Monday, February 13, 2012

Understand to Battle the Unfair.

Dear Mom,
Get ready, this could possibly be the longest email I've ever written in my life. I wrote it out this morning and it took a good two hours, there's just so much I want to say, and I really hope you enjoy it.
Time has taken off yet again and we're now in the last week of the transfer again. Somehow, someway, I have no idea how on earth it's happened! This week wasn't too full of events. Just a nice, normal week for the most part. But not really.
This week was a really hard week. Lots of let downs, lots of turn downs, lots of disappointments, lots of stress.
Wednesday was a doozer. As in a horrible day. We walked for about five hours in the heat and got absolutely no where. That's not an exaggeration. I couldn't tell you how many times we got lost and well, I'm getting frustrated again just thinking of it.
Thursday I had exchanges with Elder Naraja which actually didn't go bad at all. I've been with Elder Naraja for a really long time, so things seemed to just go pretty smoothly.
Friday I felt like I was in high school all over again. Saturday was temple tour and I wanted to make sure that everyone made preparations early and that everything was squared away. Did that happen? Absolutely not. Everyone waited until the last minute and then all the problems came straight to me.
Funny story actually. When we were scheduling the jeep, I confirmed with the elders whether they had done that or not and they responded that the driver had texted and said, "Elder Corpuz has scheduled the jeep" when I clearly wouldn't be asking if I had. Come to find out the other Elder Corpuz, who is Elder Posadas' companion scheduled our jeep making things just that much harder for us.
In the Philippines we don't have yellow pages, if you want something, you just need to know people. So we spent the rest of Friday night walking up and down our area, because people refused to reply to text messages, and got everything set, single-handedly. I was not a happy camper.
By Saturday, nearly half of the people cancelled and our jeep wasn't even half-way full. At that point, I just had to let go and laugh though. We were in good company by then. I was with good people, and there was nothing left to do.
We enjoyed temple tour and actually, as a surprise, we celebrated your birthday mom! Some of the closest sisters I know made a big poster for me to send home to you. I wanted to make it a surprise, but I couldn't wait because it doesn't sound like you exactly had the birthday of a queen. They had me sing again, which is always something I'm game for and I saw a lot of people I hadn't seen in a long time. Marcie and Oriel were able to come to help one of the people we are teaching feel comfortable and it was great to have them there.

My follow-up trainee and I were reunited with Ampid!
Some of the members I ran into from my third area, Ampid, Montalban.

And that was pretty much our week.
Trials. Trials. Trials. Life is bitter to everyone at some point.
Yesterday I was reading, being overcome by the mess of so many things. I felt like I didn't know who I was. The previous night I was told that I wasn't doing anything in the area and not doing any good. I got pretty down on myself, but I knew I could find the right thing I needed to hear if I just studied things out.
So I started from the beginning of a manual we use called Preach My Gospel that was put together to guide missionary work. The first chapter talks about our purpose as missionaries, and one sentence particularly stuck out to me. It reads, "As your understanding of the Atonement of Jesus Christ grows, your desire to share the gospel will increase." After more than a year and a half in my mission, I realized that I had no idea what that meant, and I needed to know. This is what I learned.
Life is all about understanding. In any sense of pain, pain knows no defense on true understanding. When we truly understand life, and it's problems, we can see that even the worst things have a purpose in this grand design. If there's anything anyone needs to understand in life, it's undoubtedly the Atonement of Jesus Christ. Let me give you a little mini-lesson here to give you a little background.
In order to understand the Atonement, you have to understand the Fall of Adam first. We all know the story of Adam and Eve. Eve ate the fruit and they were cast out of the Garden of Eden and into the real world. At that time, they were subjected to the effects of mortality - death, disease, and suffering. Yet on the contrary, we see that this fall was needed and part of God's plan for us as His children. Now, Adam and Eve had the opportunity to know good from evil, sickness and health, and basically learn to appreciate life. They were given the chance to progress. They were given the chance to grow. They were given the chance to be happy.
What the Atonement does is cover the gruesome effects of the fall. It paid for sin and physical death; we know now that we can be saved by the healing power of Jesus Christ's grace. The Atonement is comprised of these main parts - the suffering in the Garden of Gethsemane, the suffering on the cross, the ressurection, and is finally characterized by his triumph over physical death. Although a painful fate, physically, emotionally, and spiritually, Jesus Christ submitted to the Father's will because of his love for Him, and his love for us, and did so, so that he could become our ultimate teacher and friend. The scriptures tell us that he experienced all pain, temptions, and afflictions of every kind, so that he could know how to help and comfort us in times of trouble. Just as a teacher, a teacher must study a lesson out first, before they can teach their students and help their students in times when they are needed. Because of the Atonement, we can be sure that we are never alone.
This morning, when I asked Elder Shumway how you can understand something, he responded with what Spongebob would have to say on that matter - when Spongebob was trying to make a sculpture, he said that we had to "be" the sculpture.  You have to be it, lick it, smell it, rub it, wash it, dry it, flaunt it, freeze it... alright those other things may be unpertainable, but the first is. It's inspired, it's genius.
In order to receive the effects of the Atonement in our lives, we have to "be" the Atonment. We are forgiven for our sins as we accept the Gospel in our lives. We accept the Gospel by living it's principles and through continual repentance. If we do so, God promises us that He will forgive us. He will wipe away the guilt of sin, and we will ultimately be able to someday, return to Him. The LDS version of the scriptures Bible Dictionary says that, "The Atonement... touches everyone to the degree that he has faith in Jesus Christ..." And at the same time, we must remember that we have to do our part as well, because although it is unconditionally given to us, it is conditional on how we choose to use it.
Now if you've just been skimming the email, this is the part you want to actually read.
An understanding of the Atonement is the greatest shield against sadness and comfort in times of trial. Here are the two main conclusions I've found as an answer to my initial question.
When we better understand the Atonement, we are more able to help ourselves. One of the most beautiful quotes I read in Preach My Gospel was something I found on page 52 that reads, "As we rely on the Atonement of Jesus Christ, He can help us endure our trials, sicknesses, and pain. We can be filled with joy, peace, and consolation. All that is unfair about life can be made right through the Atonement of Jesus Christ." The Atonement gives us assurance and hope for the future as we are able to understand that although life can be cruel, it can be made right and we can make it right because of the infinite sacrifice of Jesus Christ.

And even more importantly to me, when we better understand the Atonement, we are more able to help others. Just as BYU's motto reads, we enter to learn, and go forth to serve. When we apply the Atonement in our relationships we desire to better understand others so that we can help them better. We take our time to understand differences instead of arguing and console people as the Savior would, through pure love and understanding. These things would not be possible if we didn't first understand the role and purpose of the Atonement for ourselves, because we cannot help others beyond our own understanding.
This week, I've been paticularly touched by two people who have a very good knowledge of the Atonement, my new big brother and big sister: Marcie and Sister Lubrido. (Who coincidentally have a mutual friend that happens to be Marcie's girlfriend we found out last temple tour. What a small world!)
On temple tour on Saturday, I said bye to Sister Lubrido and Sister Mila for the final time since they will be going home next week. You know me, bad at goodbyes and full of tears. Sister Lubrido is the best big sister figure I could have ever asked for, or "Ate" as we call them here in the Philippines. In the Atonement, she particularly understands the principle of love. She shows her knowledge and testimony of the Atonement through her kindness and love for others. She always considers others first and just always wants others to be happy. She is happy, if others are happy. It's rare especially in a world today that is so focused on "me". It was so hard to say goodbye to her and I'll miss her a lot. No sister has touched my life more than she has. I know you'll love her message for you on your poster mom.
The remembrance page Ate made for me.

My and Ate's last picture.
Kuya & Ate.
An even harder principle of the Atonement to live, is the principle of change. Being able to grasp the Atonement's power and realize that it can help people change is really difficult. Change is hard. But one thing I've seen in Marcie, my new "kuya," is that he understands that it's possible. He has been willing to change and adapt to whatever needs I've had and wants to understand me so he can better help me - all motivated by pure love. He recognizes his faults and realizes that because of the Atonement, he can change. As my big brother, he pushes me to learn, grow, and be exactly obedient. He helps me to better understand the Atonement. I've learned more from him about being a good missionary and good person than any other person my whole mission. I will be eternally grateful that he understands how to use the Atonement in his life.
After studying all these things out I realized that the quote in Preach My Gospel is true.

When we better understand Jesus Christ's sacrifice there is a chain effect.
The more we understand, the more we grow. The more we grow, the more we can help, The more we can help, the more we can love.
I know that's true because of you mom. Above all, you understand the Atonement better than anyone I've ever met, because you understand it's principle of sacrificing for those you love. I couldn't count the nights of endless sleep you've sacrificed for me because of work or because of my own immaturity. And to me mom, you are the closest thing to the Savior. Regardless of whatever mistakes I've made, you've always been right by my side and will always be right by my side. From the nights when I was little, when you would come into our rooms after a long night of work, thinking we were asleep, and kissing us each on the forehead before you would go to bed, to the nights where I was as much as five hours late to curfew, your love never changed to me. And I am who I am today, because of you. You are the best mom. You know how to have faith. You know how to endure. You know how to love.
Happy late birthday again mommy. Sending you love from across the globe.
Elder Corpuz