Monday, June 19, 2017

The last letter of my mission...my testimony.❤️ It all comes down to this...

Well.

The moment has arrived. This is my final letter as Elder Bryan McOmber to
all of you.

That is the scariest darn thing I have ever seen. I think I just got high
blood pressure.

Anyways.

I've been thinking all week about what I wanted to say in my last letter.
And above all, I want to share my testimony of the Savior. Some of you
might choose this moment to simply skim over what I'm about to say; that is
your decision, and I can't blame you; I've often done the same thing. But I
invite you to read it, and to try to hear me saying what I'm about to say,
because it is my most precious possession.

Jesus Christ is real. He really lived. He was really born in a little
stable in Bethlehem, to Mary and Joseph. He really taught those people in
the temple. He was really baptized in the Jordan river by John the Baptist.
He really knows what it means to be tempted, and He knows what it takes to
overcome temptation. He really walked the countryside in Galilee, teaching
the people and being accepted and rejected at every turn. He cleansed the
temple, healed the lepers, raised the dead. These things happened; His
story is actually history.

I know for myself that He really did what He says He did in Gethsemane and
Calvary. He felt what it feels like for Elder McOmber to be yelled at on
the street. He felt what it feels like to be beaten up, spit on, cast out.
He felt what it feels like to watch loved ones abandon Him or betray Him,
to watch His enemies glory in their triumph. He felt what it feels like to
finish the day with that shame of knowing you could have done better, but
you didn't. He felt that, for all of us, and in some way that I don't
really understand, He took all those feelings and all that guilt on
Himself. And because He did, we don't have to keep those feelings around
forever. There will be sadness, there will be pain, and because we're
human, there will also be shame for mistakes, but through His grace,
through His power, we can experience joy to match any sadness or pain or
shame with which we struggle.

As did the soldier on Golgotha, I have come to know that it truly was the
Son of God on that cross. I know that His spirit left His body on that
stormy night so many years ago, and that same spirit fused again with His
body three days later. I know, as Mary did, that He is risen! That He lives
today! The Savior of all mankind is *not* dead! He has a glorified,
resurrected body of flesh and bones, just like our Heavenly Father's, and
just like we will one day.

He has bridged the gap between us and our Heavenly Father that was created
by sin and transgression. He stands at the gate, beckoning us to walk that
bridge with Him, and to let Him carry us when we can't do it alone. He is
our older Brother, our support and our ever-present help in time of need as
in time of plenty.

He is my Redeemer. He is my Advocate. He is my Friend. He is my King.

And I love Him!

En avant!

Elder Bryan McOmber

Monday, June 12, 2017

Only 1 week left (I'm in denial 😜). Looking back. Why does He who could fix it all, allow us to go thru trials?

Hey everyone! :)

Well. This is not my last email home. That will be next Monday. And that is super weird to think about, so I'm just not going to think about it, despite all of ya'll's best efforts to make me think about it. :P

This week was fun. Between a few exchanges and some rather hot weather, I've been kind of stressed for most of the week. The other day I was looking back on those days when I was in the MTC in Utah, and how I felt as I looked forward to the next two years. I remember exactly how I felt. I remember all those hopes and dreams, all the homesickness, all the stress and worry about whether or not I would be good enough, whether I would have any sort of effect on people's lives. I remember so many experiences where I would just stand there and think, "What on earth am I doing right now. This is the scariest thing I have ever done." And I remember so many moments of pushing away the feelings of fear and anxiety and just focusing on trying to understand what my teachers were saying in French.

Six weeks later, I was on a plane, still pushing that fear and anxiety away. Would I live up to the expectations? What was I doing?

Then I met my trainer. Elder Boscan changed me so much. He taught me obedience and virtue, and that no matter how bad I was at something, if I did what I could, I didn't have to worry about the outcome because it's the Lord's work, not mine. I learned something different from each of my next companions. With Elder Gutierrez, I learned how to have fun in diligence. With Elder Peery, I learned maturity in leadership. With Elder Blackwelder, I learned to work hard in what I could change, and not get so worked up about things I couldn't change. With Elder Aulner, I learned to work harder when everything is against you. With Elder Colunga, I learned humility and self-control. With Elder Valencia, I am learning to love as the Savior loves.

Now I stand here, almost at the end of these two years, and at the beginning of an eternity, and I wonder how I could have ever lived without this time. It brings me to tears to think of how much love the Lord had for me to let me struggle and hurt and push and fight through all the painful moments.

I remember walking away from countless encounters with angry, mean, clever people who found just the right way to cut me to the core, holding back angry tears as I tried to understand why on earth I came here if people weren't going to give me the time of day just because of the way I dress or the way I speak or, worse than anything, the name I wear on my chest. I remember walking through a dark street in Montreal, frustrated and exhausted from weeks and months of rejection and disrespect, and asking He who could fix it all with a word why He seemed to care so little.

Why didn't God pull Joseph of Egypt out of prison earlier? Why did Noah have to stay on that boat for so stinking long (emphasis on stinking!)? Why did Jeremiah have to spend so many days prophesying from prison? Why did John the Baptist and Peter and Paul and James and Stephen and Hyrum and Joseph and so many others, both in the modern and ancient days, have to lose their lives for this? Why did the Son of the living God spend three years of His life being mocked and attacked and cast out, with no real physical home where He could always go back to be accepted and loved? Why did He spend so many tears and so much blood for this? Why does the world seem so unfair?

I believe that eternal life is too great a reward for us to obtain without gaining at least a small comprehension of the price that was paid to gain it. How could we possibly understand the depth of joy in heaven without having walked, for at least a fraction of the time that He did, through that valley of death which the Savior Himself overcame for each one of us?

God allows us to suffer, not because He doesn't want us to be happy, but because He wants us to understand what happiness really is. Happiness is not the absence of trials; happiness is found in progress, which can only be attained by having something to progress through, something to push against. And thankfully, wonderfully, we don't have to push alone.

So what have I learned from my mission? I think I've learned a bit more of what it really takes to be happy.

My dad loves to quote a poem by Ella Wheeler Wilcox, and that's where I'd like to end my thoughts this week. It's called "Worth While."

"It is easy enough to be pleasant, 
    When life flows by like a song, 
But the man worth while is one who will smile, 
    When everything goes dead wrong. 
For the test of the heart is trouble, 
    And it always comes with the years, 
And the smile that is worth the praises of earth, 
    Is the smile that shines through tears.

It is easy enough to be prudent, 
    When nothing tempts you to stray, 
When without or within no voice of sin 
    Is luring your soul away; 
But it's only a negative virtue 
    Until it is tried by fire, 
And the life that is worth the honor on earth, 
    Is the one that resists desire.

By the cynic, the sad, the fallen, 
    Who had no strength for the strife, 
The world's highway is cumbered to-day, 
    They make up the sum of life. 
But the virtue that conquers passion, 
    And the sorrow that hides in a smile, 
It is these that are worth the homage on earth 
    For we find them but once in a while."

I love you all!

En avant!

Elder Bryan McOmber

Monday, June 5, 2017

Accepting ALL callings from the Lord. The Lord qualifies who he calls...trust Him! ❤️

Hey everybody! :)

This week has been cool. I went on exchanges with another elder who is currently serving in a Spanish-speaking area, so I got to teach a little bit in Spanish, which was cool! I realized that I know more Spanish than I thought I did... and that I still have a LOT to learn. :)

I am honestly a bit at a loss as to what happened this week... there were a couple crazy days in which we were all over the place and I was a bit distracted by everything that was going on. Seems like the closer I get to the end of my mission, the more is happening, and the less time I have to think (or take pictures... sorry Mom). :) But the weeks are never bad; just crazier and crazier.

I had some thoughts yesterday about callings. For those of you who may not know this Church very well, we believe that at baptism, we make a promise to God that we will take the name of His Son, Jesus Christ, upon us; in other words, we will strive to be like Him. He always served, and so we strive to always serve. One of the ways that we do this is through responsibilities that we receive in our congregations. There are many different callings that are necessary to make the Church function the way it was established to; Relief Society presidents, librarians, stake presidents, bishops, Primary teachers, genealogy specialists, etc. All of these callings are from the Lord, and all of them are an opportunity to serve.

I have met so many people (myself included), in my life and on my mission, who choose not to magnify, or even sometimes give minimal effort in, their calling because a) they don't feel adequate, b) they "don't have time," c) they don't know how, or a thousand other reasons. What I realized yesterday was that, first off, callings are not really a suggestion from the Lord, to be taken if we feel we are capable. A calling is, in effect, the same thing as if the Savior Himself approached us and asked us to fulfill a particular task in His vineyard. How many of us would actually make excuses not to serve when our callings are seen in this light? Another thing I realized is that the Lord's work is going to get done, whether I serve or not; but my choice not to serve does not come without consequences to myself and others. 

In a sled dog team, if one dog chooses to stop pulling, regardless of whether he leads the team or pulls up the rear, the rest of the dogs now have to pull his weight in addition to that of the sled. Every position in the team is important, and if he chooses to stop, he is not only not a positive influence, but provides a negative influence on those around him. There are only two sides in this life; there is no neutral ground. If we are not pulling our weight, we can be very sure that someone, somewhere has to pull that weight, and we will be held accountable for that.

Now. This is not designed to be a scathing chastisement to all of us, seeing as pretty much every single one of us has had moments in our lives when we have not pulled all of our proverbial weight. But the invitation from the Savior to us in our callings, and in all other areas in taking His name upon us, is this: 

"Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light." (Matthew 11:28-30)

I used to think that this scripture meant that when life gets rough, we just run to the Lord and throw everything at His feet and He'll just fix it all and life will be just so very wonderfully empty of struggles. That would be great... except it would defeat the purpose of life. We are here to learn, to grow, and to become like the Savior. How could we think that our callings would be easy for us, when His was never easy for Him? The gospel is not just a salve for the wounded; it is a school, a lifestyle of growth and stretching to be learned and applied. The Savior will give us rest; but not by taking away all of the weight. Instead, He asks us to "take [His] yoke upon [us], and learn of [Him]." He gives us rest by carrying the weight with us, not for us.

So if we don't have time... let's make time. If we don't know how, let's learn how. If we don't feel adequate, perfect! Because we aren't, but He is, and He will build us through our service. The Lord does not only call those who are qualified; rather, He qualifies those He calls.

All of our callings are a sacred responsibility from the Lord. We must remember to treat them as such! As we do so, I know He will support us, and "He will consecrate [our] performance unto [us], that [our] performance may be for the welfare of [our] soul[s]." (2 Nephi 32:9)

En avant!
Elder Bryan McOmber