So this week opened with rumors about North Korea proclaiming war on South Korea. An interesting issue indeed, but as missionaries, we don't know anything about political issues. We are even asked to not talk about them for security reasons. I just find it interesting how "out of the loop" we are when it comes to world news. But this is good, because it gives us reason to really focus on our work without worldly distractions.
I'll admit it, I was pretty stressed this week. Our numbers were bad the week previous, and as the days dragged on, our trajectory for this week was looking worse. I recall writing in my journal in frustration, "What do I do!?!?" I didn't know how we could improve our situation, except to just have faith and pray for blessings. Then on Friday, Elder Jensen suggested that we fast. For those of you who are not familiar with "fasting", it is an expression of faith in which we sacrifice two meals and prayerfully ask, or thank God for, particular blessings. In this case, I decided that I wanted to fast for knowledge on how to "find happiness in the work", something I've struggled with since coming to Gangshan. I didn't feel right fasting for more investigators; I felt we weren't having investigators because God was testing our faith and patience. So instead, I wanted to know how I could endure the trial better.
The following day was the first three sessions of the General Conference broadcast, and beforehand Elder Jensen and I contacted people at an intersection near the church building. After a while, I received a shock when I saw three familiar people walking towards us and shouting my name: it was Sister Zhang, her daughter Amy, and Sister Wu! I was immediately overjoyed to see them. They are great friends! And this wasn't all: in the afternoon session of Conference I saw my friend Katie singing in the choir! How happy I was to see such familiar, dear faces!
So what was God trying to tell me? I suppose there are several conclusions you could draw... One possible conclusion is that I need to cherish the friends I have, which is definitely true, but that doesn't exactly make my situation better while I am in Gangshan. Perhaps the more reasonable conclusion is that I need to make more friends here. As I make more friends in my area, I will grow to love and enjoy the work more, because I'm doing the work for people I know and care about.
So I applied the idea in my relationship with Elder Jensen. I tried to find more connections with him, and build up a friendship. Our personalities are pretty contrasted, but we found little bridges that made our unity better. We quickly found ourselves singing songs as we rode our bikes around.
And then, when I finally learned a little bit how to have some happiness in the work, that was when we were blessed. We found a sweet older couple who had met with missionaries back in 2008, and have been reading the Book of Mormon ever since. We found a very nice man who wants to go to our English class. We were actually able to start setting up appointments with those we talked to on the road. The thing is, it's always great fun to receive blessings, but the trick is to find happiness in the work itself. Finding enjoyment in the output, that's the natural man. But when you learn to find happiness in the input: now that's the characteristic we all must strive for.
I love all of you, and I'm glad to hear about so many people starting to serve missions! This is a wonderful work, and I'm so glad to be a part of it. As mentioned in Conference, I will be doing my best to make sure that I "[will] not die with the music still in [me]." I love the Lord, I know He loves me, and I know He loves you too. May His spirit be with you always,
“Oh noes, time for a haircut!”