I hope that everyone has been having a good week. This past two weeks were a little rougher than most, but I learned a lot of lessons I wouldn't have without it. From almost getting hit by a super typhoon, to being dropped by almost all of our investigators, the past two weeks had it all.
Almost the entirety of our teaching pool rejected us this week leaving us with almost no one to teach. The week prior me and my companion were unfathomably sick, therefore we didn't work for a solid 4-5 days. Anyone who has been on a mission knows how much of a killer that is for the work. Recovering from sickness isn't the easiest in the Philippines and coupled with the vast droves of rejection, our mental capacity was at a breaking point. And then, the most unexpected thing happened. A bug flew directly into Elder Stout’s ear.
This bug did not just fly in there and cause a minor annoyance. It proceeded to lodge itself so deep that the earwax prevented Elder Stout from getting it out. We went home immediately and used the collective three braincells that most young men have to remove the insect. Our efforts, of course, were completely foolish and vain. We then, wisely, contacted the mission leaders and promptly went to the hospital. The hospital is a good 1.5-hour journey, so it took up the rest of our day just to get there. When we finally got to the hospital they told us they couldn't see anything in the ear, so we would have to visit the ENT the next day. This was pretty frustrating because it would take up a majority of our Saturday which is the most critical day since most people can only meet with the missionaries on Saturday or Sunday.
The next day we went back up to the city and after a lot of searching, we found an ENT clinic that was open. After waiting for a few hours, we saw the doctor and he said there was nothing in his ear but he should take all this medicine anyway. We consulted the mission leaders, and they told us to buy the medicine just to be safe. We tried using the mission insurance card, it got denied, and so we had to come back the next day with more money! We luckily had enough to pay for the appointment but not the medicine. This meant that after church on Sunday, our second most busy day, we would make the long journey to buy some medicine. The travel expenses coupled with the medical expenses have left us nearly destitute for the next week (also transfer week). It was not the most enjoyable time, but I learned so much the past week of the Lord's goodness, mercy, and longsuffering toward his ungrateful and sinful children.
I'm not going to lie and say I handled these weeks with the grace of a trained dancer. I will admit that I did my fair share of murmuring as we encountered trial after trial. They were seemingly endless and kept piling on an already hazardous week. Then, on Saturday afternoon we walked deep into the jungle to one of our recently baptized converts and a progressing investigator. We taught them a lesson and the whole time it was filled with attentive listening, good questions, joy, and the spirit. By the end of the lesson, I had such a joy and confidence that I hadn't felt in a long time. A hope that despite my trials, God was still looking out for us. Then, I began to feel embarrassed. I had spent the whole walk into the jungle complaining and murmuring that all our work had been for nothing. That all of our investigators had dropped us, and that I wish we were just given a break.
Walking back, I realized I had forgotten my Lord. I had forgotten that despite my trials I needed to:
"...press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope, and a love of God and of all men. Wherefore, if ye shall press forward, feasting upon the word of Christ, and endure to the end.." (2 Nephi 31, 20)
That scripture began reverberating in my head. "A perfect brightness of hope". Was I representing that very well? Not at all. I needed to change, repent, and walk with a "steadfastness in Christ". I thought of the story of Nephi. Despite being hung to a mast for three days, he never murmured against his God. He remained, in all darkness, a perfect image of hope. I learned that relying on the Lord is to remember the words of Paul to the Philippians (Chapter 4).
“I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.” (Philippians 4:13)
Sometimes we expect that the strength of the Lord will always give us some untold super power to easily overcome all our trials. This, however, is not always what I think will be given to us. Sometimes the strength of Christ gives us the ability to have hope. That even through the tears in our swollen eyes and our cries unto Heaven, we have a hope for good to come. God spake unto Joseph Smith in Liberty Jail. In D&C 122 it reads:
7. ...If the heavens gather blackness, and all the elements combine to hedge up the way; and above all, if the very jaws of hell shall gape open the mouth wide after thee, know thou, my son, that all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good.
8 The Son of Man hath descended below them all. Art thou greater than he?
Let us not forget the Lord in the time of our affliction. He is our Savior, our Redeemer, our All. He descended below all things and yet he kept his light aflame. Through him, all of our trials, tears, cries, and anguish will be for our good. Of this I testify, in his name, even Jesus Christ, amen.