So my letter was a little short last week because I was struggling, and I had quite a bit to write to my family and my mission president.
When I was transferred to Hengchun, I was a little overwhelmed. It was my first time as a senior companion, I was with a missionary that had just finished being trained, and I was in an environment that was completely different than the densely populated areas that I was in previously. I quickly found that my original strategies for finding people didn't work (namely street contacting, tracting, even English class). Since then, I've been trying to change strategies and focuses many times (member referrals, different tracting methods, etc.), but I have not been finding success. I've also felt immensely guilty about not providing my companion with experiences that he needs, such as finding investigators and baptism.
I knew that investigators don't come from my own efforts, but I could not help but think that there was something I was doing wrong, and therefore preventing this area's progression. I've spent a few late nights crying and praying and feeling completely helpless. The Lord has been gracious and granted us with a few moments to really help Less Actives in the ward, but the happiness didn't stick with me: I found myself in pretty significant mood swings on an almost daily basis. I sorrowfully admit that our companionship had suffered somewhat because of these depressive moods.
To boil it down to the main point, I felt like I had no idea what I was doing, and I'd lost a lot of faith. I was trying my best to be obedient and plan and teach by the Spirit, but outside of that, I was just lost. I'd wish I could get back a fraction of the confidence that I had in my last area. In those times, I had a lot more faith. I knew without a doubt that God would provide. And He was providing! But now... I was not so sure. I sincerely wanted to believe that we could baptize in Hengchun, and I'd been trying to believe that, but it didn't make sense to believe that suddenly God would just snap His fingers and turn the situation around for no solid reason. I felt that there was something specific I was supposed to do. But what?
I've had some experiences this week that have been helping me overcome my level of stress and switch my perspective. I had the opportunity to go on exchanges with Elder McKenzie on Tuesday, and I shared with him my concerns and feelings about my situation. I was surprised to learn that he had been through almost the exact same experience. He told me about his early desire to be a successful missionary, and how he couldn't help but feel like he was falling behind when he saw his generation and the generation below him train new missionaries while he was still "only" a senior companion. He said he was also not seeing much happen in his area during that time, and he felt kind of like he had been left behind in the dust, that he had "failed". He counseled me that while it is nearly impossible to resist comparing yourself to others, I still needed to focus on how good I've got it, to do fervent prayer, constantly, and thank Heavenly Father for my blessings. He also told me that these trials do not last forever, and that there is always a light at the end of the tunnel. It felt good to talk with someone that wholly understood, empathized with me, and had compassion for me. After that, I had a lot more desire to go out and do the work.
I also got a letter from my father. He told me a story about a man who attributed all good things that happened in his life to "luck", despite the fact that all his teachers and colleagues attested his success to his brilliance. My father later stated, "Of course, accepting things that come to you as luck doesn't mean we don’t work hard, it just means that we don’t derive our happiness by achieving some artificial expectation. ...'Lift where you stand.' Don’t go looking for opportunities/promotions/special treatment. Instead, let the Lord place you, then work like crazy to improve the spot where you have landed. When your work is done, the Lord will move you and you won’t have to do any looking. Opportunities will flow to you. Luck will flow to you. You won’t have to do anything else other than improving what you have right now. It requires faith to do this, but it works."
So, I applied this. And we saw success. We found some former investigators that were willing to meet. We extended a baptismal goal. We met some wonderful people tracting. As I focus on the good, and focus on my work right now, I see miracles and blessings.
This week is the start of a new transfer, and I learned that while I am getting a new companion, I am still going to stay in Hengchun. No, I am not disappointed that I am staying here. In fact, I was quite a bit worried that I would be pulled out. While the work has been hard, I don't want to leave until I feel like I've learned what I'm supposed to learn, and accomplish the mission the Lord has preordained me to do here. I'm grateful to Him for letting me stay in Hengchun a little longer.
PS My new companion is native Taiwanese!
“I forget the name of this place... It's a park at the bottom of the left peninsula right below DaGuang. Beautiful!”
“Elder Palmer with our good friend Joe.”
“Checking out the dam at the local power plant. Apparently it's a good place to fish.”
“Elder Palmer in mid-move.”
“A common mailbox in Taiwan (outgoing mail).”