I'll have you know that I have moved out of the Orange Zone and find myself in the mystical "Blue" Zone (somewhere in between Green and Yellow). That is a good thing; in fact, that is a normal thing, and if anyone is spending any time with undue worry for my welfare, I invite you to repent and cease to worry.
I just thought I'd share a brief experience that I wrote to President Carter on this past week, and perhaps I'll go into more detail about how things are going here later on.
"Last week we were street contacting on a busy main road -busy with people, I mean- and we were in that area for around two hours. At first we just had the occasional contact, and we took turns leading off and teaching. Not much came from it- in fact nothing came from it. Undeterred, we continued to contact who we could, anxiously waiting for that precious 4-5PM hour in which we knew the street would explode with activity. As expected, it did so, and we went to work street contacting. Elder Fleming had to contact a number of people on his own because we became so caught up in talking to people. Later that night, during compliments, I gave him that one as a compliment- contacting people by oneself isn't an easy thing to do when that one is only 3 weeks into the mission. He then told me that at first he was mad at me for obligating him to do so- it made him uncomfortable, he wasn't sure what he was doing, and he didn't have any back-up. But he went on to explain that, as we went about contacting people, he was glad that I was actually letting him do it alone- he said that he learned very quickly and it showed him that I trusted him to do missionary work. That's something that I'm trying to plant in his head- he is a missionary now, the same as I am, and there is no "rank" system in the mission. I have my responsibilities and duties, and he has his, but we are both called to the same office and the same ministry. He's progressing well."
This week has been largely focused on finding, but we also tried to teach a few lessons. However, it's difficult to teach people when you've no one to teach. So, as Elder Fleming and I were sitting across from our desks, discussing the work in our area during our Weekly Planning session, we started to make some goals as to what we wanted to accomplish. I had been thinking heavily on the situation and decided to relay some of my thoughts to his.
In essence, there is what I like to refer to as the "Area Cycle" which basically looks like this:
Potentials ---> New Investigators---> Investigators on Baptismal Date---> Other Lessons Taught---> Progressing Investigators---> Member Present Lessons Taught---> Baptized and Confirmed---> Potentials
And so on and so forth. Now if just one of those areas is off, the whole cycle gets thrown off (which is why it is so stressed that we maintain balanced areas). If we stop teaching with members, we can expect that our investigators will not make their dates- there is no support system, no friend to guide and lead during the conversion process, and therefore a good missionary would think twice before chucking that person in the water.
In our area, the Potentials area is off, and thus the whole cycle has come to a halt- there's nothing happening because we haven't found anyone to teach. We are getting a few potentials, and we follow up accordingly, but many of them refuse to see us again or magically disappear (we're not sure where they go... Fairyland maybe).
So, I looked across my desk to Elder Fleming and said, "Elder, sometimes you have to do very unbalanced things to achieve the balance you're looking for. How do you feel about finding 20 potentials this week?" He readily accepted it as logic and agreed to do it. I went on to explain more of the situation and said, "Elder, this means we have to do consecrated finding every single day, and this means that we are not going to teach nearly as many lessons (not that we have been) or even prioritize them. This week would be just hard-out finding. How do you feel about that?" Again, he accepted. I wasn't convinced he knew (or still knows) what I'm talking about, but he said, "Are we talking four hours of finding a day?" I shook my head- four hours wouldn't yield the results we need in order to start teaching and baptizing. "Elder, we have to find all day- if we do this, it is going to be a very hard week. We stick to using the bikes (we got a car again, the exact same one but completely serviced; Elder Aiono reckoned it was a guy and named it Teancum, but I reckon that the unwritten law of guys drive female cars and girls drive male cars had to be observed, so I named her Shacha [it's Russian] because no scriptural things were coming to mind or really fit the car, and the District Sisters named their car Big-G, so...) and we work as hard as we can. We talk to every single person we see and we never stop finding- there are no breaks, even if we stop for a drink, we always find."
He nodded his head and said "Let's do it."
So that's how it is. The district is going well- Sister Farr and Sister Vaiula are a bit low because one of their Recent Converts said she doesn't want to come to church anymore. We're sorting it out, but that's just not like her, and it's got the Glenelg Sisters less than bushy-tailed and bright-eyed.
I'll see if I can send something more soon- my time is about to run out. If I don't manage it, I love you all and am thinking about you!
[Twenty minutes later...]
And because I have a few extra minutes, I reckon I need to share something spiritual. To be honest, there aren't many experiences that I can draw upon this week- the endless finding and endless lack of investigators and return appointments made me pretty frustrated, and I'm still fairly frustrated about it. I was talking to Brother Li Santi after Coordination Meeting (he's our Ward Mission Leader and is great at what he does- honestly, the man) and because he's a deeply caring and interested person, he inquired as to how the work was. When I first became a missionary, they told us to tell them that everything was good regardless of the situation; however the recent instruction is to be honest (ironic, considering the calling) concerning the work. With this in mind, and knowing that he is called to help me do my job, I was honest.
I told him that we're not teaching anyone, and that finding is difficult- virtually no one is accepting the message (eight people did this week- it should've been eight people over the course of two days, not seven). I told him that we had been analysing ourselves over and over again, trying to pinpoint exactly what it was that we were doing that was not right. Then he told me something eye-opening. Paraphrasing here, he said,
"Elder Schomburg, you're called to a leadership position, and in such a position you're expected to have an area that everyone else can look at to know what they should be doing. You're the one that's supposed to be baptizing and confirming left and right so that you can teach the other missionaries how to do it. Now in this ward, the missionaries whom we've seen are pretty good about saying they haven't done enough when they've actually done marvellous work. Look at the Glenelg Sisters- they break their backs doing missionary work but they'll never say that it's enough, and a lot of the time, they start to question how they should be acting when 'nothing' is going on in their area, and the same goes for the District Sisters. You are supposed to be the example, and I wonder if the Lord is using you as an example of what to do when nothing is happening in an area, so that they know how to act and respond to it, because you, Elder Schomburg, get out there every day and work as hard as you can, even though nothing's going for you."
I never quite looked at it like that, and I was shocked that I received such insight from a ward member. But it did click in my head then that Brother Li Santi, though not set apart or called to be a missionary, is set apart and called to work with missionaries, so his words must have been valid. It just really helped me to open my eyes and look for the good in every situation. The Lord never ceases to surprise me like that- just when I think I've thought of all the reasons, He places something or someone in my path that teaches me otherwise.
I love you all! TTFN!!!