Tuesday, October 15, 2013

My Decision to Serve Came Early in Life

Brandon Eveson
Farewell Talk
For those of you who don't know me, my name is Brandon Eveson and I was called on May 21, 2013 to serve in the Kenya Nairobi Mission, speaking English. My brother Tyler informed me before the meeting that this is my last time attending church in America for 2 years. I hadn’t really thought about it that way, wow. 

The mission is combined of both Kenya and Tanzania. I report to the South Africa Missionary Training Center this Thursday Oct 17th. 

With 5 months between my call date, and MTC date, it truly was an unforgettable, busy summer, deemed by Sister Englund as ‘The summer of 100 trips’.  

With my mission upon me and summer in the rearview mirror, here are some things about the area I’ll be in for the next 2 years.

If you catch me saying ‘the mission’ just know I am referring to Kenya and Tanzania combined.

So 43 million people live in Kenya, 48 million live in Tanzania
They speak both English and Swahili
The equator lies through the country of Kenya 
The forecast for over in Nairobi, Kenya today is 87 degrees and sun.
Talking square miles, Kenya and Tanzania together are the same size as the following combined: Washington, Oregon, California, Idaho, Nevada, and Utah. 
Kenya is famous for its wildlife. As you may know, the country is home to animals such as elephants, lions, zebras, giraffes, rhinoceros, warthogs, and other wild game.  There are also over 1,000 different kinds of birds in Kenya.  Safari (a Swahili word meaning journey) tours are a staple to Kenya's tourism industry.  Thousands of visitors travel to Kenya each year just to see the animals.
The currency is the Kenyan shilling 
And the mission is home to Mt Kenya and Mt Kilimanjaro, which I plan to climb before I return.

The first Kenyans baptized into the LDS Church in Kenya were two members of the Osaka family, baptized in 1979.  There were 2 members total in 1979, 300 total in 1989.  Today, there are 12,989 total Church Members in the Mission, with only 1,200 of those being from Tanzania.

A few more stats . . .

1 Mission for the 2 Countries (Kenya + Tanzania)
47 Congregations Total
3 Family History Centers

Compared to the United States:

6,321,416 Total Church Members
103 Missions
13,742 Congregations
68 Temples
1,833 Family History Centers

So 91 million people live within the Mission.  13,000 total are Members, so there is room for work to be done.


Before I dive in, I’m a pretty big sports fan if you ask me, and with it being college football season, I’ll just say it was very nice to be sent off by Utah’s huge upset last night over #5 ranked, undefeated Stanford - after all the adversity they've been through.

With that out of the way, I am thrilled to be one of the new 18 year old missionaries headed into the field, and will be among more than 80,000 other missionaries that are currently serving The Lord throughout the world today, and being a representative of the Church of 15 million members.

As I was writing this talk, I was listening to the Children’s Songbook on shuffle on lds.org, and it made me realize how many of those songs I still remember word for word, and how recent it all seems that I was belting out those tunes, surrounded with people who are now on missions, in college and finishing up high school.

One of my favorite Primary songs growing up was ‘I Hope They Call Me on a Mission’. The lyrics read as follows:

"I hope they call me on a mission - When I have grown a foot or two. - I hope by then I will be ready - To teach and preach and work as missionaries do.

I hope that I can share the gospel - With those who want to know the truth. - I want to be a missionary - And serve and help the Lord while I am in my youth."

Growing up singing this song in primary seems like just a few months ago. But it really was a lot of months ago. Although, since then, I have grown a foot, or two, that I used to sing my heart out about doing. I was called on a mission, so it looks like something I had hoped for - came true. I am excited about the fact I will be able to share the gospel with those who want to know the truth.

The idea or thought of going on a mission was always something in the back of my head. All while growing up I saw it as something I was just going to get out and do. I have heard people testify of them, and tell stories about them and that’s something I always wanted to be able to do. I have seen how missionaries change lives of people, and how the mission changes the life of the person. My life has been so blessed over these years that I feel like it would've almost been selfish of me to not go out and serve those, and bless the people at a location the Lord thought would be best.

You may be able to quote it, but 1st Nephi 3:7 reads: And it came to pass that I, Nephi, said unto my father:  I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded, for I know that the Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them.  

Let me re-read what Nephi just said.  "I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded, for I know that the Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them."  The Lord won't give you a problem or a trial without a way prepared for you to accomplish it, even though the path may not be easy, and the trial may not be enjoyable.

As we ponder the events that can transpire unto all of us—sickness, accidents, death, and a wide variety of lesser challenges, we know that man is born unto trouble. When the pathway of life takes an atrocious turn, there is the temptation to think or speak the phrase, “Why me?” Remorse is a common thing, even when we may have had no control over our problem or situation and it just doesn’t seem fair. Whenever we are inclined to feel burdened down, let us remember that others have passed the same way, have endured, and then have overcome. Know there are good things to come and there will be brighter days.

We may not, and probably will not, receive a personal visit from the Lord, but the answers do come—from prayer, the scriptures, the words of the prophet, the still, small voice of inspiration. I would like to reassure you that we truly can find courage to face our challenges and also give service to those whose needs are even greater than our own.

Today there are many members and nonmembers in many places living in poverty, with hunger and disease, with infant mortality high and life expectancy low. There are those who have no pure water, those who have to carry it on their heads— and some who have no water at all. There are some who live in the shadow of war. What gives these people the courage to endure? As with the pioneers, it is their faith that their Father will come, their faith in the gospel of Jesus Christ.  D&C 59:22-23 reads “But learn that he who doeth the works of righteousness shall receive his reward, even peace in this world, and eternal life in the world to come.”

The hymn “Come, Come, Ye Saints” was first written to comfort the pioneer Saints and encourage them to strive to accomplish their seemingly far-fetched goals. Those pioneers were facing new, extremely difficult challenges every day. Yet they had to keep their spirits high and strong and their heads up.

Many changes come as we make our way through our journey on earth. Our lives change as we progress from childhood through youth, into adulthood, and finally old age. Schooling, missions, marriage, employment, and retirement are all examples of milestones of change.

Too often we are hesitant to enter the next stage, and begin the next challenge. It could be from being in a comfortable spot, fearful of what’s next, or lacking in faith. I remember my Mom’s lap being more comfortable than the trials of kindergarten, and elementary school in general.

So how can we then best prepare for the changes we must inescapably face as we progress through life?
First, follow the prophets. Listen to and abide by the counsel of the Brethren. Prophets often raise a voice of warning but also provide steady counsel to help us weather the storms of life. In the Doctrine and Covenants, Section 1, the Lord reminds us, “Whether by mine own voice or by the voice of my servants, it is the same” (D&C 1:38). Prophets can help us confront the changes and challenges we constantly face. Back to my Primary song references, “Follow the Prophet” reminds us of this: “We can get direction all along our way, if we heed the prophets—follow what they say”.

Second, keep an eternal perspective. Understand that change and challenges are part of God’s plan. By design, this mortal existence is a time of testing. In order to test our use of our God-given agency, we as mortals undergo a series of changes, challenges, trials, and temptations as we proceed through life. Only then are we properly tested. Life’s challenges and changes provide opportunities for us to grow as we exercise our agency in making righteous decisions.

Third, we may learn the need for humility and patience. Our dependence upon the Lord becomes a means of developing teachableness, an important aspect of humility. We learn patience because sometimes adversity requires more time than we anticipate.

Fourth, have faith. President Gordon B. Hinckley encouraged members of the Church to move forward with faith. As we confront a world full of negativity, the feelings of doubt, fear, and even dread can creep into our hearts. We can learn to trust the Lord and overcome fear.  D&C 38:30 states “If ye are prepared ye shall not fear.” President Thomas S. Monson has counseled us that “faith and doubt cannot exist in the same mind at the same time, for one will dispel the other”. Moroni 7:42 reads “without faith there cannot be any hope”. We must exercise faith to take on life’s challenges and changes. It is how we learn and progress.

Perhaps in these situations our faith and testimony can be strengthened. Sometimes it takes a big trial, but it is
learned that in times of stress the Lord helps those who have sought him early. 

D&C 54:10 reads:  And again, be patient in tribulation until I come; and, behold, I come quickly, and my reward is with me, and they who have sought me early shall find rest to their souls. 

Have faith in the Lord to ask him not necessarily to take the trial away, but to help you get through it.

Fifth, just be of good cheer. Many members across the globe are facing challenges big and small. At such times it may be easy to feel lonely and forgotten. In a recent conference talk, Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin taught how to respond to adversity. Part of his counsel included: quote “The next time you’re tempted to groan, you might try to laugh instead. It will extend your life and make the lives of all those around you more enjoyable.”End quote. Laughter and a good sense of humor may help be able to soften the bumps along life’s journey.

You know, it would be nice if we could anticipate all the changes that would occur in a lifetime. Some changes we see coming. Certainly all Latter-day Saint young men are taught to prepare for a full-time mission, as I am doing, which is a life-changing experience. We know changes like these are coming, and we can plan for them. But what about the changes which are forced upon us unexpectedly? These are changes over which we pretty much have no control. Serious sickness or injury, unemployment, even things like divorce, and death are examples of change we do not expect, desire, anticipate, or welcome.

How do we deal with such unexpected setbacks in life’s journey?

The answer is the same. By listening to the prophets, keeping an eternal perspective, having faith, and being of good cheer, we can face life’s unexpected challenges and “get on with our lives."  When the trials are our own, may be look up with a "perfect brightness of hope" as it says in 2 Ne 31:20.  

Mosiah 23: 21-22 Reads: Nevertheless the Lord seeth fit to chasten his people; yea, he trieth their patience and their faith.

Nevertheless—whosoever putteth his trust in him the same shall be lifted up at the last day. Yea, and thus it was with this people.

So your patience and faith will be tested over and over, but if you put your trust in Him, you will be lifted up at the last day.

Sometimes we must accept less than we hope for. A speaker once stated, quote “I passed a small church displaying a large sign. It read: ‘Annual Strawberry Festival,’ and below in small letters-- ‘On account of depression, prunes will be served.’” End quote.

One of the first songs we learn as Primary children are I am a Child of God. Verse 3 goes as follows.

"I am a child of God.
Rich blessings are in store;
If I but learn to do his will
I'll live with him once more."

There is a lot of power in knowing who we are and who we ultimately have the ability to become like - which is something that can help us overcome challenges that come every single day of our lives no matter the size. If we seek to him and strive to be like Him, rich blessings are in store and we will return to live with him once more.

In closing, Death and adversity come to us all, but so does life everlasting!  God knows exactly how much you can handle, so trust your struggle, and then seek him for help. Letting go, and letting God is a plan. Don’t let negative past experiences hinder your progress, remember only a fool trips on what’s behind them. Everybody carries some kind of burden; it’s how you carry it that counts. 

Those who leave everything in God’s hand will eventually see God’s hand in everything. And no problem ahead of you is greater than the God behind you.

Well, I am excited to be called to serve, and I know East Africa is where the Lord needs me at this time. I want to thank my family and the ward family for being so supportive of me- and all our current missionaries that are out in the field this day, and everyone who has helped me get to where I am today. I know the church is true and I know if we can seek The Lord in times of hardship, he will help us through the plan he has for us.

I testify of these things in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

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