Monday, August 10, 2015

A Little Spice

Well I was reading a copy of the blessing I received when I was set apart as a missionary and it gave me some advice about writing emails home. It said to write home about your successes, your struggles and your testimony. I realized that I write a lot about successes and my testimony but I don't usually write about my struggles... because I don't want to get depressed and I don't want to make all you guys depressed. But I think it's good advice because, what's a mission without a little struggle? What's life without some sweat and tears? This email is suppose to bring a little spice to our sometimes overly sweet view of the "perfect missionary experience." Too much spice in food makes it too strong and inedible. But just the right amount of spice makes food delicious. This has been the case for my mission.

High expectations are placed on missionaries. Before I came out I had high expectations for myself. I knew that this short period of two years would go by quickly (which it has!) and I wanted to make sure that I didn't waste a moment of it. I wanted to baptize many. This alone probably sounds great. I had the attitude a new missionary should have. But as I started my missionary service I found myself very very stressed all the time. I wanted to go go go. I wanted to spend every minute out talking to people. However at the beginning of my mission, my companions were a little less anxious about the work. At the time this was extremely frustrating. I didn't want to waste my time! I had many "more than mild" conversations with my companions about more effective use of time, better weekly planning, talking to more people, and teaching with more power. 

After several difficult companionships, and in the middle of another I sat at my desk frustrated. As I prayed for help I had something come to me which I consider revelation. It changed me, which had a powerful effect on my future companionships. I realized that there are many different aspects to missionary work. And I put them in priority order as to what makes a missionary most effective: 

  1. Personal Testimony. A missionary won't do anything if he doesn't have a testimony 
  2. Companionship. The Lord does missionary work with two missionaries. He only works with them if their is unity.
  3. Obedience. Obedience is key to having the spirit. Depending on the situation obedience can be put above companionship. If it is the case of serious disobedience. However in my case I mostly dealt with minor disobedience. It is more effective to have a powerful unified companionship that is striving for obedience than to have a companionship that is torn down by constant nitpicking at tiny rules. 
  4. Teaching skills, use of time, numbers of lessons taught. This was the big one for me. I realized that the other 3 must come first or number 4 will not work. I had been so focused on number 4 that I was destroying unity in companionships. This helped me a ton in future companionships and I was able to help many other companionships while I was a Zone Leader.

My next companion was a super star! Elder Maguet! He has been the AP ever since he was with me. We would go go go. We taught and taught and taught. It was a blast! I got higher numbers with him than I got with anyone else. My next companion was Elder Leavitt. We worked hard. We taught like crazy. We put tons of people on date. At one point we were looking at having 10 people baptized in one month! It was exciting. But unfortunately one by one each person fell off date and never made it to baptism. This was extremely hard to deal with. I was working hard and fast. Constantly trying to change to become better. But I learned that I was moving too fast. Mosiah 4:27 took on a whole new meaning for me. I needed to learn to slow down. This wasn't just something that I needed to know for my mission but for my life. I have a tendency of working myself past the point of cheerfulness. So for the last few months I've been working on slowing down. It was super hard for me but its been amazing!!!!  I've found that I have the spirit with me so much more.

The last thing that I have struggled with on and off is feeling like a successful missionary. I think every missionary struggles with this somewhat. We come out with the attitude and expectation that if we work hard and are obedient than we will baptize. Well its not always like that. Other people have their choice. If Gregory's baptism this Saturday goes through then that will be my 2nd convert baptism in my 15 months of serving. Before I started I definitely would not have chosen to have such little fruit from my long labors but now that I have experienced it I'm so grateful. It has helped me become significantly more humble. Its helped me to have a greater love for the Lord. 

There was one day when I was feeling frustrated and I turned open to a scripture in Alma. The scriptures that I read have completely changed my attitude and look on missionary work. (this will be more meaningful if you read the scriptures with the email) Alma 29:1,2 "oh that I were an angel" Alma wishes he could be a better missionary. He wishes that people would listen to him. v. 3 "But I sin in my wish... I ought to be content with the things the Lord has allotted me."  V. 7,8 "Why do I desire to be an angel? The Lord has a plan for how all of his children will receive the word of god." V. 9 "I know that which the Lord hath commanded me, and I glory in it. I do not glory in myself, I glory in that which the Lord hath commanded me; yea, and this is my glory, that perhaps I might be an instrument in the hands of God to bring some soul to repentance; and this is my joy." 

Bam! It completely changed my view! I'm not here to bring tons of people to repentance. God has a plan for how each of his children will receive the gospel. I'm here to bring exactly who I'm here to bring to repentance. No more, No less. I'm here to do God's will. That is my glory! That is my Joy! To do what God wants me to do everyday. Does this mean I should slacken in my work? No! Moroni 9:6 is a great scripture about that. Missionary work has always been fun for me but ever since this hit me missionary work has become much more meaningful. I love every moment. I love every miracle I get to see! I love every time I get rejected! I am grateful for all that heavenly father sends me. I love seeking to do my fathers will. It brings me joy and fulfillment. Am I a perfect missionary? No way. I'm always striving to be better. If I were a more effective missionary would I have more baptisms? Probably! But I'm not, and that's ok! I'm not here to be more than what I am.

Well hopefully you're not depressed, or asleep because this is a super long email. I hope your life and view of missionary work is spiced up a little. I hope you realize that you aren't the only one that is imperfect. I'm right there with you. I hope you realize that to those who are faithful in keeping the commandments everything that comes good or bad becomes a blessing. I hope you have a greater love for our Savior who righted every wrong and made up for every imperfect situation we have gone through.

Love you guys!
-Elder (Andre) Johnson

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