So, I am still in Lago Agrio, but I have changed companions and sectors. Elder Gomez, Elder Tuckett's companion, went to another sector, and I am now Elder Tuckett's companion, and we are the zone leaders. I am killing him (this is his last change), so we'll be working it hard so that he can give it his everything before he goes home. It's weird, though, because we had some great people progressing, and now I won't be visiting them even though I'm still in the same city. I'm excited to be a zone leader, though, and we are receiving a lot of new missionaries today. We're hoping to really help them all work hard and with faith to see some great growth in the jungle. Elder Coram will be training, he's still in Lago Agrio, too.
Here are a few of the things that I was able to come up with on my list of the "tender mercies of the Lord." Keep in mind that I am 20 years old, so there aren't too many shell-shocking moments. (These aren't numbered in any special way, just a list)
1. I remember when I was given the Aaronic Priesthood by Dad. He was the bishop at the time, and Aunt Nancy and Aunt Deb happened to be in town for this day. Dad put his hands on my head and gave me the Priesthood and the office of a deacon. I don't remember too much about how I felt while I was being ordained, I imagine that I felt good, but what I do remember is what I saw when I opened my eyes. There were 8 girls shooting big smiles at me after being present for my ordination. I'm guessing Mom was crying, and it made me realize how important the Priesthood was to these woman. That was the first time that I really began to understand how important the Priesthood is to everyone on earth, and especially to the women in my life.
2. In 10th or 11th grade, the Priesthood session of General Conference was the same night as a high school dance. I think that it was my first dance where I was 16, so part of me wanted to go. I remember thinking about it and realizing that it would be way better for me to go to the Priesthood session, even though most of my friends would be at the dance. I don't remember one single word from that session of Conference, but I do remember how happy I felt to spend the night with my Dad, listening to prophets and apostles teaching us how to be better men. Plus, the all you can eat pie at Baker's Square was a bonus, I remember that very well.
3. Being in this branch makes me realize how important good Priesthood leaders are for the progress of every member. I have been blessed with great Priesthood leaders throughout my youth, and continue to have them today. The Lord has been very merciful to me by giving me great leaders that have helped me to be where I am today. There are too many to name, some were named after famous poets, others were very bald and from Iowa, but they all helped shape me into a better young man. My family members have also been great leaders and examples to me of how to be a good Priesthood holder.
4. My Mom had always wanted to go to the Conference Center to see the leaders of the Church, I remember hearing her say that a few times. One winter, she and I went out to Utah to do a visit to BYU, and we happened to be there the weekend of the Christmas Devotional. She was so happy to be there, I remember that distinctly. The messages and the music were beautiful and inspiring, and I remember looking over at her during the devotional and seeing her smile. I am blessed with a wonderful mother with strong faith, who understands the things that really matter in this life.
5. My Mom let me get a dog. That dog is still alive after several threats to hurt and/or maim him.
6. There are good books in this world that teach us, entertain us, correct us, and inspire us. Each book can help us to be better, to be happier, and we should never stop reading new books, and we should keep studying the books that we have already read. I love to read, and every book that I've read has left me feeling way better than how I felt before reading, and also makes me know that Harry Potter does, in fact, exist.
7. I tore off my fingernail right before my freshman year in high school. As I ran in the house holding my bloody finger, I learned that Mom wasn't home, and Dad, obviously, was at work. Erica was the next-in-charge, and was completely worthless, bless her heart. She came up to look at the finger, and simply said, "Oh, I can't do this," and Erica quickly disappeared. Heather came up, forced my finger in the sink, and started washing it. Quickly, Mom came home and we went to the hospital. My fingernail was healed, but for a while I was only able to use my left hand to do things. I am thankful for tough sisters, right hands, the fact that our bodies can heal themselves, and that Erica married a husband that doesn't have problems seeing blood.
8. I love to learn, love to study, love to be a nerd (but not the kind that Mom is). I think it is such a gift that we all have to be able to remember things that we have studied and learned. The more I study, the better I feel. I'm glad that I have been blessed with an intellectual mind to help me learn how to be smarter and to be better, even though I still make dumb mistakes.
9. Mom always writes us notes in our lunches and other things. Those always made me happy. My friends when I was young would laugh at me when I would read them, but as the years went by with Mom's notes, they grew jealous. Mom always let us know that she was thinking about us and that she loved us, and I will always be grateful for that.
10. I only have 5 sisters. It stunk when I was younger, then I got taller and stronger. Then it was even. They've taught me a lot, and I am thankful for that. I know when to not argue with girls, and when to not burp. I know when I shouldn't, but I do it nonetheless. They've helped me to be a better person and I do understand much better how to treat and how to respect women, so in your face, guys who are jerks!
11. I got awesome roomates in college. I had been praying for that to happen-that I could find good, life-long friends that didn't do stupid things. I was blessed with all of my roomates my first year in college, especially Nick. They're great guys, and I'm still keeping in touch with them even when we're all serving on different continents.
12. I can count to 12!
To me, all of the tender mercies of the Lord that I have seen in my life have to do with my relationships with other people. I am young, but I am glad to have had a family that is happy and united, and that in that family I have been able to see how merciful the Lord has been to me. Truly the happiest we can be is when we are with our families, something I realized while thinking through these different events in my life. As I grow old, I'm sure that I will have many more significant opportunities and experiences, but these are great ones to me. Thanks to all who have been part of my juventud, you've been great to me, and I can't thank you enough. The Lord really has been merciful unto me, and I can never thank him enough.
Have a great week, everyone. We're going to work really hard this week. (The zone leaders needed to find people, now I'm part of that process.) Love you all, and always say thank you. Happy birthday to Nat, Dad, and others.