Monday, December 30, 2013

A Mile in My Shoes

Freinds and Family!
Hope you had a wonderful Christmas filled with warmth and love from above. (Didn't mean for that to rhyme) I had a wonderful Christmas and Christmas Eve. On Christmas eve we got to visit our Filippino family in the ward, The Poquita's and they had a beautiful set up of all these Filippino dishes, which made the typical American ham look kind of odd being on the same table. The food was soo good, things like Stained Glass jello, cassava cake (some sort of potato concoction thrown into a casserole..apparently it's a Filippino dish) Much better than the food was the Spirit we felt. The Poquita's had invited several non-member neighbors over and had planned for us to leave a spiritual message. So we watched the mormon message about the Christmas pageant that turns into the nativity, then shared Isaiah 9:6. I have felt a new peace or adoration this year unlike anything I've felt in the past as I've contemplated the name given to the Savior, "The Prince of Peace."
I don't know about you, but this world isn't the most...peaceful place to live. In fact, it's pretty terrible. Pretty gloomy and dark. But this season, I have gained a greater perspective of why we really "adore" a little boy born in Bethlehem around this time every year. It's because He was the one and only answer. The ONLY hope.
Christmas morning we woke up at 5 10 in the fruit pickin' morning. I swear even Santa is in bed by that time. The Shahan's wanted us at their house at 6:30 and they live in Timbuktu on the DE/MD border so we had to plan for that. But we had a wonderful morning with them and the Spirit of Christ was their as we shared a message about why we even celebrate this season. The Shahan's got us each grooming kits, socks, a tie, and stocking full of candy and knick knacks. I tried Scrapple for the first time. If you really want to know what scrapple is ask me later. Don't want to make everyone vomit. But it's pretty tasty and there was just tons of food for only 11 people including their kids and another single member. It was fun to see the little kid's faces light up.
We ended up going to 5 member's homes Christmas day and they were all just welcoming and wonderful and we felt the Spirit with each of them. It really did feel like "home away from home"
Jackie is out of the rehab center and back home with Bill, she didn't make it to church because she wanted to spend time with him. She says she reads her Book of Mormon, but has no clue what she's reading. Ha we went to Cardin's on Tuesday during the day and planned to finish teaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ... but somehow he said he had some issues, then we asked what they were and it took us on a long, in-depth, unplanned discussion on the one and only Law of Chastity. Boy was that fun.  He had several questions and concerns that kept the conversation going, but we were able to help him see that sexual purity is a commandment from God, not the Mormons or Joseph Smith. But God. Kind of a bigger deal that way. He has a really good heart and I'm excited to see where he goes with this. It may take more time than I personally would like, but the salvation of a soul is worth all the time in the world. I'm sure I won't be able to say again that I taught a very in-depth lesson on sexual purity on Christmas Eve...
We went out to Woodland Beach 20 feet of beach on the Delaware River..wooohoo! We're not allowed to go on beaches anymore because Sisters posted pictures of themselves touching the water...But we went out there to find. And find we did not. A bunch of uninterested people and a lot of miles to get out there. But we have seen miracles of success with the referrals members give us. They don't complain about the "caliber" of people we're finding, and those they do bring to us already have friends in the church. We got two such referrals last week that we're still working on contacting, but hey it's a miracle that we got them. Our other investigators are either kind of flaky at the moment or we're not sure if they're fully accountable...soo, yeah we need to find. But the Lord guides us as we labor in His vineyard, I can sure attest to that. Some days are better than others. We are having fun and trying not to stress (aka me) but ya know, living the Gospel of Jesus Christ really is the best remedy to all stress, all pains and suffering. And when we are converted, we can be like the Anti-Nephi-Lehies who "never did fall away" as they did "lay down their weapons of rebellion." (Alma 23:6-8) Never fall away, EVER.
Have a safe and prosperous New Year.! 2014!!
Elder Jacob Robins

Monday, December 23, 2013

Jesus Was No Ordinary Man

Merry Christmas!
Isn't the Christmas Season just wonderful? I feel so blessed to have felt the Spirt of Christmas, or the Spirit of Christ especially this year. I won't be home for Christmas this year, but I have lost myself in this work and I don't want to come home. I love being on the Lord's errand and doing HIS work 24/7. It feels so much more rewarding and satisfying than the day-to-day grind of everyday life...But I sincerely believe that's why the call for member missionary work is being emphasized, because this all around joyful, full, satisfied feeling isn't just for set apart missionaries. It's available to all who will heed a prophet's call to go "To the Rescue" of our brothers and sisters lost in the darkness and confusion in this world.
We spent more time with members this week which was fun and felt productive. For instance, on Thursday we went out to Millington, MD and decided to knock and contact because MD hasn't really been touched by missionaries in this area for several years, so we feel there's a lot of soul harvesting to do. And there is we found a humble, pure Spanish speaking woman named Rosalia who lives in the thriving metropolis of downtown Millington (population 20, nah it's several thousand I'm sure). She invited us in, but in our terrible broken Spanglish, Elder Allred and I mumbled that we could not enter without an adult male present, so we set up an appt with her. Yesterday, Sunday, we visited her with a Spanish Speaking member. The husband, Raul, sat in and spoke spanglish to us. We introduced the Book of Mormon, he expressed a respectful disinterest, but she was captivated. We offered un El Libro de Mormon and she grasped hold of it and treated it like valuable treasure. It was heartwarming tto see a humble heart grasp and be so willing to feast upon the Word of God. In the car on the way home, we discussed how she just had a pure Spirit and desire to learn about God. He showed an interest in us coming over to help her learn english, so this could be a good opportunity to help them both feel the light of the gospel. Our God is a God of miracles.
I got several packages and christmas cards, thanks to all the families and friends for sending those out, love to hear how everyone's doing. On Wednesday we showed up at Abe's house (the less-active man who found us in the Acme grocery store) and he came outside his door and we talked for about 20 minutes. He explained how his wife is an "elder" in the Methodist church and as such would not even let us into their home. He felt so bad because he wanted to be hospitable as I'm sure most Filippinos are. But, after sharing a scripture with him, the thought came to my mind that I should invite him to lunch with us. So I did and he jumped on the idea and immediately invited us to a dinner party with him and his wife and another Methodist couple at a fancy Italiano Ristorante called Trevi. So come Saturday, after we had dinner with a member couple, we met Abe at Trevi (not so well planned, dinner right after dinner). He greeted us and introduced us to his friends and wife. They were pleasant and inquisitive. As we were sitting in the booth adjacent to theirs, we overheard them asking questions like "They believe in that John Smith guy right? Are they Jehovah's Witnesses?" And several people were glancing at us and then they'd talk amongst themselves. I was tempted to stand on the water fountain in the middle of the Restaurant and start preaching...but, on a scale of 1 to classy, didn't think that'd be very classy. So I refrained of course.
Abe told us to get whatever we wanted, so I got a $17 plate of salmon, etc. and boy was it good. We are well treated by our members. That is not mission wide though. Elder Allred just came from a branch in Philadelphia with 19 active members and 6 missionaries meeting in a store, there's a bit of diversity out here.
In terms of investigators: We have to transfer Josh to the Dover Elders because he lives in their area, which stinks because he is just golden. But he will still come to the Smyrna ward. Jackie, had a rough lesson with her on thursday with Bro. Keeley. I didn't know where to go with it, she repeated an event from earlier in the day 3 times in 5 minutes and we just walked away feeling shot. It's sad that her dementia is getting worse, but Bishop advised us to keep going towards baptism because she wants it and feels that it's God's path for her. It will be tough because she will need a ride to church from members every week, but she is a beloved daughter of God and deserves the same love and concern as anyone else. So it's been a struggle with her because although we've gone over the Restoration with her 3-4 times, she hasn't a clue who Joseph Smith is other than "a minister"...
Brother Keeley and I had a powerful lesson with Cardin where we talked about the Doctrine of Christ and Cardin was teaching us half the time. He is so prepared and spiritually in tune. He said," It seems like in many churches the philosophy is to 'Come as you are' and many people do. But we're not supposed to come as we are and stay as we are. Church is meant to help us change, I think." Well Cardin, you ready to give a talk in Sacrament Meeting next week? Cause it sure does sound like it. The Spirit was there, Bro Keeley was in tears and it was just great. And yeah I may not see him get baptized, but I helped plant the seed.
We had our Christmas Devotional in Dover this week, oh ps. the weather last week was straight up CA, HI weather. It was nuts. The 21st of Dec, aka the first day of winter, got up to 71 degrees and sunshiney. It was mind boggling, but hey I won't complain. Such beautiful weather. Just a litttle rainy today. Anyways, we watched (Yes, missionaries watched a movie!!) the new pioneer film Ephraim's Rescue. The Spirit was strong as we discussed it and testimonies were born. They handed out the hundreds of boxes, and then we were taken out to our new car in the parking lot.
Why do we celebrate Christmas? Presents? Shopping? Gifts? Food? Money? Trees? Decorations? But why? Just to be nice? The world just doesn't get it.
"For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and...his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace." Isaiah 9:6
I've done the nativity what, 18 times, but never before has it meant so much to me. Never before have I felt the supreme, gentle love of our Savior Jesus Christ. President Anderson pointed out that "it requires a great discipline to focus on Christ during the holiday that celebrates His birth, because almost everything we see as we celebrate pulls our attention in another direction." But He isn't called the Prince of Peace for nothing. (sorry for being preachy) He is the very source of peace. No not a nice date night or a break from work. But true, lasting, eternal peace.
Ponder on that babe in Bethlehem. What does HE mean to you? What we must have been doing watching that moment in heaven, rejoicing in the fact that yes, we would have a chance to make it through. We would have a chance to become something. We would have a chance to come home.
I love Jesus Christ and know that He does indeed live. I know He is the only way. I love you all and wish you a very Merry Christ-centered Christmas.
Love always,
Elder Jacob Robins

Monday, December 16, 2013

If the Savior Stood Beside Me

Dear Family and Friends!

We got our third companion last week on Wednesday instead of Tuesday because of the storm that hit the east coast. President didn't want us all travelling in the storm. It was a pretty rough storm although here in Smyrna we only got like 2 inches of snow...wet, heavy, snow, the kind that gives bruises in snowball form or that would soak you if you were to make snow angels in it. Anyways, Elder Allred is from guess...... Riverton, UT! He is quite the character. Really spices things up in the companionship. He and I get along and the 3 of us have just been having fun. Our first day together we were walking down the street, and I was like "No no, stop, this is too much, there are too many of us!" It just felt like a wall of missionaries walking down the street. Takes Men in Black to a whole new level. I'd be intimidated!! 

We taught our very first lesson together as a trio to Cardin, and it was just kind of weird. We're all decent teachers, but it will take some practice to work with each other. With the help of the Spirit we have improved a lot already. I also went on my first member split where I went alone teaching with a member and it felt bizarre being away from companions for more than 5 minutes. But we had a good lesson with a woman named Dehdo who had met with missionaries 10 years ago and was warm and welcoming. She is from Liberia and her husband is a pastor at another church. We found her by knocking near a less-active, so we've had some miracle finds in the recent past. We just hope that we can do our part to turn these into miracle conversions. The Spirit will testify to their hearts of the truth of our message and they have the choice whether or not to act upon that. 

Speaking of, we met with Zack on Tuesday and he had just woken up so he was a little loopy. But we talked with him about baptism and Alma 7 which talks about the Atonement and where your heart needs to be before baptism. I was being a little impatient with him, but Elder Rabe would always bring the Spirit back into the lesson as he explained the need for repentance and the Atonement in our lives. It's not just Mormons that need the Atonement of Jesus Christ, it's all of God's Children. We simply cannot make it back home without Jesus Christ. Zack told us that he was considering getting baptized in the Catholic church....umm that's great, but did you not understand anything we taught you? The need for the Priesthood authority from God. He essentially wants something for nothing by getting baptized without actually changing his life. He had not showed up to our appt with him last Saturday and he told us Tuesday that he got arrested that night for drugs and DUI. Zack, we love you, but really? I asked him about the Spirit that we had definitely felt with us before in multiple occasions and at church. He denied that he had felt the Spirit or said that he just had felt good. I was speechless. I had grown to really love him and still do. But with him flat out saying he's not ready to repent and make these changes in his life, it was kind of a stab-to-the -heart for the day. Yes we recognize their agency, yes not everyone will see that this is the truth, but when you have that friendship and love for a person like that, it can be just heartbreaking. So that's the story with Zack.

Elder Allred and I went on a scavenger hunt for the less- active named Abe that we had met at Acme. It was a miracle to see the hand of the Lord literally guiding us from one house to the next until the pieces of the puzzle fit together and we found that he had purposely given us a phony address. But we found him! And in his Filippino accent he exclaimed "You found me!" We could tell on the inside he was like,"Darn it, the Mormons found me again!" Professional Stalkers. Check. We will see him again this week.

Jackie didn't come to church or the ward Christmas Party because she has been down in the dumps. She really wants to go home to her husband Bill and get out of the Rehab Center she's in. I don't know how much we could do about that, but trust that all things will work out. We found a man named Harvey and his wife Tinita the other day. We had gotten through most of the Restoration when Tinita walked in and showed an interest. Elder Allred introduced the Priesthood power of Sealing families here on earth and that really hit Tinita. She began tearing up as she told us about her mom and brother recently passing away. We asked her if she would like to learn about how she can see her loved ones again, with tearful eyes she gently nodded as she whispered "Yes. Yes." We gave her and Harvey a copy of the Book of Mormon, the Spirit worked His miracle by touching their hearts and preparing them to accept the invitation to be baptized by that proper Priesthood authority. Both accepted. We left feeling the Power of God move quietly, subtly, but indefinitely through the hearts of the children of men.

Just as Alma and Amulek experienced in the Book of Mormon, "angels are...preparing the hearts of the children of men to receive his word." (Alma 13:24) Such is the truth. I read a quote that the work of the angels of God and the full-time missionaries is one in the same. Some are seen, the others just go unseen, but we do the same work. How humbling it is to know that THIS is God's work. 

Cardin and his wife Tynequah and 2 kids and his sister made it to the ward party. The ward was so welcoming and wonderful to them and Cardin was just smiling the whole time, the kids had a blast and it was a wonderful event. We had to set up more chairs and tables because more people than was expected showed up, a good problem to have! So yeah he may not get baptized while I am serving here, but I do not doubt that the Lord has so much in store for him and his cute little family.

I love you all and am getting excited to talk to the fam on Christmas! Remember to remember our Heavenly Father always. He will always love you. Always.


Elder Robins 
Creative stocking made by our Zone Leader's mom

The Nesbit/Cook Family baptism from last week. Such awesome people

The Tripanionship- Allred, Me, Rabe

Monday, December 9, 2013

Groups of 3 (missionaries), let them be

Dearest Family and Friends,
My companion is laughing at the Subject line...Well transfers are tomorrow in Broomall, and we got the calls Friday night, expecting Elder Rabe to be transferred out of the area as well as Sister Bischoff. Nope, they decided to switch it up a little. We will be in a "tripanionship" or trio this coming transfer. I don't know whether to be nervous, ticked or excited. So I''ve kind of been all 3. So has Elder Rabe. And we'll find out tomorrow who the lucky Elder is. I just know that the Lord knows what He's doing and trust that there is a wise purpose behind this change.
What an eventful week it has been though. Much of our time wentp to helping the Sister's investigator family, the Cook's, prepare for baptism this past Sunday. It's a mother and her 3 teenage kids. They are seriously soooo prepared. Like the boys are already planning to go to BYU and go on missions. But they are willing to live and embrace the gospel of Jesus Christ. Such a wonderful family with so much potential. And the reason they started meeting with the Sisters was because they went to a cousin's baptism and were just overwhelmed with the Spirit. So Elder Rabe and I and Elder_______ will work hard to find that family.
I am convinced that Josh and his 4 kids may be that family. He recently went through what seems to be a pretty nasty divorce. So when we taught him the Plan of Salvation, he was brought to tears at the thought of lasting peace. It was an incredible lesson and his member kind-of girlfriend (but don't tell the kids!) Jessica was also brought to tears. The Spirit was sweet and strong as we discussed the purpose of the Atonement of Jesus Christ. And right on queue, as I talked about His suffering and bleeding on the cross, I felt my nose drip, and knew it wasn't a runny nose. Perfect timing! So we ran to the kitchen called the ambulance for my nosebleed and got it all cleaned up. Just kidding on the ambulance. I just thought it was kind of ironic that I started bleeding during that part of the lesson. 
Sunday was one of the most spiritually uplifting, fun, busy Sundays I've had on the mission. We sat down for Sacrament meeting with Jackie sitting behind us, so we were happy that she made it. But  we had invited like 8 people, so I was a little bummed, so I decided to pray. Then Josh showed up in his Navy uniform (he's in the Navy reserves) and Carlos( lives near us on Main Street and was set on coming to church) came in a nice sweater and smile on his face. It was just wonderful. Right after the Sacrament was administered, Jackie said" I like the way this church does things" and I felt that although we would be kind of running around all day, I could trust the members and moreso the Spirit to take care of them and teach and touch their hearts. The three of them stayed at the baptism.
The daughter, Jewel had asked that I baptize her. So, even though I didn't teach her, I got to perform the baptism for her which was incredible. As I said the prayer and lowered her into the water, I felt the Spirit witness to me and I'm sure to her, that this was the Lord's will for her and that He recognized her decision to be baptized. So although it wasn't "my" baptism, it was a moving experience. Elder Rabe and I played the beautiful arrangement of "It came upon a midnight Clear" with him on the violin. It was the arrangement Danville 1st ward choir did last year and I had fallen in love with it. Many members thanked us for the Spirit that the piece brought into the meeting. And I played the opening and closing hymns for Sacrament (shout out to Sister Reed and Sister Carsten, thanks for your training!)We also accompanied Sister Bradshaw on I Know that My Redeemer Lives. I know this Gospel is true because I have felt His loving embrace. I love you all.  We got snow yesterday, 2 inches. Very wet and heavy. Slipping around with our low traction tires. That was fun. Alma 7
ELder Robins