Monday, June 2, 2014

Dearest family and friends,

A couple of scattered thoughts and brief experiences.

This week we were led to find a family very prepared to receive the message. Their oldest son was baptized just over a year ago and made big changes in his life. In fact, he has already sent of his papers to serve as a misisonary and is awaiting the response. But despite all that, his family had never had contact with the missionaries since he was no longer living in his home. And so this week as we walked by where they lived we were invited in and realized quickly just how prepared they were. In short, with one invitation they happily made arrangements and went to church for the first time. They enjoyed themselves and expressed their desire to keep attending. The most satisfying part is that the father is leading the effort and has a great desire to make changes in his life and help his other children improve as well.

This week we were also finally able to meet with a referral from the Stake President. He is a husband of a member and has been attending on and off for 15 years. In our meeting with him the spirit was strong and he committed to baptism. He will be baptized this Saturday and is well prepared for this sacred step. In getting to know him we found out that he has a degree in accounting and a PhD in law. He is the founder and director of a national magazine and the CEO of a consulting firm. As we met with him Sunday afternoon he invited us into his office to have the lesson there. It was not until we had almost finished that I took a moment to look at the plaques and recognitions covering the walls. And yet as we teach, he was very attent and asked many impressive questions. All about how to apply the things we were teaching in his own life. 

I am grateful for the chance I have had to serve the Lord. I know that I have truly been his authorized representative and have felt his guiding influence and divine protection time and time again.

I have a strong mix of emotions as the date approaches. Without doubt I am looking forward to being with my beloved family again and be able to share so much with them. I recognize how much of their help I will need, especially as I make the big adjustments. 

And as excited as I am to be together again with my family, I also feel a deep stirring in my heart when I think about the people here I have served and am serving and think that I will not be able to be there to help them and know the details and hardships of their lives. 

(Here I will insert a note. For everyone that I will see and be with soon, please be patient with me. I believe the sudden drop back into my home and culture will be equally drastic as it was when I arrived to Mexico. The difference being that I now know that it is unlikely I will ever return and be able to live as I have for the last two years. So if I look a little out of it for a while, just know that I will get around. And who knows, maybe it will not be as stark as I am thinking. But in any case, I thank you for your love, patience, and support).

And so with all the energy of our hearts we are going to give it another week of dedicated service. Thank you all for everything you have done.

All my love,
Elder Brighton

Monday, May 26, 2014

Dearest family and friends,

We have been blessed to have another excellent week. We are teaching a couple of different families that are progressing and yesterday we were able to put ourselves in touch again with someone we were afraid we would not see again. 

Last week I told a little about Alberto. As a quick update, he now has a full-time job, with fixed hours and a salary. That is something truly unimaginable looking at where he was literally just two weeks ago. He has been truly blessed, and so have we as we have seen his progress. He works on Sundays and so for the time being will not be able to attend church or progress in that way, but what he has accomplished thus far is of itself a miracle. 

Every day requires a true and renewed effort, but it is not hard when I get thinking about all those people waiting and wanting to know more. And so here we go, another week.

Lots of love,
Elder Brighton

Monday, May 19, 2014

Dear family and friends,

Though I do not hope to do it justice in a simple email correspondence, I would like to share a few details of a special experience we had this last week.

My companion and I have been praying a lot over the last weeks to find people prepared to receive the message of Christ and of repentance. During this time, we have begun teaching over 25 new people, many of which have taught me different lessons. I would like to share the story of one of them named Alberto.

Last Tuesday my companion and I were walking down one of the main streets in a neighborhood when a young man that passed called out to us as he passed saying, "Elders". Since most people refer to us as "hermanos" and not Elders, we decided to quickly reach out to him and talk to him before he passed by. We quickly realized he was not in all of his 5 senses because of the effects of drugs, but he happily said hello and said he wanted to talk to us in another occasion. He told us vaguely where he lived and continued on his way, somewhat oblivious to all around him. We did not think much of the experience.

When the night time came and it was time to plan, the young man came into our minds and we were going to be near where he had indicated. We made plans to go and visit him. The following morning when we arrived, he was there and waiting for us. Because of the potentially larger audience of this letter I will skip a lot of the details of that first visit. Suffice it to say that he had very strong drug addicitions that he had had for a long time. Because of those addictions, the rest of his life had been strongly affected, involving him in atrocities of all kinds. At one point in the lesson he lifted up his shirt and showed us the still red and recent strips and scabs on his back from the thrashings that were given him as well as many burn scars from other experiences with violent torturings he had gone through. He told us many other things.

As we shared the lesson of the restoration of the gospel, church, and priesthood authority, he asked for a priesthood blessing to overcome both his addictions as well as what he considered to be curses that had been placed on him by dark and wicked people he had associated himself with earlier in his life. As we placed our hands on his head and began to gave him that priesthood blessing there was a change in the room. Few times have I ever felt so guided as I spoke, and I do not remember a time when I felt more real the power and authority that we hold. When the words and the blessing came to a close, we shook his hand, gave him a hug, and promised to return the following day. Really unsure of what we would find and what could possibly be done there. Truthfully, I had never heard things so dark and horrible as I did in that lesson that day.

We returned the next day to be the witnesses to the beginning of a miracle. Alberto told us the day previously had been perhaps the best of his life. He began to explain why. (Again, I will not be able to relate all that he told us, just because of time). 

He said, Elders I have something to confess. When you left yesterday I went into the bathroom to shower and change, and all of a sudden from deep down inside and without my expecting I began to sob like a child. I have not cried since I can remember, but I could not stop. As it came out I felt like I was being cleansed. And instead of feeling bad, I felt a great peace come over me as I wept and wept.

He had mentioned the day before that because of his situation he had not had contact with his mother or family for years. That very same day after showering and dressing he went out to visit her. In that visit his mother cried as he explained the changes he had felt and his new desire and power to overcome. (Since that day it seems he has had daily contact with her again).

He told us how he had planned that way to lie in wait for the two people that had whipped him and cut him with a glass bottle a few days before, with plans to return all the damage he could. That same afternoon when he ran into one of the young men, he grabbed him by the arm to keep him from running and then looking him in the eyes forgave him and exlained that he no longer wanted to have any problems. He forgave the man while his back was still oozing from the beating he had taken at his hands.

When he returned to his home, he pilled everything he had in his home that he had robbed or stolen or obtained from other unrighteous ways. He took the pile to the huge cliff drop-off that is in front of his house and threw it all over the edge. He included some inappropriate magazines that he had. He did a cleansing of his house.

And in short, that night he was able to make huge progress in his drug addictions, as he spoke with those that participate with him and explain that he will no longer be involved. He said that the cravings that he had felt daily for years were simply non existant now and he did not have a desire to participate. Additionally, a friend of his had called him constantly that night asking where he was and how he was doing, looking out for him and offering support, something he had not ever done, and on the very same day and night that he had made that decision and received the blesssing. He recongized it as the hand of the Lord.

The story of Alberto is just beginning and it is certainly not over nor is it won yet. Since that first day we have seen him almost every day as we strengthen his commitment and desire to not just leave bad things, but also replace them with the commandments of God and a firm commitment to obey them. He has introduced us to his friend, and we are now teaching him, his wife, and his daughter.

The power of the Priesthood of God is real. It healed people through their faith in the times of Christ, and it continues to heal those that have faith today. I am a witness of its power working through me blessing the lives of others in drastic and unbelievable ways. I know God lives.

with love,
Elder Brighton

Monday, April 7, 2014

With so very much going on it can be really hard to narrow anything down and get it written out. Here are a couple of highlights of the week.

This week I ate a couple of pickled pig`s feet. I was thinking I might make it all the way through without doing it, but was given the opportunity and took advantage. They take the pig hoof, soak it in vinegar for some period of time and ... ready! I polished off the first one and went back for seconds. 

General conference was a great and uplifting experience. As always, all of my questions were answered in a very direct way. It does not stop surprising me how everytime they come right out and almost state my question and then the answer. Impressive.

My companion is coming along in his spanish. It is harder than I thought it would be, but I know things will work out. 

We are staying focused and working hard. Sometimes I am really tired, the accumulated fatigue of two years, but time and again I feel the renewing power of the Holy Ghost help to strengthen me. 

I know this gospel is true. I have a great desire to share it with all those that I love, both those here in Mexico, and most especially those I will be among soon in my home. 

Lots of love,
Elder Brighton

Monday, March 31, 2014

This week I was able to put everything in order for class registration and academic planning from Rice, so time ran out, but that is over now and I feel a whole lot better. 

Have a great week!

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Family and friends, This is just a short note, be sure to continue on  to his letter from the 15th if you have not read it already.

We were given a few minutes to write and let our families know that all is well. Mostly for the new missionaries arriving. My new companion is Elder Smedley. When I went to pick them up in the airport I felt something pretty special in meeting him and it was confirmed when we were assigned to work together. His spanish is pretty basic, but we are going to work hard and get going fast. 

It is a weird sensation to be back in where I started. So far we have only been able to visit a couple of families, but all of them have greeted us with a lot of excitement and joy, so it makes me feel really special and loved as well. 

We have a lot of work ahead of us and we are going to need more faith than ever. I can see the potential, but the climb is steeper than ever. It is no easy path, but there is no looking back. I humbly ask for your prayers on both of our behalf.

Lots of love,
Elder Brighton

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Dearest family and friends,

This week was a great one and full of miracles. I would like to share just a couple of brief experiences. Yesterday I saw the hand of the Lord stronger and more uncovered than ever before. While working with Elder Bentall we were humbled and blessed by the Lord. During one day we had 5 separate occasions in which people contacted us and asked that we come and teach them and their families.

It began with the family of a less active member. We had invited them several times without much interest expressed. But yesterday was we said hello to them in passing they called us over and asked a couple of questions. After answering, the father of the family asked, “When will you come to talk with me and my family?” (first family).

As we walked to our next appointment, full of awe and gratitude, we were surprised to hear someone calling us from behind. A man approached and explained that he had been baptized in Salt Lake and had received the Aaronic priesthood there. He called us over and asked us to visit and teach his cousin. In talking with her she asked if we could come back the next day. We will be taking her to the chapel today to give a tour (second).

As we continued on our way, and within 15 minutes we were stopped by another young man. He was baptized in Mexico and pleaded that we visit him since he has not had contact with the church since arriving to Guadalajara. Surely there are others to teach in his home (third).

Our evening plans had fallen through, so we were on our way to visit a recent convert when someone honked their horn and pulled over. A sister from the ward asked if we could come to her home that evening to teach their family members, one of which is a recent convert. We agreed and made the arrangements. When we arrived later to the house only the sister was there and was still waiting on her brother and sister-in-law to arrive. She insisted that we pass, but we kindly declined and said we would be right back as soon as her brother arrived. As we turned back down the street, unsure of what to do, we heard someone call out. Dumbstruck we turned to the man and began a conversation. As he expressed his situation and his desire to learn tears nearly rolled down his cheeks. He said that that day he had felt particularly down and knew that God had sent us there at that moment to talk to him. (fourth)

The man told us where he lived (a couple blocks away) and said that right now he was just visiting some friends. Elder Bentall asked if they might be interested. They came out and we spoke to them as well. In short time we realized they had listened to missionaries before and already had copies of the Book of Mormon. They enthusiastically accepted an invitation to listen again, mentioning that the whole family would be interested (fifth).

Now almost overwhelmed, we returned to the home of the sister where her brother had now arrived and went in. Before starting she said, “Elders, when you left I started thinking about how you declined the invitation to come in. How wonderful it is to see such dedication and discipline. I think if we were all so obedient the world would be so different. Thank you for that example.” We then shared the experience we had just had, showing that when we are obedient God blesses us. Perhaps we could have entered and waited the 4 minutes that it took for her brother to arrive, but God had placed, positioned, and prepared the hearts of two families just 5 houses away to receive two obedient missionaries. Had we made the “harmless” decision to enter when we felt and knew we should not, we would have lost the blessing of finding those two families. (After a moment of silence where the Spirit testified of the truth, the good sister immediately, and without prompting, gave us the name of a dear friend she had wanted to invite for quite some time).

It was a beautiful experience, one I will never forget.  There were so many lessons learned.
I know this is the work of the Lord and that He is capable of doing it. He allows us to participate to witness His power. I am grateful I have been given the chance to be here. Miracles are occurring and will continue in this mission.

With that said, I have pretty big news. Monday I will be leaving the offices and heading back out. I have been assigned to train a new missionary. And we have been assigned to work in .... AUDITORIO. That is the area I spent the first year of my mission. President says he has not done this before but feels that we will be able to help a lot of people there. Several families to continue teaching and help to come back. I was somewhat overwhelmed to think about it all and am still a little nervous about everything. But it is going to be great and I know it will be an unforgettable time. 

So the conditions are set, everything is in place, and now it is time to both witness and take part in miracles. 

I am not sure how else to express myself, but I am truly grateful for the chance I am being given. I dedicate myself to this cause. During the course of my mission all of my dreams and hopes have come true. Who could have ever imagined? It is truly unbelievable.

I love you all and testify that I know this is the work of God. This is His Kingdom on earth. All are welcome and invited. 

Elder Brighton