Woke up this morning and got a call from the President which caught me totally off guard because it’s the day after my birthday. After a bit of a scare and trying to guess what could possibly be going on I picked it up and it was the President and his wife calling to wish me a happy birthday. No one classier than President Clark. The mission will miss him for sure this coming July.
This past week I was reading through the conference edition of the Liahona again and was hit hard by President Uchtdorf's "Joy of the Priesthood” talk. As a back half missionary things are supposed to get easier and they do. But with the greater ability in the language and everything else comes a greater feeling of expectation if not from the President and others then definitely from yourself. At this point I should be able to do this and this with no problems. There should never be a dull moment. All my investigators should be progressing and I should be able to solve any problem in less than two seconds. With all that sitting in the back of your mind it’s quite easy to lose the childlike wonder of missionary work that comes as a young missionary fresh off the plane and unable to do anything but follow your senior and drink it all in. The trick is about balancing the two; Accepting the responsibility without losing the fun and the joy. Or in the words of President Uchtdorf, “. . . no matter what your responsibilities or circumstances may be, you and I know there is always a special joy that comes from dedicated MISSIONARY service. Yes, there is always something imperfect in any situation. Yes, it is easy to find things to complain about. But brethren, we are MISSIONARIES, after the Order of the Son of God! Each of us had hands laid upon our head, and we received the priesthood of God. We have been given authority and responsibility to act in His name as His servants on earth. Whether in a large ward or a small branch, we are called upon to serve, to bless, and to act in all things for the good of everyone and everything entrusted to our care. Could there be anything more exhilarating?"
(Okay, I may have changed a couple of words there)
There really couldn't be anything more exhilarating and what a commitment it is to find the joy in whatever we are doing because truly the joy in missionary work is noticing the joy of missionary work. Such as the lesson we taught in the back of a small shop this week to a young boy and his aunt. The four of us crammed in a small room (maybe 7x7) talking about the gospel and restoration. What are the odds of having such an opportunity? Speaking in a language I’d never heard of 18 months ago about topics the two of them had never heard of in their combined 50 or so years.
Then on Tuesday we found ourselves at the Baynzurk to drop off baptismal forms when we ran into the Briggs, a senior couple that I hadn't seen in a year because they were assigned to a different city for 18 months (not UB). But about two years ago we had met in the parking lot of Helaman Halls at BYU knowing that we were going to Mongolia. By coincidence we ended up at the office at the same time on Tuesday with them leaving the next morning for home. It was an amazing tender mercy to tell them goodbye and especially to send my congratulations on to Lauren who has put in her papers for a mission. (can’t think of anyone who would be a better missionary then Lauren Cochran)
This week we met with our newly found, but relatively old investigator Tsogtgerel who has kicked alcohol, but is struggling with smoking. I don’t know of anyone who likes to talk more than this guy. My companion and I will say about three sentences and then he is off on something. It’s almost comical, but you can tell that he is open to tell us anything. I've learned more than anything that nothing can break up a family faster than alcohol. The man was pretty much living a double life for years hiding his drinking from his wife. Conversely, what ease living the gospel brings to living life.
Saturday after English class we had a magical day. Two of those who sat in the English class wanted to meet with the missionaries. One of them has been coming to English for more than a year now and asked some fantastic questions. One of the investigators that you can see has enormous potential. Then after leaving for a meeting with another investigator and coming back we had two young guys walk in and tell us they were looking for a new church. There old one had just fallen apart and ours seemed to be the closest. We assured them that it was a good choice.
And that brings us to Sunday and a decently uneventful birthday. There's literally no way for anyone to know it’s your birthday, so aside from the elders in my group who were all over it (our group is soooooooooo close) it was pretty low key. We had dinner with the Hunts, the greatest senior couple in the history of senior couples. By happy accident we were 45 minutes early and so we were there to help Sister Hunt get ready. It was me and Elder Lloyd by the way. We had spaghetti and just enjoyed talking with the Hunts. Elder Naef and his companion were also there and it was super fun. Sister Hunt who had been tipped off surprised me with a birthday cake and everybody sang. What a great birthday! To top it off Elder Lloyd and I had prepared a spiritual thought about missionary work that went fantastic. The close was a quote from Paul (who’s got to be #1 on lists of top ten missionaries) and what I would say sums up my thoughts about missionary work, my last 6 months and continued service throughout life. From Hebrews chapter 6:
10 For God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labour of love, which ye have shewed toward his name, in that ye have ministered to the saints, and do minister.
11 And we desire that every one of you do shew the same diligence to the full assurance of hope unto the end:
12 That ye be not slothful, but followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises.
Have a wonderful week, all the way to the end,