News: I am leaving Enid! I've served in the Enid West area for the past two transfers (6 weeks per transfer), but now I get to move to Norman, English-speaking! Norman is in the South Oklahoma City area. I have no idea what it is like there. Apparently I will be companions with an Elder Larsen (from Southern Utah). As far as Enid, Elder Menlove will now be with Elder Nicholas on the west side and Elder Smith will be training the new Marshallese elder, Elder Lazarus. I had the realization today that I might not come back to a Marshallese area for the rest of my mission. I have no guarantee of where I will go; I may have served the duration of my stay with the Marshallese this early in. That makes these next few days all the more precious.
One person I will miss teaching is John. John is someone we met through Jebet, one of the members here. They are both 16 years old and they had a friendly debate on prophets, to which Jebet called us in on to back up his side. We don't look for opportunities to argue, but they are both friends and it wasn't heated, so we went over to his house, feeling like it could be a good teaching opportunity. It was.
John changed from asking us questions to test our knowledge, to sincerely questioning us on topics he was unsure about but wanted answers to. Lessons with him are honestly so refreshing because with Marshallese people in general, they are vaguely Christian but don't have much religious education so they struggle with questions like "What is faith?"; John struggles with questions like "What is faith?" because he analyzes everything and then asks 3 follow up questions for every answer we give. He asks us questions I have never been asked before. John is the kid that every mission prep and seminary teacher prepares you for because each lesson we study beforehand pretty much goes like "What deep question is he going to ask us this time, and what are some Bible and Book of Mormon scriptures can we us to back up our answers?" Last lesson we were able to give him a Book of Mormon and he said that if he reads, prays, and receives an answer that it is true, he will happily be baptized. We're stoked.
On thing that I have been thinking about is faith and trust in God. In my personal study this morning, I learned that faith in God and trust in Him are developed by 1) learning more about who He is and getting acclimated with His character, and 2) being tempered through experience.
When a sword (or any blade) is being created, if it is good-quality steel, the blade will have been "tempered" through a process of heating and cooling. These extreme temperature changes strengthen the steel and allow it to take some abuse. Untempered steel is subject to breaking when put under stress.
The same is true of our faith and trust. It's difficult to have faith in or trust someone you don't know. Thus we must draw closer to God and get to know who He really is. This can be accomplished by diligent prayer and scripture study, and going to church. Someone seeking will be rewarded with the discovery of God's character. We will get to know Him. However, without tempering, this newly developed faith and trust will be at risk of shattering. We must experience for ourselves that God's teachings are true, that they will bless our lives and that He does keep His promises. This tempering often occurs in the furnace of trial and challenges that life brings. Staying true in these instances and allowing God to help us through will strengthen our faith in Him. But, just as the steel is repeatedly heated and cooled, we too can experience the cool and refreshing experiences of taking a step of faith and testing a gospel principle or trusting in a promise God has made and applying it in our lives.
A good example: the Book of Mormon. In 1 Corinthians chapter 2, Paul promises us that we can only learn of spiritual things through spiritual means. At the end of the Book of Mormon, Moroni--an ancient prophet--promises us that if we read the Book of Mormon and ask God sincerely if it is true, He will answer us by the power of His Spirit and tell us if it is true. I have applied this principle in my life. Having read the Book of Mormon and prayed about it, I have received a witness that it is true. This has strengthened my faith in God and my trust that He will follow through on His promises. When my faith has been tested on my mission, I have been able to draw on this experience, among others, to strengthen me and help me continue to act in faith and trust God.
With this in mind, my challenge this week is to strengthen and develop your faith and trust in God by trying one of His promises for yourself. Allow Him to prove that His teachings are true. Live a gospel principle that you have been struggling with or were unsure about. God promises us that He will bless us for our obedience to His commandments. I promise that if you choose a commandment or principle, or promise to apply in your life, God will come through, He will keep His word, you will feel a difference in your life, and your faith and trust in Him will be tempered against the coming stress and abuse life will throw on you.
You're all the best! I'll give you word on Norman next week!
Elder Josh Kilmer
Oklahoma, Oklahoma City Mission, Marshallese/English speaking
Fudoshin: immovable spirit