Good afternoon brothers and sisters. For those of you who don’t know me or have moved in the past year might not know me; I’ve been away at school, but I still visited from time to time. My name is Blake Ellis. I’ve been called to serve in the Philippines, Bacolod Mission and I report September 19. I know that my talk is way before I leave, with how the September meeting schedule is, this is the date that was available for me to speak, so I’ll take what I can get.
I can’t tell you how excited I am to go and serve in the Philippines. I’ve had my mission call since May 2, so that already 4 months, and I still have a bit of time, and I’m just eager to go. Because of amazing technology these days I’ve been able to add my mission president on Facebook. He posts about 20 pictures each day from activities and things from the previous day. From what he’s posted I’ve found that I get to have an amazing apartment with state of the art amenities such as a toilet, shower, propane griddle, a fridge, and even my very own laundry room in the back yard which consists of a large spicket of water and big round bucket. For some insane reason that I can’t explain, I’m looking forward to every moment.
The topic I was given to speak about is faith. But for the given setting I’ll speak about faith and missions. I’ve found out as i’ve been preparing that I’m going to need an intense amount of faith. I’ve had the luxury of one of my best friends being called to the same mission and he’s currently in the MTC. He writes to me in a letter I received a few weeks ago and it says, “I’m not going to beat around the bush, the language is hard; but don’t focus on it too much. If you focus on the gospel and work on the first, the language will come.” The language we are learning in the MTC has two names, Hiligaynon or Illango. Hopefully I’m pronouncing them correctly now, unlike when totally butchered it when I announced my call back in May. A lot of people ask if it’s close to Tagolog at all, and from the comparisons that I can see, there are some similarities, but not much. With a language that I know absolutely nothing about, something that is completely different from languages that we learn here in high school, it’s going to take a great deal of faith and trust in my Heavenly Father to learn this language. But I know that if I put forth my effort in learning it and sincerely try my hardest, the Lord will do his part.
I think that Nephi teaches his brothers a great message and a message that we can all learn from; In 1 Nephi 7:12 we read, “ Yea, and how is it that ye have forgotten that the Lord is able to do all things according to his will, for that the children of men, if it so be that they exercise faith in him? Wherefore, let us be faithful to him.” I love this scripture because it teaches a great lesson that I think a lot of us either overlook or don’t express enough faith. The Lord can do all things, as long as it is according to his will. Don’t expect constant miracles, but the Lord wants to give you the desires of you heart as long as it’s within reason, a righteous desire, and according to his will.
I want to share a personal story with you here and it’s a huge reason of why I’m standing here today, ready, willing, and excited to serve. It’s also the reason why I chose to attend Utah State University for furthering my education. Most of you know about the EFY program and honestly I think it’s one of the best programs that the church has ever sponsored. August 10, 2010 is the day that I found out for myself that the church was true. I’ve grown up in the church and I’ve never really doubted it, but on this day, I just had the truth of it revealed unto me. Every morning at EFY you do personal gospel study and this was honestly my least favorite time of the day. I was usually more interested in talk to girls, looking forward to dances, or doing some of the other fun activities, but today was different. For some reason I actually decided to sit and put everything else behind me and out of the way. I wish I kept a journal at the time, I’m sure if I look in my closet somewhere and I’d find where I wrote this down, but I’m not sure where I was reading at the time. All I know is that I was reading and all of a sudden it hit me. And it hit hard. It’s hard to describe the feeling, but it’s just like, I knew that this church was true. This morning would set up one of the best days I’ve ever had in my entire life. Nothing in the day went wrong at all. And I’ve never felt the spirit so strong in my entire life up to this point. During the day we did classes and things and I actually enjoyed them, I was more participative, and it was such a great experience for me. That night when we returned back to our rooms each guy in my group pledged to serve a mission to each other. There is something about making a commitment out loud to others and yourself that really makes an impact. For me, I don’t want to let them down. I don’t want to let the Lord down, and I don’t want to let myself down. Out of the 12 guys in our group. I think there are 3 left to turn in papers.
A mission is not required by the Lord to return back to his presence. It’s not required to enter into his holy temples. It’s not required for anything really. But for me, it’s a requirement, to myself. I figure I owe something to the Lord for all the great blessings he’s given me in my life. And in return the only thing I will get is more blessings. So in the end the Lord still comes out on top, so it’s totally unfair because I will never be able to catch up, but I’m not going to complain. I know that it’s what I need to be doing at this time in my life, I know that my family will be blessed and I know that there are certain people in the Philippines searching for the truth. There is someone just sitting there, waiting for the gospel to be brought to them. And I can’t even describe how much this summer I’ve just wanted to leave already.
In Preach My Gospel under the “What is My Purpose as a Missionary” section it says, “ You are surrounded by people. You pass them on the street, visit them in their homes, and travel among them. All of them are children of God, your brothers and sisters. God loves them just as He loves you. Many of these people are searching for the purpose in life. They are concerned for their families. They need the sense of belonging that comes from the knowledge that they are children of God, members of His eternal family. They want to feel secure in a world of changing values. They want, “ peace in this world, and eternal life in the world to come”, but they are “kept from the truth because they know not where to find it.” What a great purpose to do this great work. Preach my Gospel also says, “Satan is attacking the family on many fronts, and too many families are being destroyed by his efforts... Families torn by discord can be healed through repentance, forgiveness, and faith int he power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ.” The biggest thing missionaries teach is the Plan of Salvation. It’s the reason we go out and do what we do. We bring families back to fold and return to our Heavenly Father for eternity.
Since I haven’t gone on a mission, I haven’t fully experienced how to have faith in the Lord as much as I’m going to need to, but this is what I think. To go into a foreign country I know little about, do what they do, eat what they eat, sleep how they sleep, live where they live, speak a language I don’t even know how to pronounce correctly, work in the blazing hot sun for 2 years straight, leave behind my family, friends, job, car, school, and luxuries that we have here in the United States, and go and be a Filipino for 2 years, I think that takes a tremendous amount of faith. But I honestly wouldn’t have it any other way.
I went on a camping trip with my 3 friends and I. On the camping trip we each promised we’d go on missions. I’m proud to follow in their footsteps. All through my life I’ve had great examples to look up to. I currently have 4 of my close friends serving the Lord all over the world. It’s amazing to hear stories and experiences they are having and it’s making me want to serve more and more each and every time I hear their stories. I miss my friends a lot, but I know that they are doing what is needed to be done.
I do have a message for the people that are pondering serving a mission, whether it be male or female. Don’t let someone decide for you. You need to decide for yourself. Read your scriptures, pray, and find out for yourself. If you’re not worthy, get worthy, and then stay worthy. Always hold a current temple recommend if possible. I can remember a time when I was a young kid, probably the age of 10 and I was like, wow my mission is so far away. I never thought that they day would actually come. Well, it’s here and I honestly can’t believe it.
I’m so grateful for the example of my dad. For the past year or 2 he brings up how his mission is the reason why he is the way he is today. He told me one time that everything good in his life can somehow trace back to his mission. My dad and I have found that we have a lot of common things in both of our missions, such as living conditions, food, fruit, and the way of life in the country. So i’m excited to experience at least some of the things that he did on his mission.
I’m thankful for all my leaders in the young mens program for all the help, guidance, and direction they gave to me. If thankful for all my coaches here, and for them making me realize that if I put forth the effort and dedication, anything can be achieved. I learned many life lessons playing sports and a lot of great memories that I will never forget. They taught me hard work and to never give up, even when things get tough. You keep on pushing.
I know what I’m doing is the right thing to do. I’m so grateful for this gospel. I don’t know where I’d be without it. I can’t wait to serve the Filipino people.