I was going to post this a while ago, but I forgot, so here it is now. This is the talk that mom gave in sacrament meeting a couple of months ago:
As I was preparing to give this talk, I asked Justin if there was anything he didn’t want me to say. He gave me the green light to talk about anything I felt inspired to, with the warning that you might just have to hear it all again in a year. Also, know that I don’t speak Portuguese, so I am sure I will mess up terribly on pronunciation of words and names. So, next year, if you do hear the same story, you probably won’t even know it!!
President Monson said, “Those who have felt the touch of the master’s hand somehow cannot explain the change which comes into their lives. There is a desire to live better, to serve faithfully, to walk humbly, and to live more like the Savior.” Justin has been on his mission for over a year now, and this quote describes him perfectly. He has felt the touch of the master’s hand. He is the same person and yet, I can tell, when I read his e-mails, that he is different. He is changed. He is better.
Every day Justin, and missionaries all over the world teach people the word of God, and then invite them to make changes in their lives, so they can be worthy to be baptized. No less is expected of us!! As we come to church each week and hear the word of God, as we daily read the word of God, as we pray daily to God, we should have a desire to change and then do it!!
For this is what life is about changing, progressing, becoming better. Marion G. Romney said, - "No Latter-Day Saint should be content to stand day after day in the same place on the way to eternal life."
There is always some way we can improve and do better!! It is not easy for anyone to change their habits or lifestyle. Change doesn’t come quickly, it comes day by day, one choice at a time, until, before you know it, a year has passed, and looking back, we can see the person we have become. Change is always worth it.
As I read Justin’s e-mail each week I can see his growth, feel the spirit and my own testimony is strengthened. Oh, how I look forward to them.
In these e-mails and letters there always seems to be 2 recurring themes. Both of these themes President Monson has taught,
“There is no such thing as coincidence.” And
“The Lord is in the details of our lives.”
It is my hope, that as I relate some of Justin’s mission experiences we will all be able to see the Hand of the Lord in the details of His children’s lives.
Justin, in the beginning of his mission, was discouraged that he wasn’t learning Portuguese as fast as he wanted to. And there were times when he felt he wasn’t really contributing to the lessons being taught. Now, when I read his e-mails, I can tell that his Portuguese is better, because his English is worse. So, as I share e-mails written by him, know that I have edited them, just a little, so that we can all understand them.
When Justin reached his 1 year mark, he took time to reflect. This is one of the stories that he wrote:
“I´ve seen a lot of things happen this year. Right from the first 24 hours in the``Brasil`` MTC, I knew that it was going to be a lot different. Even living in the most American part of the country it was easy to see the differences. No Dr. Pepper, Mcdonalds is expensive, and they eat rice and beans EVERY DAY (capital letters). I thought I was going to die with this diet after the first 2 days. Though, I know how blessed I am, and that I´m supposed to be here in Porto Alegre South. When I was in the Brazil mtc, they served brown beans every day. I couldn´t eat brown beans without feeling sick, though when we had black beans once a month or so, I loved it. I ate them more than anything else... I got nervous about having to eat brown beans, when I got close to coming into the field, thinking I would be sick every day. But, I’ve been blessed. The people here in the south only eat black beans... Less than 5 times I´ve had brown beans here... I love black beans so much now.
Before going to Brazil, Justin didn’t know that brown beans would make him feel sick… but the Lord did. It is not a coincidence that Justin was sent to a place where black beans are eaten instead of brown beans. My heart is full of gratitude, knowing that the Lord is watching over our son and is in the details of his life.
The first area Justin served in was Pelotas. One of the ward members is a DJ for a Saturday night radio show and he invited Justin and his companion to be on his show. Justin could hardly speak the language, but he was so excited to have this new experience. During the show they gave away a Book of Mormon to the first 5 callers. The next Friday, they went out to deliver the Books of Mormon to the winners. When they got to Paulo’s house, he turned them away saying he wasn’t interested. His mother, Paulina, however was very interested, and she was there when the missionaries came knocking. She accepted the Book, invited them in and they taught her the plan of salvation. They continued to teach Paulina and she soon committed to be baptized. Paulina was active in another church and the day before her baptism her pastor came to her house to try to talk her out of it. He told her that the whole church was based on a lie, the Book of Mormon. Then Paulina, not yet baptized, but definitely converted replied, “If you read that book, actually read it, you won’t find one lie.” The next day Paulina was baptized. What an inspired sequence of events that led to her entering the waters of baptism. Justin was honored to confirm her a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter –Day Saints. But, he was also nervous because he did not know the language very well. About the occasion, Justin wrote, “I hope the congregation had the gift of tongues, so they could understand the blessing. Well, I at least got the confirming the Holy Ghost part right because I didn’t have to redo it. So I guess all is well!!!”
Paulina has such a special place in my heart. At 76 years old, she had a desire to change and be better.
Was it a coincidence that Paulina’s son called the radio station and won a book that he didn’t even want? No. Paulina was ready and waiting to hear and accept the gospel of Jesus Christ. The Lord was in every detail.
Jair is a man who lives in Porto Alegre. Over 20 years ago he served a mission in Sao Paolo but, within 4 months of returning home, he became less active in the church. He has been less active ever since. About a year ago, a lifelong friend of Jair’s moved into his area. These 2 friends grew up together, got baptized on the very same day, and were even called to serve in the same mission. This friend of Jair’s is Justin’s mission president. It is no coincidence that President Castro was assigned to serve in the Porto Alegre South Mission, the same mission where his dear friend desperately needed him to be. President Castro has been instrumental in helping his friend Jair become active in the church again. The Lord was in the details of both of their lives. They both needed to be in the exact place, at the exact time (for the Lord’s purpose to be fulfilled). Romans 8:28, “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose.”
One week Justin and his companion only had $20 R, which is equivalent to $10.00. On Monday, they had to ride the bus to get to an appointment. That bus ride cost exactly $20 R. So, they were down to no money and payday wasn’t until Friday. They needed money because later that week they had an appointment far away, which meant another $20 R bus ride. The night before their appointment, the lady that was going to fix lunch for them the next day called and cancelled. But she said, “Come by my house and I’ll give you some money.” Because of the money they were given, Justin and his companion, were able to ride the bus and keep their appointment that evening.
In his e-mail that week, Justin wrote, ”It’s strange how God works and that things always work out for the best.”
When I first read this story, it brought pain to my heart, to know that he went a week with no money, and that I couldn’t help him. But, I do know that the Lord is there for him, when I can’t be. And I am grateful that Justin is having these experiences, to learn to rely on the Lord and to trust in Him. I know that it is because of experiences like these that he is being changed.
President Monson said, “ I believe that no concern of ours is too small or insignificant.” Justin and his companion were short just a very small, seemingly insignificant amount of money. But this story again illustrates that the Lord is in the details of our lives.
Elaine Kennelly wrote a poem titled, “God Is in the Details”.
If God is in the details of How? Where? and Why?
If that is true, then who am I to argue, fear and cry?
If God is in the details, and His path is the Way.
Then what am I doing , as I worry through the day?
If God is in the details of all simple daily life.
Then I can give to Him my pain, my hurts, my strife.
If God is in the details, then courageous I can be.
All day-to-day decisions are for Him to make -- not me.
Yes! God is in the details. Obedient faith is a must.
For as He leads, He holds my hand, and I need simply to trust.
Yes! God is in the details. He protects me night and day.
He counsels me and guides me, and to Heaven leads the way.
Yes! God is in the details of our lives; it's real for me and you.
Jesus' death and resurrection has made all of this come true.
I want to close with Justin’s own words. In his reflections on the past year, he wrote,
“I know the Lord watches over us, he´s watching over Carol who had some difficult times before her baptism, and still has difficulties, but keeps going with faith and hope that things will get better. He´s watching over Paulina who took the step late in her life, but is now less than 3 months away from going to the temple. He´s watching over Tiago and Helena, protecting them as Tiago continues getting better every day from his terrible addictions. He´s watching over Gabriel, giving him the chance to see his parents baptized just months after he set the example. He´s watching over Milena. He´s watching over João, as he blesses the sacrament. He´s watching over Letícia as she´s being an example in her family for her sisters, doing the right things, reading and asking questions, learning more and more and helping her classmates as a newly called member of the seminary presidency. He´s watching over me, and He’s watching over you.”
In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.