07 April 2013

Minha Presidente de Missão

Elder Richard G. Scott's talk from General Conference has been weighing on my mind all weekend. Because I am preparing to be married at the end of May, I came into General Conference with a lot of thoughts and questions about how to build a Christ-centered home. His sage counsel reminded me once again of how much admire this servant of Christ for how he exemplifies in this regard.

Yesterday he told of a missionary who was the only member of the Church in his family. At the end of his mission he asked to spend more time at the mission home so he could observe a Christ-centered home and family. I admit, that story brought back some of the most precious memories of my mission because I had the same experience, with the same desire.

My mission president is the most Christ-like man I have ever met, and every time I saw him and his wife I rarely called them by their name or title. To me, they were always Pai and Mãe. That is how I genuinely feel about them. They represent everything I aspire to for my life.

What did I observe in them that engendered this level of esteem? What exactly did they do that I want so much to emulate?

President was always happy. Even when he was under intense pressure from having two districts in his mission, 180 missionaries, and a never-ending list of things to do with local church leadership all over São Paulo, he never complained. He was always smiling. No matter what problems he was having, he dealt with them with inspiration and power, then would laugh with us about them later. I cannot say enough good things about this dedicated servant of Christ. Every time he ever called me filha and said we would be together forever, I believed him and I look forward to it every day of my life.


His wife is in every way as much of a giant as he is. Wherever he was, she was there. I had the privilege of worshiping in the temple together with them as the witness couple, and I will never forget that experience. Having made that connection with them in those roles, I always see them there at the altar--giving everything they have to the Lord. Sister Pinho taught me about sacrifice and love, and what it means to support your husband through anything and everything. I can only imagine the conversations they had about all of us and how best to care for us, like only loving parents would. They helped me through some of the hardest challenges of my life, and they always did it together. I felt the love of a mother every time I was with Sister Pinho, even when she had to correct me for something I was doing wrong--like feeling sorry for myself, or drying my clothes in the microwave.

When I think about the mission home they created, part of me longs to be back there. I have been inside of million dollar mansions before, but none of them compare to how rich our mission home always seemed--and not just because those were the best 4 or 5 showers I took my whole mission. (President always used to joke that we loved being there because of the carpet.) But really, it was because their home felt like the safest, cleanest, purest place in São Paulo. The only other place we could feel such a spirit was in the temple. It was all the purity of being inside of the temple with the ability to talk and laugh with the people we loved as dearly as our own family. Sister Pinho's pão de quejo could make me cry right here, it was so good and I miss it so much because of the love I could taste in every bite.




The thing I treasured most was how they treated me like an equal--a powerful servant of Christ. They treated me with a love and respect so powerful that my entire self-perception changed. I saw myself as someone who could do miracles and follow Christ anywhere, even into hell--which is exactly where my service took me sometimes. When my self-confidence crumbled, they were there to build me up again in the image of my Savior. My life has been forever changed by nothing short of who they are.

I saw a thought that said that if I am able to see further than anyone ever has, it is because I have stood on the shoulders of giants. That is how I view President and Sister Pinho. They are two of the tallest spiritual giants I have ever met personally. They have lifted me up to heights I had no idea I could reach.

I want to be like them because I know that if I do, I will become truly Christ-like.

03 April 2013

Óleo

I have been making my way through the New Testament again, and I just reached one of my favorite parables--the parable of the ten virgins. I was telling my fiance about an experience on my mission that corresponds to this parable, and I thought I'd share it here because of how vivid the lesson was for me at the time.

One of my former companions was struck by a motorcycle while walking on a sidewalk. Her leg was broken, and she was taken to the hospital. When President and Sister Pinho went to visit her with the two assistants, she requested a blessing.

President had no oil, which really isn't hard to imagine. He was always giving blessings because he was always on call for when someone was truly in trouble and no one else could come to our aid. The way I remember my President was serving until it showed in his face how tired he was. And yet he was always smiling. He was the image of a perfect Brazilian man, and we just loved him for it. Even though it was serious that he had no oil on him, you couldn't help but love him even more because of it for exactly what it meant he had been doing with his time.

So he looked to Sister Pinho, because she always carried consecrated oil to give away to all the missionaries. Sister Pinho was infamous for her motherly instruction at all of our zone conferences, and this was one of the many things we always anticipated: "Quem tem óleo consagrada, e quem não tem? Quem precisa? Vem e pegar." (Who has consecrated oil and who doesn't? Who needs it? Come and get some.)

She would then dispense small vials on keyrings to whomever was without. I still have the vial she gave to me, and I keep it with me always. She taught us much about the priesthood from her example, and the importance of preparation. Many times we were the only ones with oil handy in our areas, especially in areas with a very young Church presence.

But on this occasion Sister Pinho had no oil for precisely this reason--she had already given hers away.

President turned to both of the assistants, who also had no oil. Whether they had given theirs away or simply assumed that President or Sister Pinho, being more experienced, would have it--it did nothing to help the situation.

Becoming desperate, they looked to her companion. But when she glanced down for her oil vial (attached to the zipper pull on her backpack) only the cap dangled there uselessly. And when I saw this Sister at a later conference, she still had it in the same place on her backpack.

The five of them surely felt the weight of the situation as they began looking for expedients. But my companion, wise as she always was, reached into her bag and pulled out her own oil. "Eu tenho óleo Presidente, pode me dar uma benção." (I have oil President, you can give me a blessing.)

It doesn't take a lot to be an unwise virgin with no oil. The good intentions of my president and his sweet wife are a testimony to how even the best of intentions can be unwise. If we are always giving of ourselves, taking no time to replenish our reserves, keeping nothing for ourselves, we will give until we have nothing left. My President told us this account so that we would learn that this kind of behavior is not charity--it's foolishness.

For this reason, I recently bought myself a second oil vial. The one Sister Pinho gave to me is reserved for the service of others in case they ever need a blessing--still in commission in memory of my missionary service.

The other is only for me. As part of my preparation, I told my fiance about it. As the only priesthood holder in my life and as my future husband, he needs to know where I keep that reserve of oil for myself. I know that he keeps oil on his person and in his car at all times--but just in case the moment is dire. Just in case he is without his vial and the car is too far away. Just in case he is in a momentary panic, looking for expedients.

I want him to know that I will always have an oil vial, just for me. Full and ready.

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