When Will Austin Be Home?

  • Austin left on his mission:
    4 years, 2 months, 1 day, 7 hours, 26 minutes, 4 seconds ago

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Overcoming Affliction

Elders Rushton and Kunz Study

Elder Rushton and Elder Kunz Studying

Not every one of my mass emails can be very deep or insightful, but every week I do seem to learn something new. They’re not always outwardly significant, but each one changes my entire outlook on life a little bit more. After enough of these small changes, I can hardly imagine living the way I used to. If there is one true fact about my mission, it is that I will never be the same because of it.

There was a quote my father sent me that guided me this week.

 “Those who have a ‘why’ to live can bear with almost any ‘how’.” -Viktor Frankl

Never have any words resounded within me like these have.

Over the past several months, I have experienced what I can only describe as the most difficult time of my entire life. I turned to the Book of Job in the Bible, because his situation with his “friends”felt peculiarly similar to my own. Chapter after grueling chapter, Job was rebuked by his peers for his self-righteousness and exhorted to repentance. His heart ached for them, because he had sought comfort and received chastening, but when he reproved his friends and asked bluntly for help, he received only further criticism. They could not convince him that he had sinned, and he could not gain any sense of comfort from them.

Finally, the turning point in the story comes from the youngest lad in the room, Elihu, who waited patiently in the background for his turn to speak. In fury and with the Lord’s power, he rebuked both sides, and reasoned with Job to help him see that he had, in fact, justified himself rather than God in disputing with his peers. And so what was the lesson Job had to learn? Exactly what Viktor Frankl so eloquently stated.

Job lost sight of the “why” of his existence, and in so doing, he could not bear the “how”; he chose to become miserable rather than rejoice because he forgot the love and glory of God.  This, to me, speaks a truth that I have been hard-pressed to internalize. As disciples of Jesus Christ, we are NEVER justified in committing sin regardless of our circumstances. We have covenanted to always remember Him. This means that when given a choice between temptation and affliction, we are expected to choose affliction rather than sin against God.

So that’s my lesson this week: when faced with the temptation to let our afflictions drive us to sin or be miserable, we must simply remember why we are living through them. Perhaps the Lord’s reply to Joseph Smith’s cry for deliverance in Liberty Jail is most exemplary in teaching us this principle:

7″ My son, peace be unto thy soul; thine adversity and thine afflictions shall be but a small moment;
8 And then, if thou endure it well, God shall exalt thee on high; thou shalt triumph over all thy foes.”(D&C 121:7-8)

When we keep the purposes of God in mind, there is no affliction too great, no pain too bitter, and no obstacle that is unable to be overcome. Consider, finally, the Savior of all mankind, who in Gethsemane suffered everypain imaginable, and yet did not faint or complain, but submitted to the will of God. This is the result we each must strive for.

The Sister Missionaries in our ward had a baptism this past week. It was great! That’s a great start to the year! In addition, we got a family to church whom I’ve been working with since I got here in early November.  It was so great to finally see them there, and they were well received by the ward. We’ve also been teaching the mother of the girl we baptized a couple weeks ago, so that’s been great. I’m so blessed to be working with so many great people in Eugene. I can’t really deny that I am being watched out for!

Thanks all for the letters, emails, support, and encouragement. It is all well-received and appreciated. I hope you all have a wonderful week!

Elder Rushton – Missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints

Baptism #2

Elder Austin Rushton and Elder Kunz

Elder Austin Rushton and Elder Kunz

That’s right! My second baptism! And we got it in just before Elder Kunz was transferred off to Medford.

When we taught this 17-year-old girl, I tell ya, it all just fell into place. She was so ready for the gospel! We have been teaching the rest
of her family more and more as a result, and they are all such great people. I’ve been very fortunate to meet this family and so many
wonderful people here!

There were a grand total of 69 people at the baptism as well. It was a great service, and one we slaved all week to make just right! It was
so worth it. I got to confirm her the next day in Sacrament, and it was so cool to do that for this girl. This girl who I taught from the beginning. This girl who is going to stay active all her life. This girl who still has so much life left to live, and will affect so many
others through living the gospel. It is such a blessing.

And it doesn’t have to end yet! I’ll be staying in SC6 for at least another transfer, so I’ll get to help integrate her into the ward more fully too!

So everyone, my new companion will be Elder Georgia, and get this: he was my replacement in my last area, Brookings. He and I will have so
many stories to swap! It’s great!

We are also going to be helping someone this week attend the church’s addiction recovery course. He’s determined to quit smoking cold turkey
come March 21st, so that should be an adventure. Definitely it should be a life skill for me to learn to deal with this.

Well everybody, it’s a pleasure to be on a mission. It can be miserable, but in the rearview it’s great, and it has its moments for
sure. Definitely these are times to never be forgotten!

Elder Rushton – Missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints

General Authorities Enjoy Meetings…….

Austin Rushton and Elder Kunz Giant Pancake

Austin and Elder Kunz enjoy a light breakfast

So this past week was pretty standard schpiel until about Thursday. We finally contacted a referral we got two months ago! And had a lesson and it was great! Now whoever teaches this guy gets to deal with the drama of a divorce (it’s not fun for anyone). It might be me, but I also might get transferred next week. We’ll see what happens!

Friday we had a meeting with Elder Donald R. Clark of the First Quorum of Seventy. It was just us and two other zones plus the mission leadership. And it was FOUR HOURS LONG!!! That’s a long time to sit. It was pretty good, but also pretty standard stuff for the mission. Love the people, talk to everyone, thank your bishops, buy your wives flowers, so on and so forth…After it was over, we spent the next five hours thoroughly cleaning the stake center for stake conference the next day (hence why Elder Clark was in town).

Of course, then Stake conference was two hours Saturday night, and four hours the next morning. So yes, ten hours of meetings this week. It was exhausting.

There were a few highlights that stood out to me though.

1: The new stake president’s philosophy on missionary work. “I believe everyone at some point in their life questions their relationship to deity. I just try to be there.”

2: Elder Clark asked everyone in the audience who had a relative who was a nonmember or less-active member to stand. After everyone stood, he asked, “What would you give to have that person accept the gospel?” and followed up with, “Take care of His, and He’ll take care of yours.”

3: Elder Clark asked everyone in the audience to stand who had a missionary out or was about to send one. He then asked, “How many lessons per week would you like your son/daughter to teach?” Then he asked a panel of our own missionaries how many per week they were teaching (obviously it was underwhelming). Again, “Take care of His and He’ll take care of yours.”

It was a really great stake conference, and very inspiring.

Austin and Elder Kunz finish breakfast

They ate the whole thing!!

We also found out that one of our investigators almost died on Valentine’s Day! He caught viral/bacterial pneumonia and got up to a fever of 104.5 before they got him to the hospital! That near death experience, however, has caused him to want to quit smoking, so yay for that! We’ll be walking him through the church’s addiction recovery program over the next few weeks.

So overall, it was a good week. And to top it all off, our baptism is happening at the end of this week!

One last thing I want do before I close this email is thank everyone who has shown me so much love and support over the past couple weeks. It has been shocking to me how many close friends and family I have who have a history of or with depression. Thank you all so much for your letters, emails, and encouragement. Your prayers are heard and answered, I promise you that. I pray for all of you as well, and am grateful for the many wonderful people my Heavenly Father has placed in my life.

Elder Rushton – Missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Living Day to Day

Austin on Christmas morning 2013

Austin Christmas Morning 2013

We are locked in for a baptism on March 8th at 3:00. We have the program pretty much set in stone. Not only that, but I’ve been chosen to confer the Gift of the Holy Ghost: the baptism of fire. It is an honor to be given the opportunity to baptize in the mode Jesus Christ himself brought to the earth. Truly, these are days never to be forgotten.

iPads also have been rolling out in our mission. I have one, my companion has one, and now the rest of the mission is getting their own as well. It’s a great new tool to have!

One last thing I’ll talk about. I had a revelation this week while meeting with some members about missionary work. Our mission has, for a long time, been asking every member to pray for and seek missionary opportunities. It’s been great, and so many people have been searching! But they have searched, and searched, and searched until they have begun to be a little impatient. Where are their promised missionary experiences? Then it hit me in the form of a Mormon message called “Flakes of Gold”.
“Oh there’s gold alright, you just have to know where to find it.”
Never at any time had I seen the path so clearly. The point our members are missing is that every opportunity is a missionary opportunity. Every moment of every day we are affecting the very balance of the universe! Every moment of every day we must seek to live and proclaim through our words, thoughts, and actions the Gospel of Jesus Christ. If we’re looking for missionary opportunities, we need not look any farther than the moment we live in!

So that’s my revelation this week. I hope you’ll all live the gospel more regularly as a result! I promise if you do you’ll make the world a better place!
Love you all,
Elder Rushton

Baptism #2

Elder Austin Rushton at desk

Elder Austin Rushton praying? Or overcome with fatigue?

That’s right, we got someone on date to be baptized for March 8th! Her name is Elizabeth, and she’s totally converted, has had all the lessons, and has a blazing testimony. She’s 17, but her parents have given their consent, and she’s a really amazing individual. What’s more, I might possibly end up performing one of the ordinances, so we’ll see what happens.

In talking with the Stake Patriarch here, I gained some great insight on baptism. He talked about the difference between converting someone and baptizing someone. I can confidently say that even though I haven’t baptized many, those I baptize I know are going to stay baptized. The goal really has never been simply “to baptize”, but to bring souls unto Christ; to help them become His converted disciples who will remain worthy and enjoy the presence of the Holy Ghost. Carl, in Brookings, was one of these. So is Elizabeth. It’s a great feeling to have that reassurance.

So I have news, and I’m really not afraid to say it so I’m going to. I have been diagnosed with Depression. Now, I know the reaction of those who don’t understand it, “Everyone has depression,” but just because a lot of people have it does not make it any less serious. Anyone who has experienced it in their own life or who has watched someone else have to cope with it knows exactly what I’m talking about. Honestly, for many years, I’ve been in denial of it. Now, however, having acknowledged it, it’s become a great strength to me.

For those of you who have never experienced severe depression, I’ll describe it to you. It makes you feel alone and worthless. It leaves you with a longing to escape, only to realize that there is no escape. Sometimes, it makes you think death is the only escape, and so you want to die. Then, if you have a concept of Heaven and Hell, you start to feel like death would only prolong the pain and suffering, that there is no Heaven for you, and you are tempted to feel enmity toward God for ever having created you. It is a painful, dark process, and when you’re in the thick of it, you start to wonder if it will ever leave. The worst part about it, perhaps, is that it disrupts communication between your heart and mind (which makes you question your own sanity), between you and other people, and between yourself and God. You feel as though you have been left alone to experience a sort of living hell.

Now, having said this, it is not impossible to overcome it, even if feel no one understands you or helps you, even if you don’t feel you understand yourself. I don’t think I need to say much more about this, though, because Elder Holland put it most perfectly in his last conference talk, “Like a Broken Vessel.”

The reason I bring this up is because I want to testify of the strengths one can gain through depression, and maybe to help anyone else who may be experiencing the same to take some comfort. I am a firm believer that God has given me this trial for a blessing, and it’s easy for me to see how and why it has been such a blessing. It has shaped me as a person, and without it, I could not be who I am. It has made me more compassionate to those around me who suffer for whatever reason, no matter how small, because I myself suffer sorrow at the height of my progress. It has made me reevaluate my life time and again, always remembering to hold fast to the gospel with renewed vigor. It has kept me from many temptations. It has also allowed me to have compassion on those who have fallen into sadness because of temptation.

Now, on my mission, I’ve used the trial to strengthen my testimony. I even use it to testify sometimes. People’s hearts soften at its mention, and suddenly they realize that I do know what I’m saying. It’s resulted time and again in me helping others feel the Spirit, and I know that Depression is one of the greatest blessings I’ve ever been given.

This all being said, let me return to my week. We found a new investigator this past week in a mansion. He’s the first one who’s let us in in weeks. It was kind of a funny story. We came to the lesson, sat down, and asked if he had anything he particularly wanted us to focus on. So what was the first thing he asked about? The Book of Mormon. Perfect! So we’ll see how that turns out for us.

Love you all. Remember, there is always hope, no matter how bad things may seem.

Elder Rushton