Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Trusting Jesus in Bolivia

Today my husband and I were faced with 2 very big decisions that would change the course of our lives significantly.  We prayed, discussed the pros and cons, and made a decision based on how we felt.

I believe those feelings came from the Holy Ghost who guides us and confirms truths in our lives.

It's scary to take a step into the unknown not knowing exactly what the outcome will be.  At the same time it's exhilarating to place that kind of faith and trust in God that HE will take care of us as we earnestly seek HIS will.  At a young age, God gave me experiences to be able to learn to trust those feelings even when the "unknown" wasn't what I had in mind.

At the age of 21, I had an awesome opportunity to work as an intern for an ABC affiliate in Dallas, TX doing sports news.  I interviewed professional athletes from the Dallas Cowboys and Texas Rangers.  I was young, single, dating a ton, and living very independently.

Everybody... the players, coaches, and other reporters all knew me as "The Mormon," and they liked how I did things.  I worked hard and got interviews that nobody else could.  Even several reporters gave me their cards to help me get future employment.  I thought I saw exactly where my future was heading, and it seemed very exciting to me.

Things changed quickly during one lunch hour.  I remember sitting at a long table eating with a bunch of reporters and camera crews when they all turned their attention to me- the only young person, the only female... and the only Mormon.  They respectfully asked me question after question about my beliefs.  I LOVED answering their questions, and I loved how I felt answering them.

Right at that moment, I realized that I wanted to be a missionary so I could feel that way all the time.  God had spoken to my heart, and I knew I had to serve a mission.  In that moment, I had made a decision that would drastically change the course of my life.

As a sister missionary, I would serve for a year and a half. I would not be allowed to date.  I would only be allowed to call home twice a year- Mother's Day and Christmas.  I would only be allowed to listen to music that could be played at church, and I would have a companion with me 24 hours a day.  It sounded tough, but I... was... ready!!

I turned in my papers and received the call to go to Bolivia!!  I was ecstatic to learn Spanish and to go to one of the poorest places in South America to teach about Jesus!!  I left my position working with ABC.  I left my boyfriend, and I left all my things.  Nothing could get me down!!  I was going to serve the Lord!!

We arrived, and I immediately loved the people.  I loved their clothes, their homes, and their hearts, but  those first few months were not what I had expected.

Parasites attacked my body, my companion only spoke Spanish- which I did not understand yet, and I felt very, very lonely.

The people knew I only understood a portion of their Spanish; so when they wanted to talk about something really important, they didn't even look in my direction.  I wanted so badly to be helping them solve their problems too and ease their pains, but I just felt like a dummy sitting there.  I tried to watch my companion's facial expressions.  When she looked sad, I did too.  When she looked shocked, I did too!  When she laughed, I tried to laugh too.

... but I was really just sad.  I had gone to Bolivia thinking I was going to do great things, but I felt like I was a complete failure.  There wasn't a single person anywhere in my area that spoke English, and I felt like my Spanish would never be good.  I couldn't even teach anyone.  Many thoughts ran through my mind:  "Why had I come?  I was doing great before I left.  Was I supposed to be here?"

The next Sunday at church, I had decided to try extra hard to have a good attitude.  I sat on my bench trying to understand what the speakers were saying, but I was completely clueless as to what was going on.  There was nobody I could talk to about it!  Despite my efforts, my sadness was returning. Tears were forming and about to pour out of my eyes, so I rushed out of the meeting to go hide in the bathroom before anyone could see me have a break-down.

I guess I wasn't discrete enough because several sweet Bolivian women followed after me.  Even though I really wanted to be alone,  I could see so much love and concern for me as they tried to comfort me.  I appreciated their efforts, but the more they spoke, the more I cried because I couldn't understand a single word they were saying!!  They were comforting me in Spanish!  My head was swirling, and I just wanted to go home.  A phone call to my mom would have helped... but I couldn't call her.

The concerned women brought me into the Bishop's office.  He spoke to me in more Spanish trying to comfort me as I blankly stared at him.  Seeing that I was not grasping anything he was telling me, he opened his English scriptures.

After a few minutes of searching, he looked up at my tear-streaked face and said in his best, broken English, "Trust Jesus."

I stammered out a few words in Spanish trying to tell him that I already trusted Jesus- that's why I had come half way across the world!

Despite my responses, my Bishop continued to repeat his same message and knelt by my side saying, "Trust Jesus."

He said it so many times that I felt a physical change within me.  I felt myself letting go of every fear, stress, and doubt.  I literally felt my shoulders lift and my heart regain hope.  I thought I had been trusting Jesus all along, but I hadn't really trusted HIM.  I hadn't let go of my worries.  I was trying to teach with my own strength and ability, but Jesus wanted to make a useful servant out of me even without the ability to speak.

Because of this wise Bishop's advice, miracles took place.  Instead of crying myself to sleep every night, my tears dried up, and I literally sang in the streets!  I sang Zippity Doo Dah and You Are My Sunshine- songs don't get too much happier than that:)  What a contrast of emotion!  My pain was so exquisite, and now my joy that replaced it was just as exquisite!!  HE had taken my pain away; I had learned to trust God to make more of me than I could be on my own.

Soon after my meeting with my Bishop, my companion and I went to see a man that was going through a great deal of sadness.  He began to tell us about his problem, and he looked at me while he spoke.  At first I got worried; nobody had told me about their problems before in Spanish.  They usually looked at my companion.  Now I couldn't react to her responses; it was all on me.  I thought, "What if he finds out I can't really understand that much Spanish yet?"

I prayed so hard, cast away all my fears, and concentrated on how much God loved him.  I decided it wasn't about me or my fears anymore, it was about him.  As I looked at this man, I felt what he was saying.  My ability to understand was not blocked by my human incapabilities.  I trusted Jesus; I let HIM work through me.

Even though I didn't know the exact words that were coming out of this man's mouth, I knew exactly what he had said.  After he poured his heart out to us, he asked me for advice.  I silently thanked the Lord as the words he needed to hear flowed from my lips in Spanish.

I went to Bolivia thinking I was going to do great things because I had gifts to share, but God wanted me to first understand HIS power before HE would allow me to use those gifts.  Once I truly trusted HIM, then HE could trust me to use my gifts with HIS power accompanying them.  We are always so much more powerful when we are fully trusting HIM.

I had to be stripped of everything, so that I would be compelled to trust HIM even more.  That experience guides me today, and I thank God for the miracle of personal revelation.