In 1973 Elder Hugh B. Brown, a member of the quorum of the 12 apostles told a very poignant parable, he says, "I was raised on a fruit farm in Salt Lake before we went to Canada, and I knew what ought to happen to that currant bush. So I got some pruning shears and went after it, and I cut it down, and pruned it, and clipped it back until there was nothing left but a little clump of stumps. It was just coming daylight, and I thought I saw on top of each of these little stumps what appeared to be a tear, and I thought the currant bush was crying. I was kind of simpleminded (and I haven’t entirely gotten over it), and I looked at it, and smiled, and said, “What are you crying about?” You know, I thought I heard that currant bush talk. And I thought I heard it say this: “How could you do this to me? I was making such wonderful growth. I was almost as big as the shade tree and the fruit tree that are inside the fence, and now you have cut me down. Every plant in the garden will look down on me, because I didn’t make what I should have made. How could you do this to me? I thought you were the gardener here.” That’s what I thought I heard the currant bush say, and I thought it so much that I answered. I said, “Look, little currant bush, I am the gardener here, and I know what I want you to be. I didn’t intend you to be a fruit tree or a shade tree. I want you to be a currant bush, and some day, little currant bush, when you are laden with fruit, you are going to say, ‘Thank you, Mr. Gardener, for loving me enough to cut me down, for caring enough about me to hurt me. Thank you, Mr. Gardener.’”"
He goes on to tell about how later in his life he was next in line to become a General in the Canadian army, but was declined the opportunity because he was a Mormon.
He writes "When I got to my tent, I was so bitter that I threw my cap and my saddle brown belt on the cot. I clinched my fists and I shook them at heaven. I said, “How could you do this to me, God? I have done everything I could do to measure up. There is nothing that I could have done—that I should have done—that I haven’t done. How could you do this to me?” I was as bitter as gall.
And then I heard a voice, and I recognized the tone of this voice. It was my own voice, and the voice said, “I am the gardener here. I know what I want you to do.” The bitterness went out of my soul, and I fell on my knees by the cot to ask forgiveness for my ungratefulness and my bitterness."
A few months ago, when I was going through a hard time in Montufar, my dad sent me a copy of this article. I found that I was able to relate myself significantly with the poor little currant bush, who had been doing so well, and who had grown so high and so tall only to be cut down by the gardener, humbled by the master.
This past week had a similar theme. I felt like I was flying so high, and doing so well last week in Montufar, I had an incredible comp, incredible investigators and was into a nice groove as Financial Secretary of the Mision Sur. And then...in one day my whole world changed.
Change is something necessary for all of us, and sometimes it's pretty hard to do.
But, as the hymn says, we must all press on.
My new Area: I'm here in El Tesoro II, Zone 2 of Mixco, it's not actually that big of an area...but the good thing is that there are quite a few houses and a good number of helpful members. We live on the second floor our ward mission leader's house in the entrance of a gated community. What really surprises me about this area is how SAFE it is. We live right across the street from a gigantic mall, Eskala, which has inside of it one of three Walmart locations in all of this country.
So, it's nice.
We, Elder Argueta and I, got here on Tuesday afternoon, dropped all of our suitcases off and started exploring the area. We share our ward with two sister missionaries, Sister Saldaña (from Peru) and Sister Valdiviar (from Utah). It's a fairly large ward of about 160 active members and a chapel that is going through some remodeling. We spent the day getting to know a few families and the Bishop.
And then the next morning we woke up....not exactly sure of what to do. My agenda was completely empty, I had no idea where to go or who to visit...I only knew that we should probably walk around knocking on doors until we found something.
After a few hours we talked with a family in the street (they rejected us) but we saw in the window above their heads a man leaning out and listening to us from the 2nd floor. I greeted him from below and asked if he wanted to listen to our message, and he said that he would be coming down in just a moment.
Elder Argueta and I looked at each other, surprised, both under the impression that we had just witnessed a miracle. The man came down and we began to talk: "I've already read your book," he started.
"What book....The Book of Mormon?" I responded.
"Yup...and let me tell you all of the things that are wrong about it!" And from there on out we spent a good 15 minutes trying to get away from this guy, who turned out to be the pastor of an Evangelical church...and the author of a popular Ant-Mormon book.
"Sometimes, it's hard being a missionary," as quoted Elder Holland, "because in that moment I wanted to turn around, grab that little man and shout EXCUSE ME! ....but I couldn't."
So we were 0 for 2 and at half time....and things just started going downhill from there. It kept feeling like every time I tried to do something good, two more Hydra-Heads would come out and bite me back...until things came to a head on Sunday.
I woke up that morning really, very, sick. I'm not sure what I ate on Saturday, but it was really not sitting well in my stomach. We went to the church, but I kept having to slip out the back door and to the bathroom. I felt defeated, tired, lonely and finished.
We had worked our tails off the whole week, but to little to no avail...how was I supposed to show a good example to my new missionary companion when things were so rough?
We came home after church and I collapsed on my bed for a half hour until we were going to go out and visit some more.
And then came the rain.
I sat down, cross-legged on the floor of my entryway and asked my Heavenly Father, "How could you do this to me? I was doing so well! I was growing and learning! I thought I was working so hard! Why is it that every time that I try to what is right things keep getting worse?"
Then I heard a voice, it was my father's voice, and it said "I am the gardener here, and I know what I want you to be. I didn’t intend you to be a fruit tree or a shade tree. I want you to be a currant bush, and some day, little currant bush, when you are laden with fruit, you are going to say, ‘Thank you, Mr. Gardener, for loving me enough to cut me down, for caring enough about me to hurt me. Thank you, Mr. Gardener."
Braving the rain and the unfavorable conditions we went out to work again.
And we found a family, the Geronimos, a mother, father and three children.
And they all want to be baptized.
Things are rough at the beginning, but if we put our trust in God and keep moving forward...everything works out.That's my testimony.