Friday, August 22, 2014

The future is as bright as our faith

We dropped Lance off to the MTC on this day two years ago, so it seems appropriate that today is my final entry in this blog.  

Waiting for Lance's arrival

It's absolutely true that the entire family of the missionary is blessed...the blessings may not come in obvious ways, but they come none the less.  One of the most unexpected blessings I have recognized is the new friends I now have.  They have inspired and uplifted me and I will never forget the love I felt from them.  As I reflect on the last two years, I perceive there are many more blessings that I cannot share here.  I can tell you that my life has been greatly enriched and I'm a changed person.  

Lance feels that he served well and has no regrets.  He loves Poland and the people there and feels that he was sent to Poland for a specific purpose.  He already has plans for going back to visit, as soon as possible.
Being a missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was the most incredible experience he's ever had.  

Going in to meet with the Stake President to be released.

It is my testimony that God loves all of His children equally, that the Book of Mormon is His word, and Joseph Smith was a true prophet who was instrumental in restoring the fullness of the Gospel.  

In Jesus's name,


Monday, August 18, 2014

The Best Two Years

A two year mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is often referred to as "the best two years".  Lance explained that indeed, it is the best two years...for the missionary.  Others benefit from the service, but truly it is the missionary who leaves the field a completely changed person.

Today I write this blog with excitement and joy knowing that tomorrow we will welcome Lance home.

July 7th
"It's super pretty skies, green nature.  Yeah, it's beautiful here!"
They taught a lot of people and one person in particular has been very interested.  Lance is hopeful things will continue.  They also met with someone from California who was visiting Poland to pray at all the Concentration Camps in order to change the spirit in those sad places.  They had a really great conversation!
Lance’s thoughts are starting to turn toward his future for when he gets home.  He has some great ideas on what he wants to do for school and career.  He's got a detailed list of his goals.  I’m glad to hear he’s got a good plan!

In his studies, he often takes a topic and expounds on it.  He recently took the term YOLO (You Only Live Once) and revised it to mean YOLFE (You Only Live For Eternity).
 He quotes 2 Nephi 9:26-27
26 For the atonement satisfieth the demands of his justice upon all those who have not the law given to them, that they are delivered from that awful monster, death and hell, and the devil, and the lake of fire and brimstone, which is endless torment; and they are restored to that God who gave them breath, which is the Holy One of Israel.
27 But wo unto him that has the law given, yea, that has all the commandments of God, like unto us, and that transgresseth them, and that wasteth the days of his probation, for awful is his state!
Of course satan wants us to have a YOLO attitude, and the people who give into it will be as those described in verse 28:
 O that cunning plan of the evil one! O the vainness, and the frailties, and the foolishness of men! When they are learned they think they are wise, and they hearken not unto the counsel of God, for they set it aside, supposing they know of themselves, wherefore, their wisdom is foolishness and it profiteth them not. And they shall perish.
In contrast, the YOLFE attitude is one of a spiritual mind.  Do not waste your resources on that which has no worth, but bless your life and the lives of others with your talents.  
51 Wherefore, do not spend money for that which is of no worth, nor your labor for that which cannot satisfy. Hearken diligently unto me, and remember the words which I have spoken; and come unto the Holy One of Israel, and feast upon that which perisheth not, neither can be corrupted, and let your soul delight in fatness.
The key to these blessings of success and happiness is gratitude:
 52 Behold, my beloved brethren, remember the words of your God; pray unto him continually by day, and give thanks unto his holy name by night. Let your hearts rejoice.

He lists 5 steps to attaining goals:
Put your faith in God
Pray and lift your voice to God daily
Listen with hope and write down the revelations you receive 
Act with hope and confidence
Be full of faith, patient, hopeful, full of love while accomplishing those goals

"Whatever you decide to accomplish, you can.  We're the ones who decide it.  We're the ones who decide how much we accomplish in life.  That's why we should never stop in our progression."

July 13th
"It's me, Elder Kotter calling in from Lublin!"
They met with a young lady from Ukraine, who is very receptive.  Lance says she's very cool and speaks Polish very well, though she also speaks a little English.  He feels more comfortable teaching the Gospel in Polish, though.  He points out that people are essentially the same.  Even across the world, in various languages, people have more similarities than differences.  

He's looking forward to coming home, though he doesn't want to leave Poland.  He mentions that he has learned from his service more of what it takes to be a good leader.  He finds it's important to be a Christ-like leader instead of going forward in fear.  He feels the first key is love.  Second you have to serve with an eye single to the Glory.  Third you need to seek to do the will of God.  Fourth you've got to lift others.  Fifth is to teach..."Teach them correct principles and let them govern themselves" - Joseph Smith.

Some questions Lance asks himself when it comes to being a Christ-like leader are:
Am I helping people to understand that overcoming challenges is their responsibility?
Am I guiding others to find their own answers?
Am I following up on tasks they've agreed to do?
Am I helping them find resources to solve their own problems?
Am I encouraging them to trust the Lord?
Does my counsel encourage others to progress?

Callings are an example of when it's a great time to ask these questions.  Another place is in your personal business.  And Lance plans on using these guidelines to further his success in his future business.  
"Super European" hair cut

July 21st
"We've just been working so hard.  Killing our feet and going nuts."
It was the last day for one of his former companions to work on exchanges, so they were able to spend some time together working and celebrating with a member family.
The elder on the far right is home now!

Life is good, he says.  They visited with a lady in their branch and her fiance.  Lance says they had a great time and had some really great food.  It was very healthy!  

Sunday school was good.  Two young women showed up after having a lesson at the Rynek earlier in the week.  He said they were very cool.  The topic for the lesson was about having a good attitude and work.  If we want something, we have to act and work for it.  If we don't, we become someone who "gets acted upon".  Some people blame the world for their problems, but truly we determine our own happiness.  
2 Nephi 2:14 talks about that...
And now, my sons, I speak unto you these things for your profit and learning; for there is a God, and he hath created all things, both the heavens and the earth, and all things that in them are, both things to act and things to be acted upon.
If we go into it with an attitude to learn and grow, our work will bring forth the fruits of our labors, happiness and blessings.
He lists some great scripture references.  

Some ideas to help us be more diligent and self reliant...
Lead by example, letting others govern themselves.
Plan and carry out projects and work to do with family.
Find ways to serve others with love and labor.
Carry out essential smalls tasks that lead to big changes.
Live and teach the principles of self reliance by managing money.
Do all in love and diligence with an eye single to the glory of God.

We're either progressing or digressing.  If we're always anxiously engaged, with a good attitude, we can get stuff done.  

He gets to teach in the upcoming Zone Conference on how to connect with people.  He's excited to do that!
He's had the chance to teach and visit with a bunch of Ukrainians, which he's loved.  They also met with a man from Bulgaria who accepted a Book of Mormon from another set of missionaries.  He's an artist and Lance bought one of his paintings to bring home...

He closes by saying he doesn't regret one day on his mission.  
"I have such a strong testimony of this mission. It's literally saved my life."

July 28th
"I love Poland SO much!  It's seriously like one of the best places on Earth."
He goes on to explain his love for the country and the people.  He feels so very connected to it and knows he was specifically called to Poland for a reason.

Church was awesome...they had 10 people come, which is more than usual.  He was excited to have so many wonderful people there.  

His study has been on the Holy Ghost lately.  His focus has been understanding what it is that happens when we feel his presence.  We are all spirit children of God.  We lived with Him and learned from Him.  We had a long time to feel God's love when we lived in the pre-existence.  Then we come to the world and we become separated from the Spirit over time.  The Holy Ghost, whom we were so well acquainted with in the pre-existence, testifies and speaks directly to our spirits.  So it's spirit to spirit because it is pure.  We can recognize this in our hearts.  We may not be listening or become distracted and not recognize those spiritual impressions.  When we're worthy, we can receive everything we need.  We must act on it valiantly and immediately; otherwise the Spirit will withdraw and wait until we come seeking and listening.  
Acting on the promptings empowers us.  It gives us more confidence in what we're receiving is true.  The Spirit makes your mind clear and gives peace.  That which edifies and enlightens is of the Spirit.

He closes by asking me to tell everyone hi and he'll see them all in no time.  Things are going well with all their investigators.  He testifies that the Gospel is true.

August 4th
"It's very beautiful outside today.  It looks like it's going to be a pretty hot day." 
This week was, as he put it, the busiest week of his life.  They even skipped dinner a couple of times due to their lesson teaching.  He loved it!

They visited a nearby town to serve a woman by working in her yard.  Afterwards, she feeds them loads of amazing Polish food.  He lists the different types of food, but I couldn't begin to know how to spell them!
They had a really great experience in another town that hasn't seen very many missionaries.  There are a few less active members there and Lance felt impressed to go see them.  They met with a man who Lance feels is very prepared to be baptized.  At least one of the less active members committed to come back to church regularly.  They're still meeting with the artist from Bulgaria.  Things are going very well with that!  He is very faithful, even through some trials he is going through right now.  

Lance gives a detailed description of Poland and it's beauty.  He describes the little cottage homes, fields, the sunset...he swears the moon is bigger there!  So pretty.  He loves Poland and its culture SO much.  He's really going to miss it and love it always.  He plans to return to visit someday.

His study focused on positive words this week.  He takes to heart the admonition of Paul and never let any corrupt communication proceed out of his mouth.  Only that which edifies.  This is found in Ephesians 4:29:
Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers.
Alma 38:12 also counsels:
Use boldness, but not overbearance; and also see that ye bridle all your passions, that ye may be filled with love; see that ye refrain from idleness.
A soft response that is delivered with love is most effective.  Commemorate and encourage others in their good deeds and let them know we feel they're doing a good job.  In the end, it depends on the humility in our own hearts...instead of being prideful or jealous.  It encourages others to continue on the right path.  
Lance gives a story found in Alma chapters 60 and 61 which demonstrates this concept.  See
Moroni speaks with boldness and Pahoran has a soft response.  

Lance feels like the most joy he's experienced has been during his mission.   A lot of people say the mission is the best two year.  "It's the best two years because it's the best two years for you."  He says it's hard to describe in words what it has meant for him.  The Book of Mormon is true and the keystone to our religion.  

August 11th
"It's so good to be calling in.  It's crazy that this is going to be the last time I call in.  It's super's like the same feeling I had before going on my mission.  It's almost nostalgic.  I remember going into the MTC like it was yesterday.  I love this mission so much!  I've really changed.  I know that I've become who God wants me to become.  I feel like I've at least mastered the basics.  It's just cool."

He feels very satisfied with his mission.  When he thinks back on everything, he has no regrets.  He hasn't wasted one single day.  He's happy to say that he's given it his all every day.  He feels he got put with the right people and the right companions.  He sees God's hand in all things.

He's been studying lately on how desires lead to actions.  These things are so important.  Whether it be a thought or a word or an action, God grants according to our desires.  What we insistently desire over time is what we will eventually become.  We will attract the rewards and/or consequences.  To act or to be acted upon.  Make your choice!  
Mosiah 4:30 is a good example of this idea.  See
The Book of Life is being written within our very bodies by our thoughts, behavior, actions.  It can be read as easily as a book can be read.  We determine who we will become through our thoughts and actions.  Our bodies are temples.  And we should not defile our temples. 

They had a really good sacrament meeting in church.  He was so grateful to see at least 11 other people and he just couldn't stop smiling!  He felt the Spirit so strongly and felt the love he has for those he has met on his mission.  He points out that there are no ranks in the Church.  The Prophet is no better than us.  They just have a different assignment.  We all have different responsibilities over God's work.  Lance feels like he's learned so much from his companions, his mission presidents, and all the people he has worked with.  Especially the Polish people.  It was worth the 8 hours a day spent breaking his legs and destroying his feet.  He will never forget all these beautiful things.  

They are still meeting with the artist from Bulgaria.  Lance says he's the most humble and faithful person he's met.  This wonderful man has accepted baptism and is scheduled to enter the waters at the end of this month.  Lance feels this is going to help all the members in his branch, too. 

All the prayers, the love, the support from his family and friends have had a huge impact on his life.  He will carry this all with him for the rest of his life.  He closes his final recording by bearing his testimony.  I won't write it here since he will certainly be sharing it in Sacrament meeting next week.

The best two years.  Hands down.