This last week has been a very inspiring week. I have now set my course for what my focus is going to be for the rest of my mission. This last week we had interviews with President Fluckiger. I love my interviews with him. Especially as a zone leader. His interviews with his leaders are very different from other missionaries. Because he trusts us enough that he just gets right down to business with us instead of asking us how our obedience is, or how our studies are, or our teaching. He trusts us, so interviews with us are straight down to business. We discussed how we were going to make the branch of Sacavem grow. Over the last year it has experienced IMMENSE decline in growth. Almost 2 years ago, the AP's were in this area. And they baptized hundreds of people here...just about all of which are inactive now. It was a time, unfortunately, where conversion was not a priority. The number took the priority over the conversion. That was when I first got here in the mission. You probably remember that time well, from what I wrote at the time. Well since then, the members have lost complete trust in the missionaries. They don't really care to get involved in the missionary work, despite President Monson's counsel for the members and missionaries to work together. President expressed his frustration that the situation with the AP's almost two years ago is still effecting the members. It's time to let go of it and to focus on what really matters! The work of salvation. So we discussed how we were going to help Sacavem become a ward. Sacavem in the last year has gone from a frequency of 170 to 60. How a branch of 170 can still be a branch...is beyond me. However, we've got to make the best of what we have right now! It seems that the current problem of the branch becoming a ward is worthy Melchezidek tithe payers. So that is our new focus. This last week me and Elder Denney have begun visiting members and giving trainings on tithing. Carefully going over the blessings that the Lord's modern day prophets and apostles have explained to us. ("The Windows of Heaven," Elder David A. Bednar, Liahona November 2013). And through this we are hoping to acheive the number of 15 Melchezidek priesthood full tithe payers that we need to become a ward. But yesterday, there was presented an even bigger challenge. Before I talk about that, however, at the end of my interview with President Fluckiger I told him that I have 2 months left, and that I really did not want to start dying. I asked for his advice on how I could keep going strong. His counsel to me has become the focus for my last 2 months. And everything that is currently happening seems to be confirming this God inspired counsel. He told me that when he looks back on the end of his mission, he sees that it was full of compassion towards the people. He told me that my desires to be a great missionary pulls a focus on myself. If I turn those thoughts and direct them to the people then I won't care about being a great missionary. Of course, that is important...but it shouldn't be my focus. If I am full of compassion towards the people, as explained in Moroni 7:45-48 (which President Fluckiger invited me to memorize) then I WILL be a good missionary without having an inward focus. So this last week I have started a special study on charity. And I have learned a lot from it. I am praying constantly to be filled with the pure love of Christ and for opportunities to serve and increase this gift of charity. My focus for the last 2 months is charity. Compassion towards those I serve. Then yesterday, to confirm this end of mission focus, we had our branch conference. The stake president came. During the middle of church he pulled all of the branch leaders into a room and we had a "Urgent Branch Council." I can't remember the last time that I sat in such a powerful meeting. This inspired stake president stood, and with GREAT love, repremanded these leaders. Called them to repentance, told them to sacrifice for the cause of the Lord. He told of a couple poweful stories that he has had during his past ministeries as young men's president, and again as bishop. In that meeting there was a change in spirit. He told the leaders that the role of members and missionaries have switched. The missionaries are doing EVERYTHING when their role is to teach the gospel and baptize. The members are the ones that are to bring the people into the fold. And BEFRIEND them. When the missionaries are the only ones that do this...and we are....then the fruits will become weak once the missionaries are gone. The missionaries cannot be the ones to befriend the investigators. The church in Portugal wants to build a "representative chapel" in Sacavem. This chapel would basically be the "face of the church" here in Portugal. But to be able to have this GREAT blessing. The Lord requires MUCH more sacrifice on the members part. President Silva said that he would do everything in his power to help (even move to Sacavem!) to be able to acheive such a great challenge. Within the coming months, the stake president has asked us to bring to church a frequency of 200 people. We are around 60 right now. He asked us. Is it possible? Do we believe in miracles? He said he would be following up with our branch president on the progress. And also he will be following up with me and Elder Denney. We have a meeting with him here in 2 weeks to report the progress. This is inspired of a great leader. I love the leaders in Portugal. So much! They are inspiring men. They all pass through such trials to magnify their callings. They are amazing. I am so grateful to be apart of this work. And since this meeting (which happened just yesterday!) We have already seen some of the members awake to their sense of responsability to the Lord. Wednesday we are going over to this very strong couple in the branch. We are going to go over the entire members list to identify less actives with potential for coming back, and together we are all going to go visit these people and invite them back! The work of salvation in the branch of Sacavem is starting. We have lots to do, and the start isn't hard. It's the preserverance that is hard. And we hope and pray that the new fiery spirit that SOME of the members have attained will spread, and stick. That others also may be able to "catch the wave" is our hope and prayer. So. The end of my mission is set. I know what I want to do. And I pray that Heavenly Father will bless me in my efforts to acheive these just goals.
That is all I have time for this week! I am glad to hear that you didn't actually get robbed this last week. You guys are dumb. I almost started freaking out when something told me to keep reading. Then I realized that it was a joke. :/ As for my life after the mission. I still am clueless. :) I don't even know if I will know how to live after I get back. Guess we'll see, huh? :) Good thing you're patient, huh? The Lord will help me though. That I am sure of! Anyway, I hope you have a great week! Thanks for your love and support!
Love, Elder Colton Wayne Richins