Hope everything is going great. As the days turn into weeks, I'm starting to receive fewer and fewer letters. Despite this decline, there remain two constants: Mom and Dad! You guys are awesome!
Stinks to hear about Brigham's shoulder. Sounds like you're quickly turning into the classic Blake mold I set the standard for: bad shoulders, no contact, just games. It has its pros and cons. Know this: I know with certainty that God answers prayers. I'm praying for you and the team multiple times a day. I'm sure you all at home are too. The motto for the mission my mission prep teacher gave when times get tough: "Trust in God and WORK!' The same applies to football. The same applies to life. I know God has a plan for you. Trust Him.
This reminds me: just got the package. Not really sure why I'm gonna need the fleece blanket but I appreciate it! The football stuff, on the other hand, is the best gift I've gotten in a while. These socks! Vaca santa! (Holy cow). Sooooo cool. Where did they come from? And the article? AWESOME. So proud of you 52. Stay humble though. And the program book and t-shirt were great surprises that put a huge smile on my face! On the same note, thanks so much Mom and Grandma and Grandpa Bringhurst for the baked good packages! You never appreciate how good Mom/Dad's oatmeal fudgies and Grandma/Grandpa's handmade cookies are until they have to be shipped to you. I'm rationing them so as to stretch out the intake of love as long as possible - one bite of OF after dinner and 1 cookie after lunch. At this rate, I'll get a little taste of my favorite people until I leave the MTC!
Ok, so my relationships are improving substantially. One of my companions is still driving me (and everyone else in the room) nuts. Just working on seeing the positive and ignoring his stupid comment. I've been praying for charity, unconditional love, and for more patience, and I'd like to share 2 really cool answers I've gotten to my prayers. I've been way too self-centered and thinking back, last week's email was kind of embarrassing. I've learned before the lesson to give everyone the benefit of the doubt in all regards, but these past few weeks, I've forgotten it.
The 1st Example: One of my two companions. The other one was on a temp split with a different missionary all day, so we got to teach one of our mock-investigators just us two. The lesson was going alright, but we could both feel that we were doing too much talking and he wasn't feeling much. Well, my companion just out of nowhere, in Spanish, bore his testimony of the comforting power of the Holy Ghost in his life. He shared the story of how 2 years ago, his mom passed away of stomach cancer and the only reason he's still standing today is the Holy Ghost. Then, knowing he dropped a big life story that I had no clue of, told me the rest of the story in English. He described his life the last 3 years. Wasn't planning on a mission, then his Mom was diagnosed. He watched her slowly deteriorate for about a year until she finally passed one summer. The next summer? His best friend committed suicide out of the blue...
I was overcome with sympathy and grief, yet deep respect and admiration at the same time. I can't imagine a 1-2 punch like that. No words. But then he said this: "That's why I'm on a mission. My mom wanted me to be here. I know I'm gonna see them again."
It never occurred to me that this Elder was carrying any baggage. He's always studied hard, but at times his shy, quiet nature has irked me a little. He doesn't take too much initiative. Man! How could I emphasize these "defectos" when he's got so much he's put behind him.
2nd Example: Elder Teio. Elder Teio arrived from Tahiti on Tuesday and will be serving in Tucson, AZ, speaking Spanish. The best part? He doesn't speak English. I've been worrying a bit about my Spanish ability, yet praying for charity and selflessness, and look who the Lord sends to cross my path. He can barely communicate with us, let alone with his investigators. That night, we have a mini testimony meeting after the devotional. Everyone in the room was thinking "What is he gonna do?" as we got closer to his turn. Well, he got up, stood there for about 10 seconds, and said "My dad served mission. My grand pa served mission. Uncle served mission. Its commandment. Why I serve mission." He is just such a strong example of faith, strength, and obedience. He's got the most positive attitude and I just have this feeling I've met a life-long friend. We've already seen improvement, and I have no doubt that he will finish the mission fluent in both Spanish and English - the Gift of Tongues is real!
I hope the examples of these two missionaries will help you all re-appreciate your many blessings, as they've helped me do. Whenever you get down, just know that there are millions of people who have it much worse. With that being said, "worse" isn't a great word. I have a firm testimony that God allows us to endure trials, affliction, and heartache because He loves us. They serve to shift our perspective on life. They serve to strengthen us physically, mentally, and spiritually. One of my absolute all-time favorite scriptures is Psalm 23: "Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear NO evil, for Thou art with me." I don't have my Bible with me, but I think that's right. We all walk through our own "valley of the shadow of death" everyday. In the moment, it's pretty dang dark. About the worst I can draw upon would be a mild case of depression - feeling that there was just no one out there that I could really call a friend. That was in 5th/6th grade and I'm happy to say things turned out just fine. The only other? Tearing my ACL 2 weeks before Needham. Thats NOTHING, compared to poverty, compared to sickness/death, compared to seeing a loved one endure something hard. "My cup runneth over." I'm soooo blessed. In reality, everyone is going to have their own challenges. I know that as you fight them, fight through the "valley of the shadow of death," you will emerge a better person; a stronger person, a better friend, a better husband/wife, a better whatever you are! I also know that God has not forgotten us. He has sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to take upon every single sin, weakness, imperfection, injury, and trial, of every single person that will walk this earth. He has drawn up the most perfect playbook: The Plan of Salvation. The Plan of Happiness. As we follow Jesus Christ and allow Him to lift our burdens, as we exercise faith in Him and endure through our trials, we will truly find happiness. If you are of this same belief, what are you doing to grow closer to Him? If you aren't, I'll challenge you again, this time a little differently: God loves you. He wants to hear from you, individually, about these problems. He wants to help you with them. Pray to Him. Talk to Him. And if the prospect just seems ridiculous, I would plead for you to find a Bible and open up James 1:5. This is the verse that Joseph Smith, a mere 14 year-old boy, read when he doubted. Earnestly seeking truth, we only need to do but one thing - pray.
The Book of Mormon is the chief support God has sent us to overcome our problems. Read it. Pray to God and ask if it's not true. He will confirm the truth to you, if you go to Him with a sincere, open heart.
This is the message I will be devoting the next 2 years of my life to sharing. I share what I know to be true. I share it because I know that it will bless the life of every single person that lets it. I know.
A few logisticalities: 1. Dad - keep preaching. I love hearing advice about the mission and about life. You are the number one example to me of righteousness, consecration, sacrifice, charity, perseverance, responsibility, attitude etc. Nothing you could ever tell me would come off as preachy; I'm soaking up any advice you have that will help me emulate you better and sooner! Robin started as a cool coincidence but you really are a superhero in my eyes.
2. Thank Beth Shedd for me! It feels awesome to know that what I'm doing is making people more curious.