Tuesday, July 14, 2015
Be Chill My Soul
I want to share some thoughts today about the true consequences of the full-time missionary work we do. The fact is, we have no idea what they are! Let me explain what I mean by that. On any given day, we may think that we are giving X number of discussions, jotting down X number of references, and inviting X number of people to church. And after the mission is over, we will have a neat list of X number of baptisms that were "ours" because we were there for them. All of these numbers are important and it's a handy way to try to measure and comprehend the results of our mission. However, I'm going to throw you all for a moment---I am the convert of a sister missionary, and I'm not anywhere on her list of baptisms. ("What?")
It's true! I met her in Mérida, Mexico. I talked to her for a total of 5 minutes, and I saw her a total of one (1) time in my life. She played a brief yet crucial role in my life story. While there had to have already been "fuel" for the fire, she was the spark. In a short conversation with her, I got excited about the possibilities of missionary service, and I felt that great spirit that full-time missionaries emit.
So maybe that day she turned in for the night and wrote down that she had 3 investigators in church, she taught 4 lessons, and she needed to buy some more oatmeal on p-day. She did not know she had just been a catalyst for my decision to serve a mission! And she still doesn't know that I came out here and only then began to have full confidence in my church! I don't even know her name!
I will give one more example. Further along in my curiosity to find out what "the mission" was all about, I found myself at the MTC to be trained up on what I would be doing. After my time there, I left with a group of missionaries for the airport by train. Our bus to the train station was late, and in my haste I got on a different part of the train than I should have, but I sighed and sat down anyway. A 20-something year old man sat across from me. He saw my shiny new name tag and asked me where I was going. "Resistencia, Argentina," I told him.
"That's where I served my mission," he told me.
We chatted for a while, and he told me about a province called Formosa. This is not very flattering to my geographical knowledge, but I'll admit I had not previously been aware that Formosa existed. He told me people are nice there. You don't have to exert yourself very much to get a discussion, because the people invite you in, he told me. I thought this sounded great. I was also tired and shy, so I didn't care much to keep talking. I ate a muffin. We got off the train. He wished me luck, and said "Resistencia is the best mission." I said "I know." I knew. I went on to the airport with my gaggle of missionaries.
A few days later I found out I was being sent to Formosa. Oh, good! I thought, thinking of sunny vacation spots and friendly community values. Not one week later, we were at the home of a member, Hermana Gonzales. She started telling me about the missionary who first introduced their family to the gospel, Elder Cifuentes from Chile. It took me about 15 seconds to find out that this was the man I'd met on the train just days before. The Gonzales family spoke (and still speaks) about Elder Cifuentes and his companion with much love, and they have an inexhaustible number of inspiring stories about those days. Hermana Gonzales would smile and look up at the sky and say "Tenía una fe incomparable". It soon became stuff of legend to me. Esoteric missionary legend...
I wanted to have that amount of faith. I wanted to have a contagious sublime joy to share with all who would listen, the way it sounded like Elder Cifuentes did. When Elder Cifuentes was serving in Formosa, do you think he knew then that he was going to make such an impact on my mission? I don't think so. I think he did it out of the natural desire to follow Christ and be genuinely good. And good is good. When you sincerely do a good thing according to God's will, it seems to shine through time and space to bless anyone else who is fortunate and receptive enough to find it. So, we are immediately aware of only a small slice of what we are doing. In missionary work and in most everything we do, there are more consequences radiating out from the moment itself.
I myself have been unaware of some of the physical consequences of what I've been doing, and my body has recently told me that it will tolerate no more. I have unresolved health issues which existed before I left, which I did not think would affect me the way they now do. My parents are going to feel strange receiving this email and posting it on my missionary blog, but the facts are the facts. Party's over...I have prayed and contemplated this at great length, and I am going home for maintenance.
I hope nobody feels anything unsavory upon reading this. I just wanted you all to know what was going on, dear family members and friends who read my emails. I continue to pray for you and be grateful for your prayers.
I came out here not exactly knowing why I was doing it. But I had faith, and goodness knows I had the intention of finding out what's what. It was March 30th--that exact day-- that I knew for sure that I'm not going anywhere; this gospel is where I now build my future. I don't know a lot of the specifics when it comes to what I'll be doing in the next few years, but I know for sure that I trust God, so I think everything will be just fine.