January 21, 2014
Some people may be wondering why this email is going out a day later than usual. The reason is because President K decided to hold our zone conference yesterday, pushing my P-day to Tuesday instead. Thus, I now sit at a computer in this internet club, surrounded by Ukrainian youth swearing at one another while they play Call of Duty. And it is a Tuesday.
This last week has had a much different tone from that which came before. D’s baptism made the previous week relatively busy and stressful, with the challenge of sorting through his doctrinal misunderstandings and consistent tardiness to meetings. Whereas, this week became mellow as we went from one to zero investigators. As such, our efforts have been directed to finding a new person to teach. Our finding methods have been varied. We devoted last Tuesday to contacting. This did not give us any new investigators, but there was a good feeling by the end of the day that only comes from enduring hard work. Along with more contacting, we also met with members to build relationships between them and the missionaries.
The T’s were one of the families which we met with. They have four children all below the age of seven, so when we arrived on Friday night, there was a bit of tension in the air. The mom, L, was having a noticeable rough time getting the kids under control. The dad, K, worked to help L finish up some work so that we could sit and talk. They managed to get all of the kids around the kitchen table to listen to us, but the peace only lasted for ten seconds before they started moving again. In forty five minutes, we were only able to tell them ten percent of what we had planned. L then had to leave, so she took her daughter and new born with her, leaving K and the two boys with us.
With so much time spent there already and so little of the lesson taught, I decided to go a different direction. The kitchen was messy so Elder B and I summed up the rest of the lesson in a couple sentences and then offered to clean it for L. K just looked at us for a second and then said, “Let’s do it.” We went to work doing the dishes, wiping counters and putting away toys.
When the kitchen was finished, K asked if we could help him hang up some wall paper in a room that he was renovating. They ordered large prints of New York City which they were going to plaster on the wall of this room. He wanted to get the job done before L returned so we stayed and helped. In about an hour we only had two of the four sections up and it was getting late, so we had to leave. But he was very appreciative of our help and L came up to us in church on Sunday with gratitude. It was an unexpected experience which allowed us to build a much better relationship with the family, rather than just talking and sharing a spiritual thought.
Zone Conference was a great experience. The Area President and his wife came to do a mission tour, and as such, directed most of the meeting. President L gave an interesting talk about the importance of member missionary work. He started off by telling the story from Russell Cornwell’s “Acers of Diamonds” lecture. It goes that as diamonds were being discovered in Africa, and African farmer sought after them and sold off his property to go looking. He searched his whole life, but did not find a single one and eventually took his own life. The person to whom he sold his farm, however, found an odd looking rock on the property one day while working in the field. He placed it on the mantel above his fireplace and after some time, a friend of his noticed it to be the biggest diamond the person had ever seen. The farmer then began excavation of his property which eventually led to it becoming one of the largest diamond mines in history.
This story is supposedly a true one. I have not been able to find whether or not it is, but the message holds the same weight either way. He told us to not go out searching for people through contacting and tracting when the main field is right in our back yard, the members. More traditional forms of missionary work are not pulling the same results which they did twenty years ago. Tracting and contacting typically bring more investigators, but the majority of actual baptisms come from those people found through people in the church. President L talked about the different ways that we can work with members. He focused on building relationships with them which are meaningful, and ultimately bring tears when someone is transferred out of an area. This was a very nice conference to listen to and I was able to learn a lot.
Hopefully by the end of this next week I will be able to find someone new to teach. Who knows, maybe it will even be through a member.