Tuesday, October 9, 2012

September 11th, 2012

Happy Tuesday everyone!

Oh man. I just had another one of those moments where I get here and I blank out completely. Uhh... Okay!

So when the mission split in July, there was a huge push to teach less active members of the church. Which, I admit, I was kind of irritated. Every time people gave us referrals, they were for their neighbor or person from their home teaching list that people wouldn't exert the effort or muster up the courage to go talk to them on their own. As a missionary, we are specifically set apart to teach those who are learning more about the Gospel, and outside of Utah, that applies almost entirely to non-members of the church. And while we have no problem with teaching less-active members and I had taught many in the past, we had been given strict counsel from our mission president that we were to focus and spend the greatest amount of our proselyting time working with those who are not members of the church. So when this change was announced, I was hesitant to be thrilled about the idea. I was irritated because all of the people that they were telling us to visit didn't want the missionaries there and they weren't ready for them. Fun fact: if a family won't let the home teachers come by, there is about a 0.01% chance that they'll be completely stoked when the missionaries show up at their door. More often than not, they're extremely stand-offish and a lot more rude than people who aren't members. I saw all these names that they were giving us and I was mad because if people had been doing their home teaching and making that little visit once a month, these people would not have been forgotten for so long and had so much time for Satan to work on their hearts.

So when the change was made that we were to be focusing more on less-actives, the opposite effect happened. People started focusing COMPLETELY on trying to send the missionaries to do their home teaching visits for them and weren't looking out for any opportunities to share the Gospel with non-members. As a result, the number of baptisms in the mission has dropped immensely and people are even LESS likely giving us referrals that aren't their stand-offish neighbor across the street who, while they could use the Gospel, is not ready for the missionaries. I've been praying for months for help and strength to not be discouraged or frustrated with it. It just seemed like everything had been going well and everything got flipped upside down and we're running up a steeper incline than we ever have before. It wasn't that I wasn't willing to go and visit the people who are already members - because I knew that everyone needs the message of the Gospel and everyone CAN be and WILL benefit most in their lives when they are living the principles that Jesus Christ exemplified. It was that people were sending us to everyone who was completely not ready to receive us and no matter what approach we took, we faced opposition and hostility; the "Who sent you?" mentality... I know that people are ready. I know that Heavenly Father is preparing people to receive us. I'm just running out of steam trying to maintain an optimistic outlook on "Let's see how many people will turn us away today!" It's tough because a lot of the people ARE members of the church. They're on our team. But when we walk to their porch to share this message that they at one point knew to be true, it feels like we're walking in enemy territory. I'm sorry. I don't mean to be negative. These feelings have just been weighing down on me for a while. I know that I'm not supposed to be discouraged. It just almost feels like back when I was in Tremonton when it felt like a lot of the leaders were working against us. Which I know they're not and I know that they're earnestly trying to do what's best.. Just do me a favor. Do your home teaching, please. The people out there need you. They may not be receptive at first, but they need you there. They need your warm spirits. They need your friendship. They need the Gospel and they need it from their friends - not from us. I love teaching less-actives - but they're not ready until they're ready.

I have a testimony that when people want to come back, they will come back. It doesn't take much to spark the Spirit back into their lives and rekindle the flame of their own testimonies. We've been teaching a young lady even more this last week and working with her to quit smoking, which she really really wants to do. She set a day to do it, and was super excited and willing to quit. She was doing awesome for the first two days... And then Satan threw EVERYTHING at her all at once. I hate that so much... When we are trying our absolute hardest to do what's right, Satan is fighting back just as hard to try and tear us back down to his level. He has no power over us if we don't let him, but he will do everything he can to make us think otherwise. He did everything in his power to tear her down when all she was trying to do was what she knew was right. And she became extremely discouraged. A scripture came to my mind when we were talking to her last night as she had almost given up and felt like there was no hope. I don't know where the scripture came from - since I don't know my Old Testament very well.. And I always thought this scripture was somewhere else. But I shared with her Deuteronomy 31:6 "Be strong and of a good courage, fear not, nor be afraid of them: for the Lord thy God, he it is that doth go with thee; he will not fail thee, nor forsake thee." Heavenly Father will not desert us. Satan will try and make us feel like we are abandoned and we have failed too many times to be forgiven. But that is absolutely not true. Jesus Christ's Atonement is infinite. There is no amount of suffering, disappointment, misery, or pain that he can't uplift and wash away. If we turn to him and do all we can to keep the commandments, he will bless us. He will forgive us. We are his children, whether we are members of the church or not, we are his sons and daughters. We can turn to him in prayer... And he will hear us.

Sorry if this letter seems a bit more somber than usual. :) I just thought I'd share some of my thoughts with you guys... Any counsel or advice you can give me will be awesome.

Mom - So wait. Ryan is a "part-time" student now? That's confusing. I was planning on writing him a letter this week for his birthday. That punk needs to write me back! Gah! Actually there's a lot of people who need to write me back.. Do I need to send the wrath of Michelle after them? I'm glad you got to explore the liberty jail area. I wish I could go there. Concerta would be nice - sending it through the mission office is fine. Any pictures you would like to send me would be appreciated - use good judgment. :)

Dad - I'm pretty glad I had that experience with fasting. It definitely put the Lord's will back into perspective and what role I truly play. I'm sure the 50,000 miles in the mission field is the longest stretch that car will ever have to go through. Did you bike your entire mission? I think i recall drivers licenses in Japan being insanely hard to obtain and way too easy to lose. I'm gonna send Ryan some piano music in the next few days... Hopefully that will help. :) I forgot all about Yankton even being a place. 5 hours? That's kind of an incredible drive. Let me know what you name the truck when you send me pictures! And Darrell the gerbil is possibly the best name I think I've ever heard. Hahaha! We finally listened to those talks you gave me like.. 6 months ago! The Cleon Skousen talk was very similar to a talk of his that I had read.. But it's so much better when it's delivered!

Anyways. I love you guys!

- Elder Tyler Grant :)

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