G'day brothers and sisters and family and friends!!!
First off, my mum (that's your new name- Andrew calls you madre so I have to adopt my mission language and call you mum) is awesome, and has always been an example of strength and determination and steadfastness in my life, and without my mum I really don't think I would be as effective of a missionary. I'm still not sure how some missionaries come out without the support of a mother back home, because I definitely don't think I would have lasted as long without her loving encouragement and the example that she has always been to me.
Secondly, transfers is this week and I know nothing! My spiritual impressions suggest that I've got one more in me in the Territory (I was 'born' in Darwin, how cool is that!?), but time will tell. I've got to answer Andrew's question as well, pertaining to baptismal dates being a ways away. We set the dates typically a month in advance to give us the appropriate time we need to not only teach the doctrine but also address any of our investigator's concerns or Word of Wisdom/Law of Chastity issues. The closest date I've ever set was two weeks in advance and that one fell through- she didn't have adequate time to conquer her addiction to smoking and she doesn't want to be baptized until she knows she's quit cold-turkey (which is very noble but not completely necessary). I don't know how the people in Ecuador are, but in my experience here, the Word of Wisdom and the Law of Chastity are the investigator 'killers'. They will accept everything the gospel has to offer until we explain that smoking and drinking are not condoned, and neither is 'jumping the fence' and other things like unto that. I've lost two 21-year old male investigators to the Law of Chastity and who knows how many to smoking and drinking. It's just the Aussie way, ESPECIALLY in the Territory- if you're not a drinker and you live in the Territory, you are a freak of nature. Most Aussie's from the Territory are born drinking, and it's not exactly something that's easy to give up. As always, the concern is more social than anything- to stop drinking means to lose one's social status with who knows how many people. The same could be said of smoking. As for the Law of Chastity, there are very few people who understand just how sacred the power to create/share intimacy on such a scale really is- to the vast majority of people, sex is just another way to spend the evening when you're bored. It's a much different crowd in Australia, and to be honest I'm beginning to wonder if I'm going to baptize anyone at all. Elder Traconis has been out for a year and hasn't had one baptism. Of course, it's like I was telling Elizabeth- there are three different types of missionaries: seed planters, harvesters, and rescuers. I'm still not sure who I am or what category I fit into yet (could be all three, only God knows). But anyways, that's why we set the dates out there- almost every investigator has an issue to be overcome with the Word of Wisdom or Law of Chastity, and they need time to overcome it. In most other cases, it's usually the fear of change that pushes them all away. If we baptized every investigator with only two weeks time (and there are those that can be baptized that quickly), retention would plummet. There are 1,000 members on the rolls in the Darwin Branch and only 200 in attendance, and as a missionary, I refuse to baptize anyone if I know that they will not remain within the fold (2 Nephi 31:14).
In other news, Dennis has told us not to visit him for another 3 months- his mother-in-law is staying with him and his wife for that duration, and she is extremely anti-Mormon, thus Dennis has opted to put our lessons on hold. To top that off, Salem and Lauren (less-active and investigator) moved out of our area into Palmerston's area, so we won't be teaching our awesome part-member family anymore (she was the lady mentioned above with the Word of Wisdom issue). To top THAT off, we've been losing investigators left and right, and now our teaching pool is very very shallow. Thus, Elder Traconis and I have opted to smash tracting this week, and probably well into next transfer. It's hard to fulfill our purpose when we don't have anyone to teach.
While tracting, we ran into a very interesting man. We had come to the address because we had a potential there that we thought was named Albert. Turns out that Albert is our potential's brother. We were a bit surprised, but taking the situation and accepting it for what it was, we tried to teach him. Turns out that Albert is a minister for an unnamed Christian faith (I'd venture a guess at Baptist due to his questions and Bible scriptures employed, followed by his prying of 'Have you been saved?'). He taught us some very interesting, if not completely full doctrines, and asked us many questions that actually made me and Elder Traconis think- not out of lack of doctrinal knowledge, but it was more of an issue of trying to understand his questions that were based off of incorrect doctrine, and then coming up with an answer. As he went on, he did what I hate most of all- he challenged Elder Traconis and I to really evaluate what we were doing as missionaries, to really question if our faith was correct (something we do EVERY day). Well, it's a good thing Elder Traconis was there- I was mad. It had been a long day, we'd lost two investigators, we hadn't found anyone new, and the night was late and I was hungry and still 2k's from home on the bikes. Now I was being told that my faith was not true, that I didn't study my Bible enough, that I didn't know who Jesus Christ is, and that I had been led astray by the "cunning craftiness of men". I'm not usually one to smash anyone, even in Bible bashing, which I really do hate (waste of my time and the Lord's time, and it doesn't help anyone's spiritual progression), and I had wanted to leave about thirty minutes earlier (Elder Traconis had opted to stay and continue to converse with the man). Then the man refused to take the Book of Mormon I had offered, and said he would throw it away. I appreciated the honesty, but he was pushing the limits. As he and Elder Traconis continued to converse in a very controlled manner, Albert said, "Are you sure you're saved? Because I'm not so sure Mormons go to heaven,"............
I. Snapped. Albert had been doing most of the talking, and now it was my turn. I told him, full on, how we study the Bible every single day for several hours. I told him how we know who Christ is and how we know. I told him exactly why I am on a mission. I told him how I had come to know that the Book of Mormon is true. I told him where I knew I was going if I died right then and there. I told him that we did not come out as missionaries to be talked down by others who think they know who we are. I told him that he did not have any idea or clue about who Mormons are or why we're even called that BECAUSE of his refusal to read the Book of Mormon. I told him how his ignorance in not exploring the fullness of truth would be his downfall. I told him that someday he and I would stand before the judgement bar of Christ and he would know that the things I had taught him were true. I was not kind. I did not sugar coat anything. I did not relent. I ground his arguments into dust and then spat on them (metaphorically speaking). His once 'educating' look (the look that he wore as he had been 'educating' me) had vanished as I quoted scripture after scripture to defend my arguments. His eyes became squinted and his lips became silent. His ability to argue any of our doctrinal points ceased entirely. He attempted to put up further argument and stumbled on his words and contradicted himself, tying his web of ineffective and utterly useless arguments that had no base in doctrine. I am not usually one to lash out or explode in such a harsh manner, but I did, and I did not give him any room to breathe. Elder Traconis then took over, and in a much calmer, much more friendly way, continued to support what I had said and converse with Albert, who no longer talked to me.
As we left, I was still fuming, and it took me some time to recognize the lesson that I had to learn from it all. I've been given some very powerful gifts and promises as a missionary... and they are not to be misused. With my minuscule yet effective knowledge of the scriptures I tore Albert to pieces, and with my various experiences of conversion I was able to testify in a very angry way that what I knew was true. As a missionary we are very blessed with the ability to learn scriptures and discern or read others very well, and I used those gifts to utterly destroy what Albert thought was true. As missionaries, we are supposed to build upon another's knowledge however, not tear them down. The experience is one of which I am not proud. At first I was thrilled in a war-like way; I had completely decimated my enemy. But Albert was not my enemy, and we weren't even at war with each other. I, being the missionary, being the disciple of Christ, should have taken his knowledge, and built upon it so that he would be spiritually uplifted, and so that he could see that we missionaries really aren't bad guys, and Mormons really aren't bad people, and most importantly, that our message is true. I did not do this and I am very ashamed of it. One would think that I could find satisfaction in having crushed my opposition... but I was left feeling very empty, very fruitless, and very alone. The Spirit had left me for a time, and it was then that I knew that I was in the wrong. The moral of the story: do NOT misuse gifts given from the Lord. I learned this the hard way, and it was not a pleasant lesson to learn.
Aside from that, Darwin is still awesome and I love you all HEAPS!!!! Keep on keepin' on and stay awesome!!!