This week we had a temple visit day and zone conference. The bus ride from Garanhuns to Recife is about 3 hours so we left early in the morning on Wednesday to arrive in Recife about mid-day. It was good to see all the other missionaries and to get a little advice on technique.
The “Standard Model of Missionary Work” is that there are three sub-parts to teaching effectively: Faith, The Spirit, and Technique.
Technique comes with experience and includes being able to teach in a way that people understand and in a way that captures interest. We learned in zone conference how to ask questions that pique interest and extend commitments without instilling doubt in a person’s mind (i.e. “poisoning the well” with phrases like “We understand you may feel uncomfortable about this” or “You probably have doubts” etc. Often times people won’t recognize or focus on doubts unless you focus on them first).
The Spirit comes from obedience to God’s will and performing his work as he would have performed. It means diligence, effective planning, careful preparation, and bold execution.
Faith, though, is a little more nebulous. By faith I mean working hard and with confidence. Nobody will be able to hear your message if you don’t come to them first and nobody will listen to your message if you don’t believe in yourself. And by “Believing In Yourself” I mean believing that they will accept your bold invitations to follow Jesus Christ. People are funny things. Typically their self-confidence in a given moment can more or less be measured by the confidence that other people place in them. There are rare exceptions, of course, but by and large that’s the way the cookie crumbles. Those rare exceptions typically derive a strong sense of self-worth from their belief in a loving God and Jesus Christ, both of whom place immense and immesurable worth in the human soul. So, to a great extent, faith means being able to see people the way that Christ sees them–a family member worth finding and worth saving. This became critical this last week with one of our investigators. We’ll call her Lydia.
Lydia is a single mother of two children from two different husbands, both of whom have since fled. She’s had a host of traumatic experiences and has self-confessed loneliness and abandonment issues. She lives with her mother, a single mother as well of about 70 years who smokes and plays card games on the computer for much of the day. Lydia’s situation is lonely and routine and she has a hard time feeling self-worth. We invited her to church last week, but didn’t have a chance to walk with her to the chapel. She said she was dressed and ready to leave but had a bit of a panic attack and didn’t leave. This week we arrived at her house 30 minutes before church and helped her get ready for church. We packed her and her two kids on the bus to church. There was the Primary program this Sunday, so all the kids in the ward sang songs and gave little snippits about the importance of…Baptism! I couldn’t believe it. Her two concerns were finding a place for her kids in the church and getting baptized. She’s excited to get baptized next week.
I’d like to say I’m settling into a routine and finally getting the flow of things, but the truth of the matter is I still feel like I’m hanging on to the back of a high-speed train with the index and middle finger of my left hand as the thing descends through Provo Canyon. You may argue that there’s no train in Provo Canyon, to which I would respond, yes, that’s exactly right, and nobody in their right mind would ever build one. On the one hand, it’s a thrilling ride. On the other hand, it’s exhausting. I’ve learned that my will power is inversely proportional to the amount of sleep I get during a given week. That’s troublesome because our area and schedule is such that sometimes we have late nights helping other missionaries (~11:30pm) coupled with early mornings for travel (~4:30am). I’m not a great napper, but I’ve got to find a way to get more sleep during the week. We’ll figure something out.