Happy Labor Day! It's hard to believe that it's September. Time has gone by so very fast.
Everything's good here in Salem. Remember how I said we really wanted to teach someone in a gang? Well, looks like we found our person! We had a ward party here on Saturday celebrating the 20 year anniversary of a Spanish branch opening in Salem. Twenty years ago, they started out here with about 10 members and now, there's a ward and two branches. Amazing, isn't it? A man spoke who had served as the Branch President for the first 11 years. Can you imagine? Eleven years! I'm really grateful to be serving in this ward. One of the members brought their sister who just finished serving a seven year jail sentence. We talked to her a lot, especially about how the Atonement allows us to have fresh starts. She really wants that -- a second chance at life. It really is amazing how the gospel offers us eternal hope, the kind of hope that triumphs over everything. Talking with her reminded me of this quote from Dieter F. Uchtdorf:
"The more we learn about the gospel of Jesus Christ, the more we realize that endings here in mortality are not endings at all. They are merely interruptions - temporary pauses that one day will seem small compared to the eternal joy awaiting the faithful.
"How grateful I am to my Heavenly Father that in His plan there are no true endings, only everlasting beginnings."
I just love that phrase "everlasting beginnings". The gospel of Jesus Christ offers us the chance to start again and again through repentance and I am so grateful for that.
We met another family this week who is seriously amazing. We were walking down the street one day when we passed by a huge blackberry bush and decided to stop and pick some. By the way, in Oregon there's just berries growing wild EVERYWHERE; it's amazing! We were picking the berries when the owner of the house pulled up. She got out of the car and we started apologizing for taking her berries. She was like "no esta bien esta bien" (loose translation: "not okay, okay") and offered us a chair from her house so that we could pick the berries that were higher up. It turns out that she had just been having a conversation with her daughter the day before about how they really needed to find a church. We went back and taught her this week and she just kept asking about change and whether the gospel could change her and her family. We testified to her that it really, truly could.
When we humbly seek the Lord and allow His gospel to take root in our hearts, it really does change us. I've been learning more and more that the key to that is humility and faith. We have to be totally willing to set aside our fears and follow Him in faith. Otherwise, we can read the scriptures and pray and go to church and be totally unchanged by all of it. When we humbly approach the Lord, desiring to know and having the faith that we will receive, we will receive.
I love you! Have a great week!