So here's the week I missed, in a nutshell:
I figured out that what it's taken for me in the past to feel like a successful missionary, is taking risks. Not like dumb and dangerous risks, but things that I know I should do that are just slightly out of my comfort zone. When I do those things, like trying potentials I'm not sure about, being bold with non-progressers, or tracting apartments after dark, I go home feeling like I did my darndest.
Some of my mission friends that have gone home send notes to the rest of us still laboring, and say things like "don't worry about rejection! this is the Lord's work!" or "it's gone way too fast, savor every day!" or "getting released is the worst thing ever!" it really helps me to get pumped all over again. Like the dead crying from the grave not to waste the days of your probation, a Scrooge and Marley deal.
A less active that I've visited just a few times, who said outright that he'd be fine to get a "passing grade" and inherit terrestrial glory (the bacca and the bottle are a hard thing to give up) told us he had promised the senior missionaries who visited that he'd come to church. Reason? They'd helped him provide Christmas for a needy family he wanted to help out. See that? A little love goes a long way.
We dropped an investigator that, while confessing that he never talks religion with anyone, is hermetic, and doesn't know what compelled him to ask us to return, also admitted that he hadn't prayed about the things we taught because he's comfortable with the non-religion-specific faith he has now, his passive faith of thanking God daily for his blessings and trying to treat others respectfully. You can't change the stubborn and comfortable. It was my companion's first drop experience and quite sad. But had to happen. The only good thing about having experience breaking up with people, is that you find out it's better to nip it right when you know things won't work out, instead of dragging out with a non-committer.
A less active gave us a bottle of ombre hair highlighting product she'd mixed and wasn't going to use after all. Sister Matealona and I spent an enjoyable evening ombre-ing our hair.
House used in filming "The Best of Me"
A woman opened her door and asked if we could come back another time, when her friend came to the door and asked us to pray for the woman because her husband had recently passed. We prayed right there and they were super impressed. When you pray 10+ times a day, I guess you get pretty good at it. The lady's neighbor, a sixty year old black man, didn't really want to listen to the message we shared, but did ask me to touch his grout-ed thumb so it would heal. Instead of explaining that I don't have the priesthood and also I'm not Jesus, I touched his thumb.
And here's this week!
We had a second lesson with an agnostic kid, my age, who's a total hipster. Plays guitar, has a beard, works in a coffee shop. Except he's also super quiet and soft spoken and not sure if there's a God. We thought to ask him last night, "have you any reason to believe there isn't a God?" and he admitted that he did not, and he'd never thought of it that way. But after wholly relying on the Spirit to know what questions to ask, we got him to give us answers more than one sentence long, and found out that he's just never felt like there was something greater outside himself, feels more comfortable placing his focus on things he can see, but if there is a God, he doesn't want to believe until he's felt it. We'd asked him to pray before, which he did, so we read to him Aaron's experience with the Lamanite king in the Book of Mormon, bore testimony that God hears prayers and answers with love, and he said "That's something I want to feel." So we committed him to pray again. Pour your heart out this time. Put yourself out there. Act in faith, and it will come. Sometime. I wish I knew when.
Same night, we visited Brother R, the nonmember husband that's stubborn as a tick. Last week he'd asked, "So what was it that ya'll used to teach in the 70's about us coming from the stars and returning to the stars when we die?" This week, I had the nerve to tell him not to believe everything your past preachers told you about Mormons because often other people will put us down or teach skewed things to make us look weird and make their teachings look better. Also, we stated that the teaching of the plan of salvation, as we explained it, has not been changed since the doctrine was first established in the early days of the church. Isn't it cool that we can say such things with complete confidence? In the restored church of Jesus Christ, some policies may have adapted over the years according to the Lord's word, but the doctrine has remained 100% unchanged. This same fellow, when asked, told us the reason he doesn't ever make commitments to pray about the things he's learned, or to come to church, or be baptized, is because he doesn't want to be pressured. So we asked, "Do you know why we come?" he first said "Because we feed you" but later said "Because it's your job. You're supposed to convert people." False. We don't get paid for this. We don't get points for every baptism or praise for higher numbers. In the words of Lehi, "I have none other object save it be the everlasting welfare of your souls." We're here because we love you, ya geezer. To seal our point, I said, "And we would still come even if there was no food."
To be 100% with ya'll, I would rather have a full schedule of splits with members of the ward, or better, referrals from them, than have meal appointments with them. I love the dinners they make us, they're wonderful and I'm grateful. But if the choice is feed the missionaries or go out with the missionaries, I would rather they choose the latter. Salvation first. Food second. People have a tendency to worry about whether the missionaries get fed, but not having dinner is not what stresses us out. Having investigators not progress, or recent converts go less active due to no fellowship within the ward is what stresses us out.
In other news, Mardi Gras is everywhere. Purple, green, and gold on everyone's door. Jester hats on the pelican statues in front of the businesses. Yesterday we left an appointment only to get stuck in post-parade traffic, which we wouldn't have known had just happened if it weren't for the fact that the streets were COVERED in beads. I made Sister Matealona get out and grab some off the sidewalk when we stopped at a red. Depicted below.
You know, you'd think I'd have learned after the whole relationship-before-mission thing that you're in for a world of hurt if you let yourself fall in love right before you leave a place. These two previously mentioned individuals are going to break my heart when I say goodbye. Love em and leave em. It's the worst.
8. And no one can assist in this work except he shall be humble and full of love , having faith, hope, and charity, being temperate in all things, whatsoever shall be entrusted to his care. [Doctrine and Covenants 12]
So really, you're supposed to love em like crazy. So much so that it hurts to leave. But I trust that they will not be forgotten. And lately the endtimes stress has been going down, as the Spirit has been whispering reassurances that the work I did here was not for nothing, that the unseen effects of my efforts are real and eternal. And that's a wonderful thing to feel.