Mom, thanks for your message. I will go in order responding to what you said. There are some things that I can't buy here, like US stamps, and judging by the amount of time they give me to email each week, and the primitive nature of their computers, I should probably have my friends start writing me letters (if you are one of my friends reading this, please start writing letters instead of emailing haha, I can explain later) but I need US stamps to reply and I cant buy them here, so could you send me a letter with as many stamps as you can cram in there without drawing attention to the envelope? haha Kathryn has my address, ask her. Also, put a picture of the Virgin Mary over the sealed part of the envelope, I am pretty sure that they refuse to tamper with that picture. But we will see! I have been sleeping good, but partially because I am always so tired, and a little under the weather. Just a cough, everyone else here has this thing called the unca siempres, which means they ALWAYS feel like they have to poop, but they never can, it just doesn't come out hahahaha, so funny.
Lima is crazy. I'll describe it to you with a story. We went proselyting in Lima on Saturday, which was my first time. I got lucky to be paired with a guy who knows Spanish and English perfectly, and a guy who had been here for six weeks, so he was pretty good at Spanish. We all got in a bus and drove for about an hour, and as the minutes passed, my surroundings became poorer and poorer, right up until I was in a neighborhood that was more desolate and poor than anything I have seen in real life, ever. It was like a movie. TONS of dogs just walking around with no owner, no paved roads, houses that are just brick and falling apart, with tin walls, that let the heat and cold in. This was a very cold day, and I was only wearing a long sleeved white shirt. We just started talking to people. The humbling began right then. They literally just drop us off and say, "go be fishers of men," so we did. I kinda became the greeter and introducer, since I cant talk about all the Gospel stuff perfectly yet. We didn't knock on doors, because we couldn't tell which part of these crumbling buildings was the door, so we waited to see people outside their houses. We talked to about seven people. Some of which were super hilarious. We talked to a guy who insisted that he was Catholic, but also that he doesn't believe in God. haha, It's hard to know what to do in situations like that.
Everyone is nice and welcoming here, and they all let us share a message, even if they're uninterested haha, but they're still nice. Not like Americans haha, they're so much more accepting, even to the unfamiliar. So we were walking in this neighborhood that literally looked like a dump, or a neighborhood from an end of the world movie, and the companion that knew more than me but less than the fluent guy (buy the way, this was a trio companionship because one of their companions was on crutches so he couldn't go out with us. We called ourselves the tres nefitas, or the three Nephites haha) anyway, this Elder said, 'Elders, we should knock on that door, and we didn't know what he meant because we couldn't tell which part of this building was the door, but we guessed and did it, even though we hadn't been knocking on doors all day, that wasn't our strategy. The mother and daughter that answered that door had been waiting for us. But they didn't know it. There's a quote by someone that goes something like, "the people you will teach will be looking for you, but they won't know it until after you get there." That's what this was. They had an uncle and cousin that were members, and said they were always so nice, and came by and visited often. Well we told them that we have a message that could change their lives, and they listened. I pretty much just smiled at them and tried to understand what they were saying haha, usually unsuccessfully. But they were so engaged in what we were telling them, and they happily accepted a Book of Mormon, and accepted the invite to church on Sunday. They also agreed to meet again with the missionaries that worked in that area. As we were walking away from this house, I had a realization that changed my life, and so I shared it with my two excited companions. I said to them, "Elders, we may have just changed the eternities of that mother and daughter. They may look back many many years from now, long after they die and say, that was the moment, the moment those three boys in white shirts and name tags came to give us everything we needed." And that is why I'm here. When we walk up to the doors of these people, and when we approach them on the street, we hold in our hands exactly what they need.
What a calling I have. We truly are "pescadores de hombres", and I don't say that in a self centered way, I couldn't feel more honored than I do when I realize the task I have at hand. It's as if putting on my name tag alone gives me a greater eternal perspective, and I can walk down the street seeing souls as God sees them. I'll skip the small details of the CCM for this week because I'm running out of time, but it's the same. Every. Day. Is the same haha, but we are making it really fun! It's a great time, and I'm certainly excited to go proselyting again next week. Time is speeding up, we missionaries say that "the days are weeks and the weeks are days". Pictures next week! haha hopefully...
If you are reading this, and have sent me an email, and have not yet recieved a reply to said email, I seriously apologize. I'm so busy, but I will get every one sooner or later, I haven't forgotten about you, and if you would, send me letters instead of emails. It may take about a week longer, but I have more time to write on paper than on this computer. So thanks you for your message! Just seeing it in my inbox warms my heart, even though I havent read them yet. Thanks again! I love you all! And thanks mom, I love you.
Wednesday, July 24, 2013
Ryan has asked that I share his letters to our parents on the blog, which is why it's addressed to Mom. But it's for everyone to read! If you'd like to send Elder Wilkinson a letter or email, you can find his contact info here.
Thanks for mailing me! I did not expect to see so many messages in my mail today, but I think you sent me two! I may be wrong but that is what I thought I saw haha, that is so good to hear about the Heslops! What wonderful news. [They had a baby] My P Day is Tuesday, just so you know, so that is when i will write to you for the next six weeks.
Things are so crazy here. I had no idea it would be so busy! I will take a picture of my horario (schedule) and send it to you sometime, there is literally not a free minute in the day haha, every hour for my next five weeks or so are planned out. Because its been so busy, i feel like I've been here for weeks. Everyone is a friend here, which i love. me and Elder Bradshaw are rooming with four other missionaries, all from Peru, who don't speak English. well, one of them does, but we try not to use English haha, and its crazy because we are all such good friends despite the language. We have a great time and spend a ton of time laughing which is so cool because we can at least speak enough to make jokes and make fun of each other haha, but there are so many rules. Holy cooooooow there are so many rules, but me and elder Bradshaw have set some awesome goals, and one of them is to be 100 percent obedient always, with exactness, even if we don't understand why some rules exist. that is what faith is all about and we feel like God is just seeing if we will obey, He is seeing if He can trust us, and He absolutely can.
I love futbol (soccer) already, we play it during physical activity every day. we have been learning a lot of Spanish and talking to a lot of people in Spanish, but we have also been learning how to be effective missionaries, and how to approach people, and how to help them feel the spirit. yesterday we taught a mock investigator, who was actually our teacher, Hermano Bejar. he was playing the part of a guy named Lester and we had to knock on his fake door, talk to him, set up an appointment for later, then later he let us into his house, so to speak, and we got to talk to him for a little bit and them teach him some stuff. i wish i could say it went well, but it absolutely did not haha. it was so hard, and there were moments where me and my companion both were just silent because we didn't know what to do and we don't know Spanish haha.
I gained a testimony of prayer shortly before leaving for my mission, and im glad i did, because that is how i can ask from help from God, and I know that it works, because I pray like 20 times a day, almost always on my knees asking for His help (in Spanish, its awesome). I am lucky that I had the language training prior to coming out here, or I would really be in deep water. Mom, I am gonna need you to send me some stuff, but I forgot what it was and i left the list of things in my dorm, so i will be sure to ask you next week. i hope everything is going great there.
I don't have a ton of time to write, but if you wanna ask specific questions in your responses to my letter, or if you are wondering specific things, feel free to ask, because I don't know what to blab about. the food is really good most of the time. and its really different, but I eat a ton. two of our Latino roommates are named Elder Diaz and Elder Muñoz, and we love them so much haha, they are seriously hilarious, and Elder Muñoz is the one who speaks English. When we come to Peru and Bolivia, we will have to meet up with them. Elder Diaz is a recent convert who decided to serve a mission. Today was our first time leaving the campus, and we went to the temple for a session. It was soooo special, and there were parts of the session where I had to speak in Spanish which was fun. After that session, which was with my whole district, we went shopping at a big Walmartish store called Metro, in La Molina. We are in the rich part of Lima, which is weird because its still pretty ghetto compared to where I am from. All the Latinos call us Gringos and before I came I thought that was supposed to be offensive but I guess its not haha, I actually love it, we always end up calling Latinos gringos and they call us Latinos haha.
There is a fruit here called granadilla, which may or may not be passion fruit, that is so dang weird. it looks like the offspring of an alien, imagine putting that in your mouth haha. but it tastes really good, i just cant handle the texture. its time for me to go! Thanks for mailing me mom! I love you everyone!
Elder Ryan Wilkinson
Tuesday, July 23, 2013
Ryan is having a great time already and is building his relationships with fellow missionaries and Heavenly Father! He'd LOVE to receive letters and/or emails from everyone he loves at home. Email would obviously be the easiest to send and respond to, but here's his additional mailing information, for those of you who want to keep in touch with him.
Elder Ryan James Wilkinson
Bolivia Santa Cruz Mission
Perú Missionary Training Center
Centro de Capacitacion Misional
Av. Melgarejo 159, Urb. Campo
Verde, La Molina, Lima 12
DO NOT send packages to him while I'm at the MTC, it's crazy expensive! And after the first six weeks, his letter mailing information will be:
Elder Ryan James Wilkinson
Bolivia Santa Cruz Mission
Casilla de Correo 2042
Santa Cruz, Santa Cruz
And finally, if you wish to send packages after the first six weeks, his package mailing information will be:
Elder Ryan James Wilkinson
Bolivia Santa Cruz Mission
C/ Saavedra esq. Cochabamba
Torres Cainco, Blq Empresarial, Piso 9
Santa Cruz, Santa Cruz
Thursday, July 18, 2013
July 18, 2013
Things are crazy but awesome here in the CCM, I will tell you a little bit about it, but first, I want to make sure that you forward this to the Frames, the Rossells, and anyone else you think may want to hear how I am doing. I am not going to use contractions because these keyboards are ridiculously hard to use haha.
So the flight went really well! The airplane was super nice and huge, and there were a ton of Elders and Sisters on there. Me and a group of like seven Elders actually ended up teaching a woman on the plane, and we were all like leaning toward her so intensely that I think she probably felt our breath on her neck haha, I ended up giving her a pass along card with a picture of the Salt Lake Temple and telling her that the website on the back has the answers to many of her questions. She said that she had never felt the kind of peace that she felt when we Elders were conversing with her, and so obviously, that is the Spirit trying to tell her that what we were saying was true. So I made a bunch of friends, and everyone is in a super good mood, ready to show the world what we are made of haha. Spanish is coming more easily. Already. Holy crud (crud is my new missionary appropriate dirty word) I am so happy I went Spanish speaking because it comes surprisingly easily to me. We landed and went through customs and everything, and found our guy waiting with an MTC plaque for us. Then we drove for about 45 minutes to the CCM. Lima is loco awesome. Its really huge and cool looking, but obviously very poor. I have been to Panama so its nothing I havent seen before. Oh, and Guatemala. So we get to the CCM at like two in the morning, and they give us keys to our rooms. we go to our rooms, practically yelling because of excitement, only to find that every room already had like four Elders in it, and we totally woke them up! It was hilarious, but we felt bad, and it was hard to apologize because they do not speak English and we barely speak Spanish haha. But it is way fun. I got my companion, who was actually a guy that was teaching people in the plane (yes, plural, people) and he is way cool. His name is Elder Bradshaw from Alpine, Utah, and we get along really well. This whole time, we have been intensely itching to get our tags, that was like my number one goal, and we got them like an hour ago and I seriously feel so good with these things on (one on my shirt pocket and one on my lapel). I have taken some good pictures, but I cant send them today, I dont know when I can, but I will eventually, so dont fret!
I am so excited, all of the sadness of leaving home is gone already. By the time I hit the plane, I was no longer sad. Will I miss everyone? yes, yes I will haha, but two years flies by and there is no better cause to leave your home, family, and friends, than this. Making friends, that I already feel will be friends for life, and its really cool. Dad told me once that he loved being on his mission and talking with other missionaries because they were all united with the same goal, they all had the same purpose, and that is so true. everyone is in a good mood because we havent been ridiculed or persecuted or rejected yet haha, but I brought all the cards that people wrote to me so that when I get super sad, which will happen, I can read them to remind myself that someone, somewhere, loves me at least a little bit haha, but right now I am on top of the world! Oh cool story, I had a hometeachee in Boston named Jaes Jones, well his cousing was on my flight and we became good friends. Pretty awesome. Its a small, Mormon world haha. For breakfast today, they gave me hot chocolate. But ohhhhh no, this was not hot chocolate, this was a melted hershey bar with rice. It was so thick and disgusting, but I saw that Elder Bradshaw has finished his, and when I asked him why, he said, It was a test of will power, and so obviously I had to finish mine to prove myself. And so i did, and i literally almost barfed, but it was fun haha, i feel so easy going, gosh dang i feel great haha. You know how we say cray cray in America? Well I am starting a new thing here in South America. Loc loc. its a play on loco, which means crazy. You guys can spread it up there too, if you want, but you have to cite me every time you use it. Anyway, I miss you all. And when I say all, I mean all my friends, regardless of whether or not they read this, and family, and everyone from church. And everyone from California and from America. That pretty much covers it. I love you all endlessly, and I hope you all make amazing memories while I am gone, even though i hate missing out on the fun haha, but jokes on you, because Im the one having all the fun haha. Anyway, Mom, dad, can you forward this to Kathryn as soon as you get it so that she can post it on the blog. and forward to anyone you so desire, but the Rossells especially, because they specifically asked for that haha. And Kathryn, can you just post on my facebook that theres a blog update? do that every time, so that i dont have to ask you to every time haha. please. thank you. oh and tell conrad i got his email and tell him i say thank you for it haha. i love you all. ask specific questions if you have them! that would give these letters more direction haha, and make sure people know they can email me! It doesnt take long, this email took just under a half hour and its super long, so i should be able to respond when anyone emails me. Gracias para los oraciones! Se amo! (That should mean I love you all!)
P.S. Ive never felt hotter shower water than I did today, and Ive never felt colder shower water than i did today. so count your blessings, i wont have a comfortable shower for two years.
Monday, July 15, 2013
I’ve chosen to speak to you all today about something that I’ve learned a lot about recently, and hopefully what I say to you will build you up and help you feel the Spirit’s presence, because I’ve been praying fervently that it will.
Before I begin, I want to ask you all a question that you can ponder in your minds for a few minutes. What is faith? We often say, “Have faith, the Lord will carry you through,” and we say, “I have faith in Jesus Christ,” but the word often goes undefined, left to the individual to personally define for his or herself. Consider in your mind what that means for a few minutes.
Many of you know the story of Abraham and Isaac, but for those of you who don’t, let me tell it. In Genesis chapter 22, we have a prophet named Abraham. Now the Lord spoke to Abraham and commanded him to take his son, Isaac, to a certain mountain, and to sacrifice his son on an alter. Now let’s stop there for a second. So its obvious that, instinctively, we would all say no to sacrificing one of our children, let alone, his only son. But not Abraham. He had faith in the Lord enough to tell himself, “You know what, I don’t want to do this thing that the Lord has asked of me, but I have faith in Him, and whatever He asks of me, I must do.” That takes intense trust. And so, fortunately for Abraham, Isaac, and for the nail-biting Bible reader, an angel stops Abraham moments before he kills his son, and says, “Because you came this far, and have withheld nothing, even your only son, you will be blessed exceedingly.” It’s examples like these that give us a good goal for what our faith should be like, and how deep it should be.
Now, someone could, and probably would, argue with this. They could say, “Ryan, in these modern times, it is unrealistic to put that much trust in the Lord, it’s dangerous and reckless, it’s blind obedience, and anyone who submits themselves to that is foolish.” I testify that that is not true. As we show faith in the Lord by following His commandments, even the toughest ones, He blesses us observably. And so, we can, and should, strive to have faith like Abraham’s.
Now back to my question: what is faith? I think faith could be correctly defined in different ways, but here are a few that I certainly agree with. Faith is trust. I have faith, or trust, in Jesus Christ and His Gospel. It often means religious beliefs. What faith do you belong to or practice? In this church, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, or, get ready, La Iglesia de Jesucristo de los Santos de los Ultimos Dias, we have a book of scripture called the Book of Mormon, which is an account of God’s people here in the America’s, and which testifies of Jesus Christ. It goes hand-in-hand with the Bible in helping us to become better followers of Jesus Christ. In this book, there is a prophet named Alma, and he defines faith in this way, “…faith is not to have a perfect of knowledge of things; therefore if ye have faith ye hope for things which are not seen, which are true.” So faith could be defined as hope for things that are not seen.
Well, these are all good. But there’s a definition that I think trumps them all. One of the apostles of the Church, named Boyd K. Packer, said this: “Faith is a real power, not just an expression of belief.” Hmm, it’s a power? Google says that power is “The ability to do something…” and the Merriam-Webster dictionary says that it is “the ability to act or produce an effect.” That means that REAL faith can DO things, in the lives of those possessing such faith, and in the lives of those surrounding them. It doesn’t just mean “Oh, I believe, I have faith,” it changes our lives for the better. The eyes of our understanding are opened as we show faith by the way we live our lives. As we exercise faith, we are blessed to see things from a point of view that is wider than our own. Faith un-clouds our minds, and helps us to see things through God’s window. Keep in mind, Elder Packer does say “not just an expression of belief”, because it is an expression of belief, but that is not all. It is so much more. To say “I have faith in Jesus Christ” is meaningful, but when we really have faith, to have such trust in the Lord that we will follow His every commandment, we are empowered beyond expectation.
Now allow me to present yet another rebuttal. Some may say, “Having enough faith to do everything God asks? I don’t want that! I want a mind of my own, I want to think for myself and make my own decisions. You restrict yourselves and miss out on the pleasure in life by believing such things.” Again I testify, that that is not true. The laws and commandments of God are put in place, not to make life boring or to make us unhappy, not to restrict us or to bind us, but to set us free. God loves us more than we will ever understand, so He has laid things out for us in a way that, if we follow, we will find the fullest of joys that we possibly can on this Earth. It’s absolutely intuitive! It makes perfect sense, and yet we, and especially me, sometimes choose to not follow.
A lack of faith, or at least a temporary weakness thereof, is the reason we sin. The reason we sometimes fail to resist temptation is because we temporarily forget that God has promised us the highest level of happiness if we simply say “no” to that temptation. Think about it this way: imagine me back when I was 10, when I still listened to my dad. I wasn’t as proud back then. Imagine him saying to me, “Ryan, I know In n Out is good, I know it’s really good, but in the long term, if you have it too much, it will actually hurt you, even though you enjoy it in the moment. So don’t eat it, have a salad instead. Put some strawberries in it, cook up a couple eggs, have some wheat toast with no butter, and have a glass of milk with it all. It may not taste as good, but it won’t be horrible. And after you eat it, you will feel great. You’ll want to run a marathon, you won’t be tired, you’ll have energy, your mind will work at it’s full potential, and you’ll even be a happier person.” Now that sounds pretty good right! That’s something that all of us want! So, now imagine me, a month later, still 10 years old, but for some reason I can drive a car. And so I go pick up all my friends, and we’re just driving around, music’s playing, the windows are down. We’re all having a good time, and one of my buddies goes, “Man, I’m hungry!” So everyone decides to go get food, but they choose to go to In n Out. So I convince myself that I won’t get anything to eat. And so we head over there, and everyone orders food, and my turn to order is last. So everyone looks back at quiet me, and I say, “My dad told me not to eat this, he said it’s unhealthy. I won’t get anything,” at which point they all start laughing and saying things like, “You still listen to your dad?” and, “Who cares if its unhealthy? It’s so good! Worry about now!” I’m sitting there listening to all this mockery, and I momentarily doubt what my dad told me, or even forget it entirely. So I order a number one, with no onions and a Dr. Pepper, and we all wolf down our food. And it’s gooooood. Man, it is so good, but afterward, I feel like my arteries are clogging, just for like ten minutes or so, and then it goes away. And I’m like, “Hey, that wasn’t that bad!” and begin trusting myself, and my friends, more than I trust my father. So for the next, let’s say, 10 years, me and all my friends go get the same thing at In n Out for lunch every day, because it’s so fun and so good. But because I’m always at In n Out, I rarely see my father anymore. And when I realize that 10 years later, I remember what he said to me about how it would be bad in the long term if I ate it too much. And so I go to see myself in the mirror, and I look totally different. I’ve gained so much weight that my clothes don’t fit me anymore. I have bags under my eyes, it’s hard to breath, I’m missing a shoe, and let’s say I now have diabetes. Well, he was right. Who would have guessed? I should have.
I’m no good at story-telling, so you may be wondering what the heck that weird 10-year-old hijacking diabetes story was all about. Let me tell you. I knew what was good for me, but in the moment of truth, I had dismissed and forgotten it. If I had had stronger faith in what my father had told me, I probably wouldn’t have failed to resist what the world was tempting me to do. If you haven’t figured it out yet, my father is Heavenly Father. I am you. And my friends are the world, full of temptation and mockery. And what we can learn from this story is that with strong enough faith, we can resist all temptation. That is our defense against the thing which attacks us all. Have faith. Don’t forget the commandments, and most importantly, don’t forget what Christ has done for you. The parable I just created has at least one small flaw, and I’m wondering if any of you noticed it. Diabetes is not reversible, once you have it, it’s an unwanted, life-long companion. However, when we blatantly and continually disobey Heavenly Father, He waits for us to stop, then says, “Are you done? Do you see now why I gave you these commandments? Come back, and you will be made clean.” And boom, with some repentance, the diabetes is gone.
How can we build faith? How can I take the faith that I have, and turn it into more faith? For the last year or so I’ve dabbled in the stock market. Now don’t be fooled, I have absolutely no idea what I’m doing, but I at least understand the principles of investment. So, in order to invest, you have to spend money on something, and the whole idea is that, whatever that thing is will grow in value, after which you sell it and the difference between the amount at which it was sold, and the amount at which it was initially purchased, is the money that you make. Faith is similar in many ways. If we expend and test our faith in certain ways, it will grow. Here’s an example: say a girl wants to know if God exists. She hasn’t seen Him, and she hasn’t talked to Him, but she gets this feeling that tells her that He may still be there. So she’s lying in bed one night, thinking about it, and “[she comes] to the conclusion that [she] must either remain in darkness and confusion, or else…ask of God.” So she slides out of her bed, onto her knees, as many of us often do, and she begins to pray. Does God answer prayers? He absolutely does, so we can safely assume that this example is no exception. Were this you or me, brothers and sisters, I promise that an answer would be found, in the positive, that God is there, and that He loves us. Maybe not immediately, but it would come.
In the New Testament, James, chapter 1 verse 5, it says, “If any of you lack wisdom, let him [or her] ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, [freely], and…it shall be given him [or her].” God. Answers. Prayers. But it also says, “Let him [or her] ask in faith…” Also in the New Testament, Luke chapter 17 verse 6, it says, “If ye had faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye might say unto this sycamine tree, Be thou plucked up by the root, and be thou planted in the sea; and it should obey you.” Have any of you ever seen a mustard seed? It’s diameter is 1/20th of an inch wide. That’s 1.27 millimeters. Now faith isn’t tangible, therefore immeasurable, but it’s quite safe for us to assume that if we exercised the tiniest amount of faith, comparable to a mustard seed, we could command the Earth. Therefore, if we prayed to know the truth, exercising a micro measurable amount of faith, God would give it to us liberally. On a quick side note, that is a perfect scriptural example that faith is an actual power. With faith, seas can be tamed, and mountains can be moved. Literally. Isn’t that so cool?
Another way we can invest our faith is by helping others. Henry B. Eyring said, “It is serving God and others persistently with full heart and soul that turns testimony of truth into unbreakable spiritual strength.” In my book, spiritual strength and faith are the same thing. So he says that serving others with full heart and soul turns our mere belief into unbreakable faith. And I can testify that that is true from experience. It is when I forget myself and devote my time to bearing others people’s burdens and lifting them up that my faith is at it’s strongest.
There are many inspiring stories of people’s faith. One is of the early Saints of this Church, enduring their roles as victims of crimes they did nothing to deserve, and traveling across the Great Plains to settle in an area where they could worship God without persecution. They endured unimaginable hardship, but maintained their unbreakable faith, and we as modern members of this Church admire them as we try to adopt and internalize that kind of steadfastness. Christ also had faith as He endured the atonement, as he suffered the guilt of all humanity, and was nailed to the cross.
In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.