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:)!
video

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