Elder Ammon Burdge 12/30: “The End of the Holiday Season”

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elder burdge 011Christmas flew by rather quickly, but I enjoyed it very much. I loved opening the packages and things I received from my family and feeling the love and support they each give to me. I had the great opportunity of calling home and talking with my parents again. I know that they worry and pray for me. I appreciate those prayers and the assistance they give me. What I have missed most this Christmas is my siblings. As a missionary I am with someone every second of every day. I’ve had people ask if that is difficult for me or something that was hard to get used to. In all honesty, it’s not.

elder burdge 008Most of my life has been spent right alongside all of my siblings. I remember all of us playing together in the various places we’ve lived. I remember Ben and Helaman riding the bus with me to school. I remember Sariah always being there to teach me rhymes and play music. When we were little we all used to play with a tape recorder and have radio talk shows pretending we were radio DJs. Growing up I never had my own room. Helaman and I always shared a room and because of our closeness in age we’ve done so many things together. So having a companion is nothing new to me. However, I missed being woken up Christmas morning by Ben and going out to see what Santa had left us. I missed having my siblings there to enjoy the holiday. But I am grateful for the gospel of Jesus Christ because I know that we will never be separated in the eternities as long as we remain true to what we know.

The pictures are of our paper Christmas tree with our presents below it and a Christmas Cactus!

Love,

Elder Burdge

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What Shall We Give? -The Mormon Tabernacle Choir

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“Wise men still follow that star that shines within us. Will you help your friends and family reach Him?” -Elder Ammon Burdge

Click the picture to hear the song "What Shall We Give?" performed by The Mormon Tabernacle Choir

Click the picture to hear the song “What Shall We Give?” performed by The Mormon Tabernacle Choir

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Elder Ammon Burdge: 12/23 The All-Encompassing Light During the Darkest Time of Year

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Sermon on the Mount – Carl Bloch

The past couple weeks have been busy! We’ve been blessed by the Lord to have degrees of success in our area. I’ve also noticed that because we all have agency, sometimes the best of choices aren’t made. Serving as a missionary during the holidays is difficult because most people are busy with Christmas shopping and whatnot. As a result, most of the people we speak with ask us to come in January instead. Such was the case with the generous man and his family. With the hustle and bustle of Holidays, they decided they would have perhaps more time to hear from us in January rather than December. I’ve learned that after all we can do, people still have a choice and tradition usually takes priority.

However, we were granted success in teaching another family. In the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints there is a group of leaders that meet a few times a month to discuss how best to help the area in which we live. The Bishop and other leaders discuss those who are struggling and how the Church can support and strengthen them. Together with this council, my companion and I have been trying to reach out to a less active family. There is a lady there who is a member of the Church along with her 23 year old son. Living with her are her 25 year old daughter and her fiance, a godchild of the woman with his wife and 3 year old son, another son who is 12, and a couple other people we haven’t met. Their situation is difficult. They have run into hard times and are struggling to get by. The Church has been offering support but no one has been able to meet with the family to help meet their spiritual needs. The week before last, I was able to meet with them along with their home teacher while my companion taught another investigator with the young men of our ward.

I went with this Brother and together we invited the Spirit into their home and bore testimony of the importance of Church attendance. We discussed that in order to receive blessings from the Lord, we need to obey the commandments He gives us (D&C 130: 20-21). We invited this family to come to Church so that they can feel the Spirit and take the Sacrament. I asked the others who were living there if we could stop by and teach them about the Restored Gospel of Jesus Christ and two of the men agreed.

A couple days later my companion and I split up again so that he could teach a part member family at the same time. Together a Brother from the ward and I met with a man and his wife who was 9 months pregnant. While we started teaching, the 12 year old young man joined us. We bore testimony of the Book of Mormon that it testifies of Jesus Christ. We taught them about the Prophet Joseph Smith and how the Savior called Him to Restore the Church Jesus Christ again on the Earth. I asked them if they would read the Book of Mormon, pray to know that it is true and Joseph Smith is a prophet of God. They agreed. It was amazing to see the joy they found in what we discussed with them. To see the interest and excitement in the young man as he learned from us was incredible.

Elder Franks and I met with them another time and were joined by another man in the house. This man’s fiance is also 9 months pregnant. As we’ve taught him and asked him to read and pray to find the truth, he has struggled. His family is baptist and he still clings to the traditions of his family. He feels the Spirit and he feels it to be true but he isn’t sure if he can let go of the past. We are working with him and the other four to build their faith and act on that faith.

We had a great encounter last week with a man who was on a list in our area book of someone who we should stop by. We went to his house and he invited us in. He told us that he works with a lot of LDS people and has heard about Joseph Smith. We taught him about the Restoration and he told us that he has read the Book of Mormon and prayed about it but didn’t get an astounding confirmation of it’s truth. In my life, I’ve searched for these knees-weakening answers from God and I know there are those who receive those things. However, I also know that the Spirit of God testifies to us as a still, small voice. A feeling of peace, love, and happiness. A calming influence in our lives. But still, many search for awe-inspiring answers to their prayers. As I asked this man about when he read and prayed, he told me that he felt good. He felt happy. He felt that the Book contained good things in it, but he just never felt a powerful witness of the truth of it. I told him about the Spirit and how it often manifests to us in small ways such as the feelings he felt in the past. I bore testimony that if he would read and pray again about the Book of Mormon, he won’t even have to get halfway through before he knows that it is true and it is of God. I have been striving to search for myself for the small whisperings of the Spirit rather than the mind-blowing manifestations.

Today we met with him again and his wife, who is Catholic, joined us. He had read the first few chapters of the Book of Mormon and we discussed what he’d learned with his wife. The man is searching to find what Heavenly Father wants for him and he says he is leaving it up to the Lord’s own timing. We’ve encouraged them to read as a family and pray together and we will be meeting with them again next week. I am thankful for the opportunities we’ve had to share with those around us these past couple weeks. It’s crazy that Christmas is in only a few days!

This Christmas will be different for me than years past. I’ve never been a fan of the Christmas Season, but I’ve been rebuked by the Spirit and realized the significance of this time of year. We celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ in December which is the darkest time of year for our part of the world. The days are short, and we have long, dark nights that are often quite cold. The prophets in the Bible and in the Book of Mormon testified that when Christ would be born, a new star would shine for the world to see. These prophets added light into the world with their testimonies of our Savior little by little. When Christ was born, the star shone in Bethlehem and was seen across the world in the Americas. As the Lord walked the Earth His light shone to everyone who searched for Him, but many rejected that light and He was crucified on the cross. The light that Jesus Christ brought into the world was destroyed. Almost two thousand years later, a boy prayed so that he could find that light. Just as the wiseman who came from afar, Joseph Smith read the prophecies and desired to find the Redeemer of the world. As he prayed he saw a pillar of light, above the brightness of the sun. Christ called him to be His prophet and to restore His gospel.

Joseph Smith sees Christ and God the Father

When Jesus Christ and God the Father appeared to the prophet, it was no longer the light of a star shining, but the glory of the Sun beaming radiantly. That brilliant light will never again leave the Earth. It beckons all to partake of the glorious gospel which has been restored. In truth, that light reflects from all of us who have a knowledge and a testimony of this gospel and this truth. We are all standing in that pillar of light and those around us see the light we are in. We have the opportunity and obligation to share that light and invite those we love and respect to join us in it.

There is a song that the Mormon Tabernacle Choir sings titled “What Shall We Give?” In the holiday spirit we become wrapped up in the concerns of what to give our friends, what to give our family, what we will get. But the most important question each of us should ask is what shall we give Christ? Our Savior was born in a stable and came to live in the lowliest of circumstances, to suffer all, to experience the worst, all that we might be saved. He’s given us two incredible gifts: His atonement, and our agency. For Christmas, and for Christ, I pray that we all might share and give of both gifts. To give of our time, effort, and lives to share the atonement of Jesus Christ with all those around us. To escape our comfort zones to reach out to those who need this light we have. Wise men still follow that star that shines within us. Will you help your friends and family reach Him?

Love,

Elder Burdge

 

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Elder Ammon Burdge 12/9: Receiving Witness After the Trial of my Faith

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When I received my mission call and read that I was going to the Texas San Antonio Mission, I thought for sure I would bid farewell to cold weather. I could not have been more wrong. This past week has been freezing. We’ve had ice in the roads and even seen icicles off the houses. My companion Elder Franks and I have found ourselves in quite the paradox: if you want to stay warm on a bike, you need to ride fast, if you ride fast you are unable to feel your hands or your face. We’ve decided it’s probably best to just have frozen faces because messengers of the Lord declare good tidings of great joy (Luke 2:10). If we are doing so we need to have smiles on our faces. In this winter weather it is fairly easy to keep a smile on your face when it’s frozen that way.

This past week has been filled with challenge after challenge. It’s interesting to me that I am passing through a refiner’s fire in the cold heart of winter (D&C 128:24). We had dinner a few nights ago with a part-member family. The mother is a member of the church but her husband is not. We wanted to share with them a Christmas message that would invite the Spirit into their home which would encourage them to attend church and seek the gospel of Jesus Christ. However, as we were about to share our thoughts, the mother had to put her kids to bed and her husband walked us to the door. Bummer. That wasn’t going to break our spirits though because that night we would teach our only investigator; until she cancelled. We then decided to visit part-member and less active families in the area. None were interested. Cold, tired, and disheartened, we returned to our apartment.

Christ in Gethsemane – Carl Heinrich Bloch

As a missionary fresh out of the MTC, one expects the work to be thriving. It is thought that all will want to hear that they are sons and daughters, kings and queens, of the Most High God. To hear that their older brother suffered all things for them, “Which suffering caused myself, even God, the greatest of all, to tremble because of pain, and to bleed at every pore, and to suffer both body and spirit–would that I might not drink the bitter cup, and shrink” (D&C 19:18). To hear how they can gain a testimony of Him, to exercise faith in Him, and desire to repent and be baptized. As a week and half old missionary, at times it has appeared that this is not so.

Prayerfully and humbly we have planned our days with the hope and faith that we will go to the houses of those who are prepared and seeking to come unto Christ. We headed out the next day into a world even colder than the day previous, earnestly desiring to find the chosen vessels of the Lord (Moroni 7:31). Not a block from our apartment complex, my bike ceased to function. The chain was grinding against the derailer making it hazardous to ride. We returned home. On foot we left our apartment realizing that the work must go on.

As I look back on this point in the week I can see that nearly everything that could go wrong happened. The weather was threatening, our message was not being received, those who had listened to us previously cancelled our appointment, and our means of transportation was reduced to the strength of our own feet. I remember wondering how we would ever have success when we can’t even travel very far.

That day and night were not much better than those before. Everyone we visited was busy or uninterested. A lady who had stopped us days before with a friendly welcome, told us it was freezing outside and to come by some other time. Nevertheless, we continued on. We decided to go to the house of a woman who previous missionaries had listed as a potential investigator. As we knocked on the door, a man answered and welcomed us right in without hesitation. A miracle! We sat with him and his son and he told us that he has a lot of respect for our church and enjoys our meetings. He told us that he has even felt “the burning in the belly.” He said that he would be interested in listening to us and that his girlfriend, the woman in the list, would probably like to hear as well. He asked us how we were getting around, and after I told him about my bike, he lent me his! After several minutes of talking his girlfriend came home from work. She told us that she works in retail and could not have anytime to learn from us until January. We gave them an invitation to the Stake Choir Christmas Concert and left with the borrowed bike.

The next day, at the concert, the man, his girlfriend, and their son came to hear the choir! I have never been so happy. The gospel of Jesus Christ is not solely for individuals. The Plan of Salvation is centered on families. We did not come to Earth alone; we were born into families. Our purpose as missionaries is not to baptize and bring unto Christ just one man, but his entire family as well so that they can be sealed together and each be partakers of eternal life. When I saw the man and his family arrive and sit down together to hear songs of Christ and celebrate His birth, I finally understood this to be my purpose.

The following day we took my bike to a guy who fixes all the missionary bikes and he fixed it for us. That night we met with a 16 year old recent convert. He has been struggling to come to church because he feels that some of the leaders are out to get him. For weeks the previous missionaries have not had success in helping him attend. As we talked and met with him, I was prompted to share with him the sacrament prayer. He had told us that a lot of people think he’s a jerk and he is proud of that. I explained to him that after we are baptized we take upon us the name of Christ. I asked him why we take the sacrament and he answered that it was to remember our covenants. I explained to him that there is a difference between the prayers for the bread and the water, more than just the blessing of two different things. The sacrament prayer states that as we take the bread, we demonstrate to the Father that we are willing to take upon us the name of Christ, to always remember Him and keep His commandments (Moroni 4:3). The prayer for the water states that as we drink the water we are showing our Heavenly Father that we will do those things (Moroni 5:2). The sacrament is how we show God that we are willing to follow Christ and that we do follow Christ.

I asked what the Lord gives us if we take the sacrament and he responded that we get the Spirit. “But why do we want the Spirit?” He told me, “So that we can be more Christlike.” “Isn’t it difficult to be more Christlike if we don’t have the Spirit and we don’t go to Church?” I posed. He responded, “a little, I guess.” “It’s impossible,” I told him. The Holy Ghost acts as a gauge, which tells us how close we are to being like Christ. It prompts us to do good and to help others as Christ would. When we do things that Christ wouldn’t do, we depart from the Spirit. The gospel of Jesus Christ is to have faith in Him and his atonement, to repent, to be baptized, and to endure to the end. As members of the church we’ve already done three of those things. In order for us to endure to the end, we have to have the Spirit with us.

I asked him if he would attend church so that he can take the sacrament, to repent and receive the Spirit so that he can know how to live his life more like Christ. He said he would and on Sunday he did.

This week has been challenging for multiple reasons. However, after going through it all, I know that if it had not been for those trials, we would not have met that family and the young man would not have come to church. I know that Heavenly Father hears are prayers and is willing to answer them so long as we are willing to pass through the necessary trials. I know that the Eternal Creator of all things puts trials into our life, not because He is a hateful God who wants to make our lives difficult, but because He loves us infinitely and wants to help us grow and progress. The trials I faced had purpose and I am so grateful that I was able to endure them.

Love,

Elder Burdge

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Elder Ammon Burdge: 12/2 Texas San Antonio Mission Pics!

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More pictures from Ammon! I love it when he sends these. Click on the gallery to read about each photo. -There’s an awesome story behind the tie.

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Elder Ammon Burdge 12/2 “The Work Has Begun”

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Mexico City Airport

Texas is amazing, but for now I’ll return quickly to Mexico. We woke up very early to drive to the airport where we would wait for four hours to fly back to the states. At the airport we decided to try and contact people who might be interested in hearing the gospel. At the terminal, along with a few other Elders I talked to a maintenance lady. She saw me reading the Bible and stopped to ask me about it. I shared with her John 10:16 which is where Christ tells His disciples that there are other sheep He must visit. I explained to her that the natives of North and South America are those other sheep and the Book of Mormon is the record we have of them. I gave her a copy and asked to read and pray about it. She said she would and that she stopped because she noticed a different spirit about us. As I was waiting for another Elder later on, a teenage kid passed by us a couple times and was looking at us so we stopped him. We were speaking in Spanish about the Godhead and he said, “wait, do you guys speak English?” “Of course!” Elder Whipple replied. So we finished the rest of the discussion in English. We only had a Spanish copy of the Book of Mormon but he said he could understand it.

On the plane I sat next to a lady who was going to America to shop for Black Friday. The flight was a couple hours and we spent every minute discussing the gospel and the church. I bore her my testimony of the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon. I offered her a copy, she gladly accepted it and then asked if I would write her a note in the front. It was an incredible experience.

The Alamo

We landed safely in San Antonio and it was very cold. President Slaughter, my mission president, and his family were quite welcoming. That night we went to the Alamo. They told us the story of the Alamo and explained that the leader of the men had drawn a line in the sand and challenged them to cross the line if they had the courage to stand and fight to defend the Alamo and their desires for freedom. Likewise, the assistants to the president explained that we are in a battle. Each day we wake up ready to fight the evil in this world. They stood us on one side of the same line and said, “All those who are prepared to stand for the cause of truth cross the line.” We all did. For about an hour or so we passed out Book of Mormons to people in the streets. The Elder I went with and I passed out five. At the end of our time there, the Elder and I talked to a man and his son. We talked to them in Spanish about Christ and His visit to the Americas. The man was excited and interested to here the message. He said he had never heard of this before and wanted to know more. Unfortunately we only had English Book of Mormons but I gave him the website to the church, mormon.org, and also took down his address to send to the missionaries in Houston where he lives. In total, the Elder and I placed five Book of Mormons and received one address. So far, missionary work has proved to be hard, but rewarding.

Austin, TX

Thanksgiving Day we met at a church building for transfer meeting. Some of us stayed in the southern part of our mission but the rest of us traveled a few hours north to Austin. I am currently serving in the Sunset Valley Ward in the Oakhills Stake in Austin, Texas. It’s an English speaking ward, but my companion and trainer, Elder Franks, is Spanish speaking like me. Our area is pretty big, about ten miles top to bottom and we are full bike. Other areas share a car and others have a car full time. We get the awesome blessing of riding bikes everywhere.

At first, it definitely didn’t seem like a blessing. For Thanksgiving we ate at a member’s house at the far south of our area. So we rode our bikes for about an hour and I was exhausted by dinner. After we ate, we rode back up to our apartment and it was really cold. Over the past couple days, however, I’ve realized that being on a bike is a blessing. First of all, we get more exercise. Being on a bike also allows us to stop and talk to more people because if we see someone going down the street, it’s easier to stop on a bike and talk to them than it is in a car. The other day we were riding down a street and Elder Franks wanted to stop and check the map. As we stopped, a lady stopped her car and asked us if we were the missionaries for this area. I said, “Absolutely we are!” She told us that her son is a member of her church but she is not. She invited us to stop by her house next week and visit her. We wouldn’t have met her in a car.

A picture of LDS missionaries on bikes

Riding a bike has also helped me realize the dedication it takes to be a missionary. As we plan our day we put a lot of thought into where we will go and who we can meet along the way. We think about the time it will take to go certain places and what areas will be the most fruitful. For me I’ve also learned to lean on the Lord for strength. Our last day in the CCM we only slept for a few hours because we had to catch the flight. Our first day in Texas we only slept a few hours because we had to get to the building for transfer meeting. Riding a bike twenty miles on little sleep is difficult. As I’ve prayed for strength and energy, I’ve been blessed as I ride to visit people and I know it is because the Lord is blessing me.

The past few days we have not taught any lessons. We visit many part member families and less active members. Last night Elder Franks and I stopped by a potential investigator’s house. He and his family only speak Spanish and so we had the opportunity of practicing our mission language. We spoke with his wife on the porch and she invited us in. I was then able to teach my first real lesson and it was in Spanish. We shared with them 2 Nephi 25:26:

“And we talk of Christ, we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ, we prophesy of Christ, and we write according to our prophecies, that our children may know to what source they may look for a remission of their sins.”

A picture of LDS missionaries meeting a family

I explained that as missionaries we teach people in order to bring them closer to Christ. We have the opportunity of bringing the Book of Mormon into their lives to testify, alongside the Bible, that Jesus is the Christ and during Christmas we are able to celebrate His birth. The man explained that they are Catholics but they’re not dedicated to that religion. He told us that we have the gift of preaching to the people and we are doing good work. However, he believes that we are all trying to accomplish the same thing and we are all worshiping the same God and at the end of the day all that matters is that we are God’s children. His wife told us that she welcomes us to come by anytime because they enjoy hearing about Christ. We plan on visiting them tomorrow to offer service in their yard. Although the visit wasn’t what we were hoping for, it was a great experience.

I’ve been told that if I need anything, I can ask you all. As I start my work in this section of the Savior’s vineyard I am not needing anything material as of yet. However, I would like you to remember the following scripture:

“And we talk of Christ, we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ, we prophesy of Christ, and we write according to our prophecies, that our children may know to what source they may look for a remission of their sins.”

Karl Bloch’s nativity

As followers of Christ, this is what we do. This month everyone celebrates the holidays for different reasons. If you are a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I ask you to go this entire month and every time someone discusses Christmas or the holidays with you, tell them about your beliefs, why you are celebrating Christmas. Explain to them that you are a Christian and you are grateful for the Savior’s birth. If you are not a member of the Church, I would love it if you would take some time to ponder about Jesus Christ and why this holiday is celebrated. And for you all, please talk to the missionaries in your area. Let them share a small message about Christmas with you. If you are able, feed them a meal and let them bless you with the spirit that they carry. I know that Jesus Christ was born to Mary in a humble stable. I know that because He was born and atoned for our sins later in His life, we all have the opportunity to return to our Father in Heaven with our families.

Thank you for all that you do and keeping me in mind. Keep being awesome.

Elder Burdge

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