Monday, September 26, 2016

Crime-Scene Tape & a Veil of Forgetfulness

My dear family (both legally related and unofficially adopted, I seriously just love you all to death),

A few weeks ago, Sister Botchway and I saw a dead body in the streets of Baltimore. Not quite what you were expecting? Not what we were expecting either. His eyes were still wide with adrenaline, limbs frozen in a running form. The tendons in his neck were still straining as if to look behind him as he stared blankly into the evening sky. He was resting in a puddle. It hadn't rained that day.

We were shocked.

Who wouldn't be? This young man, this child of God, had seen a sharp end to a short life. A  police officer stood a short distance away, jaded. He poured his strained weariness into a cold plastic walkie-talkie instead of into a rescue effort. As far as he could tell, the young man was gone. No pulse. As far as the world is concerned, this young man only exists as a memory, a gruesome statistic, and as a cold corpse lying in a dark grave. They've forgotten the hope that we all once knew.

In the face of yellow crime-scene tape and a veil of forgetfulness, I have no right to remain silent. God's plan for His children does not end with a bullet to the back, nor does it end with an insidious cancer or heart failure or a grizzly bear attack or a still-birth.

Our Heavenly Father's plan for us doesn't end in death!

When we got home that night, my mind was called to deep reflection on the constitution of my life. What have I been doing? Why have I been doing it? If I died today, what would be left behind? A gargantuan pile of unsorted school papers? No. There has to be more to Naomi Rapier than that.

I've been pondering on what I want to leave behind in the world when I die, and more recently, I've been pondering on what legacy I want to leave in my stead as a returned missionary.

I can't think of a better legacy to leave than happiness. I'm happy! I'm happy, and I want the people around me to be happy always, not because there aren't challenges, but because they know who they are and what they stand for. I have never been happier than I am when I'm helping other people to develop their happiness in this lasting way, which I've had numerous opportunities to do while serving as a missionary.

When people understand why they are on this earth, where they came from, where they're going, and what to do along the way, they're happy. Working diligently to fulfill a righteously purpose that you have confidence in makes you happy! This is the trend I've seen.

The reason I mention the dead body in the streets of Baltimore is because it reminded me of my purpose. I'm here on earth to learn! I'm here to grow, and to love people, to help them grow, and to be happy. That's what Heavenly Father wants for us, because we are His children. If you want to know more about your purpose on earth, check this out:

What can I say right now? My emotions are running high and my time as a consecrated missionary with a tag is running out. Tomorrow, I'll have been in the mission field for nine months. Due to an unsolved health problem involving shakiness and fatigue that prevent me from doing my work as a missionary, I'll be returning from my mission this week, right after my half-way mark.
Saying goodbye to Sister Carpenter
Even though I'm coming home, but I've discovered that I like writing! The adventures never end! I may keep up these blog posts. I won't be offended if you ask me to take you off my list. (:

Signing off as a missionary with a tag, and love you always,

Sister Naomi Lydia Rapier (:

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Oh, to Forgive and be Free

Dear Family,

There is such a peace in moving forward, as Elder Robert Gay has said, in the Lord's way.

For as long as I've been able to understand the world, I have sought to forgive my father, who seemed to act in a way that hurt me at every turn. He died a little over a year ago, and the weight of the burden I've carried with me these many years has become apparent.

I've struggled with it.

Yesterday, Brian, a recent convert of the BYSA Elders, was in considerable distress. He was experiencing serious doubts and fears. His faith was struggling. As I heard his words of pain and confusion, my heart felt drawn out of me to comfort him. I testified concerning the mercy of our Savior - how he's always there for us.

As I begged him to give himself a chance to grow before giving up on himself, the words came from my lips seemingly of their own accord. I told of my struggle to forgive my Daddy and of the empowering effect of Christ's mercy in helping me to do so. I found myself telling him that after all of these years, I had finally been able to forgive my father. I was surprised by these words, but searched myself and found them to be true.

Oh, to be free of this burden after so long and to feel my full love for my Daddy - unblemished by my ugly grudge! I feel as if I could fly.

I exhorted Brian to please not give up on himself and to trust that he will someday recognize all the growth he's already made. He truly can do it, if he only puts his mind to it and believes.

Oh, to be free. What a wonderful gift.

Sending all of my love and a joyous declaration of our Savior's love,

Sister Naomi Rapier

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

"What's Different About Your Church?"

Dear People Who I Love,

I love public transportation. I meet some of my favorite people through public transportation!

We taught a man named JT this week. He's from Winchester! We walked by him sitting in his car on the way back to the bus stop from an appointment that fell through, and then had to turn around and go back to the house because I accidentally left my water bottle there. As we passed his car, he stuck his head out and asked, hey, are you Mormons? We said yes. He said, where are you going? I (rather sheepishly) explained that we were going back for my erstwhile forgotten hydration canister (not in those words, I'm paraphrasing pedantically, potentially purposefully). He asked what was different about our church and what he would gain from being a member. He explained that he was already Christian; so what makes the difference?

I love it when those words come out of someone's mouth.

We began discussing how God is his loving Heavenly Father, and how He wants for JT to be happy. JT agreed, sharing with us his strong belief that God does look out for him. He said that right now, he's desperately in need of money to support his little family. He asked how we would advise him on this matter according to our system of beliefs. I almost started crying. Such a tender and genuine love I saw reflected in his face as he spoke of his wife and little boy. We opened up the scriptures with him, but then I couldn't remember where I was when I read the answer to his question. So I closed my scriptures and paraphrased for him the words of the prophet Jacob found in The Book of Mormon:

"Think of your brethren like unto yourselves, and be familiar with all and free with your substance, that they may be rich like unto you.

"But before ye seek for riches, seek ye for the kingdom of God.

"And after ye have obtained a hope in Christ ye shall obtain riches, if ye seek them; and ye will seek them for the intent to do good—to clothe the naked, and to feed the hungry, and to liberate the captive, and administer relief to the sick and the afflicted."

Jacob 2:18-19 (   (I found it after the fact)

We talked with him about how having a living prophet on the earth today with the priesthood authority to act in God's name and to guide God's people enables us to more fully seek the kingdom of God, because modern revelation from God allows us continued insight on how to build God's kingdom despite the challenges of today's world. We testified that as long as he put God and his family first, God would always provide a way through things. We also invited him to find out for himself by reading The Book of Mormon.

I love pleasant people!! We asked if he'd like to have missionaries came see him and his family, and it turns out that he wasn't particularly interested in exploring another faith tradition, he was just curious to hear our take on things. He thanked us for stopping to talk to him and told us to be safe. It made our day. (:

Sister Botchway is awesome!!!!! She has been so kind as I've been sick the past few days and not able to do much.
Thanks so much to everyone who has written me letters and emails! I'm not super great at responding all the time. Just know that you make my week all the brighter (:

Love always,

Sister Naomi Rapier