July 27, 2015
(Depending on my schedule next week, I plan on writing another email. I just don’t know if I will be able to as of yet.)
Serving here in Odessa has brought some interesting lessons to learn.
I have been able to develop a new view about the importance of attitude and missionary work, specifically with regard to contacting. While I was serving in Svytoshinsky, there was one companionship in my zone which I observed for a while. One of the elders set a goal to give out three copies of the Book of Mormon every single day and the other elder was fine with that. He had an attitude that he was not going to do anything to prevent the first from doing it, but he was not necessarily going to go out of his way to support him toward that goal. They struggled a lot to find people who would want to take the book, and very frequently came home at the end of the day without giving out any.
I was on an exchange with the elder who had set the goal in the first place and we were talking about it. We decided as we were talking about our plans for the next day that we would give out six copies and receive just as many numbers from people. When we set out to work the following morning, both of us were pretty focused on our goal. We put forth work that represented our desires well, and by the end of the day I think we had given out seven books and received five phone numbers. The people walking the streets were the same. The things we said did not change. We just were both focused and confident that the desired result would be achieved, and it was.
What I realized looking back on the day, is that not being opposed to someone doing a good thing does not make you a supporter by default. Even though one of them was focused on the goal and the other was not, even though he did not give resistance, it was still not enough for the first to reach the goal. You cannot just sit idle on the sidelines and expect that you’re still a part of the effort.
This has been a bit of a challenge which I have faced this last week. The area which I came to in Odessa has really been struggling for the past while. We were able to teach only one lesson this week, and the rest of the time was spent contacting, except for a day where we went to do service. The companion that I had really does not like contacting and frequently would lose his drive to do it, leaving me to approach people. I am not trying to say that he is a bad missionary. Far from it actually, which I will explain in the next section.
Getting people to talk to us this week has been very difficult. The moments when we were working together brought many more good conversations than those moments where one of us would talk to people while the other would be dragged along. My companion has been saying that it is just because this is a difficult area. Personally I don’t think that is true. The attitude is not in the people living here, but in the missionary. If you think that you will not have success, your effort and demeanor will reflect that, and the results will as well. To be successful, you need both people to have the right attitude. When one person is willing to pull and the other isn’t, no work will get done. I think this is an important principle to apply to anything when working in groups, whether it be marriage, teams or whatever.
Now my companion. Serving with him has actually been very enjoyable. Stressful at times, but overall good. To understand him and his ways, you really just need to understand his background.
He is a convert to the church from Ukraine and has lived a bit of a wild life. Between fourteen and twenty years old he was a part of a “football firm” in Billa Tserkva which is a group of people who follows the progress of a specific soccer team. Different firms will plan on showing up at gatherings where they will fight each other with bricks, bats, fists and whatever they can find. The goal is not to kill anyone but to beat the heck out of other people and gain respect for your own group.
To compare these guys to gangs is not the right attitude. They do however get very violent. He told me one story of a friend of his whom during a fight, beat up another person really bad. It turned out that this person’s father was some well-known bandit. The next day they picked up my comp’s friend and took him out into the forest forty kilometers away from the city. There they beat him up very bad and pulled out his teeth with pliers leaving him to walk back alone. My comp was not involved in this culture up to this point, but he still had heavy ties to these kinds of people.
After serving in the army, he gave up the fighting life style and went to party instead. All the time meeting different people with like minds and living life hard. With time, he started dating a member of the church who convinced him to start meeting with missionaries. He was baptized, and after two and a half years, left to serve a mission. There are still a lot of things with regard to rules that he could do better. A part of me has wanted to rip my hair out in some moments, but I just have to remember where he has come from and the progress he has made. It is very inspiring to me to see in what ways he had changed and I honestly consider myself very lucky to serve with him.
Overall, Odessa has been all right. Anyone with whom I developed a friendship from two years ago has either moved or disappeared entirely, so it has more or less been a siteseeing trip for me. Now begins the last eight days of my mission.
In closing, I do have one request. I noticed on my blog that I have 425 followers. Honestly, I cannot think of where so many people would get my info. I am curious to know how many do actually read these letters. If you do would you mind sending an email to the following address?
You don’t have to say anything. The sentence, “I read your emails.” is more than enough.
I also want to give appreciation to my Aunt Carol for taking the time to manage the blog in the first place. It is quite cool of her.
Anyway, I hope to write one more next week.