Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Introspection and Refocus - Feb 22, 2016

Hi there guys,

I am mentally wiped out. We didn´t even have a rough week! Hopefully I can compose something more-or-less coherent for your perusing pleasure.

This week we have been trying to work harder with members to go out with one or two of them every day, or at least to coordinate so that every time we visit a particular investigator the same member comes with us. And...this week it didn´t work. Three reasons: one, because tons of appointments fell through when we did have members with us; two, because members couldn´t come out with us; but mostly three, because I think I´ve become accustomed to being lazy after last transfer.

That sounds harsh, but... I think it´s true, and I have to be frank with myself. Last transfer, what with troubles with Elder H**** in the second week of the transfer and not leaving on time in the second and third weeks, and with him stepping on a nail the last week and trapping us in the house for basically 5 days and then having to only go out for two hours at a time, I got used to having a lot of rest and a lot more free time at home. I tried at first (last transfer) to spend the time updating the Area Book, doing additional study, and in general keeping myself busy, but because the area wasn´t really progressing it got hard to keep busy and keep myself focused. The best days were the days we could actually get to work, but, like when one gets up late repeatedly, it gets harder and harder to refocus. This transfer we´ve been getting up and going to bed on time, as well as leaving the house on time, but I have still found that I "forget" to arrange for a member to leave with us, or it "slips my mind" to update the area book while doing planning. I don´t blame my past companions for not teaching me how to do that, nor do I blame my present companion for not helping me remember. I´m the one who knows the area, and I should be able to get in contact with members who can go out with us, just as I should be able to help Elder D**** study English in the afternoon and should be able to get up at 6 to run every day.

I have tons of little goals for this transfer and for each week to make myself better, and I´ve been seeing the progress bit by bit. However, when it comes to being focused in the afternoon and evening, I´ve been having a hard time changing. All my past companions used the afternoon as naptime and did "planning" in the evening so fast that I felt we had only written some names and numbers. Again, I don´t blame them--even as the junior companion in all cases I should be able to hold my own and put up an example. I´m trying to focus this week on that and to have patience with myself--that has probably been the hardest thing for me out here, since a lot of my retrospection has been way to negative. I need to look up more, and to have that "extraordinary faith" as though I have already changed.

My companion and I are getting along great (he´s a dominican from La Bombita, Azua, RD, FYI) and have been working hard. Not as hard as we could be, but we have been spending all day either in appointments or walking between them. However, another reason I need to keep working on patience is that our 2 potential baptismal dates for this Saturday (and what would be the first since December 12th) fell though. Neither made it to church, and one decided he´d rather be baptized in March (the 19th). Another investigator we were going to invite to be baptized this week disappeared Friday to go to her grandmother´s house, and may or may not be back tonight. I hope, hope, hope she is there, but I don´t know.

Also, the Zone Leaders have been on our case about lessons with members present, since one of them used to be in this area and always had tons of success working with the members here. We have been told we need 45 lessons with members present this week, where the average in this area since December has been six or less. We already have lots of members planning to go out with us, but we only have 12 investigators, and can only meet with 4 or 5 of them regularly. We have our own goal to have 35 lessons with members this week (more than my past totals of all lessons combined in a week in my entire mission) to be realistic, but I still feel like that´s being a little too focused on numbers. It is better to spend 30-45 minutes with an investigator that captures information well making sure they get all the information they need and want, in my opinion, than having 7 15-minute lessons in a day and only being able to teach one principle so that we can move on to see someone else. I may be wrong, and if so I´m ready to be corrected, but...I don´t want to say so to the Zone Leaders yet, since I know they´re right in that I haven´t been working with members nearly as effectively as I could, and I want to demonstrate change this week first. I still feel like I don´t know where any of the members live, and like all the references and new investigators we try to contact have been falling through, and with the prospect of no baptisms for the last two months hanging on my shoulders, I have been doing a lot of introspection yesterday and today. There has to be a reason why the Lord is allowing this to happen, and I need to find out what He wants me to learn. I do have really high hopes for March, since we could have as many as 6 investigators be baptized in one night, so... I´m going to focus my thoughts and energies on obtaining that joy, for now.

Jessica, to answer your question, (She asked... How has listening to/singing the hymns and other spiritual songs helped you teach?) it has helped a lot. We try to start every lesson with a hymn, we listen to the hymns at home, and I often hum or sing them as we´re walking around. Music has always touched me easily, and I feel the Spirit more strongly when I am immersed in good music. It also helps me keep the dembow rap whatever-it-is from getting stuck in my head (which is so dirty, explicit, and nasty that even the beat alone threatens to kick out the Spirit if I hear it from 4 blocks away).

I love you guys. I miss you. Stay strong, and be patient with yourselves. Also, try asking the missionaries there for each of the six pamphlets of the lessons, and try studying them for FHEs or on your own time. It really is amazing how much I´ve learned from teaching from those simple little booklets, and it would help you all to participate more in missionary work, since you´ll know even better the simple and basic truths of the Gospel.

I hope you all have an EXCELLENT week,
Élder Rowe

Monday, February 8, 2016

Retrospective - Jan 8, 2016

Hey hi hello there,

I, as my companion aptly put it, "andando regocijando" (walking rejoicing) as this transfer comes to an end. But not, as I was expecting, because Elder H***** is leaving. I have come to realize a few things this transfer:

     1.  Having trials with your companion often brings you closer together, if both of you are working to change. I am actually rather sad that Elder H***** is leaving, because in the last two weeks we´ve become really good friends. Although he has a sense of humor far different from mine, and although he´s okay to joke about things to a level that scares me, we have learned how to get along and actually have quite a few inside jokes and stuff.

     2. When you´re prideful, you need fire (not little encouragements) to realize it and change it. I have been using a lot the example of gold. When it is mined, you get chunks of rock with flecks and veins of gold inside. To purify it, you have to smash it into tiny pieces and toss it in a furnace for a good while for it to come out pure. Usually, you have to refine it more than once to get the best purity out of it. Thus it has been with me this transfer. While I´m nowhere near a perfect missionary, and while I still have a long ways to go, I can see that I´ve been refined by the fire I´ve faced this transfer. Elder H***** has taught me a ton about the value of obedience even when given opportunity for disobedience, and about how to become friends with and develop a true love for your companion. Speaking of which,

     3. If you and your companion are having troubles, forget yourself and serve him! Especially with being trapped in the house for 4 days straight with Elder H***** bedridden with a lovely puncture wound, making food, cleaning the house, doing laundry, ironing shirts, and any other little thing help A TON. Although he felt kind of like he was "abusing" me because I was doing everything for him, it felt really good to say "no, it´s because I love you" and to have him respond "te amo, ya tú sabes."

     4. Even if you can´t see it in the moment, the Lord blesses you for your obedience. Although we didn´t see it almost the whole transfer, in this week alone we have set up an incredible amount of potential for my next transfer in Los Tres Brazos with Elder D*****. We received over 10 references in the last week and a half. We now have a "Golden Family" in C***** and A***** and their children. Although they´re only in "unión libre" (free union or unmarried) they are continually asking us to come back, what more they need to know to be able to be baptized and join the Church, and to visit more often because they feel a special presence in their home even before we get there and they see it in our faces. We found a reference, A*****, who already knows almost everything and who has already accepted a baptismal date for another Noche Blanca we´re going to have the 19th of March. We will need to work more with his girlfriend-wife (unión libre), but the Lord works miracles, and as He has helped before I have faith that He will help again to unite yet another family in Christ. We came across a less-active member, C****, who just married his girlfriend, and who came to us saying he wanted to be active again and that he and his wife want to be sealed in the temple. We have started to visit with them, with C**** as review and with L**** as an investigator. Through visiting them, we also came across some young, returned-missionary, stake leadership members of our ward, who have offered to go out with us whenever they´re available. We got a calendar of members going (as far as who will go out with us what day of the week at what time). I have an incredible amount of hope and am excited for the future, and look forward to the transfer ahead.

It is great to hear, as always, that everything is good at home. I really do feel the support and effect of all the prayers said and love given--it really helps.

I love you guys... be safer than I am in this country, don´t do drugs, stay in school, and keep being awesome. (And study your scriptures and pray every day--the little things make the biggest difference!)

Élder Rowe

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Companion Bonding - Feb 1, 2016

I am feeling much better this week in some ways, worse in others. Let me explain. 

I don´t know why, but it has always seemed this transfer to be weekends and Mondays when stuff goes down, so I´m not in the best mood when I write. This week, not so. 

Elder H***** and I are cool now. Whatever problems we´ve had have been resolved. We´re actually pretty good friends, for right now. This week Elder H****, who has clashed a bit with President Corbitt in the past, has set himself straight with him. Ever since they talked and since he and his ex-girlfriend have made amends (still remaining separate), he has been almost a completely different person. We laugh, talk, joke, share experiences, and I´ve really been able to learn a lot from him and his past, in and out of the mission. Also, the service thing has already been in play-I cook for him, help him out however I can with his district leader duties, and we had a rather interesting weekend (as I´ll explain más adelante).

Last transfer, as I think I already mentioned, Elder M***** and I basically disregarded the opposite sex rule, and that hurt the area, as I can now see. Tons of investigators, almost all women, who aren´t really interested and don´t progress (and who we now can´t visit because of the rule). However, up to this point Elder H***** and I have been striving to be obedient, and we´ve felt like our efforts have not paid off too much, with baptismal dates falling through and a lot of days of either contacting 6 hours a day or of all our appointments and backups and backup-backups falling through. However, this week we started to get stuff together to get members going out with us more often, and we went out twice with a recently (3 months) returned missionary. We received 6 references, all of which appear to have a lot of interest--at least, once we get to contact them. 

Thursday night we were going to begin contacting the references. We were climbing a hill in the less-wealthy part of our area and I heard an "ACK!" Turning around, I saw a little piece of wood flush with Elder H*****´s elevated right shoe, with a rusty nail on either side of the board. The one in the middle went right into the forward pad of his foot, about an index-fingernail deep. I pulled it out, we talked to Sister Corbitt and Dr. Reagan (the mission doctor) and got him home. We spent the rest of the night at home. Friday we were at home all day, except around lunchtime when we went to the DR MTC (where Doctor Reagan has his office) to get a tetanus shot, antibiotics, and counsel to stay inside for the weekend. We still went to our Noche Blanca Saturday so i could be a part of the musical number and to participate in the special Spirit of the baptismal service, but Elder H***** couldn´t take not having his foot elevated above his heart, and after going outside to sit down he fainted from the pain. He is really strong: didn´t hardly make any noise or complaints about the pain he´s had almost consistently the last few days. We didn´t leave the house yesterday either, even for Church. We feared his foot wound might get infected, or that the nail had entered the joint or tendon sheath, but because Elder H***** has been able to walk around the house a little today, has been able to walk here to the internet shop, and has not developed feverishness or anything else, we are pretty confident that, even with the depth, the nail didn´t hit anything critical, and that the Lord is healing him. We are going to try to have one appointment tonight, and to go out at least a couple of hours at a time tomorrow, depending on how Elder H*****´s foot feels after we head home here in a bit. All that time in the house together with nothing but scriptures, playing cards, and a chess-checkers set has given us a lot of time to bond, and has given me a lot of time to reflect and to analyze my plans to improve, how they´re going, and how I can do better. 

Also, the Lord looks after His missionaries. Apart from the rapid healing of Elder H*****´s foot, just at the point when all our food ran out and we got sick of eating eggs a million ways (you can have them delivered from a colmado corner-store), we are now able to leave the house a little bit, we can do some shopping on the walk back to the house, and will be able to go get our apoyo out of the bank tomorrow for a bigger shopping trip later. Tender mercies, ladies and gents: they´re everywhere. I´ve started to make a daily list of tender mercies on a sticky note in my agenda. This week I slacked a bit, what with being in the house all day and not touching my agenda, but next week will be better.

I love you all, and hope you have an awesome week!
Élder Rowe