Being More Different

We have had an amazing week. Chris and Lili Anderson have been with us this week. They are both mental health specialists. Chris works in the missionary department of the Church counseling with mission presidents and missionaries. He helped pioneer Critical Incident Stress Response services and training as a part of LDS Family Services. He led response teams to several incidents, including the Columbine High School shootings, the World Trade Center attack, several hurricanes, the Indonesia tsunami, and the Haiti earthquake.

After almost 20 years of being a full-time homemaker, Lili returned to school. She holds a Master's degree in Social Work and a PhD in Marriage, Family and Human Development at BYU. Lili has a private practice and is the president of The Association of Mormon Counselors and Psychotherapists. She also serves on two public affairs committees for the Church. When she has time, she writes books.

Chris and Lili Anderson

We met Lili and Chris about a year ago through a mutual friend. They spoke at a fireside in our stake. Lili has an incredible way of looking at the Gospel and applying it to our mortal experiences. She has authored a book entitled "Choosing Glory."  I have learned profound and remarkable things from her. She is a champion of what is right; she is a courageous warning-voice; she is a devoted disciple of the Savior.

When we visited with them a year ago after the fireside, we casually invited them to Samoa. After all, everyone wants to come to Samoa! Lili was invited to be the keynote speaker at a young single adult conference in Auckland, New Zealand. That at least put them in the same hemisphere. We were thrilled when they said they would be able to spend some time with us here in Samoa. 

They spoke to our senior missionaries, the Elders and Sisters serving in Upolu (see pictures on the Life with Missionaries page), and some of the young single adults in Apia. What a gift it was to listen to them. Chris took our young missionaries to Doctrine and Covenants 123: 16-17. "You know, brethren, that a very large ship is benefited very much by a very small helm in the time of a storm, by being kept workways with the wind and the waves. Therefore, dearly beloved brethren, let us cheerfully do all things that lie in our power; and then may we stand still, and with the utmost assurance, to see the salvation of God, and for his arm to be revealed." Sometimes, it is hard to be cheerful on a mission. Sometimes, it feels like there is too much work to be done. Sometimes, it feels as though we will never become what He wants us to become. Chris helped us to see big things can happen by small changes. The Lord expects us to be cheerful. Do we need to change our expectations? Maybe we don't recognize His hand in our lives. There are many, many reasons to be cheerful in the service of the Lord. And then this very important piece--once we have done all that lies in our power or ability to do, let us STAND STILL, and the Lord will do the rest. 

Lili shared with us her insights regarding Doctrine and Covenants 88:22-24. Every kingdom in God's glory is governed by law. If we want to live in those realms, we must learn to live those laws. She taught our missionaries that we need to live a Terrestrial life now. This is a life where the natural man is harnessed, and we have self-control and delayed gratification. This kind of living brings external peace and presence of the Spirit. This includes doing the right thing at the right time. It means being diligent--getting up, falling down, and getting up again. If we obey basic commandments and live a terrestrial life, we live a safer life. When we live this kind of a life, we can seek God's sanctifying power and begin to live a Celestial life, which is a life of Christ-like being. Here we feel the right things; our hearts are completely aligned with God. 

She helped us understand that the world is becoming more and more Telestial. Our world is becoming increasingly dark and evil. If we want peace in our lives we have to be "more different" than the world. In times past, it was easy to help our children learn about goodness because most of the world was still Terrestrial. As the world deteriorates, it will become necessary to be more different. We surely will become a peculiar people. Lili quoted Elder Marvin J. Ashton, "There is nothing worth having that the Gospel will deny you."

There is so much more! We have been truly blessed by their visit. Learning from them has been a life-changing and mission-changing experience for us and our missionaries. Now, go get her book and learn for yourself!

Walking to the Edge of the Light

It is hard to believe that another six weeks have passed since the last transfer and yet here it is again. We received 17 new missionaries and said good-bye to 10. It is always a stressful/happy/sad/exciting/worrisome/thrilling and wonderful week. Make sure to check the Life with Missionaries page for individual pictures.

New Missionaires

New Missionaries and Trainers

Saying good-bye is always difficult. Many of these missionaries live here in Samoa; we look forward to watching them progress and become powerful leaders among the Samoan Saints.

Tofa Soifua--We love you!

We also called two new assistants, Elder Wengert and Elder Suiaunoa. Elder Hodges and Elder Suianunoa will be in the office working with us to support and train missionaries. Elder Wengert and Elder Moe are what we have termed "proselyting assistants." They have been given the task of traveling the mission and spending time with companionships. Sometimes it may be a 24 hour exchange; sometimes they may be a few days in one area. We believe they will bring great strength to the missionaries in the field, especially those who are in remote areas. We are grateful for each of these four young men. We see such earnestness in their faces as they work to serve God and keep pace with Him as He hastens His work.

Elder Suiaunoa, Elder Hodges, Elder Moe, Elder Wengert

I read something by Elder David A. Bednar  this week, which has application to all of these changes in our mission. He said, "Faith as the assurance of things hoped for looks to the future. This assurance is founded upon a correct understanding about and trust in God and enables us to "press forward" into uncertain and often challenging situations in the service of the Lord." There are so many times when we and our missionaries must "press forward into uncertain and often challenging situations" as we serve Him here in Samoa. I am sure that every mission has its challenges; our's certainly does. Heat, humidity, illness, temptations, language, culture and on and on. Elder Bendar went on to say (and reference Elder Boyd K. Packer), "And assurance and hope make it possible for us to walk to the edge of the light and take a few steps into the darkness--expecting and trusting the light to move and illuminate the way. The combination of assurance and hope initiates action in the present."

I see missionaries every day taking those first few tentative steps into the darkness as they exercise their faith unto doing and working. I have witnessed it as a young missionary holds onto a priesthood blessing of healing. I have witnessed it as a missionary has let go of who he used to be and fully embraced himself as a missionary and servant of the Lord. I have witnessed it as a missionary has committed to change and begins to plan and prepare with a full heart committed to the Savior. I have witnessed it when I hear a missionary's apology and sincere commitment to do better. I have witnessed it as a missionary has turned over worries about his family to the Lord. I witness it every day.

If a mission is meant to change a missionary we have to be willing to let them walk into the darkness by faith. Sometimes that is difficult for me; I want to protect them. I reminds me of when our oldest son served his mission in Brazil. One day I was listing in silent prayer everything I needed the Lord to do for him; it was quite a list! And then the quiet but powerful reminder from the Lord came into my heart and my head, "I have trusted you for 19 years won't you trust me for two?" I am grateful for the remarkable and clear way that the Savior of the world is mindful of every missionary and every one of us! Walking into the dark doesn't seem so scary knowing He walks with us.

Upolu Interviews-Round Two and SPAM

We completed our interviews this past week! I have never run a marathon, but I am sure there are many similarities. Pacing ourselves and staying focused takes physical and spiritual effort. We love seeing each missionary, even if it is the last interview. Enjoy the pictures; they are taken by District.

Also, this week I got a notice that the blog had been removed from the internet because google's automated system identified it as SPAM! My heart sank as I frantically reviewed everything that I have ever posted wondering where I had gone wrong. I had to request what they called a "human review" to see if the automated system had made a mistake. Two days later, the human who reviewed the blog determined that the automated system was wrong. 

I started thinking about SPAM; I wasn't even sure I knew what it was, so I looked it up. Of course, the  first definition is "a meat like product made mostly of ham." YUCK! I hate spam. The second definition is, "irrelevant or inappropriate messages sent on the internet to a large number of people." I knew then there had to be a mistake, but it got me thinking about the Gospel, the Savior and being a Christian. There are those in the world who view us and our message as irrelevant or inappropriate. 

So many in the world are lost and hopeless, not knowing where to turn. So many have lost their way by turning off their moral compass and embracing the pieces of society that keep them from knowing and loving God. Too many of us feel abandoned and lost. And yet, there is hope and help and love found in the Gospel--the good news from the heavens. 

These words by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland came ringing into my head as I considered what the Gospel of Jesus Christ means to the world.  He said, "Ours is not a feeble message. It is not a fleeting task. It is not hapless; it is not hopeless; it is not to be consigned to the ash heap of history. It is the work of Almighty God, and it is to change the world." When I thought I might lose the opportunity to share the Gospel through the miracles that occur here in Samoa, I was devastated. All of us who are disciples of the Savior must continue to raise a voice of commitment to Jesus Christ and his saving grace. This work is not a loud work; this work is a work of offering peace and hope and goodness to a world that seems to be losing its way. Our fourteen year old granddaughter, Grace, found the words of Isaiah comforting a few weeks ago when she was feeling troubled, "And the work of righteousness shall be peace; and the effect of righteousness quietness and assurance forever." 

The assurance that our Savior offers to each of us and to the world is the most relevant and appropriate message of any competing for attention and it most certainly is not SPAM!