The Rowes have been wonderful. Leadership council on Thursday was one of the most powerful meetings I've ever been in. It was just President Rowe teaching us for hours and then we had a testimony meeting. You can just feel his goodness when you're around him and he makes you want to be better because he's filled with so much light and hope. On Sunday it was their last day in church and their kids got up and bore the sweetest testimonies. More tears from the congregation and so many less-active members who rarely ever come, came and talked to us afterwards about how the Rowes changed their lives. Last week we hit our goal of 500 people at church across the mission! It was around 300 when President Rowe came here. So exciting!
Sister Rowe was talking about how when they were in Belgium, they had just settled there, and the kids really loved the school and they were making good friends. When they got their mission call and they had to tell their kids (ages 16, 15, 9, 5 and 5) that they were moving back to this part of the world; they told all of them separately, and both of the boys (15 and 16) had the same reaction. They just put their heads in their hands and cried. A few days later, Sister Rowe said the kids agreed and said that they would do it if this is where the Lord wanted them to be. A month or two later, their oldest son was asking questions and said, "Mom, I don't know if I can wake up at 6:30 every day and then do 2 more years of 6:30 every day on my own mission." She said she started laughing, and said "You agreed to come on this mission thinking that you'd have to keep all the rules of a missionary?" He said, "Well, yeah..." What great faith, huh? Her kids really are the greatest. I had no idea it would be such a sacrifice for their family, but they never ever let it show.
I really liked in President Rowe's talk on Sunday, he spoke about how repentance is hard, but how often times forgiveness is even harder. He spoke about an experience he had a few years ago where he was really offended by something someone did to him. That night he said he knelt down in prayer and prayed to Heavenly Father to bless that person and to help them repent. He said he felt like he was being a good man because he was praying for the person who had hurt him. He said, all of a sudden he felt like a big stick just came and wacked him in the head. The feeling that came over him he said was one that he said he'd never forget. He said in his mind he heard "I have forgiven you for things much, much greater than this, and you're having trouble forgiving them?" He said we must always, always, always forgive. He said when we truly forgive people, we are healed. We often say, I'll forgive, but I won't forget. He talked about imagining what if God did that with us? "Of course I forgave you for all the stupid things you've done, but everytime I see you, I'm going to remember what stupid things you did and make sure you know I remember it." Haha. He said we have to leave the judgment up to God. That we feel the weight of carrying hard things around with us, and they ultimately just negatively affect us, not the other person. He testified of the power of forgiving and how when we give our pains and troubles over to God, then we allow God to be a God of miracles for us, and we allow Him to really change us. I wish I could put into words how much I love his family. They all truly live what they preach. They don't really watch TV or know how to work Facebook, they just play, cook, laugh and love each other. You feel so safe in their home. He said, "If I lost everything in the world, and all I had was my family, I could never complain."
We're going to play basketball with him for our last time today, even though it's pouring rain. It will be really fun. We are also so excited for President and Sister Grant to come! We can already feel their energy through their e-mails. He is planning on touring the whole mission, being in a new city everyday for the next 3 weeks. I literally get worn out driving to and from another city in Croatia for an exchange... They'll be great!
This week was really wonderful! M is still working on quitting smoking, and he is down to 2 cigarettes a day, but is having a hard time giving that last little bit up. We decided we're going to actually participate in the 12 week program with him. We need to think about what our addictions might be out here on our mission and then quit them? I don't know, haha. I think ours are probably going to be related to going to the local bakeries here. The missionaries have been working with him for 9 months! He'll get there and he still really wants to be baptized. He's so smart and he understands so much of what we teach him, better than a lot of our members do.
We met with 2 less actives, who I hadn't met in my whole 7 months in Zagreb, for the first time this week! It was a huge success! Perseverance brings forth blessings We had two wonderful lessons with the one and the other one we're going to see next week. Also, J, another less-active member, agreed to let us start teaching her 10-year old son, T, the lessons. We had one great lesson with him and the family. It is pretty different teaching kids. And they came to church on Sunday! Wonderful, wonderful.
We need to get going, but thanks for your e-mail and that part from Elder Holland. It just resonated in me that it's true! There's a quote on our wall in our apartment from a talk of his that I really love called Cast Not Away Therefore Thy Confidence: “Don’t let your guard down. Don’t assume that a great revelation, some marvelous illuminating moment, or the opening of an inspired path is the end of it. Remember, it isn’t over until it’s over." http://speeches.byu.edu/?act=viewitem&id=795
I love you a lot and hope that you got home safely! Have a great week :)