Yet another week blows on by. For your information, a friend of mine, Sunnia, thinks I look like Erik Stockton. Look that one up and tell me what you think.
I apologize in advance: this letter might have some negativity in it. I include it because I want all of you to understand what I'm learning, and sometimes, a little stress and pain is a catalyst for a good lesson.
Let's be honest, Hengchun has not been what I had imagined it to be. Most previous knowledge I had acquired about missionary work has been flushed down the drain. Many conveniences are gone as well. As I become more aware of the task I have been entrusted with, the more overwhelmed I feel, because I don't recognize any of the surrounding territory. I'm in a land completely foreign to me. It feels much like my first few weeks on island.
So what are the difficulties I'm facing? One, I'm in a tourist town. This means that everybody you see on the road is not from Hengchun. While they need the gospel too, my assignment is to help the people in Hengchun. Therefore, we don't spend time contacting them. Most of our day is consumed by knocking doors, a practice I don't particularly enjoy.
Two, the population of Church members here is puny, and most of them are women. This poses a large problem when it comes to teaching females: we must have a responsible male adult present in the lesson. Basically, there are only two males in our area that can actually do this service; one of them cannot leave his house because he runs a business, and the other one randomly and frequently goes out of town. This brings up a large conflict within me: I know rules are in place to protect me, but at the same time, it's restricting our investigators from progressing towards baptism and enduring conversion. I've never felt this way about a mission rule before, so I feel a little guilty that I even have these feelings in the first place.
Three, and I'm being painfully honest here, I want to look good for the people in the mission office. I want them to see me as a possible candidate for future leadership positions. I want them to be impressed with what they see. And frankly, Hengchun is not the place to be for having large, impressive numbers. We're lucky if we get over twenty lessons a week.
All of this has caused me to have some other problems, which have only compounded on the original stress I have been having. I've been thinking about my family more, and how much I miss them, as well as getting tired and somewhat distracted. The quality of my prayers have even suffered.
Of course, I didn't notice any of this happening until I had some divine intervention. It came in the form of a letter, from my father. In the letter, he talked about true sources of happiness. He states: "Happiness is something linked with the present moment. The more we think about the past and future, the less happy we become." I realized the truth of his assertion: dwelling on the past (my family) makes me want to leave my current situation and return there, while dreaming of the future (leadership) makes me impatient and unsatisfied with the present.
I wasn't happy, I knew that. And it was clear that I needed to change how I looked at my situation. But how? I tried praying more earnestly for help, but it never seemed to come.
I haven't really improved very much since them, and it will probably still take some time. But I have learned a little. I think God was wanting me to have some experiences to help me see how good I've got it. Yesterday I was out knocking doors with my companion, and we met an old man. He had no interest, and looked like he was searching for an escape, when we mentioned that we thought he looked young. He seemed to really like that compliment, and it turned into a guessing game of his age, followed by a pleasant conversation about his family. And then he went inside. As I thought back to that conversation, I noticed that we didn't necessarily have any success in finding someone to teach, but I had really enjoyed talking with that man. I tried to hang on to that feeling for the rest of the night.
Learning how to be happy is a day by day process, but I am for sure getting better at it. I'm grateful to God for letting me have experiences to learn and understand the truth in the world around us. It's never easy to learn truth, especially when we have promised through baptism to act on it, but it sure is worth it.
Thanks for your love and prayers, and I wish you all a happy week!