This week, the mission gathered together over 2 days for the Christmas Zone Conference. It was such a wonderful event, with the mission coming together once again, to have lunch together and share the spirit and excitement of the Christmas season. President Jose Teixeira, member of the first quorum of the 70, and current Area President for the Europe area, came with his wife to train and speak to us, and it was a great pleasure being able to learn about things that I could improve on in order to be a more effective missionary. Of all the things that happened this past week, there was a recurring theme that resonated in my mind – breaking the barriers that we set up for ourselves.
As an Assistant, I have the opportunity, every monday, to share with the missionaries in the mission, a spiritual thought that would motivate and inspire us to move forward and progress. This last Monday, I decided to share with the mission one of my personal experiences as a swimmer. I remember when I was in secondary school, working towards the Singapore national records in the 50 and 100 metres breaststroke events. Records were a standard of excellence, and everybody would aim to beat the records, even if it was just a few milliseconds faster. I recall thinking about the 50m breaststroke record frequently, but the more I thought about this timing, the more it stressed me out, because I was just a few tenths of a second outside the mark. Each time I tried, I always fell short, and each time I fell short, even more stress came upon me, because it seemed like no matter how hard I tried, I could never succeed. Nothing seemed to work.
Well, because of the national service requirement in Singapore after high school, I found myself returning to the pool for serious training a year later. Because I was not in my best form, there were no worries, all I had to do was to try my best each practice session and each competition. Once I realised that I was not measuring myself up against anyone else, I felt free and excited to go out and test my limits – not the limits of the record. That year returning back to the pool, I broke the 50m Breaststroke record a total of 6 times. I learnt a great life lesson about not limitting ourselves by the personal limits that others have set up for us. We need to seek our personal potential, and go in with the attitude that nothing can stop us.
Applying that to missionary work here in Paris, French missionaries have often come in with the idea that “the mission is hard,” that “nobody is interested,” or that “nobody is religious.” While we as missionaries respect that everyone has the power to decide whether or not they are ready to hear our message, Heavenly Father works according to our faith. According to our faith and our desire, we are led to those who are elect, those who are truly searching for and waiting to receive the gospel in their lives. I know this to be true because of the miracles that I have seen in my mission, and the power that Heavenly Father can give us as we decide to work in faith.
Elder Teixeira shared the story of how elephants are trained. While still young, they are chained to a thick, heavy metal pole, and as they try to break free and run, they are held back because they are not yet strong enough. They continue trying to escape, and to no avail, and finally, they give up trying. As they grow up into big, strong elephants, they are still marked and stained by the memories of their childhood. Each time they are tied to a pole, even a wooden pole, they cease to fight back or escape. They never truly know their true strength. I realised how we sometimes judge our limits according to the limits of those around us, or the limits we have experienced in our lives. Heavenly Father created us with divine potentials, and our capacity to do good and progress in this life. We truly can become all that we wished we could become if we work in faith, nothing doubting.
At this special time of Christmas, it is a perfect time for each of us to rededicate ourselves to our Savior, Jesus Christ, to recommit ourselves to becoming all that we can be, to following His example. One of my favorite quotes about Christmas comes from President Howard W. Hunter:
Will you take a few moments to reflect on the blessing of the Savior? That will be what I will be doing Christmas morning.
I know that Jesus Christ is our Savior, and that He is truly the greatest gift that we have received in our lives. Through Him, all things were made possible.
Have a very Merry Christmas!