Monday, June 29, 2015

Noticing the Wonders

Hello Family! 

How is everyone? I'm doing well! It's getting hotter which is fun! We got transfer calls and I will be staying in Kanagawa with Elder M! I am really excited! I'm actually pretty surprised that we are still together. Up until this point I have only had one other companion last for two transfers and that was my trainer. Interesting...:)

This past week we found a couple new investigators which is exciting. We have not been able to set a date with M-San yet but we are working on that. He is still hungry to learn but wants to take a lot of time doing it, which is a pretty common thought among investigators here. The trick is getting them to exercise faith and progress faster.

Something I have been thinking about and I came across recently is this scripture:

And Joshua said unto the people, Sanctify yourselves: for tomorrow the Lord will do wonders among you. (Joshua 3:5)

I love this scripture. I think it is so powerful and it is something that we can all apply to our individual situations. The Lord is always doing wonders among us. Every single day there are miracles. What we have to do is sanctify ourselves. Christ says,

Now this is the commandment: Repent, all ye ends of the earth, and come unto me and be baptized in my name, that ye may be sanctified by the reception of the Holy Ghost, that ye may stand spotless before me at the last day. (3 Nephi 27:20)

We are sanctified (which means consecrated, holy, or declared holy) by the reception of the Holy Ghost. This is why if we don't receive the Holy Ghost after baptism our baptism is worthless. When we are sanctified we can approach the throne with confidence; we can stand spotless. I am so amazed as I have gone through this process of change on my mission. As I have tried to align my will with with Heavenly Father's more and more, I have noticed the greater sanctification. I have noticed the wonders. I know that as we work hard to sanctify ourselves we will see the Lord do wonders among us.

I love y'all! Sorry it is short today! Not much time!

Love, Elder Siebach

Monday, June 22, 2015

A Law "Irrevocably Decreed In Heaven"

Hello Family! I hope you're all doing fantastic!

This past week has been pretty good! We had a really great zone cenference on friday and that was great. The week before I had sent President Wada an email about my district and what I thought they needed, which is a big push to be obedient, and he dedicated half of the Zone Conference to obedience. It was great. I really enjoyed the trainings that were done. From thinking about obedience for the past while I have decided that it is one of the more basic yet most important aspects of this work. I guess instead of basic it is actually a fundamental principle of the gospel. There is so much that we need to have in order to really participate in the Lord's work. There is being led by the Spirit, gaining a deep understanding of the scriptures and the gospel, seeing the needs of the people you talk to, etc..., but all of these things can't happen if we are unwilling to keep the commandments, ie, be obedient! And if those things don't happen, we aren't doing what is required to be in His service. and we are wasting our time and more importantly the Lord's time! It's so great that He continues to give us chances to restart and try again! That to me is evidence of His purpose. He keeps helping us despite the fact that we are "unprofitable servants":)

In other news...we tried to set a baptismal date with M-san and weren't able to do it. He has some things that he needs to do before he sets a date. We have made plans with him though to get to baptism. Pray for him please!

We will be receiving transfer calls this coming Saturday so next email might have some news!
Love yall!

Elder Siebach

Monday, June 15, 2015

Big Buddhas and Tender Mercies

The Dai-butsu (Big Buddha) of Kamakura
I ate a kilo of zarusoba today. It is called fujisoba and costs 500¥. Thought you would be proud!
Hello everyone!

Today my entire district went to Kamakura and then hiked to the Daibutsu (Big Buddha) and then went to Enoshima! It was really hot and sweaty but really fun at the same time! I will send some pictures. We tried to recreate that ancient photo that you sent of the family down there! Now we are in our church clothes, just finished shopping and biking back to the apartment. This apartment (my fifth one so far) is really nice, but it is at the top of a really big hill... No matter which way you try to return there is a crazy hill. So returning home, especially from grocery shopping because you have a ton of bags, leaves you huffing and puffing and sweating a lot, and, with increasing frequency, a pounding headache. My companion loves to wimp out and walk his bike up the hill. I prefer to drop to 1-1 and endure. To each his own I guess. One of the many things that keeps me going is that, despite no one wanting to listen to me, my thighs are getting huge. At least something is going through the refiner's fire.

This week our investigator, M San, did not make it to church, but he did come the night before and listen to my mission president speak. We talked to him today and he said that he missed it and wants to keep going. We plan on setting a baptismal date with him when we meet him this week. He is such a tender mercy. I think God spent a year of my mission trying to teach me to appreciate things. That is one way of describing what he is trying to teach me. Another way to describe it is gratitude. Another is teaching me not to feel entitled. Another way to put it is humility. There are many ways to say what I have learned on my mission. For a year I have tried to work unceasingly to share the wonderful feelings that the gospel has brought me. Alma sums it up in one verse.

"Yea, and from that time even until now, I have labored without ceasing, that I might bring souls unto repentance; that I might bring them to taste of the exceeding joy of which I did taste; that they might also be born of God, and be filled with the Holy Ghost."
- Alma 36: 24

But I have very little to show for it. I think it is because I expected it. I expected God to just give me investigators that were prepared for baptism. I expected God to perform a very specific type of miracle, and because of that I wasn't noticing all the other miracles: the opportunity to help an old man with his groceries; a smile from some one; even an investigator that, though they didn't get baptized, came out better than before; the opportunity to testify to someone; the opportunity to touch a companion's heart, or praise or correct him, or become friends with him, or witness his growth, happiness and success. All of these are blessings; all of them miracles, and when I left on a mission I was blind to them. By depriving me of what I wanted to or expected to see, God opened up my eyes to the things he wanted me to see. I am becoming capable of seeing God's hand in my life and the people around me. It is a brutal road, one that sometimes made me feel terrible, lazy, unworthy, incapable, powerless, frustrated, and alone (to mention a few), but it is teaching me to appreciate the tender mercies of God that surround me.

"We should not underestimate or overlook the power of the Lord's tender mercies. The simpleness, the sweetness, and the constancy of the tender mercies of the Lord will do much to fortify and protect us in the troubled times in which we do now and will yet live. When words cannot provide the solace we need or express the joy we feel, when it is simply futile to attempt to explain that which is unexplainable, when logic and reason cannot yield adequate understanding about the injustices and inequities of life, when mortal experience and evaluation are insufficient to produce a desired outcome, and when it seems that perhaps we are so totally alone, truly we are blessed by the tender mercies of the Lord and made mighty even unto the power of deliverance."
- Elder Bednar April 2005 General Conference

I know that God has blessed, is blessing, and will continue to bless me with these tender mercies. These blessings are sometimes so small that if we don't look we will miss them, but that have been made mighty even unto giving us the power to endure, to get back up, to brush it off, to keep going. I have felt that power as I have been rejected, ignored, yelled at, and misjudged. This is an imperfect world full of imperfect people that like and do even more imperfect things, but it is all part of a perfect plan, and God always provides safety for the soul!

I love you!
Elder Siebach

The stairs leading up to the Dai-butsu
Chilling--ok, sweating!--with one of our investigators

Ancient Siebach Family Photo at Kamakura--Sterling on the far right (circa 2002)
Recreation of Ancient Family Photo 13 years later--Sterlling still on the far right:)!

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Watching As the Lord Opens Doors

Hello my beloved family! I am sorry that this mail is coming so late! We got to go to the temple again this week, which was great, but it shifts our p-day so that our letters home are a day later than usual! We also moved some of our preparation day time to the evening so that we could teach a lesson during the day. It's great to finally sit down and write to you all! Another highlight of the day is that I went and bought some new insoles for my shoes. They feel so good!

This past week has been a great week! I will tell you about two of the highlights! The first one was on Sunday with our investigator named M-san. We taught him a lesson right after church about faith and that we can have faith in Christ by understanding and embracing the atonement. I have never been in a more Spirit-led lesson. It was amazing how sincere and on point his questions were and how perfectly the scriptures we shared answered them. When we finished explaining the atonement we talked about the way we use the atonement in our lives by introducing the Gospel of Jesus Christ. One thing led to another and he pretty much committed himself to baptism! There was an incredible feeling in the room during that lesson. He is so prepared. I feel like Elder M and I have just jumped along for a ride and have been sitting back and watching as the Lord opens doors for this sincere little man. I am so excited for him!

The other came during a lesson yesterday where we committed another man named H-san to baptism. That was exciting too! He is progressing very well and we are just happy to be a part of it :)

This week I have thought a lot about Love. I think about how loving Mom and Dad are to me and my brother and sister. I think about how much they have put up with, especially from me. I think about how many times they must have jumped for joy when we made the right decisions, and then how many times their hearts must have broken when we made the wrong ones. It breaks my heart to think of the many times that I was the cause of their anguish, but I am so grateful that they have endured, that they suffered long. Though I didn't understand it before, and still don't understand it perfectly, they have shown me the meaning of charity and pure love. They have shown me that love outlasts everything; you could say it endures all things. There are no ifs, ands, or buts about love. It doesn't change due to situation or how you happen to feel that day. It is constant. It is the abandonment of yourself and an absorption in the happiness of others. If I didn't know better I would say that loving someone and being a glutton for punishment are the same thing, because in both situations you just keep going back to what hurts you. I am so grateful for my parents. They have never stayed down--no matter what we/I have thrown at them, they get right back up. They truly want the best for us and they haven't found the limit to their willingness to sacrifice for that cause. Thank you Mom and thank you Dad!!

Love you guys! Gotta go! Y'all are my favorites!

Elder Siebach

Monday, June 1, 2015

Great Progress and...Earthquakes!


Hey I am so sorry about last week--we just had no time to write home! I hope you enjoyed the pictures at least! This week was pretty great! I went on splits with my old companion Elder W and we saw a lot of miracles together! It is a cool feeling to get to go out and do missionary work with an old companion. Both of us have changed a lot and improved a lot. It was awesome!

This week our investigator M San came to church! I have gained such a big testimony that God is preparing people. I have only seen a few people on my mission that even come close to how prepared M San is. He is reading the Book of Mormon, praying, coming to church. It is amazing. He is so ready to come to know his Father in Heaven. I know that there are people out there that God is preparing for us to talk to, even those of us who are not on missions.

Sorry it's so short again--gotta go now. Love you!
Elder Siebach

PS -- Last week we felt quite a few crazy (but little--don't worry Mom!) earthquakes! Check it out...