Saturday, December 20, 2014

[12/15/2014] Week 93: Man, I love being a missionary

Hey, howdy!

A sick rainbow!
Mandy decided to postpone her baptism! This news was out of the blue, but it turns our that her dad doesn't support her decision to be baptized (religion is man-made, he says), and so she needs more time because she respects her father deeply. Though she turns 18 in January, she may continue to put off her baptism beyond that out of respect (some might call it appeasement) for her dad. We need prayers! Actually, Mandy needs prayers. And her dad. And us.

I am just finishing the war chapters of Alma in my personal study, and I have really come to love and admire the example of Captain Moroni. He was an excellent example of honoring the priesthood of God and he always remembered which way he faced, as Elder Robbins of the Seventy would put it. I want to be like Captain Moroni in every aspect of my missionary work. I feel that one of Captain Moroni's most astounding attributes was his virtue. He was a man with a pure heart and every intent to serve God.

Elder George of Rexburg, Idaho
I love serving with Elder George! He is such a great missionary in every way. He understands and remembers the scriptures so clearly, he is persistent and diligent in every contact, he teaches with boldness and love, and he is super smart and way fun to serve with. I am learning a lot from his example every day.

Saturday was a day of powerful learning for me. At first, it was a crummy day. I mean, we tracted a lot, and nearly everyone was uninterested and many were rude and condescending. It was a real trial of my faith. I prayed personally a few times through the day for the strength to keep on truckin' and work joyfully. I was deeply grateful for a companion to bear me up and keep me goin', even if he didn't know how much help he was. We had some great laughs to make things more bearable.

Eventually, tracting through a fancy neighborhood, we happened upon an older man, Fran, who, though firmly Catholic, offered us wisdom and encouragement that I really needed to keep going. He was an answer to my prayers. He said, "When people slam doors on ya, don't take offense, because there are just as many more who will listen or at least be nice." It was a small thing he did for us, but it was God's hand in our work, helping me to keep going.

After dinner (and lots more tracting) on Saturday, we stuck to our plans to tract nearby our dinner appointment and met many nice people despite the late hour. By nearly 8:00, we came to a house whose second story was an apartment at the top of a separate flight of stairs (this means it was a door that was a little more questionable/uncomfortable to knock). The first floor was dark and no one answered, but we decided by a hair to go ahead and knock the top floor apartment. We were met by Brynn, who happened to be meditating just as we knocked. She took this timing as a sign. We started into a long conversation on her doorstep about faith and higher power, she asserted some ideas about quantum mechanics and love, we taught about prophets briefly, her boyfriend, Billy, arrived home and they invited us back another time.

The whole day, I had this feeling we were working for some blessing that would come later. And so we just needed to hang in there and be diligent, and God would guide us.

But wait! There's more!

At about 8:35pm, we decided to go try a referral we received from a potential. The referral was for a guy he'd seen living in a camper in a field by the Snohomish river, who was allegedly a drunk. We found the camper, parked nearby, and approached cautiously. Just then, the camper rocked back and forth from the motion of someone shuffling around inside. In all honesty, we were shakin' in our boots. Our imaginations ran wild, and we almost high-tailed it back to the car to try back another time -- you know, in the daylight.

Snohomish Railroad Crossing (courtesy of C. Harmon)
Somehow, we just went for it anyway. We softly knocked, a light flicked on inside, a man in his late 60's came to the door, and we explained exactly why we were there: we were missionaries for the Church of Jesus Christ who had heard that he could use our message. And he invited us in. Because it was cold. And we accepted. He took us each by the hand and helped us up the rickety makeshift "staircase" of stacked rocks that led to his door, and we huddled around the small table in the camper in the back of his late 1970's Ford pickup. As he said down, he said, "Now that I know you're missionaries, I can put this away," and he pulled from his waistband a six-inch silver dagger that gleamed in the low light and set it gently on the pleather seat next to him.

We learned his name to be Jesse, and we listened as one life adventures story of his molded into another. We served in the military, met a Korean lady during his service, fell in love, and chased after her for years to come. He's always had trouble with the law, going in and out of jail, and through it all, he has tried to recognize God's hand in his life. He drinks, he smokes, he swears, and he even battles addiction to meth. He's been "healed by Jesus Christ" and every dollar he makes "signing" he credits to God's divine providence.

This was the typical man you see out on the street corner asking for money, and yet we saw him in an entirely different light. He's a child of God. He has a name and a story and a faith. He has struggles and trials. We started to teach Jesse about the Restoration, to which he responded, "Oh, I know about Joseph Smith. He's the modern-day prophet who designed the temple with just the right shafts so they could go and put elevators in 80 years later. Amazing." I asked how he knew so much (Of course, he wasn't entirely accurate, but it was clear he'd had some experience with the Church) and he replied, "I was a Mormon for a little while when I was younger. That was the happiest six months of my life." We asked what he meant, and he said he just loved the family feel of each ward (he used the term) and how he always felt right and loved and at home. He even told us he almost went on a mission. Can you believe that? Who would have ever thought he'd had all this experience with the Church and the gospel just from a glance out the passenger window at a busy intersection?

We invited Jesse to church the following morning, and he said he had to watch football, but that next week could work. By the soft orange glow of the one working bulb of his wimpy reading lamp and through the hazy smoke of the cigarette he'd rolled during our talk, we prayed with him and bid him goodnight. As he walked us to our car, he told us we could stop through anytime and get warm in his camper, even if he wasn't home -- "The lock is broken anyway!".

Man, I love being a missionary.

Elder Martin

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