Seriously, I’ve run out of witty ways to begin an email. It’s missionary brain. You’re so used to trying to teach simply that sometimes your sense of humor just dies on you and you’re left standing on the sidewalk trying to figure out where you left your sarcasm. I’m blaming the four straight days of 105 degree weather. :)
It’s pretty incredible to see how much you change over the course of your mission, and how many habits you either get rid of, or pick up. I noticed this week when we did a mini-exchange that I’ve picked up a lot of habits, especially from Sister Finau, Sister Dame, and Sister Flake. Sister Bishop was trying to talk to me from the other room, and before I even thought about it, I walked out to make sure she could read my lips. Nevermind that Sister Bishop is totally hearing. :) Then, while we were at dinner with Hattie, someone handed me a bowl of ice cream and I took it like I would if I were in the Korean branch – two hands, head slightly bowed in thanks. Elder Lee, who served with a Korean missionary before he came to Mission Hills, just started laughing hysterically, and I had no idea why until he pointed it out. And then you take what Sister Finau rubbed off on me, on how to get people’s attention when they’re not listening. Instead of saying, ‘hey!’ she always says “e’o!” Strange the things you pick up.
Our laugh for the week was when we stopped to grab a drink while we were out from Jamba Juice as a treat for surviving the hot weather. We were waiting for Sister Flake’s smoothie when one of the workers called the name “Jesus” (pronounced ‘hay-zeus’) We were looking around, and couldn’t find a) anyone Hispanic to have the name Jesus or b) a male of any sort. This poor girl was trying to figure out who it was for, and finally called out, “Jesus!” It took us a few minutes to realize that whoever had taken the order had just put it under “Jesus Christ” instead of “Sister Flake” (handy having a tag they can read). I just about died laughing when I figured it out. At least they understood who we were, if not our names! It actually reminded me of how as missionaries, it’s not our name on the badge that matters at all. It’s the name of Jesus Christ that matters. We have His name, we represent Him as we serve His children here on earth. It’s a special time that we get to share our name and His on a badge. It reminded me, too, of Elder Neil L. Anderson’s General Conference address from April 2013, when he said, “We are witnessing the miracles of the Lord as His gospel is spreading across the world. Brothers and sisters, as surely as the Lord has inspired more missionaries to serve, He is also awakening the minds and opening the hearts of more good and honest people to receive His missionaries. You already know them or will know them. They are in your family and live in your neighborhood. They walk past you on the street, sit by you in school, and connect with you online. You too are an important part of this unfolding miracle.If you’re not a full-time missionary with a missionary badge pinned on your coat, now is the time to paint one on your heart—painted, as Paul said, “not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God” (2 Corinthians 3:3). And returned missionaries, find your old missionary tag. Don’t wear it, but put it where you can see it. The Lord needs you now more than ever to be an instrument in His hands. All of us have a contribution to make to this miracle.”
It’s a huge blessing each day – and a joy – to pin that black badge above my heart, with my name right beside the name of our Savior. It’s an honor to be able to go out and share the words that He needs shared – words of comfort, love, and of guidance, and of the news of the restored Gospel, and that the Lord truly does have a unique and individual plan for each of His children.
But I’ll be honest. Some days we face rejection in the form of people who decide it would be better to be rude and mean than to politely tell us they were uninterested. Slamming doors are not uncommon for any missionary, no matter where it is that they are serving. We had an experience this week that has kept me thinking about how missionaries measure themselves, and how the Lord measures them. We gone to contact an old potential, and while talking with her, she told us that while she wasn’t interested at the time, she thought that her neighbor, Alice, might appreciate us stopping by. She told us how she had lost both her husband, and more recently, her youngest son, and had been struggling the past few weeks. She wasn’t home at that time, so we planned to go back and try to visit her another day.
We finally got the chance to stop by when she was home. Coincidentally, as we walked up, she was bringing her trash bins inside. I offered to help, and introduced myself. What happened next took me by surprise. I had simply offered to help her, no questions or commitments necessary, and she turned about and began to rail at me about why what we were wrong, why what we were doing was useless, how our time could be better spent. I’ve never seen so much anger in a stranger. I told her, calling her by her name, to have a good evening as she walked away from us. She turned around and yelled at us, “who told you my name?” I politely told her that her neighbor up the street had thought she might be interested, and she simply yelled, “Well, I have news for you! You can tell her she was very, very wrong.”
At that point, I had no idea how this woman had gotten so angry and upset in the span of a minute and a half, and just started back to the car. Poor Sister Flake had no idea what had just happened, as she couldn’t see anyone’s lips, and the light was too dim. All she had heard was indistinguishable yelling. All she had seen was her companion offer to help, and the woman become angry and mean. It was hard to explain why this woman was so angry at our offer to help, as I myself don’t entirely comprehend it. I’ve had several days to think it over, and realized that despite almost a year of wearing this tag, a year of talking to people about the Gospel, my memories of rejection are much dimmer than the memories of joy and success.
There’s this idea that in order to be a successful missionary, you have to baptize weekly, you need to have 20 lessons a week, you need to talk to hundreds of people a month. It can be pretty detrimental to your self-esteem. But then I realized, success isn’t determined by your numbers. I see a lesson or a conversation with a stranger as being successful if they felt the spirit, if they were able to know that someone loved them and cared about them. You’re successful if you worked hard, if you’re exhausted by day’s end, and if you’ve been obedient to the Lord, the Spirit, and to the guidelines of missionary work. I love the quote by Tad R. Callister, “For a consecrated missionary there is nothing more to give at the end of the day. He has put it all on the altar of sacrifice… They are missionaries who carry no white flags… when consecrated missionaries are exhausted and nothing is left, they rely upon their faith, and the reserve tanks of energy somehow carry them through the day. They too become recipient of the promise to Joseph Smith: ‘In temporal labors, though shalt not have strength for this is not thy calling.” But then the promise: “Thou shall devote all thy service in Zion; an in this, thou shalt have strength” (D&C 24:7-9).”
A successful missionary works with people, not numbers. A successful missionary works their hardest, reserving nothing. I know that I’m successful when I’m working hard, being obedient, and loving the people. I’m so thankful to have the opportunity to serve, to be obedient, and to be an instrument in the hands of the Lord.
On Thursday we had a chance to go out and do splits with some of the Relief Society sisters to visit less-active members. I got the chance to go visit two sisters with Sister Ryane, our Relief Society president. We had a really cool opportunity to visit with a sister who was less-active simply because she had moved and had no idea which ward to attend (she’s Spanish speaking). She was so excited to see us, and her girls were so curious as to who we were. They were really pleased that we stopped by, and it was a real blessing to bring the spirit into their home. They have two beautiful little girls who are so ready to attend Primary with the other children in the ward.
I also had the chance to do a mini-exchange with Sister Goettsche to blitz our area. It’s hard lately to find people, because everyone is on vacation. It was cool to work with Sister Goettsche and to see how she works, how she talks with people. And it’s good to just catch up with her. We served together in Canoga Park, and get along really well. I’m so glad she was called as a sister training leader, she’s been such a blessing to all of us sisters here in the Granada Hills zone.
We are working to set up a family history open house in November for the stake as a finding activity. I’m really excited about it, especially because we are determined to make it as high-tech and innovative as possible, and we are planning on involving the youth in helping us to run it. Any ideas are totally welcome!
Hopefully this week was a lot less hot for ya’ll than it was here. Love you!
Picture 1 – Christmas in July!
Christmas in July
Picture 2 – Dr. Suess Apples from a member.
Picture 3 – True story, Panda Express.
Panda Express message