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