Sister Danielle Swasey's letters from her service in the Portugal Lisbon Mission of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. June 2013-December 2014.
D&C 18:16 "And now, if your joy will be great with one soul that you have brought unto me into the kingdom of my Father, how great will be your joy if you should bring many souls unto me!"
Monday, May 26, 2014
Go To The Place.
Olá a todos :)
Every week on the mission my testimony grows a little more, step by step up this crazy staircase of life. This week, however, my testimony jumped up a whole FLOOR of stairs. This week changed my entire life.
Every time I sit down to write to you all, in all honesty, the only things I can remember are the amazing, funny, spiritual, miraculous moments and so that´s what I try to write. But I know that nobody´s fooled, you all know that this is the hardest thing that I´ve ever done, and it really is! The thing is, at the end of each week the miracles always stand out way past the sad, frustrating, crazy, hard moments. This week, however, the sad, frustrating, crazy, hard moments WERE the miracles. I´ve been praying a lot before writing this email so I really hope that you feel something when you read it. This week I want to be that much more open, personal, real with all of you and show you how much the mission really does touch my own personal life, converting me more and more every week. So as I tell you about this week, maybe this isn´t the email to read on your iPhone in traffic but rather with your families, with your scriptures out, with a prayer in your hearts because I´m really really hoping that the conversion experience I had this week will touch you all in some way or another.
Let´s start from the beginning then, shall we? Going into this week, Antunes was marked to be baptized on Sunday. On Monday, President Fluckiger sent all the missionaries our weekly letter with a story. It was a story of two elders that decided to really become consecrated. They started a fast and prayerfully made a list of all of the things holding them back from giving everything to the Lord. Then, they started a 40 day fast of those things on the list. Day by day they would stop doing those things or start doing better things until by the end of the 40 days, they had changed their very natures. They had become consecrated. They had the true power of the spirit. The SECOND we read the story Sister Hirschi and I planned to do the exact same thing. The SECOND we made that decision, Satan went after us. We woke up on Tuesdayand it was freezing cold and RAINING. IN MAY. Satan had literally sent his mighty winds, his shafts in the whirlwinds. (Helaman 5:12) And as we climbed this huge hill with a storm literally beating upon us, I have never wanted to sit down and stop working so badly in my entire life. The only thing that kept me going was honestly just knowing that it was exactly this that I had signed myself up for. They told me I was going to have days like this with horrible weather and tired feet. They told me and I accepted this. And so I kept going. I wish I could have kept going with a big smile on my face but hey, I´m still getting there. If I´d be doing any other work than the Lord´s you can bet I would have stopped, but I didn´t. I felt Him though. I felt the Atonement physically in my life and He got me up that hill, through that rain and into our investigators house. He was my rock.
Wednesday was pure madness. Thursday we had a huge conference of 150 missionaries scheduled with a Seventy at our chapel and so we had TWELVE sisters sleeping at our house. We somehow got everyone into our house and had a really hilarious and adventurous night.
Thursday, we went out early to make sure everyone arriving that morning knew how to get from the stations to the chapel. Then, we went to hear from Elder Kearon. Guys...that man is a true man of God as is every single one of the General Authorities of the church, of this I have no doubt. He spoke with such love, such power, and such conviction. He was so genuine, we all had chances to speak and there were missionaries translating so even the missionaries that only speak Portuguese could participate. When we took a break for lunch, I passed by him again and he shooked my hand, thanked my for my service, and asked me if I was happy. I felt...overcome. Almost silly, like starstruck. In my amazement at the incredible spirit that he had I told him yes, yes I really was happy. I meant it too.
I learned so many things that day I can´t even count them. What I can tell you is that towards the end of the meeting I went through a mental list of all of my own personal questions and worries. He had covered every single one. Or maybe it´s better to say that the Spirit had.
Fast forward to Friday. Antunes had been really hard to get ahold of but we finally tracked him down at his house and finished preparing him for baptism and marking the interview. Everything was set!
Come Saturday morning, the elders showed up at the church to do the interview and Antunes was nowhere to be seen. We called him. He said he had to go by the hospital and do some stuff. (Side note here: Portuguese people are prone to go to the hospital for just about everything) We were firm with him on the phone worrying he really wasn´t taking this all seriously enough. He said that he felt like we didn´t even care about him at all, said he didn´t want to be baptized and hung up the phone.
In that moment I was devastated. We had missed the most important part! The love! In any other moment in my life before that day I would have felt really bad but in the end it was all just a misunderstanding after all and I would have just gone back to work and tried to fix it and hope for the best. But no, we had failed to show him enough that we really did care about him and just wanted what was best for him, and that was wrong. We knelt and prayed with the elders and then they left. Then I burst into tears. I coudln´t understand why it was hitting me SO hard! It was killing me! Sister Hirschi and I knelt in prayer again and I plead with Heavenly Father. To forgive us, to help us, to guide us, to help Antunes. In that moment, I still felt pain. I felt like my insides were being stripped out to make room for better things. Heavenly Father was helping me be stripped of my sins and weakness just like Alma teaches us that we must be in Alma 5. In the pain though, I felt comforted. I felt my Savior helping me and healing me. He was taking me by the hand and leading me a few steps into the Garden like Elder Holland teaches. https://www.lds.org/ensign/2001/03/missionary-work-and-the-atonement?lang=eng He was taking me a few steps into The Place.
A few weeks ago our President sent us the following quote from a new Mission Prep book soon to be used at BYU Hawaii. It said-
’Enlightened by the Spirit of truth, we will then be able to pray for the increased ability to endure truth and not be made angry by it (see 2 Ne: 28:28). In the depth of such a prayer, we may finally be led to that lonesome place where we suddenly see ourselves naked in all soberness. Gone are all the little lies of self-defense. We see ourselves in our vanities and false hopes for carnal security. We are shocked to see our many deficiencies, our lack of gratitude for the smallest things. We are now at that sacred place that seemingly only a few have courage to enter, because this is the horrible place of unquenchable pain in fire and burning. This is that place where true repentance is born. This is that place where the conversion and rebirth of the soul are happening. This is the place where the prophets were before they were called to serve. This is the place where converts find themselves before they can have the desire to be baptized for the remission of their sins. This is the place where sanctifications and rededications and renewal of covenants are happening. This is the place where suddenly the atonement of Christ is understood and embraced. This is the place where we feel the full impact of the love of our Heavenly Father, which fills us with indescribable joy.
Sister Hirschi and I, we went to that place. We got up from our prayer and I grabbed my Book of Mormon. And we read, side by side, letting it all sink in. 2 Nephi 4 came straight to my mind and so we read it. We read about Nephi´s repentance and for the first time I could really relate to him on a deeper level. He was a prophet after all and yet he still repented, he went to that place. He felt the atonement. We read in Alma 36 about the conversion of Alma the Younger. Through this misunderstanding between us and our investigator Heavenly Father allowed us to understand His gospel and the atonement to a whole new level. My eyes opened so much wider and I FELT it. I FELT the atonement like never before. It was so real, so so real. We went to that place.
After that experience, we worked. We called Antunes a few times, we went by his house, and...nothing. At 8pm, we decided to go by his house one more time, praying the whole walk there. His mom and brother let us in and we decided to talk to them for a little bit. Just as we were about to say an opening prayer, Antunes walked in! We apologized but he wasn´t even mad at all! He said it was just a misunderstanding and that everybody had a little blame. And that was it! We called the elders and they ran and got on a train, we ran to meet them, we ran back to Antunes´s house and he had his interview! Can I even begin to describe how grateful I was to our merciful Heavenly Father?
Next day. Sunday. They had asked me to give a talk a few days earlier. The only thing I felt inspired to talk about was just Jesus Christ. I read about when He testified to Filipe in John 14, when He taught the apostles about how He truly did the Father´s will in everything. I testified of Him as our Savior and Redeemer and, of course, burst into tears in the process. The Spirit was strong the whole day.
The baptism went great! The journey up to it had been so worth it, so life changing from the smallest of misunderstandings, from just a phone call in a tense moment. Heavenly Father has been so good to us, so so GOOD to us. He LOVES us. He sent His SON for us, not to comdemn us to fire and pain, but to refine us with it. He sent His son to pave the way so that He could take us by the hand and take us through That Place.
The Savior LIVES! I know it now more than ever! I know this was kind of a sad-ish, deep, spiritual letter but I also really hope that you felt something. It was literally probably the best week of my life. The Savior feels that much more my friend on this journey. He´s there for us, ALWAYS. Please, don´t be afraid to go to that place. It´s where real repentance is, it´s where we learning what it really means to live and to love people.
This is the truth. This is His church and His Gospel. It is all so REAL. I love Him and I love each and every one of you. I´m so imperfect but I´m working on my list of imperfections each and every day, thinking of you all constantly, praying for you all fervently. Did I mention just how much I LOVE you all?! Words can´t describe it. Have a wonderful week and don´t forget to lean on Him. He is so literally there for you, I know we can´t see Him but He´s there! I feel Him here with me every step of this adventure. I pray that we can all be led by Him.