Listen in... to
"Listening to the Still Small Voice"
(for Kaysville 14th ward, October 23, 2016)
(for Kaysville 14th ward, October 23, 2016)
My husband, Val, and I live in the Spencer Ward. We met at a single's conference 24 years ago--he was the father of 5, I mother of two, and after our marriage, our Maria joined the scene. We lived in the Seattle area and my husband worked for Boeing aerospace. About 11 years ago in February, we attended a retirement class. Retirement? He was in his 50s and I am younger. (Yes. In lots of years, this will be good information!) But months later, Val woke with an idea and could not get it out of his mind.
We had thought of moving closer to children's cousins for over a decade. Val worked in a building where fumes bothered his lungs and presented a constant irritant. What if we retired early, moved, and found different work? For a mother of three daughters in elementary, junior high, and high school, change seemed alarming, challenging, not exactly doable. However, after a heart-to-heart conversation in the Seattle temple,we flew to visit our family in Kaysville. Between a 4th of July parade and a Sound of Music play, we bought a house, put our Seattle area house on the market, and within two weeks had sold and were making plans to move. That move (along with other nudges where we listened and acted) helped to order our affairs to serve missions.
On our youth missions, teaching materials were memorized. But in the missionary training today we learn that our goal is not to teach lessons. It is to teach, to lift people. And a great share of missionary work is about listening! In order to invite neighbors, family and friends to come unto Christ, we must understand problems and hopes. So, we are learning to listen--to our neighbors and to each other. As Sister Stephens taught the young adults in Face to Face, we are learning how the Holy Ghost speaks to us. I am inviting the Holy Spirit to instruct us now. Because He agrees to be a constant companion to us as we remember Jesus, take upon ourselves His name, and keep his commandments, I wonder, how we can be a a fit companion to Him?
One of my biggest hurdles (or happiness) being a missionary has been learning to be a companion. As our mission president's wife would serve a farewell meal to the missionaries returning home, she would ask each to tell us about a favorite companion. As you remember young women's camp, scout camp, or adventurer outings, who did YOU wish you could share a tent with?
Some favored companions were fun, some were really great at exercising--with homemade barbells made out of concrete and interesting treks around soccer fields, valleys and hills. More often the favored companions were obedient, humble, interested in others, and kind.
My love for my eternal companion has deepened watching him serve Heavenly Father, first with our Latin friends in the temple and then assisting our mission president to a brand new mission manage our mission office and physical affairs--finding and caring for apartments; shepherding, loving the missionaries and friends from touristy Peten to the mountains of Polochik to Baja Verapaz, the sunlit valley to our south.
This past week we rejoiced to see photos of a dear family, nearby neighbors to us in Cobán, dressed in white. We spent18 months of loving all of our neighbors, a dozen or more, many of whom we enjoyed sharing recipes and songs, Rook cards, and play dough. This June, during our nightly walk, a nurse neighbor offered an aloe vera plant leaf to ease Val through a skin discomfort. In looking for a home to place plants from our front window box, who better to share them with our naturopathic nurse? Later, when I met Aziza at the hospital to secure medical supplies, I brought a Book of Mormon with our testimony inside to say thank you.
About then, Sister Scruggs and Sister Fernandez happened by our house asking if we knew anyone who might like a visit or service. I remembered Aziza was hoping her daughter, a student in psychology at the university, could practice her English. The sisters invited Aziza and her family to hear us talk in church for our last Sunday. And as we looked down from the stand, we saw our friends. They came! And they stayed the full three hours. The sisters were kind in Relief Society and in Sunday school we learned about fasting.
Fast forward three months. Our Kaysville stake is having a 365 day fast. Val signed us up to fast on 21 September. For missionary work to go forward in our stake. But what could we do? The night after we fasted I could not sleep. So I woke up to write a letter to Aziza madre, telling her how much we love their family. Aziza madre had written to me saying that the English lessons were not going so well but that her daughter was planning to be baptized.
|Aziza, hija, admistering a self-esteem survey to our missionaries for a university project|
There was question in her tone and I felt a need to reassure Aziza madre. I told her about our college age daughter Maria, and shared some of my understanding and feelings about being a mother to a young adult. I explained what a comfort it was to us as parents, to know that our daughter is with friends who avoid alcohol and tabacco, is choosing wholesome activities and preparing to be married for "forever" in a temple with someone that she has saved herself to marry.
I bore my testimony of a loving Heavenly Father and Savior, living prophets, a restored gospel, and a scriptures I love, especially the Book of Mormon which speaks the language of heaven. Then I told Aziza if she attended church or not, read the Book of Mormon or not, or saw the missionaries or not, we would always consider her family to be our friends.
Two days before, Sister Scruggs had written home:
"We're still teaching familia Lopez. Aziza, the 24 year old daughter has a baptismal date for October 8th! I'm running out of patience and ideas for her parents though...We had a family home evening yesterday with them and some members and the mom (also named Aziza) is still saying the same things she said 2 months ago sooooo we'll see what happens."
Then Aziza received the letter. And she wrote to me that she could not stop thinking about it.
Not long after, Sister Scruggs wrote home:
"THE FAMILIA LOPEZ IS GETTING BAPTIZED. Their daughter has had a baptismal date now for a couple weeks but her mom was basically the one who still couldn't decide. I have been teaching this family since June. It's extremely rare that we teach anyone for that long but something has kept us going back. We had one more chance to but the baptismal date with Aziza (the mom) before they left on a trip. I was pretty sure we were going to have to stop teaching her because she kept saying the same things over and over and over again. Finally we just bore our testimonies and the Spirit was so strong...and she finally said "me voy a bautizar el 8" It was a miracle. We are SO grateful. They are future leaders in the church!"
The following Monday Sister Scruggs included a picture of a family dressed in white:
"This week I think will be hard to top because the Lopez family got baptized!!! Seriously I cannot express how much this family means to me. I have been teaching, praying, fighting, fasting, screaming, dreaming, crying, and pleading with this family for the last 4 months and they did it! I still can't believe it. I mean I can because we see miracles everyday out here, but I'm just so grateful. This family lives in Cacic (the little America I have mentioned before, with wifi, cars, lots of higher education, and small pure-bred dogs.) It's a HARD neighborhood to work in, but this family proved that reputation wrong. Well kind of...because teaching them has been hard, but definitely worth it. We started teaching them...coming to teach English. The senior couple of missionaries who used to be here started the friendship and thanks to them they're now baptized! Talk to your neighbors! This family used to be scared of Mormons. I actually had knocked on their door before and they told us no. We need help getting in the door. Now this family are going to be awesome pastors in the church helping lots of other little sheeps.
[My last comp Hermana Fernandez (who I started teaching them with) was able to come to their baptism as well. It was extra special that she got to be there. And President and Hermana Faundez came too! It was the perfect baptism, seriously.
This is a family who recently moved in a couple blocks from them. They have been such a huge help. We need members in this work! Our ward mission leader at the end of the baptism "You should all congratulate la familia mormon!" Next stop: temple! Wooohhoooo it honestly makes all the bad stuff worth it.]"
We adore our persistent young missionaries!
Our grandchildren in school are learning the word "mindful." Focused and intentional. Mormon talks to his son telling him that the Lord (and his father) is mindful of him. I know that the Savior is mindful of us. I testify to you that it is worth it to work to RECEIVE the Holy Ghost, to listen to and follow through with the little nudges that come for us, to lay hold on every good thing...to bring over the plant to the next door neighbor, to spend a few extra minutes talking, to introduce our friends to the things that give us personal joy. To fast. To spend a minute or two penning a note to a person you are thinking about. To pray.
I hope to share with Aziza and her family something I heard from Gary Vela, our neighbor who has invited our friends to family night in his home. As counselor to our mission president, he stood in a district conference in Salamá and held up his cell phone. He told us think about the Holy Ghost like a cell phone, with many applications that take time and practice to learn. As we learn to use the applications, we can be more powerful and serviceable.
I hope to apply what I heard taught this month about the doctrine of Christ (simple math: the atonement plus the doctrine equals the gospel) in my wish to be the best companion ever--enthusiastic, humble, and kind.
In Honduras and Guatemala, I got to play duets. Remarkable, how great a simple tune sounds when accompanied by someone masterful and experienced! After baptism we are offered a wonderful gift--a privilege of being accompanied by divinity--the third member of the Godhead--at all times, in all places, in all things.
Here is an invitation: What if we invite this masterful accompaniment into our morning, our noon, and to our night?
What if we try to never offend Him (and when we do, what if we turn back--or repent--and listen a little better) so the music of our life will be acceptable, inviting, and lead others to a heavenly orchestrated song?
Do let us hear pieces of your song!