I was going to put "and I," but I thought the other one sounded better in context... hehe
My replacement arrived on Tuesday (my "office child," as Elder Smith would say), and so we've been working like crazy to get him trained and ready for when I leave. It's not even like my job is that hard to learn, it's mostly just repetition that makes perfect. And, of course, learning how to do all of the small little things that result in the big things working out, if that makes sense.
It's been a long time since I've written much, so I'll try to let more of my reflections spill out today. Caution: Garrulous and long-winded message to follow...
I've also been thinking about how much I've learned and the skills I've acquired here... more personal responsibility, more problem-solving skills, more self-reliance (which, by the way, is a big theme in this mission and in this country). President Córdova really expects us to solve our own problems, here--I guess that sounds a little harsh... he's there to help us if we really need him, but what he wants to teach us more than anything is to be able to rely on ourselves, both temporally and spiritually. And what that all really means is teaching us to rely on the Lord, using our agency and the abilities and things He gives us to choose to do what He asks of us, and to actively seek to do more (DyC 58:27-28). It's not having to rely on somebody else for our spirituality, or obedience, or personal development, or to get our work done.
Well... setting personal reflection aside for a brief moment, Elder Andrus from Nampa, Idaho is here to stay, and I'm not... for too much longer. As far as I know, I'm leaving in normal transfers on the 4th of April, right after General Conference. And they're going to tell me where the night before, most likely. We're having a lot of fun--Elder Andrus is sharp, picking things up quickly, gets along well with everybody, and even though he's definitely a "gringo" his mom's Peruvian so he speaks really good Spanish. I know I'm leaving the job and the area in good hands!
This week has actually been super busy in the offices, what with training and all. President had me leave some (ok, a lot) of work undone so that I could do it with Elder Andrus, which meant that we had an extremely small window of time to get some very important and time-sensitive visa work done. But, we did it! Yeah! In other news, we're working hard on reactivating some less-active members here in Altamirano, and also looking for new people to teach, like always. Cesar and Lupita have been really busy lately, so we haven't been able to see too much of them, but we still pass by, and still have hopes for the family. They'll be an eternal family yet!
Yesterday we met a non-member whose mom and sister are converts of almost ten years, and we soon realized that her family members have gotten a little... overexcited... when it came to sharing the gospel with her. Now, normally excitement's a good thing, but you need to understand boundaries. And appropriate moments. And the principle of generally avoiding criticism. The point is, her mother was there in the lesson with us, and it got rather awkward a few times because of some insensitive comments. The daughter got really defensive every time her mom would talk, and closed herself off. It had the feel of a common conversation topic in the house. What bothered me is that the mother seemed to think that what she was saying would help. Or, at least she seemed self-satisfied when she was saying it. Yeah, I guess there's a difference. The point is, you can't convince somebody into the gospel of Jesus Christ. Somebody doesn't have a true, lasting, changing conversion to the gospel because someone points out some great fault in their reasoning, or in their Biblical exegesis, or with a self-satisfied voice quotes that really-obvious-one-verse-that-person-just-must-not-have-seen-when-they-were-choosing-which-religion-to-join, so that they "see the error of their ways." Give people some more credit than that. And realize, as Paul put it, "...my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man's wisdom, but in... the Spirit." That's what we need.
The Spirit converts. We can just invite them, and love them, and not judge them, and, when and if the moment's right, present the message. The Spirit will confirm the truth, and teach, and do the convincing. And, think about it... that's way more easier for us! We don't have to worry about being able to convert people, whether we be missionaries in the street or members with our families and friends. We don't have to! We can't!
We're going to keep on visiting the daughter, and the young son of the daughter... but we may have to ask the mom to sit out the next time. I hope we can manage to do it kindly, so she takes it well... But it's very important for the progress of her daughter. When someone takes a self-righteous attitude with another person, even when they're right, it can get really difficult to bend. That's always been a personal flaw of mine that I'm working on a lot here: the need for humility. And because of that, I understand just how hard it would be for this woman to decide to get baptized, even if she grew to know it was the right thing to do, if her family keeps on like that. It would require incredible humility, because honestly (sadly) it feels like some members of her family would take the opportunity to "rub it in her face," like an "I told you so," that she ended up getting baptized, if that's what she decides. It's just sad that people would be like that. What does this teach us? That the gospel is true, the Church is an inspired and divinely-guided organization, and that the members of the Church, the Latter-day Saints, are people just like everyone else. I hope this isn't a shock to anybody. What we do with what we learn is up to us. Which ties us back into the topic of self-reliance!
Anyway, all's well in Veracruz, at least well-covered in sand because it's been super windy right now. And we're all super sticky because of sweat, and then we get super gritty because of the sand and the wind and the sweat. But, life goes on, and Jesus still hasn't said the work is done, so it's not done. Onward and upward.
Élder Rob Weatherford