Saturday, December 24, 2016

Light the World

Last week I was asked to give a report on Cami's missionary service in France to our church congregation.  It was a hard message to prepare, but I was grateful for the opportunity it gave to gather my thoughts and put them on paper.    Normally that would be enough for me, but today I am feeling driven to take a huge step outside of my comfort zone to share that message here.   

This Christmas the phrase, “Light the World,” has become somewhat of a catchphrase among church members. People, including many of you, are doing acts of service throughout the Christmas season in an effort to make the world a better and brighter place. You are lighting the world!

In Cami’s most recent letter home, we learned that “Eclairez le monde” is French for “Light the World,” and that church members in France are lighting the world in their own ways too. I’m guessing that members in many other countries around the world are as well.

No matter what language you say it in though, lighting the world is exactly what Cami, and all the missionaries serving throughout the world, are doing every day. They are loving the people, serving with their whole hearts, and making the communities where they live brighter by their service.

As many of you know, Cami’s job through high school was selling cupcakes and over the years she became quite successful at it, catering to weddings, showers, and work parties. She thought that she’d mostly have to stop baking while she was on her mission, but it probably shouldn’t have surprised us too much that her reputation as an outstanding baker has followed her to the mission and she had the opportunity this past week to put her cupcake baking skills to use for a mission event. She was so excited to be able to serve in this uniquely Cami way and when someone posted the pictures of her beautiful cupcake creation on Facebook this weekend, it was hard not to feel a little motherly pride and emotion knowing that she’s lighting the world in a way that only she can.

She even sent us her own spiritual baking analogy. Here is her quote:

“It's so obvious that God has His plan and His own timeline and we just have to do what we can in the moment to be His hands. It's almost like us and God are baking a cake together. He has the recipe and he's telling us what to do one step, one ingredient at a time. He has a picture of the final product, he's tasted it before. But all he gives us is one tiny little step at a time. We cannot even begin to comprehend how beautiful and delicious the cake will be at the end. We just have to trust him when he's telling us to add a 1/2 teaspoon of salt, to talk to a random person on the side of the street, to make cookies for a neighbor. Because if we never did the little things, we would never get to taste the cake.”

So, I can’t bake as well as Cami or sing as well as Emma, but over the years I’ve learned that we each have our own gifts to share. I used to be embarrassed that my gifts aren’t the showy or visible things, but in time I’ve learned that that doesn’t matter to God. He sees the whole beautiful plan and All He asks of us is to serve and to love in our own individual way.

President Monson said that  “ love is the very essence of the gospel, and Jesus Christ is our Exemplar. His life was a legacy of love. The sick He healed; the downtrodden He lifted; the sinner He saved. At the end the angry mob took His life. And yet there rings from Golgotha’s hill the words: “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do”—a crowning expression in mortality of compassion and love.”

Cami’s only been on her mission a few months, but already she’s had some great opportunities to light the world in her own way. One of the most powerful stories that she’s shared was that of visiting a single dad and his two daughters. Her and her companion had struggled to know the lesson they should teach them, but eventually felt the unmistakable impression that they needed to simply teach them that they were loved children of our Heavenly Father. I couldn’t adequately put into coherent words all that followed, but over the course of the lesson it became very clear that that was the exact message that this family needed to hear. Cami had no way of knowing that in advance, but Heavenly Father knew, and because her and her companion had allowed themselves to be instruments in His hands, they were able to provide a small beacon of light in that struggling family’s lives.

I will use her own words as she wrapped up conveying that experience to us:  “This work is so much bigger than us. It's so much bigger than me. God knows his children. He knows every name that has slipped through the cracks on our ward list. He knows every child who thinks they are suffering all alone. And He will guide us to them if all we do is try to listen and not get in the way.”

Yes, her letters are a highlight in our weeks.  :)

Her experience reminded me of this quote from Pres. Uchtdorf: “My dear brothers and sisters, it may be true that man is nothing in comparison to the greatness of the universe. At times we may even feel insignificant, invisible, alone, or forgotten. But always remember—you matter to Him! God sees you not only as a mortal being on a small planet who lives for a brief season—He sees you as His child. He sees you as the being you are capable and designed to become. He wants you to know that you matter to Him.”

It’s humbling to think that God took two young, inexperienced women---one from Virginia, one from Arizona--put them in that small town in France more than an hour away from the more populated parts of their area, so that God could let that little family know that they did matter to Him. That they were not forgotten.

Joseph F. Smith said: '"Charity, or love, is the greatest principle in existence. If we can lend a helping hand to the oppressed, if we can aid those who are despondent and in sorrow, if we can uplift and ameliorate the condition of mankind, it is our mission to do it, it is an essential part of our religion to do it'. When we feel love for God's children, we are given opportunities to help them in their journey back to His presence" 

Knowing that a broken little family in France feels a little more hope because Cami and her companion allowed God to lead the way has inspired our family to be more cognizant of those around us that may feel broken. And knowing that a humble African man named Cani now has the light of the gospel and the gift of the Holy Ghost in his life because Cami and her companion were in the right place, at the right time, so they could teach him the beautiful truths of salvation helps us to want to be more aware of people in our paths who may be waiting for us to share the truths we know.

Our efforts don’t need to be grand. We simply need to act. We need to light the world in whatever way we can.

Most of us can easily recite the words to, “I Am a Child of God”, yet do we really believe the words? President Packer said, that “No idea has been more destructive of happiness, no philosophy has produced more sorrow, more heartbreak and mischief; no idea has done more to destroy the family than the idea that we are not the offspring of God” 

When we keep in our hearts a remembrance that not only are we children of God, but also all those around us, even those that may be hard to love, it will change us. We can let our actions be a little gentler, a little kinder, a little more understanding, and in the process love a little more like Christ would love.

“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

I will close with one more quote from one of Cami’s letters:
“The moral of the story is that there is always hope. Sometimes politics, war, evil, and depression feel really big. Sometimes these things fill our vision. But if we turn our vision to Christ, we cannot fall. Peter COULD walk on water UNTIL he looked away from Christ. As soon as he turned away and took in the winds and the waves all around him he started to sink. Let’s keep our sights on what's important. Let's all try to focus on the little white flowers of hope instead of the waves and the storms. Let’s keep our vision on Christ.” 

You all are an inspiration to me!  Thank you for lighting our world this Christmas season and helping us to remember the real reason for the season--a tiny baby born in a humble manger.  A baby who would grow to save the world from darkness.  

Merry Christmas! 


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