James and Sara Perry are serving in the Virginia Richmond Mission as President and Mission Mom.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Rekindling the Inner Spirit

"In everyone's life, at some time, our inner fire goes out. It is then burst into flame by an encounter with another human being. We should all be thankful for those people who rekindle the inner spirit". Albert Schweitzer

As I write another mission update I realize we have had 100% turnover of our missionary compliment since our arrival in June of 2010. Hundreds have come and gone - how we miss them! Their replacements however, rekindle my inner spirit with their enthusiasm and determination to make a contribution during their tenure in the Virginia, Richmond mission.

The pace is relentless. Challenges are constant. The drama of living and breathing and co-existing continues to plague individuals and families, yet the blessings of the work and the goodness of many kind human beings overshadows the hardships and difficulties.

I’m grateful for the goodness of my fellow sojourners who make time to leave convenience and comfort to serve others. They rekindle my inner spirit. Additionally, we have met many good and caring people from a diversity of backgrounds and philosophies who are determined to build a better society; they too rekindle my inner spirit.

I love to witness the growth that comes from the conversion of selfishness to selflessness. I am not naïve to the reality that selfishness, cynicism and fear are on the rise but everyday we meet people who are the antidotes to the rising skepticism in society. These good people feed the hungry, clothe the naked and bring spiritual and emotional succor and relief to the suffering. They rekindle my inner spirit.

Injustice is a constant in every society and just when one group finds resolution and restitution for inequities, another emerges from the periphery in need of help. The sound of the injustice trump sounds louder and louder with every passing day.

Injustice and inequity are the hard realities in this life. Why some are born into the difficult circumstances of poverty, oppression, sickness (mental and physical), and abuse, will be debated by philosophers, theologians, politicians and lawyers long after I leave this mortal existence. Nevertheless, another reality is that no one gets a free pass from trials and tribulation.

I do know that all have equal access to Christ’s atoning sacrifice and as we accept His invitation into Discipleship we will find peace and perspective in our mortal journey. Proverbs 29:18 reminds us, “Where there is no vision the people perish”. Without vision and perspective, hope diminishes, allowing the not so, dynamic duo, of cynicism and sarcasm, to enter into our hearts. When this happens, selflessness gradually turns to selfishness and skepticism and distrust of others takes root.

Missionary work brings out the peacemaker in each of us. The voice of the peacemaker may appear to be getting drowned out by the escalating angry voices of the masses, but be assured; they are there and are making a difference. They don’t make the nightly news but they are ever present in society, quietly loving, comforting and encouraging while trying to bring aid to the temporal and spiritual needs of others.

Jesus taught, “Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God”. Peacemakers understand “A soft answer turneth away wrath but grievous words stir up anger” (Proverbs 15:1). Peacemakers understand forgiveness liberates individuals from the bondage of anger, resentment and oppression. Peacemakers may not start out as peacemakers but learn a great principle in the process of serving others; you learn to love those whom you serve.

Missionary work turns most individuals into peacemakers as they learn to serve others with different ethnic and cultural backgrounds from their own. This education is invaluable because they learn to love others for whom they are, independent of their political or philosophical differences. This is one of the reasons missionary work is so vitally important in the peacemaking process. The work of the peacemaker is still generally accomplished one person at a time. Missionaries are in the business to rekindle the inner spirit. The miracle of it all is that they rekindled their own inner spirit while doing the same for others.

Welcome to my personal, introspective, written therapy session. I hope as you read and observe you will discover I’m still an eternal optimist; I believe there are more peacemakers out there than angry people.

Now to the not so cerebral: Sara and family are well. Sara is doing well trying to help administer to the sick and afflicted, missionary compliment. She is also working to eradicate bed bugs in the Northeast. She also manages to find time for her many creative endeavors; too many to name in this blog edition. Suffice it to say she is busy and therefore, happy.

Christena, Tyler and family are working hard and are light years ahead of where I was as a parent. Their four children are doing well. Julia, their youngest, recently broke her leg but seems to be recovering quickly.

Esther received her Masters degree in “Counseling Psychology” this past weekend and we watched her walk thanks to a streaming internet connection set up by a stake president while attending his stake conference. She is working her internship at Sound Mental Health in Redmond, WA and is still teaching a church institute class in Seattle once a week.

Courtney graduated and has almost completed her teaching certificate and will be in Washington DC in the fall to begin an internship teaching art in inner city schools.

Richard is working hard on his bachelor’s degree in criminal justice. He is also working on his black belt in combat Hop Kee Do. We didn’t see this one coming; he was planning to be a music major.

Joseph has six months left on his two year mission to Norway and is currently on the west coast of Norway in beautiful Alesund. Google it, it’s breathtaking. He is learning his third dialect.

Eliza is keeping very busy this summer with a wilderness trek, girl’s camp, horseback riding and a trip with Emma to the Northwest at the end of July. Eliza is now playing the Ukulele in addition to the piano.

Emma has started a blog and is babysitting to earn spending money for her trip to Washington State. She is also horseback riding and is taller than Eliza for those who have not seen her in a couple of years. She has picked up the guitar in addition to the piano.

I’m doing well. I’m the non-fiction person in the family. Every family must have one to balance all the color and fiction, or is it the other way around.

I have two new assistants, Elders Rogers and Farr. They carry a heavy load and I’m grateful for their support. Sara and I have covered most of the geography of the mission now. We have been to beautiful Franklin, WV in the Shenandoah mountain range, through the inner city of Richmond and down through Newport News, and Virginia beach and to the beautiful sandy beaches of the outer banks of North Carolina.

I’m down one counselor and hope to rectify that shortly. Rodolfo (Tino) Hamblin was recently called into the recently reorganized Newport News stake presidency. He is sorely missed but will do great things.

We have had a big increase in our senior missionary compliment. We now enjoy the services of 34 senior missionaries that bring wisdom, hard work and support to five areas: office support, medical support, military relations, church education and member and leadership support. They are all remarkable in experience and dedication. Sara’s sister Diana and her husband Ralph will be joining us at the end of July. They will serve here as senior missionaries serving in downtown Richmond replacing the Meredith’s, who were recently called to preside over the California, San Francisco/Oakland Mission beginning next week.

It’s hot and muggy again but I don’t mind it at all, Virginia is beautiful at anytime of the year. Thanks to family and friends for your love, kindness and support. You have truly rekindled my inner spirit.