From March 23rd, 2009 -
It is wonderful to hear that you are happy and having spiritual experiences, and it has led to similar things for myself. The weather has taken a turn for the better here as spring is finally beginning to make everything greener, which has boosted spirits a lot. It makes it a lot easier to talk to people as well, especially when they are already outside. Had a couple cool things happen this past week: On Saturday we helped the Taylor's(members)haul some big logs out of a field, definitely a good workout. We've helped Bro.Taylor in the past with chopping wood and taking it to people in need, so I always love it when he calls us and asks us to come help him. Gets rid of a lot of stress, which is definitely normal for missionaries. Also, we were in this apartment complex getting a return appointment with an investigator, when these people we didn't know called us over to play basketball with them. Call it my-first-street-ball-
And yes, I am jealous that you get to attend General Conference coming up, I'd give anything to go again. Oh well, I'm sure I will feel the Spirit anyway even if I'm not there in person, or even just in Utah. We're planning on teaching a lot about prophets in these next couple of weeks, and hopefully we can a decent amount of non-members, especially investigators, to attend a session or two. We've already committed all three of our investigators to go, so that should be a great experience for them. I'd have to say that Sunday and Monday are probably my favorite days of the week, at least since I've been on a mission. The reason for that is because so much tends to happen on those other days, and never exactly as you planned it, that it just drains me by the end of the week. It can be disheartening at times, but thank goodness for Church on Sunday's! These two days give me a chance to refuel, recharge, reflect, and in the case of sacrament meeting, renew those sacred covenants. I always get super-excited to go and teach after feeling the spirit at Church, as well as reading my e-mails from you and others. Too often I feel that missionaries do not take advantage of church meetings as an opportunity to not only become better acquainted with members, but more importantly, to set up appointments to go to their homes and teach the lessons from Preach My Gospel. Doing this will help the members see the need for them to share the gospel as well, and when you leave bold and direct commitments, they are far more likely to follow through on them. We can't forget to follow-up regularly either. Elder Ballard said once that when you sit down with members and help them set goals, commit them to a specific date whereby they will find someone for us, the missionaries, to teach.
A quote from President Monson at last summer's Mission President's Seminar caught my attention. He said, "There is just no substitute for a member-oriented proselyting program. Tracting will not substitute for it. Golden questions will not substitute for it. A member-oriented program is the key to success." In my callings as a ward missionary, it was, as you know, my responsibility to go into members' homes, teach them the lessons from Preach My Gospel, and help them set goals for them to find someone for missionaries to teach. Obviously, missionaries out in Utah have such large areas to cover that they are not able to help members create Family Mission Plans on a regular basis, so that responsibility was delegated to me and the other ward missionaries. Now, being out here in Ohio, and particularly in Wilmington where the Church is much smaller, I have quickly learned that the responsibility for teaching and committing members falls directly to full-time missionaries. This is a lot that's been on my mind, as you can see, but I just keep feeling that this area is about to really flourish; but I've come to the conclusion that it cannot be done without full member participation. I think I've mentioned recently of our branch's new plan for us to work with members to help achieve our goal of 20 lessons per week, and yesterday at church I spoke with several members who are very excited to start doing this. I am praying that this will turn out the way it's been designed to, and if anyone has suggestions for me I will gladly be open to them.
I have seen great blessings as I have returned to more simple explanations of Church doctrine, as I once did with those wonderful boys in Primary.
Well, I think I've emptied out my brain of everything I wanted to say, but I would like to quickly express appreciation to the Sam and Kim Kienow Family, the Kent and Carol Livingston Family, and also Grandpa Ray for their heartfelt letters which have made me so grateful to know of the support that I am receiving! I pray that the Lord will continue to bless each of you and watch over you, and also that opportunities to share the gospel may be granted to you. Oh, and Happy Spring Fever!!
From March 16th, 2009 -
First off, I wanted to express my thanks to you for those little reminders you give me each week, it really does help. As I look back on the years before my mission, I lament at the wasted time and on my often grumbling attitude when it came to being reminded about something or being told to do something. Being on a mission and also having the unique opportunity to focus on the Savior each day has wrought some changes in my life, as you so accurately pointed out. The 2 hours I am given to study each day is so little that I wish it could be longer, but I've committed myself to making the most of it. Well anyway, I am glad to hear that spring is beginning to show itself out there, it's taking a bit longer than I would've liked in Wilmington. It IS supposed to be really nice for most of this week, so I'm anxious to see how many people will be outside for us to talk to. Much less awkward than going door-to-door and not knowing what to expect.
We didn't teach as many lessons this past week as we had planned for, but I feel comforted knowing we tried our hardest. I still feel that we are falling short of our potential as it relates to member missionary work, but I think the members are starting to see what we're asking of them. We'll be meeting with several different families this week, and we plan on setting some goals and extending some commitments. I've found out with any kind of goal or commitment that the stronger it is, the more likely the person will keep it and follow through on it. We are continuing to see results as we teach simple and clear doctrine, but the tough part is when we prepare a whole lesson plan and the appointment falls through. It definitely is frustrating at times, but we still do everything we can to use those doctrinal statements no matter where we might be.
Yesterday at Drake Coleman's home, we decided to go back to the beginning and teach about Joseph Smith and read from the pamphlet containing his testimony. We asked some very straightforward questions and received the answers we sought, and it was good because lately we've been concerned that Drake hasn't really been applying what he learns. He has a desire to be baptized and wants to continue learning, but he was in need of some extra motivation. We simply told him that everything we've taught him hinges on whether or not Joseph Smith saw God and Jesus Christ....everything! We committed him to read the pamphlet that evening, then go into a quiet, secluded place and pray earnestly for an answer. We plan to follow up with him on it, and we're anxiously awaiting the response he will give. On another bonus, we are also starting to teach Drake's new foster brother, Jason, who sat in on the lesson and told us he wanted to read the Book of Mormon and learn more about the Church. He's had a pretty rough life up to this point, so we are definitely looking forward to helping him make changes. Other than that, the work goes on.
A couple of funny experiences from this past week: First, We taught Kenny Ewing on Saturday, one of our new investigators from last week, and we asked him if he had prayed about the Book of Mormon. He told us that he had and that God told him to get new glasses so he can read it better, because his eyesight isn't very good! We all thought it was pretty funny, but I don't see anything wrong with THAT answer. The second one just happened this morning. Last night, Elder Lundquist made some chicken with biscuits, potatoes and gravy for both of us. We didn't have much time to eat it before bed, and this morning we discovered to our half-shock and half-laughter that Elder Lundquist left the oven on at 400 DEGREES!! I'd say we're pretty lucky but at the same time it's one of those things you have to laugh at. Definitely NOT going to do that again though! So anyway, things are going great out here, it's hard to believe this is the fourth week of the transfer already, and we plan on making the most of it! Hope you all have a wonderful week, and that the weather cooperates! :)
Elder Isaac Livingston