End of Year Reflections-Weekly Reflection 9

On Wednesday of this past week I attended a missionary conference in Pensacola, FL. From what I had been told before, these conferences were generally the mission presidency or other leadership speaking to the missionaries and local leaders in attendance about the missionary program in the church. This one, being so close to Christmas, was not like that. It was an extended Christmas program done by the missionaries. This was very fun to attend and see, to be sure we have some very musically talented individuals in this area (for reference, our “mission” boundaries include from Tallahassee, FL west to Biloxi, MS and north from the Gulf of Mexico to 75 or 100 miles inland. I do not envy the job of the Mission President having responsibility for about 200 missionaries generally aged 18-21 spread over that area). However, I had slightly different expectations regarding the “conference” so it was not what I had planned for it to be. It was still a very uplifting to attend and see.
I feel like this week I have noticed a few things that have changed in me, especially from the beginning of the semester. On Tuesday, I am having all 8 missionaries from my congregation over to my house for a Christmas gathering. I have never had them over on Christmas before and so this is a bit of an evolution to me. I also talked with them this morning at our weekly meeting (my mentor was not there, so it fell to me to lead the meeting) and made certain they do not have any problems or needs prior to Christmas that needed to be brought up to any leadership in the congregation. Mostly I wanted to be certain all their welfare needs, spiritual, temporal, or other, are being met and if not what could we do. I have found it very interesting this semester working with them and actually getting to know them as people beyond their white shirts and little name tags (dresses and little name tags for the sisters). I think we often forget that these are diverse individuals with diverse needs.
I think this semester I have grown and changed a great deal. I certainly feel like I am more caring and understanding of people, especially those outside of the church. I am still working through negativity with folks inside the church, I think some people tend to take little things of faith culture a little too seriously, but I am working through that. I am also still working through my understanding of God and how he works here on Earth. This morning, one of the missionary pairs talked about a lady they say this past week who has stopped coming to church because she felt like she had paid tithing and had not received the blessings she expected to receive, perhaps blessings she was promised by someone in leadership. I held back a response of “perhaps she just had a bad set of expectations.” This goes to part of my own personal development in that I think it’s kind of questionable to promise people blessings and/or Earthly ‘things’ when they pay tithing or live an apparent righteous lifestyle. I feel like all promised blessings are for after this life, but I may be wrong in that assessment.
Overall, I think this change in me has been gradual, but looking back, I can certainly see it. While I am negative about many things, I try to bring up points that I feel could be changed by individuals and make for a better experience for all. I hope my negative thinking is wrong, but given that a court in Utah overturned the ban on same-sex marriage in the state, I think our sermons tomorrow will deal a fair amount with same-sex marriage in a sky-is-falling Chicken Little kind of way. Which would be quite sad considering this is the Sunday immediately before Christmas. During this Christmas break I am going to continue to read and study so that my spiritual growth does not stagnate over this break.

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