Wednesday, December 25, 2013

December 23 Letter

Merry Christmas everyone!!! 

This week is going to be crazy! Tomorrow we are having a mission-wide Christmas part, the Christmas will be packed, then Saturday we have a wedding all day! I'll get back to the wedding part, but really, it's going to be a hectic week.

But, for last week first. We finally got to teach the Asians again! It was great, and now I miss them again! Haha Andrea had been in Florida for a week, and it's funny because she ended up spending her entire vacation writing one last essay, and finished the day before the end of the trip. Then Jerry finally finished finals. Now they are in California. But they are so great!! Jerry was talking to us about one of his classes, fluid mechanics. The first test they had, he got a 43% and was determined to drop the class, but couldn't because it would ruin his student visa. So, he powered through with it, all the while constantly praying for help. Well, he ended up with an A- in the class and a 97% on the final! When we congratulated him on it, he simply said, "I guess God blessed me there." Haha again, I really wish I could type in broken Asian/English so you could get the full emotion. But it was great. We then talked about Christmas and the importance of Jesus' birth and had a wonderful conversation about Him. As we left, they couldn't decide whose turn it was to say the prayer, so we just had both of them say it! Jerry was great like always, but this was by far the most intimate prayer I have ever heard from Andrea! It was soooo wonderful!!

Then Stephen is of course great! We went over and taught him once, plus we went over for his daughter's birthday party. Also, his home teachers visited for the first time! He had mentioned at the birthday party that he had had an interesting talk with his wife and felt she was steadily getting more and more open to the Church. But Sunday opened up something great! 

So really, Sunday was Mary's birthday, but as of Friday at the party, Stephen was certainly planning on having the whole family (minus the mom most likely) at church. But Sunday came and no McCloskeys! I was pretty peeved, especially when people started asking where he was in a "Ohhh here we go again! Another inactive!" kind of voice. But more and more, we kept hearing of different families whose basements flooded. We soon realized that almost all of them were in OUR area! So, after church we went home and grabbed some grubby clothes and headed over to Stephen's, in a way hoping that his basement needed cleaning. But, no one was home. So, we carried on our day, and stopped back over after dinner. His wife answered and invited us in, and Stephen came up a little while later clearly in working clothes and boots. We told him we brought clothes to help out with, and went away cleaning the basement for the next two hours! Keep in mind, flooded basements here aren't just water filling up in the window sill. It's the whole drainage/sewage runs together and when there's too much water, it causes backflow in toilets and showers and bathtubs. Sewage. Backflow. Blech.

Anyways, as we were talking to Stephen, his whole perspective on it was great. He was so optimistic and had found all these reasons why really it was a good thing that black water was all over his basement. But the really cool part is stuff we didn't even notice! When Amy had gone to tell him we were here, she angrily asked if he had invited us, assuming we were there to sit and talk for an hour or so. He told her that he had invited us and that we were here to help. "Oh... well, that is nice of them!" Amy answered, slightly taken aback. Now, when he told us this, we got confused. He hadn't invited us? Welllll apparently he had shot us a Facebook message asking for a hand. We hadn't even seen it, but were there anyways! That touched him, and he really excitedly went to tell his wife! In (very) slow and (kind of) steady steps I think we are making progress with her!

I'm teaching a man not only from India, but in India!! So I make a habit of posting links to my blog on a whole slew of groups (Mormon and Christian and random religious groups) on Facebook. It's always interesting to follow the comments and what not and every now and then someone adds me as their friend as a result of it. Well, that happened this time around. A lady named Vicky added me, and we started talking a little bit. As we got going, she asked me about a friend of hers who lives in Northern India, where the Church isn't established. He wanted to learn more about Mormonism, but wasn't sure how. I told her to suggest us as each other's friends. Well, now I have been scheduling appointments to teach him online! He is a stud, and is sooo eager to learn! This weekend, he is going to watch "Joseph Smith: Prophet of the Restoration" online and we are going to talk about it on Thursday! I'm so excited!

Well, that's the bulk of the cool stuff from last week. Like I said earlier, Guo Jian is getting married on Saturday! Haha we have been wedding planners for that for the past three weeks, and he has asked me to be the announcer for the reception and Elder Christensen to be the DJ. Haha normally we don't even listen to the music he wants Elder Christensen to be in charge of... but we figured we'd budge a little haha.

Anyways, with Christmas and all, I thought I'd share one of my absolute favorite Christmas stories from the scriptures that we usually overlook as Christmas at all.

In 1 Nephi 11, Nephi is trying to understand his dad's dream about the Tree of Life and the Iron Rod and all of that. An angel comes to him and asks, "What desirest thou?" to which Nephi replies that he wants to know the interpretation of the tree specifically. Rather than just answering the question, the angel says, "Look!" It reads from there:

"And it came to pass that I looked and beheld the great city of Jerusalem, and also other cities. And I beheld the city of Nazareth; and in the city of Nazareth I beheld a virgin, and she was exceedingly fair and white."

The angel asks him a number of other questions, but eventually explains:

"Behold, the virgin whom thou seest is the mother of the Son of God, after the manner of the flesh. And it came to pass that I beheld that she was carried away in the Spirit; and after she had been carried away in the Spirit for the space of a time the angel spake unto me, saying: Look! And I looked and beheld the virgin again, bearing a child in her arms."

The angel then poses Nephi's own question right back to him, asking if he now understands the meaning of the tree.

What did Nephi see? Essentially the Nativity scene. He sees Mary holding her Child. Keep in mind the circumstances of Jesus' birth. They were in a stable. We can make some real cute looking Nativities, but really, there is poop EVERYWHERE in stables. There are flies everywhere. It's not that great. We can learn that Mary and Joseph were quite poor, because when they do their sacrifice at Jesus' circumcision, they sacrifice two turtle doves instead of a lamb, a clear sign of their poverty. But what did Nephi get out of this scene?

Despite all of this, Nephi responded, "Yea, it is the love of God, which sheddeth itself abroad in the hearts of the children of men; wherefore, it is the most desirable above all things." To this description, the angel added, "Yea, and the most joyous to the soul."

Something about that first Christmas displayed the love of God to Nephi greater than he had likely ever seen it before. It was the most desirable thing to him. He looked past all the clearly undesirable aspects and looked straight to the love of God. That is what Christmas is about! And, if we can focus on that, it really is the most joyous to the soul!

Merry Christmas, everyone! I love you all, but I'm so happy to be serving out here on a day that emulates God's love so much, that I really can't quite say I miss you!

Elder Allen

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