Monday, September 8, 2014

Fwd: Letter #75 - 9/8/14

Last week was a very emotional week for me, so I ended crying through this letter too.  What a wonderful letter!  She has grown so much during her mission!

Love to all,   Christine

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Elizabeth Montgomery <>
Date: Mon, Sep 8, 2014 at 5:08 AM
Subject: Letter #75 - 9/8/14
To: Christine Montgomery <>

Dear family and friends,

I've heard the phrase, "If you pray for patience, God won't just give you patience -- He'll give you trials, and through those trials you'll gain patience." Imagine my mistake when I set a final last-transfer goal for myself "to overcome the fear of man." It's turned out to be a recipe for constant and harsh rejection. But I'm not here to complain, because it's also turned into a spiritual journey of recognizing and fighting the darkness in the world. And that's what I want to write about today: the war between light and darkness.

First off, in case you didn't know, there's a war in Ukraine. I don't write about it much, either because I don't want to worry you or because it hasn't affected very much the work that I'm doing. But I realize now that I am affected, especially when I consider coming home in the middle of October to a country where there's currently peace. It's going to be strange to not hear almost everybody talking about the destruction happening in their homeland, to not have refugees in my ward being housed by other church members, to not hear of people's friends and family being drafted into the army, and to not have my heart skip a beat every time I get an unexpected text message thinking it's a notice that all missionaries have to stay inside (like back in February/March) or leave Odessa. I promise you that I'm safe and that the Church has, does, and will take care of us. But hopefully that little amount of detail gives you an insight into what life is like right now in Ukraine for me, the other missionaries, and especially the Ukrainian citizens.

Second, in case you didn't know, there's a spiritual war going on in the world, one in which I've been fighting on the front lines for the last year and a half. On a single walk home from the church one night, I talked to a man who didn't want religion because it's only for those who aren't happy and who want something, I saw a tired woman yell at her children and another woman scold her for yelling at her children, and I heard a 5-year-old boy ask his father for a beer (surely following his example). This week I've been yelled at, laughed at, called a cult member, and ignored... and it's not just this week.

Now that I've brought you into the darkness, please don't stop reading here. Because now I'd like to introduce you to the light of the gospel of Jesus Christ, as radiated through Ukrainian Saints and in my own life.

Yesterday was probably the most spiritual and uplifting church meeting that I've ever been to. I didn't even realize how incredible it was until I left the church building and felt as if I had walked into another world. Testimony meeting, both during sacrament meeting and later in Relief Society, was filled with the testimonies of some of the strongest Latter-day Saints in the world. The branch president spoke of the inner peace that the gospel brings into our lives regardless of what's happening outside of our homes. One lady who had to leave her home in Donetsk, whose daughter and grandson are still there, and whose other family members have been scattered across Ukraine, spoke of how grateful she is that God has not forgotten her, that He loves us enough to try us. Another woman spoke of the war in Ukraine as a cleansing, separating the strong in faith from the weak. Another spoke of not being able to reach friends and relatives in Eastern Ukraine but praying and feeling the Spirit's confirmation that they're alright. Every testimony was filled with faith, joy, humility, hope, and gratitude. Yes, even gratitude. You cannot imagine the Spirit that filled those rooms as those testimonies were borne... it was truly a light in the midst of darkness.

As for my own battle with darkness, regardless of all the rejection and darkness that have been heaped in my path, somehow through the grace of God I am still going forward. Why? Because if I don't, darkness wins. If I allow a person in darkness to rob from me my own light of the gospel, how am I supposed to shine to those who are ready to receive that light? "But rise, and stand upon thy feet: for I have appeared unto thee for this purpose... To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins" (Acts 26:18). Every time I open my mouth is a victory; it's the evidence of God's love for that person, and evidence of God's power in me, constantly helping me overcome my fears and doubts. And guess what? In some miraculous way, in the midst of all the trials of this last week and a mission in general, and despite the current situation in Ukraine, I am completely and perfectly at peace. And I'm happy. Really happy. :)

I'll leave you with a few very applicable verses of scripture, as well as a very literal quote from Joseph Smith. My invitation to you is this: don't let the darkness get you down, because in the end, the light will win.

"And the day shall come that the earth shall rest, but before that day the heavens shall be darkened, and a veil of darkness shall cover the earth; and the heavens shall shake, and also the earth; and great tribulations shall be among the children of men, but my people will I preserve;

And righteousness will I send down out of heaven; and truth will I send forth out of the earth, to bear testimony of mine Only Begotten; his resurrection from the dead; yea, and also the resurrection of all men; and righteousness and truth will I cause to sweep the earth as with a flood, to gather out mine elect from the four quarters of the earth, unto a place which I shall prepare, an Holy City, that my people may gird up their loins, and be looking forth for the time of my coming; for there shall be my tabernacle, and it shall be called Zion, a New Jerusalem." (Moses 7:61-62)

"The Standard of Truth has been erected; no unhallowed hand can stop the work from progressing; persecutions may rage, mobs may combine, armies may assemble, calumny may defame, but the truth of God will go forth boldly, nobly, and independent, till it has penetrated every continent, visited every clime, swept every country, and sounded in every ear, till the purposes of God shall be accomplished, and the Great Jehovah shall say the work is done." -Joseph Smith

With love and faith and joy,
Sister Montgomery