Monday, April 28, 2014

Happy 20th Birthday in Elche!!

Now more than Ever

Dear family, 

I quite enjoyed your talk mother. You really are one wise woman. A ¨mother who knows¨ to be sure. You may say that I can deliver them better than you (which I strongly disagree with- I have learned in the mission that expressing myself and communication in general are NOT my strongpoints, although that has a lot to do with spanish), you have a gift of writing talks. Searching and finding counsel from various sources and relating it all together with your own testimony- you do it in a very powerful way. Hopefully one day I might be able to do the same. 

I am doing well. It´s been a rather boring week. I can´t even remember what I did. All of our progressing investigators are unable to meet with us :) So at this point we are left with working with people who are progressing VERY slowly. (I had to delete a large section of his letter because he gives too many details about his investigators to put on the blog.) 

We have other investigators. We are working with tons of less actives. But no one is progressing. It´s all passing so slowly. Nobody in our zone baptized this month, so I get to go to concilio and report a big old 0 baptisms as a companionship and 0 as a zone. Our zone is absolutely tiny, only seven companionships. Smallest zone in the mission. But still. It´s hard. I am trying to be more positive and faithful. Hopeful. And I know that May will be better. I just get frustrated because I am working hard. We really are helping people. But our numbers just don´t show it. Sure we are teaching 20-25 lessons every week, which is the standard of excellence in our mission, but we don´t have any baptismal dates, progressing investigators (in order for them to be ¨progressing¨ in our mission, they have to come to church every week), and so far we haven´t baptized here in Elche. I have had a really interesting mission. Jerez was a golden paradise, and then I was sent to Almería which was just insanely hard. It´s just flat out a hard area. And then here in Elche which is supposed to be a good city, but it turns out then all of the four areas that are here in Elche are just dead. None of the missionaries have anything. I don´t know what to do. I will be honest, being a zone leader isn´t the greatest thing in the world. At all. I basically just get to feel guilty for the fact that the whole ZONE is doing bad when it comes to baptizing, and not just because my companion and I are. Anyway. I never wanted to be responsible for a zone, but I am. And I know I need to do the absolute best I can to help it in every way. So I am going to spend some extra time on my knees this week to find out what we need to do differently. As I learn more about the way that the church works and experience the responsibilities of leadership, and especially as I work so closely with church leaders, I am seriously amazed at all of the challenges and trials that I never before had thought about. Being a bishop would be SO incredibly difficult. Getting the members to respect your authority as a bishop, even if they don´t see you fit for the job, having to deal with all of the immature adults that have so many problems in their lives, having to be the authority in charge of everyone else, trying to run effective ward council meetings, worrying about all of the financial aspects as well, trying to keep unity between all of the organizations, listening to everyone confess their sins and trying to listen so closely to the spirit to try and give them counsel that will actually help them in their life, and praying to know when someone has actually done enough to be forgiven because it affects your own salvation as well, WOW. The list goes on and on and on.  I don´t know why anyone would EVER want to have that responsibility. Seriously. Some people are literally crazy. Actually WANTING to have that kind of responsibility?? Yeah. NO, THANK YOU. It´s a good thing that God is there helping all of His faithful bishops, because they couldn´t do what they all have to do without divine guidance and assitance. 

 Personally, I like teaching. I do not like leading. I want to be the gospel principles teacher for the rest of my life, and nothing else. And I am very glad that I love teaching, because in my blessing it tells me that a Teacher is my role. No matter what I do in the church, I will always be teaching. It´s my personal calling :) So I lucked out on that one!! 

Right now in our mission we are having a ¨week of consecration¨. I am super stoked for it. We are all going to be exactly obedient and we will work with urgency and eficáz. Even elder tudela recommitted himself to the work, and is now back on track. Which is a tremendous blessing for me. Pray for us that we will be able to consecrate everything this week, and then keep doing it even after the week of consecration ends. I am starting my ten months of consecration today, actually :) 

We had a really awesome lesson this week. Several, actually. We are teaching this romanian girl named S. She´s an evangelist. Baptist or something. But we contacted her and are now teaching her. We had a really good lesson about the book of mormon. It was incredible. It was so good that it could have been on the preach my gospel training videos. It was Elder Christiansen status, even. I felt the spirit so strongly as I testified about the book of mormon. She promised to read it, and she understood! She understood our message, which is something that happens less often than you would think. 

I also had a really cool experience as we were giving a blessing yesterday. We were in the stake president´s office (the stake president, aka my hero, wasn´t there) with A and her cousin J, and tudela and I were giving her a blessing. She is struggling right now in her life. Anyway. Tudela was giving the blessing, and I was standing there with my hands on her head as well, and I just started praying for tudela that he would be receptive to the spirit and be able to give her the words that God wished her to hear. Instantly after I had started praying in my heart for him, I felt SUCH a strong feeling of the priesthood power. It felt like Tudela and I were in perfect unity during that blessing. As I prayed for him and he strived to listen to the spirit, I felt Heavenly Father´s spirit there. It was one of the most amazing feelings I have ever experienced. The most powerful spiritual witness I have ever felt was in the madrid temple, but this one was strong as well. It was so specific too. Total priesthood unity. I felt the power of the priesthood channeling through us, and I was filled with feelings of unity. It was like I knew what he should say before he even said it, and then he said exactly what I felt. It was cool. 

I am doing well. I am happy, even though things are hard right now :) That´s what matters. I love this place, and I would say that I am enjoying my mission now more than ever. 

I am grateful for your prayers and for your support. I love you so much!! I pray for you every day and I am so thankful for you all. I can skype whenever. Tudela doesn´t skype until the end of may. Mother´s day in Sweden is different. So let me know!

Clayton, THANK YOU for emailing me. I will respond next week because I am out of time today :( I love you so much! One question, why are you saving up for a new guitar?? Hahaha. Didn´t you just get a super nice one last month?? I am proud of you for your musical endeavors. You are seriously such a stud. And you probably have the same voice as me. Because I have rythym issues as well. So I can sympathize with you. We´ll sing all the time together when I get home, and mom and dad will be so annoyed!! 

Still haven´t received the package. I don´t know why. Could you guys track it?? It won´t come today because it is ANOTHER fetching holiday today. I swear, every other day here is a holiday- and then the Spaniards wonder why they are in crisis?? Yeah. It´s not that complicated sherlock. It´s because people have holidays every other day and then when they DO actually work, they take a three hour break during the middle of the day. Crazy. 

Anyway. Love you all 

elder sharp

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Less than 'Two Minutes' Left

Dear loved ones, 

I am doing so well!!!! How are you!? Didn´t you just love conference?? I really did. The last four days were absolutely wonderful for me. For multiple reasons. 

One of them was conference. SO great. I felt so inspired and excited to apply that counsel to my life. I was able to listen to most of the sessions in english, but because of some problems I missed the saturday afternoon session. Or at least half of it. I saw the first half but only in Spanish. And then I saw the first half of the last session in Spanish. I missed D Todd Cristofferson´s talk, and I didn´t really understand Scott and Hale´s talks because it was in Spanish and I was doing numbers at the same time, so I was on the phone with our zone and wasn´t able to really pay attention. I´ll have to wait and print them off or something. Did you know that Richard G Scott does his own Spanish translation?? It was in Spanish, but it was still his voice!! Cool huh? 

I really really enjoyed Uchtdorf´s talk. I feel like that is something that I struggle with tremendously. I am not grateful enough. That talk definitely spoke to me personally. I had so many experiences like that during this conference. I loved Bednar´s talk as well, although all of what he said can be found in his books. He is so incredible. I feel like once we come to truly understand and apply that principle ( the enabling power of the atonement ), our entire lives will changed. Our entire perspective will change. I am trying so hard right now to rely upon the atonement in that way. I also LOVED the Prophet´s talk on love. I had an interesting experience as he was speaking. For the first time in my life, I FELT that it was the Lord´s voice speaking to me, through the Prophet. It was such a strong impression. I thought to myself, out of all of the messages that the Lord would give to His people right now through the mouth of His Prophet, the Lord chose  LOVE. For some reason I just found that so interesting. Apparently that is something that the world in general is struggling with. It makes sense though. We are all so focused on so many other things. So many other good things. Missionary work, callings, spiritual growth, etc etc. But all of those things we do BECAUSE of our love. Love truly is the greatest commandment. And if we do love God like we should, we fulfill of our responsibilites gladly because we love our brothers and sisters. Missionary work is a labor of love. And as missionaries, we often forget that. It can almost become a routine job. We do all of the things so robotically. I have felt myself do it before! I go into a lesson and just robotically deliver the message and then leave. Just going through the motions. It also can become like a business. We just work so hard to have success because of baptisms and numbers but often forget the real purpose. I was doing a lot of self reflection during that talk. How much of what I do is done because I love the Lord and I really love these people that I am teaching? Sometimes it´s hard to love them. Most everyone hates us and wants nothing to do with us. And when we can get people to let us in, they don´t really want to accept what we have to say. But I need to love them. It was just a really great conference. They really just get better and better. 

And then we went to concilio on monday and tuesday. SOO great. There are 8 zone leaders and 2 SHEs in this part of the mission. And then two of the zone leader companionships have cars, so we were allowed to drive down in cars. 5 and 5. I went with Elders Skousen, Olsen, Flores, and my man Elder Bastian. It was a five hour drive there and I seriously loved it. Bastian just got to Alicante and he´s with Skousen. Both of them are just so amazing. And then there is Elder Olsen. Such a stud. It was so good for me to be with them. A lot of the older companions that I have had (either ZLs or exZLs) have been super negative about the mission leadership and about the work in general. They gave me a really bad mindset when it comes to being a zone leader. Hahaha. I was so mistaken in so many ways. Being with these guys was so refreshing. They work so hard and are just SO obedient. Especially Elder Olsen. He´s just inspiring. The positive attitudes that they have about the work and the mission in general was so so good for me to be around. It was like seeing a whole different side of the work. I don´t think I can explain it very well, but just know that the Lord blessed me a great deal this weekend. At concilio we talked a lot about the importance of studies and then teaching. We learned a lot about that. I am an ok teacher, but I still do so many thing wrong. I have tried to be like Elder Christiansen throughout my whole mission. Elder Christiansen from the PMG videos. I think he´s an incredible teacher, and I try to teach like him. Slow, simple, clear, and he pauses and THINKS before he speaks. And he focuses on the people. He trys to have them talk more than him. That is a good teacher. And in concilio President Deere talked a lot about that kind of teaching. It was just really good. And Hermana Deere made cafe rio salads which was incredible as well. Then the next morning we got up and gave our reports and then talked about the problems in the mission. It was very constructive. At the end of that concilio, I felt like we were completey unified. Usually it feels like it´s just a competition between zones. Who can baptize the most. SO SO not how it should be. But that´s how missionaries make it sometimes. But President has changed out like all of the zone leaders within the last 2 or 3 transfers, and this new council is a lot different (from what I hear). I think our mission is going to see some serious miracles this year. We are going up for sure. 

It has been weird without Elder Love. Tudela and I get along :) But, as I predicted, it has taken a lot of patience on my part. And his too probably. I am getting good at holding my tongue and just taking a deep breath, and letting it go. I am lucky to be with Elder Tudela. I keep trying to put myself in his shoes and it helps. We aren´t perfect, but we get along quite well considering our personalities. 

Quincey is such a stud. Seriously I love the fact that he was so attentive during conference. 

I am sad that my letter didn´t get there safely. I had sent one of my badges in there with it to give to Clayton. The guy at the post office assured me that it would arrive safely. I will have to order another badge I suppose. I am still praying for him, and for all of you.

Our investigators are doing well. M should be about finished with her job, so we are praying that she might reappear. And then V and I are just amazing as well. We went to their house (yes, they have an actual house out in the country outside of Elche- it´s glorious) and watched conference with them. They are awesome. We just need to get them married!! We still haven´t been able to get M  and her four daughters to church. As they live in Elda, those things are difficult. But we are hoping that soon they will come. We have this other lady called H that came to watch conference. We´ll see how that all works out. She has 11 dogs in her apartment that live with her. Yeah. No comment. And then guess what!! A and M came to a session of conference!!! M didn´t seem like she liked it at all, but I am just happy that A was there!!! He is an inactive that used to be young men president and everything. He´s like thirty. He bothers me so much when I teach him. He says that he doesn´t come because he´s trying to get his girlfriend to come. Basically just trying to save her soul but in the process is losing his own. I can´t stand that mentality. We should never marry or even DATE anyone that would drag us down. But he is considering it. It´s frustrating to me. But I love him to death and it´s the first time he´s been back to church in like six months. 

I am really loving it here. It´s been an awesome week. I have learned so much these past few days and I am so excited to just get to work. I loved that talk about the olympic athletes and the four minutes. If I am not mistaken, it was given by the presiding bishop...? Can´t remember. I really enjoyed that. The plan of salvation is such a gem. I thought about it in terms of a mission too. My four minutes of a mission is VERY quickly coming to an end. I have less than two minutes left. I seriously can´t believe it´s going by so quickly. The hermanas that got here with me have about 3 transfers left. THREE!!! So weird. Hermana Deere talked about that this concilio. About not giving up and making the last 10 months of your mission the best part. And I know that it will be the best part of my mission. 

I am so happy for Spencer about those people that are getting baptized!! What awesome converts! That is so wonderful. I wish I knew something about his mission. I don´t hear anything about it. I send him my email every week. I don´t know if he reads it, but at least he has something. I am just saying, this system may work out well for you guys and him, but I would really like to know what is going on in my brother´s life. I hope Brigham is practicing his keyboard ablilities so that ALL of us can actually get some info on his mission. 

Well I love all of you so much. I hope you are feeling close to the Savior and that you rely on Him in times of trials and difficulties, as well as in times of comfort and prosperity!! I have such a strong testimony of Him and the power of the Atonement. It is REAL. I have felt it and I know that it can lift us beyond our own capacities. 

Have the best week ever!!! 

Elder Sharp

PS- I spoke with V while we were at concilio. Hna. Anderson let me use her phone (she´s the SHE in Jerez). He just got his patriarchal blessing and is doing so well. I miss him a lot. He hasn´t missed one day of church since that first sunday he came with Elder Pardo and I. What a flipping miracle! And P and everyone else in Jerez are doing super well too. J and S and all of them. And E in Almeria is passing the sacrament and going to church by himself. This really is such an amazing work.