I've had a pretty incredible past week full of mission/life-changing experiences. I'll briefly share a few of those...
Monday (Aug 22nd) was Elder Tracy's last day here in Ohio. We tracted all night and I stood back in awe as he bore his powerful testimony to those at their doors, in their garages, on the streets one last time. His example has driven me throughout my whole mission. When I first got here last October and drove (what seemed for hours) to Toledo, he was the first one to greet me. He was my first Zone Leader. He served in the Toledo 2nd Ward with me and Elder Perkins: we ate dinners together, we spent P-days together. He has always been one of the hardest working missionaries out here in the Ohio Cleveland Mission and has never lost sight of his purpose. When I left Toledo 6 weeks later and traveled down to Findlay, we continued to see each other frequently as we would drive to Cleveland together or gather Stake information together. He continued to inspire me, to uplift me, to be that example for me. He showed me how to be a leader. Never did I think I would have the privilege of serving with him and get to teach along side him. In these past 4 weeks I got to serve with him, I learned more than I have probably my whole mission. He showed me the value of consecrating my life to the Lord. He showed me the importance of teaching by and listening to the Holy Ghost. He showed me how to be bold, courageous, faithful, how to "get the fear out." Dropping him off at the airport the next morning was bittersweet, but mostly bitter. I wasn't sure how I'd make it without him here anymore, but a week has gone by and I'm still alive. So that's good! He texted President Sorensen a few days ago actually telling how he actually taught one of his friends the first lesson, gave her a Book of Mormon, invited her to church and invited her to be baptized. So he's still in missionary mode and probably will be forever. How awesome is that?
Tuesday (Aug 23rd) our mission took part in a stress survey that was done by four missions in the world as a test-mission. Shane Littlefield (works for the MTC/missionary department?) and Doctor Faerie (a psychologist, works part-time for LDS Family Services and currently is creating this stress test that will soon be taken by all missionaries world-wide). It was a little tutorial about stress and how to manage it and tips for how to de-stress a too-stressed life. It had you take a test to see what level you were at stress-wise (the colors went from green to red, green is good, red is bad). I was green! I haven't been stressing out since I've been called to be an Assistant! You should all be proud of me! ;) After the stress-test we had about 20 or so missionaries participate in a discussion of the likes and dislikes of the stress test. Later that afternoon Elder McClellan and I had the privilege of going teaching with Doctor Faerie for two hours. What an amazing guy. Overall he's just brilliant, but he understands the gospel to such a deep level. Like... He understands the happiness and purity and joy of the gospel and of charity. After a lesson with a 14 year-old recently adopted into a family in the ward, I asked how we did and he started talking about how amazing every experience is in the gospel. Example, as we taught this girl about Adam and Eve (we were teaching about the Plan of Salvation) the fluidity of the lesson was disturbed, we got jumbled with our words, and you could tell that it kind of flew over her head. I told him how I wish we had taught that part better and he showed us the blessing of that experience because we now have learned so much. We need not worry about frustrating God's plan because it cannot be done. We taught by the Spirit and we taught to the best of our abilities, thus we were successful. He was so positive and full of Charity! We dropped him off at his hotel and went on to tracting just full of love and excitement. On the drive over to the neighborhood we had planned, we discussed ways we could help those at the door feel the Spirit more and decided that by acting charitable (full of love) that the influence would spread. So our new goal became to compliment everyone at the door for something genuine (not just a compliment for a compliment's sake, but for something that we were truly, deep down grateful for). We thanked men for the evidences of them being good fathers, thanked (practicing) Catholics for being so steadfast in their faith in Jesus Christ, etc. And the coolest part was as we would do this, people would literally light up and their "I'm not interested" attitude at first would change to a "good luck and have a great night!" attitude. As we show our love and thanks to others, as we live those Christ-like attributes such as charity, we inspire others and in the process of doing so invite them to come unto Christ: a missionary's basic purpose. Just as Doctor Faerie inspired us and changed our attitude and perspective in this work and in a task such as tracting, we need to do that to everyone in the world. Inspire a world who is desperately looking for light, for guidance, for truth, for Spiritual fulfillment! It was just awesome.
Wednesday (Aug 24th) was a Leadership Training Meeting. All the Zone Leaders, District Leaders, and a few sets of Sisters attended a meeting in which we talked about stress (by President Sorensen and Dr. Faerie) and the Spirit/having faith to find. Elder Bills and I did another musical number. We created a combination of Come Thou Fount and Be Still My Soul. We put it together in literally 5 minutes. It was pretty cool. Afterwards I went up and thanked Dr. Faerie for the wonderful experience the day prior. He got so excited when I told him about our tracting and shared a scripture with me. It may have been Section 88:133 but I can't remember... Something about being brothers. I feel so blessed to have gotten to work with him!
Sunday (Aug 28th) Elder Marcus B. Nash of the Quorum of the Seventy and his wife, Sister Nash, flew into Cleveland. Elder McClellan and I were to report to the mission home at 10pm to "talk shop" - or in other words to discuss the ups and downs of the mission: our strengths, our weaknesses, how we were implementing the fundamentals of Preach My Gospel, how our Key Indicators were looking, how were were in finding, retention, activation, member involvement, etc. Elder McClellan and I didn't know what to expect and were overly prepared with information. We arrived and sat down with the Nash's and the Sorensen's and ate some dessert while discussing the mission. It wasn't a talking-to-a-General-Authority discussion as much as it was friends trying to find where we can strengthen the Lord's vineyard here in Ohio. We finally left the Mission Home around 11:30pm.
Monday (Aug 29th) was our first Mission Conference with the Cleveland, Toledo, and Findlay zones. It was an INCREDIBLE mission conference. We met at the Cleveland chapel and received instruction from Sister and President Sorensen, Sister Nash and for the remainder of the 5 hour meeting Elder Nash. The Spirit was so powerful! I was going through tissues like there was no tomorrow - and I was sitting up on the stand! Talk about embarrassing. We covered SO much I'm not sure I could write it all down! He started off with the question "Why are you wearing your name tag?" As we answered he shared a quote by Elder Scott, something along the lines of "have you ever heard the expression 'we need to get the water to the end of the row'? I think it's better to just make it rain" and that's what we did in that meeting. We made it rain - as he would ask us questions and missionaries would answer by the promptings of the Spirit, we would get the "water" everywhere and on our own. It was a great teaching method if you ask me. We were all edified. We read 3 Nephi 11:3-21 and talked about what Jesus Christ would do if he came to our mission. As we read in this passage, we see that the first things he does is testify of himself, invite all to come unto him, and then baptize (or give Nephi commission to baptize, restoring that authority). We talked about why we baptize, about the Atonement, having faith and the process of that faith growing, getting people to Sacrament Meeting, using members and so many other things. He shared D&C 84:106 which reads, "And if any man among you be strong in the Spirit, let him take with him him that is weak, that he may be edified in all meekness, that he may become strong also." We talked a lot about how we need to TAKE with us those around us. It's nice to call someone or shoot them an email, to stop by and say hi, but to literally take someone to the church, take someone to the temple, walk with someone to the Bishop's office - those are the ways to build up those around us. I'm not giving this scripture justice in the short time I have to email (though I've written a freaking long email again! haha) but study it! If we read a couple scriptures down in verse 108 it says "Behold, this is the way that mine apostles, in ancient days, built up my church unto me." We need to build up those around us! "take with him him that is weak"... AHhh! I wish I had more time!
We had a conference on Tuesday too and I had to conduct the meeting. It went well. After both meetings we had a brief leadership meeting titled "Therefore, what?" where we talked as leaders how we could implement what we discussed in the mission. We will be making plans in Zone Leader Council next week.
I'm out of time writing! Time... we never have enough time! Which is why we must live life to the fullest! President said something the other day along the lines of "you can lay in bed all day and waste your life away or you can get up and decide what you want to do with your life!" -this was when we were talking about missionaries before their missions sleeping in till the afternoon. He says he can count on one hand how many times he's slept in past 8am since his mission! Sleep is such a waste of time! In missionary work we're always seeming to look for more time, but that's for another day/email message.
I love you all! I love my life! I've been so blessed and privileged this past week as I've met and taught with some of the most amazing men I've ever met! My testimony and faith have grown so much in just this past week and I love every moment of it. Hopefully after my mission I can talk more about this stuff and explain in more detail some of the cool experiences I've had. Have a great week everyone!
Love, Elder Dransfield