"Wherefore, ye must press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope, and a love of God and of all men. Wherefore, if ye shall press forward, feasting upon the word of Christ, and endure to the end, behold, thus saith the Father: Ye shall have eternal life." 2 Nephi 31:20

Monday, April 1, 2013

Making Miracles

Do coincidences really exist? What makes something a coincidence? Is it just our lack of understanding--the fact that we can't explain perfectly how something came about? Is a coincidence then not the same as a miracle? Miracles exist. But there is something different between a miracle and mere coincidence. Miracles are extraordinary accounts or occurrences brought about by the power of God. Is a coincidence not the same, just excluding any acknowledgement of Deity? To bring about a miracle, faith--action--is necessary; while a coincidence may be observed by any bystander you find along the way. So, do coincidences really exist? I would say that coincidences are observed miracles without the drive for an answer. If coincidences exist, so too exists a lack of knowledge and understanding. And how then do we fill the gap? This lack of knowledge? As with anything in this life, progression requires action. Without action there could never be a reaction. Can you really expect to receive answers to questions you never made? Even if an answer came, there would be no recognition because your eyes were not set on the matter at hand--the question. There is a process in making miracles, whereas coincidences come and go in an instant. There are miracles in our lives each day. But do we have the faith to act, to learn, to seek out, and see them as such? Or are we satisfied to sit back and view the world with its "coincidences"? Never be afraid to make a miracle.

The summer before my mission my parents moved to LaPlace, Louisiana--a suburbian city outside of New Orleans. As a college kid with no stable housing, I too was priveledges to move from Pennsylvania to Louisiana just a few short weeks after returning home. Here I found myself living in Louisiana for one month while waiting to leave for my mission. While there, my dad was called as the Ward Mission Leader, and since I had no acquaintances or friends or really anything better to do, we all worked closely with the missionaries in the ward. At this point in the story there is no coincidence, but the miracle is well on its way getting people in the right places.

To fully appreciate what is about to happen, you need to realize that this story is not about me. Go six years back to the life of Emiliano as he makes his way from Mexico to the United States. Many of the details in his story are not mine to share, but the point is that here falls a turning point in more lives than just his--and for even more than just the apparent reasons. While in the U.S., Emiliano ran into a few missionaries, and not too much later, found himself serving as a missionary as well.

How do missionaries get assigned to their areas? To start off simply, each person desiring to serve a mission fills out some paperwokr describing, well, who they are. These papers are then sent in to the Church Offices and reviewed by one of the 12 apostles--or First Presidency-- and are tere assigned to a specific part of the world to serve by the spirit of revelation. That is to say that these men consider what is in the papers you sent in, comments from Church leaders, and then pray to know where you should serve. Of all the places in the world, I was assigned to serve in the Villahermosa Mexico Mission--which is to say that I would be spending 2 years of my life in various parts of southern Mexico. Emiliano, or the now Elder Hernandez, on the other hand had been assigned to the Baton Rouge, Louisiana Mission. Still being unknown to one another, there is no coincidence. 

The two of us began our missions and we were assigned to various areas in our missions. After some time Elder Hernandez found himself serving in LaPlace, Louisiana where my father was still the Ward Mission Leader. For this, Elder Hernandez frequently found himself in the home of my parents. As all parents of a missionary, mine mentioned my service and Elder Hernandez soon realized that I was serving in the mission where his house was, and consequently where his family as well. Through my parents we established contact in December and began to see the possible "coincidences". But, I was in Ciudad del Carmen--one of the area of the mission farthest away from his house and it looked like I'd be there for over a year.

However, January 6th, 2013 I woke up without being able to walk. I could not stand. I had no strength in my leg at all. What had happened? I was walking fine and working hard just the day before. What had changed?

Now, could you call this a coincidence? I called it a month of suffering. I called it one of the worst times of my life. It was so bad, President made me call my mom. But now, I call it a necessary part of a miracle--and for that--one of the greatest blessings I could receive. Because of my many medical problems that followed, I found myself stuck in the ward of the Mission Doctor. Ironically the largest area in the mission for the missionary that could hardly walk. You might call that a coincidence. The area covering a large part of the state of Tabasco and even going into the neighboring state of Chiapas it is impossible for 2 missionaries on foot to ever dream about working the whole area. But while working and walking along highways for a few weeks it occurred to me that Tacotalpa--the hometown of Elder Hernandez was close. 

Upon asking many members, no one seemed to know how to get to Tacotalpa. But my communication with my parents, and consequently Elder Hernandez was not lost. Before long I got the phone numbers of his parents and set up an appointment to go see them.

We were ecstatic. Elated. We ran across the street to tell the member lives in front of us everything that happened. He agreed and began to get excited with us as well for what was happening. He asked us how we were getting there. We responded that we had no idea. We had planned to get up early and get out to the highway quick so that we could wait for one of the 3 buses that go to Tacotalpa daily in hopes of getting there before lunch. The member, Hno. Lhimi said that that just wouldn't do and that he would adjust his plans and take us. He wanted to be a part of this. 

So we went. We all got to Tacotalpa, a first for the three of us, called the mother of the family and waited while Emiliano's brother came to find us. And so we waited. About 10 minutes later, the brother, Bolivar, turned the corner and quickened his pace towards us. He had the biggest smile on his face. We then made it to his house where we ate lunch and began to answer the many questions the family had. We found that they already had every pamphlet, a triple combination, and various DVD's of the church. Better yet, they had read them. But we quickly realized the need of our presence for their understanding. Things went well and we will be in their home again tomorrow.

Sunday, we met with the ward to enlist their help with this family along with the other 15 investigators we have with a baptismal date. The ward noticed that we had been working. Then they noticed they hadn't been as much as they could. This changed the meeting schedule. The third hour everyone met together to discuss what was going on in missionary work in the ward. I was asked to speak and enlist the help of the members.

"But, behold, faith cometh not by signs, but signs follow those that believe."  

Many of our investigators look for a sign before they can act. But if we believe, if we are true faithful members, if we are converted, these signs will follow us. Then, it is our responsibility as members to be this sign for them. Do not be afraid to make a miracle. Do not be afraid to act. This is a miracle in the making.
Elders Cabral and Andrews with the Hernandez Family.
Elders Cabral and Andrews with the Hernandez Family and Hermano Lhimi.
Hermano Lhimi.

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