Monday, November 23, 2015

Can't Go Back to Neutral

Hello family! I am sorry for the late letter! We have been really busy today with three lessons and we are going on splits soon! Please forgive me if this email is lacking! 

This week we had some good times. We had a zone meeting this week. Something interesting about our zone is that we are all super old except for one transfer 3 missionary! When I saw that on the roster I got really excited because of all of the great experience we had coming into the zone. I thought that our stats would sky rocket and we would be seeing a lot more baptisms. Unfortunately I was caught in the excitement of my predictions of success to the point that I disregarded the problems that could be lurking under the surface. That was unfortunate because it turns out that the problems are there in a very big way. These missionaries have gotten used to their blessed life, they have grown accustomed to seeing miracles all around them, and they have forgotten what they are sacrificing. This has resulted in lower than ever stats, lukewarm support from the zone, and a pretty rough zone meeting. A lot of them, instead of preparing their hearts with questions and trying to be open to any suggestions or revelation that God would give them, they came to see their friends to joke and to laugh. So that is one of the problems we are facing right now. My companion and I will be working hard at addressing these concerns.

A little while ago I was reading in 1 Nephi 4, probably preparing for a lesson when I read a scripture that piqued my interest and I put away for safe keeping. That scripture has come to mind many times of over the past few days, especially today, so I will share it and my thoughts on it.

6 And I was led by the Spirit, not knowing beforehand the things which I should do.

10 And it came to pass that I was constrained by the Spirit that I should kill Laban; but I said in my heart: Never at any time have I shed the blood of man. And I shrunk and would that I might not slay him.

11 And the Spirit said unto me again: Behold the Lord hath delivered him into thy hands. Yea, and I also knew that he had sought to take away mine own life; yea, and he would not hearken unto the commandments of the Lord; and he also had taken away our property.

12 And it came to pass that the Spirit said unto me again: Slay him, for the Lord hath delivered him into thy hands

Shoot! My iPad just deleted a ton of my email! I will throw down the abbreviated version!

When we are asked by the Lord to do something, we are given an opportunity to exercise our faith. We can either say no and choose our will or say yes and act in accordance. In so doing our faith grows and we feel that that growth "beginneth to enlarge [our] soul[s]" as it says in Alma 32: 28. I know that when we choose to say no and we feel the exact opposite of what we would feel if we were to say yes, we feel a shrinking. We can not expect to be allowed a chance to know the Lord's will and choose whether or not to follow it without consequences. We cannot be given a decision and say no and return to where we were. We can't go back to neutral. We, in essence chose to follow Christ or not, which involves growing or shrinking. I have felt both while here in Japan. I promise that a decision to act in faith will result in one more step down the path to perfection and eternal life! God loves us and because of that, even if we say no, God will, as with Nephi, give us more chances to follow Him!

I love you all!

Elder Siebach

Monday, November 16, 2015

Praise to the Lord, The Almighty

Hello family! 

How are you!? Life here in Japan is going pretty well. Elder Maurer and I have had a pretty good couple weeks, we are getting ready for a zone meeting tomorrow and have a lot of preparing to do. Our investigators are doing alright. One of them just dropped us for a little while. She said that she was feeling torn apart by her family's Buddhism and her desires to believe what we were teaching. That's too bad... But we will meet her again soon. We had a bunch of great experiences including a marathon lesson day on Thursday. We got to teach 6 lessons, four with different members! That was a great! 

Today we had a conference call with all of the zone leaders and sister training leaders. We have this every week on Monday, but today we got ripped apart a little bit by President Wada. That was a little fiery, but something we all needed! If you don't come away from meetings like that with some changes you have to make, or a call to repentance, then they aren't worth the time!

It sounds like there are some crazy things happening in France. All of the Japanese people I meet on the street are asking what I think about it. I have little to no idea what is going on there, but what I do know doesn't sound good at all.

This week we taught A, whose father is Muslim and very opposed to his son joining the church. We felt like we needed to read 1 Nephi 4 with him, Nephi is commanded to kill Laban. I have taught many people who find it hard to get over that scripture and the demands that God makes of Nephi. They find it hard to believe that God would ever do that to one of his children. With those negative experiences and background, I immediately threw that idea out the window and kept searching for something else to share. That idea continued to come into my mind and so I decided that that was the way we were going to go. It turns out that the member who accompanied us on the lesson really connected with this story back when he was investigating the church. He shared his own experience about how sometimes we are called to sacrifice something for something better. That sacrifice is, or can be, a huge test of faith. It is a test of faith in Jesus Christ and his ability to fulfill promised blessings. 

I want to talk a little bit about that sacrifice and the Faith and hope that we should have. In Nephi's case he is called to sacrifice Laban's life, as well as put his own emotional and spiritual worthiness on the line, in the hopes that the brass plates would be a means to bringing many of his posterity unto Christ. Our friend A is called to sacrifice his relationship with his father as he knows it, in order to receive the blessings promised to those who receive baptism and endure to the end. That takes a lot of faith, but if it is true, it is the most wonderful and valuable prize you could ever get. 

I love the scripture in Moroni 7 

41 And what is it that ye shall hope for? Behold I say unto you that ye shall have hope through the atonement of Christ and the power of his resurrection, to be raised unto life eternal, and this because of your faith in him according to the promise.

That is the hope A needs to have. That is the hope we have. In the end that's really what everything we do is for. And that hope is fulfilled when we believe in the character of Christ (perfection, honesty, actual redemptive power,etc...) and act upon that belief. When we believe and look up, as the Japanese word for faith means. We look up to him for hope, we look to him for an example, we look to him for healing and for aid, we look to him in trust and belief in his word, and we look to him in gratitude and anticipation for our place by his side that he has prepared for us. When I think of what he has done, is doing, and will continue to do for me, I am so grateful. I always think of this song.

1. Praise to the Lord, the Almighty, the King of creation!
O my soul, praise him, for he is thy health and salvation!
Join the great throng,
Psaltery, organ and song,
Sounding in glad adoration!

2. Praise to the Lord! Over all things he gloriously reigneth.
Borne as on eagle wings, safely his Saints he sustaineth.
Hast thou not seen
How all thou needest hath been
Granted in what he ordaineth?

3. Praise to the Lord, who doth prosper thy way and defend thee.
Surely his goodness and mercy shall ever attend thee.
Ponder anew
What the Almighty can do,
Who with his love doth befriend thee.

4. Praise to the Lord! Oh, let all that is in me adore him!
All that hath breath, join with Abraham’s seed to adore him!
Let the “AMEN”
Sum all our praises again,
Now as we worship before him.

What a wonderful gospel we bear and what a wonderful promise we preach. I Love the Lord!


Monday, November 2, 2015

Transfers and I'm Staying Put!

Hello everyone! 

This past week was great and we had a lot of fun. We got to meet with Ahamadou and Tomoko (our Miracle couple) a few times and even got to meet with her little brothers for the Halloween party! I know that I have talked about them before--I met them on the street about a month and a half ago. They have both joyfully received parts of the gospel, but they both have a few problems that they have to overcome. Ahamadou's dad is Muslim and has forbidden him from getting baptized. The catch is that his dad lives in Sierra Leone and hasn't seen his son for the last 19 of his 21-year long life. Tomoko's family is big but her parents are not around very often. As the oldest it falls on her to keep all of her siblings alive and clean and happy. I think going to our recent Halloween party was a good chance to help Tomoko feel more comfortable with introducing us to her family. It also helped them meet a lot more members. They also made it out to church yesterday. We had a couple lessons with them over the course of the week as well. Elder Burton, an elder in my zone, and I taught them the plan of salvation along with eternal families and temples. The idea of eternal families is attractive to them. They want to get married, but have no idea how to do it. You know what would be cool? Is if y'all were to write them letters! They would love it! You could share testimonies of what the gospel has meant in your lives and the blessings it has brought! Even if it is in English I could translate it! Or you could have someone there translate it! Either would be great!

We got transfer calls! I will be staying and my beloved Elder Cook will be headed to my old stomping grounds in Kanagawa! I will miss him! I'm kind of jealous--it's such a great area--but in his place will be an elder that I used to live with! His name is Maurer and he is from Australia! I will attach a picture of us. We will have transfers this Thursday. I'm excited for the changes and the week ahead!

I gotta go but hey, I love y'all!

Elder Sterling Siebach
Elder Maurer and I