Well, Merry Christmas. It doesn't feel like Christmas whatsoever here in Mesa. It's still in the 70's on a normal day. I'm not sure if I enjoy being in the nice weather or if I miss having a white Christmas. That said, I've gotten to the point where I have to pull out a sweater as soon as it hits 60 degrees...
This week went extremely well. We had lots of teaching opportunities and we found some new investigators. One of them even lives just a few apartments down from ours. Pretty much every lesson went well but I definitely had a favorite. Elder Meline and I have been teaching an elderly woman for about two weeks now. She has kept every commitment with just one slip, she didn't show up for church a few Sundays ago. This was somewhat concerning given the fact that she had promised to be there. Especially since her promising to do things has always meant that she will do it. We finally were able to catch her on Saturday. Brother and Sister Martinez from the Hampton Ward were kind enough to join us. We came in and, as usual, she had us make ourselves at home while she fended off her two chihuahuas with a fly swatter.
Ultimately, the goal of the lesson was to help her understand the importance of the commitments we were helping her to make. However, as we began to teach, it quickly turned into us letting her vent about the problems she has been facing ever the years. This woman has recently had her seventh heart attack. That by itself is incredible to me, but the list doesn't stop there. For two years she had watched her husband fight and eventually succumb to cancer. She has had multiple strokes, one of which took away her ability to speak. Either due to an amazing threshold of willpower or just an impressive amount of stubbornness, this woman taught herself how to speak again by watching television. She would lay there and simply repeat everything they said on the T.V. until she had the ability to talk again. But her biggest burden is her granddaughter Aubrie.
Aubrie is a four year old little girl who is suffering currently from cerebral palsy. She can't walk, she can't talk, but according to this woman, "She's an angel". She has long dark hair that this woman braids every chance she gets. It make's her day. Even with all the perfection a four year old could possibly have, Aubrie will be spending Christmas in a hospital bed. That fact alone breaks her grandma's heart.
After she let everything out, it left an immense opportunity to teach this woman. We explained how Aubrie won't have to worry about the pains her disease causes her forever. Because Aubrie has a Father in Heaven who loves her more than any of us can comprehend, He has made it possible for this little girl to have a perfect body one day. She'll be able to talk, she'll be able to walk, she'll be even more perfect than she already is. Also due to the plan of happiness that God has prepared for us, this woman will be able to see her husband once more. He as well will no longer be suffering from the cancerous pains which caused him to leave his wife behind. He will be perfect, and so can she.
We opened the Bible and read John 15:2 with her. It says, "...every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit". We then proceeded to read Job 23:10 which reads, "But he knoweth the way that I take: when he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold". The lesson we were able to help this woman understand helped myself learn tons as well. Because bad things happen to us, it doesn't necessarily mean that we are doing anything wrong. "Obedience to God's commandments is not insurance that bad things will never happen". As it says in John, when we do the things the Lord commands us to do, and see success because of it, at times we need to be purged. Sometimes to humble us, sometimes to protect us, but always to help us grow. The decision we have to make then is whether or not we will use the tools the lord gives us "come forth as gold".
We followed that up by switching to the Book of Mormon. One of the stories told there is about a people who lived at the time of the Tower of Babel. They were commanded by the Lord to leave Palestine and sail across the sea to a new land. They were commanded not build their boats how they usually built them. Instead, for their protection, God instructed them on how to build these ships so that they would survive the voyage. Following the council of God, they built the ships in exactness to His commandments, made preparations, and departed for their new home. The sea was terrible. Storms beat them 24/7 yet they prevailed. All because of their faith and exact obedience in using the tools the Lord had provided them with. In Ether 6:7 they say, "And it came to pass that when they were buried in the deep there was no water that could hurt them, their vessels being tight like unto a dish, and also they were tight like unto the ark of Noah; therefore when they were encompassed about by many waters they did cry unto the Lord, and he did bring them forth again upon the top of the waters".
The lesson we were able to help her with became simple. Was she allowing the Lord to help her? The church is the tool which Lord is providing her so that she can let Him take some of her burdens. She cannot do it by herself. In the previous scripture, God instructed the vessels to be made "tight like unto a dish" so that "when they were encompassed about by many waters" they would be safe. The waters around them would not be able to destroy them. That's what the Lord has intended for us. We go to church so that we, as parts of the vessel, can be made tight like unto a dish when brought together. When we are obedient and follow this council of His, there is no room for the waters or trials that surround us to seep through the cracks and sink us, whether it be physically or especially spiritually.
This woman ended up coming to church this last Sunday. She stayed the entire time and before she left came over to me with teary eyes and thanked me for letting her come. She proceeded to say,"You were right. I needed that". I'm so grateful for the tools the Lord gives us to make our lives more bearable. He does not give us things such as church simply to inconvenience us. He gives them to us to prevent us, His children, from falling through the cracks. This world is not built tight like unto a dish. It is up to us, and us alone, bring ourselves tight unto the Lord. There is no other way to protect ourselves from the waters which encompass us. Don't fall through the cracks.
Sincerely, Elder Earl