Persevering in Italy
Most days in Italy we didn’t have a single appointment on our schedule. During these days we had a lot of opportunities to learn about ourselves and about persevering.
It would have been so easy to get depressed and throw a pity party for ourselves since we didn’t have an appointment. Our lack of success and teaching could have been a source of contention and argument between me and my missionary colleagues. It would have been so easy to bend the rules and leave the apartment late in the morning or return home early. I remember how difficult it was to summon all the positivity and strength I had on a daily basis to overcome these setbacks and persevere, hoping that blessing would come and things would get better.
Often times we didn’t see and tangible results from our persevering. I remember returning to our apartment at night on time, thinking, “Well, the only thing we accomplished in those last 45 minutes was get closer to hypothermia than we were yesterday!” But looking back on these tough and trying times I think that in addition to finding the frostbite thresholds of my body, I was taught about and learned better work ethic and character. These trials shaped my personality. They made me into the person I am today.
Enduring to the End in Switzerland
When I was in my 5th transfer in the field, or about 7 months I was emergency transferred from a city in southern Germany called Freiburg, to a small town in Switzerland about 10 km away from my first area, where I would become senior companion; the town was called Frauenfeld. I was pretty excited to go back to that area of the country. I knew a lot of the missionaries in the district and zone, and I was only going to be a 10 minute train ride away from Winterthur (my first area).
When I got there, I met my companion Elder Tingey, who was a tall, very skinny fellow with dark hair that was perfectly parted to the side. If he had glasses, he would look like a typical nerd you see on T.V. I can say this, because we became good friends over the next 4 and a half months while he was my companion. Having been in the same district as Frauenfeld before I got transferred to Germany 2 weeks earlier, I knew that they didn’t have many solid investigators- in fact, I couldn’t remember one solid investigator. This fact was then solidified with Elder Tingey as I was talking to him that first day in the area. This was an interesting situation I was in. I get emergency transferred to become senior companion to an Elder who is 6 weeks out in the field and I’m in an area where there are no investigators, and my German wasn’t the best. I mean, come on, I was only learning it for about 8 months! I felt a little overwhelmed, and humbled to say the least.
With the situation not so ideal, Elder Tingey and I went to work. We worked hard too. I remember days getting out of bed, and I was barely able to move my legs because we had walked so far the day before, and then we would do doors or be on the streets all day to find anyone to teach. It was an intense area. To make a long story short our hard work paid off. We actually got to the point where we were leading the mission in lessons taught in the week. We got along great with the branch, and we were working with them awesomely. We had investigators, and we were finding people too! I was enjoying the mission, and we were working hard to get it that way.
It came time for Elder Tingey to leave me and I got a brand new fresh missionary, Elder Fawcett. He was a great kid, and not really knowing how to train, I was just going to work hard like Elder Tingey and I had done. We did this. We continued to work hard, however sometimes the Lord tests his servants, and within a matter of weeks all of our investigators we were working with (it wasn’t more than 2 or 3) told us they didn’t want to meet with us, or they moved out of our area. Even most of our less-actives started to not meet with us.
We had to go back to finding with sore legs and all! Oh happy day! At this point in time, I was pretty discouraged. Everything that I had already worked for had just gone away in the matter of 2 weeks. Unfortunately, over the next 3 months, it wouldn’t change either. We were having a hard time finding people, setting up appointments, and just finding people who would talk to us. It was a hard area, and I did get pretty discouraged.
At the end of my 7 months in that area, I was looking back at what I had done, and on paper it showed that I had done nothing. We were teaching maybe 2 or 3 lessons a week, just as many as we were teaching 7 months ago when I came into the area. It’s hard to think that the past 7 months of hard work were almost for nothing. When I knew that my time was coming to an end, I started praying for one last miracle to happen before I left; if for nothing else, just to let me know that my time wasn’t wasted.
One night on my last week in the area, I was feeling pretty depressed and discouraged about things and I couldn’t sleep. I decided I needed to pray…alone. So, I went into the living room while my companion was sleeping. I started letting the Lord know my thoughts and my feelings about the situation, and just asked for one miracle to happen. While I was praying, I had a great feeling come over me, and I was happy! I knew that the Lord was pleased with the work I put in that area, and that my hard work will count for something, and as long as I finished out strong He would provide the miracle I was looking for. It was one of the most spiritual experiences in my life! I felt good and great and confident about the work I had done. The next day was Sunday, and the ward was planning on throwing a BBQ after church, so we used that as leverage to invite all of our investigators and less-actives and even people that we would meet on the doors to church.
That Sunday was probably one of the best Sundays on the mission. We had an investigator, Ronny show up and he even brought his girlfriend with him! It was awesome! I was super stoked that they came because Ronny had moved out of the area and it had been a few weeks since our last lesson with him. We had invited him, I believe, through a voicemail. I then remember sitting in the Sunday school lesson, and sister Klaumuenzner comes and taps me on the shoulder and says that there’s a guy here that we invited. We invited a lot of people, so it could have been almost anyone off the street. I walk out to the foyer and see a man whose door we had knocked on a week or two before and given a Book of Mormon. We had tried to get in touch with him a couple times after that, but he wouldn’t answer the phone and he was never home when we went by. Talk about a miracle! Then I said good-bye to the ward, and they were talking about missionary work and how they could help us out. I made quite a few good friends in that ward, and I knew that I had made a difference, with the Lord’s help. I knew that the Lord was always there with me helping me through the rough times in that area. It taught me to keep working hard and to never give up on the Lord!
Perseverance in Guatemala
I’m sure many missionaries talk about the struggle of waking up everyday at 630 to exercise and start their laborious day until 1030 and how they endured that schedule for 2 years. However, even after I was privileged to work that hard for two years I could never compare to Q’eqchi’ people’s normal life. Everyday they woke up before dawn to go to their fields and work hard so that their family could eat. They would carry hundreds of pounds of crops daily to last them the year. However, what most struck me was their attitude. I would greet a man with more than 100 pounds on his back and he was always happy to see a missionary. They would be working in the exhausting heat but always have time to make a joke. They learned how to persevere. I always enjoyed the context people hear when they see the line “Endure to the End”. I used to see that negative connotation too. However, I don’t think that’s what it means. Like the Q’eqchi’s, our life is exhausting but it is incredibly fun. I would see men walk 2 and a half hours just for the Sunday meeting. If our life is the gospel then I wish I could learn from the Q’eqchi’. What we may see as tedious and ‘a hard thing’ that the Lord commands us then I think we haven’t quite learned what it is to endure to the end. We persevere the opposition, we persevere the temptations, and we persevere the world, but we take pride and joy in sharing the message of the restored gospel. I know that this particular doctrine is hard to see right away, but once we do we will realize why it is such a blessing to be a part of this church and a part of God’s eternal family.