This week we took a new investigator, Rafaela*, to church for the first time. She said she had visited a number of churches and it was the only one where she felt at home. I am excited about that! We told her she was feeling the spirit. We were excited when we first met her, but I had been worried that we would have to stop visiting her because it was difficult to find her at home, she wasn’t very interested in marking a specific day, and it seemed like maybe she wasn’t super focused on the lessons. But I have been thinking about what President Houseman said about persistence — it paid off with Rafaela!
One thing I didn’t mention last week was that I got to talk to the sisters who are in Casa Forte at the Zone Conference. Sister Barros left after the last transfer, so I didn’t get to see her, but it was cool to meet the sister she trained and hear about the area! When I left the area I had been excited about a family we were teaching (I mentioned them in my e-mail at the time) and hoped they would progress. But I didn’t hear about them until now. We had taught the daughter maybe twice, and then we met her parents the last week I was there. I had been pretty excited about her parents, but it turns out they didn’t end up being very interested But the daughter who I was also excited about, has been to church many times and is really integrated in the ward! She hasn’t been baptized but she is still going to church!
When I hear about old areas there is always much more bad news than good news. That’s the nature of missionary work–we talk to lots of people and the vast (vast, vast) majority of them don’t get baptized. And lots of people who do get baptized don’t continue going to church. But we ought to look at missionary work through a qualitative lens rather than quantitatively. How great shall be your joy if you bring one soul to repentance!
Other good things that have happened in my old areas —- I found out when I went on splits the last time in Palmares that Helena (who I taught for all three transfers in Casa Forte but her mother didn’t want to let her get baptized) was baptized! She moved to Recife shortly afterwards and didn’t give her contact information to the missionaries (sad). But she is a member of the Church and I really hope she ends up going to church in her new city. Also I had mentioned before that Isadora, Maria Eduarda’s daughter, ended up getting baptized in Gravatá. So good news happens! I don’t know how Isadora is but I think I will have another opportunity to find out at the next zone conference.
This is a scripture I like:
3 Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort;
4 Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God.
5 For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also aboundeth by Christ.
7 And our hope of you is steadfast, knowing, that as ye are partakers of the sufferings, so shall ye be also of the consolation.2 Corinthians 1:3-5, 7
Hopefully that is something I can do as a missionary — comfort others with the comfort of God. How beautiful to think about this subject — as followers of Christ we ought to expect sufferings (we are taking up our cross and following him) but as we are partakers of the sufferings we are also partakers of the consolation! Elder Holland gave a really powerful talk about missionaries being partakers of the sufferings of Christ. The only time I heard it was in the CTM but I remember how much I liked it. He said sometimes we might ask ourselves why the only difficulty in the mission field is not risk of pneumonia from spending so much time being wet baptizing people. His answer (super summarized) was that if we are followers of Christ, we ought to expect to experience at least the tiniest bit of what He went through.
I am convinced that missionary work is not easy because salvation is not a cheap experience. Salvation never was easy. We are The Church of Jesus Christ, this is the truth, and He is our Great Eternal Head. How could we believe it would be easy for us when it was never, ever easy for Him? It seems to me that missionaries and mission leaders have to spend at least a few moments in Gethsemane. Missionaries and mission leaders have to take at least a step or two toward the summit of Calvary.
Now, please don’t misunderstand. I’m not talking about anything anywhere near what Christ experienced. That would be presumptuous and sacrilegious. But I believe that missionaries and investigators, to come to the truth, to come to salvation, to know something of this price that has been paid, will have to pay a token of that same price.Elder Jeffrey R. Holland
At one point this week I wasn’t having a super great day. We were going to a teaching appointment and I had been praying to be led to someone we ought to do a street contact with, someone who needed to hear the gospel. I suddenly had a rather discouraging thought (Moroni 7:13 teaches that “. . behold, that which is of God inviteth and enticeth to do good continually; wherefore, every thing which inviteth and enticeth to do good, and to love God, and to serve him, is inspired of God,” so this was probably not a God-sent thought): “How many street contacts from my mission have been baptized?” The answer is Isadora and Tiago. Tiago has not been to church for months and does not show signs of returning. Who knows, maybe others will be baptized as well! And of course I have no idea what other seeds will sprout. And while, until now, not many people have chosen to get baptized, street contacting has led to many, many lessons. And teaching can be an inherent good. Not as good as the person actually progressing to make covenants with Heavenly Father, but who knows if our lessons do help them get closer to him? Maybe they will pray more, have a better relationship with God, etc.