Friday, June 29, 2012

...As the Sun Sets...

June 29, 2012

Dear Family and Friends,

As the Santiago sun softly sets on our three-year service as Mission President and Companion of the Chile, Santiago East Mission, we stand hand in hand, gazing with awe and wonder at the breath-taking beauty that Heavenly Father’s love for His children is creating in this spectacular country of Chile (John 3:16-17).

We offer our sure witness of the remarkable miracles that have taken place in the Chile, Santiago East Mission during the past three years. We testify that the Lord has loved, inspired, and protected his Chilean children (including his missionaries) in miraculous ways, and we will always cherish the warmth and the sweetness of this country. We testify that the Lord has sent his chosen leaders, missionaries, and angels to minister to and guide his Chilean children, and we will never forget the miraculous love that we have felt for and from the people of Chile. We will treasure the relationships we have formed. And we will pray fervently for all who will serve here to be able to “establish the Church” and to help the Lord achieve the “real growth” that Chile so desperately needs.

Before our mission service began, we prayed fervently to know what the Lord would have us do. We attended the Temple. We fasted. We prayed. And we prayed some more. Each time, the answer we received was very simple: “Teach them that I love them.” “Teach them to love me.” We continually received the inspiration that Godly love should be our focus: “If you love me, keep my commandments,” always echoed in our hearts and minds. And the Savior’s words, “Lovest thou me?” and “Feed my sheep” were a continuous subject of ongoing revelation for us. We tirelessly invited others to demonstrate their love for God by keeping his commandments and feeding his sheep. 

When we first started our mission, we were extremely excited, and we wanted our mission to have the highest number of baptisms in all of Chile; we are competitive by nature. But the Lord had other plans, and we quickly learned that obeying his commandments means doing his work in his way. Real obedience creates so much more than mere numbers can ever show. With our limited view, we thought it was all about baptisms. Instead, the Lord had a better way, and we learned that it was not about numbers of baptisms alone. Instead, it was about ministering one by one and sharing his love by doing the Lord’s work in the Lord’s way so that he could provide the blessings that he desired to provide for our mission.

We soon discovered that our mission actually needed more worthy priesthood holders to love and care for the members we already had. We wanted every single member to be able to remain active, so we prayed fervently to know the Lord’s will, and he answered our prayers through His chosen servants.

Elder Holland has said, speaking of Preach My Gospel and the Lord’s plan for mission work: “You may think you have a better way. You really don’t.” We have come to know that this is true, and we found answers in Elder Holland’s wise counsel. We asked the Lord what we needed to do in order to better be able to do his work in his way.

We began to invite men (priest age and older) to eat with the missionaries in order to comply with the rule in the handbooks that states that missionaries should never be alone with a member of the opposite sex unless another responsible adult of his or her own sex is present. Immediately, our missionaries began teaching more men. Because of this, and other seemingly small acts of obedience coupled with the good efforts of many people, we saw our numbers of full-time missionaries leaving from our wards increase. We saw the miracle of many families becoming complete as we found men and families that we could teach and baptize. We saw the activity in our stakes begin to increase as we worked diligently to involve men in our teaching and in the time our missionaries spent in our members’ homes. We saw miracles because we did the Lord’s work in the Lord’s way. The Lord’s ways were not our ways. His ways were, of course, much better. We did his work in his way, and we receive the blessings that he wanted to give his mission. We are so thankful that the Lord helped us to know and understand his will. We are thankful that he taught us that it was not about us, nor was it about our limited understanding. Instead, it was (and always will be) all about his plan, his will, and his love.

It has become crystal clear to us that our assignment here has been to teach our missionaries and those within the boundaries of our mission, that there is no better way to do missionary work than to do it according to the Lord’s will, through the Lord’s love and in the Lord’s way, always obeying his guidelines.

Every time we taught the Plan of Salvation, we were reminded of how Satan heard Heavenly Father’s plan just as Jesus did, but that Satan wanted to do it in his own way. Satan thought he had a better way. He did not desire to do the Father’s work in the Father’s way. He was cast out, and he became miserable and bitter.

In contrast, our Savior did his Father’s work in his Father’s way, and he found true joy, satisfaction, and completion. He accomplished the Atonement and made it possible for all of us to gain eternal life and exaltation.

We have painstakingly and earnestly tried to do all that we have done here in the Lord’s way, following his guidelines, and using his tools. This endeavor, based upon our personal study and the Lord’s inspiration, has blessed our mission in remarkable and unusual ways. We have seen the miracle of his love and how it transforms his children. We know that he is the way, the truth, and the light.

This is his work. We know that we have been privileged to be his mouth and his hands during our mission service. We expect that we will experience a huge void in our hearts as we remove our missionary name tags on Friday, and our full-time mission service as President and companion ends, but through this remarkable experience, we have come to better know and understand our Heavenly Father’s love and his plan, and we promise to continue to share that love and that plan forever more.

We are eternally grateful for the blessings that have come because of our Santiago service. God’s love has colored our own lives with even more heartfelt devotion to our Savior.  God’s love has shone with brilliance upon our own family members, and we are thankful to each one of you for your support, your prayers, and your encouragement. We love you! God’s love has warmed and transformed our missionaries’ hearts. God’s love has showered glowing particles of faith in Jesus Christ over the lives of his Chilean sons and daughters. And it has been a privilege far beyond our greatest expectations for us to be a small part of the spectacular manifestation of Godly love that we have discovered in our missionary service. Every single day of our mission has been a sweet, personal tutorial in Godly love and the miraculous, transforming power that it offers the world through the eternal gift and power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ.

We understand that the majesty of the sunset that we are now experiencing immediately precedes the dawn of a new day for our missionaries, under the divine direction of the Lord through President and Sister Wright who are our successors. We offer our promise that during our three years here, we have done everything within our power to bring our mission into complete conformity with the inspired guide lines that we have found in Preach My Gospel, the Mission President’s Handbook, the Missionary Handbook, the scriptures, and the direction of our living prophets. We find great joy and satisfaction in knowing that we have done our very best to do our Father’s work in his way. We understand that he blesses us, his children, with what he wants to give us when we obediently and diligently strive to do his work in his way. His way is much more glorious and wonderful than we can ever imagine!

Con mucho amor y gratitud,
Presidente Larry R. Laycock y Hermana Lisa D. Laycock
La misiĆ³n, Chile Santiago Este

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