Bonsai Bonanza 🌳, Elder Winegar

Wednesday, May 3, 2023

Though you are afar off, know that you are continually near to my heart. I pray for you and I feel the strength of your prayers on my behalf, for which I am ever grateful. 

A few experiences I will share with you. 

The majority of my time this week was spent assisting a Nigerian family move their entire apartment before the landlord's deadline without the help of the patriarch of the home, who was recovering from a hospital visit that left him completely bedridden. After two two-hour visits, we quickly realized that there was far too much work for us to handle alone. On Sunday, the last day before their deadline, we spoke with Brother Saffer, our ward mission leader, and implored him to reach out to the brethren of the Elders Quorum to join us in serving this family. Within twenty minutes, he himself and five other stalwart, willing Elders had volunteered to help.

As we went to serve alongside these men of God, the results were nothing short of miraculous. Within the short time we were there we completely cleared out three full bedrooms, two bathrooms, the kitchen, dining room, living room, and backyard. As we labored these lyrics penetrated my mind: "Like a mighty army moves the Church of God" (Hymn 246). 

To imagine the situation from this family's perspective was insightful. In an hour of desperate need, suddenly two young men in white shirts knock on your door and tell you they are sent from God to lift the downtrodden. As you tell them your situation, they promise to help you move and then promptly return with a multitude of mighty men, who proceed to whisk away your woes before your very eyes. 

It makes sense then that this family came to refer to us as "their angels." They exclaimed, "We can do all things with God! We can do all things with our Elders!" As a parting gift, Omo, the woman who owned the home, offered me a nick nack she had pulled from the piles of curiosities being moved. It was a small plaque that stated, "God will provide." Awfully fitting I thought. I testify that just as God sent us as ministering angels for this family, He will send each of us heavenly helpers in our times of need and send us on His behalf to those who are struggling.

In antithesis to this miracle, the balance of the week was full of rejection. We spoke with so many, yet found so few who would hear. We invited multiple individuals to access God's cleansing and strengthening power through baptism, but all declined. It seemed as though, "the billowing surge conspired against [us]" (D&C 122:7). 

One lead that we reluctantly followed, was a member of the church who exhorted us, nay pleaded with us to attend a Bonsai Tree convention in an effort to find those prepared to hear Christ's message. She claimed it was inspired. Whether in faith or to preserve her feelings, we left our second hour meetings on Sunday to attend the last moments of this convention. Astonishingly, we did not find anyone to teach. However, we did receive a thorough lecture on proper care and training for Bonsai trees by a very flamboyant man named David and enjoyed the serene beauty of these meticulously shaped trees.

Here's what I learned. In order to be shaped into the beautiful work of art that it is intended to become, a bonsai tree will be required to endure endless pruning, the exposure of its roots, and forced contortion by suffocating wires. But through it all, it becomes a resplendent creation that fills all who behold it with awe.

We, like bonsai trees, at certain times in our lives may feel the sting of constant pruning. We may feel exposed to an endless barrage of this world's disparaging elements. And perhaps worst of all, we may on occasion feel trapped in the deformational wires of circumstances totally out of our control. In times like these we may lament as did Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, "There is no gardener for men." 

When these feelings come, I exhort, nay plead, that we listen carefully for the voice of God who will say patiently and tenderly, "I am the gardener here, and I know what I want you to be." He will tell us that through all this pain and inopportunity He is making us into resplendent beings full of love, joy, purity, holiness, light, grace, and truth. He will say, 
"the trying of your faith worketh patience…let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing." (James 4:3-4). May we then have meekness strong enough to reply, "Thank you, Mr. Gardener, for cutting me down, for loving me enough to hurt me" (Hugh B. Brown, 1973). 

Remember my week full of rejection? Because I knew I was a Son of God and a servant of Christ, I had faith that they had not abandoned me! Instead of resisting the Gardener's vision, I choose to grow into the challenging position He put me in. I continued to work hard instead becoming discouraged. Because I did so, I learned patience, humility, and optimism that I could not have learned any other way. I now understand for myself what Peter meant when He described, "the trial of your faith, being much more precious than…gold"
(1 Peter 1:7).

I testify and promise with all my heart that what God has in store for us is so much better than what we have in store for ourselves. I pray that you will trust His plan for you, even when it is uncomfortable and that you will never forget that He loves you with a perfect love, even when He allows you to go through hard things. 

With all my love,

Elder Winegar


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