Tuesday, September 20, 2016

"I'll continue to serve with everything that I got left."

Dear family:

 Well, my family, I'm afraid that I'd finally been overcome by more stress than I've ever experienced in my entire life.
 Towards the end of last week, I had become more internally stressed more than any other moment in my life. I feel that everything that I'm doing in order to help myself to overcome everything that I'm going through isn't working as sufficiently as it should. I continue to wake up on time almost every day, I continue to pray daily, I've fasted more than any other time in my life, I study my scriptures still, I speak and share this message with as many people as I possibly can and have done so more so than any other time in my mission and I strive my best to serve everyone with whom I interact including my companion, my fellow missionary collegues, my converts, investigators, friends and even strangers with all my heart, might, mind and strength.

 Despite all of my efforts, I feel as if I'm in a constant tug-of-war between pride, murmuring, and envy and then charity, patience, longsuffering and everything else that I desire so much to obtain and to become. I pray often and for long periods of time for many specific things (such as the capacity to faithfully endure to the end and support my afflictions and to be more charitable, humble, patient, longsuffering, faithful, hopeful, kind, courteous, cheerful and etc.), that I need in order to be capable of supporting the rest of my mission; however, I continue to suffer from the effects of pride and stress which have made the Christ-like attributes that I've sought to acquire very difficult to maintain and then at times diminish.

 Well, I'm disapointed to say that today, before leaving the apartment to go to the Cyber, I yelled at my companion. This has never happened between us. I told him that I'm at the very end of my mission yet we still dispute with each other and we still have problems. I said that I'm so stressed and so frusturated that I tremble and have started to have a hard time sleeping at night because of it. I told him that no matter what I do, it doesn't seem to work. I said that I've prayed and fasted more times than I ever have in my entire life and I continue to read my scriptures like I should, but now I just don't know what else or what more to do. I said that I'm barely holding on and that I'm doing everything that I possibly can in order to have the spiritual strength and capacity to press forward, to support the rest of my mission and to endure to the end. 

 He has been one of the best companions that I've had due to his patience and understanding along with our friendship and capacity to get along with each other in the end, but it seems like after all I can do, it's never enough to prevent us from having at least one problem to overcome every single week.
 The week end was terribly stressful, the fact that I'm returning home soon doesn't help at all either and what had happened between my companion and I today had only ignited the bomb that was about to explode within me. After I had finished writing a letter to one of my converts in Togo, I went to ask my companion who was in bed if we could go to the Cyber. The way that he was behaving made it seem as if he was about to refuse and so I had to convince him to get up and go to the Cyber with me. I know, it was a stupid reason to yell over, but, like I said, the clip on the grenade had been pulled to the point that when he was ready to leave, everything that had built up inside me within the past few days had exploded out of my mouth.

 Well, after all was said and done, everything that my companion said had opened my eyes, had shown me in what way I was behaving and had helped me to calm down. My companion had also shown me an email sent to him by his uncle after we got to the Cyber concerning the health of his grandfather, who has been having extreme heart problems and is no longer able to walk nor really function anymore on his own. My companion's father had passed away when my companion was twelve years old and towards the beginning of his mission, his mother had also passed away, leaving him and his only brother alone.

 Due to what he's going through, my companion is probably just as or even more stressed than me, he's going through a lot of emotions that I'm currently experiencing as well and he certainly didn't deserve what I had done to him today either.

Due to our behavioral differences and cultural backgrounds, and to my great shame and weakness, the adversary continues to win from time to time as I battle against pride with charity in this constant tug-of-war of salvation. I don't want to fall in the mud anymore, I don't want to give in to or even have to deal with pride anymore and I just want to win this race according to the Lord's plan for me.

 Well, I've never actually ran the last part of a race with a smile on my face, but I know that after I will have completed my mission, I'll be able to experience a fullness of happiness, joy, peace and calm that come after the storm and after getting past the finish line of the race. Although, I will do my very best to continue to smile as I've always managed to do and to be more positive as I continue to serve with everything that I got left.

 Despite my countless failures and my great weakness, I'm trying my best -- I really am -- in all that I do and I fighting to overcome and then survive this mental and spiritual challenge that has been placed before me.
Please continue to pray that I'll be able to endure to the end of my mission, that I'll be able to focus on my mission and on my missionary purpose, that I'll be able to overcome my anxiety and stress, that I'll be able to change for the better and that I'll have the success that I'm working so hard to achieve.

 Well, my family, thank you for hearing me out, for your support, for your faith-filled prayers, for your encouraging messages, for the details of what's going on at home, for your diligent efforts to prepare for my return home and for your great love and care.

I love you all so very much and I'm so happy, excited and relieved to be with you again soon in two weeks' time.
Elder Gonzales
2 Timothy 2:1-10; 4: 7 (almost there).

P.S.-- I'm no longer sick and my throat has been healed.  

P.S.S. -- By the way, on Saturday, we went to a cultural celebration held to celebrate the construction of the first stake building in Bénin! While I was there, I saw a lot of members of the wards in which I had served and I had also seen some really great friends of mine from Togo!! Guess who I'd also seen? Fr. Borris!!! Crazy right? He was one of my very first converts that E. Dioulo and I helped to be baptized at the very beginning of my mission! He came to Bénin in order to attend a young, single adults activity and then to attend the cultueral celebration. The moment I'd arrived and was getting ready to approach the building, Fr. Borris appeared out of nowhere from behind me. This was a super great and tender mercy that the Lord had granted unto me to be able to see my buddy Fr. Borris one last time shortly before I return home. I wasn't able to remain in contact with him because making phone calls from Bénin to Togo is ridiculously expensive and we don't receive enough monthly credit for me to be able to communicate Thankfully he and many other of my Togolese friends and converts have an email or a Facebook account so I'll be able to communicate with them whenever I want after the mission.

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