Before I lose the feelings and the spirit I just felt, let me tell you about our first LDS group meeting in Afghanistan.
We met in the base chapel. It comfortably holds maybe 55-60. We filled it up. We fell in on a group of 8 guys from Oregon. They were amazed to see our numbers. Unfortunately we were missing an additional 20 or so who had already left for their assignments.
The group leader said that this was probably the largest group of priesthood holders that had ever gathered in Afghanistan. You could feel the spirit ripple through the room when he made that comment.
Instead of having the regularly scheduled lesson, he asked that we share our testimonies. My eyes are welling up again just thinking about the spirit that was there.
One of the first to share their testimony was a young specialist. He told of an experience when he was in basic training. He needed a battle buddy to go with him to church. The only one who would volunteer was a soldier who had previously told him that back home, they used to wait for the Mormons with shotguns. After one meeting, this soldier told the specialist that he wanted to be baptized. After reading and studying for a month or so, the soldier was baptized by the specialist. The Lord is mindful of us and will lead us to those who thirst and hunger.
The recurring theme from the brethren was that we were on a mission within a mission. While we cannot actively proselyte, we will be sharing the gospel through our examples and through our spirits. Over and over testimonies were born that the Lord had sent us here. We don't know what will happen, but the Lord does. Japan and South Korea were mentioned. It took a war to bring the gospel to those countries. A war has now brought priesthood holders to Afghanistan and Iraq. It may be 50 years before the gospel can be preached, but it WILL happen. Of that we all were born witness to. Slag mentioned how there are Afghans who have probably accepted the gospel in heaven. I never thought of that before. He then mentioned that they too, are praying and helping us spread the gospel to their descendants. At that thought, my eyes again welled up. I thought of those good men and women on the other side who are probably doing everything in their power to bring the gospel to their children and grandchildren. What an awsome responsibility we have to be worthy priesthood holders. SGT Tripp told of an experience he had when he was 10. He contracted spinal menangitis. His parents called the LDS chaplain and a friend to come and give him a blessing. The doctors told him he would not recover and would never walk again. He was out of the hospital within 24 hours of the blessing and playing football again within 2 weeks. Is the Lord mindful of us? Of course He is. Over and over, men of the priesthood stood and with tears in their eyes, bore witness of the truthfullness of the gospel. They said that we were here for a reason and we are. It's hard. Oh it's been hard at times to be here, away from our families. But there is a reason.
This country reminds me so much of my mission in the Dominican Republic. OK, it's not nearly as green, but the conditions are the same - extreme poverty. I've been going through the exact same emotions I did as a new elder - fear, trepidation, homesickness, and excitement. I remember thinking and wondering if it was going to be worth it, if I would learn the language, if I would be a good missionary. With each new struggle that came my way, once I got through it, I was able to look back and see why that particular struggle was placed in my path. I could see the growth that I made and could see the wisdom of the Lord's plan.
I'm having all the same feelings. However, I feel a little different. Because I feel the same way I did on my mission and know that I'll have the same or similar experiences, I'm not as afraid. Trusting the Lord as I do, I know that the struggles that will be placed in my path will only be for my good. Just like my mission, I'll be able to look back on those struggles and see the growth that I've gone through. And because of that, the unknown isn't quite as scary.
These and so many other thoughts were going through my mind as I sat there in that wonderful meeting.
It had to come to a close as we had other places we needed to be. I was hoping to sing God Be With You Till We Meet Again but we didn't have time. Just as well. I don't know if I could have held in the emotions.
SGT Tripp said that his testimony came from the military. I can see why. These meetings we have had as priesthood soldiers have been some of the most spiritual. We are soldiers. Not only fighting for our country and our freedom, but for our God.