This week has been a whole lot better. I realized that my training days are almost over and, due to the nature of my mission, trainer days are coming soon. 23rd of this month soon. So, I have been trying to get a mental map down of my area. Those of you who are close to me know that I am terrible with directions and maps and stuff like that. Spatial reasoning really isn’t my thing. I just hope that the Lord has mercy on my poor soul and makes that weakness of mine a much-needed strength.
Monday, I celebrated my birthday with Elder Carlson whose birthday was on the eleventh. We had cake and my package brownies at the Grafton residence. Our taco idea didn’t work out because we were too lazy to go to the supermarket. We also got our atm cards that p-day, so we went to the bank to activate them and withdraw. The main branch was far away, so we traveled quite a distance. We had a bit of a struggle activating the cards and only one of the atm’s was working, so we waited in line a lot.
Thursday was the next notable day. President and Sister Clawson came to our apartment to conduct inspections/interviews. We passed the inspections with flying colors and were awarded a microwave because of our diligence. Interviews were rough. Not that I am doing anything super bad, or that my mission president chastised me, but I opened my heart to President Clawson. I told him about the struggles of the past few weeks and really confided in him like I would to my own father. He comforted me and gave me some time-tried and inspiring advice. They took us to district meeting where I gave the spiritual thought (scriptural talk as it is referred to here). I focused on 2 Nephi 9: 43-45 that talks about being humble. I have been brought to the depths of humility, and I thought I would share some insight on what I learned. I also wanted the older missionaries to remember that no one is wiser than God, and that everyone can learn something from those around them, even greenies like myself. If they take that counsel into their hearts, the attitude of this mission will really improve.
We visited many of the people who have kind of dropped off our radar due to their lack of interest or our forgetfulness. In The Singles Ward, John, the main character and comedian, says that in comedy, there is always that one person who doesn’t smile. He said that he is the type to make them smile. In a gospel sense, so am I. I don’t give up on people. I don’t drop investigators. I work on someone until they understand what I am giving to them. When they understand, I leave them to their own devices to sort out whether they want to progress or not because I can’t take away their agency. I am trying to rip away the intense desire to see the end results of my work. I just get the ball rolling. The Spirit and their mind and heart get the ball to its destination.
One of our rides broke down this week. That’s not abnormal. In fact, that is the normal. At least one ride breaks down every week. Just thought you would like to know what it’s like living in Sierra Leone. Uncomfortable, inconvenient, but never, ever boring. I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.
Excerpts from other letters…
Being 19 doesn’t feel much different. I think birthdays stop getting exciting once you turn 18. I do feel a little more confident in my missionary efforts though! I don’t know if that is a function of my struggles the past couple weeks or literally turning 19; nonetheless, it is a welcome feeling.
I am doing pretty great now actually! Bringing souls salvation is really the greatest feeling in the world, at least as far as I am concerned. You feel legitimate joy every day you do it. I love being a missionary! I am being trained for another two weeks I think.
I was always told how high-baptizing West Africa is. I guess that expectation was a big factor in my struggles the past few weeks. My expectations broke down real well. What I have come to discover is that people have different walls. Westerners have a really thick and high outer wall that they put up so that you don’t even talk to them. But, if you do talk to them, it is relatively (I mean this in the most relative sense) easy to convert them. They’re in touch with emotions, so you can tap into that to convert them once you break down the outer wall. People here have almost no outer wall, so you can talk to pretty much anyone you meet and ask them to be baptized. But, their inner walls are almost impenetrably high and thick. I am struggling to convert these people. I get doors slammed in my face in a different way. Many missionaries here don’t realize that. They just baptize and move on to the next person. I need to help convert them before moving on. Sure, there are all kinds of baptisms here, but who is really converted? Not many at all. No matter how spiritual I am, there is always room for more spiritual power! I am working on that. One talk that has helped me is “But if not…” by Elder Dennis E. Simmons. I freaking love my mom for giving me that talk. I realized that I can put all my energy, effort, and desire into this work and nothing could come of it. I am trying to be okay with that. I will do all I can and have faith that these people will be converted but if not that is okay because I did all I can. I can’t override someone’s agency. They have to make that choice. They have to convert.
My district has four people in it, so we combine with a neighboring district to give us a whole nine people at meetings! We play football a lot with the branches. We do members versus missionaries. That’s about the only thing though. We are still trying to normalize everything and get a culture established, but there is a real culture clash with new missionaries and old missionaries from different missions with different cultures. It’s an identity crisis we are in the middle of. We’re still trying to figure out who we want to be. We’re like the teenager of missions. Change is like a funnel. You can put a million pounds of sand in a funnel, but only a set amount will come out the end at a time. I just have to be patient with myself.
I know how it feels to not know where anything is. My companion has this incredible ability to find where to go. I truly feel bad for whoever it is that I am training because we are going to do a lot of walking around feeling lost….
There is absolutely no talk about the Olympics whatsoever. The only thing people care about here is soccer. Good to hear that my home country is doing so well!
Sister Clawson is really a wonderful mission mom. She is all I could want in one. I am sure I will look back on my experiences so far and be thankful for what I went through, but not right now. I am getting there! I can’t be perfect all in one day. As long as I am trying, right? That’s all I have been doing. It gets a little hard sometimes. I shared with Pres Clawson in my interview that I felt like I am living that short story “The Race” where that kid falls several times in the race. I felt like I fell that third time and I really didn’t want to get back up. But, due to inspiring people in my life and the gospel materials I had with me, I did get back up. Really, Sis Clawson is right. You did a wonderful job teaching me. I only hope that one day I will be as good of a parent to my children as you are to me.
I take the probiotics when I eat solo, which is not very often (twice so far). They have helped. I am not even close to running out, so don’t worry about sending me more yet.
I am seriously so happy that you are going out with the missionaries! Their investigators can definitely use your testimony to help them. I thank you on behalf of the full-time missionary force for your dedication!