Monday, November 26, 2012

Dear Family and Friends,

We had a good week, working hard. Starting yesterday I started feeling ill and am feeling pretty sick today. Hopefully I can get over it by this evening or at least by tomorrow. We have a lot of work to do. 

I want to make a quick note. I have received your letters my good friends, and am now looking to make the time to reply. It means so much to me to know that you are thinking of me and writing me. Though I get so caught up in the people here, their challenges, questions, struggles, and learning that I often forget all else, know that I too wish you all the very best and will write you back as soon as possible.

As one may well be able to detect from the pattern of my blogs, I am really putting everything into what I am doing here. The moment comes to write and I feel helpless to describe my thoughts, experiences, and feelings in such a short amount of time, in such a concrete way as words. 

So let me say this, I know that God lives. To me that means that He is the most important thing there is, because He, even now, is aware of me, of you, of us, and if we will just believe in Him, everything can change in an instant. All that we see and experience around us is only for a time. One has to come to know for themselves that what they are doing with their life, what they do with their time and efforts, is something that matters. It can matter when we realize that we are preparing ourselves even now to live once more with our Father. 

Though my tired mind is struggling to be coherent in this message, I would invite you to consider what it is you believe in. If you believe in a God, how does that change what you do, what you think, how you treat others? I would argue that one who does not change as a result of a belief (in any idea or concept) does not truly believe. 

I will finish today once more declaring that there is a God, and that He is our Father. This means that He loves us, He loves you. Are we willing to accept His love?

Much love,
Elder Brighton

Monday, November 19, 2012

Dearest Family and Friends,

This week I would like to take a few minutes to talk about two things in particular. First, an experience I had this last week. Serving now as the district leader, I have the opportunity to meet with and talk with each person that makes the decision that they want to be baptized and make the covenant to follow the example that Jesus Christ gave us. It is a special time, when I am able to sit down and we are able to talk about what they have learned, how they have felt, and how they came to know that the message that we share is true. It lifts the spirit of both me and the interviewer and also the person who is able to share their feelings and commit to follow Christ.

This last week I was privileged to interview a mother and her two daughters. They have a pure and powerful testimony of the love of God and of the Restoration of His church. It was a special experience for me, being the first time, and really gave me an extra boost of encouragement and energy.

After leaving the interview I received a call from one of the Elders that has been helping these good women. He said that one of the daughters had requested that I baptize her. What an incredible opportunity (though it came as a bit of a surprise). And so this weekend I was able to get dressed all in white and enter the waters of baptism with Montserrat. It was a very powerful evening and all present were edified by the experience. I could feel the love that the Lord has for these women as they take this important step in their lives and let go of their past, whatever it may have held. And now, with faith and a vision fixed on the promises of the Lord, this family, and all those that have made this sacred covenant with the Lord will press forward, relying on His tender mercies in those difficult times and circumstances.

I also wanted to take a few minutes to address another topic.

This past week Elder U. and I had the opportunity to visit with many people for the first time. In these first visits very often people sense that they can trust us and begin to relate to us their feelings, their challenges, and the things they have suffered in their lives. We always listen carefully, hurting at the pain that so many have suffered. In several occasions we have left with a heart nearly broken, wondering how it could be that one person could have suffered so much. But time after time after time, this suffering and heartache, physical, emotional and spiritual comes from one primary reason. It comes from the infidelity, abandonment, or mistreatment by men. Husbands who decide that their lives would be easier without the burden of their wife and multiple children. Men caught up in the vices of the world, addicted to the lustings of their carnal mind, unwilling to listen to that voice of truth and reason granted to every man and woman.
I must admit I am somewhat unsure of how to communicate how I felt, how I feel after leaving the home of a woman that described a life of loneliness, sacrifice, and pain because a man decided to leave her with 5 children. The faithfulness and love of a mother to her children is the nearest we will ever see or experience in this mortal life to the love that God has for each of us.

A scripture from the Book of Mormon describes the situation so well as to what we have experienced. In his time, a prophet that lived here in the Americas, when teaching his people spoke to the men and called them to repentance. ¨Ye have broken the hearts of your tender wives, and lost the confidence of your children, because of your bad examples before them; and the sobbings of their hearts ascend up to God against you. And because of the strictness of the word of God, which cometh down against you, many hearts died, pierced with deep wounds.¨
And so I will leave those thoughts there and raise a cry. A cry for men of valor and courage. Men who understand what it means to be a man. For some this will require repentance, a change. For others this will require preparation. For those of my friends young like me with all the future before us, let us prepare ourselves now to be the kind of man and husband that our children will require. Prepare to put the family before the things of the world. Before work and money, before friends and outings. The man that stays at home on Friday evening to be with his wife instead of doing whatever else there is to do out there.
Do I sound a little exasperated, a little desperate? Let me tell you why. There are people suffering, children both young and grown, suffering because there was a man who was not willing to sacrifice. And so the woman and the children take the burden, and so often they break. They are crushed by the burden that was designed to fall on the broad shoulders of a man.

Amongst all this there is a beacon of hope. There are men that are good and loving. Men who have realized their errors and repented in humility, doing all they can to replace and fix the damage they have caused. Let this be a message of encouragement and hope. It is never too late. Through the Atonement of Jesus Christ we can change, we can be forgiven, and we can become the person we always hoped to be. Yes, it truly will take the infinite Atonement of a perfect Jesus Christ to change, to escape the consequences of the present. But I promise that it is possible.

And so I finish today with the plea for men of valor. For men of courage and sacrifice. Not men of the world, we already have enough of those. We do not need more ¨successful men¨. We can see the results in the world today of putting success ahead of family. Today I commit, however far away from you I may be, to be this type of man. I would invite, and plead that you would do the same, my good friends of all ages.

With love and hope,
Elder Brighton

With the ever-present limitations of time, this is completely unedited. But enjoy the rawness and realness of it.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Dearest Family and Friends,

Last Tuesday I went down into the city to receive my new companion. Elder U. is from Costa Rica. He is an older missionary, 26, and is an accountant. He worked before the mission for a company where he traveled frequently to Panama and Mexico on business. We get along very well and are working harder than ever. His maturity is really helping me to be completely committed to this work. In just this last week we have been able to do so much and meet, help, and teach a large number of people. 

I really feel like this opportunity to work with Elder U., although he has only one week in the field, is an incredible opportunity. We have already developed an open communication where we can express our thoughts, feelings, and opinions. This really allows us to change, improve, and learn from each other. We have a great work to do in this time. 

I think it is pretty interesting. Easily, 85-90% of missionaries are 18-21 years old. But so far, both of my companions here in Mexico have been significantly older. Elder U. learned about the church just 3 years ago, was baptized, and this short time later is serving a mission- leaving behind family, girlfriend of many years, home, and his career. All will be there for him when he returns home, but his desire and willingness to leave it all behind for a time reminds me the importance of this work.

I am doing quite well. I am in a unique position right now, doing my very best to help and teach someone much older and perhaps with much more experience than I. But I know in this calling as trainer and district leader I will be supported and inspired. Your continued prayers on my behalf are felt and appreciated. 

Much love, (little time)

Elder Brighton

Monday, November 5, 2012

Dear family and friends,

I have been somewhat neglegant these last few weeks in regards to the blog. I hope I have not lost too many people. I do have quite a bit of news to share this week.

As I have explained briefly before, every 6 weeks there is the possibility for transfers, or cambios, as we call them here. Having officially completed my ¨training¨ phase of 12 weeks, we knew that it was very likely my companion would be leaving for another area. Last night we received the phone call, and it brought quite a bit of suprise to all of us that have been working together the last three months. There have been six of us working more or less together in this area. We see each other twice a week. The phone call brought news that one companionship would be leaving. So the geographical area I cover has grown considerably. Additionally, I was informed that I will be training! That means that a brand-new missionary will be coming as my companion. It is certainly going to be a time of much learning and growth as I take the role of a trainer, having just yesterday finished my role as trainee. I will be going this evening down into the city to stay the night so as to be there tomorrow to receive the new Elder. It is very likely he will be a native speaker from here in Mexico, but I will not know until tomorrow. 

That news would have been plenty to keep me pondering, but it was not all. I have also been called to serve as the district leader. The district leader is the first point of contact for a missionary in the field. It is somewhat similar to the assignment I fulfilled for a time in the MTC, except that now we are in the field and the concerns and problems are very much more real. A district consists of anywhere between 2 and 4 or 5 companionships. Because of all of the changes here in this area, I do not know for sure who will be in my district here. Needless to say, that came as quite a surprise, especially since there are so many more Elders with much more time and experience in the field here. But I know I will be supported in this assignment. And all of your prayers on my behalf will be greatly appreciated. 

So that is more or less the extent of the big ¨news¨. Lots of changes. For a time my companion and I will live alone, I will have a new missionary to teach and train, I will be serving as a district leader, and our area is considerably larger. But this whale will be conquered and eaten one bite at a time. Beginning today, and tomorrow and the next. Such is the manner of doing hard, or perhaps even impossible things.Break it down into bite sized, possible portions.

I have heard a little bit of news about the hurricane. I hope that all is well and that the people that have lost their homes can find the means to provide for their families in this difficult time.

Since I have a few more minutes today, I want to share a few experiences.

What is it really that we are out here trying to do? We, as missionaries, are called to go out and bring a message of happiness and joy to people. Help them to change their lives by learning the restored gospel that Jesus Christ taught when he was on the earth. Understand how it is that in the same manner that God has called prophets in days past (Moses, Noah, Abraham) to lead the people- to help them understand the purpose of life and what they should do- God has once more called a prophet on the earth again. Our purpose is not to convince anyone of this, but rather to invite them to do what we have done, that is, ask God in prayer the truth. We can trust that the Creator of our bodies and soul can answer a simple question and help us know the truth, whatever it may be.
With that being said, we as missionaries invite all people to simply ask God the truth. We search for those humble enough to have the faith to ask, and to have the conviction and courage to act on the answer they receive.
In this past week I have been able to watch as a life begins to change. I will take the time to give a few details of this extended experience.

One day while waiting for a bus, we noticed a younger man also waiting. When he looked up and saw us, he came up and asked what time it was. We began talking to him and found out that he had lived for a time in the United States. Because time was short, we took down his address and said we would stop by another day. When we went to look for him several days later, I misread the direction and we went looking for #77 instead of 11. Because of this we ended up way down a street we would otherwise never have entered. It was there that we found a young man, clearly heavily affected by a life of drug use. He began talking with us, and we expressed that he could change. In the conversation that followed, in which we testified of the lives that have been changed through the power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ, he expressed his doubt. We invited him to just give it a try and see if it were not true. After another minute or two he wandered off, under the influence of some drug or another. But his friend who had been nearby approached us. We began talking and took down his address to stop by later. We did not think too much of it, although he did appear interested.

When we went by to visit him a few days later we found a man ready to change his life. To be brief in this part, because of some situations that had passed in his life, he was looking for a way to find peace, a way to give up his current lifestyle. Within one week we have already began to see as he has committed to give up drinking, smoking, and any other drug. He came to church on Sunday. He is quite and humble, someone who recognizes that man without God is truly nothing.

I testify that the Gospel of Jesus Christ changes lives. It allows men the opportunity to repent, that is to have a change of heart. More than just stop doing bad things, but have the true desires to do good things.

Please continue praying for me, I will be needing all the blessings and help I can get, especially these next couple weeks as there are so many new things.

Your faithful friend,
Elder Brighton