Tuesday, August 26, 2014

"Faith is a Hope in That Which is Not Seen Which is True"

This week was not overly exciting. Or at least when compared with the other few weeks. We are studying a lot more now that we are getting pretty close to leaving and it was hard for my ADD brain that loves to play to focus. I struggled a little this week and my faith kind of faltered. For whatever reason I was just struggling with the whole concept of the gospel and I feel like I waited until I came here to look for the truth rather than find it beforehand and allow it to drive me. Since then I have just read the Book of Mormon as much as possible. I had never really thought about it before but embarrassingly I have never read it through on my own and then prayed to know the truth. I realized that I have to ask for the truth before I can ask for anything else.

That is kind of how the whole week went. I learned little things here and there that really forced me to look at my beliefs and decide what I was ready to believe. It sounds kind of obvious in words, but what I didn´t realize is the first person I have to convert out here is myself. So that has been exactly what I have been working for this week. It put a very real and heavy strain on my testimony and I had a very hard couple of days but I am beginning to pick myself up out of it.

Probably the two most powerful lessons I learned this week are:  1. Our stories are not just for us, they are for others to learn and grow from also.  2. God loves us more than we can comprehend.

So every so often the people in my district have been sharing their ¨Why I am on a mission¨ stories and it has been a pretty cool tradition so far. Last night I was in the classroom with everyone with my nose buried in the scriptures when Elder Marshall asked me to share mine. I really didn´t want to because I felt it was personal and just for me. I was about to say no when I just figured, ¨why not¨.

I have told parts of my story to people and even had to share some of it in stake conference but there are lots of things I have kept to myself. No one has ever heard most of my story and I was planning on just giving the version everyone else has heard when I felt I needed to tell the whole thing. I just kept my eyes on the floor and told them every detail and what I felt and cried somewhere in there and just let all of my feelings out.

When I finished it was time to go back to our apartments so we prayed and then everyone did this huge group hug, which was weird and then went to their apartments. I was feeling stupid and embarrassed and vulnerable and I was crying and I just wanted to get out of there so I walked in front of the group just trying to get away. Elder Germann caught up with me and told me how much he loved me and we were both crying like babies and then everyone else caught up and then we were all crying. It was pretty much an all around bro love session. I was still feeling embarrassed about what I had shared when one of my absolute favorite elders, Elder Cluff pulled me aside and said, ¨I hope you know God gives us these things so we can share them. Never be shy about your story and sharing it with others.¨ I felt so much better after all of that and we all ended up staying up until around midnight talking.

When we finally went to bed, Elder Germann and I were saying companionship prayers. He has been very worried about this elder who has really been struggling with Spanish and he was praying for him when he choked up and could not go on. After a while he finished his prayer and then looked at me. He told me he had felt God´s love for this elder so powerfully and he could barely comprehend it. He told me how much we are cared for and I did not know what to say. We went to bed and I am pretty sure neither of us slept.

That is what I want. I want to KNOW he loves us. I want to KNOW he is there. I am sick of this ¨believing¨ bull crap and I just want to know. I am going to work hard and keep working until I know and I feel I can not be the missionary I need to be until I do. I can´t do it alone though. I need everyone´s help. There are so many people who read these emails that have amazing, powerful testimonies and I need that. I also need those who are in the same boat to work alongside me.

Now that all of that is said I fell I need to assure you I am fine. Yes it is a struggle, but is not that exactly what it is supposed to be? Did I not walk straight into this knowing how hard and testimony-challenging it would be? I knew exactly what I was doing and I did it anyway. It is hard and I won´t try to be tough and deny it, but it is also the first time in my life I have ever really challenged my beliefs so that they could transform into knowledge. It is the first time I have ever had so much purpose. I love everyone so much. The one thing I do know is that I am supposed to be here. I have learned so much and though I am far away, I have never been closer to all of you. May God bless all of you.

With absolutely sincere love,

Elder Aidan Daley Rich

Elder Rich and Elder Cluff in the CCM

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

"We Never Left"

(Note from Amber:  If we’re lucky, we can catch Aidan on his P-Day when he’s sending his letters and have a little real time email exchange with him.  This is the letter he sent to his little sister who is 8-years-old this morning and then the email I was able to hurry and get off to him shortly after.  We usually just post the weekly email that Aidan sends for everyone to read but today I want to share these few family exchanges so you can understand the significance of what he writes to you today.)  

Sent to Anna on the morning of Tuesday, August 19  
Hey baby girl-
I am so sorry you got sick. Guess what? I was really really sick too. I got sick Tuesday and did not get better until Sunday. I was throwing up and had what I like to call the ¨Raging Mexican Poopies¨.  I also met a cousin I have never met before. His name is Elder Christensen and we are obviously related because we are unstoppable on the basketball court. I am so glad you are loving school and making new friends but it is not a surprise because you are so good at being nice and socially welcoming. I love you so much Anna.

Elder Aidan Rich

Sent to Elder Rich on the morning of Tuesday, August 19
I'm going to have to leave for work in about 5 minutes but when I saw you were on, I just had to stop and say hello and love ya.  Anna got to read your letter before she left for school.  "Raging Mexican Poopies" got a huge laugh.  You know your demographic!

I knew you had been sick or sad or something was up.  I was up a lot with Anna during the night on Friday and on Saturday I laid down to take a nap.  I had a dream about you but it wasn't like a normal dream.  It was like you were really with me kind of dream.  I have had two dreams -one with my Grandma Mikesell and one with my stepmom LuAnn - after they were dead and they were able to come back to visit me.  The dream I had with you was very much like those dreams.  In my dream you were sad and crying, and I just kept hugging you.  I just kept trying to tell you that everything was going to be ok.  More than just telling you everything was going to be ok, I was trying to convince you of it because I knew that it would be.

I woke up startled because really it's just the most bizarre kind of dream - more real than a dream because I really think it is real.  I got down on my knees and asked Heavenly Father to help you with whatever it is you needed help with.  I went and told dad that we need to pray for Aidan because he needs our help.  I'm relived to finally hear from you.  I'm sorry you've felt so miserable but I hope you really are beginning to feel better.  I love you.  Heavenly Father is very aware of you.  I know there are family members from the other side taking care of you and watching over you.  I ask them to watch over you.

Love you forever,

Received from Elder Rich in the afternoon of Tuesday, August 19
The weeks preceding this one have grown my testimony immensely through miracles and spiritual experiences and I am so grateful. My testimony also grew this week but, not quite in the same way. This time the Savior had to let me be brought low in order to bring me higher.

I had just finished sending emails and eating dinner when Elder Germann and I went to check on a sick Elder in our district (Elder Madsen). I volunteered to stay and watch him because I was feeling very tired and worn and his companion, Elder Hamilton, had not been to class for a couple days and figured we could just do a split. So Elder Germann and Elder Hamilton headed to class and I sat on the other bed and talked to Madsen. After about an hour that tired feeling turned into a massive headache and then eventually the flu. I was consistently throwing up and had a small fever and our wonderful doctor (the genius behind my eye patch) gave me what I am pretty sure was the Mexican equivalent of baby aspirin and assured me I would be better by the morning.

I ended up just moving into Madsen´s room to try and keep the sickness quarantined and we both decided we would maintain positive attitudes and be grateful for what we have. We read the scriptures and practiced Spanish and we got to know each other very well. We made tag-team jokes whenever I was on my way out of the bathroom having just hurled and he was on his way in to settle his stomach (his major problems were at the opposite end from mine).

All of this went well for about two days but on Thursday night we got much worse. My fever rose five degrees and Elder Madsen couldn´t retain any liquids. I developed uncontrollable tremors and mild hallucinations. Elder Madsen had stomach cramps and his diarrhea worsened and turned black. Basically we were in bad shape. Very bad shape. We had both received blessings the moment we were sick, were taking care of our bodies exactly as instructed, and had done every spiritual thing we could think of to learn something from this. Yet we were so sick. I hurt and ached so bad I could barely drag myself across the floor to puke in the bathroom and the doctors were preparing to take us the hospital in the morning if there were no improvements. After one particularly bad bout with the toilet I laid panting on the floor and literally thought about death and what I thought it would feel like.

I just prayed and prayed and puked and prayed. Around then is where I stop remembering things. I think my fever was messing with my mind and I can´t really distinguish between what was real and what was my mind. Elder Madsen had gotten better by this time and was able to eat and function normally which we were so grateful for and he was put in charge of watching me. The rest of this is what he has told me happened.

On Saturday evening I had fallen asleep and was shaking and talking to myself and wasn´t making any sense. I was sweating badly and Madsen just watched and checked my temperature every so often. He told me he was about to go get the doctor because I was so bad when all of the sudden I took a deep breath and relaxed. He says my eyes opened about half way and I said the words, ¨Hey guys...Hi grandpa¨. 

He told me from then on I slept well and stopped shaking and every so often made a comment to someone who wasn´t there. Today I asked him the names of the people I was talking to and he correctly named Grandma and Grandpa Mikesell, Grandpa Bert, and Grandpa Neil but he said I always used there first names which I didn´t even know Grandma and Grandpa Mikesell´s until then. There were other names I didn´t recognize like Gwen, Lucy, Martin, and Maurine so I pulled out my pedigree chart and sure enough they were right on there. I thought about it for a long time and asked myself why they would have us bring a pedigree chart. It does not make any sense. We literally never use it.

I thought about this for a long time when it occurred to me that it is so we know who God sends. We know and are taught that he sends angels and heavenly messengers for help but I realized it is not random. He does not send some German from the 1900´s or the newest angel so that they can gain experience. He is God. He is smarter than that. I realized he sends the people who know us best. He sends those who can truly comfort us. He sends OUR angels.

I got better and slept for about 20 straight hours and when I woke up I did not remember anything. I went to church that day and went about life as normal. But I have started to look at things differently. I constantly see the works of my angels in my day to day life. Elder Germann was upset with me because he thought I was being silly during our next couple of lessons because I kept kinda turning around. Not all the way just enough to be thought of as unfocused. I did not even realize I was doing it but it was because I kept thinking someone was behind me.

Life since then has been normal. Just everyday missionary stuff. Learning, teaching, and preaching. I am so grateful for my family and those I consider close enough to be such. I miss you all so much and I feel your prayers daily. I am grateful for the blessing of prayer and the powerhouse it is when combined with the Book of Mormon. I am thankful for my older brother Jesus Christ and the miracle of his Atonement. I invite all of us to be more like him. Do something for someone today. Improve your self in some small way. Come just that much closer to Christ. Do the small things.

I know that this mission will continue to have it´s challenges but more importantly I know who is behind me. I know it will be hard but I know where to turn. I know I can be with my awesome family forever and I tear up whenever I think of it. I know who I am and what I represent. I know Jesus Christ is my Savior. I know my Redeemer lives and so can we. I know that God loves me and all of you. I know that I am his missionary.

With love and my humble thanks,
Elder Aidan Daley Rich

[The title of this blog entry is a line from the last Harry Potter Book.  Harry is facing his imminent death and is granted the gift of having his deceased love ones to comfort him.  When he asks why they are there, his mother answers, "We never left."]

"As I lay dying."
Elder Rich and Elder Madsen share a sick room. He said he preferred the floor because it was cold.

I noticed in this photo Elder Rich was wearing the coat he got to survive the Chilean winters near Antarctica.  Apparently he got hot and cold, or ran out of clean clothes.

"My dorm mates took lots of pictures of me without me knowing and emailed them to me."
Charity never faileth.

"Elder Madsen and I the day we became whole."

"Happier Pictures...we have all resorted to cereal and Nutella sandwiches."
 Last week I asked Elder Rich if they have taco Tuesdays and he said they have tacos everyday.  He eats a lot of lettuce and Thousand Island dressing.

"The beautiful CCM.  A class doing language study in the beautiful weather."

"The path we take to class.  Photo cred to Elder Germann."

"The Purple Tie Posse -
My dorm mates Elder Holst, Elder Kerr, Me, and Elder Germann."

"Selfies for days - Elder Rich and Elder Germann."