Sounds like life is going great back home. Mom, I hope you get better soon. I'll keep you in my prayers. Pulled muscles are way less than stellar. I haven't received the package yet, but thank you so much for sending it! It means a lot to me and I'm super excited. I love you so much! I'm so happy for Babs! She's super talented and I wish I could have seen her perform. Yeah, we were eating at a member's house (my comp, our wardmates and myself) and she said that Pam had told her about me. So we talked about the family a bit. It was super cool! I'll see if I can get president to transfer me to Upland ;)
I want to apologize for the last letter I sent home. I was super negative and wasn't reflecting on the week with my spiritual eyes (those are like...kind of a big deal). Truth is, people here rock! Although I will probably never be converted to the California Climate, the people here really are awesome. The members pwn and most everyone here is really nice (even street contacting). Ward council is going great. There is a lot of progression that needs to be made still, but things are FOR SURE moving forward. I'm super pumped for this week. Elder Bringhurst and I made some goals for improving ourselves and we're so stoked.
Finding's been going a lot better. We teach a lot of active members because they're a huge part in finding and reactivation efforts. Actually, they're just a big part of everything. We have been getting a few referrals in the working and a lot of the members are helping us out--which is awesome, because we need a lot of it. We also have a lesson with an FI family, that puts them at a PI, and hopefully at the end of the lesson they'll be an I family. They seem ready and open and willing to change, so we're really excited. Elder Bringhurst and I are really pumped for that lesson.
Church was crazy yesterday. We got this less active member to come (he hasn't been for about a year), and when we met with him last week he said he was meaning to come recently and he was considering a mission. He's the nicest guy on the planet and if we can get him active and immersed in the word and in prayer, he will be one of the greatest missionaries on the planet.
During choir practice (before church), we were rehearsing Come Thou Fount. Now I told Sister Fugate (choir director) that if she wanted a solo I could sing one. So in the middle of practice she turned and said "I want to do something different with Come Thou Fount. Elder Russell, I want you to sing the first part of the verse solo, because you told me I could tell you to do that." ...It wasn't till after practice that I found out we were singing it that day. I hadn't warmed up, or sang a solo in months; my voice kept cracking in practice; and she still wanted me to do it. So I prayed...it all worked out alright. That was intense though. I was happy because I got to sing my part without a mic. I'm a loud singer so I had no problem belting. With God's help, my voice didn't crack, thankfully (because when my voice cracks, it cracks louder than I sing).
So Carla is kind of settling down, from what we're hearing from her mom. But she's living with her dad, who doesn't really want anything to do with us. But she told her mom that she wants to make it back out to church. So things are starting to look good, if she can make it out. We're looking to get an appointment through her mom because she really isn't in a spot to contact us. We're happy things are securing for her though. Her sister lives with her mom as well and we're trying to get a lesson with her. She has kids that are way young and make a lot of noise, so she's a little embarrassed. Little does she know of the noise and ruckus I managed to create and disperse while in the advent of my youth. So we're going to show a movie to get the kids involved as well.
Rita is doing a lot better. We hear she's back to work and things are starting to settle in to where we can go see her again. We have a member who works with her and she's kinda doing our job for us...which makes our job easy. We spent hours last week getting a Book of Mormon together with references we feel will strengthen her. ...We're almost done with it. We have like 60 references. We're pretty excited to give it to her. She had a lot happen and we're happy things are looking better. Hopefully we can get the gospel in her life soon.
The new family we want to teach (we have a lesson with tonight) is a mother, father and 8yo daughter. We were talking to the mom last night and she said she wants to know more about forgiveness. Elder Bringhurst and I could hardly contain ourselves. We taught three lessons that week about the forgiveness aspect of repentance. We are so excited to teach her and her family tonight.
Other than that, we just have a lot of less actives and recent converts we're working with. I love that part of the work. I love all of the work actually.
So what we've been learning about repentance is it's more than a change in behavior. It's a change in nature. It's more than just stopping sin. It's stopping the desire to sin. Which is awesome, because we can than look at how God sees the repentant. Mom and dad, you know this, when a kid gets caught redhanded and is sorry because they got caught--you feel frustrated, right? (Maybe I assume to much). But the reason being that they didn't learn what they did was wrong, they learned it sucks to get caught. But when a child feels bad because they realize what they did was wrong, you don't feel angry with them, you feel happy for them (or maybe you were just really nice to me when I felt bad). That's been my experience in forgiving others as well though.
I imagine when our Father in Heaven sees us repent, truly repent, He is happy for us; because we aren't just changing what we're doing, we're changing who we are. The commission to forsake the sin, is not in action only, but in our nature. The people of Benjamin had "no more disposition to do evil," thus being truly repentant.
Now, when we are forgiven of the Lord, we must also forgive ourselves. Part of forsaking sin is leaving it behind. If one does not forgive themselves, they are not letting the Atonement take place. They are resisting grace. That is not faith in Christ, that is doubt in Christ. Forgiving ourselves is indeed an act of faith. If we doubt, the adversary works with us instead. Don't look for excuses, but when you feel the Spirit work within you again, when you gain confidence while being humble, and when you feel God's forgiveness, leave behind the sin.
The mission is awesome, and I'm happy I'm here. I know it's where I'm supposed to be and I wouldn't rather be anywhere else. I love you all and thank you for your prayers, they're needed and I can feel them. Please pray for Rita, Carla, Andrew, the Bailey family, and the Soliz family. You're all awesome and a great light in my life.