From 24 February 2014
"Cool Grafitti" in Miami
Sorry, not much time so part of this is copy-pasted from my email to President Anderson and somewhat more formal than I would normally use, but the stories are the same!
Sister Orton and I have been really working hard to gain trust with the branch, who have not felt a real connection with missionaries and their efforts for a long time. We have realized that what is really important is the internal motivation - if you are motivated by love of God, the branch, and the members and investigators in your area, you will do all you can to build up the branch, and establish Zion in your whole area. If you are motivated by numbers you will have baptisms, yes, but not converts or real growth.
As we have been striving to show the branch that our true motivation is love, they have come to trust us. We've been able to share with them our purpose - which truly is to invite others to come unto Christ, not just unto baptism (although that is of course a main objective in terms of measurable goals). We've been serving every week in cleaning the chapel and helping out as appropriate in callings, classes, and activities. We've been visiting less-actives and reporting back to ward leaders. We've been taking advantage of finding opportunities as we do so, and using the members to help in pulling, not pushing. Less-actives have come back and our recent converts are staying strong. The work is moving forward in amazing ways, and members are starting to do their own missionary work because they trust us to augment their efforts, not take over or destroy them by being intimidating to potential investigators.
The main thing that helps us to keep our forward momentum in all this is following the Spirit. Love, then following the Spirit, hard work and obedience, then results! As we are living the gospel and following the Spirit we can invite and challenge and encourage rather than push and frighten. It is amazing! Our branch and our investigators can trust that we are really following God's will, not our own.
I read in Alma 27 about how this trust can help investigators and members to move forward in missionary work. Ammon wants the Anti-Nephi-Lehi's, whom he loves, to go to the land of Zarahemla and be safe from Lamanite aggression. But they are afraid that the Nephites won't accept or forgive them because of their past wrongdoings. Ammon asks them if they will go if he inquires of the Lord, and they trust him that he won't push them if it's not what God wants. Ammon does so, and they go and are safe. Meanwhile Ammon is trusting in God by knowing that what He wants will be best for the people. We are trying to apply this to our missionary work by doing our best to follow the Spirit always, knowing that it will be the best way, and as we do so we will build trust with others.
So, a cool investigator :) Yesterday morning in ward council we had already known that our amazing investigator Nicole wouldn't be able to make it to church and so we asked members in ward council who could come out with us that night to visit her. A member couple volunteered, whom we would not have thought of as being great member friends for Nicole. Her testimony is very simple, and particularly the husband of the couple (our Elders' Quorum President, who is by the way an awesome member) likes to get into deep doctrine. We'd never taken them out teaching with us before and didn't know if Nicole would be intimidated or even confused. But they are strong members with strong testimonies and we knew that it would work out and they would help her.
During the first few minutes of the lesson we asked them to introduce themselves and she did the same. She told them about how she had lost a child and that still troubled her. Immediately our EQ president went into the story of Joseph Smith being tarred and feathered and losing a newborn child. We were a bit worried. But Nicole listened intently as he went on to explain that Joseph Smith had a vision about those who were raised in the first resurrection being able to raise their children in the millennium. Deep doctrine, but the Spirit was strong and she loved it. Her testimony of Joseph Smith the prophet and the restoration of the priesthood was strengthened, and the lesson was so successful that she texted us last night asking us if she needed to buy a white outfit to get baptized in. What miraculous results from a member's testimony!
|A's baptism day!|
BTW, A got confirmed yesterday :)
-B's son J got baptized in the YSA ward yesterday. Her daughter is getting baptizedin our ward, taught by the Creole elders.
-We're in Miami! What could get better?
-... except that the temple open house is next month! So excited!
Anyway, sum-up.This really is the Lord's work, and the ward's work, not our work. We are just the instruments, here for a tiny bit of time. We can't seek our own interests if we want to see true success. I am loving it. And I love you!!
|Drinking from a fresh coconut, courtesy of a nice|
Haitian guy outside an apartment building.
|The prettiest bug I've ever seen in my life. I originally thought it was a sparkly sticker on our car.|
|Evidence of Valentine celebrations. Chocolate syrup? |
| Our zone! I protested against the sisters always |
being the ones in the chairs, but I was outvoted...
|This is how we plug the baptismal font so we can use it...|
a HUGE iron key (taller than I am)
that you have to put in a water-filled hole
in the ground and try to find the right place to actually turn it...