Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Impressions - September 7, 2009

I got hired this week at the Provo Missionary Training Center. It was definitely long in coming, but, hey – I had volunteered to be a volunteer. It's what is called a three-quarter time position, which means I don't get insurance benefits or a monthly salary. I'm not getting paid tons, but in our values statement it outlines that pay for employees at the MTC should reflect a measure of sacrifice (i.e., be somewhat less than our counterparts in the outside world). I'm fine with that – I really feel like I am making a difference – and that's more important than being lucrative any day. We are working on a few big projects and my supervisors treat me almost like an equal... which is unnerving at times, but helps me realize how much they value my work. And I'm grateful for the opportunity to create things that will help missionaries in the long run. We just finished with the Missionary Orientation project – we created a welcome video from President and Sister Smith (Mission President at the MTC) and an orientation to the MTC gym program that every entering missionary sees on their first day. It has been a great success in every aspect.

I went to the temple Saturday evening. I went for a many different reasons – to improve my own spiritual habits, to focus my fast for the temple in Rome, and for some guidance. The stake president in the Rome Stake asked all the members of the stake and all returned missionaries who had served in Rome to fast this week for the building of the temple. September should be an important month in obtaining the permits to begin construction. As I was there at the temple, a few words jumped out at me and I realized that the Lord has given me my acting and singing talents so that I can better fulfill my calling as a missionary – so that I can share the Gospel through performing. I hadn't gone with that question... but it had definitely been one on my mind over the last few weeks. I'm not really sure how I feel about my ability to be a performer... but I feel like that is the reason why I would have a gift, and that I need to find ways to share it with the world. I had an overwhelming impression to try out for Savior of the World at the Conference Center. It felt like the best possible thing. Then I learned that the auditions ended Friday. I'm a few days late. And so I am incredibly confused, since the Lord very clearly told me to audition for a musical a day after auditions closed. I'll try calling early this next week, but I'm not sure what will happen. And so I'm back at the beginning – wondering exactly where and how to start. I was planning to audition for the Hale Center production of A Christmas Carol... but the feeling to audition for Savior of the World was indisputable.

Hold that thought. I just found another press release on the auditions, and this press release says that there are actually two more days (tomorrow and Wednesday) – but they aren't at the Conference Center. They are being held on BYU campus! Wow. The press release is dated Saturday. I think the Lord is heavily involved in my life. I'm glad I have a day to get ready!

I am realizing how incredibly crazy I am. I don't think of myself as overly zealous, but I guess I do live in Provo, work and volunteer at the Missionary Training Center, and I've been actively attending two different wards this summer. It's close to 10 hours of church meetings (6 ½ for blocks, 2 for ward prayer, 1 ½ for choir) – and I've kept attending even though I've thought I was a bit strange. I just felt prompted to keep attending both. I kept going even when one ward wouldn't give me a calling or a home teaching assignment since they didn't have my records, when the time for church changed and suddenly I had no time between meetings and couldn't attend choir, and when everyone – including myself and my bishops – thought I had gone mad. But then, just this week, I had an incredible experience. We had a convert baptism in my afternoon ward – the one I would probably not attend if I were only going to choose one. I was late to the meeting since I had come directly from my other ward, so I had missed her confirmation in Sacrament meeting. Either way, the woman who had been baptized came up to me later in the day and thanked me for bearing my testimony last month. “Your talk,” she said, “was the reason why I got so interested in investigating the Church.” She smiled with an incredibly happy smile, shook my hand, and walked away. I just stared. I had never met her before. I had only barely learned her name. And yet, somehow, something I had said weeks prior had affected her in such a way that she had changed her eternal destiny. Perhaps that was the reason why I needed to attend two wards this summer. It was definitely at least one of the reasons. Maybe there is a method to the madness after all.

Sunday night, I stayed after ward prayer to get to know the people better. I really want to be able to memorize all the names of the members of the ward so that I can be a part of their lives. But the game we were playing required us to pull a name out of a hat and keep it secret – which meant that the game really wouldn't be helping us to learn names at all. I was a bit frustrated, since that's why I had wanted to stay, but the game organizer wasn't interested in changing the rules of the game. Most people aren't – since they haven't formally studied game design and don't realize how much better their games could accomplish their goals. I vented my frustration to someone sitting next to me, and, looking back, I feel bad for him. I didn't need to be frustrated, and I definitely didn't need to tell anyone else about it and make them potentially feel uncomfortable. I was able to learn most people's names by simply asking throughout the night, and few people I know have actually studied game design in depth – so they don't really understand the nuances of intrinsic learning that takes place in a game. Either way, I should have been more patient – and realized that while my priorities were learning names so I could be more involved in the future, most people were simply there to have fun... or, perhaps more accurate, to play the game they were already used to playing without modifications.

People are watching all of us – constantly making judgments of our character based on our actions. They see us in the grocery store, as we are driving on the expressway, while we stand in line at the checkout counter. They see us while we are outside working in the garden and when we go to get the mail... and everything we do is registered in their minds. Sometimes we leave an impression so strong that it pushes them to change their lives... and sometimes we leave an impression that would probably be better erased. I encourage you to take account of your own actions – and the people that are watching you – and to reach out to be positively involved in the lives of others. Leave every person better than you found them. People are the most important thing in eternity – more important than projects and Pulitzer prizes and anything else – so spend time developing more meaningful relationships and inviting others (by your example and directly) to come unto Christ. There is someone else watching, as well – our Father in Heaven – and He is actively involved in our lives. Sometimes His communication with us may seem a bit odd – like trying out for a musical that has no more auditions – but I promise that, with every commandment, the Lord has already prepared the way. He goes before us; He is on our right and on our left; and His angels stand at our side to bear us up in the midst of difficulty. Once we understand His will for us, then we can better help others!

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