I have officially begun my 12 week dying program- not the 12 week training program, but the dying program. Does that sound morbid at all? It should- I have 11 weeks left to be a missionary and I have mixed feelings.
First, thank you all for your Christmas cards and letters and packages, of which I received many! Christmas was yet another wonderful experience and was unseasonably cool this year, which was a blessing to me. As of late, it's been fairly warm. Also, I'm so excited for my Sissy!!! She went to the temple, she's missionarying off in a month or two, and wow, she is the man and no one can convince me otherwise!
I find myself in Port Pirie, a small, barely coastal town west of Adelaide across the Spencer Gulf, if I remember correctly. My companion is Elder Barnes, the "son" of Elder Litstir. Elder Callahan was Elder Nay and Elder Litstir's son, so I find myself asking the question, "Why do I keep getting paired with Elder Litstir's seed?" Either the Lord is trying to straighten me out or he wants me to offer the balance that is needed for Elder Litstir's type of missionary work- I haven't figured out which, yet.
Elder Barnes is very obedient. I've been being a good boy, but it is very difficult, and sometimes I want to pull my hair out. Elder Witehira (who went home this past transfer) warned me of this. In his words, "The last 12 weeks are the hardest, but not because of what you think; being obedient and not being trunky is the hard part." That is a true statement. As I've thought of where I am as a missionary, I think back to what Elder Covey told me about being at this stage in the mission. On occasion I asked him, "How does it feel to be a dying missionary with only a transfer left?" He responded, "It's weird- part of you wants to be a missionary still, but most of you is done; you're ready to go home and do something else." I'm finding this to be true, as well.
That might sound really bad, as I'm sure most people want to hear missionaries say, "I want to be a missionary forever!" and some days I do, but for the most part, I am really ready to do something else.
This has been fairly frustrating- I want to not only endure, but I want to endure well, and thus far I feel as though I am enduring very poorly. Some say that this time in the mission flies past especially fast, and others say that it goes by excruciatingly slow. I'm tasting a little bit of both.
But enough of that. The branch here in Port Pirie has about 30-40 people in attendance, and most of them are older, single sisters. Elder Barnes has tracted every single street with Elder Litstir and he knows about 70% of the town, which makes conducting our own finding difficult, at least in as much as being effective goes. The branch president is actually an American and I have yet to formally meet him (church doesn't count) so we'll be going there tonight to have a yarn with him. President Armstrong seems like a very good guy, very organized, and he loves his branch. He loves missionaries too, but that doesn't excuse me from giving him even more reason to love missionaries. I'm excited to serve here and in this branch.
Port Pirie is a small town, not unlike Broken Hill. Adelaide-style missionary work cannot be conducted in small towns if you want to baptize. These towns require adaptability and a lot of tact, and lots and lots of member work. I'm discovering that -because so many of the single sisters do not have males to accompany them- very little member-missionary work has been done. The sad part is that there is a clear avenue to getting into their homes because we have a male YSA here who, coincidentally, needs more fellowship from the branch members in order to stay active. All we need to do is bring him along and we're golden. Why wasn't this done before?Tracting does not do anything in small towns where doors have been knocked countless times. We need to encourage the members.
So I've decided to do what I know to do best and that is to rub shoulders with as many members as possible. After all, it is the members that have the friends that need the baptizing, and many of the members here are missionary-minded; they just haven't had opportunity to be taught how to do missionary work. And I've decided that in these last 12 weeks of mine, I'm going to get my hands dirty and rub some elbow grease on everything BECAUSE this area really needs it. I've spent a total of 7 1/2 months in Adelaide and the rest of it in outlying areas- (not to boast) I think I know a thing or two about conducting missionary work in isolated towns.
But that's about all I've got to say. I couldn't have picked a better "grave" according to missionary jargon, as it's highly likely that I'll stay here until my time is spent. I reckon this transfer Elder Barnes will be sent away, and I'll spend my last one training a new missionary; Port Pirie has a reputation for being an area where missionaries die and missionaries are born at the same time, and I reckon President has the same idea for me. But we'll see what happens.
I love you all and I hope to share some spiritual experiences soon.