Wednesday, August 29, 2012

I Couldn't Be Happier

This week was one of the best weeks of my life. I have come so much closer to my Savior and I have really seen His hand in my life.
But first I need to answer the questions.
Spanish is coming great and I'm grateful for both the Italian and Spanish I learned before I came here. My district is going to a bunch of different missions: Washington Spokane, California Oakland and San Francisco, Peru Trujillo, and 3 of us are going to Peru Lima West. I don't know my departure date because my visa hasn't come through but I'll talk more about that later. I loved getting Ryan's emails and if you hear cool stories about my friends just let me know. I'm trying to stay in contact too though. Thanks for the package that Brother Dever brought over. I'll try to find out where his office is so I can drop off some things. The one thing I really need is the document holder.
I'm excited for all of you starting school and hope you're loving it. It's kind of funny because I was so excited to be done with school for 2 years and currently I have about 10 hours of studying a day so looks like the joke is on me.
I wanted to thank Emily, Steph, and Catie for the package they sent me (Rosie for the thoughts via Emily too). I don't have any of there addresses so hopefully they see this and know they made my whole district happy with the delicious cookies. I loved the paper crane, which I unwisely undid because I thought I could redo it. Well I can't, but it was fun to see and I'll remember what it really looked like.
Congratulations to Tanner on his mission call. The people of Arcadia California are going to be so blessed by your service. If anyone else gets a mission call I'd love to hear where you're going. I can promise you that there is no better place to be than on a mission.
Now back to the week. Heavenly Father helped me grow so much and I want to share some things with you. We didn't get our visas for who knows what reason and I was a little down. My teacher asked me why I would be sad about God's will and I thought about that for a little. I decided there was no reason for me to be sad and was comforted to know once again that Heavenly Father is directing my life. Later in the week as I was thinking about how cool it would be to be in the Peru MTC I remembered a Tuesday devotional at BYU where Sister Oaks said "If I can't be happy now, how am I supposed to be happy later". I think that is so important for us all to learn. Sometimes I find myself looking into the distance for something that I think is going to be so much better than what I am currently experiencing and then when I really open my eyes I see how blessed my life is. That's kind of what my mission was like for a while, but when I started living in the present instead of the future I was blessed with so many friends and experiences that I am eternally grateful for.
Like I said before the Spanish is going really well and I know I am being blessed. I love the language so much and am excited to talk to the people of Peru. It takes some time just like anything but I trust in the Lord's timing and know he will help me learn and adjust. We got a new "investigator" yesterday and it was my favorite lesson. We understood pretty much everything he said and he was able to understand what we were saying. Oh yeah, and our last "investigator" (they're just our teachers) accepted baptism and that felt so good.
On Sunday I prayed for some help to stay focused on my mission. I haven't been super distracted but I want all my thoughts to turn me to God. The speaker said that we should get thoughts we don't want out of our mind by thinking of a hymn or scripture. I had started memorizing scriptures the day before and the next day I memorized Mosiah 5:13 which was just another testament to me that what I was doing would bring me closer to God. That night we were also able to listen to a recorded talk. It was entitled "The Character of Christ" and it was given here last Christmas by Elder David A. Bednar. I don't know if there is any way to access it on the internet but if there is I encourage everyone to study it. He talked about how Christ always turned out when we would turn in. We can't be self-centered, self-absorbed, or selfish. As I have tried to look out more I have been blessed so much and I challenge you all to pray for opportunities to serve because it brings us closer to Christ. When you are feeling that life is hard the answer is to serve. I'm grateful for this opportunity I have to serve a mission and there is no place I would rather be.
Classes are going really well and I feel the Savior's love in my life. I thought a lot about the times my testimony was strengthened and my path to conversion and I hope you all will do the same this week. Find joy in the path Heavenly Father has set for you and you will be blessed beyond measure. Thanks for helping me become the man I am today.
Te amo,
Elder Aaron Wheatley

MTC Adjustments

Hola everybody,
The MTC is incredible. I really have no words to describe what I have felt here. The first two days were really weird trying to adjust to all the rules and just being in this type of environment. My advice to anyone entering the MTC is to pray for the Spirit and read the Missionary Handbook and then commit to follow every rule. Once you know all the rules and have a desire to follow all of them the weirdness goes away and the Spirit floods your heart. If you can stay strong until Sunday and remember why you went on a mission the adjustment comes.
I love my district, every one of them. We have a couple Elders from Arizona, one from Las Vegas, one from Idaho, one from Utah, and my companion is from Louisiana. We also have Sisters in our district which is one of the biggest blessings. It´s really good to have more mature and loving people in the room who help us Elders.
The second full day you are in the MTC (Friday) you start teaching an investigator who is actually one of your two teachers and they role play an investigator in the language you are learning. Well the first lesson was pretty much garbage. Really no other word to describe it. I guess we said most of what we wanted to say, but we didn't feel anything and if it was someone that only spoke Spanish they wouldn't have understood anything. The second lesson was better, but I still wasn't feeling very much although our Spanish was much better. It's so cool how quickly you learn in the MTC if you work hard and use your time wisely. I think we're always blessed if we consecrate our time to the Lord though. I wish I would have used my time more wisely before. I loved this summer and I'm not necessarily talking about my sleep schedule, because I wanted to spend time with friends and family, but I wasted a lot of time in transition. In the MTC everything is back-to-back-to-back and you can't waste time. It's such a good preparation and I'm grateful I am here.
Back to Mateo, our investigator, now. Yesterday our other teacher Hermano Herman was teaching us about our relationship to investigators and how it's important to form a close relationship with them, but how it's more important to help them become close with God through reading scriptures and praying. We're both on the same level trying to come closer to God. We as missionaries aren't higher because we have the gospel. We need to talk and discuss with the investigator not teach them. He told us that we need to have conviction if we want our investigators to feel anything. I knew why I was on a mission but I felt I needed to strengthen my faith and my testimony. Last night was our third lesson and I felt the Spirit as we talked about baptism and I was strengthened so much. Mateo said he didn't know why he needed to be baptized and that he didn't have faith. We asked him to continue reading the Book of Mormon and to pray about baptism. It hurt pretty bad though. Kind of like when someone close to you is making a terrible decision but there's nothing you can do about it. It's weird to me how much you can care about someone that is just role playing. I know I will feel some of the same emotions out in the field  and I know I can be strengthened by the Atonement because I felt that last night too. I know Heavenly Father loves His children and He will strengthen me as I try my best to help them come unto Him. I am so grateful for His help in my life.
Definitely the biggest blessing about the MTC has been seeing all the familiar faces. I was picked up by two elders that I knew from college and I think I've seen everyone else I know thats here. It's so great to see people I love making such a great decision and it's helped me feel real comfortable here.
Thanks so much for the letters. I think that was a great idea about DearElder. If you want to write me a quick email I don't mind, but it was good to be able to get such a long one in the mail. I hope you didn't write for too long Mom.
In response to some questions:
My companion Elder Rotolo went to LSU and is a huge LSU fan. (He knew about those dorms at the football stadium but said they were all shut down now.)  Things are going great with him. Of course there are times that are a little hard to get used to but over all it's been super easy. He's a hard worker and he definitely helps me become better.
I got the packages from Bekkah and Brother Cottle and I'm not sure I'll have time to write them. If you could tell them thank you so much from me and that they were delicious I would really appreciate it.
I saw the Peru flag when I went on my temple walk on Sunday and it made me smile. The first couple of days it was way weird to look up at the mountains and feel so far away but I've adjusted more now and it was so fun to see.
I'm doing well with pretty much everything else. Tell Sister Huish and the Romo's hi for me and thank everyone that talks to you for the great examples they've been in my life.
I love you all so much. Keep working hard and I'll do the same.
Elder Aaron Wheatley

Good Byes


Some of Aaron's fantastic  Brotha's!

Aaron's Aunties

One more game with Oma and Opa

Our second missionary on his way.
Aaron wanted to walk to the MTC :)

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Becoming Instruments in the Hands of God (Farewell Talk)

When my mom told me that Brother Suprise had asked me to speak on anything given by Elder Holland I was pretty excited. There were so many great talks that immediately ran through my head. I could pick any one of them and I would be more than fine. There really was no wrong. Throughout this last week, but even more throughout my entire it, it became apparent what I was supposed to speak on. I thought it would be cool to talk about how I prepared myself to serve a mission, but learned it was better to speak about how we can all become instruments in the hands of God. I have chosen three talks from which to base my remarks this day. I have chosen three talks from which to base my remarks this day.
In Elder Holland’s most recent Conference talk he gives a great interpretation “of the Savior’s parable in which a householder ‘went out early in the morning to hire labourers.’ After employing the first group at 6:00 in the morning, he returned at 9:00 a.m., at 12:00 noon, and at 3:00 in the afternoon, hiring more workers as the urgency of the harvest increased. The scripture says he came back a final time, “about the eleventh hour” and hired a concluding number.” Just an hour later the workers gathered to receive their wages. There was much surprise for everyone for they were all paid the same. The workers who had been there one hour were no doubt stunned by the generosity of their employer while the laborers who had been working all day were indeed angry and complained “These last have wrought but one hour, and thou has made them equal unto us, which have borne the burden and heat of the day.”
The interpretation Elder Holland gives is extraordinary and one that I must keep in my heart at all times. Just as in all stories with Jesus if we look beneath the surface a whole new story develops. Elder Holland says that the laborers must have been gathered at one spot and picked from there to work for that day. They were entirely dependent on any work for that day to feed and take care of their family. With this in mind the blessings the first chosen of peace of mind knowing that their family would be able to live another day begins to come forth. As each group of laborers is picked the luck of the rest seems to be failing once again. Until they are given the hope as the Lord of the vineyard comes one last time. They had waited all day and would be happy for any amount of money given them. When they all are blessed so bounteously with their wage at the end of the day all prior feelings seem to go away. Elder Holland offers a paraphrase of what the lord might have said to those first chosen. “Why should you be jealous because I choose to be kind?” He goes on to say “We are not diminished when someone else is added upon. We are not in a race against each other…The race we are really in is the race against sin.”
I don’t know what laborer I am, but I do know the joy caused by being called of God. When I opened my mission call I was overwhelmed with feelings of love and gratitude. I wanted to serve so badly and was full of joy to be called anywhere the Lord had need of me. Just as so many of you I had always wanted to serve a mission, but the road hadn’t always been straight. I had to find out for myself if I truly wanted to become an instrument in the hands of God and how I was going to accomplish that. My life has been full of experiences that have led me here today and I would like to share a few of them with you.
            In Elder Holland’s most recent article in the August 2012 Ensign he talks about Latter-day Saints being Christians and how all Christians stand together. Being a Christian is at the center of becoming an instrument in the hands of God. Elder Holland teaches “Salvation and eternal life are free (see 2 Nephi 2:4); indeed, they are the greatest of all the gifts of God (see D&C 6:13; 14:7). Nevertheless, we teach that one must prepare to receive those gifts by declaring and demonstrating “faith in the Lord Jesus Christ” (Articles of Faith 1:4)—by trusting in and relying upon “the merits, and mercy, and grace of the Holy Messiah” (2 Nephi 2:8; see also 2 Nephi 31:19; Moroni 6:4). For us, the fruits of that faith include repentance, the receipt of gospel covenants and ordinances (including baptism), and a heart of gratitude that motivates us to deny ourselves of all ungodliness, to “take up [our] cross daily” (Luke 9:23), and to keep His commandments—all of His commandments (see John 14:15). We rejoice with the Apostle Paul: “Thanks be to God, [who] giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 15:57). In that spirit, as one Book of Mormon prophet wrote, “We talk of Christ, we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ, we prophesy of Christ … that our children may know to what source they may look for a remission of their sins … [and] may look forward unto that life which is in Christ” (2 Nephi 25:26, 27).”
            My first real encounter with this word “Christian” came on a long family trip. We were on the freeway traveling through Chicago enjoying the time together when all of a sudden our car came to a stop. I wasn’t sure what had happened and looked all around. Before I could figure it out our van door was being opened and a man told us where he needed to go. My dad told him to hop in and that’s when I noticed the broken down car on the side of the road. We took him to where he directed us and he said some of the most important words I have ever heard. “God bless you good Christian folks.” He walked away and I asked my dad full of amazement in my voice how he had known we were Christian. I didn’t remember saying anything about our religious views during the ride and was astounded. My parents told me that he had known because of the kindness we showed him. I have often reflected back on that moment and been so happy to know that I am a Christian.
            I was raised by goodly parents and trained in the way I should go. Despite this we all come to a point where we must learn truths for ourselves. I had been reading the Book of Mormon often as I was instructed, but I had never prayed about it. I was happy with the life I was living and a little fearful of what true knowledge might do. I wasn’t doing much wrong, but maybe I just didn’t want to have to do everything right all of the time. One night I got tired of being afraid and not knowing for myself. I knelt down and received my own witness that the Book of Mormon was true along with gaining a testimony of the Prophet Joseph Smith and the truthfulness of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. From that moment on I knew I must serve a mission.
            Throughout life I had struggles but was lifted up by the Atonement of Jesus Christ. I echo the words of Elder Holland that “however late you think you are, however many chances you think you have missed, however many mistakes you feel you have made or talents you think you don’t have, or however far from home and family and God you feel you have traveled, I testify that you have not traveled beyond the reach of divine love. It is not possible for you to sink lower than the infinite light of Christ’s Atonement shines.” The Atonement is what makes it possible for us to ever become instruments in the hands of God. I have received much comfort through the Atonement as I have prepared for my mission and desire to share that joy, peace, and comfort which comes from the Spirit with the people of Peru.
            Two years ago as I was looking to an answer to a question a wise friend told me Elder Holland has the answer. He did then and he does now to the most important part of me and all of us becoming instruments in the hands of God. He speaks of a “near-perfectly elderly sister who almost apologetically whispered recently. ‘I have never been a leader of anything in the Church. I guess I’ve only been a helper.’ I say, ‘dear sister, God bless you and all the “helpers” in the kingdom.’ Some of us who are leaders hope someday to have the standing before God that you have already attained.”
            I have been blessed with so many great examples in my life. From the immediate family I was born to with such an amazing extended family. I have learned countless lessons as I talked with cousins, aunts, uncles, grandparents, sisters, and parents. I have been strengthened and fortified by their testimonies and desires to be true Christians. No one could ask for better friends. Just when I feel I have met the strongest and most valiant souls another person comes into my life. I don’t deserve all of the blessings Heavenly Father has given to me through you but I am eternally grateful for them. For the great nights playing games, watching movies, or just talking as we looked up at the stars. For the days we went to the temple and the nights we shared scriptures with each other. For the long trips we shared and the fun times I cherish.

The most important part of becoming an instrument of God is surrounding yourself, or as been the case in my life, letting the Lord surround you with people who have already allowed themselves to become instruments in His hands.