I was watching some Mormon messages this past week and I saw one called "The Hope of Gods Light." It was pretty amazing. It is about a man who was going through his life and it takes you through his two year conversion process. This video is part of one of our miracles for the week. So my recommendation is that if you have not seen it before, stop reading and go watch it. Then come back and finish reading.
So ,we were contacting on University Ave. the busiest street in all of Palo Alto on any given night. As we are walking down the street trying to talk with people a young man walks up to us. The first words out of his mouth are "Elders, I'm a member of the church but I haven't been to church in ten years. I want to come back." We were overjoyed that he had found us. We talked with him for a little bit right there on the street and set up a time that we could come and visit him. He gave us his address and his phone number so we planned on going over two days later.
Fast forward two days... We go over to his house and we go to the door and a Hispanic lady answers the door. We ask if he was home and she said she didn't know anyone by that name. Okay, we thought we had the wrong address. Then as we were leaving he pulls up in his car. Turns out we were pronouncing his name completely wrong. We go inside with him and we start to talk and get to know each other. After talking with him we realize that he has been through everything in his life. He is 18 years old. When he was 8 he watched his father die in his arms and then his mother two months later. After his parents had died he was all alone so he walked over to the police station and told them what happened. One of the police officers took him in for a couple months.
It just happens that the officer was a member and while he was living with them he had the missionary lessons and was baptized. He told us that the two months he spent with that family had been the two greatest months of his life. He still remembers primary and the songs that he sang there. After two months with that family they found a foster home for him and between the age of 8 and 18 he had lived in 23 different foster homes. Once he graduated high school he was kicked out of his foster home and then three months later he finds us. He has gone through things that I couldn't even imagine. He has been through trials that most of us would never be able to go through. Yet through it all he is the kindest most sweet hearted young man I have ever met. He is so caring and so happy that he has another opportunity to go to church.
What an incredible example he is to me. So humble and charitable. We watched that video with him and as we watched it the spirit was so strong. He felt the Saviors love for him as we discussed it afterwords and he understood that he truly had not been alone through it all. He told us of a scripture that had helped him through it all.
James 1:12, " Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him."
Again, the faith he has blew me away. As we finished up our talk he expressed to us how grateful he was that we came over to talk. Then we left. A very simple visit. We didn't really teach him anything. We didn't invite him to do anything. We didn't change anything that he was doing, but I know as we left that lesson that it had been the most incredible lesson I have ever been in. The spirit was the teacher. It brought to life the quote, "Preach the gospel at all times, use words when necessary." I learned so much about what I need to become from that lesson. I realized how much more room for improvement there is. It truly was a humbling experience talking with him and I will never forget it!
Second amazing miracle of the week (that I think both Mom and Dad will appreciate). We are teaching a young man who is on the Stanford football team. He is a freshman on the team and is actually recovering from an injury this year but he is still huge and ready to play. We have been teaching him for a while and we invited him to be baptized but when he told his parents he was thinking about being baptized they weren't too supportive. So now we are at a point where he knows it is true and he wants to be baptized but he doesn't want to ruin his relationship with his family. Very understandable and we are not going to push him to do that. So were were trying to think of ways we could continue to strengthen him and help him progress. Then we had a crazy idea.
Steve Young, the famous football player from BYU and the 49ers, lives in our area and we thought it would be cool to have him come to a lesson with us. Only one problem, we don't have Steve's phone number because for some reason they don't list his personal phone number in the ward directory. So we call our mission president who actually is friends with Steve and we ask him if he could talk to Steve for us. He says he would love to. We wait a couple of days and nothing happens. So we are at dinner at our bishops house and he actually lives in the same ward boundaries as Steve, so his wife and kids go to that family ward while he goes to the singles ward. We get to talking about the lesson we want to set up and our bishops wife says, "Oh, I text him all the time, I'll send him your number and tell him to give you a call." The next morning as we are studying we get a call from a number we don't have saved in our phone. We answer and it is Steve Young asking us when a good time to set up the lesson is. So now we have Steve Young saved in our phone and he is going to come and be the member present in our lesson this Thursday. What an awesome lesson! I have never met Steve Young before and I have never really been dying to meet him but now that I am going to it is super cool and I am super excited! Ahhhh! It is pretty awesome. Maybe I'll get a picture for you! Maybe...
In answer to your question about balance. I can think of how balance between fun and obedience is super important on a mission and I feel like that applies to life before the mission in the same way. On my mission I have learned that being obedient is the only way. It is extremely hard to be an effective missionary if you are not obedient. But if you are letting that stop you from having fun, you become stressed and can't function as a normal person. So the balance is essential to being an effective advocate of Jesus Christ. The same thing is true growing up in the church. We have to keep the commandments no matter what. That's a given. The balance comes through finding ways to have fun while being obedient. The thing that probably sticks out to me is that our house has always been the party house. We would always have friends over and have super awesome parties and everyone had a lot of fun! Strange, there were no drugs, no alcohol, and no immodest clothing. How could we have fun? That's what it comes down to. The world has stated that these are the things that are needed to have fun and all of them encourage us to break the commandments. But we have proved the world wrong! True fun comes through wholesome activities and people who respect each other and want to have fun together while being obedient. That's what sticks out to me the most. Not worded very well but I hope you get the point!
I am glad to hear that Emma is there to keep all of those crazy boys in line. It's crazy thinking that all my siblings that are close in age are off at college. It makes me feel like I am falling behind in life but then I remember what I am out here doing and I put my trust in God and am hoping He will bless me and help me after my mission. Serving a mission is definitely a sacrifice but I have already learned so much here that I couldn't have learned elsewhere that it has already made it worth it.
I love you all! Keep up the amazing experiences! I love to hear about all the experiences!
Love, Elder Maxwell