Monday, July 7, 2014

Rawlins Letter #10

Doing service work at the prision

Exploring on P-day

Finding a crazy wind tunnel

Meeting our new friend who is biking from Kentucky to Oregon

Finding a place to study (?) on P-day

With R at church

4th of July

A little disheveled after climbing down from the roof to watch fireworks

Our district wore red, white and blue for the entire week of July 4th

Very interesting week. I feel like I always say this's been our best week yet in Rawlins!! We had several really neat spiritual experiences in lessons and a lot of member participation. It has been wonderful.

We also met J. She is riding her bike from Kentucky to Oregon, so you can imagine that I was immediately drawn to her. Well her knee had been bugging her so she decided to take a day off in Rawlins. (What a coincidence...haha, NOT!) We met around lunch time and she ended up spending the rest of the day with us. (Yup, we just happened to have ridden our bikes that day.) So we rode to a service project at the art shop where J painted a little bit, we set her up with a free tour of the old penitentiary while we went to some appointments, we enjoyed dinner together, and talked about the gospel on and off the entire day. It was tough saying goodbye to her. We all just got very attached to each other. Sister Waite hid a picture of Jesus in J's pack and we told her about the gospel library app to access the scriptures, specifically the Book of Mormon.

The next day she continued on her trip heading North. She called us that night and told us the coolest story. She was biking and trying to decide whether to stay in a town she was coming up on or to continue another 20 miles to Sweetwater Campground. She said a little prayer, telling us that God had led her to the right places so far along her journey, and she trusted Him to do so now. She got to the first possible place and started talking to a man. She asked about Sweetwater. He responded with, "Oh, it's just a bunch of Mormons up there." She told us when she heard that, she immediately knew it was an answer to her prayer and thought, "that's where I need to go." Two days ago she didn't know anything about us or our faith, and now she is biking an extra 20 miles to be around members of the church. She told us they are taking great care of her and she'd already received a couple of jello cups, haha, typical :) and that she "found Jesus" (the pass along card Sister Waite hid). I couldn't have been happier. We plan on keeping in touch.

R is incredible. He left today for Chicago and will be getting baptized there where his family and new ward family can attend. We all thought that was for the best. I made him promise to send me a picture of his baptism :) I can't tell you how much I've enjoyed getting to know that extremely intelligent and humble man. I've learned so much from him in such a short amount of time. He is truly seeking all the knowledge he can about the gospel. He basically taught us why commandments are so important. He has a solid testimony. He found an article that he shared with us this week (written by a person not of our faith). Check it out at the end of my letter.

T is doing really well.  Two more lessons this week and on track for her baptism this Saturday!!! After we get done emailing today, we're headed over to her place to spend time with her :)  She has quite a few less-active family members that she is including in the program. It's really neat. It's going to be so good for the whole family.

Fourth of July was really fun. We went hiking for our morning work out and did our studies in the mountains. We were invited to three different barbeques. We ate at one, enjoyed dessert at another, and then just played hide and go seek instead of eating anything at the last one. We had to be home at our normal time and fireworks didn't start until 10 pm....that was a bummer. Sister Waite and I got home and when we heard them start to go off, we decided we just had to see them. I helped Sister Waite up the first part of the tree near our house. We were cracking up as she stepped on my shoulder to get up the last part and then turned to help me get up. We continued up the limb that goes closest to our house. Hanging on this branch with our arms, we could stretch our legs toward the house and just barely make it. We sat up there and enjoyed the limited view of fireworks through a tiny break in the trees. We stargazed for a little while after they ended and then headed back down the tree in the dark...still wearing skirts...What an adventure!

Sunday was a day of miracles. We contacted two referrals. The first one had been looking for a Book of Mormon for over a year now. We were able to bring him one and teach him a little more about it. His friend spoke primarily Spanish (and English was definitely a second language for him, as well) so I said a prayer in Spanish! I felt the Spirit, so I'm just hoping it made sense. It was simple, but simple can be the most powerful sometimes, right? Anyway, he talked to us about seeing the Salt Lake Temple and wanting to go there, but he wants to be able to go and say he is Mormon. Haha, okay..."So, you want to get baptized first?" He had a huge smile on his face and said, "Yes." Wow. The next person we contacted was a girl that just graduated from high school. At first she told us she was a different religion and not really interested, but she was nice enough to let us in and talk for a little bit. As we continued asking questions and try to get to know her, she expressed her concerns about the faith she grew up in, how she actually doesn't agree with most of it, and how she is looking elsewhere for truth. We shared a few things about the restoration of the gospel and Plan of Salvation. We left her with a Book of Mormon and she can't wait for us to come back.

Heavenly Father really loves us. So many little things are evidence of this love every day to me. That doesn't mean that everything always goes right, but there's always more than enough good to carry me through. I'm convinced being grateful helps us notice all these little things.

Love you!
Sister Rashauna Hoer

Article mentioned above, written by someone of another faith:

One religious group shows consistent growth year by year and decade by decade. Mormons keep growing their church. Why? I propose six reasons.

1. Mormons have bigger families.

This is the easiest and simplest explanation. But it's far from the entire story. In fact, if family size were determinative, then many churches in America would be growing at a rate that exceeded general population growth. After all, the birth rate of religious families generally exceeds that of nonreligious families. Instead, church after church shrinks or remains basically steady in spite of the higher birth rate. Mormons start with a bigger baseline family, but then they tend to hold on to their kids while many other religions often do not.

2. Mormons have lower divorce rates. 

While regular church-going evangelicals divorce less often than secular couples, Mormon-marrying Mormons have the lowest divorce rate of any major religious group. Families that stay together are more likely to pray together. Few experiences are more demoralizing to a young Christian than seeing his parents destroy their own marriage and destroy their own kids' childhoods in a blaze of selfishness, lust, and pride. 

3. Mormons share their faith.

Who hasn't met a Mormon missionary? My wife used to debate them at the doorstep, but we made many new Mormon friends and now welcome them into our home, offer them rides in the rain, and generally get to know young people who experience a very different young adult rite of passage than your typical evangelical. A Mormon mission is a sacrifice—a deep sacrifice. Evangelism not only wins converts, it also strengthens the faith of the evangelist. 

4. Mormons are "orthodox."

No evangelical can call Mormons "orthodox" in terms of the Apostles' Creed and biblical canon. But they are orthodox within their own, distinct faith tradition. In other words, members of a Mormon church tend to know and believe their faith. Go to a typical evangelical church and you'll often find very wide theological divergence. Nationally, 84 million people self-report as evangelicals, but of that number only 19 million according to Barna actually have orthodox evangelical beliefs. In other words, the evangelical church must improve in transmitting even the most basic elements of the Christian faith from generation to generation. 

5. Mormon leaders ask a lot of their members.

I'm always amazed at the level of church involvement of Mormons compared to evangelicals. From giving, to service, to teaching, to raw number of hours in the church building, Mormons are simply doing more. To some evangelical critics, you'd think we lose members because we're so demanding. But compared to the Mormon experience, evangelical churches are a carnival ride of short services, low accountability, and rare church discipline. If you're a faithful Mormon, you're not living a 95 percent secular life like so many evangelicals. At least in this regard, Mormons are truly countercultural. 

6. Mormons are less selfish.

Add up points one through five, and you get to the sum. Too many of us evangelicals have forgotten the fundamental paradox of Scripture—you won't gain your life until you lose your life. We ask our kids to lose just a little life to gain . . . what, exactly? If Christianity isn't worth losing everything, is it worth only losing some things? And if it's not worth losing everything, why is it worth losing anything? 
Big families, intact families, years-long missions, faithfulness to church teaching, and a lifetime of service add up to a sustainable, Christ-honoring counterculture. By contrast many of our churches will prove to be ashes and dust—unable to resist a culture that relentlessly demonizes even the small remaining differences between evangelicals and atheists. 
As a member of another Christian denomination in America, I've got my theological differences with the LDS church. But if we evangelicals don't believe we have anything to learn from our Mormon friends, then we're foolish. Our churches will not grow by conforming, by shedding the last remaining distinctions between Christians and the secular world. That route is well-traveled by the imploding mainline denominations. Instead of asking less of our families and youth, let's ask more by the grace of God and the power of the Spirit. Instead of giving less, let's give more. Instead of believing we're unique theological snowflakes capable of discerning truth on our own, let's teach church doctrine early and well. And let's not be afraid of church discipline. 
What are the core lessons for the church? Conform and die. Resist and live.
David French is an attorney, author, and blogger at Patheos.

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