Thursday, July 23, 2015

I Have a Terminal Case of Learning Curves

23 July 2015

In 1972 when I first joined the Church, I LOVED Sundays.   I could hardly wait for the next Sunday to roll around.   It was a time of new learning.   My learning curve at that time was in a full explosion mode!  And every day in between, Mondays through Saturdays,  I couldn't read enough.   I would have a million questions all poised for Sunday when I could ask them to the only church scholars I knew, missionaries and some members.   A whole new world had opened up and I couldn't learn  enough.   I had been a starving child for 18 years and now a table of food was before me that stretched beyond my own vision.   I felt the food was on a fast conveyer belt and I couldn't catch up.  But I tried!   I LOVED Sundays.

That lasted about 2 years.  Within that 2 years I got married and started having babies.   Another new learning curve!  Listening intently for a full hour in each meeting of  Relief Society and Sunday  School and then a full one hour and a half in Sacrament Service was a thing of the past.   Now I just got bits and pieces.  Instead of "listening intently" soaking in every word, I now had to master the "stop and start" listening method.  Tending babies and toddlers during church didn't change my learning curve, it just changed my learning curve focus!  The children were in their own little learning curves and that was important.  I continued to learn about the gospel it was just in a reverse fashion that I was used to learning.   I now received my questions on Sundays and would find my own answers at home during the week. This lasted about 20 years.  Numerous callings helped but always stepped up the learning curve into different dimensions and intensified my Sundays.  I realized about 4 years ago I started really liking Sundays again.   I was teaching and working with the sisters in Relief Society.   My Sundays were back.

Here I am in Phnom Penh Cambodia.   My learning curve has surpassed comprehension!   Sundays have become so very difficult again.  We are assigned to support the three Vietnamese Branches in Phnom Penh.   We go to 2 meeting blocks every Sunday, one at 9am and then at 1:30pm.   We have to have one of the Elders as an interpreter.   The missionaries are very good at doing that difficult task.   My problem is that the missionary is only there for me during Sacrament Service.   They then go teach one of the youth classes during Sunday School and of course the Elder then goes to Priesthood where Elder Leavitt benefits from that interpreter.   The saints always want us to comment on what they are talking about but I don't even know what they have been discussing.   It is very challenging.   Sundays are just not that fun anymore.   I never feel like I have gone to Church.   I have resorted  to having my own church in my head but that still is just one person's opinion!

The people are sweet, caring, and love us being there.   They run up to us when we arrive at the Branch.   They are so welcoming.   Their love is so transparent.   We have learned a few greetings and niceties in Vietnamese which thrill the people when we try to verbalize them (I'm sure my southern tongue butchers their language although, it sounds pretty muddled already).  Learning their names is no picnic either.   Huyen, Kha Ai, Hien, Binh, Tra, My Hoa, Nhi, Thuy, Dinh, and Hang.  I never know who I am talking to.  

They have discovered that I can play the piano.   Believe it or not, my weak skills on the piano sound like a concert to them.  One branch has a young woman who can play one hand and that same woman travels to another branch to play, the other branch has no one.  So I found a Simplified Hymn book and have had to play in Sacrament Service.   This stress has not helped my Sundays!

Now I have been asked to teach a beginner piano class.  I agreed.  This takes place on Tuesdays.  I am being stretched to the limits.  But tha'ts OK.   I knew that would happen when I signed up for this mission.   What I am learning is where my "comfort zones" are NOT.   The District Presidency counselor came to me and said he had a list for people that wanted to learn to play the piano.  I looked at the list......28 people were on that list!   I was flabbergasted!  I could not possibly teach 28 students.  I have had 2 classes so far and the max that has shown up is 9 although, they were 9 different people each class!   We will see who shows up next week.

Sundays and Tuesdays are a struggle for me.  I want to be able to say "I love Sundays" again.  I'm working on that.   I have prayed that I would feel like I am useful.  I have prayed that the learning curve would lighten up (don't think that can really happen here).

Elder Leavitt came up with somewhat of a solution.   We are going to use the Sunday School time to teach 3 students, chosen by the Branch President, to conduct the hymns each Sunday.   I think this will work.   They need all sorts of music skills in these branches.  When I envisioned myself on a mission I could see me using all my strengths and well-honed talents.  After all, that's what I had developed all those strengths and talents for.    I promised over 40 years ago that I would give my time and my talents to do my part to help build the Kingdom of God.   I just had no idea that "everything with which He has given me" meant that  He would require my piddley, little, ill-harvested skill at the piano too.  

So my learning curves seem to never cease.....thank goodness... that seems to be one of my greatest blessings.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

I Thought I Knew....

7 July 2015 

Several months ago (pre-Cambodia Mission) if I had been assigned a talk on Faith, I would have said, "No problem!".  I would have then gone to favorite prophets and most expected scripture mastery of the past.   I would have created a talk that would have possibly stirred your heart and mind to better examples of faith.   All this because I thought I knew what faith was.   

 Most of the scriptures that I have relied on about faith just tell me what faith IS NOT!  It is NOT things I can see.  It is nothing that I can put my hands on.  (Heb. 11:1)  Power, understanding, and testimony are results of faith but still no clear "faith is..." statement.  Faith can show a long, narrow trail of evidences that it was here.  (Helaman 10:5)

 What I have learned is that I have been living on the surface of faith.  What I have seen and witnessed is faith beyond my comprehension.  

Faith is the Sr. Couple who while planning and preparing for retirement and to serve a mission was suddenly a victim of "down sizing" and he lost his job.   In the middle of all that it was very clear that they needed to continue their plans for the mission.   They weren't sure how that would happen but they went forward.   They sold everything... their home and most of their belongings.   They now serve in South Carolina.   After 2 years of service they will go back to their home town to a 10 X 10 storage crate and figure out the rest.  They understand, far better than I do, about seeking "first the Kingdom of God"  (Matthew 6:30-33). 

Faith is the newly arrived 19 year old missionary who  was already overwhelmed just by getting off the airplane and seeing Cambodia for the first time.   In this mission the missionaries arrive at 10:30am.   If you even let them get site of a bed they would crash.   ( It would take weeks for them to get their internal clocks turned around.)  So as soon as they get off the plane the AP's load up the luggage in the van to be sent to the Mission Office. The Assisitant's to the President and the new missionaries begin street contacting with their new found language from the Missionary Training Center.   They come and have lunch at the Mission Office/Home.   Mission training is next for these "greenies".   (I now understand why they call them"greenies".   Some of them really did look sick!)  I will never forget this one new Elder.  He taught me lessons on faith that 40 years in the Church could not.   Elder Leavitt told the group that today they each have to pay $75 for the bike they would receive.   All reached into their wallets and began dishing out the money.   This one Elder counted and re-counted his money.  He took everything out of his wallet, leaving himself with zero money, and apologetically said, "I'm a bit short can I pay you later?"   This modern-day Stripling Warrior was willing to give everything.  He had no idea when or how he was going to get his next dollar.  He was just doing as his mother had taught by being obedient with exactness and giving his all.   Now that is faith.   (Just to let you know,  Elder Leavitt couldn't take it.   His heart broke for this young man and told him to keep his money and to come pay him the $75 later.)

One last example of faith that just astounds me.   When the 2 stakes were created in 2014 one of the first callings that took place was for the new Stake Presidents to call Patriarchs.   I met one of these 5'4" giants this week.  (Having heard the story I was surprised as to how small his statue was.)  As this man was called to be the new Patriarch he said "yes" to the calling.  But he had a few problems..... he didn't have his own Patriarchal Blessing, he had never heard a Patriarchal Blessing, nor had he ever read a Patriarchal Blessing.... so what is it and how do I do it?  To me, he is a giant of faith.  

This week Katey Sudo posted a great quote regarding faith.  Good for you Katey for learning this long before your 61 years old!  
"Faith does not mean God meets our expectations.  It means we cling to God's character, knowing that God will always accomplish His purposes.   God wants to forge in us a faith that is far greater than our circumstances.   Faith means knowing God can, believing God will, but clinging to Him even if He doesn't.   Faith is not an assurance that everything is going to be OK; it is the assurance that God is in control.  That's the only way to live, knowing that some of the pains and confusions of life will remain mysteries even to our graves."(author unknown)

Thanks Katey.   I have always taught that faith is "knowing that Jesus is who He says he is and that He can do what he says he can do'.   I am seeing real life size examples of that in Cambodia!