Monday, November 24, 2014

The Seamless Fabric of Society

Welcome to the Himalaya's!! Yes that was an allusion to Monster's Inc.
inspired at large by the bitter cold weather we had last week. Holy
freezing! Scarves and sweaters and all the winter garb. Poor Africans
just aren't used to it. But we survive. And then good ol' east coast
gives us 72 degrees today and balmy. It rained this morning, but wow
Mother Nature is not on her A game this year. We've had a few snow
flakes one day, while the rest of the east coast is getting pummeled
by Jack Frost.

Anyway, we had a very interesting series of events this week. We
started the week out by going on an exchange with the Drexel Hill
Elders in which it was more or less a double -in to our area. So both
companionships worked in our area, the purpose of this was to
transition them in to taking over Darby. It was a good portion of our
teaching pool and members, but we trust that it was an inspired
decision. And although it's hard to hand over people and the area, we
know the  Lord has so much more in store.

On Thursday Elder Parker and I sat in the mission with Elder Jones,
the "car czar" aka vehicle coordinator. The number of missionaries is
decreasing, so the mission closed 5 areas and had 5 cars to give away.
This is one of two Zone Leader areas without a car...and it is tough
to get to zone and mission meetings on Septa, doable, but
inconvenient. So we were offered this spare car, but after prayerfully
considering the circumstances, we felt to give the car to those same
Drexel Hill Elders because they would need it more than us, covering
much more in terms of rural neighborhoods.

We were walking down the street in what felt like the top of Nepal and
saw some people with a pile of groceries that they needed to take
inside. Ha I'm laughing at the fact that we looked like Eskimos that
day and today we're sweating a bit because it's a little warm and
humid...what is this? But hey I'm not complaining! I love it! So we
took a good portion of their groceries upstairs and found out the
three of them are from Benin...we were like, where in the world is
that? Mr. Hoover surely didn't teach us about tHaT country! It's in
west Africa I believe, happens to be the first person I've met from
there. Oh and I don't know if I mentioned that a few weeks ago I met
and ate the food of a recent convert from Nepal...speaking of
Himalayas. They speak French and so there was obviously a language
barrier. But I love doing the seemingly inconsequential acts of
kindness like that because it makes me feel just a little better, a
little kinder, and a little more like Christ.

Perhaps the mighty change of heart we so earnestly seek and pray for
is not a one time event, but rather a fabric or web of actions and
events that over time change us.

Elder Parker and I helped Vince move two hefty, old TVs to his car and
then to a hazardous waste center in south Phila and he was just so
appreciative of that small act of kindness. We discussed in our lesson
beforehand the concept of overcoming sin and temptation. The best way
to do that is to not only stamp out all the bad, but to fill our lives
with good. He said or quoted that those little acts of goodness,
reading scriptures, being friendly to our neighbors, or going to the
temple or smiling at someone. Our individual actions contribute to the
whole fabric of good of society. Likewise, being a little too casual
about the covenants we've made or are about to make or saying a mean
thing to someone or those seemingly harmless acts of less good. So ha
I'm kind of just thinking out loud. But these things contribute to
that seamless fabric, or we can contribute to the holes in the fabric.
Vince has his quirks as do we all, but he is a very bright man, deep
thinker, that's where I get a lot of these ideas.

"We need to learn how to live so that a weakness that is mortal will
not prevent us from achieving the goal that is eternal." - Dallin H.

Yesterday at church one of the members who is a doctor, gave a
combined Sunday School Lesson on health and hygiene in the wake of
this Ebola scare. She tactfully addresses some legitimate concerns and
scares regarding member families whose loved ones have come to America
from they have Ebola? Are we going to catch it? Lions and
tigers and bears, oh my! She assured us all that the likelihood here
in America of catching and spreading the disease is next to nil.  The
best thing we can do to help each other out and comfort those who have
lost loved ones is to be as the Good Samaritan. Look for opportunities
to lift and brighten and strengthen others.

During one of our sprints between stop bys and appts we got on the
trolley and I ate a handful of Frosted flakes from a bag in my pocket.
I looked to Elder Parker and said, "Frosted flakes, they're more than
good, they're dinner!" Haha it was funny cause that's our life. Guess
you had to be there. But on Saturday we got a call from a member of
the mission presidency telling us we would be having Stake
Coordination meeting with the Valley Forge stake and the mission
presidencies and that they would like us to put together our reports
indicating the involvement of the members with our missionaries. Holy
talito, we had the numbers but were not ready with all the names and
what not. We were scrambling and yet able to get it done just in time
to miss curfew by two and a half hours...we didn't get in until 11:20
Saturday night. That was a blast. But the meeting was great and I love
learning from so many wonderful leaders.

In such meetings, we focus on blessing lives and lifting others and I
think of patrick and Lilian who have been without heat. They can't pay
their bills and so the landlord turned off the heat right as Mother
Nature decided to give us a little taste of mt. Everest. They still
love the gospel and the Book of Mormon, but their financial situation
has been quite the impediment. Lilian came from Belize not more than 3
months ago and has been having a rough rough time with this cold
weather. But one of our kind members lent a space heater to them which
was another stitch in the fabric. Our Liberian members make such good
missionaries and I really think they stay warm because their spirits
are warmed by the light of the gospel.

"And he commanded them that there should be no contention one with
another, but that they should look forward with one eye, having one
faith and one baptism, having their hearts knit together in unity and
in love one towards another.22 And thus he commanded them to preach.
And thus they became the children of God."
Mosiah 18:21-22

It is my testimony that reaching out to the lost, the cold, the hungry
and weary that our hearts will indeed be knit together as one, all
children of the same God.

Love you all,

Elder Jake Robins

Ps mom who do I have for Christmas?

Monday, November 17, 2014

Are We Not ALL Beggars?

Dear Family and friends,

This is going to be a shorty because I thought Id have more time.
Forgive me for my grammatical errors all you english majors or
novelists. So we got to transfers and poor Elder Roberts was just a
wreck because he just wanted to know where he was going. So we get to
transfers and the gym we do it in is weirdly lit and kind of eerie
making the whole transfer experience just mysterious. Well he wound up
going to his first area and he and the Fletcher's were just so
ecstatic to have him back in Bayview MD.

Elder Chance Parker from Kaysville, UT. New comp, nuff said. He's a
great kid, really hard worker and learning the Zone quickly. We lost a
companionship this transfer in South Philly, no they didnt die, the
area just closed because the missionaries are all going home from the
big wave, fewer missionaries = fewer areas. But it shocked the South
Philly branch and maybe we'll see some good changes down there.

This week was ridiculous. Elder Parker falls asleep quite a bit as he
has been in a car area his whole mission. 15 months to this point, now
he's not only in a walking area, but more like a sprinting area. But
we are making some changes this week. I had been thinking a lot about
how there are just so many of God's precious children in our area,
African refugees especially, who are ready and desirous to hear the
gospel, and we simply are not able to get around to everyone. I have
felt so inadequate because people will call us and ask why we never
called them back. We simply forgot. We're human. It's a wonderful
problem to have.  Too many people to teach. So we thought and prayed
hard about the situation, and while driving in the car with president
Anderson  we brought up the idea of giving the small but fairly
heavily populated city of Darby to the Phila 1st central Elders. They
cover a large rural area and their teaching pool is tiny, so we felt
good about giving them several investigators with baptismal dates and
many other potentials  and members. It's hard to let go of those
wonderful people, some of whom we've already grown close with. So the
assistants had us redraw the boundaries, and luckily with the ipads we
can just hit a button in the area book app and it reassigns it to the
specified area. No papers needed.

Such individuals include Mawaye and Alfred, she has children in
Liberia who may be suffering and she is worried for their health and
well-being. We watched the Mormon Message "Mountains to Climb" and she
was sobbing by the end because she felt that same despair and then
glimmer of hope that comes from faith. "If the foundation of faith is
not imbedded in our hearts the power to endure will crumble." As I
watched that video and have talked with others, I've recognized this
life is often full of suffering and sorrow and hardships.

Our investigators Patrick and Lilian and their son LeRaun are just the
sweetest people. LeRaun came with his parents last week to church and
in our lesson with President Anderson, he told us he has never felt
more welcome and accepted and amazing as he did at church on Sunday.
Then he went with Jimmy and the other YM to NYC. It was a great
experience to go teaching with the Mission president for the first
time. I felt like he was more human than I've seen at zone conferences
or in interviews. He was just himself, subtly funny and kind and warm
hearted. After our lesson with them where we talked about the
Restoration, we had a lesson with that lady Kelly Ann whom I think i
mentioned in a past email. She's an interesting lady but was so
touched by the Atonement and the testimonies we bore and that simple
act of service we rendered by helping her take her groceries to her

She struggles with many health issues. Patrick and Lilian can't afford
to turn their heat on so they have all been sleeping in one bedroom
with a small space heater. Alfred is recovering from a stroke, Vince
is cleaning a messy house that went downhill years ago. They are all
making steady progress in seeking to improve their lives, but this
week I was touched several times, including in Sacrament Meeting and
by Elder Holland's most recent General Conference talk. There are soo
many around us who need us to just be kind sometimes. Even if we can't
give them money, talk to them, love them, help them feel that the
Savior of the World truly, truly loves them and wants them to come
home too.

27 Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To
visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep
himself unspotted from the world.
James 1:27
I want nothing more than to be filled with that pure love of Christ.
That pure religion that love will change the world forever. Of that I
am thoroughly convinced to be true. May we remember that we ALL beg
for mercy and help and grace at the feet of the Savior and be that
helping hand to someone in need. Love always,

Elder Robins

Monday, November 10, 2014

The Bread of Life

Dearest Family and Friends,

What a week! And to top it off, Elder Roberts had to go get himself transferred. We were both pretty bummed and he's taken it kind of hard, he has grown to love this area and we've been working hard and well together. Literally all but two of the companionships in the zone will get new missionaries, we're going to have a whole new zone! It'll be fun though. So we go to transfers tomorrow morning!! 

In a lesson with the Wrigley's, Elder Roberts told Agatha that he would likely be leaving the area, she got quiet and broke down into sobs. It was sad, she has gotten so attached to him. In telling her story and thanking him she tearfully said, "You have saved my life." It is incredible to see how simply teaching touches people's lives in ways that don't always meet the eye. 

For example, yesterday we set a man named Johnson with a baptismal date for Auntie Katie's Birthday...Happy Birthday! December 28th! I've thought about why we set dates when some people end up falling off, or we lose contact or they drop us. But I realized it's an act of faith on our part and for those whom we are teaching. Johnson came to the baptism of a friend of his several weeks ago in the Phila 4th Ward and he was touched by the Spirit and with the way the LDS church runs their Sunday meetings, focusing on the Bible and scriptures and not on mans own word. He asked why he would need to be baptized again, which is a question we get a lot, and we testified of the Priesthood being restored to the Prophet Joseph Smith, but it is ONLY found in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. What?! How could you say that? You mean to say my baptism in my last church just doesn't count? But my preacher got his authority from God too! It's a hard pill to swallow, and sometimes pretty hard to teach, but it all goes back to the Restoration. All of it. If they sincerely want to know, which this man does, they will read the Book of Mormon and pray about it. God intends us to ACT if he's going to give us the answer.

I think that's something Ed Moore has been learning. It is amazing the sweet and special experiences he has been having that are changing him and his very nature. He said himself that before he wasn't receptive or open to the Spirit. And he pointed that out himself when we talked about hardheartedness in the scriptures. He was touched by the message of the Plan of Salvation and told us that he read the pamphlet the other night and pretty much couldn't put it down. "I've read the Bible and some other good books, but that was powerful." It was amazing to see his countenance changing as he felt God's love for him and perhaps a greater purpose in life, outside himself. That reminds me of President Monson's quote that true happiness can only be found in a search outside ourselves, in the service of others. I'm coming to know Ed as the kind, tender hearted man that he is. So when we invited him to church, he said, "See, I knew that was coming! But yes, yes I'll come.

Right now we're at Penn's Landing on the eastern edge of Phila in the spot where Tun Tavern used to stand. 239 years ago the Marine Corps was founded in this very spot and here I am with a Marine companion. Proud moment! Ha so funny story..we just went to get on the subway to go home and we're in a temporary trio til tomorrow because of an emergency transfer, and Elder Castro and the three of us sprinted down the stairs to catch a train that was about to leave. We all got through the turnstile and were running as if our lives depended on it towards the train with doors open. As Elder Castro and I stepped on, we heard the voice over the intercom say "Doors are closing." I was turned the other direction, then elder Castro was like, Wait! Elder Roberts!! And I turned around as we were pulling away with the doors closed to see my companion reaching to us from the distancing platform. Our jaws dropped as we realized the white handbook rule we had just broken unintentionally. Stay within sight and sound of your companion. Trios are harder in a way because if one person gets stuck behind a turnstile in a subway station then.. Gah! Ha Elder Castro and I were cracking up hysterically. And now we are reunited. Ha wish you could've seen Elder Roberts face of relief when we walked on to his train a few minutes later. Literally I've had nightmares about being separated from my comp and it just happened. Luckily I wasn't the one alone, wouldn't have been pretty. Fun city adventure.

We had a Zone Training on Thursday and trained on using the My Family booklets and the sister training leaders on the Law of Consecration. A law that many members of the church don't understand perhaps as much as they should. Consecration involves giving up those selfish desires, those weapons of rebellion, to follow Christ. Really we are choosing heaven over this world. Which makes it so exciting to work with people like Ponsford and his son Justford who understand now the purpose of this life and the hope in the life to come. I want so badly to give up those bad habits and traits that would keep me from knowing Him. 

I read a beautiful scripture this morning  "He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him." John 14:21

I am learning and firmly believe that the Bread of Life concept is real. Spiritual food is so much more substantial and satisfying than physical food. But rather than working at a desk and computer all day to provide some pizza and donuts and a salad (to make it healthy ;) the Bread of Life fills us as we continually keep the commandments and do so out of love. That is something Vince is learning and sees in us. He sees that many churches teach what we teach, "But the Mormons mean what they say!" He said with his quirky chuckle. We continue to see the hand of the Lord as we cast out the doubts and replace it with real faith. 

I love you all, keep the faith,

Elder Jacob Robins

Monday, November 3, 2014

The Weapons of Our Rebellion

Hey Everyone!

Hope you all had a wonderful week filled with peace and with the
Spirit. I know I ended the week great with Jimmy and Solomon both
getting confirmed yesterday. They are just so inspiring in their
testimonies of the truth, I can't wait to see where they go in life
and in their church service. I truly feel blessed to be able to work
with these people. Some of them are just so pure and tender hearted.
And many that fall into that category in this area tend to be in their
early teen years, many of them around Alli's age. It's been so bizarre
for me to meet and get to know these people and realize that they
could be going to school with my little sister. Alli's growing up!
They remind me of her too. Just tender and pure and peaceable people
who everyone loves and likes being around. Just like Alli.

Jimmy has that kind of heart and hopefully he will rub off on the few
active YM in the ward. I love this Ward, its a lot of fun and some
really great people. It just has such a diverse and interesting
demographic spectrum that it becomes a challenge to integrate everyone
as one body or Ward. But Bishop Ard is truly an inspired man and I've
learned so much from him just in the 3 short months I've served around
him. He does a marvelous job at ministering to the members of the ward
and using the ward council to strengthen those in need. Agatha got to
go to the temple to do Baptisms for the Dead this past Saturday and as
we talked to her after church we could tell it was a touching
experience for her. She said she was just filled with the Spirit and
is excited about doing her own family history work.

Being from Liberia during the horrific civil war, she has some stories
(of which we've only heard bits and pieces) that cause us to be just
filled with compassion for her. Her brother was buried alive, other
family members and loved ones were killed violently in ways too
inhumane to even mention. But I think I mentioned this before, the
Spirit of Elijah filled our hearts and hers as we testified of forever

I felt of that same spirit as Elder Roberts and I prepared our "My
Family" family history booklets for mission leadership council last
Friday. President wanted us to have them filled out before we met
because we would be talking about how to use family history. I'll be
honest, I've never really had a testimony of family history. I guess I
saw how it would be good, but beyond indexing it just felt like
something for grandma and grandpa to do. Heavens, we don't even have
time for that. Gotta go to soccer practice, gotta get billy to piano,
Jake needs a haircut, oh no I forgot to buy So and so a birthday gift!
What am I going to do? Hold your horses! Slow down and let's do an
eternal reality check. What REALLY matters most? Is it these petty
little things that so quickly fill our time and our days to make us
mormons the busiest people on the face of the earth.? Have we ever
stopped to take a split second to think about those who came before
us. They need us. I thought my family was all online and inputted into
family and please let me know if we are! But I had a chance
to look up some info about great grandparents, and for some reason I
was just filled with the Spirit as I saw a picture of Melvin Henry
Robins. I never met him in this life, but I felt an instant connection
to him and an urge to be more diligent about family history.

In pondering this, I thought of our investigator Ed Moore whom we've
been meeting with for several weeks now. He's got a good heart and
thinks he knows enough, but as he meets with us I think the Spirit's
pricking him and he's realizing there's so much more out there. He
feels like there isn't much purpose to this life and he's just ready
to go. It was heartbreaking to hear this 65 year old black American
man (who could be on a tv show...just fits the bill) say that this
life doesn't hold anything for him. We testified of the Plan of
Salvation and assured him that if he continued to meet with us then he
would begin to feel His Heavenly Father's love and learn of that plan.
He loved what he felt. It seems like we're often on the verge of
dropping him because he'll say how he isn't planning on getting
baptized and what not but we shall see.

So what are those things that we need to bury or just get rid of in
our lives? I know I have plenty. And you have to really want to get
rid of it I've found. Alma 24 teaches us beautifully about this
concept of really letting go of those things that keep us from
following the Son of God. For me, maybe it's sarcasm. Holy talito,
that is a hard habit to break! Of the devil I swear. But, we see so
many people lay down coffee or tea or other habits to follow Christ,
why can't we continue on that path? In mission leadership council we
talked about the law of consecration and how this really is an eternal
law. So why NOT begin practicing it now? Ha I'm sorry, I'm in a bold
mood right now, ready to go preach to the world!!

Paye and Rachel will not be able to get baptized as soon as we had all
hoped because we found out that there are some past marriage
complications and they still want to get married. I love em and know
that they will eventually come along. But I feel strongly that in
regards to our own weapons of rebellion, we need to "bury them up deep
in the earth." Alma  24:17. It's time to let go and let God work
miracles in and through us. I know that as we really let go of those
little (or big) things, the Atonement can work to change us and refine
us over time.

Elder Jake Robins