Monday, December 19, 2016

Weekly Update~ "We All Are Shepards"

Dear Family and Friends,

We continue to see tender mercies here in Rwanda. Aside from the wasted time going back and forth to the Immigration to figure out visas for Elders and Sisters, it was a solid week and the Lord consecrated our time despite the shorter time spent in the area. 
Edith's son, Ally was baptized on Sunday and it was a neat experience. If you remember, he came home from school for a few weeks at the end of September because he was sick with ulcers. The timing at which he came home was interesting because Edith was struggling in keeping commitments before, but when he came home, she had the extra motivation to read the Book of Mormon and a buddy to come to church with. We progressed both of them to baptism in November, but Ally had to go back to school the day before their baptism date. We moved forward with Edith's baptism and told Ally he would be baptized upon his return home. At the end of November, both he and his sister, Honoline, returned from school the same weekend and we began teaching them together hoping to baptize them both on Christmas. However, they told us that they were planning to go to the village so we went forward with Ally's baptism because Honoline wasn't ready. It was cool to observe them together yesterday at church, as they seemed happier than usual and it was the most comfortable I've seen Honoline at church. It was a nice service, the other Elders had a baptism as well, and we got members to perform both. Evangele, our homeboy who helps the missionaries out like every day, performed Ally's baptism which was his first one. He did great and we felt the Spirit.

Sometimes, you get called to Rwanda, and baptize a couple of fiancees, and they invite you to their wedding 6 months in advance, and you say yes even though you know there's no chance you'll stick around for that long, then you do, and they ask you to be one of the best men in the wedding and you dress up in traditional Rwandese wedding attire. Basically the coolest thing I've ever done on my mission. Bosco and Joanna, my recent converts from K1 got married this weekend and they were kind enough to allow Elder Shumway and I participate in the wedding. I was able to ride in the Land Cruiser with Bosco on our way to the branch building from his house, and even though I couldn't understand a word of the ceremony, the joyous atmosphere was satisfying to me and I also downed like 5 bottles of soda throughout the day. I am so excited for them for when the duration of their marriage isn't for only their mortal lives, but for the eternities. 

Yesterday evening, I was able to visit Brother Jackson, one of the members I have a close relationship with here in Rwanda from K1. I haven't seen him in about 6 months so it was a sweet experience. Last year in October, he lost his second born son. As we listened to him explain his experience in the past year, I felt an overwhelming love for him and his family. He then introduced us to his newborn son which I held for a few seconds. His son's name is "consolation from God" in Hebrew and he is a handsome, strong, little guy.

As we look forward to celebrating the birth of the Savior this Sunday, I want us to consider how we are like the shepherds we read about in Luke chapter 2. I was able to write down a few thoughts of my own. The shepherds were simple men who knew one thing all their lives. All they knew were their sheep. But when the angel came to them declaring glad tidings of great joy, they made haste in spreading the joyous news and in following the star to the newborn Savior. It reminds me of myself, an imperfect high-school kid who only knew baseball leaving what I knew and coming and serving the Lord in a foreign land. Even like Peter and Andrew, who straightway left their nets, their lives were never the same as they heeded the call of the Good Shepherd. On my mission I've changed like Peter and Andrew through the power of the Atonement as I've strived to share the glad tidings that we can repent and change and become better as we take up our cross, and follow the path of discipleship. The biggest thing that stood out to me about the shepherds was their immediate and full obedience to the angel's call to action. They didn't say, "wait, let me take our sheep home" or "maybe tomorrow, I'm tired". They immediately obeyed and reaped the blessings. This Christmas season, may we heed to the call of action from the Savior to love our neighbor. Elder Grant always reminds me that nothing good can possibly come from thinking of ourselves. Whenever we are the least happy, it is when we are more focused on ourselves. As we turn outward, and follow the example of the characters of Christ, we can more fully enjoy this Christmas Season. 

I love you all and Merry Christmas.
Elder Hazen

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