Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Fwd: Letter #41 - 1/13/14 (apparently the year changed recently... who knew?)

Wow!  What a letter!  Enjoy!
---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Elizabeth Montgomery <elizabeth.montgomery@myldsmail.net>
Date: Mon, Jan 13, 2014 at 9:15 AM
Subject: Letter #41 - 1/13/14 (apparently the year changed recently... who knew?)
To: Christine Montgomery <chrismont9@gmail.com>

Dear family,

Where do I even start with this week? Perhaps one of the best weeks of my mission... the Spirit has been at an all-time high, we've been busy truly teaching the gospel of Jesus Christ, and we're having a blast!

By the way, do you want to know what Ukrainians do to celebrate Christmas? They invite you over and feed you amazingly delicious food until you feel like you're going to explode. Christmas here was last Monday, and all six of us missionaries went over to the home of one of the bishopric counselors to eat dinner, watch "Joy to the World," play some guitar/violin Christmas music, and enjoy one another's company. I don't know when the last time was that I ate so much food... I completely stuffed myself, and then they waited just long enough to bring a second portion, which I somehow also fit into my stomach. A little while they brought out some bananas, and I thought, "Alright... I can do a banana." And then they brought out cake and tea, and I thought, "Yeah, maybe there's a little corner I can fit that into..." Top that off with a piece of delicious chocolate, and I was set for a week. They offered milk after the chocolate, and I immediately thought, "Where's it gonna go? It would just fill up my esophagus!" I politely declined. :) Oh man, what a hilarious night... Merry Christmas, Ukraine!

Here are some awesome first contact stories (first contact is when you have a first lesson with a nonmember but don't set a return appointment for whatever reason... once they set an appointment, they become a new investigator). A man named Pavel that we met a month and a half ago called us out of the blue and invited us over to hear our message. That's the only time on my mission that anyone has ever called us to set an appointment. We went over with a member that lives nearby him, and though it wasn't the most stellar first lesson (he was a little drunk...), I still felt the Spirit super strongly and was able to see him as the amazing person he can become through the gospel. Also, on the way back from Pavel's place, we met a young man named Igor at a bus stop, and a few days later we met in a hotel lobby where he told us about how much he is searching and yearning for truth, and we were able to tell him about Joseph Smith's story and the Book of Mormon. Third, today Alisa invited her friend Tanya to get a Priesthood blessing of healing, and after the blessing we had an impromptu first lesson with her as well, and she's excited to read the Book of Mormon. And finally, as we were grocery shopping today, a former investigator named Jenya called us and said that he wants to meet tomorrow. What is going on?! The gathering of Zion, that's what! In case you couldn't tell, I LOVE TEACHING! :)

This week we've seen Alisa every day since Wednesday -- we had three amazing lessons (one with Sister Klebingat with us), went to a baptismal service in Brovary together, were at church together, and today was when she brought her friend to be taught by us. She is on FIRE with the gospel -- she's already inviting everyone to her baptism, to activities, to church, and who knows what else! I love her so much... all of the trials of all my months in Ukraine have been so worth it to just find her, you know? "And if it so be that you should labor [half your mission] in crying repentance unto this people [of Voskresensky], and bring, save it be one soul unto me, how great shall be your joy with [her] in the kingdom of my Father!" (D&C 18:15). True words right there.

One of the reasons the lessons with Alisa were so amazing is because we covered the gospel of Jesus Christ -- through Jesus Christ we can be cleansed from sin, faith, repentance, baptism, gift of the Holy Ghost, and endure to the end. I came up with a rather long and detailed parable to explain each principle, and it was enjoyed by Alisa, the members that joined us on the lessons, and especially by me -- I've learned so much as I've studied and pondered those simple steps of salvation. I can't tell the whole parable here (I'm seriously considering writing a whole book about it when I get home...), but I'll give you what I wrote in my journal after the final lesson about it:

My favorite part was the very end when Alex gets called to court and the policeman tells him to gather all his unpaid tickets, and he replies, 'I don't have any. Let's go; I'm ready.' And later in the courtroom when the Friend tells the Judge that He has paid all Alex's tickets, and they all rejoice together, and Paul [who told Alex about his Friend] is with them... it was such a beautiful scene. The Spirit was so strong that I literally did not want to leave. Sister Hunsaker and I ended with our testimonies, and I told Alisa, 'I'm so grateful that God allowed me to be your Paul.'

What an incredible lesson. What an incredible doctrine! There's nothing in the world that compares to the doctrine of Christ... the relationship with the Savior built on faith, the freeing power of repentance, the beautiful promises of baptism, the unfailing friend of the Holy Ghost, and the enduring process of joyful change. What more can someone ask for? This is the whole point of the gospel, our existence, and my mission. What an honor to invite others to partake of these blessings, and how I hope and pray to do it better!

And while my journal is open, here's my internal response to someone who thought the drunk Pavel wasn't worth teaching a second time:

How can you judge someone and decide that they're not worthy of the infinite blessings that the ultimate judge is just WAITING to give them? He is on the edge of His throne, with words of mercy and forgiveness on the tip of His tongue! "Behold, doth He cry unto any, saying: Depart from me? Behold, I say unto you, Nay! But He saith: Come unto me all ye ends of the earth, buy milk and honey, without money and without price!" (2 Ne. 26:25, emphasis added). If members of the church truly understand the Atonement of Jesus Christ, our phone would be ringing all day long with referrals coming in and they'd be fighting over who would be helping us on lessons. And if only *I* could keep this doctrine forever at the forefront of my mind, I would be able to overcome any fears and start talking with everyone like I want to.

Man, these letters sure fire me up... I'll have to end there and go take that fire somewhere else. Make your homework this week to delve into the gospel and Atonement of Jesus Christ... it'll change your life!

With so much love,
Sister Montgomery