I’ve been given a new Zone Leader to train. His name is Elder Withers. He’s got red hair and freckles. He’s from Alpine, Utah. He likes to invite people to follow Jesus Christ and be baptized. Everybody thinks he’s German. That’s really about all there is to say.
He’s a great kid, coming up on his 11th month on the mission. He’s got a handful of energy and loves to teach, but we’re still working on the companionship chemistry. He got frustrated because I was talking a lot and I felt bad, but I’m gonna make a conscious effort to leave unambiguous triggers for him to speak. It’s always a little difficult working with a new companion. The moments where my old companion would normally jump in and start speaking are passed by unrecognized by the new companion and so I more or less just keep on speaking, trying to drop subtle hints to change who’s talking. The problem is, the ability to switch who’s talking with subtle triggers or signals only comes after a good month or two or sometimes three working together. In any case, we’re ironing out the wrinkles. Elder Withers has a lot of motivation and likes working hard. He’s got sort of a goofy and amicable way of interacting with people, which means that our lessons can be fun and spiritual. So that’s always nice.
It’s a little weird training a new Zone Leader. It’s kind of like training for the first time again. Only this time my companion already has his feet on the ground and his head on his shoulders. Training now has to do more with how to motivate, follow up with, and inspire the areas in our zone; how to organize and plan effectively; and how to work more integrally with the wards and our areas through visits and divisions. There’s also a great amount I have to learn from Elder Withers, given that he comes from 10 months of missionary work and experiences very distinct from my own.
I’m starting to finally feel like I’m getting in the groove of missionary work. With one year and 2 months on the mission, I can finally say just about everything I want to say in Portuguese clearly and articulately, in a way that people will understand me. I can focus less on what I teach, as the doctrines are already well established in my mind, and I can focus more onhow I teach. I can focus on the way we present material, the way we adapt to different investigators, and the way we can integrate an atmosphere of serenity and peace in our lessons with the doctrines so that the investigators (and members) develop a relationship of trust with us. As we are able to focus more on the how than the what, we are able to teach more families and references from members.
We had a sweet experience recently teaching two youth, named Tony and Victoria. I found Tony during a companionship exchange. I was with Elder Fore, an 18-year old missionary fresh out of high school and brand new in the field. We were walking past 2 young men conversing and I felt that I should speak with one of them in particular. I thought at first that it was just me wanting to talk with everyone and that we ought to come back when they had finished conversing, but I felt a second time that we should stop and talk to the one young man with glasses. So, even though we had already passed, we walked back, introduced ourselves, and started talking to Keven. We taught about Christ’s baptism and that baptism is necessary for us to one day live with our Heavenly Father. Keven explained that he was about to be baptized in an Evangelical church in Ciará, where he lived previously, but had moved recently with his mother to Garanhuns and didn’t end up getting baptized there.
In our next appointment with Keven, we met his mother, who it turns out was baptized or at least got to know the church some years ago. She explained to Keven that she and Keven’s father (the two are now separated) both were baptized in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Keven had no idea! But the mother explained that she always wanted her children to experience the joy she felt in the church. She explained that it was really divine revelation that we were led to their door, being that they had just finished moving to Garanhuns.
When Keven and Victoria (his sister) went to church for the first time last week, he said he had never really felt like he belonged or fit in, or simply just didn’t feel right in the other churches he visited. He said that he finally found the place where God wanted him to be. He was baptized yesterday, and his Mom bore her testimony that she knows the Gospel is true. She said she is excited to become active in the church again. I was all smiles on the outside and bursting with joy on the inside.
It’s been a beautiful experience working with the members in our ward. Sometimes as a missionary in this ward (Ala Boa Vista) I feel more like a social coordinator and less like a lone warrior. We simply need to introduce members to our investigators and ask the members specifically to mark a visit or a Family Night or a dinner and the members and more than willing to take the lead. We’ve had a handful of visits this week that have been practically a “Get-To-Know-You” Visit with a member followed by a lesson on our part.
One family we taught yesterday, Francianne and Emerson, had a wonderful experience. Emerson is a father of two, but has recently undergone a surgery on his leg to repair a torn tendon. He was not able to go to church but his wife went and loved it. She had recently passed through the church for a funeral service but wanted to return to visit another day. She didn’t know who to talk to or how to make the visit, but was happy to greet is when we showed up on her doorstep few days later.
Francinanne loved her visit to the church. She said she really wanted her son, Wesley (10 years old) to grow up and be a missionary like us. She said that, after her visit to the church, everything we had taught started to make sense. She said that she not only understood now, but also felt that what we were teaching is true. We taught about the Word of Wisdom with a family from the ward that had overcome a coffee addiction. Francianne drinks coffee and Emerson drinks and smokes but, not as coincidence, can’t drink because of his recovery from the surgery. Francianne gave us her coffee, we gave her cevada and Emerson said he would stop smoking. There were tears and laughs and hugs as we left. We’ll follow up with them tonight.