Saturday, August 9, 2014

Mission Experience

Elder Jeffrey Griffiths
New York New York North Mission
September 5, 2012 - August 6, 2014

Mission Experience

As my time to serve a full-time mission has come to a close, I have been filled with profound gratitude. My experiences out here have not been easy, but they have helped to mold and shape me and give me good direction on the path to perfection. I wouldn't trade this experience for anything. I hope to express just a portion of my gratitude for the opportunity to serve a full-time mission as I write out my mission experience.
Before the mission even began, my stake mission preparation teacher drilled into my head that it was not going to be "my" mission. Elder Holland often reminded me in the Missionary Training Center that this service was not going to be about me. I anticipated losing myself in the work. As I learned submission, humbly giving up my will for the will of Heavenly Father, I came to have an abiding trust in Him, knowing that this is indeed His work. I have come to see that He is guiding us all to be where we need to be in order to fulfill His great purposes. Heavenly Father is "able to do [His] own work" (2 Nephi 27:20), yet He blesses us with the privilege of working along side Him to learn and grow ourselves. I now know that the mission best benefits us and best changes us as we seek nothing for ourselves. That is definitely a hard concept to get down, and I still have not yet perfected it, but I know that life will be the same too. I have learned so much, and I am so grateful to have learned from the get go.
At the beginning of my service as a missionary, my trainer helped me to see the value in developing friendships with other missionaries. At the start, I was not social at all. When it came time for district meeting and other gatherings of missionaries, I didn't want to talk to anyone- I just wanted to get out and get to work. I would get frustrated at Elder Topham for hanging out and spending time talking to the other missionaries. One day, however, I remember walking along Broadway on our way to do service, and I asked him what advice he had for me. He told me to be a social butterfly, to talk with those missionaries around me. He said that I was a pillar that others could lean on, and so when others are around, I shouldn't be studying or doing my own thing, but I should interact with others.  In that moment I started to realize that the value of our testimony comes as we share it, and missionaries are included in those that we "invite to come closer to Christ." I have tried to live by those principles throughout the entirety of my time here as a missionary, and I have seen great blessings from doing so. The love that I have developed for other missionaries with whom I serve has been one of the most rewarding things out here.
As a leader, loving and serving the other missionaries has been incredibly uplifting. I learned that love is often spelled T-I-M-E. As I have spent meaningful time with and on the missionaries under my stewardship, my love for them has increased, and their trust in me has increased as well. As a district leader, I made sure to call my district members every night, and more than call them, I sincerely checked up on them to see how their day was. Some days I had to go through the motions, but I felt as though that consistency made the members of my district trust me and I was allowed the opportunity to help them out often. I was told in person and told through notes that I had gained the trust of my district members, and because of that, we were able to work well together. I also tried to make sure that when I was around my fellow district or zone members, I was talking to them rather than doing nothing or studying or anything else. Through that, I was able to keep tabs on people and make sure that all was well. I am planning on taking these principles to my family. I hope to spend time with and on my wife and kids to show them my love for them and to strengthen our relationship.
Learning the difference between administering and ministering has helped me to become more like Christ. I was helped a lot by other missionaries and through study to understand that administering is doing your duty, keeping things running and so on while ministering is more of a nurturing role, helping to take care of the needs of others. Knowing the difference has made me strive to be an administering minister, making sure things are going as they should, but to the end that people's needs are being met. As a leader I have tried to take administering opportunities, such as leading meetings, conducting exchanges and doing the weekly call in report and tried to turn them into ministering opportunities. I make them personal. I take the time to get to know concerns, the struggles and even the victories, and I was able to address the needs and acknowledge and build upon the good. Heavenly Father helped me to purify my desires to make me care more about the wellbeing of those in my stewardship rather than how I was viewed or the glory of my position. Because of that, I often times was led by the Holy Ghost to know what was going on with those I led, which helped me to better minister to them. Ministering is now one of my favorite things to do, and it is a big thing I will take away from the mission.
Being with a companion 24/7 has been often bitter, but often sweet. I have not been close with many people during the course of my life, so suddenly having to work with one other person in a very close way has been one of the biggest challenges of my life. I have, however, learned a ton from working with a companion. Communication is key, and when we cut off communication, we start sinking. Letting each other know what we are thinking is good so that no assumptions are made, rather, all is out in the open. I have a hard time confronting issues, and I am still working on it, but the mission has helped me to be better at that, which will come in handy in marriage. I also learned a lot about deference. Often, I did not want to do what my companion did, but I submitted to his desires out of love and respect for him. Maybe things did not turn out as well as they could have (more than likely, they turned out just fine), but what mattered was that we were working together and yielding to one another as we recognized our equality in decision making. I also have realized that understanding one another is essential. I had one companion in particular that I did not get along with. After being counseled by my district leader, I took time to get to know his past and learned that he had had a rough life. That increased my love and compassion towards him. It didn't justify his misbehavior, but it helped me to understand where he was coming from and have the patience to look forward and see to where he was going. I feel good when I feel like I am understood, so I strive to understand others, particularly when I don't agree. Serving my companions has been a great way to build my love for them. I love to make their beds, wash their dishes and shine their shoes. I found that when I was frustrated at my companion, if I took time to write a note of appreciation and looked at the good in them, it boosted us both up. I am grateful that even though I feel like I have not had a picture perfect companionship, I have come away as good friends with practically all of my companions. I know that marriage will be tough, but very rewarding and I am grateful for what my service has done to prepare me for such.
My depth of love for the members and nonmembers has increased a ton during my service as a missionary. I recently read from a journal entry around the start of the mission about my frustrations with the Spanish culture, about how relaxed they are, the lack of punctuality and about their desire to have us over for long periods of time. I have come to love my fellow Spanish speakers and have found their great love and service for others. They often times receive so little but are willing to give so much. They are so willing to serve us as missionaries to the point that they take offense if we try to take their dishes to the kitchen even just to rinse them. I have never been so appreciated as a representative of the Lord and received so much respect for my calling than I have in the households of Latinos, members and nonmembers alike. They always offer us something to drink, something to eat, and their hospitality has been a blessing to me. I hope to emulate their love all throughout my life. The English speakers have been great too! We are treated so well and I am grateful for the friendships with which I have been blessed. I know that as I have prayed with all the energy of heart, I have been possessed by charity and that has driven me to work harder and more with the Spirit than anything. I look forward to coming to love all around me, wherever life takes me, as I have learned to do here in New York.
One of the biggest ways in which I have grown is by gaining a broader perspective. My experiences out here have helped me to look beyond the moment, to see in the past and into the future. I have been able to see God's hand in my life and in the lives of others. Such has helped me to have greater faith in Him, and hope that He will pull through, because He always does pull through. I have seen evidence of that through many experiences including being at the right place at the right time to have a door opened to go into a building and find a completely inactive family, being led by the Spirit to drive way out of the way to visit a member who was extremely sick without us knowing, and many others. I know that God loves us and that He is providing means for us to be happy in the end, and even in the moment. We all have the same potential and so as we look ahead and see that potential rather than being out down by our current problems, we can move forward with our heads up in the air. I am still working on holding on to an eternal perspective in the moments where I am tempted to let my emotions rule me, but I have made great improvements through he course of the mission.
During the course of the mission, I have been blessed to develop a way of living that is more in tune with the Savior's teachings. Consecration does not touch on how we should live for the time we are in full service as missionaries. We should continue to live our lives afterwards as we have here. Realizing that was a great instance in the mission. I am now determined to study my scriptures, go to church, pray often, talk out things with my wife and work as equals, talk to people around me about the gospel, serve others, give of my time to help them, and many other things. I have realized that knowing the gospel and living the gospel are two different things. I am on the path to better live the gospel. I have not perfected living the gospel, but I am starting out a life of good gospel living. I know that by living daily the principles of faith, repentance, covenants and listening to the Holy Ghost, we endure to the end, changing for the better every day. After two years, I am sure there are things that I habitually do now that I do not even recognize as coming from the mission. I am grateful that the mission did not only change me for this time, but has changed me forever.
As I have been specifically set apart to represent Jesus Christ, I have come to know Him better and have become more determined to follow in His footsteps. Through the process I have not come to understand the depth of the atonement, but I have come to understand just how much I do not understand the depth of he atonement. My experiences have figuratively brought me to the edge of the endless abyss that is the depth of the atonement and allowed me to look down. I have never seen the bottom, and I doubt I ever will be able to do such. As I have represented Jesus Christ, I have been brought to my knees. I have felt judged to be a thing of naught because of the iniquity of the world (1 Nephi 19:9), yet I know the Savior received even harsher and less just judgement from others. I have felt tired and exhausted and still had a work to do, although He had it much much worse. I have suffered similar experiences to others and been able to help them through trials, but I have never suffered through what was necessary for the Savior to have the perfect empathy that He has with all of us. I cannot begin to comprehend the Savior's experiences on the earth. Getting the slightest taste has helped me to know how to better handle those situations, looking to His example of loving kindness and long suffering, dedicated service and pure motives. I will miss representing Him and learning more about His character. I am so grateful to have been able to have those experiences.
Learning is one thing I have come to love even more deeply out here in the mission field. I have always loved to learn new things. School was a delight, not a dread for me. Being here in the school of life has helped me to realize the value of learning from experience. Learning to love to learn makes life a delightful journey. That includes loving being humbled, loving being corrected and even chastised, not because the process is pleasing, but because the end result is desirable. As we learn, we become better people and better instruments in the hands of God. As I have been in the pits, due to the mistakes of others, unfortunate circumstances, miscommunications, and of course my own pride, I have been lifted out by the grace of God to a higher lever of understanding and ability. I love to learn and when those trials come, I now can look assuredly for the lessons I need to learn and have hope that nothing can bring me down and keep me down.
I am so grateful for the opportunity to serve a mission. I am grateful that my experiences have been of benefit for this time and will continue to be of benefit for the rest of eternity. I have realized that the mission has not been so much about reaching a destination, rather it has been a process to get on a forward moving path. I feel that as I am now on that path, I will reach the destination of eternal life, so long as I do not willfully rebel against what I have learned. Gratitude fills my heart. I love the mission and know that after giving comparatively so little, I have gained so much.
I will wrap up with my testimony:

I know that this church is the church of Jesus Christ on the earth today. I know that it contains the fullness of the gospel of Jesus Christ, which can truly change us. I know that we have the proper authority on the Earth today, originally restored to Joseph Smith. I know that he was a prophet of God and an instrument in God's hand in bringing about the necessary restoration. I know that the line of authority has continued to this day and that Thomas S. Monson is a prophet and that He leads us under the direction of Jesus Christ. I know The Book of Mormon is the word of God and has helped me grow closer to Christ better than any other book. I know that God loves us, that He always has and always will. I know that He sent His Son, Jesus Christ to atone for our sins. I know that Christ not only died for us but lived for us too, using every moment of His life to ensure that we would have hope of eternal life. I am grateful for that. I know that as we live His teachings, we can live once again with our Father in Heaven, with Jesus Christ, and our families forever in a state of pure joy.  

In Closing

Well, I thought I would wrap things up here, make sure there is some good closure.  This past week was great!  Nothing too dramatic or crazy, but I am a-okay with that.  I talked it out with many other people, mainly missionaries, that I didn't want to have a sprint to the end or anything out of the ordinary.  I need to maintain a good pace rather than go home and crash. I felt as though I had done well at giving of myself throughout the past twenty three months and didn't feel the need to give a little more. Maybe that was a sin of complacency, but what is done is done, and I feel happy.

Thursday we got to go to Queens!  We went down to Grand Central and took the 7 train over to have a combined Mission Leadership Council with the New York New York South Mission.  It was a blast- I enjoyed interacting with and feeling the enthusiasm of the South mission.  I feel like a lot of time we were so isolated in our own little mission, so getting exposed to them and their culture was great!  That experience reminded me of how much I like to meet new people and interact with them, not having any pretenses of who they are or what they are like.  I look forward to doing that at school!

There were a lot of goodbyes said over the course of the weekend. I was grateful how smooth it went, though.  I feel like in a Spanish ward or branch when you say you are leaving everybody wants to do something big or special for you, but here it was nice in that people were more like "Good luck!" or "See you around!"  I guess I just don't like the special attention or whatever, so it was good.

Monday was a great day!  Zone meeting was executed well.  We felt good about it at least.  Later as we were heading to the church for the ward family night, a young man approached us at a bus stop and just asked us about our beliefs.  We talked with him and kept talking all along the bus ride.  Somewhere along the lines we invited him to come along with us to the family and he said sure!  Having him agree to come on the spot like that was awesome!  I don't think I have ever seen someone spontaneously decide to come to an activity or church or anything like that. Just a testimony that asking a thousand strangers to come to church is worth it for the one that says yes. An unrelated tender mercy from that night was that Elder Jensen, one of my best missionary friends, called us to give us a referral after we had planned. I was able to talk with him and say a good see you later. I know that wasn't coincidence and that Heavenly Father often blesses us with the little things to let us know that He loves us.

Tuesday was one of the most stressful days of my life. I had many things to do- transfer stuff from my iPad, mail some packages, finish cleaning and packing, write some last minute notes, etc. all before the cut off of about 4:15 P.M. when the assistants would be picking me up. We planned it out so that the timing of everything would work out well.  Then real life started happening.  Everything from us not having the right keys to get into the clerk's office to my iPad not wanting to transfer pictures to the train running express to the end of the line and so on happened and caused me to be super stressed by the end of it all.  Of course the end of it all was essentially a complete relief of that stress and much more stress that I had felt over the past two years, so that kept me going.  But anyways, I vocalized my stress with my roommates, Elder Schneider and Elder Christensen and they helped me to walk through it and see that there was something to learn.  Practically all of my stress was related to getting to places and getting stuff done on my time scale. The two of them talked about how when things were hectic like that, it was usually because things were on God's time scale and He always gets us to where we need to be when we need to be there.  I realized that in stressing out so much, I was holding on to my will and not submitting to His.  I wasn't trusting that He was in control and that all would pan out. Stress isn't bad, but that day it had turned into distress.  Stress should be enough to motivate us to do what we can with what we control, but when we get anxious over things that we can't control it is an unnecessary emotional burden, and for me in this case it was a lack of faith.  Those experiences helped me to internalize things I had been learning over the course of the mission.  I am just super grateful for the opportunity I had to learn until the very end.  I hope to do the same with life- endure to the end learning, everyday.

The assistants came and picked me up and took me to the mission home.  There we had a great time!  We relaxed and socialized for a bit, ate some dinner, had a great testimony meeting and then just had a good time with one another- one of the most fun nights of my life.  The next day we woke up and headed to the airport. I was anxious to get to the next step- get on the plane, then get in the air, then touch down, then get on the next plane, then have that one touch down, then have the train get to the right concourse, then have the escalators get to the top. I was a little frustrated that I had to have a connecting flight in Boston- how does that make any sense?  Heavenly Father, however, showed me at least part of the reason why that happened.  As we were taking off to go to Boston, I had a strong desire to see the New York City skyline.  Everybody does, right?  So I looked out and didn't see anything.  I said a small prayer and then I thought I caught a small glance across the way out of the other side's window. I was going to be content with that, when all of a sudden, we come to the end of our turn and headed directly towards Boston.  I saw the city perfectly.  I worked my way from south to north.  I could distinctly see downtown and midtown, central park, and then I looked up to the Bronx and I could see where the botanical gardens are and the bronx zoo, Pelham Parkway, Van Courtland Park and so on.  I started to visual where the people I had come to know and love lived. As we moved further along, I looked up the Hudson to where I imagined Newburgh would be. Saying goodbye become that much more of an emotional experience as I left all of that behind.  I teared up a little (and I am not one to cry) as the city faded away. I think that is when it hit me that my time was done.

I am grateful for the opportunity I had to serve.  I am going to close with my mission experience in the next post.  Thank you for reading this- I hope that I have done some good for you.  I am going to start up a new blog wherein I continue to talk about what is going on with me and what I am learning so please do follow me at:

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

The End...

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Today is my last day here in New York as a missionary. I am full of gratitude for the experience I have had out here- I wouldn't trade anything in the world for it. I am grateful for all of the people that I have met during my time of service and for all that have supported me and looked after me during the past two years. I want to bear my witness that this is the Lord's work. I know He has a hand in the lives of all of us whether we know it or not. I have seen Him guide me personally to help me to get to where I need to be at just the right time to help others out or to be helped myself. I know He loves both you and me and that He wants what is best for us. Sometimes seeing how hardships benefit us is difficult, but I know that all is intended to make us better in the end. I know that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints contains the fullness of the gospel and the proper priesthood authority on the Earth. I know that through the gospel ordinances done with that authority, we can be truly happy in this life, and return to our Father in Heaven in the life to come. I know that we have a living prophet on the Earth, Thomas S. Monson, and that his council is of great value to all. I know that Joseph Smith was a prophet and an instrument in restoring Jesus Christ's church to the earth again. I know that The Book of Mormon is the word of God- it has helped me to gain a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. I know that the gospel of Jesus Christ is the way to true happiness, now and forever. I know that Jesus Christ not only died for us, but lived for us too, spending every moment to ensure that you and I could have hope of eternal life. I know He suffered for not just our sins, but for our infirmities, sicknesses, afflictions and all that we have to go through in this life, and I know that because of His perfect empathy, we can received help from Him as we ask. I know He loves all of us and declaring that for the past two years has been a wonderful experience. I wish all the best of luck as a I depart! Thanks for everything and God bless!

Hoy es mi último día como misionero de tiempo completo aquí en Nueva York. Estoy bien agradecido por todos que he conocido en Harlem, en el Bronx, en Newburgh y las otras personas que he conocido. Gracias por apoyarme y ayudarme a tener una buena experiencia al servir El Señor. Yo sé que ésta es la obra del Señor y que Él la guía. Fu. . Sé qué el Señor nos ayuda a aprender lo que necesitemos aprender aunque sea difícil para nosotros. Sé qué las escrituras son las palabras de Dios y que ellas nos pueden hablar como sí fuera nuestro Padre Celestial sí mismo. Sé qué hay poder en la oración. Siempre recibo consuela suficiente para continuar mediante mis pruebas y se que es así porque Dios nos escucha y nos cuida. Sé que al asistir la iglesia, renovamos convenios con Dios y por eso vivimos el Evangelio de Jesucristo. Sé qué el evangelio tiene el poder para cambiar nuestras vidas si permitimos que nos lo haga. Sé qué la iglesia de Jesucristo de los Santos de los Últimos Días es la iglesia de Jesucristo en el mundo hoy y que ella contiene la plenitud del evangelio con la autoridad del sacerdocio. Sé qué José Smith fue un profeta verdadero de Dios y que Thomas S. Monson es un profeta en el mundo hoy día. Sé qué El Libro de Mormón es de Dios y que nos ayuda a verdaderamente acercarnos a adiós. Sé qué Jesucristo efectuó la expiación y que por medio de esa he sido consolado, fortalecido y cambiado y sé que este poder está disponible a todos. Se qué Jesucristo vive y que Él nos ama a todos. Sé qué todos tenemos esperanza gracias a Él. Estoy bien agradecido por esta experiencia porque ha sido maravillosa. Gracias por todo y que Dios le bendiga!