Monday, April 14, 2014

Fwd: Letter #54 - 4/14/14

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Elizabeth Montgomery <>
Date: Mon, Apr 14, 2014 at 6:42 AM
Subject: Letter #54 - 4/14/14
To: Christine Montgomery <>

Dear family and friends,

Good news: I'm still in the Ukraine Kiev Mission. Other news: so are all the Donetsk missionaries. Donetsk is the mission in the eastern-most part of Ukraine, and we got a call on Wednesday that they were being evacuated (err... "moved") to our mission on Friday, and thus our mission practically doubled in size in a single day. Our ward alone now has 4 Sisters (we're all in one apartment) and 10 Elders (six in one apartment, four in another), and everywhere else is packed too. Don't ask me what's going on in Ukraine because the Iron Curtain still manages to be draped around us missionaries, keeping us almost completely in the dark about the news around us. The Donetsk missionaries will be here for sure two weeks, and then... yeah, none of us really know yet. But in the meantime, we're all trying to stay focused, and the mass of missionaries will hopefully allow us to do some awesome group contacting ideas. We're having a mission conference tomorrow, and I'm sure President will set us straight on what's going on and what direction we'll need to go in the coming weeks.

Speaking of turmoil, what a pervading theme of General Conference! You'd think we were fighting the greatest spiritual war in the history of the world or something. I loved so many of the talks given, but especially Elder Holland's, probably because it perfectly described our week. I mean, we didn't have mashed potatoes spat at us, but rejection was at an all-time high, that's for sure. I loved the quote: "You may wonder if it is worth it to take a courageous moral stand in high school or to go on a mission only to have your most cherished beliefs reviled or to strive against much in society that sometimes ridicules a life of religious devotion. Yes, it is worth it, because the alternative is to have our 'houses' left unto us 'desolate'—desolate individuals, desolate families, desolate neighborhoods, and desolate nations." Yes, IT IS WORTH IT! Even the days we're rejected and ridiculed sunrise to sunset, I thank my God for the opportunity to testify of and defend the truth, and if the work that I'm doing won't change anyone else for the better, you can bet I'm going to have it change me.

Not too much to update you on in the last week. I don't know where the magic of Vinogradar went, but practically nobody wanted to listen to us this last week. Members couldn't meet, leaving us on the streets for longer, and we were lucky if we got one person to stop and talk to us in a several hour period. And potentials have either been uninterested or too busy to meet with us. But no worries, Sister Parish and I have managed to stay ridiculously happy and have had a great week in spite of it, and plus God is teaching me a lot in the meantime. Oh man, I seriously love Sister Parish... we have a perfect balance of fun and spirituality, we're super good friends, and there's never a dull moment when we're together (which is, oh yeah... always!) I hope we stay together next transfer!

Today's spiritual thought was inspired by Elder Perry's talk, "Obedience through our Faithfulness," which he just gave in conference. As I was listening to him, I thought a lot about my dog-training days and realized how many parallels there are between me training dogs and God "training" us. I remember the phase reports that I'd fill out every month about my pups -- how they're doing on their commands, what outtings they've been on, how they react to people and places and things -- and then planning my training sessions based around their progress. If they're distracted by balls, you take them to a tennis court; if they're distracted by food, you take them to a cafeteria. You watch them attentively to catch them doing something good and praise them, or catch them doing something wrong and correct them. And every month, you find that you can rate their commands a little higher, and mark a few less problem behaviors (though sometimes they keep coming back).

Likewise, I imagine God with a little monthly, weekly, or daily report of us. He knows what's expected of us -- Christlike attributes, commandments to be keeping -- and He puts us in situations that allow us to overcome our weaknesses, strengthen our faith, and fine-tune our strengths. If you're impatient, He puts in your path a "difficult" person who needs to be dealt with patiently; if you struggle with daily scripture study, He'll send you numerous general conference talks and the Spirit to inspire you. He watches us attentively to bless us with His Spirit and other blessings when we make progress, and He sends His Spirit to warn and reprimand when we disobey. And every day, week, and month, we find that we're a little more like Christ, a little more consistent in commandment-keeping, a little closer to God, and a little less burdened by sin and bad habits.

There's a lot more parallels I can draw from dog training, but I'll end with what I jokingly told Heavenly Father in my prayer as I was pondering about this: "If You love me even half as much as I loved my dogs, then I'm in good shape." And to quote Elder Andersen, "You are infinitely more precious to God than a [dog]." :)

Alright, I love you all! Have a happy Easter!

Sister Montgomery