Well, I'm back ha - I feel restored, renewed and refined this week! I have a wonderful new companion called Elder Jensen who, with no exaggeration at all, is simply amazing! He is one of the most outstanding missionaries I have ever met/worked with and I feel incredibly blessed to work with him for his last five weeks - he's had a lot of experience, especially in leadership roles, and President has asked him to train me to be a leader soon :) He's got an incredible sense of humour and he makes missionary work fun again! Prayer works - thank you!
The area is doing fantastic - we've got four people who should be baptized soon, including Brendan on the 23rd of November (although that may be delayed due to church attendance issues) and Seth (Barbara's son) on the 24th! We're also finding a lot of people somehow and helping to reactivate a few less-active families! In other words, missionary work is going well right now!
We just received transfer calls on Sunday and our district is getting moved all over the place - Sister Banner (she was in my MTC district) is training after just three months and we've got Elder Whitehead training as well! It's going to be an exciting time - you'll have Elder Jensen and Elder Whitehead who have served for a while, Sister Banner and I who have just finished training and the two new missionaries! It'll be great :) I've also had the opportunity to speak to a lot of my MTC district for a multitude of reasons - wow, I love them! It is amazing to me just how close we all are... even now, after three months, we ask President about eachother every week! There is truly a bond that exists between people with the same aspirations!
The highlight of my week (in addition to Elder Jensen!) is my studies... I've been working hard to make the hour from 8am-9am a revelatory experience each morning! And man, have I felt myself repenting and growing?! I would like to share one of those studies:
It's called the 'cycle of discipleship' or 'cycle of refinement' and basically it is the way that we prepare ourselves to meet God through constant improvement. Just for examples sake, we'll take bad language...
It starts with faith or a belief in that which is true but cannot be proven. So, I can improve my faith in the blessings that come from uplifting language by studying it in the scriptures, praying to know if God actually requires that and listening to others testimonies at church.
This increased and strengthened faith leads to repentance or a change of heart, mind and vision. Because I have faith that God will bless me as I change, I can put into place ways to 'turn away from sin and turn towards God'. For example, I might pray every morning for help to overcome this habit. If I slip up in the day, I might review the sentence, repeat it in a better way and try again.
This repentance is then sealed or confirmed as we partake of the ordinances, such as baptism or the sacrament. Ordinances are 'manifestations of the power of the priesthood' - in other words, after working our hardest to repent, we offer up our efforts to Heavenly Father and ask Him to help us. The consistent (even weekly) renewal of these ordinances sustain and enable us to continue to repent.
After we have repented, we can feel the Holy Ghost. The Holy Ghost comforts us and enables us to improve but it also guides us to understand our next weakness to overcome. This leads to a need to increase our faith, thus starting the cycle again!
I know this pattern is true - I'm having to use it daily out here right now and I love it! I feel God's hand moulding me and, every now and then, I catch a glimpse of what He's helping me become! I love missionary work because I get to invite others to change!
Love Elder Pelham