Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Returning to a mission - Elder Reyes de Leon

Elder Reyes will complete his 2 year mission in just 2 weeks.  His story was recently featured in the Central America Liahona.  It is a courageous story of determination and perseverance. Hopefully I have done a good job in translating!

Returning to my mission 

On August 15, 2015, I was called to serve a full time mission to Mexico City, Southeast Mission.  I will never forget the moment in which I opened my call; the moment was special and totally different from most of the experience of others.

I was born on the 20th of January, 1994, to a wonderful and great people, my parents.  I come from a family in which every day, while on the Earth, we strive to succeed.  When I was nine years old, I was diagnosed with a disease that would change my life and my family.

After taking many tests and studies to identify the disease, I was told that I needed to have an operation for a tumor that had formed in my head.  When the day of the operation came we relied on Heavenly Father that all would be well.  We had also hoped that the words from the doctors following the surgery would be that there was nothing more and that my recovery would be immediate.

After passing this trial my family and I continued to strive and progress within the Gospel. Years passed and all was going well until I turned 14 years of age. At this age my family and I did not imagine what was to happen to me. Five years after the first surgery a tumor was again growing in my head. No new studies were required.  The doctors already knew what was wrong and another operation was required; only that this time it would be totally different. On this occasion, Dr. Castellanos (doctor who saw my case all my life), knew that my illness had worsened.

I remember that he talked with my parents and with me about what was happening, and he mentioned that treatments of chemotherapy were needed.  I would have to fight this disease for the rest of my life.  Histiocytosis cancer occurs in several ways.  It manifested in my bones, creating tumors.

I did not want chemotherapy at 14 years of age and following my second operation.  However, I started my treatment that lasted for four years.  During those years of chemotherapy, many tests and trials were experienced by my family.

I can only imagine the tests that were endured by my family, but they never passed on the difficult times to me.  Every week I went to the hospital to receive my chemotherapy.  My family always was with me at every moment.  I did feel something special in those moments of difficulties and that something was hope.  I knew hope meant believing that all will be well and that God would comply with His promises.  Hope has the power to fill our lives with happiness, hope sustains us from despair.  This encouraged me to continue through all the tests.

When I turned 18, after having 4 years of chemotherapy, I returned often to the doctor to see how my body had accepted the treatment.

It came the time which had to make the decision to serve a mission or not. I remember that one of the doctors was not in total agreement that I serve a mission. My body was well, thanks to the treatment that I had, the disease had stopped and there was nothing more. It was incredible knowing that all was well, and that I could do the things I’d like to. On one occasion when I was talking to Bishop of the ward where I attended, he mentioned serving a mission. I remember that the Bishop asked me if I wanted to serve a mission, and I said yes, I was willing to serve.

I started filling out my paperwork and be ready to serve a mission. My papers were sent to Salt Lake City. We waited for the letter to return with my assignment. With the letter in my hands, it was time to know where I was going to serve.  I opened it at the time we selected and it was special. My grandmother was sick with cancer and about to leave this earth. I remember that we gathered around her as she was in bed being unable to speak. She wanted to know where I was going; so I opened my call and read it. I felt something special in my heart as I read that I would in Mexico, and felt a great love for the country.

I passed the time preparing to serve as a missionary, reading my Scriptures, praying to the Heavenly Father, and attended the missionary preparation classes that helped to increase my faith in Jesus Christ daily.

Finally the day came to go on my mission and I was excited, happy and nervous about doing something that my family and I had been waiting for a long time, serving a full time mission.  I started my mission on August 15, 2012 and it was so special and unique that I will never forget how my testimony began to grow as I served the Lord with all my heart, mind and strength.

I loved seeing how the Gospel of Jesus Christ changed the life of the people. I knew that time was something special and I had to forget myself and give myself entirely to the Lord's work. Having served nine months in the mission, without knowing what would happen, once again there appeared a small ball of dough in my arm elbow. The doctors said that it was a tumor and had to return home to recover. I returned to a sad home and was desperate to know what I had, the doctor saw me again and started blood tests and other studies. With the results in the hands of the doctor, he told me: "you have nothing!"

I remember that my mother and one of my sisters were with me at the time, and the two turned to me as my eyes filled with tears to know that I had returned from the mission without being ill. After spending time at home, I started to study at the University. I was often thinking that the mission time that was not over.  The leaders of the Church told me that I had done my part to serve and that it was not necessary to return, and that I had been returned with honor. Eventually, they called me as a teacher of future missionaries of stake and when this happened I felt happy for the mission release I’d received, happy for the desire to help others with my mission, and that the mission was a success. However, something inside of me still wanted to help in Mexico, and the desire to return was in me. My uncle shared his experience when from his mission. I thought so much of my mission.  I decided to go back.

I went to the Stake President and shared with him that I wanted to return. He helped me a lot and we started to prepare my papers to return. Two years passed and I remained at home waiting for an answer to see if someday I could return or not. In those two years, we tried three times and never got a response. I decided that I had to do something and started to work, prepare, and focus more on my gospel study.

Finally it happened and my father received a call that I could return to complete my mission. In June 2015, a Friday, they called me from the offices of the Church, and they told me that I could now return to the mission and gave me a date for leaving. The date of departure was the Monday of the following week. I couldn't believe it. I thanked God for giving me this great opportunity to return. That weekend was one that I will not forget. I had to prepare myself to go back to complete my mission. My family and I were so happy.

At this moment I am in the Mexico City, Southeast Mission, culminating my mission. Four months before finishing, I have grown to understand that God and our Lord Jesus Christ are always on our side and that they know the desires of our heart. I know that Jesus Christ lives and that He came to this earth to die for every one of us. I testify that God has created this wonderful Plan of happiness for His children, and that the tests that we endure in life cannot be compared with the test Jesus Christ faced on this earth. And that in this moment Jesus Christ guides the steps of both my companion and me.

I testify that the Church of Jesus Christ is true, that the Book of Mormon is true and Joseph Smith was the perfect instrument by which this beautiful and wonderful Gospel was restored.

As a representative of Jesus Christ I know that God blesses us when we are faithful and obedient to all that is demanded, and that He is always with us wherever we go. All in the life is based on our Heavenly Father, and God blesses us for our obedience. I Testify of these things, testify of God the Father, of his son Jesus Christ and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Everything has value

June 18, 2016

There is a noticeable difference between Elders returning to North America and those returning to Central and South America.  Of course I am talking in generalities but almost without exception, I see the following.

Elders returning to North America take very few of their clothes and shoes home.  It can be compared to a woman who has just given birth.  A pregnant woman is so tired of her clothes that once the baby is born, she is happy to wear something different.  North Americans take home their favorite ties and socks, but most of the rest stays behind including their underwear.

Those returning to Central and South America show much greater respect for their worn out clothes.  They find value in all things and find it very hard to get their bags down to the “acceptable” weight for the airlines.  I see broken toys, crepe paper from birthday parties, books, and worn out shoes returning home.

We recently sent an Elder home to the Dominican Republic.  First we replaced his luggage because it had not survived the 2 years of service here.  We told him of the weight restrictions and stressed that his bags could not be even a pound more.  When we picked him up to go to the airport, his shave kit was attached to his belt.  We arrived at the airport and of course his bags were overweight – but he was prepared.  He pulled bags out of his pocket and moved items over into them.  He started to attach each bag to his backpack or belt.  We took him to security and laughed as he walked away with bags tied in many places.  He was leaving nothing behind!

North Americans live in a “throw away” country.  That is not that way in other places!