Siostra Chandler and I again wish to thank you for the continued love and support which you have shown your missionaries over the past week. By all accounts, the extra call home on Fridays has been a great blessing to them as they counsel with you. We trust that you feel the same way.
Shortly after I was called as a stake president, Elder Rasband, then a member of the Presidency of the Seventy, asked me during one Coordinating Council, "President Chandler, how will the Lord hasten His work in its time (D&C 88:73)?" In all honesty, I have no idea what I answered, though it must have been reasonable enough because he seemed pleased and moved on to the next knee-trembling, palm-sweating stake president praying silently that he wouldn't be called on!!
In the years that followed, I have pondered that question frequently and have seen many ways in which the Lord is indeed hastening His work. This hastening is increasingly evident in the on-line work which has been accomplished in Poland and throughout the world during these past few weeks of isolation. Tens of thousands of missionaries and even more members are flooding the earth with gospel messages. They/we are truly embracing Elder Bednar's apostolic invitation in 2014 to flood the earth through social media. At that time he stated, "I exhort you to seep the earth with messages filled with righteousness and truth—messages that are authentic, edifying, and praiseworthy—and literally to sweep the earth as with a flood."
Your sons and daughters are part of the great-COVID-19-missionary-centered-tsunami which is flooding the earth with messages of faith, hope, and love. Our missionaries here in Poland continue to recount story after story of people whose hearts have been softened and who are now prepared and receptive to our message. How grateful we are for their amazing efforts as they fulfil their missionary purpose of inviting others unto Christ, regardless of their circumstances.
One of our missionaries recently shared this insight and testimony regarding the hastening in what we now call our "Weekly Pearls of Great Price: Lessons learned from isolation":
“As we're teaching people strictly through the digital realm, I'm sometimes worried that the Spirit won't be felt because we're not together physically. But then I'm gently reminded that the Spirit has no bounds. It will work through whatever means we use. And that was really cool to me. But in thinking about that more, the Spirit really is boundless and we can't and shouldn't put that in a box of how, and in which ways, the Spirit can work. We're given these tools of technology and Facebook to do our missionary work. And as missionaries we teach by the Spirit. It doesn't matter if it's through a screen or in person, as long as we are sharing the Gospel and teaching by the Spirit, those we teach will feel the influence of the Holy Ghost. That's definitely something unique to this time of "coronavirus missionaries" is that we work solely through technology. I don't believe God would give us these tools and have us use them without the promise still intact of, "where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them." In this extremely technology driven era of missionary work, I feel that God is given us more of His Spirit and not less. He pours His Spirit out on us as we find, communicate with, and teach these people. It's just another way He shows us that He is very much involved in the details of His work. What a blessing to be part of this work, especially at a time like this when we can see the Lord's hand so abundantly and so often in His work.”
How grateful we are for these amazing missionaries which the Lord sent to our mission!
In light of increasing numbers of COVID-19 cases in Poland, the government this past week imposed additional restrictions. These include, but are not limited to:
2 meter minimum distance for all people in public areas
Parks, plazas, beaches, etc are closed
No one under age 18 allowed outside by themselves, must be accompanied by an adult
Number of people allowed in stores = 3 times the number of cash registers
10 AM - 12 noon: only seniors are allowed in grocery stores to shop
In addition, we have implemented the following additional measures as a mission:
No use of public transportation.
No in-home teaching visits. All teaching is to be done through technology. Missionaries may still perform acts of service such as delivering groceries but are not permitted to enter homes.
Missionaries may still enter the apartments of other missionaries, the mission office, or the mission home as appropriate.
Regarding daily activities, in addition to the mission plan which was sent to you in a previous email, we continue to make adjustments that lift, encourage, and promote sanity. Here are a few things we are doing or have added recently:
Daily devotionals: We are inviting guest speakers to participate. For example, next Tuesday I have invited a personal friend to participate: Art Finch, is one of the US Army's lead psychologists and a former bishop and high councilor. He will talk with us about dealing with stress during times of isolation.
A member of the area presidency will join our next mission-wide zone conference via Zoom on April 16th.
Zoom Exchanges: Normally exchanges occur in person over a 24 hour period. We have developed a training schedule for a two hour zoom exchange with the purpose to instruct, help, and spend time together lifting each other.
Zoom interviews with the Mission President. These will start next week.
Facebook Live language training with a native speaker. One of our members, Brother Pawlik, joined the Church when I was a young missionary in Łódź in 1990 and following his full-time mission he served for ten years as the first district president in Poland. Starting today he will be teaching a one-hour language lesson on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays through Facebook. Although this is an opportunity to improve language skills, more importantly it is an opportunity to bring the missionaries together and to lift their spirits.
Daily President and Siostra Chandler's Minute: Each morning we are posting a brief inspirational thought on our mission Facebook page as everyone begins their day.
I will end this update to you with one of our daily minutes which helps to capture this unique opportunity we are experiencing during which we can really look inside ourselves, dig deep spiritually, and grow in ways we never thought possible. How grateful we are for the privilege to serve with these amazing young men and women at this unique time in the history of the world. I am confident that we will emerge better, stronger, and with more confidence in who we are.
"Life is full of experiences that are wonderful and exciting; experiences which bring happiness, excitement, and joy. This is one of the reasons we came to earth. The Lord said, "and Men are that they might have joy" (2 Nephi 2:25). But it is impossible to know happiness and joy without knowing what it means to be sad, or fearful, or discouraged. There must be an opposition.
In order for a weightlifter to get stronger, he or she must lift increasing amounts of weight, pushing against more and more resistance. In a very real way, we must experience the resistance of increasing opposition and challenges in life in order to lift more spiritual weight. In so doing we become spiritually stronger and able to more easily handle the trials and challenges of life, like COVID-19. Lehi summarized it well when he taught his sons, "For it must needs be, that there is an opposition in ALL things" (2 Nephi 2:11).
My invitation to you is to embrace the challenging moments in life (and on your mission especially during COVID-19), knowing that they are helping you to lift increasing amounts of spiritual weight."
(Please see the attached picture which accompanied this daily minute).