This week we dropped and dropped and dropped people. Most of them are good people, just not doing anything. And not doing anything shows a lack of faith. And then on Sunday everyone asked us, “How’s the work going?” And we responded by saying “We just dropped most of our investigators so pretty good, I guess.” I’ve noticed missionary work can become cyclical. We focus as a mission on being “escalator missionaries” instead of “elevator missionaries”. An elevator missionary finds an investigator and focuses on them until they are baptized. Then they have to go to the bottom and start from scratch again to find people. And escalator missionary is continually helping people onto the escalator, so that when someone makes it to baptism, there is still a diverse teaching pool that we are left with. Unfortunately, sometimes everyone on the escalator starts walking down at the same rate the escalator is moving up. So they don’t progress and they never make it to the top. And then you have to start over anyway. That’s kind of where we are at right now, although there are a few people who have good potential that we have not begun teaching yet.
We taught a lady this week named Debbie who has been around members of the church forever and even studied the history of the church but never really concerned herself with the doctrine of the church. A lady in our ward, who is good friends with her, invited her to take the lessons which we are now having with her in the member’s home. I think Debbie has a lot of potential. However, the lesson we taught her, from our perspective, was horrible. We were ill prepared and not unified at all. Fortunately Debbie is solid enough that the lesson didn’t deter her from progress. Elder Haynes and I were both humbled by the experience. In Jacob Chapter 5 (in the parable of the vineyard or the olive tree allegory), The Lord of the Vineyard asks “What more could I have done for my vineyard?” and asks the servant why the entire vineyard bore evil fruit even when the servants did everything right. The servant replies, “It is because of the loftiness of the vineyard”. The branches grew faster than the roots had strength and therefore grew corrupt and weak fruit. The Lord of the Vineyard then institutes a final pruning of the vineyard where the corrupt branches will be broken off continually as the natural or fruitful branches grow. Therefore the tree is in a process of constant refinement or continual sanctification until the day when it is a perfect tree bearing perfect fruit. Life is a lot easier when we humble ourselves. However, sometimes because of our inattentiveness we begin to “grow lofty” and the Lord needs to prune us. I’m grateful for this refining principle that cuts off our excess in order to help us grow into something healthy and fruitful.
Our experience with Debbie helped us check ourselves and enabled us to grow in unity and to teach simply by the spirit afterwards. It helped us realize… we need to create lesson plans, we need to practice teach. We need to prepare in humility to teach the people around us. The night before we had taught a fantastic lesson at the stake president’s home to their good friends. That lesson we prepared for. We practice taught. We taught simply. And then we mistakenly thought we would be ready for the next day even though we didn’t repeat the process. Even though Debbie and the member thought the lesson was great last week, Elder Haynes and I are looking forward to tonight when we teach Debbie again and can show her what it is like to have a lesson that is taught simply by the spirit.
There are also a few other members who want us to teach their friends, which is a huge blessing. As we have been talking with everyone and showing our faith by “dropping” people, the Lord is blessing us even though we don’t see the fruit necessarily during our proselyting efforts.
Elder Ballard is coming to our mission at the end of the month. I am playing for the missionary choir that is singing, which is cool, but we have to drive to the mission office and practice twice a week for the next two weeks (which is not cool). This week we have a lot of miscellaneous stuff that will take away from teaching and proselyting time, which is a bummer.
I am praying for Grandma and Grandpa Koetitz. I am sure their life must be trying right now, being separated from each other during their individual pains and ailments. Enduring to the end has deeper meaning and significance as we age. I really hope their health improves. Mostly I hope they can be happy and together. Mom, if you send me Grandpa’s new address, I will send him a card.
This past Sunday I gave a talk in the Mar Vista Ward. It was based on Elder L. Tom Perry’s talk “Obedience through Faithfulness”, from the recent general conference. I was really struggling with what I should say in my talk when I realized I had not begun my study for the talk with a pray. I prayed and as soon as I started the prayer I though of an experience from my life that would relate. That story was the first igloo campout I went on. I talked about a lot of things relating to that campout. The size of our igloo, the fact that Forrest, Jonny, and I were the only three in such a large igloo, and especially the fact that we did not hearken to Dad’s counsel to take off our coats and snowpants before we went to bed. Because of that, we were freezing. I also talked about how despite our disobedience, in our moment of need, Dad came and “delivered” us from “bondage” or a cold and snowed-in igloo. The whole experience of preparing for the talk re-emphasized that prayer works, that the Lord wants us to be inspired, and it taught me important principles of obedience.
It is incredible to me how even as parents guide and teach their children to do simple things, even just how to stay warm in the snow, they can be (perhaps unintentionally) be giving them life lessons that translate into gospel truths. The gospel is involved in every detail of our life. It is up to us to discover how the gospel applies.
I love you family! and friends.