Monday, March 30, 2015

What Your Eyes Are Seeing

Hey Everyone!

It has been a crazy week with so much that happened. I hope most of
all that you are each feeling the Spirit of Easter this week. I know
this is very missionary-ish of me to do, please don't find it
annoying, we try our best to help everyone get involved. My invitation
is to share the link below and your testimony with at least ONE person
before this Easter. I know that person will be better for it. It's a
powerful Easter video that invites each of us to find Christ and to
follow Him.

I went on exchanges with Elder Watt (AP) and he and I have become good
friends, so it was fun. We were actually in my old area which was fun.
We also were in one of the more dangerous parts of the mission,
Chester. We only got shot at like twice. I also went on exchanges with
Elder Blume in our zone the next day. Back to back exchanges are
exhausting! Thank heavens above I was never assistant! They go on like
40 a week. I'm in a sarcastic mood, sorry. That exchange we saw a cool
miracle, 8:30 pm, nothing to do, but I felt to visit a certain man who
was in the plans from the day before. He gladly opened his door and
set a return appt. he was looking to build his faith and become a
better father, so it was just a miracle that we were right there.

We took Caleb Coe (Kortney and Jeff Myer's nephew, stake president's
son) out teaching with us. It as a lot of fun and he's a good kid just
getting ready for his mission. Our appts fell through, but we got to
know him and teach a semi active lady with us. We helped prepare the
Yi kids for confirmation and have been working to help them be a
little more patient and helpful on the Homefront. Sheila is in pain
all the time and the stress of the kids takes it's toll. But the
gospel will help of course.

During Fast & Testimony Meeting, Sister Latey got up and bore her
testimony about the feelings she had for Kerian, Soreena, Kyle, and
Derek as they were each confirmed today in Sacrament meeting. She
talked about the knitting that occurs between our hearts when we share
spiritual experiences like that together. It was beautifully put and I
thought of Mosiah 18:21 talking about hearts being knit together in
unity and love one towards another. That's essentially the purpose of
a ward family. One big quilt knit together to provide protection and
strength for each other. Yes sometimes we get in little tiffs that we
have to resolve. I did indeed feel that tugging that you might feel as
you stick two needles together to knit together some yarn as I laid my
hands, along with 5 or 6 other men, on the heads of our recent
converts. These kids have a lot to learn, but I couldn't be more proud
of all the progress they've made. I feel I was indeed sent here for
them. Sure I didn't serve in Camden, or get shot at in North Philly,
but I've met my brothers and sisters that have been waiting for me.

There is this EFY song...oh my heavens Robins, you're such a cheese
bucket...that I have come to love called "That's What Faith Can Do"
and I actually didn't hear it until my second mission companion, Elder
Timmerman, so that song will forever remind me of that companionship,
and I think in a small way it's changed my life. There's a line in
there that says "Life is so much more than what your eyes are seeing,
you will find your way if you keep believing." Pretty simple, yet
profound. In fact it strikes a chord with a theme of my Patriarchal
Blessing which is kind of neat. I've had moments of seeing beyond what
the eyes can see, but I'll be honest, much of the time I'm just so
focused on what's ahead that I forget to "stop and smell the roses" or
take note of the small and simple and beautiful things in life.

For example, Soreena gave us a little poster that had a picture of the
Plan of Salvation on it and a few blurbs from about a phrase to a
whole paragraph long. And at first I got it and was like, oh good a
green poster with a bunch of jumbled sentences that make about as much
sense as an unsolved game of scrabble. (she has a learning disability
that makes it hard to produce full sentences). But that poster just
shows the purity of her heart and testimony and really just a sense of
childlike innocence. At first glance or observation, that innocence
might be a little frustrating for a 15 year old to be displaying, but
there's something refreshing about it, because she simply just KNOWS
that God loves her, her testimony of Christ keeps her grounded in what
matters most and her countenance shows it all. I would have judged
hard core had I not taken a minute to step back and see the simple
beauty of the thoughtful art she had given us.

I don't know the meaning of everything, but I do know that if we ask
the mysteries of God can and will be unfolded before us, I say that
because I've experienced it. There are things beyond what the natural
eyes see that are there to bless us and to build us and to make us
happy. Life truly is so much more than what our eyes are seeing.
Happy Easter! Do something for Christ this Spring.

Love always,

Elder Jake Robins

Monday, March 23, 2015

When We Don't Fit In

Dear Family & Friends,

Who's ready for Spring?! Oh wait...that's all you guys have had! Well we had another snow storm, presumably the last of the season. Fingers crossed. I'm going to have to start making my emails my journal entries or vice versa...cause boy am I behind! Sometimes I get overwhelmed thinking that I will be responsible for remembering every experience I have had on my mission, but then I realize that I don't think God would expect that of me, so I'm content with doing my best at recording as I go. 

Because it would be my last, Elder Bergman and I decided to go to transfers, even though neither of us were getting transferred. We did have a few things to pick up and definitely people to see, but I found out that ours is the only mission in the region that does transfers like we do where we all gather together at the mission office then meet our new comps and go to our new areas. It's kind of fun, but I was grateful not to have to be doubled over in anxiety about where I'd be my last transfer. 

I've thought a considerable amount about how we are all at different stages in this race we call life. For the Yi's they are at the beginning of an eternal covenant path back to our Heavenly Father, while others are still finding their way TO that path. We had a really hard time contacting or meeting with many of our investigators or new investigators this past week, it was frustrating. And I've been trying to get out of the habit of blaming myself for things not working out as we had hoped or planned. I understand the principle, it's really just a bout with my own mind. 

We did however, meet with Steve Donahue, less active man. He's a funny guy, the one that said, "repent now, beat the rush" [at judgement day]. He has gotten on that path but has strayed and we are doing our best to help him decide to get back on the path. We shared scriptures and just listened and I think sometimes that is the best thing to do. We had an incredible stake conference this past weekend and president Duckworth of the Stake Presidency talked about how we all have time where we feel like we don't fit in, even in the church. We don't have the right words to say, we don't have the same interests, for me it's church basketball. You could pay me $1000 and I still wouldn't enjoy it, but that doesn't make me less of a man or a person or a disciple of Christ. He counseled that perhaps what we need to do when others feel like they don't fit in is to just listen, try to understand, then empathize with them. As opposed to giving them a piece of our minds or putting them in their place or "losing our cool" as the Grinch would say. 

Our investigator Kevin has expressed to us that one reason he hasn't been coming to church is that he sincerely feels he just wouldn't fit in. So we listened and tried to put ourselves in his shoes, then testified of God's love which helped him see the bigger picture. We showed up to the Yi's and quickly learned that Sheila had had a terrible morning and the kids were not helping the situation, they had been fighting and causing her more stress. We just listened for like half an hour, tears were flowing from her eyes and I just felt compassion. We offered a priesthood blessing and laid our hands on her head. I've scarcely felt so much of God's love for one of His children. She needs help now to make it to the gate of the path toward eternal life. Perhaps sometimes she feels like she doesn't fit in because she's not yet a member. We all have different reasons. I find peace in the words of the Apostle Paul,

"Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God;" Ephesians 2:19 Paul is talking about the organization of the church and how it's purpose is to bring all of our differences and unique abilities together to make one great whole. That's the beauty of the kingdom of God. I know we are all part of something so much more than the eye can see. Help someone else feel that this week ;)

Love always,

Elder Jake Robins

Decorations put up for Easter by our investigator Kevin on his front window. He was very excited to show it to us. Made us smile.

Monday, March 16, 2015

"In Your Wilderness"

Hey Everyone! 

I feel to complain about typing on the iPad, ohhh wahhh, this takes forever! Then I think about Nephi and the Book of Mormon prophets who etched their words into golden plates. Yikes. There's a reason that wasn't me. Well more than A reason. Just before the Yi kids had their baptismal interviews, we were talking with Derek, we had to teach them 2x2 rather than all four at a time to keep them focused. Anyway we had Derek and Kyle or Soreena and we asked who Joseph Smith was. Derek responded "Mary's boyfriend?" Oh good heavens. Are we really teaching that poorly or have you been crying "squirrel!" Every time we sit down with you? Bless his heart. 

So Kerian, Soreena, Kyle, and Derek all got baptized yesterday. Kerian It was funny, elder Bergman baptized Soreena and you would have thought he was trying to make a wave pool out of the baptismal font! By golly he splashed a few drops over the glass and onto some child in the front row. Our recent convert came up to him after the baptism and said, "You're quite an aggressive dunker!" The first time she didn't go under all the way, so round two got her under. But amidst all the hyperactivity and craziness and Derek running around like a drunk Baffoon, there was a powerful Spirit in attendance and I have scarcely felt more love for that family. The relief society room was packed with members and non members. Kerian had 5 of her non member friends show up, Sheila had a sister and their family who drove over an hour to be there for the baptism. It was a great turnout, great talks and great Spirit. I was grateful for the whole day. And in fact I made an effort to make a list of 10 things I was grateful for yesterday. 7/10 were people. And I wasn't too surprised. 

We went on exchanges with Elder Moreira from Texas. He's a good kid and we had kind of a miracle exchange. We went to Sister Miller's par with a member named Zac and we were let in by a lady who introduced herself as Sandi. Made me miss my aunt! It's almost like she had been waiting for us as much as Sister Miller had. I had never met her, but felt some sort of connection with her. She asked about the Mormon faith and felt the Spirit during the lesson. Later we met two other boys in Norristown who sat down with us, were taught the ️Restoration and accepted baptismal dates right then and there. The next morning, I was talking with elder Moreira about the experience we had had and kind of analyzing it. 

We came to a point in that day where I had a decision to make, to either go see a family 30+ minutes away in Schwenky or follow the plans I had set the night before. We were stopping by potentials to clean out our area book. So of course the latter was a bit more appealing to me because I knew them. But I had absolutely no idea what to do, so I put my head on the steering wheel and we prayed. I felt to stick with the plans we had made. There was a potential named  Tawana that we found out no longer lived at said address. But before we left, I felt to invite a little further. These two 20 year old black guys let us right in, we taught a lesson and set them both with baptismal dates. They were really nice kids though and seemed interested. In my convo with Elder Moreira we talked about how these people we met may not progress toward baptism, they may not even keep their next appt. But it taught us both a powerful lesson that is hard to put into words. God expects us to trust Him and listen to and follow His Spirit. I know that He will prepare who He will prepare, and it is our duty to BE prepared to receive them.

In Sacrament Meeting, brother Swenson gave an interesting and rather moving talk about the path our lives take. He referenced Alma 34 where Amulek teaches of the importance of sincere prayer. After listing multiple places and circumstances in which we should pray, he says "But this is not all; ye must pour out your souls in your secret places and  in your wilderness."  This is one of those phrases that is sloughed off and skipped over I'd imagine. But theres some profound meaning behind it. God knows we all have those dark corners of our mind where we have thoughts or memories or sins or anything that haunt us. We do our best to keep it all at bay, because I think in our loneliest moments we are vulnerable, we are in that wilderness. Being in the wilderness alone does not sound fun to me. No amount of scout camp's infamous wilderness survival training will be sufficient for what we're talking about here. Perhaps there's a reason Amulek gives a whole sermon primarily on prayer. Because in those moments of isolation or fear or temptation, when you are "in your wilderness" there really is no where to turn BUT to God. What a profound truth that has been solidified again and again in this crazy awesome experience we call a mission.  Love you all, smile big and reach out this week!

Elder Jake Robins

It's blurry and we look a little special. But smiles! 

Derek is in between us. Then from left to right in the back is Seung-joon (Shawn-dad), Soreena, Sheila, Kyle, Kerian, Lisa-With Justin, their brother Justin, Shawn-brother, family friend whose name I forgot.

Monday, March 9, 2015

In the Glorious Cause of Truth

Dear Family and Friends,

Gee, I kind of feel like I'm writing an obituary, dear family just
sounds so formal. This week was like the two books I wrote in 2nd
grade. Jake's terrible, awful, no good, very bad day. Combined with
the more optimistic, Jake's Wonderful, amazing something something (I
forget the adjectives and it's going to sound dumb anyway) day. It was
awful but amazing at the same time. And I learned so much I couldn't
fit it in my dad's latest hit, "Off Kilter" by none other than Glen
Robins. Props to you dad, I'm so proud to call you dad. Not just
because you just got your first book published, but because you're a
man. A man of honesty and integrity and virtue. A man for good. A man
for God. I would not be here today if it weren't for you and your
beautiful companion guiding me along the strait and narrow. Thank you
both for your example to us all.

Oh and to get the plug in, read his book! I hear it's good, but I
won't know for another month or two! Yikes that is creeping up on me.
I remember sitting down in interviews with my first mission President
Schaefermeyer and telling him I would really really miss the temple. I
don't know what it is, but I just have a special place in my heart for
the temple. And so I knew not going for two years would be tough.
"Well Elder Robins" he said sternly, "you better start looking for a
family right away, cause you're not going to be here when the
Philadelphia temple is finished." I took it to heart. Well I never
found the family in time, but the Lord provided another opportunity
for me to get to the temple on my mission. Our mission goal this year
is actually for every missionary to get to the temple once a month
with a recent convert or reactivated member for baptisms or
endowments. I immediately latched on to the goal even though I had two
transfers left. So I prayed and I prayed and on Thursday or so, we got
a text from our RC Anastasia who had her recommend and everything
ready to go for this Saturday to do baptisms, and the text said that
she had to work on Saturday. I was crushed. I was so angry. I was
questioning why I even had faith to pray that we'd be able to go with
her. And yeah I know that was bad on my part. That was the same day we
were stuck inside with the cars grounded as we watched 7 inches of
snow fall to the ground. By far our biggest storm yet. But it killed
the work that day. This ain't a walking area. Gave me a little time to
catch up which was nice though.

So that text came on a dumper day which just added to frustrations.
Well the next morning, Friday comes and a recent convert of almost a
year, Patrice, texts and asks if we're still good to meet at the
Valley Forge famous Mormon- owned ice cream  shop, Zwahlen's. We
answered in the affirmative and told  her to come with her family account set up. Well we get there and get on her profile
and try to find her dads parents. Her dad is Hispanic, and bless their
hearts they're not the best at keeping records or doing family
history, and it seemed just about hopeless. But we decided to try her
moms side. The words of a beloved hymn came to mind as we helped her
find her ancestors, #243 Let us All Press On "an unseen hand will aid
me and you in the glorious cause of truth." I kid you not there was
some sort of divine guidance in that hour long meeting with Patrice.
Neither of us knew what we were doing, I just thought I'd press a few
buttons, but somehow it all worked out. I called up the family history
consultant in the ward and got some tips on printing the names to take
to the temple. I don't know how we did it, but our fingers were guided
to a little green temple symbol of a couple on her mom's side who
hadn't had their work done yet. We just about flipped a table we were
so excited! She was just beaming with the Spirit of Elijah. She
printed them in the back office and came out and I got a caramel apple
to celebrate. Best caramel apples I've had btw. Maybe besides those
famous huge ones the Hart family would give out around Christmas.

So the next morning, Saturday we drove the 2 1/2 hours to the DC
temple. She and Jason both loved it. I loved it and felt filled.
Yesterday was beautiful too. Many people came to church, like almost
as many as we had in Philly. I love seeing investigators at church.
You know they are at least trying to progress if they're at least
making it to church on Sunday. Oh I went on exchanges with elder Owen
in West Chester and we had a straight up ice storm. Ice is so much
worse than snow. Four wheel drive ain't gonna do diddly squat on ice.
But it was kind of fun it was like every outdoor surface was just
glazed over, kind of pretty looking. Pretty but deadly. I got to use
some of my Spanish because part of that Ward is Spanish. It was a good
exchange and he's a good kid who actually roomed with Aden Hales at

We are preparing the Yi kids for baptism this week. I love love love
this family. We've all got our problems and deal with them in
different ways, but the gospel is the only lasting real answer. Elder
Bergman said last night that a lot of times we see our trials as cages
that we are locked in, when in reality they're often more like hugging
and holding tight to a thorn bush. That's pretty true. Maybe not every
trial, but many. May we ever remember the beautiful words of the
Apostle Paul "We are more than conquerors through Him that loved us."
Romans 8:35-37

I know that is true. Look to Him and His gospel and look up. It will
all work out. I love you all!

(Jake's first selfie?)

(No caption included, but it looks like both eggs had 2 yolks? Significant moment for Jake apparently)

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Beat the Rush!

Hey Everyone!

Hope you're all nice and cozy in your 60-70* weather out west. Ok
maybe it's dropped to 40, my bad. Ha no I am just a bit jealous. But
the drought is probably not worth it. On our way out of the Donahue's
(part member/less active family that lives at the bottom of our area
in Conshohocken...I know, what a name. Don't worry it's nicknamed
Conshy) we slid our slick shoes along the completely iced over brick
sidewalk, just about falling and tripping and slipping down the hill
every three inches. I probably looked like a penguin on crack. To be a
little more explicit, we had a pretty bad ice storm yesterday. And
Elder Bergman let the California boy drive! I'm like, ...snow...what's
that? Ha jk. No pet peeve is when people think I can't drive in bad
weather because I'm from California. Good heavens! I don't live in a
bubble with a perfectly set thermostat! Ok, Danville is a bubble,
let's be real. But you get the point.

Where was I going with that? Some days I type like I talk. Like a
maniac. So the Donahue's are awesome. They've got their fair share of
recent convert challenges. I say that because it seems for those
individuals and families who choose to "take up their cross" and
follow the Savior into the waters of baptism, all Hell breaks loose
either right before or within a year after their baptism. Such was the
case with the Donahue's. He lost his job, she had medical issues,
their non member son Steven who we recently started teaching needed a
car for work, just everything. But in our lesson last night, we
focused on starting with the simple things: daily scripture study,
prayer, and church attendance. Often times we pray and ask for a
grocery list of things that we want God to give us, without thinking
twice about the basics of our end of the deal. Or the very "Thy will
be done" part. We invited him to repent and change and exercise faith
in Christ. Ya know, back home the word repentance felt like a naughty
word, it always seemed to imply that you had done the naughty and
needed some sort of a time out. I'm grateful that my perspective has
changed because that's really what it's all about. Change. Why do we
need faith AND works, how on earth could Christ change us if we're not
willing to work to change ourselves. Rant over.

I love Steve though, he's in his 60's and sometimes he just gets in
these moods where he's hilarious. He got talkin about judgement and
how he doesn't know how it's going to all work out. So jokingly, he
turned to his son Steven jr, and said "Repent now boy, beat the rush!"
You really had to be there, but we're still laughing at it. It's true,
why wait to change? Is sin really that appealing? Are those momentary
pleasures with the inevitable accompanying guilt and pain and
challenges that come with sin? No. I'll just answer my own question.
He knows it, and I hope that most of the people we work with do.

Kyle and Soreen, the two middle kids of the Yi family, went to the
valley forge 1st and 2nd ward youth conference. It was held at the
Freedoms Foundation center in Valley Forge park. Kind of a neat place
with statues and history. The kids just had a blast. We and the two
sets of sisters in the second ward had been asked by the YM president
in their ward, Brother Rothey, to participate in the Friday evening
activity of the conference. So we showed up a little after 6,
practically sprinting from MLC to home to change and then from there,
to the YC. Had a slice of pizza, talked to Bishop Behunin about the
work in the Ward right now, and got prepped for the activity. They had
each youth in a downstairs room where they were reading 1 Nephi 8
about Lehi's dream of the tree of life. Every 60 seconds one of the
youth's name and picture would come up with a little ding, signaling
their time to walk up the stairs to the main floor. There they were
given written testimonies from their parents, to read silently for a
few minutes. Once they were done reading they were blind're probably thinking alright robins, where are you going
with this..pulling out the blindfolds, eh?

They were then led by the arm one by one by one of the missionaries.
Ha I wanted to see how many one by one's I could get in there while
still being grammatically correct. I think...anyway. So we each had
the chance to lead about 6 YM or YW out the doors into the 14-15* air,
down some curved steps and onto a short path toward the point of no
return. Aka the point of decision. As we guided them, tapping them on
the back lightly to turn them or make a slight course correction, we
would whisper encouraging words to them, warning them of the decisions
that lie ahead. To the right was the end of a large building with big
windows and lights and a balcony inside. Great and spacious building.
Minus the whole Jezebel character. There were youth leaders enticing
them with hot chocolate and cookies and warmth. The hot chocolate was
cocoa powder and cold water and all the cookies were crumbled. Or you
could go to the left and down a short path with candles and a rope
that led to a fire pit, unseen at the point of decision.

At the fire pit, both bishops from the wards stood there to welcome
anyone who had made the correct decision. They were then led to a
building with real hot chocolate and warmth and cookies, tree of life.
It was a stretch, but such a powerful experience for each of us. As I
acted as the Holy Ghost in our lives, guiding the children of God down
the strait and narrow, helping them avoid danger, I felt a powerful
Spirit bear witness of the divine mission of the Holy Ghost. And the
role of agency in our eternal lives. Walking down that path, the words
of I am a Child of God came to mind. "Lead me, guide me, walk beside
me..." I know the Spirit is real. I can't deny that. It's up to us to
follow that. So I guided Soreena down and tried extra hard to prep her
for the decision. She's got a learning disability, so I repeated the
phrase "don't listen to the voices..." In hopes that she'd ignore the
taunts and alluring sounds of the great and spacious. But I took the
blindfold off and she looked ahead, then back at me, then without any
hesitation she heads straight into the great and spacious. Elder
Bergman had been watching with me nearby and we threw our hands in the
air and started laughing. Soreena! No!!! Did we not just tell you
three seconds ago?! Ha it was so funny.

You know I could go on and on, but I'm going to take Jacob's advice in
the Book of Mormon. "O be wise, what can I say more?" Jacob 6:12. We
have the Spirit. Just act on it! I'm still working on it. Varsha is
still working on it, she came to sacrament meeting yesterday by the
way. And if we have slipped up, that's what the bishops were there
for. Representing Christ, the good shepherds. Bringing us BACK to the
fold. Love you all, be strong and be wise.

Elder Jacob Robins