Monday, April 24, 2017

Mission Report

My name is Elena Aburto and just over 18 months ago I was called to serve in the California Modesto Mission. When I received my call, I had never even heard of Modesto, California, but I knew that the call was from God and I was so excited to serve there. The Modesto area is very different from Orem. The people there speak differently. In California they say hecka (I’m hecka tired, or that’s hecka funny, or oh my goodness the word hecka is so hecka annoying) or instead of saying “I’m so jealous” they say “I’m so jelly.”

My mission was the most incredible experience of my life so far. Today I wanted to start out by sharing about how the Savior changed me, and then I’ll go into how the Savior changed the people that I taught.

In Matthew 10:39 (Joseph Smith Translation) it reads: “He who seeketh to save his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it.” Before my mission, I had heard that verse several times, but I never truly understood it until I lived it. As a missionary, the Lord asks that we turn outward and love other people, when our natural tendency is to be self-absorbed and turn inward. I have always struggled with pride in that I tend to worry about how other people see me and that has always made me really self-conscious. But whenever I truly loved someone, I would become so bold and confident in teaching them about the gospel, because I truly desired their salvation. So by turning outward I was able to come out of my shell and successfully teach the gospel. By turning outward, it’s as if I literally had more room in my heart for the Spirit to reside and take over.

By turning outward and loving others, I was able to finally recognize my talents and gifts and qualities that I had never considered having before. The Savior taught me that I am a good friend to those who know me well, that I am a charitable person, that I am a good teacher, and my personal favorite, that I am a giant flirt. (When I first discovered that about myself I wasn’t sure how I felt about that, but now I’m just choosing to be proud of it.)

Something I find remarkable is that I feel like with a lot of the people that I taught, they were very similar to me in some ways. I could identify with them.

There was one less-active member that I taught, Brother Oxxxx. He was really shy but he was hilarious—literally me. He was shy about saying the prayer or bearing testimony or having a calling in church. He wouldn’t even pray in front of his own family. My companion and I tried to teach him that we were both similar to him, in that we didn’t like to be the center of attention but the Lord was able to help us with anything that he asks. But he never got up the nerve to pray whenever we asked him. One day we were having dinner at his house and I happened to be having a really bad day, and he could tell so he tried to cheer me up by making me laugh. Later after dinner I asked him to say the prayer and he again said no, and so I thought, “You know I’ve been having a bad day.” And I told him, “If you don’t say the prayer, I’m going to start crying.” So he said, “Really?” and I’m like, “Yeah.” And he finally said the prayer for the first time ever! The second time that he prayed was when, his brother had come over to his house and had basically attacked my companion and me. He told us that we didn’t have any proof that there was a God, and that Joseph Smith wasn’t really a prophet. To be honest, it didn’t really bother us because we knew what we believed, and we knew that he was just being stubborn. But Brother Oxxx felt bad. So he prayed for us and the way that he prayed for us missionaries to be able to overcome any opposition was so beautiful. I will never forget the Spirit that I felt whenever he prayed. I’m so grateful for the love that he had for us which was able to cast out the fear that he had.

I want to talk about my investigators Pxxx and her 18 year old son, Lxxx. They were both super shy people. But the power of the Book of Mormon was really evident when we taught them. What happened was, one of the members of the Quorum of the Seventy, Elder David F. Evans, had come and spoken to all the missionaries in my mission. He had given us the challenge to give our investigators big reading assignments. Instead of just asking to read one chapter, give them 10 chapters to read! He said that people need to read until they feel the Spirit, and then read a little more. So that’s what we did with Pxxx and Lxxx. It was so cool to see them read the Book of Mormon! At first Luis didn’t want to share what he read, but eventually he warmed up to us. We would bike off and we saw her reading the Book of Mormon immediately after our visit. They felt the Spirit as they read about Lehi’s Vision. I remember she asked us about infant baptism and we showed her where it talks about how children are alive in Christ in Moroni chapter 8. It was so cool to see her mark it in her scriptures. You could tell that they were hungry for heavenly help. A few weeks afterwards, my companion and I both got transferred out of that area but we heard that Lxxx got baptized. He wrote me a letter saying that my companion and I had helped him out of the sorrow he had felt before meeting us. In Preach My Gospel it reads, “As your understanding of the Atonement of Jesus Christ grows, your desire to share the gospel will increase.” I know what it is like to feel sorrowful, to feel lonely, to feel hopeless, but I know what it is like to feel the healing power of the Atonement. And I wouldn’t want anyone to feel those awful feelings, and that is what motivated me to share the gospel with everyone, including Pxxx and Lxxx—to allow them to feel that peace for themselves.

There was one less-active member who we started teaching since he hadn’t been to church in years and he didn’t remember much. His name is Bxxx. He felt inadequate and unworthy, but Bxxx didn’t realize what a powerful Spirit he had about him. It was so much fun to teach him and I always felt so uplifted after our visits with him. Instead of smoking actual cigarettes he smoked something similar to e-cigarettes. We tried to get him off of those too. So we had the idea to have him come teach with us. So he became a fellow-shipper for our investigator Nxxx. Nxxx was a pretty shy guy but Bxxx was perfect for him. Bxxx was so funny and charming and most importantly he was so sincere whenever he bore testimony. When he taught with us, he no longer had the desire to smoke.
When you’re struggling, the best thing you can do is serve other people.

One of things that really excited me during the course of my mission was anytime the members were involved in missionary work. Our missionary work flourished whenever the members were really excited about missionary work. The reason we found Dxxx was because of a member, Sister Dxxx. Sister Dxxx had been doing her visiting teaching with another member of our ward who was related to Dxxx. Sister Dxxx mentioned the Book of Mormon in her visit and offered a copy of the Book of Mormon to Dxxx and she gladly accepted it. Dxxx was the most solid investigator I ever taught. She got baptized real quickly and she once told us that she understood that the Lord is going to ask us to make changes to our lives. She taught me what it meant to truly repent. She was also so willing to serve others and do her visiting teaching.

After serving my mission, I have come to the conclusion that missionary work isn’t limited to an 18 month excursion. Rather, missionary work is a lifestyle. Turn outward and love other people enough to share the gospel with them. Or if you’re like me and you don’t like people, then love God enough to do His will by sharing the gospel with everyone. Declaring repentance means to simply invite people to do something. We tried to help the members understand how easy it is. You can invite friends to FHE, or to mutual or to ward activities. Share things on social media so that they can feel the Spirit that way.

Don’t be afraid to share the gospel. You never know who will be ready to hear about it, so don’t judge who you think is ready and who is not. There was one man, Dxxx, who everyone –missionaries and members alike--including me assumed that Dxxx wasn’t interested. We thought he was the reason that his wife and kids didn’t go to church. (They were members but he wasn’t.) That wasn’t the case at all. He wanted his family to go to church, even though he himself didn’t grow up with any faith, he wanted his kids to have faith. I felt inspired to ask him, “Why do you want to believe?” He said, “When you don’t believe, then death is the scariest thing in the world. My father passed away 3 weeks ago.” We seized the opportunity to start teaching him. We taught him the Plan of Salvation, and he really liked it; he said it was his favorite explanation of the afterlife he had heard thus far. He read Alma 30 and really identified with Korihor, which I thought was great. It was fascinating to teach him about something as simple as prayer; he didn’t know that you could pray any time you wanted. As far as I know, he never got baptized but the fact that we were able to teach him was a good spiritual touchpoint in his life.

Another story: This happened during a time where we had zero investigators. What made it worse was that even the members simply didn’t want to participate in missionary work with us. We did a lot of knocking on doors, which was fine and we met cool people but we never found anyone solid to teach. My companion and I felt like we weren’t really making a difference in anyone’s life. We had been teaching a less-active member that we had found named Brother Oxxxx. He felt like he wasn’t worthy since he just left God behind and hadn’t been to church in months. But oh my goodness he was a spiritual powerhouse. It felt more like he was teaches us. The last lesson I ever taught him was the Plan of Salvation. The Spirit was present, and when we got to the Atonement I felt impressed to read from Alma 36; my all-time favorite chapter where Alma the Younger talks about his experience with repentance and the joy that can only come from the Savior and His Atonement. Then Hno Oxxx told us about how, when he came to church about two weeks previous after a long time of inactivity, he was silently debating to himself whether he was worthy to take the sacrament or not. After wrestling with himself for a while, he took it, and he felt an overwhelming sense of peace come over him. Then he told us that he didn't think it was a coincidence that we had found him and started teaching him to remind him of his beliefs. He said that both my companion and I would make lasting impressions to him for the rest of his life. I just started crying. He expressed so perfectly why I needed to be sent here on a mission; why I needed to meet these specific people that the Lord has placed on my path. It was a direct answer to my prayers, and it was wonderful to know that my companion and I were answers to his prayers as well.

I bear my witness that Jesus Christ is our Savior and Redeemer. I know that He is the source of all joy. I’m so grateful for the chance I had to serve Him and act in His name as a missionary. I know that He restored His gospel through the Prophet Joseph Smith. I know that the Book of Mormon is the word of God and that it is another witness of Christ. I know that He lives and that He loves every one of us. I say these things in the sacred name of Jesus Christ, amen.