Monday, February 27, 2017

An Epistle

Hey folks!

It's about time that I write y'all another of my huge emails, and I actually have time this week, so brace yourselves. :) I'll try to catch you up a little on the area as well, since I didn't say much last week. 

We had a pretty awesome week this week. I have decided that Asheville is officially the best. I love this area!! The ward loves us and trusts us and works with us, we have a lot of really progressing investigators, the work is moving forward, and it's the greatest. Also, I love Elder Creasey a lot. He's so kind and genuine, and he's super solid in the gospel, and he's also super on top of things here in Asheville. I kind of hope I stay with him until the end of my mission, but I also have a feeling that I'll probably have one more companion before all is said and done. We'll see. But for right now, we're working hard together and moving forward and things are going great. 

We met with a girl named Karla this week. Karla is really cool. She's 18, she's from Venezuela, and she's just here for a few months to prepare to come to college in the States. She started meeting with missionaries a month or two ago. It's actually a crazy story. She took an Uber across town one day, and during the 2-5 minutes she was in the car, she mentioned to the driver (who happened to be a member of our ward) that she's thinking about going to school at a place called LDS Business College... So he asked her if she knew anything about the Church, and would she like to learn? She said she didn't know anything, and she would love to meet with missionaries. She had actually been praying just days before for God to show her how she could follow Him. Cool right?? We had a great visit with her at our Bishop's house. She opened up about how she struggles with feeling unworthy even though she has repented of her past mistakes. We talked about the Atonement and repentance and God's love for her, and it was reeeally good. The Spirit was really strong. She set a date for baptism for March 17, and she picked the day herself!

We are also meeting with a guy named Bill who has investigated for ages but is just now starting to move forward. He finally has gotten engaged to his girlfriend who he's been living with, which is super exciting! That and some Word of Wisdom concerns were all that were holding him back from baptism. And he's agreed to start coming to the Church's Addiction Recovery Program, which will help a lot with his Word of Wisdom concerns. 

We had a great visit with an excommunicated member named Wayne. He is coming to church now but still has some concerns that hold him back from being rebaptized. But we had a great discussion with him and I feel like he could really change his life for the better. He seems to me like he's ready, even if he doesn't realize he is. He met with the Bishop this week which is huge progress for him!

I'm pretty sure I mentioned Lora and Griffin last week, the mother and son who were baptized right when I got here. They are doing great! We saw them like 3 times this week and talked to them a lot on the phone. Lora has tons of questions for us and is just on fire about the Gospel. It's pretty amazing to see just how much the Savior has changed her life for the better. And I love how excited she is to learn as much as she can. It reminds me of just how beautiful the truths of the gospel really are. Too often I take them for granted. 

One more cool story and then I'll finish up. We came back to the church for something a couple hours after church on Sunday, and the Bishop was on his way out, and told us he had a referral for us! Just a little before we got there, a man named Shakur (shuh-KOOR) walked in and started talking to the Bishop and one of his counselors. He told him about a lot of his struggles and how he's trying to get his life back in order, but that he has a lot of things in his past that he regrets. He asked if somebody could teach him about repentance. It was way cool! We called him right away and were able to meet with him that afternoon. He's got a lot of potential. 

My message this week is about prayer and how we can make our prayers more effective. There's a quote from the LDS Bible Dictionary that stood out to me this week:

"Christians are taught to pray in Christ’s name. We pray in Christ’s name when our mind is the mind of Christ, and our wishes the wishes of Christ--when His words abide in us. We then ask for things it is possible for God to grant. Many prayers remain unanswered because they are not in Christ’s name at all; they in no way represent His mind but spring out of the selfishness of man’s heart."

When we strive to align our own will with the will of our Savior, even when doing so is difficult and requires uncomfortable changes and even sacrifices, our lives will begin to reflect that of the Savior, and we will begin to bear fruits that bring us and others real joy. We do that by striving to make our prayers "...the act by which the will of the Father and the will of the child are brought into correspondence with each other" (-Bible dictionary). Truly praying in the name of Jesus Christ, as we are commanded, is more than simply saying "in the name of Jesus Christ, amen." It is trying to pray as Jesus would pray if He were kneeling next to us and praying for us.

We can bring our own will in harmony with the Savior's by abiding in Him - by striving to keep His commandments, to be like Him, to do as He would do, and to fill our minds and hearts with His words.

"Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me. I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing. ...If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you. Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples." (John 15)

As we strive to bring our lives and our own wills in harmony with God's, I testify that He will help us. "...and every branch that beareth fruit, he [my Father] purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit." (John 15) I testify that the Savior lives and that He loves us. I testify that He is orchestrating our lives for our good. If we will seek His will for us and try to align ourselves with Him, we will find greater joy than we have ever imagined. 

I love you all!

Elder Alex Swindler

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