Monday, January 13, 2014

Come home but never go back...

Dear Family,

This week was interesting, its still amazing to me to see how quickly you can go from a total high to an absolute low.  Missionary work really is a roller coaster.  This week we had everything from being chased out of compounds by an investigators' angry family members, to being condemned and prayed 'at' I guess the best description I can give, by two random pastors.  Investigators that were once progressing like I can't explain...have now gone cold, it was just a week for trials and testing, but I still feel so happy.  It was the hardest week I have had in a while but yet I am still just so happy.  I feel the spirit in my life each day and I just find it hard to be sad, its confusing to me sometimes, but at the same time it makes so much sense...  As I have been reading this week I came across a scripture that I believe describes it perfectly,
'And the Lord provided for them that they should hunger not, neither should they thirst; yea, and he also gave them strength, that they should suffer no manner of afflictions, save it were swallowed up in the joy of Christ. Now this was according to the prayer of Alma; and this because he prayed in faith.'
Alma 31:38 
The words in this verse that I love so much.  The word that really stuck out to me was, "save".   In this context I believe it could be used like "nevertheless".  I don't believe that it was possible that Alma and his brethren never suffered any pains or sickness, temptations and doubts, or problems along their way.  That just seems impossible when it comes to missionary work, but all those trials that they experienced were swallowed up in the joy of Christ.  They were so sure of what they were doing, they were so obedient in their cause, and so faithful to that which they had been entrusted...that no matter how hard it got, no matter how much they suffered, and how much they wanted to quit they didn't.  I think it was more than just not quitting, but they were happy while they continued.  Of course I am not Alma and the great missionaries of The Book of Mormon...but I have a desire to be.  And I know that as I try my best to be like them, I will be privileged to experience some of the same blessings that they did. 
This week I have thought a lot about New Years resolutions.  It's a practice that I like, but this year I was a bit confused.  I will be spending the next six months in probably the most selfless of conditions, and the following six in probably the most selfish in my life, as I make some big decisions.  I am going to be experiencing change in a magnitude that I haven't ever before experienced.  Something I observed when I was transferred from Koforidua to Tema, is that in Koforidua I can say I was doing pretty well.  I was being more obedient than I ever had on my mission.  I was working harder, feeling the spirit more, and things were going pretty well.  I was comfortable with where I was, I knew my surroundings, I knew my companion, I knew the work, and I was enjoying myself.....then came transfers.  I was taken again from what was my "home", that I had grown to love and dropped into a place I could hardly comprehend, and things were so different.  When the change came, I also saw myself begin to change.  I saw good habits that I had established begin to be harder to follow, I saw my desire to wake up on time diminish, the drive to work late into the night was not really there and I never laid awake at night crying that the time was going too fast.  I don't know why it happened but I guess I could say that I digressed, not drastically, but it was something that really bothered me.  
I think the thing that bothered me the most about it is that I knew the biggest changes were right around the corner when I got home, and I didn't know how I would handle them.  I knew I would digress drastically, like I said, but I was nervous to see how my good habits of, reading everyday, staying away from anything that pokes at my spirit, greeting everyone and basically just being excited about the gospel, I didn't want those things to go.  
I guess, simply put, my new years resolution this year is to "come home but to never go back".  I want to come home, I am excited as I could ever be to come home...but I don't want to go back.  Elder Bradshaw is different than Taylor was.  Not that Taylor was bad and not that Elder Bradshaw is perfect...but Elder Bradshaw is a whole lot closer to where he needs to be than Taylor was.
It's going to be tough coming home, out here I am away from so much filth that the world has to offer.  I feel like that painting that we have at the house, "The Iron Rod", when I came here and finally committed to this thing...I feel like I dropped my load and held fast to that rod.  I have to say though, that being a missionary you have a lot of help in doing that.  I guess my fear was to see how I would react when those things of the world were put back on my shoulders, and I again 'picked up my load'. 
I don't want to let go of that rod for even a half a second.  I have been and will be thinking a whole lot more about how I can do that, but one thing that I thought of was to make The Book of Mormon an even more central role of my life.  I thought a lot about the times that are tempting for me, the times when I am weakest, and the times when I am most tempted to make those small small mistakes that we all do.  I figure the more opposed to wrong that I can be here, the better off I will be when I get home.  As I thought, I realized that after I study in the morning that no temptations come, well they come but I literally almost laugh at them because I desire so much to do what is right.  I realized the times that are hardest for me are those times when I have gone the longest without study, once a day for me is not enough for me to keep myself totally fortified against temptation.  
I've realize more and more how massive of a role The Book of Mormon is playing and will play in literally every aspect of my life, my repentance, my conversion, enduring, absolutely everything!  That being said... is why I have set it as a goal to make it even more of a central role in my life than it already is.  Of course, I will have my one hour of personal study in the morning that will give me the most strength, and what I need to make it through the day.  But, I am now going to read a few chapters just before I go to bed and just when I wake up in the morning.  I have been doing this the last two days now and I already feel such a difference, it is amazing!  I sleep well, I feel awake in the morning.  I have a disposition to do good more than I ever have.  I have the spirit quicker in the morning, and later into the night.  My mind is more clear and I just feel good. 
I sleep with a copy of The Book of Mormon, and my head lamp under my pillow.  I know with all my heart that the more The Book of Mormon is a part of my life, the higher the mounds of dirt, and stronger the wood works of timber around my spirit will be.  
I love The Book of Mormon!  I know I talk about it all the time but literally it is the whole center of what I have done every day for the last 18 months!  It is the thing that keeps me going, the electricity that re-charges my batteries, and something that I have grown to love more than I ever thought I would!
Sorry.  I'm about out of time, but I love you all so much!  Lexi I am so sorry to hear about your ankle, that really stinks!  Elli I am glad to hear that you are getting funny now:), you have graduated from that 'Bob looking into the dead sticks joke, that you made up...;).  I love you all so so much!
Mom I am safe, I was thinking about how I thought this place was going to be do dangerous... and now I realize how safe it is.  Yes there is danger here...but I know that nothing will happen to me:).

Love you all,
Elder Bradshaw the older

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