Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Under the Hands of Giants

Hey Family and friends!

Oh what a week it has been! Quite a whirlwind in fact! And sorry about
the delayed email, today is actually our P-day because of a short
notice mission conference with two general authorities yesterday in
Broomall. Elder David F. Evans is the executive director of the
missionary dept  of the church and he was accompanied by Elder Steven
B. Allen. They are on assignment, with many other Seventy to go to 88
missions in Japan (look out Dallin!), Europe, and the states. 88
missions by end of May 2015. Ours was the world's first standardized
mission conference regarding Missionary Work in the digital age. Aka
transitioning from stone tablet records to ipads. So here's what's
happening, forgive me in advance for delving into this, it was just a
rather life changing day. Not to write some soap opera, but yesterday
was just incredible.

Here's what happened, the entire mission showed up to Broomall around
11, Elder Robins played some organ prelude music and bedazzled it up a
bit, as would be expected. I got to shake Elder Evans hand as I was
playing, don't ask how I did it, I can barely walk and talk at the
same time, let alone play, shake and talk, and pretend like i know
what I'm doing. Quite the accomplishment. Anyway, our current iPads
were part of the beta testing period which is officially over. They
are going to restart or reboot the entire digital device program
amongst missionaries just to get a fresh start that is uniform across
the globe. We will be getting new iPads in 1 week at zone training.
Stricter filters and screening and some improvements etc. Some people
whine and complain about the filters but below, I'll share the miracle
of what we were taught yesterday.

It was rather remarkable how they were able to give the information
about the iPads and technology that will be rolling out, but they
assured us that the focus is NOT the device. Yes it helps improve our
teaching, it's a phenomenal tool in planning and communicating, etc.
But their main purpose is that these devices prepare us to re enter
the world fortified against the ever intensifying fiery darts of the
adversary. In the past, missionaries have been almost entirely
isolated from technology of any kind in hopes to "give them a break"
from the world and find solace and peace in the service of God. The
Brethren have realized that technology is the future and the present
so such an approach is no longer effective because there is no sense
in hiding from the very issues we will face when we get home. They are
more interested in building a righteous, worthy, resilient generation
of youth and future leaders. To do this, they are providing us with
mobile devices, like the one I'm currently typing on and training us
how to "safeguard" ourselves living in the digital age. So they give
us "mission rules" and the white handbook not just because they want
to give us rules, but because they want us to learn obedience to this
gospel and to Jesus Christ.

We are teaching Varsha, the brilliant and spunky young Indian girl
about Christ. Coming from a Hindu background, this is very different,
it's unusual. And we've started teaching her the commandments or the
"rules" that mormons live by, like the word of wisdom, law of
chastity, etc. The things that I was often questioned and even mocked
about in high school. No, I wasn't beat up or anything, I woulda run.
But I did have to defend my faith in high school. And that was not
easy, but when I did it I felt good. I felt like I had the smile of
God resting upon me. And that's what we've been trying to get across
to Varsha. Like I said, she's brilliant, and I don't doubt that one
day it'll all just click for her, but it's hard as a girl in college
at her age to completely live in the world, but not be of it. And
that's what I love about this training we had. How do we refrain from
being "of the world?"

Elder Evans talked about the many more secure filters they will be
putting on the new iPads we will be getting in a week, and he
reassured us that it would be more difficult to get through the
loopholes. BUT, you still can find the loopholes if you're looking for
them! And that's the point, you are your own best filter. Your heart
and your testimony are the most powerful filters out there. If your
heart is in the right place, you're not going to take that next click
to follow an inappropriate page. I will go home in just about 2 months
and may get a smart phone or some other digital device and I will be
able to access the world. I won't have mission leaders breathing down
my neck and auditing my every digital move, but it is the hope of the
Brethren that when I do go home, the habits and discipline I developed
on my mission will have been set in stone. It's not about the iPads,
it's about changing our hearts. I will surely be exposed to
inappropriate and even pornographic material during the remainder of
my mission and certainly when I get home. As will we all. It's the sad
and dark world we live in. But the habits that I've established will
be that ultimate safeguard when moments of temptation arise.

They talked a lot about Facebook in the meeting and for a period of
time, as we are retrained, the missionaries here won't be allowed to
use Facebook until we are in the Facebook training phase, which will
likely be after I return home. But just this past week I started
teaching a lady named Diatra whom I had taught down in Salisbury over
the summer. Her husband won't let her meet with missionaries in
person, so I started teaching her ️Gospel principles online. I won't
be able to teach her anymore, but I could tell from the one or two
lessons that we had that she needs the gospel. She needs the
fortification that comes from being around other saints.

Side note, Elder Bergman and I got off 2 back to back exchanges Friday
morning and he looked like he had been hit by a train. Poor kid was
green and pale and had a throbbing headache. Ha and I know how that
goes! So after serving at the food pantry, we came home and he slept.
And slept. And slept some more. I was expecting a quick nap and he'd
be good. But no. The porcelain throne became his best friend for a day
or two and wow, i think I'll leave it at that. Long story short, we're
pretty sure he ate some sketch meatballs at a members home.

The Yi family is doing wonderful. They came to church despite the 4 or
5 inches of snow we got the night before. Ha Elder Bergman just looked
over my shoulder and said, "Geeze, you're writing an email not a Harry
Potter book" aka I'm done here. But here's a powerful insight into why
we live this life with so many trials. "Adam fell that MEN MIGHT BE,
and men are that they might have joy [IF they choose to keep God's
commandments]...and the Messiah cometh in the fullness of time that he
may redeem the children of men." 2 Nephi 2:25-26. Adam and Eve chose
to partake of the fruit because they knew there would be hope for each
of us. The only real hope comes from Christ. With all that I've
learned on my mission thus far, I know that much is true. Christ is
the way, He is the only way.

Love you all, keep working, keep smiling,

Elder Jake Robins

Monday, February 16, 2015

I've Done My Part

Dear Family and friends, 

Well a few months ago I had the subject line of welcome to the Himalayas. Good heavens, that back then was like a day at the beach compared to this past week. No we barely got more than two inches of snow, but boy it's been cold. Turn into a popsicle after about 37 seconds. Geeze Louise. That's okay. We have a car and coats. 40-50 mph winds yesterday that brought the temps well below 0. Poor sister Byrd would have been swept away like a cat in a tornado. So attendance was a little lower yesterday. I was supposed to accompany for a musical number in Sacrament Meeting yesterday, but we found out mid Saturday that we had Stake Coordination the next morning at 8. ..so that was a no go. But it was a good meeting and we're in a great stake. 

Speaking of, I saw Sister Coe in the hallway at church and she was like "Elder Robins, I've been told by my sister Kortney Myers, to keep an eye out for you. Nice to finally meet you." We got talking for a bit and now I can see a little resemblance. She gave a great talk in the 2nd Ward sacrament meeting. She talked about Love and how miracles always come when love is part of the equation of our lives of discipleship. And I can attest to that. It is so easy to go through the motions as a missionary and just do things because you know you have to. And sure you get things done, but there's no real progress made. I learned this week especially that when I stopped thinking at a million mph as I tend to do and really just focused and listened to the people I was working with, it all just kind of fell into place and felt GOOD! 

Rob Howell is a recent convert of about a year. Such a good man with a sincere heart and has all the intentions of doing and being good. He is trying each day to live the gospel. And I'm pretty sure he found the church through a bbq that the missionaries were at. He struggles with smoking, but we bought him a huge bag of dum dum lollipops because the stick of the lollipop is a perfect gimmick for his mind to mistake it for a cigarette. He had a nasty fall two weeks ago, which I think I already mentioned, but with that fall he broke his upper lip bone thingy and had a concussion...and he's been feelin the symptoms of the concussion. Headaches, stuttering and slurred speech, he wants to sleep a lot etc. And I had offered him a blessing before, but he politely declined. This time I did so with a little more encouragement and with promised blessings. Well he accepted, and since people are now calling us "Batman and Robin" (BERGman and robins just in case Ya didn't catch that), he asked for Robin to do the blessing part. This experience took me back to AC when we had that crazy experience giving Mike Martinez a blessing and he stood up and walked. Rob looked up afterwards and asked if I had felt "that" and I said "feel what?" "Did you feel that going into your hands? I actually felt my headache leaving the top of my head and going into your hands or somewhere." I didn't really feel anything. But in that moment and in that blessing I felt a love for Rob that I hadn't felt before. I felt the Savior's love for him, and I think that love has the power to carry our love, however mortal and limited it may be, to a much deeper and more profound level. It was a powerful moment. The pain in his jaw subsided and he was at church the next day. Stuttering gone and everything. Nothing short of a miracle.

The Lord never ceases to teach us powerful lessons that change and refine us, IF we let them. Last night we went to the Yi's and it was Sheila's birthday so there were over 20 people there. It was a fiesta! Food, mormon friendly drinks and everything! It was fun and in the midst of it all, we were able to teach a few lessons. It was actually kind of fun to teach them all and they are just soaking it up, especially Kiwi and Kyle, 16 and 12 respectively. Kyle said to us yesterday "It's kind of weird, I understand all of this stuff better than what I'm learning at school."
 "You know why that is?" I inquired. "When the Holy Ghost teaches us, we remember and understand a lot better and often faster. So the Holy Ghost is helping you get ready for baptism." It's been so much fun teaching this family. I've never taught a family quite like this, and I love it. There's nothing like bringing a family into the fold. She said yesterday that she just felt so loved and welcome and like this is where they need to be. 

We taught a zone training on being smart and the STL's trained on gaining the trust of the members. So much of missionary work can be dull and boring if we get caught up in the thick of it. So working smarter will help us be more efficient and bring more of His children home. And if we have "a portion of his spirit to go with" us we will be able to do that. ️Alma 17:9

Love you all,

Elder Jake Robins

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Nervous as a Sinner at Judgement Day

Hey Everyone!

Another week already?! That's crazy. And Elder Eldredge is already
gone and in fact he went to the place I was born as a missionary,
Wilmington 2nd Ward! I was going to request to die there, but I guess
not anymore. Whatever happens happens. He was bummed to leave. So at
transfers Elder Eldredge was about as nervous as a sinner at Judgement
Day. It's so nerve racking for some reason. But I got to transfers and
walked out to the center of the gym when my name was called, then
Elder Bergman's picture came up on the screen, we hugged, Sister
Anderson took our picture, and we walked back into the crowd. Switch
and done. That's how we do. So Elder Bergman was a district leader in
my last zone for 3 transfers, then we both got transferred out. He's a
good, funny kid and was happy to have a "normal companion" for a
change....little does he know..ha. It's been fun.

Guess what!! We're going to the Yi's tonight to teach a lesson and
have dinner, and since she's Puerto Rican she said she'd make us some
Puerto Rican food! How have I not gained weight here! Who knows. The
kids are progressing well towards their baptisms in March. It all
started with the oldest, Kiwi, who is 16, she is a good leader for her
brothers and sister and they for the most part follow her example.
Which is good. Shiela, the mom, gets exhausted by the fuss they often
put up about going to church. But when Kiwi leads out it helps a lot.
They are all very energetic and each have their own mental issues like
ADHD or slight autism etc. So we decided yesterday to start teaching
the 4 kids one by one because together it's like trying to herd cats.

We had a lesson with Nicole, who we met at the food pantry, on
Saturday at the Sorenson's home. Again, I knew the Sorenson's in
Philadelphia 1st Ward, but they have a stake calling that takes them
to that building every week even though they live in our ward
boundaries. It was a very insightful and spiritual lesson, unlike any
I've ever had. We addressed some concerns of hers and ate good
homemade warm bread. I may not see her full conversion process, but
she already knows two good families in the ward and she has a sincere
desire to grow closer to God so I don't doubt that eventually she'll
come to find and accept the truth she's looking for.

Oh so Elder Bergman is from Tremonton, UT but his family is currently
residing in Chicago. He is also 2nd of 6 kids, like me. Pretty big
farm, hunting family. With a California boy. Makes for a fun
companionship! He's such a hard worker and I'm glad to have him here.
You're probably wondering about the weather, to be completely honest,
it's been pretty pathetic this year. All these super storms and
everything turned out to be rain or light light dustings that melt
within half an hour. Kinda disappointing in a way. But it's good cause
we work whether or not the weather will not. Did that make sense? Oh
well if it didn't.

One thing I love about transfers is that I get to see past companions
or missionaries from past areas and often it's a joy to catch up. I
was always worried I would just be a socially inept missionary
standing in the corner, but I wouldn't want anyone to feel alone like
that. So transfers are fun now because i see some of those people who
I've come to know and love. I echo Alma as he got transferred to a
different land and "Alma did rejoice exceedingly to see his brethren;
and what added to his joy, they were still his brethren in the
Lord...and...they taught with power and authority of God." -Alma

There's something joyous about returning  to family and loved ones and
finding that they are still strong if not stronger in the Gospel of
Jesus Christ. That is how I would hope to find each of you. I love
this gospel I love the truth and the way it's changing so many lives.
Have a wonderful week!

Elder Jake Robins

Monday, February 2, 2015

Clocks on our Foreheads

Dear Family and friends,

No! I'm not getting transferred! But Elder Eldredge is! We knew one of
us would be getting transferred, we both die together so it was kind
of inevitable. But I haven't trained so we thought it'd be me. Elder
Eldredge was hoping to just die here, and that would have been 5
transfers for him here. But 1, 2, 3 strikes you're out of the old ball
game. Or valley forge. I know, it doesn't really go with the tune. Oh
well. I'm really going to miss him though, well rounded kid, fun to be
around and solid missionary. And he plays guitar which helps me keep
my cool Haha.

At our last zone conference, president took all the zone and district
leaders and we had a wrap up meeting. He began the meeting by saying
something like "Gosh, I look at all of you and it's as if I see little
clocks on your foreheads, just counting down the minutes til you all
go home". Most of us in there had 6 months (or less?) left. Elder Eldredge and
I reached our 21 month mark just the other day. But I plan on doing
what is expected of me and giving the last my absolute best. I am glad
to have another transfer here. I would have left feeling like I hadn't
really found my purpose for being here in Valley Forge. And I've felt
I had a purpose or person in each area so far. I'm so proud of the
members here. They are the salt of the earth, and they're so willing
and ready to help us out with anything. Trust means so much in
missionary work, and I think if we were to let the clock show, some
members might lose that trust. There seems to be the idea that
missionaries just "check out" when they've got only a few months left.

Anastasia was confirmed by Elder Eldredge yesterday and she was just
beaming with joy and the Spirit. We had a lesson and dinner with her
and the Koch's on Saturday and we talked more about family history.
She doesn't yet know her grandparents first names... So she's working
on getting that info so we can all go to the temple to do baptisms for
the dead with her. My recent convert Dottie from Atlantic City is also
getting ready to go to the temple this month. It's so exciting to have
solid people who are ready to not only make sacred covenants, but KEEP
So we shall see.

So every Friday or Wednesday morning, we volunteer at a food pantry up
in Schwenksville (sounds pretty "Schwenky" I know, like hoity
toity...sounds like a word mom would say to describe Piedmont or
something.) Anyway, we got there and there was this younger woman
dressed in casual attire. Her sleeves were rolled up, exposing some
pretty cool looking tattoos, and we began bagging food for families
that would come for pick up the next morning. As we got talking, we
learned that her name was Nicole. She had come to the food pantry out
of a sincere desire to serve outside herself. She said she enjoys how
it makes her feel to focus on others. She asked us where we're from
and how long we've been on our missions. Then she asked us if we knew
a Tom Sorenson, one of her really good friends who is currently
serving a mission in Portugal. I knew the Sorenson's in Phila so it
was cool to make that connection. Well it was her first time at the
food pantry, so we helped her out along the way, kind of showed her
the ropes. But she continued asking questions which was awesome, so
often people see the tag and run either literally or figuratively. She
went to one of the philly wards for a comparative religions class a
few years ago and she said she just loved it and it was a beautiful
experience for her. So as we were packing up to leave, I asked, "Well
would you be interested in doing a little study with us where we can
help strengthen your relationship with Jesus Christ?"
"I would" she replied simply.
"Awesome" I said with a giddy smile like a kid in a candy shop.

I prayed the night before and that morning that the Lord would lead us
to someone whom we could teach. So we brought a returned missionary
Named TJ and taught her at the church the next day. She has quite the
experience with the world and with religion and is really just still
searching for that relationship with her Heavenly Father. We taught
her the whole Restoration and to be honest, she was a bit overwhelmed.
But we reassured her that we'd go at her pace. She had all the right
answers and insights and she's just got so much potential! Is it bad
that in the back of my mind I still fear the persons like this
dropping us? I've seen it enough that it haunts me sometimes. Yes
faith and not fear, but that doesn't mean their decisions don't still
take a toll on us. Missionary work is a lot more emotionally demanding
than it's often given credit for. I wouldn't trade even the difficult
experiences for anything though. I just want to help her and so many
like her find that true joy.

Tuesday night, I felt to call Elder Clark to follow up on a commitment
he had made during an exchange a week or two before. It was about
10:19 pm and I almost didn't call. Thank heavens I did. The poor kid
has been struggling a lot and he really just needed to talk and have
someone listen to him that night. Then we asked if they'd like to do
exchanges the next morning and they agreed. The crazy part is that MLC
was supposed to be the next morning on weds and we have a weekly set
appt with a recent convert. Both fell through, so our day was open. I
love opportunities to lead and guide the Lords children. I know in
those moments that it's not me. I know when the repentance process
begins in our lessons with investigators, it's not me. Even when I
play the organ and people feel the Spirit, heaven knows I get
butterfingers and butterfeet when I'm in front of more than 2 people,
it's not me.

Elder Jake Robins