Hello everyone! Yesterday, we received what are known as "T-Texts", or "transfer texts". These are text messages that are sent to every phone in the mission, listing every missionary who will be transferred to a new area. It is a heart-stopping experience to finally get that T-Text for the missionaries in your zone (general area), and to quickly scan over the list of names to see if you have been voted off the island. Or given the axe. Or are found "the weakest link". I could go on, but I think you get the idea of how it feels.
For those who do find their names on the list, they know only two things: they are leaving to a new area, and everyone else listed is also leaving to a new area. Nobody knows for sure where they are going until our transfer meeting on Thursday, but speculation begins as to where they could go. What an exciting time- it means much more to you as a missionary, that's for sure. I found out that I will be staying in the Weston 1st Ward, and Elder Yurevich will be transferred away. No good guess on who my next companion will be.
At the beginning of my mission, I felt strongly that trying to guess where other missionaries could be going was a waste of time and energy. It's funny how much we can change; in a little over a year, I am a completely different missionary from what I started out as.
Also, the things that I once thought were important, or effective for missionary work, have largely gone out the window. What I see myself doing with my time ha changed dramatically. It seems to always go back to the saying, "Work smarter, not harder." I realize, however, that the only way I could learn to work smarter was by working hard. The smarter paths would then materialize after I had pounded out the hard work. I have also found that it takes less out of me to work smarter first, and the reward is greater.
Let me give you an example, and this will give you a better idea of the decisions that missionaries in our mission make every day. Tracting door to door for four hours straight might be a great missionary activity; we would talk to many people, and we don't have to over think it because we know exactly what our objective is, and so do the people that answer the door. While this approach doesn't take very much brain power to plan out, the mental drain of having hundreds of people reject you one after the other certainly does challenge your brain. After doing this for hours, missionaries are proclaiming how happy the gospel makes them... through gritted teeth, while massaging bruised door-knocking knuckles.
Instead of tracting, let's say the missionary used two of those hours to instead look for service opportunities in the community they live in, asked around for different activities going on, and brainstormed what things they could do to connect with the people. For the next two hours, they set up different service opportunities and activities that they could participate in for the upcoming weeks, and asked members if they would also like to be involved.
The difficult part of this? Many people won't understand why you chose to use your four hours this way. Some people will judge you as being lazy, looking for ways to get out of working hard. This comes from members/missionaries/onlookers that believe missionaries should be knocking doors all day long, and that's what makes them a good missionary. The only problem with this is that I want to be a great missionary.
In the past weeks, my companion and I have volunteered to rake leaves for an elderly lady, help out at a community farm, participate at a charity soccer tournament, and shelve food at a food pantry for the needy. The outcome of each? The woman we raked leaves for wrote a full page letter to the elderly services department (which they forwarded to us), and the entire thing was about how grateful she was that they sent (quote)"the most polite and courteous young people I have met in a long time". Phrases from the letter included many comments on our church, how we "did the entire yard completely, and I mean all of it. I do not believe that there is a single leaf left", we "were very pleasant to work with", and she said "When we finished they wanted to know if we had anything else for them to do, as this is their mission in life, for two years, to help people and do things for anyone who needs help." We never approached this wonderful woman saying we were missionaries- we simply came to serve, and answered her many questions.
Serving at the farm was a similar experience. Oh the happiness it brings to tell people that I am from Arizona, will be living in Massachusetts for two years, am not working or attending college, and am doing it to serve others for two years! It is much more fun letting other people ask what in the world you are doing, than to tell everyone right off the bat. Eventually my companion will simply explain that we are missionaries for our church, and the questions keep coming after that. We have talked to probably 20 different people that had never met Mormon missionaries, an opportunity you just can't get tracting door to door, hour after hour.
It doesn't stop there. At the farm, we meet two high school seniors who are also volunteering. We chat and shovel compost together for about an hour, and they mention to us that they would be holding a charity soccer tournament that Saturday, and the money raised would go to food pantries in the area. Seeing that it was a 4 vs. 4 tournament, we decided to accept their invitation and make a team. Elder Yurevich and I went on exchanges for that day, and I went with another missionary who enjoys soccer, along with a member of our ward who brought his nonmember friend. That event was great- those high school students in charge of it were very pleased to see us, we made a great impression with all of their friends, and we were able to talk with the nonmember guy who played on our team. I don't think a "good missionary" would have liked the idea of us participating in such an activity, but that is the risk you take in doing things that really are beneficial, instead of only looking beneficial. Not saying that tracting isnt' great, but there is a time and a place for everything.
Our service at the food pantry has been the same experience as with working at the farm. I love my mission because I decided to go out on a limb and try to give serving and living with the people a shot, instead of "working hard" and trying to convince myself that tracting for four straight hours was fun. I would rather do something that puts me in a position to show how much fun living the gospel can be, and lifting the community I live in. I believe in the phrase "moderation in all things", and it is interesting how that seems to be the battle we have within ourselves throughout our lives: how we can be happy without overdoing something.
I love the gospel of Jesus Christ. I love how spiritual truths beat scientific truths any day, and how hearkening unto the counsel of God will bring us farther than the wisdom of men. I believe that Joseph Smith was a true prophet. I believe that we are each put into positions in life to see if we can learn what God wants us to learn. I love people more and more the longer I am on my mission, and I know that when we are in the service of our fellow beings, we really are in the service of our God. Stay strong!
P.S. Elder L. Tom Perry visited us on Sunday at church! He talked about how we need to live up to the oath and covenant of the priesthood, and remind others of this oath and covenant. This is in Doctrine and Covenants 84:33-42.