Monday, March 7, 2016

SRS, just another acronym, or is it?

As we serve on our mission, many people ask us what Self-Reliance Service (SRS) missionaries do and what is the Self-Reliance thing all about.  Of course we can talk on and on with our thoughts about this and the joy we have being involved with this great work. This morning I had the opportunity to speak in a devotional to the employees and missionaries in the Area Office.  I shared with them the following:

I would like to explain why it is so important to become self-reliant.  In Handbook 2, section 6.1.1 it says:

Self-reliance is the ability, commitment, and effort to provide the spiritual and temporal necessities of life for self and family. As members become self-reliant, they are also better able to serve and care for others.
These are inspired words that were in the Handbook of the Church before the Self-Reliance initiative as we know it began.  I believe the purpose is clearly stated in the last sentence of the first paragraph where it says "As members become self-reliant, they are also better able to serve and care for others."
In 2012, President Monson assigned President Eyring to initiate a study of how the Perpetual Education Fund should expand to meet the needs of the Church.  In the years that followed, President Eyring has had a significant impact on this initiative. I just want to share two comments that I heard about that have helped shape my thinking:

  • President Eyring shared some concern about the words "self-reliance" because he never wanted the members of the Church to feel that they do not need to rely on the Lord.   Someone that is truly self-reliant learns to rely on the Lord.
  • Once President Eyring was asked about the concept of identifying how many members needed self-reliance help in the Church.  He stated that he really would like to know how many members of the Church were "helping" others.
I have pondered these concepts many times, but this past Sunday as I was pondering and praying about what I would share this morning, I once again felt the importance of emphasizing the purpose of self-reliance, in its role of enabling our members to help others, not only temporally, but more importantly spiritually. So the process must include temporal and spiritual together.  If not, we are only helping people to get more money and too often that will divert their attention from the Lord to material things.

1. Temporal Self-Reliance helps us to develop personal resources, talents and time, all the things that we should be consecrating to the kingdom of God.  Our purpose must be to help others as stated in Jacob 2:18-19:

'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."

2. Spiritual Self-Reliance - Trust in the Lord, become clean, receive promptings and then hearken to the Holy Ghost.  We then should do as God directs as noted in revelation to William McLellin in D&C 66:3-5:

"Verily I say unto you, my servant William, that you are clean, but not all; repent, therefore, of those things which are not pleasing in my sight, saith the Lord, for the Lord will show them unto you. Andrew, verily,  I, the Lord will show unto you what I will concerning you, or what is my will concerning you.  Behold, verily I say unto you, that it is my will that you should proclaim my gospel from land to land, and from city to city . . ."  

The Lord will show us our sins and also will show us His will concerning us.  Hence, the goal is on again to learn to understand His voice and to follow it.

I believe this was exemplified with a few examples from our recent visit to Cape Verde.  
  • We met a young man who was off of his mission for more than 4 months and unemployed.  A few days later, he was asked by the stake president to be the stake self-reliance specialist.  He mentioned that he was unemployed.  The stake president promised him that if he would accept the calling he would find work.  That was on Wednesday, on Thursday he received a job offer.  On Sunday he told us all about it, with a large smile on his face.  He also was already working hard in his new role and he will bless the lives of many.
  • That same Sunday, we once again met a wonderful lady who is a hair dresser.  We had first met her last August as she was facilitating a Self-Reliance Group of Starting and Growing My Own Business.  She was an amazing facilitator.  On Sunday she was beaming as she saw her third group receive their graduation certificates.  In this group there were five non members also participating and graduating.  She has now spent 9 months in a row facilitating these groups and blessing the lives of so many.
These two are examples of how we are to become self-reliant so that we can help others to be self-reliant.  To me it exemplifies the process that is clearly stated in Moses 7:18 which states:

"And the Lord called his people Zion, because they were of one heart and one mind, and dwell in righteousness; and there was no poor among them."

This great work is about helping to build Zion. As we help each other in this process, we become of "one heart and one mind" and we eliminate poverty and dwell in righteousness by including our focus on spiritual self-reliance.

Let me include the parable of the cows:

The son of the vice chair of the Self-Reliance Committee decided to invest his life savings into raising cows.  It became a family business that brought him joy and satisfaction.  The cows grazed on a hillside near the city.  What happened next is best described by the actual text messages between the son and the father:

Son: Sorry for calling you earlier. I went to the west pasture to get the cows and they were all gone and it was pure panic. I knelt and said a prayer out loud and then started running. They ended up being all the way by the apartments miles away. 

A few other texts . . . then . . .

Dad: how many cows do you have? After you prayed and started running, how did you know what direction to go?

Son: 90 cows and I literally looked up in a direction and started running.
The true spiritual self-reliance question is:  When the cows are gone, what will you do?

When you hear that your child has a health issue? When your marriage is not working? When you lose your job? When you're living all the commandments and life is not going the way you think it should?

Do you instinctively turn toe the Lord? In troubled times, in good times, in free times, in humble times.

Will we prepare and serve as directed by our Heavenly Father, to be instruments in his hand?

Back to our week, 

We spent the first two days of last week in Portugal.  The first was with our Operations Team on Monday, planning our April  PEF Loan Seminar.  Then on Tuesday we spent the day with Antonio Paulo, our SRS manager in Portugal and two wonderful missionary couples, Elder and Sister Anderton and Neiswender.  Each of these groups are very capable and very kind to be around.  They edify us and strengthen us.  The weather was delightful and everything went as well as it possibly could.

On Wednesday we returned home to Frankfurt after being gone two weeks.  It was good to be home.  As we went to the office, we were met by a special birthday message and photos to me from the senior missionaries.  The following greetings were on the front door of the Area Office, the door on our floor and the door of our office.  They wanted me to feel appreciated, even though we were gone on my birthday.  Very kind and wonderful people!  We were also greeted with our first letters from our grandchildren.  Also a package that arrived for Sister Rueckert, her very own copy of a hiccopotamus book that she fell in love with.

On Thursday morning, we had our monthly Area Self-Reliance Committee meeting, which is chaired by Elder Dyches, of the Europe Area Presidency. The primary focus of the meting was to focus on Cape Verde, including the new Jobs Initiative.  The PSD department was able to get one of the films completed to share with the Committee.  It was the film of Jessyka and it was well received.  

The rest of the week we were able to get caught up in the office, including backed up emails, etc.  On Saturday, we went to visit the Chinese Gardens that have been built in the city of Frankfurt. In 1990,  a Chinese garden, "the Garden of Heavenly Peace" was created in the memory of the victims of the Tiananmen Square massacre.  Even though it is a bit cold still in Frankfurt, we were able to enjoy the visit.  We will probably return when the weather is better and the greenery is flourishing more.

Sunday we once again had a great fast and testimony meeting in our ward.  We attend the Frankfurt 2nd Ward, which is an international ward, English based.  The members are from all over Europe, they speak many different languages.  English becomes the common bond for each of them for worship.  We are inspired by their strength and testimony.  It certainly strengthens us as we participate with them.

German specialty of the week:

We went shopping yesterday and I was once again reminded of the unique (to me) way they take care of shopping carts.  When you arrive at a store, all shopping carts appear to be locked up.  However, you can release a shopping cart by putting a coin into the shopping cart.  Then when you lock it back up, you get your coin back.  A good way to encourage people to return their carts to the right place.

                                               I found my own shopping cart coin, that works just like a coin