Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Weekly Greetings from a New Area! Maranguape!

Hey, all!

I got transferred! After spending just one transfer in Sitio São João, I have been transferred to the area Maranguape, which is a city in the "interior" of Fortaleza. Our area is huge, including two other cities as well. My new companion is Elder Langfoss, from Chicago, Illinois. He's my first American companion since I was being trained by Elder Call! Anyway, he has about 5 months, maybe a little bit less, on the mission. He told me that he doesn't want to speak any English with me, because he really, really wants to improve and master speaking Portuguese, so I'm going to do my best to help him achieve that goal! I am really excited for this transfer.

The family that went to church in my other area was not able to make it to church this past Sunday. Ayrton got a phone call saying that he would have to travel over the weekend for his work, and he was disappointed. In fact, he asked us, "Is it this hard for all people who try and follow the Church? Does everyone face this much opposition?" I hope and pray that they will be able to find ways to overcome the obstacles and the challenges, that they will be able to receive the blessings of the Gospel in their lives. The awesome thing about them is that they are actually interested, and willing to try to change, and to act upon the things that we're teaching them! I hope that everything works out.

I love you all so very, very much! I hope that you all have a great week, and that you can find joy in the journey.

With love,

Elder Reid Powell Empey

Monday, August 6, 2012

Elder Empey's Email

This week is the Powell Family Reunion, which is my mother's side of the family. This message is specifically geared towards them, but I hope that all will enjoy it, read it, and ponder its meaning for them personally.

As far as family reunion goes, I am trying not to be jealous, nor to think about the fact that you're all there together without me. I am so glad that you guys have this chance to have fun and enjoy one another's company. I cannot tell you all how much you have all influenced me for good, and the blessings that I have received because of your love and support and funness and craziness! Our family traditions have become a part of who I am, and who I want to be for my children, and I cannot tell you how much you all mean to me.

One of the things that has deeply affected my spirituality and my love and fond memories is our family songs, and all of the times that we have sat around a campfire (or in this family reunion, "camp stove", as my mom has informed me) singing our family songs. I remember looking to all of my aunts and older cousins who knew all of the words, and saw how much these special songs mean to us, and to our children. Singing has always been, and continues to be, a Powell heritage (and also to all those who marry into it:) ). As I have looked through the Powell Family Songbook that my mom sent me, I have felt and realized that these songs have become sacred to us, especially as we sing them in remembrance of our Grandad and Grandma Powell. They have become links that, I believe, literally cross the veil, that we can reach out to our beloved parents and grandparents and great-grandparents, just to hold on to their hand for a little bit, and say, "I love you. I miss you. I want so much to be with you. I will do anything to be with you again, and I do not want anything to get in the way of me living with you forever as an eternal family."

As we remember the love and the joy of our eternal family ties, we remember that when we sing praises to God through the sacred hymns of the Church, we feel and express these same sentiments in connection to our Heavenly Parents, and in gratitude and devotion to our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. We feel the desire to shout, "Oh, I will do anything to have these feelings forever, to return to Thy presence, to live in a fulness of joy and beauty and magesty for all eternity!" In the words of Lamoni's father, "I will give all my sins to know thee." We feel the desire to leave everything behind that could possibly keep us ack from returning to Him. These are the feelings that we experience as music, together with the Spirit, touches our hearts.

As we feel the love of God and the love of our family ties, we find the strength and the support that we need to endure to the end. We find the strength to overcome our fears and doubts with love and faith, and with the desire to live together forever. We feel that nothing is more important to us than those eternal relationships, "that same sociality which exists among us here will exist among us there, only it will be coupled with eternal glory, which glory we do not now enjoy" (D&C130:2). So, of all that I can say to my family on such a wonderful, fun, and happy occassion, I would encourage you to have as much fun as you can, sing as much as you can, laugh as much as you can, and only cry as much as is necessary and as is tolerable for your emotional stability:) Also, remember that as we keep the commandments, keep our covenants, and serve one another, we qualify to live together forever in glory.

Please, please, please do not let anything get in the way of that blessing. Nothing is more important, nothing is more significant, nothing has more of an eternal impact than the chance we have to live together, with our Father in Heaven, and be as He is. Nothing. I know that I want to live my life so that I can be with all of you forever, and I do not want that anyone is not there with us. Someone once said that heaven will not be heaven if the people we love are not there with us. As another once said also, "Salvation is an individual matter, but exaltation is a family matter." We need to remember that "we're all in this together" (I know, cheesy, random High School Musical quote...), and that we need to help one another to make it. We cannot do this alone, and we were never meant to. We need the support of our Savior Jesus Christ, and we need the support of one another. We have a responsability to help one another in times of trial, in times of need, and in times where we may be wandering from the path. And why do we have this responsability, and why do we act on this responsability? It's not because we have to, it's not because we are obligated to, it's not because our parents or our leaders will get mad if we don't do it, it's not for any of those reasons. We have this responsability because we love each other. We care for each other. And we remember the promises and the blessings in store for us if we are faithful. That knowledge, and that testimony, help us to act in the rescue of our loved ones. Sometimes, we all need rescuing, and it's okay if that's the case. The Lord Jesus Christ is our ultimate Rescuer, and each and every one of us needs His rescuing grace and power.

I love you all so very, very much. It is because of that love that I don't want anyone missing when we get there! I want us all to be there! Imagine what it will be like, to have everyone there! And, only for a millisecond and no longer, imagine what it would be like if we're not all there. Then, forget that last idea as quick as you can, and remember the first!

There is a quote from the last General Conference, by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, that I feel is appropriate: "So if you have made covenants, keep them. If you haven’t made them, make them. If you have made them and broken them, repent and repair them. It is never too late so long as the Master of the vineyard says there is time. Please listen to the prompting of the Holy Spirit telling you right now, this very moment, that you should accept the atoning gift of the Lord Jesus Christ and enjoy the fellowship of His labor. Don’t delay. It’s getting late."

I don't want to preach a sermon, but I want you all to know that God lives. He is our Father. And through His Son, Jesus Christ, we receive forgiveness from our sins, relief from our burdens, and the power to overcome the world. Yet, most important, through His Atonement, we can be filled with His love for one another, and through His priesthood power and authority, we can be sealed together forever in a family unit. Never forget how important that sealing is. Never lose sight of the temple as a goal and as a often-frequented haven. Wouldn't it be a wonderful goal to have everyone there at the temple, maybe even during these few days that you are all there together? Maybe that isn't totally realistic for this exact week, but maybe in future family reunions! All it takes is preparation! And not just the planning that we need to do with getting scheduled at the temple and the carpooling, but the preparation that it takes to be worthy to hold a temple recommend. I challenge all of you to ponder about these things, and listen to the promptings of the Spirit, and the desires of your heart. Remember the way you feel as you sing the family songs, and remember Grandad and Grandma, and think about if you would like to feel those feelings forever, and be with them forever.

I love you all so very, very much. This Gospel is the True Gospel of Jesus Christ. No matter where we are, or who we are, whether those of you who are reading this are not at the family reunion this week, or you aren't even a member of our family, please know that these blessings are available and intended for all, without exceptions, without anything held back. Our Heavenly Father lives, and He wants each and every one of us to return to Him. I encourage all of you to ponder upon this, and then to act upon the feelings and promptings that you receive.

Have a wonderful week! Sing lots of songs, have lots of fun, and remember that these feelings aren't meant to end, not even after this life!

With all the love in my heart and soul,

Elder Reid Powell Empey