A tough week for Charlie has had him thinking about what it takes to find people to teach, and why it can be so difficult sometimes. But it has also taught him more about commitment, prayer, and loving the people he serves. And frankly, that is what a mission is all about.
The work in Senri is going really slow right now. Tanaka-san, our strongest investigator, dropped himself a couple weeks ago and said he was done studying, he didn’t want to be baptized, and wanted to be a Buddhist. It was shocking. We’ve been working as hard as we can, sometimes 8-9 hour days contacting and biking and visiting with no break from the cold, without finding anybody. It’s really weird. Finding has never been this hard for me in any other area. I’ve been praying my desperate heart out for God to give us someone who’s prepared to help the Senri ward, who can be baptized. Even though we worked our tails off this week, we taught zero lessons. The first time I’ve ever taught zero lessons in a week in my whole mission. But through it all, my desire was increased, my love for people was strengthened. I didn’t realize how badly I wanted to be teaching people until I wasn’t. I didn’t realize how desperately I wanted to find people until I couldn’t. All this seemingly wasted effort has just made me want to put more in. I don’t believe that God would ever want any missionary not to see success, for whatever reason, so I know that something is holding this area back… once we find it and solve it, I think the work here will take off. But I just can’t figure out what it is! Did you have any experiences like that in your mission?
[Mom’s reply:] Why yes, Charlie, as a matter of fact I did. Plenty of them! I think every missionary has had experiences like that. I think not to have moments like that would be the exception and not the norm. But I also think desperate times can strengthen our faith and abilities. Here is what I told Charlie, words which I am borrowing from Sister Wendy Nelson, wife of Elder Russell M. Nelson, at a recent talk given to missionaries at the MTC:
“I’d like to talk to you about desperation. When we are desperate everything changes. Our vision changes. We are suddenly able to see things we’ve never seen before. Our ability to do increases. We are suddenly able to do whatever it takes… My dear elders and sisters, I pray that on your mission you will have many moments of complete and overwhelming and even anguishing desperation. Why? Because then, and only then, will you desperately ask, desperately seek and desperately knock. Then, and only then, will you find the courage and determination to follow through with exactness everything the Lord needs you to do in order to serve a valiant vibrant, worthy and very successful mission for Him.”
My knowledge of the love of God was also deepened this week. Something President Zinke said has always stuck out to me: The first thing you want your investigators to feel is God’s love for them. I’ve been really focusing on this this week. I’ve made my goal for every contact and every lesson: to make sure everyone has a chance to feel the love of Heavenly Father. On an exchange in Takatsuki this week, we met with a man who didn’t necessarily have so much interest in learning about Christianity, but because he was invited to do so by the missionaries, he thought he might hear them out, but just once. That day, Tucker Choro and I planned our lesson out carefully to fit his needs, and practiced again and again with each other to make sure it would be a powerful spiritual experience for this man. That night we had a really good lesson and he definitely felt God’s love for him, even though he had never even thought about believing in God before. He accepted to continue to learn and study from the Book of Mormon with the missionaries. The love of God is so powerful that if you feel it, you will desire to feel it again. When love becomes our motive, we align our will with the Lord, because that is his HIS motive. It makes us think about the other things we do in the church. Do we do our home teaching, Sunday school lessons, and other church callings out of pure love? or just because we know we are expected to? Love is central to the joy of the Gospel.
Something to think about: do we do what’s required of us out of love, or because it’s expected of us? Spiritual food for thought from Charlie Choro. And now for the week in pictures: