Monday, December 3, 2012

Dear Elder, Merry Christmas!

A blog by Elder Pope's mom.

It's been eight months since I last hugged James.  Aside from time served in Korea and a deployment to Qatar, this is the first holiday season we won't snuggle in to watch a favorite movie, decorate the tree and play card games together.  We missed James at our Thanksgiving meal, although his younger brother, Mike, did a nice job eating for both of them!  In spite of his absence, I couldn't be happier, nor more thankful.

James' Arlington, Virginia Bishop told me many blessings would come from James' service as a missionary.  It didn't take eight months to realize the truth in his words.  Starting with the fact that James has written me a letter every week that he has been away.  That's 37 letters, and some weeks he sent more than one.  Even more remarkable is the substance of James' letters home.  This is where the blessings are found.  

From his letter today, "Well, Christmas is fast approaching and I'm learning so much, such as this mission is the best gift I could have right now in my life."  "This mission is the greatest thing for me.  There have been some very important moments here and if I had never come I would have missed them all.  What a brilliant gift a mother could ever give to her son, that of a mission where he can learn to live with more Joy in his life."  Elder Pope's biggest concern is that he won't have given enough to his mission in two years time.

For those who aren't familiar, a missionary spends 13 hours a day for two years actively working to invite others unto Christ.  They have about 8 hours one day a week for personal time to write letters home and do chores, such as grocery shopping, laundry and errands.  The rest of their time is spent in personal and group scripture study, preparing themselves to teach, teaching the Gospel, managing a busy schedule, setting goals, and doing service for anyone in need.  With the exception of special occasions or for work related activities, they do not watch TV or movies or make personal phone calls.  No dating, no napping, no "hanging out" with buds.  These young men selflessly dedicate two years of their lives serving someone they love and believe in:  Jesus Christ.  And we all benefit.   

The growth in James through this service in the last eight months is remarkable in itself, let alone the many ways in which he has influenced me personally for the better.  The quality of his character and selflessness shine through as I read his letters home and make me thankful for the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the blessings it has brought my family.

For the first time in my life, I feel the true meaning of Christmas.  
Merry Christmas, Elder Pope!

p.s. I didn't say Missionaries don't have fun.  


Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Days of Pondering....

Elder Pope recently read a talk by Elder J. R. Holland in which he included a story about Mark Twain and the Mississippi River that made a tremendous impact on Elder Pope.   A few days later, Elder Pope found himself walking along the locks and dams on the banks of the Mississippi, and as he watched boats go by on the river, he found his thoughts returning to the talk recently read.

In his words
"I pondered very deep as I watched the boats go by; longing to know what it would be like."

Here is a link to Elder Holland's talk: 

Elder Pope went on to say:

I know the Gospel is true.  I believe there are lessons we can learn from the great experiences of a man (Mark Twain) who literally rebelled against his time; who refused to take the morbid view that had been place before him.  He turned his life into a never ending adventure!  I believe he was on a journey of trying to find the true meaning of life and where we can truly have an everlasting joy.
We watched the power of the Mississippi go by the other night, with pilots working to control the boats up and down the river.  I was struck by the thought of how many boats may someday run out of gas, or will wear out and fall apart, or be lost to the power of the river.  However, if properly maintained and taken care of right, and not allowed to become run down or over weighted with useless things, these same boats will continue to float and will arrive at their predetermined destination.
 We don't have to adventure across the world anymore to seek a truth of why we are here.   Be the pilot in your life, and learn to listen to your Best Mate.   The Spirit of God will always guide us through trial and tribulation.   It is up to us to prepare ourselves and open our hearts with the intent to listen and act.  Pilot your life with the guidance of the Holy Ghost, and trust that as you press forward and enter the locks of life, you will not be helplessly thrown downstream.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Missionary Service: A Right Choice

Recently James' sister, Anne, entered the missionary training center.  She will serve a mission in Montreal, Canada starting in December (Brrr!).  Both Anne and James' emails home this week shared messages of love for their mission work and positive changes within themselves as a result.  They both echo what many missionaries before have shared:  they chose right when they chose to serve a mission.  

Posting a few tidbits from Elder Pope's last message.  It was tough paring it down, it was chock full of good stuff!  From Elder Pope:

…more and more I am thankful for all that I have and have been blessed with.  This life is so funny.  You just don't get it until you're thrown into it.  Life here is great though!  My comp and I have grown so much; we just finished a transfer and have realized that we have changed so much for the better.  
I can see I have come a long ways since I first got here.  I look at how much I went through to get to where I am today and I can now say I made a very good choice.  Probably the best one I could have made at this point in my life.  A mission is a must.  Thank you so much for helping me to be out here.  I couldn't do it without all of you.   
My companion said a few things to me.  He thinks I'll be an architect of some kind and that I'll be a leader throughout the mission.  That I'll meet my wife while I'm hiking in Glacier National Park, haha, oh brother!  Funny guy, man I love him.  Reflecting on all the missionaries who taught me I feel wayyyyy bad for them!  I must have felt sooo close, but I just took foreverrrrr.  They all shaped me in different ways!  So thankful for being able to meet them!…  
With Love, Elder Pope

Sunday, September 23, 2012

In the face of adversity…

Elder Pope shared a challenging missionary experience in his last message.  I found it remarkable so I wanted to share it.  From Elder Pope:

Yesterday we were walking by a house and two men stopped us to talk.  My companion and I stood nicely for about a half hour listening to them pick us apart.  We had listened the whole time to a man who is in the Army.  He was big, but being raised the way I had I did not back down when he raised his voice.  Instead, I walked closer to him looking him straight in his eyes.  When he was finished telling me I was going strait to Hell because I was trying to work my way into Heaven I calmly looked both men in the eyes and said, "Look, I am out here not to work my way into Heaven.  I am here to bring people closer to Jesus Christ.  If after all I can do they get a tiny bit of faith increased in Christ then I did what I came to do.  I am here because I'm thankful for all that he did for me.  We share the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  He made a difference in my life and I want others to have that same opportunity".  After boldly testifying, the two men couldn't say another word, they were confounded in their speech.  Never have I felt so calm and collected in testifying of truth.  The men nodded and shook our hands and walked inside the house.  This gospel is true.  With every fiber of my being I know this.  We must first read, study it out in our minds, and pray about it.  I know not how to convince people of its truth, nor do I want to.  I only wish to invite them to experience it for themselves!   
                                            --Elder Pope


Friday, September 14, 2012

One Starfish at a Time

Here is an excerpt from Elder Pope's letter this week, with words of encouragement specifically directed to his sister Anne, who will be leaving on her own mission soon:

Anne, I want you to know I love you and I am so proud of you and your choice to go and do what our Heavenly Father wants you to. I have seen the gosepl of Jesus Christ change peoples lives...

One day a man was walking along the beach, when he noticed a boy
picking something up and gently throwing it into the ocean.
Approaching the boy, he asked, "What are you doing?"
The youth replied, "Throwing starfish back into the ocean.
The surf is up and the tide is going out. If I don't throw them back, they'll die."
"Son," the man said, "Don't you realize there are miles and miles of beach and hundreds of starfish?
You can't make a difference!"
After listening politely, the boy bent down, picked up another starfish,
and threw it back into the surf. Then, smiling at the man, he said:
I made a difference for that one."

...In the end we are all in this together. Hand in hand. Moving forward the best we can. ...Anne, one starfish at a time.
                                                             -Elder Pope