Sunday, August 30, 2015

Farewell Talk - August 30th

We are on an official count down! Only one week until I get set apart! With that in mind, I have decided to post my Farewell talk for whoever wants to read it. 


Showing Love Through Service
names changed to initials to protect identities

For those of you who don’t know me, my name is Hailey Christensen. I have been called to serve in the Campinas Brazil mission and I leave in about a week, (no matter how much my mom is denying it). I have a wonderful mom and dad who always push me to do my best, my little sister C who I adore, and my crazy little brother, B. I will miss them all very much when I leave, but I am so excited to go and preach the gospel in Brazil.

For me, deciding to serve a mission wasn’t an easy choice. I was torn between staying in school and putting my education on hold to preach the gospel. Both options seemed good to me, but as I prayed about it, I felt that I needed to go on a mission. So I took a leap of faith and started my papers immediately. As I walked into the Stake President’s office in my BYU ward to finish and submit my mission papers, I asked him what I could do to start preparing for my mission right then and there. I hadn’t even received the assignment of where I would serve at this point. Even so, his answer was simple: Pray to love the people I was called to serve. Love is the single most important gift we can give to another person. 

When asked what the greatest commandment was, Jesus replied, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind” (Matt. 22:37). He then continued by saying, “And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself” (Matt. 22:39). It is no coincidence that the two greatest commandments involve love: love for God and love for our fellow men. It is by love that we keep the other commandments that God has given us, and it is through love that we travel throughout our mortal journeys and strive to help others along their way.

The “highest, noblest, strongest kind of love”, or the “pure love of Christ” (Moroni 7:47) is called charity. Christ set a perfect example of loving others in his earthly ministry. As President Monson taught, (quote) “[Christ’s] life was a legacy of love. The sick He healed; the downtrodden He lifted; the sinner He saved. At the end the angry mob took His life. And yet there rings from Golgotha’s hill the words: ‘Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do’ (Luke 23:34)—a crowning expression in mortality of compassion and love.” (Love – The Essence of the Gospel, 2014). Christ managed to love people regardless of their sins, their trials, or their circumstances. Even when he was crucified, Christ gave freely of His love to all, and blessed countless lives doing so. We have been commanded to follow Christ’s example in this way and to have charity. In John 13:34-35, Jesus gives a new commandment to his disciples, saying, “love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this all men shall know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.” As members of the church and as disciples of Christ, we each have a sacred responsibility and duty to love the people around us in whatever way we can.  However, it is not up to us to decide who deserves our love. Truly loving as Christ did means that we love every single person that we come across, no matter how different they may be, or how much pain they have caused us. We strive to love unconditionally as Christ did.

However, it is not enough to simply love the people around us. We must take that love and put it into action. We must constantly be striving to serve the people around us, whether they are family, friends, or strangers. Just as “faith without works is dead” (James 2:20), love without service is dead. Too often we say that we love someone, yet do not do everything in our power to serve them. It is not enough to simply say that we love someone and then to move on with our lives without a second thought. When one possesses true charity, they love the people around them as Christ did – by serving them with all their souls and with all their minds.

Giving service is like giving a well thought-out gift. When I take the time to pick out the perfect present for someone, I get really excited. I look forward to seeing their reaction more than giving them the actual item. As they open it, I get to see their face light up with happiness. Knowing that I was able to brighten their day just a little bit, I am happy and feel joy for the person I have given the gift to. As we go out of our way to show our love through service, a little bit of that love comes back to us, and who couldn’t use a little more love?

Each day there is service that can be done, whether it is small or big. More often than not, it is the little things that count when they are done in the spirit of love. M. Russell Ballard compared these small and simple acts of service to a man who sold all of his possessions and traveled to California in search of fortune in the gold rush.

(quote) “Day after endless day, the young man dipped his pan into the river and came up empty. His only reward was a growing pile of rocks. Discouraged and broke, he was ready to quit until one day an old, experienced prospector said to him, ‘That’s quite a pile of rocks you are getting there, my boy.’

The young man replied, ‘There’s no gold here. I’m going back home.’

Walking over to the pile of rocks, the old prospector said, ‘Oh, there is gold all right. You just have to know where to find it.’ He picked two rocks up in his hands and crashed them together. One of the rocks split open, revealing several flecks of gold sparkling in the sunlight.

Noticing a bulging leather pouch fastened to the prospector’s waist, the young man said, ‘I’m looking for nuggets like the ones in your pouch, not just tiny flecks.’

The old prospector extended his pouch toward the young man, who looked inside, expecting to see several large nuggets. He was stunned to see that the pouch was filled with thousands of flecks of gold.

The old prospector said, ‘Son, it seems to me you are so busy looking for large nuggets that you’re missing filling your pouch with these precious flecks of gold. The patient accumulation of these little flecks has brought me great wealth.’” (Finding Joy Through Service, 2011).

It is our responsibility to offer these small gold flecks of service to those around us, continually and patiently, and always with love. Over time, what seems small and insignificant can turn into something great and have a far larger impact than we could have ever imagined.

While I was attending BYU, I had some struggles during the year, mostly due to the fact that I was living on my own and trying to manage everything in my life for the first time. I was homesick, worried about school, and missing friends from back home. Although I tried to make the best of the situation and to keep a positive attitude, I didn’t always succeed and often ended up feeling disheartened and upset. However, I was blessed to have people around me who loved me enough to offer service to me. One roommate wrote me a card and brought home some of my favorite treats, even when she had troubles of her own to deal with. I had friends (and my wonderful mom) who would call just to let me talk, and a family who took me in with loving arms and gave me a home away from home.

None of these things were especially large acts of service, yet each and every one of them left an enormous impact on me. The negative feelings I had were forgotten and I was able to focus on all of the wonderful things in my life. All of these people gave me their own small specks of gold, which together became priceless. After all, as Alma taught, it is “by small and simple things are great things brought to pass” (Alma 37:6). Small and simple acts of service are like a pebbles dropped into a lake. While the pebble may be small in size, once dropped into the water, it creates ripples that reach out across the surface of the lake. The pebble creates a very large impact, though the initial splash was small. What may seem insignificant to you could mean the world to someone else as they receive your service. Often, one act of love can lead to others, and creates a chain reaction of charity.

Realistically, it isn’t always natural to love everyone we meet, so we must be constantly striving to have charity in our hearts. Moroni taught we should “pray unto the Father with all the energy of heart, that [we] may be filled with this love” (Moroni 7:48). Just like any other spiritual gift, we can and should pray to receive the gift of charity. If we do so, we will receive it.

My Stake President at BYU gave me the best possible guidance he could have by advising me to pray to love the people I was called to serve. As I have done so, I have been filled with a desire to teach them, and a love for both the people and the gospel. The promise that Moroni gives is true: if we pray for charity, we will receive it. I will continue to take my Stake President’s advice in the field, because as Dallin H Oaks said, “the most effective missionaries always act out of love” (Sharing the Gospel, 2001).

As I go out as a new sister missionary, I will also remember the words in Doctrine and Covenants 4:2, which reads, “O ye that embark in the service of God, see that ye serve him with all your heart, might, mind and strength.” I am going to love, work, and serve the people of Brazil with all my heart, might, mind and strength, and I couldn’t be more excited to do so. I can’t wait for the adventures in store for the next year and a half.

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