Monday, February 1, 2016

God's Tender Mercies

Loved Ones,

I want to first start off this email and just bear my testimony of God's tender mercies. He's real. I've seen His hand in this work and I can't deny what I've felt. I'm overwhelmed of all the undeserved blessings I've received in my life. And what has happened the last couple weeks have strengthen that testimony. 

Just to refresh everyone, I'm in an open area. Which means we come into a place with no progression or teaching pool. For those RM's out there, you're first thought would probably be for me to check the area book. Well, that hasn't been updated in over 1 year. On top of all that, we're the Assistants and we travel all over the mission, doing exchanges, training, meetings, delivering supplies and we don't get a lot of time to work in our area. Now, I say all of these not to complain but that it is my current position. I feel if that I'm a assistant, my area should be the best example for others. How can I help other missionaries if I can't balance the time and help myself? I can't be acted upon and set the example. 

So, I've told all of these things to my Heavenly Father. I noticed throughout my mission my prayers have become more specific and filled with more gratitude. I've been praying that the Lord would send me to 2-3 families and help me to teach effectively that I get them to progress and be baptized. I expressed my righteous desires to be a better example and the stress that I feel. I promised that I would work hard. So I did. After traveling zone to zone, training missionaries, all the things we have to do, sometimes we only have a few hours to work. But we made it count. And then we met Randy Aquino.

I found Brother Randy sitting down eating chicken feet (a popular Filipino snack) and when I asked where a particular house was. My companion, Elder B, was talking another group of people close by. As I was talking to Brother Randy, I felt the Spirit testify to me that he was ready and was being prepared by the Lord. I then asked Brother Randy if we could teach him. He gladly accepted us. We sat in his home and started to teach. Brother Randy's wife left him for another man a long time ago. He lives with his only son, John, who is 11 years old. Single father trying to make a living for his small, broken family. We first started to teach him prayer. For some reason it was the most powerful lesson I've ever taught about prayer. We explained that if we pray the right way and with real intent, we can feel the holy ghost. Brother Randy had many questions. We explained the role of the Holy Ghost, how to feel like it and the importance of the Holy Ghost. The Spirit was strong in that lesson. At the end we asked Brother Randy with he would give the closing prayer. He told us that he has never prayed in his whole life. With some encouragement Brother Randy prayed. I can't express to you the feeling when you hear some utter their first prayer. It's so simple. So beautiful. I feel so blessed that I can witness little things like that. When a child of God talks to his Father for the first time. After the prayer, we all just paused for like 30 seconds in silence. I asked Brother Randy what he felt in that moment. With tears in his eyes, he said he felt warm like someone was giving him a big, warm, loving, hug. We then asked him what that feeling was. He looked at us and said, "It's the Holy Ghost." With tears in our eyes we explained to Brother Randy that it meant that his prayer was true and therefore that what we taught him was true. I asked Brother Randy, " Do you want to feel that again?" He said yes and then we said he needed to go to church. And so he did. And he's gone to church the last 3 weeks in a row and will soon be baptized. He reads the Book of Mormon and stopped drinking coffee and alcohol, we're just working on the cigarettes now haha. Now I understand the scripture in D&C that the "Spirit quickeneth all things."  All the glory goes to Him.

For my next experience just happened this last week when I worked up in the Mountains of Baguio, on exchanges with the Baguio City zone leader and with my mission president. My mission president wanted to work with every zone leader in their area's to see how the work was going and he wanted one of his assistants with him. To give a little background, I've been having this doctrinal question about healing the sick and the Priesthood. Everywhere I go here in the Philippines, I'm surrounded by disabled, deathly ill, or dying people. As I read the New Testament and study Early Church History my faith is strengthened by the miracles and healings that took place. I know I have that same power. I have faith. The only question is if it's according to the Lord's will. But how will I know that the Lord wants me to bless and heal someone? Do I just have to wait around until I feel the burning of the bosom and then go for it? Or is that really faith? And then when I read in Acts chapter 3 when Peter and John heal the man at the temple. If you have time you should read it but long story short, Peter and John just walk up to this man and without asking if he had faith in Christ they just healed him. And Mormon talks about faith and miracles. God doesn't change. Miracles can and DO happen today but we need faith. So I've asked this to my mission president and we talked a little about it.  

Anyway, as we walked and worked in Baguio (the 3 of us) the zone leader told us about our next appointment was with Danny. Brother Danny had a stroke and can't use his right hand and he is paralyzed on the right side of his body. When the elder explained that to us, I asked president, "president could we heal him?" And discussed about it and then president looked at us and said, "Do you want to heal someone today?" Just typing it gives me chills. I was speechless and I just said president, I hope my faith is sufficient. 

We hiked through the side of a mountain and finally came to a little village. We found his house and that's when we met Brother Danny. He was sitting on his chair and just seeing him I wanted to cry. I've never met a more humble, sweet man. We taught about the Restoration and Brother Danny was very interested in the Priesthood. As we taught, Brother Danny bore his testimony of Jesus Christ and I felt that it was sincere. As we were about to close the lesson, President Balledos looked up and I will never forget his words. It went something like this,

"Brother Danny we feel your faith in Christ. We are His servants. He is our Master. We hold His Holy Priesthood. We fear no man. If you have faith in what we just taught and in Jesus Christ and if you so desire, we can bless you now."

I sat in there in awe. The Spirit was strong and I thought I could see light shining off my mission president. After some silence Brother Danny said he believed in Jesus Christ and said he would like a blessing. As we laid our hands upon his head I felt the Priesthood Power like I've never it before. It was like electricity running through our bodies. I kept praying in my heart. President Balledos gave one of the most powerful blessings that I've heard. One part I will always remember, "We give you a blessing of strength in your bones and joints." As we blessed him, Brother Danny was shaking because he was crying. When we said amen, we all paused, and out of nowhere Brother Danny stood up. I don't how long he has sat in that chair. We were lost in words and he gave us a hug. One of the most powerful experiences in my life. 

I just want to testify of Christ, that He lives. I believe in miracles. I believe in the Priesthood Power and I do my best to honor it everyday. I love being a missionary. I love all of you! Don't worry, I'll be home soon.

Your Valiant Missionary,

Elder Strader

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