Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Keep Your Shoes On

Tao ko,

Well to start off this spiritual email I would like relate the following experience of how I learned, the hard way, that I need to fear God more than man. 

Last week we had our zone activity with the missionaries. As zone leaders we're in charge of planning the zone activity and there's a lot more at stake then you might think. Missionaries will judge and rate how effective of a zone leader you are by how fun your zone activity is. Knowing this I wanted to have a awesome zone activity that would be remembered. Be careful what you wish for. 

There's a place here in Baguio City called Camp John Hay, it's a old US army base from the 60's and now it's for public use. Well they have this field that is isolated and is surrounded by hills and trees, but there's a huge flat plain in the middle. So if anyone had a real childhood they would instinctively know that this particular venue is perfect for Capture the Flag. Filipinos are not familiar with this amazing game that revels true character and skill. I decided to take the risk of having that as our zone activity. So we met as a zone at Camp John Hay early Monday morning (our P-day). The skies were a little cloudy and a GIANT cloud of fog came across the field and it was AWESOME. I explained the rules and we split up into teams. Elder Y picked all the fast Filipinos and Americans on his team and I had all the Samoans and Tongans on my team. You can obviously see that I'm more experienced in this game. After my team and I did a Tongan warrior dance of intimidation we started the game. Well, as the game went on all the Tongans and Samoans took off their shoes because they could run faster and it's kinda part of their culture. Knowing of the untamed field and the visible sharp rocks and sticks on the ground I decided against it. But my Polynesian team told me to take off my shoes. I know it's really not a big deal but I wanted to be accepted and part of this Island Brotherhood. So, it didn't take long for me to succumb to the peer pressure to take my shoes off.

This was probably the most intense capture the flag game I've ever played my whole life. With the natural elements like the fog and rain and the fact that the losing team will pay for lunch, we played like champions (Tongans will do anything for free food). As the game went on it came down to me and one Tongan elder on my team, Elder T, we were the only ones not in jail. With our fellow brothers in jail I told Elder T to stay and guard the flag and I charged out to the other teams flag. Okay I know we all are aware of my athletic ability but for some reason I ran faster. I was untouchable. I dodged through trees and ran past everyone and grabbed the flag and headed strait back to our side. As I was running back, I felt my foot step on something but maybe it was the adrenaline or maybe the Tongan cheers I heard, I didn't feel anything in the moment. As I dived to our side my team ran over and picked up to celebrate the victory and that's when we noticed my foot was completely covered in blood. (Mom stop reading here)

I sat down and then the pain hit me when I saw the side of my foot. I'm going to spare the details but when I saw the flesh and fat hanging out I wanted to throw up. But of course I'm trying to look tough in front of the sister missionaries and not look like a sissy in front of my Polynesian teammates I didn't scream or cry when they dumped cleaning alcohol on the wound. I went to the emergency room and remind me next time to tell you what hospitals are like in the Philippines. They stitched me up and I was good to go. 

(Mom you can read now)

So now I probably should tie this into some spiritual insight but only one scripture can come to my mind. It's in the Book of Mormon when the prophet Jacob said simply,

"Oh be wise, what can I say more?" (Jacob 6:12)

Obedience brings blessings, that's true. But it also brings protection. When we go to church as a family, when we pray consistently and study the scriptures, we're blessed with more spiritual knowledge and guidance but we're given protection too. Angels will guard us. The Spirit will be there to warn us. Sometimes amidst the busy things of life we feel comfortable not saying our nightly prayers or reading the scriptures everyday. We don't feel that guilty if we miss church or don't do service this, "one time." We get comfortable and fall into the peer pressure of the world and the temptations of Satan....we take our shoes off, so to speak. And we find ourselves walking on dangerous ground. Things that seem innocent at first could cut or hurt us the most in the long run. Samuel Johnson once said, "hell is paved with good intentions." 

I want to bear my testimony that when we do the simple things; pray, read the scriptures, worship at church, and serve our fellow man...we are putting on our spiritual shoes. I love this gospel. I love being a missionary. I know through Jesus Christ anything is possible. I'm humbled that the Lord is trusting me in a small part of the vineyard here in the Philippines. I feel focused and I've never felt this much joy in my life. I love my family and they are in my prayers constantly and I hope they always have their "shoes" on. Keep those prayers coming and I'll see ya'll soon.

Your Valiant Missionary,

Elder Strader 

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