Tuesday, November 23, 2010

‏Email from 11/15/10


Before I forget, my email next week will probably be on Tuesday. Transfers is next week (the day before thanksgiving, actually). I'll probably stay here and I think Elder Fronk will get transferred. We'll see.

Wow, Dad, it sounds like you did your homework before going in to argue with Cody's VPs. "That's a violation of title VII of the Civil Rights act of 1964!!" I definitely admire your skill in out-talking and out-maneuvering people in conversation, whether it comes to buying a car for you or someone else or putting a VP in her place. Serving a mission definitely helps with that. Did Cody at least find any change for the charity jar?

Good job on the pheasant hunt. I met a vizsla the other day while we were tracting.
Yep, I'm aware that the browns suffered a disappointing loss - we were tracting while it happened and the people we talked to let us know. People get really uptight when you knock on their door and it's tied up with 20 seconds left in overtime. Who would have known? Just to clarify: Robbie is Esther's fiancee. Yasmine is his 8 yr old daughter. Lakota (Koda) is some sort of cousin that lives there. She's 18. Yes, we are making progress with all of them. They would have been at church yesterday, but Esther's father had to go to the emergency room yesterday morning because of a heart-attack scare. He's doing alright now, though.
So we've been sharing a cool member-missionary work lesson with people. I'll try it out on y'all:

First of all, I'd like to pose a question.... What is the largest living organism in the world?

Think about it for a minute...

Is it an elephant?

No - bigger than that.

Maybe a whale?

Nope - I'll give you a hint. Try a plant.

Oh...ok. ummmmm - maybe a Redwood tree?

Close! You're on the right track! But it's even bigger than that... OK fine, I'll just tell you - It's the Aspen tree.

WHAT? Aspen trees aren't even that big!

Not so fast! - here's why: When an aspen tree starts growing, it's doing its thing putting off branches and leaves and all that good stuff. Meanwhile, like other trees, it's putting roots out under the ground to suck in moisture and nutrients from the soil. But aspen roots are a little different than some other trees - they have what is called "runners" - they tunnel out some distance from the tree, and then sprout up out of the ground and start another tree! This tree sends out more runners, and pretty soon you have a whole forest of aspen trees, all connected together underground. The whole aspen forest is really one single tree, and some of the larger ones are estimated to weigh upwards of 600 tons! Wow!

OK Elder Smith, that's all well and good, but what does that have to do with member missionary work?

Well, I'll tell you. But first, a little more about aspen trees. When one of the trees in the interconnected forest is damaged, it can heal much, much faster than other types of tree because it has hundreds of other trees sending it nutrients and energy through the root system. Aspen trees take care of each other.

Alright, we have a similar network and support system in the church. We are nourished both physically and temporally - we have home teachers and visiting teachers, relief societies and elders' quorums, all established to meet our needs. Fledgling testimonies are strengthened by sunday school teachers and shared in testimony meetings. Casseroles are cooked and houses cleaned and children taken care of when someone is sick or injured. Bishops' storehouses restock empty shelves when someone falls on hard times. A vast array of counseling and other related services are available through LDS Family Services. Perhaps most important of all, we have a ward family to rely on for friendship and support whenever we are in need.

Our job as missionaries is to graft the freestanding, vulnerable trees (investigators) that we are working with into the support system of the ward. When investigators have strong relationships with ward members, they progress rapidly and recieve nourishment from someone other than just us missionaries. In the missionary department, we report how many LMPs (lessons taught to investigators with a member present) we teach each week to our mission leaders. But teaching investigators with a member present is just the minimum. When we're really effective missionaries, we focus on teaching LFPs - lessons taught to investigators with their fellowshipper present. Our mission president counsels us to "engineer love affairs" (in an appropriate way, of course) between investigators and members. Our effectiveness in member-oriented missionary work correlates directly to all other aspects of the work.

In preparation for a training meeting for our zone's district leaders, I looked through all my planners and evaluated every single investigator who had come to church during the 15 or so months that I'd been on my mission. It was not at all surprising that, with only one exception, every investigator who had come to church had first gotten to know a member of the ward. During the same meeting Elder Fronk and I shared some scriptures about stewardship and how the Lord requires an accounting at the hand of every steward and asked the missionaries how that made them feel about their proselyting areas. As you could probably guess, they responded that is motivated them to give their all, to be the best missionaries that they could possibly be, to work hard, etc. Can you imagine if every member that we invited to friendship and fellowship one of our investigators understood and applied that conception of stewardship? Investigators I've taught who have had fellowshippers that understood that the investigator was their "baby", their responsibility, have progressed rapidly and gained testimonies much more easily. For example, Tim, who was baptized back in Cleveland, told us at church one day how much he had enjoyed family home evening with his member friend, Bro. Branch (unbeknownst to us). We hadn't asked Bro. Branch to invite Tim to FHE, he just invited him because he was his friend and thought he would enjoy it and it would strengthen his testimony. Similarly, we were at an appointment at Esther & Robbie's house when Sis. Victors (their main fellowshipper) showed up and invited them to a relief society activity. We were thrilled. Those member-fellowshippers understood their purpose & their stewardship, and they were (are) true friends to the investigators.

(this is the part where we would commit you to a specific fellowshipping activity for one of our investigators, but that doesn't really apply to you since you are quite some distance from any of our investigators right now.)

(you can probably also see why member referrals are so much better than investigators we find from tracting - they already have the friend in place and we don't have to put much work into 'engineering a love affair'.

So reach out to people! Get over your intrinsic shyness and make a new friend today! It will do them (and you) a world of good to be connected to all the other aspen trees to which you are connected! Go be somebody's miracle!

The church is true & our leaders are inspired! I'll talk to you next month!

Loveymnb, Elder Matthew Smith