June 15, 2015
Missionary work is honestly one of the least understandable things I have encountered in my life. Before coming on my mission, I kind of assumed there would be a formula for the course of things (i.e. you work hard, people become interested, and they progress towards baptism. If you increase the number of missionaries, your numbers should become adjusted likewise.) In all actuality, things do not go as the formula would suggest. The following are my thoughts and experiences of the last week:
Teaching our investigator D has been an example of the unpredictability of the work. As I wrote in an email some weeks ago, the first time I saw the kid, I decided immediately that there was not potential and that the lesson which we were going to have would turn out terribly. As it turned out though, he did have a sincere interest and the next couple of lessons went well.
The unexpected came this Friday and we went over to our MCL’s house to talk about our investigators. He told us that only one hour before us coming over, he had a call with the mother of D’s girlfriend, who explained that things were not going well at all. What he told us is that about a week ago, D moved into their house because he had nowhere else to live in Center Kiev. In the span of seven days the relationship between him and the parents grew from tense to overstrained. Apparently, he has been a lazy student in University by not going to his classes and also does not shower or clean his clothes. Even when he was asked by the mom to wash up, he still did not do what was needed.
In a short amount of time, any hopes that I had for the kid were dashed, and my image of him quickly returned to the young punk that was at first sight. The next day we held a lesson which again started out confirming everything that we had heard the day before. He had not fulfilled any of his assignments for reading and seemingly obtained nothing from our previous visits. During the lesson, I took a more of a hard stance and told him straight forward what we expected and what benefit it would be to him if he were to do what we ask him to do. Something along the way hit him, and he then recommitted himself to read and get back on track. The next day he showed up at church and to our surprise, had actually read what we asked and then some. In this roller coaster of changing views he keeps jumping between two extremes of very interested and not interested at all. I just wish he would pick a side so we know how to move forward.
Similarly, Elder J and I have been working very hard and have given out about 110 copies of the Book of Mormon and received many numbers. All at the same time though, those with whom we are working are either slow to progress or dropping off the map entirely. Another unexpected trend in missionary work is the comparison to missionary numbers with the rates of baptisms. I will focus on this from a worldwide scale first then break it down to a local one. Before the church lowered the age for missionary service, the number of active missionaries was around 58,000 and the number of convert baptisms 270,000 by the end of the year. At the end of 2013, the number of full time missionaries moved up to 83,000 which would make you expect for the number of convert baptisms to see a comparable increase. It is just logical. As it turned out though, the numbers only grew by 10,000 with a total of 280,000 closing out the year.
With the large swings of missionary numbers that has taken place in my mission over my time here, it has been interesting to see how missionaries-to-baptisms compares on a much smaller level. Since my time here, the numbers of missionaries started out around 120 and then spiked to 220 when the Donetsk mission was evacuated to us. Since that time, we have been gradually losing more and more missionaries, putting our current numbers at sixty. Interestingly, even though there were these wide swings, the amount of baptisms in our mission has stayed relatively level. The average over the last three years being around 110 with a standard deviation of 10. (I am guessing on those numbers from what I remember.)
Again, it is something where you would assume that if you increase the number of workers, then the number of output would increase as well. In practice, this just does not seem to be the case. These are just two examples and I could keep talking about this till the end of the day. I think my thoughts are presented though.
This week was more or less uneventful and just filled with a lot more of walking the streets.