Friday, April 3, 2015

"The Best Surprise" - the joy of sharing the Gospel

I am Sister Ashley Dyer, and I just returned from serving in the Brazil Natal Mission in Northeastern Brazil. While in Brazil, I experienced first-hand a culture with a lot of enthusiasm for sharing the gospel and inviting people to church, so today I want to share with you the things I learned about how to participate in the Lord’s amazing work. 

One day on my mission, my companion and I were eating lunch at a member’s house, and afterwards we asked the member, whose name was Presidente Claudio for suggestions about who we could teach, but he sadly told us he didn't have any.  As my companion and I got ready to leave, Presidente Claudio walked over to his daughter’s 14 year-old friend who was over.  He asked her what her name was and if she liked “surprises.” When the girl, whose name was Rwanda, said yes, Presidente Claudio excitedly said, “Rwanda!  I have an awesome surprise for you!  Can I go over to your house one day this week to bring it to you?”  She said it was ok and gave him her address.  Presidente Claudio then asked with a smile on his face, “Do you like chocolate?”  When she said yes, he replied grinning from ear to ear, “You are going to love this surprise.”  As my we were leaving, Presidente Claudio slipped Rwanda’s address into my bag.

Afterwards, I thought, “Well, that was pretty awesome what Presidente did, but what’s Rwanda going to think when we show up at her door as the “awesome surprise” Presidente Claudio promised.  Well, we went to her house, and to make the story short, by the second lesson, Rwanda had gained a testimony of The Book of Mormon and the prophet Joseph Smith.  She knew that The Church was true and wanted to be baptized.  From this experience, I learned two very important things.  The first is that you never know who is prepared to accept the gospel, and the second is that the Restored Gospel of Jesus Christ is the best surprise you can give anyone, even better than chocolate, and we should never be too scared to enthusiastically give it to others.

Well, seeing that there are so many prepared to hear the gospel, we need to open our mouths and create conversations about it.  I will never forget what one of my investigators said after we taught her about the Plan of Salvation.  She said, “Sisteres!  You need more advertising!  Nobody knows this stuff!  There are so many horrible rumors about you that aren’t true.  If the people knew these things, you would have so many more people wanting to be baptized.”  As I thought about what my investigator said, I realized that in fact, we did need “more advertising.”  We needed member missionaries. 

Although sharing the gospel as a member of the Church may seem intimidating or annoying or unnecessary at times.  It is actually very easy, very satisfying, and also very necessary.  President George Albert Smith once said, “That is your mission, my brethren and sisters of the Church, that is your responsibility.  Freely you have received and our Heavenly Father will expect you freely to share with His other sons and daughters these glorious truths…We will attain our exaltation in the Celestial Kingdom only on the condition that we share with our Father’s other children the blessings of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and observe the commandments that will enrich our lives here and hereafter.”  Our own salvation is dependent on us sharing the Gospel with our fellow brothers and sisters.  Is that motivation enough?

During my mission, every day my companion and I were required to speak with 20 new people about the Church.  It was something very weird to me in the beginning.  We basically just stopped anyone on the road, told them who we were, and invited them to come to Church. There would be those who would say they were of a different faith; there were those who would commit to visit the Church someday; and then there were those few who would say they would visit.  Independent of the responses they gave, most of the people didn't end up coming to church, but we felt happy in knowing that we had done our part in inviting 20 children of God to come to church that day. 

In Clayton M. Christensen’s book “The Power of Everyday Missionaries,” Brother Christensen explains that, “even when people decline our invitations, they are not offended as long as they can feel our honesty, our love, and God’s love when we invite them to learn about Christ’s gospel.  They typically have expressed gratitude that we cared enough about them to want to share something so personal and important.” We should not be afraid of rejection.

One trick that has helped me is deliberately finding people to say “no.”  Yep.  That’s right.  How many of you can say that you have successfully found someone who has declined your invitation to visit the Church every week?  Because “no” is success just as much as “yes” is.  As an assignment for a young man in one of my wards after having lunch at his house, I asked him to find 10 people who would say “no” to his invitation to come to church the next Sunday.  The people who said “yes” didn’t count.  It had to be 10 “no’s”.

Success does not have to be measured by how many lost sheep you bring to the fold.  That is the role of Heavenly Father and the Holy Ghost.  It can be measured by how many lost sheep you give the opportunity to return to the fold.  The lost sheep that are prepared will come naturally.  We succeed when we open our mouths and invite – whether the answer is yes or no, we can rest assured that we have succeeded in doing our part as a member missionary when we can say, “I invited someone to Church today.”

As missionaries in the Missionary Training Center we were told there were people waiting for us to teach who, without us, would not be able to find the gospel and who would be forever grateful for what we had done to share the gospel with them. During my last week in the mission field, I received a letter from one of my investigators who is currently preparing to get married and baptized so that she can go to the temple and be sealed together with her family forever.  We had met her on the street and just invited her to come to church.  In the letter she said, “My Dear! How can I thank you for all you have done to introduce me to my Heavenly Father? Even if your mission lasted 18 years instead of 18 months, there would not be enough time for me to show you how grateful I am! I thank Heavenly Father and the prophet for putting you in my life. I pray for you and I believe your mission was successful. Love, Djandira.  P.S. We will meet each other one day in the Celestial Kingdom of God.”  These words truly touched me as I saw that my Father in Heaven had used me to help my investigator come to know Him.  I truly know that there are many people who are prepared to receive the gospel of Jesus Christ and are just waiting for us to open our mouths and share it with them.  I know that they too will be forever grateful when they realize what we have done to help them come to know their God.

In D&C 18, Christ says, “Remember the worth of souls is great in the sight of God…Wherefore, you are called to cry repentance unto this people.  And if it so be that you should labor all your days in crying repentance unto this people, and bring, save it be one soul unto me, how great shall be your joy with him (or her) in the kingdom of my Father!”

I bear my sincere testimony that I know that the worth of souls is great in the eyes of God, and that our Father in Heaven loves us with an infinite love.  He loves us so much that He sent His son to die for us.  I know that the power of the Atonement is real, for I saw children of God in dire circumstances use this power to repent and change their lives.  I know with all of my heart that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is true, that The Book of Mormon is a true testament of Jesus Christ, and that Joseph Smith was a true prophet of God, and because of this I left my home and friends and family here in China to go to Brazil to learn to speak Portuguese to share this message with others.  Brothers and Sisters, it is amazing knowing you are an instrument in the hands of our Lord, and I exhort each of you to start now.  Because these things are true, and the gospel is the best surprise you can give to anyone whether they know it or not. 

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