WEEK FIFTY-FOUR July 14, 2014
A frequent lament expressed by many missionaries is, “Are we accomplishing anything?” A reflection of one’s introspection being limited by our inability to see the “big picture.” As we knowingly brush ever so gently against a small portion of life’s puzzle, such sentiments overstate man’s significance and unwittingly minimize God and His purposes, as well as His timing and order of things. There is so much that we don’t know and we unwittingly fall into error when we conclude that our labor has had no positive impact on intersecting lives. Truly our lives and our service can never be “about me” rather about doing as we can and allowing God to fulfill His purposes through us as we are up and doing.
Perhaps the societal demand to meet objective and clearly definable standards has gently nudged us away for the implicit trust that God can and will use us as He sees fit; along with the willingness to allow that to unfold, perhaps even disallowing being “led by the Spirit, not knowing beforehand the things which [we] should do” (1Nephi 4:4). It’s as if we erroneously conclude if “I can’t see the benefit” then no benefit must exist. The definable standard therefore restricting and limiting both our gratitude and happiness.
As a young missionary it felt like we were being told our setting of goals put things in motion to happen, if we prayed with sincerity and faith. It was hard for me then to understand how my faith, no matter how great it could be, could somehow disavow the agency of others and require their conversion regardless of their will. I recall at missionary meetings our president going down the rows asking each of us how many we were going to baptize the succeeding month. Those who gave a low number were challenged for their lack of faith. This of course prompted each following missionary to express greater and greater numbers. When I suggested to the mission president that the Lord had yet to reveal to me the number of individuals we were going to baptize so I didn’t have a number he was upset. I assured him our work and effort would be such that we would not baptize any less than He had prepared, but he was not mollified in the least.
As we view the challenge to young missionaries today, it is apparent that numbers increase the risk of disillusionment, despair and lead to depression. The inability to attain what is hoped and believed in feeds into the question, “Am I accomplishing anything?” And that comes about even with a missionary structure and culture that is very nourishing and supportive.
For senior couples there is no such structure making it even easier to find oneself asking that question. I, wisely it now seems, concluded before we entered the mission field that as a young missionary I wanted to make a difference. But now I saw and with greater maturity a willingness to allow the Lord to accomplish such purposes as He may choose through me—whatever they may be. Whether that is to be an instrument in His hands to baptize thousands, one or none; whether He wants me to touch one of His children in some way that I may never know of; or whether He just wants me to be there working as best I can, patiently striving to serve Him and love His children completely.
Still when families who present all the wonderful qualities of sons and daughters of God choose to turn from the gospel message, discontinue meeting with you, the pain, sorrow, and anguish is real, is palpable and I suspect will last forever. So I have concluded that such is the result of loving and serving much. Had we not such anguish we never would have felt the offsetting love that is also present. In many cases as I look back on our first year in the mission field, it appears to me that our assignment is as home teachers on steroids. We are fine with that as our willingness is to serve wherever and whatever the Lord may need. There just is no requirement for our service to reflect well on us. It is not about us and never should be.
The Twenty-One family is doing so well. They are working on their date for temple work and sealing. She has been called to teach in the Primary and he as an assistant Teacher’s Quorum advisor. Health has improved as have work conditions. Whereas previously there was concern for his technical writing at the old place, his new employers are raving about the very same writing ability being so good. He has gone from thinking he has no ability there to feeling confident. It was just a few months ago he requested a blessing regarding his work situation and now he clearly sees the blessings of the Lord in his life and the opportunities that are opening up for him.
This past week I was privileged to teach the gospel doctrine class in the Lake Forest Ward (on the Millennium) and in the Aliso Creek Ward (on Scriptures). As I contemplated the later I began to notice both “cans” and “shalls” in daily feasting upon the word of God. The “cans” representing blessing that may occur and the “shalls” representing blessing that have always occurred for me. I shared each time I pick up the Scriptures there is a slight tremble in me as I consider, even briefly, what will or may occur at that very moment. Following are the thoughts that came to me—
• You can feel what the great prophet who recorded those words felt
• You can enjoy your own, but dissimilar personal experience
• You can understand the message that prophet was given
• You can be personally instructed by the Lord and given an entirely different message
• You can be lifted by the Spirit and filled with peace
• You can be given instruction on unrelated things you should do
• You can be invited through the veil
• You will sharpen your spiritual sensitivity
• You will speak by the power of the Holy Ghost
• You will receive the key to personal revelation
• You will be fortified against evil
• You will speak with the tongue of angels
• You will know the words of Christ
• You will have come into your life an added measure of the Spirit of the Lord
• You will have a strengthened resolution to walk in obedience
• You will have a stronger testimony of the living reality of the Son of God
This week I was privileged to receive a violent lung and chest attack that made it difficult to breathe or work, causing us to cancel two meetings and a mission performance in the park, but were able to take care of the rest. Doctors feared the worse requiring pulmonary testing, blood testing and imaging but all of them were clean. So there remains no plausible causal factor but the result was quite real I assure you. One of the Senior Couples suggested the cause was working too hard. If that be true, so be it. Hopefully then we will see it happen again before our final six months are concluded.
A few months back we were picking up something at Pep Boys on Lake Forest Drive. Exiting a truck was a father and his daughter. They asked if we were service missionaries as they introduced themselves. We told them we were proselyting missionaries with the father being surprised having not heard we had any in the area. Turns out he is in the Mission Viejo Stake which has no senior couples and we are serving in the Rancho Santa Margarita Stake. Now flash forward. Our brother-in-law currently serving as president of the Birmingham Alabama Temple was doing some family history and care across some pictures of his wife and Sister H’s father that had been posted. A name was given, but we didn’t know the individual. An email was sent explaining the pictures he had posted were of our family and inviting him to contact us. Lo and behold, the brother turns out to be the father we had met in the parking lot. Sister H and he being first cousins once removed.