Thursday, August 15, 2013

Learning to Listen

Everybody has a story inside of them. You just have to take the time to read it. I have met many people, and have read many of their stories. My mind is a pool of these collected experiences, swirling around inside my head. Stories of happily ever afters, adventures, quests, and triumphs over challenges. Others tell of abuse and oppression, some only knowing misery. I have rejoiced with many as they have rejoiced. And at other times I have wanted to cry along side with these people as they cried. There is once instance in particular on my mission that surfaces the pool occasionally. And I will be forever for that experience, let me share it with you.
Let's take a journey to Ogden, Utah. A city nestled along the side of the Wasatch Mountain range. It is very diverse, with older suburban housing subdivisions placed between very busy streets. Its residents are very diverse, many originating from different states, and even countries. There are areas that are very wealthy, down to developments that are poverty stricken. It is laden with opportunities to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Every now and again we will go on what we call "exchanges" where we will switch missionary companions for twenty-four hours. This particular exchange I was sent to a Spanish speaking area for the day. When I went on this particular exchange. I took a step into a whole new world. In this world, I was not able to communicate verbally. It gave me the opportunity to observe missionary work from a different angle. For so long, I was used to talking and talking and talking. And now, I could practice something even more important, than worrying about what to say next.

I could learn to listen.
Listening is more than opening our ear canals and processing verbiage.
To listen, is to feel, it's to relate, and open our hearts to people. Before missionaries can introduce them the gospel, we have to find out where these people are in their lives.
And then guide them to God.
My day was filled with mostly silence on my part. Our last lesson for the evening, we taught a young woman whom we will call Ana, She had recently escaped from an abusive marriage and had been recovering at a shelter for abused women. The house had very little furniture and was in very poor condition. The light in the home was dim, but the Spirit there was so loving and truthful. The elder I was with and a member of the Spanish ward taught most of the lesson. But I was able to share my testimony about the Atonement.

With my companion translating for me, I asked how much she loved her daughter, who she was holding on her lap and she responded, "She is my life..." and then I explained to her the love she has for her daughter, is similar to that same love that Christ had for us when he willingly offered himself as a sacrifice. And no matter how much pain, sorrow, and anguish we go through, his love and his sacrifice makes up for everything. And through him, we can be strengthened, healed no matter how broken, and have hope that we will live again someday.
I will never be able to relate to Ana, or any of you, and I will not pretend to know how you feel. But I know there is one who does feel our pains and carries our sorrows with us. His name is Jesus Christ, and He hears the things of our hearts, that no one else can. As we learn of Him, and act in His name, we can find lasting happiness, and look forward to a brighter day.

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