Wednesday, September 3, 2014

The Gospel can Save the World

Dear Family, 

Life is good. I am doing well. I have been feeling much closer to the spirit lately. Honestly...I feel like this is a turning point in my mission. I was reading back to my time in Jerez and I just feel like I was a different person. The things that I wrote about in my journal were just ... different. I was such a focused missionary. I had absolutely NO idea what I was doing but I did the best I could and trusted in the Holy Ghost and God worked miracles through us. I didn´t realize it in the moment, but we experienced miracles ALL THE TIME in Jerez. It´s amazing to me. I ask God to help me to go back to where I was before. To have that same level of urgency and dedication and pure trust in Heavenly Father with the knowledge and ability that I have now. Maybe that´s part of it. Maybe I have been putting too much trust in my own abilities and not trusting enough in Him. Either way, I am feeling better. 

I have had some cool experiences lately. When I go to an area, I get really wrapped up in the vision that the ward has for the work here. For example, I care a lot about helping the ward to acheive their goals and have real growth. Baptizing strong converts that will stay here and bless the ward, rescuing people, strengthening the members and helping them to develop a love for missionary work...there is just so much to be done. And I love it. I met with the bishop last night (which is a miracle...he´s SOO busy) and he talked to us about his goals and what he wants from us as missionaries. I finally caught the vision of Sevilla 2. Now I just want to stay here for the rest of my mission. It´s hard here because all of us live SOO far away from the church. Sevilla is a big city, and few people have cars. So the members move around on bikes or busses. And many people choose not to come to church because of the distance. But we are going to do the best we can. I am becoming really anxious. The time is just slipping through my hands. I worry that I won´t be able to make an impact on this ward. I worry that I am not using His time wisely enough. I don´t want to waste a second of it. I try not to think about the fact that, on Thursday, I will have officially six months left. It seems like so little time. Every one of my friends that have finished their mission and returned home tells me that they just want to go back. That it´s not as incredible as they thought. So I am just here praying my little heart out so that Heavenly Father helps me to enjoy this as much as I can while it lasts. And I think that I am. 

Our Gospel Principles teacher is President Blanco, who was the Stake President a few years ago and who also is the ward mission leader, and the counselor to President Deere in the mission. He´s an incredible man. I feel so blessed to have become so close to so many incredible priesthood leaders here in Spain. They have all made strong impacts upon my life and have inspired me in many ways. 

As President Blanco was teaching class yesterday about missionary work, he told his conversion story. It was very simple, but it marked me. He just said ¨When I think about the missionaries that taught me the gospel...I just feel overwhelmed with gratitude.¨ He can´t even talk about it without choking up. He was 21 years old. Two Americans knocked his door, he felt bad for them having to sweat out in the sun, so he let them in saying ¨you´re not going to get anything with me, just so you know¨. He was baptized three weeks later. He quit smoking, and put his life in order with the teachings of the Gospel. And then he went on a mission a year later. And he is one of the strongest members in Sevilla. He looks back on those two missionaries with pure gratitude and love, because the gospel means EVERYTHING to him. His family, the families of his children, everyone has been changed forever because of it. I just sat there staring at him and thinking about how I have been blessed to find people like that as well. I know that many of these converts have been changed FOREVER. But I also just felt so much guilt. I have not used my time as well as I should have. I felt so much desire to first repent, and then go out and find more prepared souls like President Blanco. That´s really what this work is about. Searching out and finding the chosen and elect that have been prepared to accept our message. I know there are people out there like Pablo, Victoriano, Jose and Sonia, Maribel, Maria, Andrea, and Jose Luis Blanco. People that are literally just waiting for this message. Searching for the truth but they know not where to find it. That´s what it is all about. Our call is to have changed our converts forever. It´s so not about us. We´re here to serve. I feel very blessed to be here right now. I wish I could go back and just start all over. There are so many people that need to hear our message. 

If I have learned anything on my mission, I have learned that the gospel truly can and does change lives. But it depends on us. If we (and the investigators) let it into our hearts, we really will be changed forever. The gospel is perfect and it never fails. But we have to truly accept it and live it. If we know and understand the reasons for which we do the things we do, we will learn and grow and be blessed. Missionary work is so much more that baptisms and numbers and time away from home. It´s about changing people´s lives and following in the Savior´s footsteps. Tithing, Chastity, Word of Wisdom, all of the principles and commandments by which we live are not just there to make life easier for us. Although that´s what they do in reality. We have to live by the letter of the law, but we also have to understand the spirit of the law. Kinda like faith and works. We have to do it to the best of our abilities, but we can´t go through the motions. We need to FEEL it and love it and do it because we truly have faith that we are doing God´s will. There have been many moments in my mission where I have simple just gone through the motions. Just doing things because ¨that´s what we´re supposed to do¨. Find people, teach them, and baptize them. I think it happens to lots of people, members, missionaries, everyone. 

I feel good about my mission though. I know I haven´t been all. Nor will I ever come close out here, but I have learned from my mistakes and I try to do better every day. And lately I have been doing better. I am so thankful for a Father that has so much patience with me. I used to hear people say that all the time and I never really understand how they could actually FEEL that way. But that is exactly how I FEEL. I feel so much gratitude in my heart for my Heavenly Father. And for my Savior and His Atonement. I know without a doubt that through His sacrifice and our sincere repentance, we can be forgiven of any mistakes that are made. And thank heavens for that. I have fallen short all my life, and will surely continue to do so. But He has always been there to help me up, even when sometimes I just laid there stubbornly, ignoring the divine help that has always been available to me. This really is His church. This gospel is the only thing that can save the world. Everyone talkes about the wars and problems going on in the world. All of the diseases, natural disasters, political threats. We´re getting closer. Just like you said Mom. We are so blessed to have the reassurance that the Gospel provides. 

Your week sounds quite exciting. You were SOO busy this week. I wish I could have been there to help you out. I actually would have, if I were there. No doubt about it.  I am proud of you for juggling all of that without Dad´s help. That is no small feat. I am sure it was much more difficult than all of us realize so just know that you are greatly appreciated and admired by many people. Especially by me. 

I hope you do learn some spanish before you come. Because it would be nice if you actually understood what everyone says to you ;) But do what you can! It makes me really sad to hear that the food is going up. I thought costco prices were just awful in Spain, but with the euro transition it´s exactly the same price. Really sad. 

I am glad that Beth is going on a mission. She will absolutely love it. 

I hope you have fun on your cruise. Be safe!! Derek sounds like he´ll be a wonderful missionary. I really like hearing that Dad went to lunch with Spencer Garcia.  I swear. I have some truly incredible parents. Good to hear that he is doing well. 

As for all of that Brigham stuff....hahaha. I was laughing pretty hard after hearing about the whole Quincey and Lincoln thing. They are absolutely hysterical. I cannot WAIT to babysit them when I get home. Hopefully they will still need being babysat. They´re getting so old. But I love them so much. I can´t wait to see them again. 

I love you all so much. Have fun this week. I miss you!!!

love, elder sharp