In this recent general conference, a talk that I really liked was given by Elder Rasband. The title, “By Divine Design” is to say that in the Lord’s work, there aren’t any such things as coincidences. Elder Rasband quoted Elder Neil A. Maxwell’s thoughts on the subject, saying:
“None of us ever fully utilizes the people-opportunities allocated to us within our circles of friendship. You and I may call these intersectings ‘coincidence.’ This word is understandable for mortals to use, but coincidence is not an appropriate word to describe the workings of an omniscient God. He does not do things by ‘coincidence’ but … by ‘divine design.’”
Elder Rasband then made the following analogy:
“Our lives are like a chessboard, and the Lord moves us from one place to another–if we are responsive to spiritual promptings. Looking back, we can see His hand in our lives.”
As I look back on the past week, I can see how the Lord was truly directing mine and Elder Kassing’s path and using us as his “chess pieces” in order to complete his objectives. Here’s some of what’s happened:
On Monday morning, we had set some plans for the evening to pass by some people that lived close to our piso and then take a bus out to the house of a menos activo which had a cita planned with. However, at the last moment, we decided that it would make more sense to use that time before our cita passing by some people who lived up closer that menos activo sense it’s kind of a hassle to get out to that area. Accordingly, we took an earlier bus up, and started working there instead. One of the places we passed by was the house of María and Manolo, some antiguo investigadores who haven’t had contact with the missionaries in years. They graciously let us in, and while we were asking them if that had remembered anything about what the missionaries had taught them, María said, “Oh, I still have The Book of Mormon! I was holding onto this treasure, waiting for the day you guys would return.” Because our time was limited, we had to end there, and promised that we would return the next day.
On Tuesday, we went back to their house according to plan. We were greeted warmly at the door by María and invited to enter, but couldn’t as there wasn’t a man who was in the home. That seemed disappointing, but it was made up for because we were able to meet María’s daughter, Alba. Alba excitedly told us that her boyfriend, Alvaro, was a member of our church. However, neither me nor my companion knew who he was, but we later figured out that he was a less active member that was baptized a few years ago, and the contact information that we had for him was outdated. Luckily though, we were able to get his current phone number from Alba.
Later in the week, we decided to give Alvaro a call. He seemed excited and eager to meet with us, and told us that he was going to ask Alba if she wanted to come too, and then he’d let us know when we could meet. But, we didn’t hear anything back from him. Then, on Sunday, halfway though sacrament meeting, him and Alba came! We were able to teach both of them (and a friend that a member brought to the church for the first time) about The Restoration in Gospel Principles class, and it went really well. Alvaro gave a super powerful testimony and closing prayer in the class, which was just amazing. He said that he knew it wasn’t by coincidence that we showed up on the doorstep of Alba’s parents the same evening that he was sharing a bit about the church with her. I knew that it wasn’t coincidence either.
Here’s another experience: Last week, we got a call out of the blue from this guy named Jamie. He had contact with missionaries several years ago, and was looking good for some help out in his campo. Élder Kassing and I had been praying for service opportunities, so it was pretty amazing to see one just fall into place so easily. We went out to his campo (where he has a million Lemmon trees and like 20 dogs) and helped pull weeds for a while. We were able to have a good lesson with him afterwards too. That random call out of the blue was not out of coincidence!
I mentioned a bit about one of our investigators, Alfonso, in my email from about a month ago. Basically, he was an old investigator who basically just called the missionaries up and said, “I want to be Mormon, can you help me do that?” We had set a baptismal goal with him for October 7th, but unfortunately, due to a lot of reasons, we weren’t able to meet with him for almost a month. On Friday, we met with him and he shared with us that he’s “more convinced than ever” that he needs to be baptized. Accordingly, we set a baptismal goal for November 11th, and outlined a plan for getting there, and he seems really dedicated to do it! Not a coincidence!
One morning this week, we decided to stop by one of our member’s houses to ask some questions about some references she had given to the missionaries in the past. However, when we got there, she told us that she wasn’t doing well, and asked for a priesthood blessing, which we were able to give her. While sharing about this experience in fast and testimony meeting, we learned that she had been praying to God for helping right at the moment when we showed up to her house. Again, not by coincidence did we go there when we did!
While traveling to district meeting on Tuesday morning, we ran into a future investigator that Elder Kassing had met several months earlier, named Laura. That “chance encounter” helped us be able to meet later in this week and start teaching her about the Christ’s church. Another not-coincidence!
Lastly, one of our members has been eager to introduce us to his adult daughter with the hope of helping her have more of an interest in the church. This same member, named Domingo, tore a ligament in his leg at our weekly fútbol game this week, and hasn’t been able to leave his house much after that. By “chance,” we decided to pay him a visit on Saturday night, which was the perfect opportunity to meet his daughter who was giving him a visit at the same time. “Coincidence? I think not!”
Well, after writing all of those stories down (and those experiences weren’t even all that I could have shared), it dawned on me that there were probably so many more things we did during the week that helped to move God’s work along that we didn’t even notice. Whatever the case is, it’s always very humbling to see so clearly how the Lord uses us as His hands. This was probably one of the most fruitful weeks on my mission, and I am extremely grateful to the Lord for all of the great experiences that he blessed us with this week. I sure hope that we will keep seeing progress and miracles happen with the people mentioned in this email, but either way, I know that the Lord was helping us do our part in his vineyard.
Love you all,
Élder Stark ??
7: Until next time