love "not so lovable" people. I learned patience. I didn't baptize anyone in that area. There has been one baptism there since November last year (it was the kid of two less active parents), and there's still no baptisms scheduled. It was hard to get up every morning, and it was embarrassing because I was a district leader and supposed to be the example to the other missionaries. But the Lord knows why he does what he does. He needed me to be humble.
In my last area I've learned that God gives His children a chance to change. Some of the people we're teaching have had very different pasts, but I've seen how the Gospel enlightens their minds and makes them want to change. I've seen how happy they are to know that God loves them, and that He forgives those who repent.
I can't explain in a few paragraphs everything that I've learned on my mission, but I do want to testify of things I know for a surety. God lives and loves His children! He answers prayers and has answered mine. Jesus Christ is the light of the world and the Son of God. They are both resurrected, exalted beings. Joseph Smith was God's prophet in the last days, and Thomas S. Monson holds that prophetic mantel today. Families can be together forever when they will make and keep sacred covenants through priesthood authority.
Thanks for EVERYHING! I LOVE you all so much! I hope I can measure up to what you all make me out to be ;) Be safe and follow Christ's gospel!
Two Years Is Not Forever (June 1, 2015)
Elder Avery Leaves for the Peru MTC (July 3, 2013)