I've been having a hard time lately. A missionary's success is measured by their commitment to baptizing people and helping them receive the blessings that come from activity in the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. I personally want this. But the problem arises with something our mission president has said many, many times: "Every companionship is committed to, and will, baptize every month." I believe he is inspired in this statement, which would mean that every companionship truly can baptize every month. And I have not been doing so.
This, of course, leads me to question myself. Why am I not baptizing? Am I doing something wrong? Why am I not having the promised success President Bishop told us about? Sometimes I try to comfort myself by saying that the Lord has His timetable, and perhaps not having baptisms now is just His will, and I must comply with it. But then again, we have received a very direct promise from our mission president. So it really should be happening if I am doing my best.
Elder Dailey and I talked about this, and we both resolved that we would baptize this month. We've been having one investigator, Brother Chen, who has gotten close but has struggled with gaining a spiritual confirmation that what we have taught him is true. It looked really shaky . . . we had a lot of doubts as to whether he would be able to be baptized in January or not. But we decided to have faith and pray that he could be baptized by the end of the month.
Then we had Zone Conference on Thursday. President Bishop opened up the meeting, saying, "I have a friend that conducts temple marriages, and he is also a professor of education. He says that the one time that people are the most humble, receptive, and ready to learn is when they are at the alter getting married. The only other time that comes close to it is Zone Conference." And it truly was a spiritual feast.
A big change has just been initiated in the mission, and that is the elimination of mission standards. Mission standards are not exactly like quotas (we won't be fired or kicked out if we don't reach them), but they are goals we are expected to reach. For example, we were expected to be getting 30 lessons a week. Now, the numbers are gone, replaced instead with a very vague goal: "Every companionship baptizes, rescues, and retains every month." The focus has now changed to not just going on a mission, but rather, becoming a missionary.
During the meeting, much emphasis was placed on desire. Desire is the main motivator of all missionary work. Do you desire baptisms? Then you are going to do everything you can to get them. How strong is your desire? Do you need to grow it some more? Do you have some unrighteous desires you need to get rid of?
They also talked about expecting miracles. We are promised God's help as long as we exercise faith in Him and do all that we can on our own.
Elder Dailey and I realized that the Lord was not included enough in our day-to-day activities. So we decided to change that. That night, we stopped our bikes to tract a little alley on ZhongXiao road. Before we began, we said a prayer, asking that Heavenly Father could grant us a miracle, that we could find a prepared family that would let us come in and teach them about the gospel. We knocked on many doors. Every person that came to the door rejected us. Just... nobody. It was almost a little, no, very frustrating. But we asked God to give us a miracle, so we were going to expect it. So we pressed forward. After 30 minutes of closed doors in our faces, our faith was rewarded. We knocked on a door, and an older lady answered. She exclaimed, "Hey, you're missionaries! I've seen you biking around before! Come inside and tell us about your church!" We found ourselves teaching a beautiful family of an older couple with their daughter and husband who were expecting a baby. All of them were super friendly, and they were asking us how to pray and excitedly trying to pray themselves. They asked us to come back another day and teach them more. It is clear to me now, more than ever, that the Lord truly is in charge. As long as we use our faith, He will grant us blessings.
And then there is more. We had a lesson with Brother Chen on Wednesday, and the ward bishop sat in with us. The bishop decided that even though he did not have an answer yet, we could baptize him the next week. On Saturday, we called him and asked him if he would be willing to be baptized the following week, and he agreed. He told us though that he really wanted an answer first. So, we decided to fast (forego two meals) on Sunday for Brother Chen to receive an answer about the church.
Sunday morning we went to church, and Brother Chen wasn't there. We tried calling him multiple times, from different phones, but he never picked up. It was nerve-wracking. What happened? Why wasn't he there? They announced his baptism in church, which felt weird because he wasn't there. But we kept fasting. That night there was a dinner and meeting for young single adults, and we were in the area, so we stuck around for the free dinner. And then the miracle occurred: Brother Chen was there! Apparently Rich had called him at some point during the day, and he had seen that Rich had called, so he called Rich back, and Rich then told him about the activity. And the meeting was fantastic: the theme was "Finding Answers to Life Questions through the Scriptures". Exactly what he needed. Miracles happen, I can attest to it.
I have grown so much since I've left. It's weird to think I've already been gone over 6 months. A fourth of my mission has just blown by. And yet I've still got three-quarters to go. Imagine how much I have yet to learn! I am incredibly grateful for this opportunity to serve the Lord. I know that I am in the right place, doing the right thing. I know this is the Lord's church, and that only through the restored gospel of Jesus Christ can man find true peace in this life and a fullness of joy in the life to come.
Your brother in Taiwan,
“Elder Dailey biking around the Cultural Center. (I apologize for the pin-hole effect...)”
“Me and Elder Dailey!”
“There are tons of 7 Elevens in Taiwan.”