|Hipster pic of my church building sign.|
Okay, this week I am not going to start off by saying that this week has gone by quick. Why? Because I'm pretty sure that I start off my emails with that every week! Although, I think I might have foiled my plans in not saying this week has flown by in complaining about always talking about my weeks flying by. Dang it.
So, yesterday I was thinking a lot about how, as a missionary, we run into tons and tons of people on our missions. Honestly, I felt like I've met the world in the 17 months that I have been on my mission. The scary thing is that I really haven't!
But, I was thinking about the process that these people usually go through. Of course, there are exceptions to everything, but I wanted to outline the general phases that a missionary experiences with investigators.
That Awkward First Rendez-vous: Okay, this is pretty much true for any new ami that we get, whether it be by OVB or through a member contact. The first meeting almost always seems to be awkward because the ami really doesn't know what to expect from us. Some think that we are pastors who will be coming to their house so that they don't have to come to Church, others think we are prophets, everyone thinks we are Jehovah's Witnesses, and some are going through the first time of ever having a white person in their home.
Usually, this meeting will be full of questions, ranging from "what the heck are you doing in Benin" to "so, what religion do you guys really belong to" to "so what do you guys know about the Freemasons?." Another reason why this RV is so awkward is because you really don't know if the person you are teaching is serious or not... however, I don't even think the ami knows if they're serious or not either!
And of course, that awkward first RV always ends with that awkward first prayer. I say awkward because people here are also super scared to say prayers in front of others, fearing that we will ridicule them for their UNRIGHTEOUS PRAYING! Okay, that's just my theory, but in any case, it can be pretty awkward too because we always ask them who will pray (since it's at their house, they're usually the ones who get to pick). Now, whenever we ask that question, they almost always assume that means that they HAVE to pray so they get really awkward. That's when I jump in and just say a prayer.
It's pretty awkward.
The Honeymoon Stage: Wow! We made it through the first awkward rendez-vous and the ami has decided to accept us for a second rendez-vous (miracle!). This is when things start to get interesting because the ami now knows what the purpose of our lessons are (or should know... usually it takes a few times for them to figure that all out). If the ami read the brochure that we gave them, they will almost always have some good questions to ask us. This is the exact reason as to why I call this stage, the "honeymoon" stage. Their questions make it seem like they are very interested in our message. Even when we give them commitments to follow, they always say yes.
You see, everybody is happy! The ami gets to have people come to their house and talk to them about God, the missionaries have people who commit to pray to know if Joseph Smith was a prophet of God, to know if what we're saying is true, etc. They even promise to come to Church ! As an added bonus, they even seemed to have an idea of where the Church actually is so you have the impression that they will really be there! Woohoo! I love missionary work!
The Shattered-Dreams Stage: Okay, your ami didn't come to Church. Bummer. They seemed so interested! What else could we have done better for them to get excited about coming to Church? Offered them patte maybe? Ugh, what could we have done?!?!
Of course, the lessons that follow the first not-followed through commitment tend to be like the ones before, from the last stage. You kind of just pretend that they didn't keep their commitment, so you are still generally pretty happy and still believe that, if they do eventually come to Church one day, they will be baptized!
This is also the stage where you see if people will really read the things that you leave them... and this is also the stage where people will start dropping you if they didn't drop you from the get-go. What I mean by that is RATEZ-VOUS... the dreaded ratez-vous... where missionaries' dreams go to die.
The Sorting Your Amis Out Stage: Okay, after the stage where your dreams are shattered because your ami didn't come to Church, and didn't you were ratez-vous'd, you can generally sort out all your amis into these four categories. Again, it's not that every ami will fit into a category, but in general, they work.
- The Ami Who Comes to Church the Next Week: This is your dream investigator, if s/he didn't come to Church the first time you invited them (if they did come to Church the first week, then of course they are already great investigators). This is the guy who you know has a chance to progress and be baptized one day. This is what's known as your "progressing investigator."
- The Ami That Might Come To Church Once, But Probably Never Again: This is the ami that teases you. You see hope in them, plus they are always there for your rendez-vous, are very accepting of what you have to say, but... when it comes to showing their seriousness, eventually don't keep your engagements. And, eventually, they'll even just start giving you ratez-vous too.
- The Ami That You Have Finally Figured Out, Is Really A Waste of Your Time: Okay, these amis are some of the worst. You had a little hope in them when you first started teaching them but you just realize that they don't understand anything that you're teaching them, or just don't want to. The biggest and most telling indicator of these amis comes from when they ask random questions. For example:
"Okay, brother/sister so and so, do you have any questions on the Word of Wisdom?"
"No, but I was wondering, where is Jerusalem? Some people say that it's in Africa"
- The Ami That Believes in Everything You're Saying, Accepts You Every Time, But Just Can't Seem to Come to Church: These guys are the toughest. You really want to keep teaching them, but you really have to ask yourself, as a missionary, if there aren't other people to see. I mean, you love them to death because they ask great questions, and read what you give to them, but you wonder if they will actually come to Church and progress. A lot of times, you gotta spend a couple of months with these guys because they usually have potential, but you just have to work with them.
I remember, one of my amis in my first area, would not come to Church regularly. But we kept seeing him because he was always there, plus, he would read the stuff we would give to him in the Book of Mormon. Four months later, we did eventually baptize him!
So, it all depends on one thing: your patience. Are you willing to stick it out and hope they start regularly coming to Church? Or will you just drop them and hope that you can find another ami that will progress? The answer is never straight forward nor clear cut. These amis are the toughest ones to figure out!
Once your ami is sorted out into one of these categories you usually know how to move forward with each of them. Here are the next steps for each category.
- The Ami Who Comes to Church the Next Week: Fix that baptismal date! What are you waiting for, fool?!?!
- The Ami That Might Come To Church Once, But Probably Never Again: Fix a baptismal date with him, hope that will get him a little more serious. If the date comes and goes, well... pray about what to do next.
- The Ami That You Have Finally Figured Out, Is Really A Waste of Your Time: Awkwardly find a way to not come back. This usually just includes not fixing a next appointment and then avoiding their road for the rest of your mission. Not really. But kinda true.
- The Ami That Believes in Everything You're Saying, Accepts You Every Time, But Just Can't Seem to Come to Church: Pray and fast. Be patient. Hope that one day, even if you're not there anymore, they will progress!
Anyway, I hope that helps you guys understand what life is like between a missionary and an ami!
This week has flown by (dang it, said it again!). Thank you all for the prayers and the kind thoughts sent my way! I hope you all have an awesome week. If there's anything that I would like people to pray for me to have this week, it's to have a cool spiritual experience. I don't know why I'm asking for that, randomly this week, but I certainly do love them on my mission and they are the stories that will last with me (and maybe even you!) for a life time.
Miss you all!
|Cool beach pano that I took from our visit at Ouidah this past Monday.|
|Valentine hearts Fro sent that melted in my fridge. Yeah, don't know how that happens.|
|Cool pic of a beach road that Lala and I explored while at Ouidah.|
Note from the Fro: Only TWO more Sunday's until I get to see his face on Skype for the LAST time before he comes home!!!! How exciting is THAT?
And yes, I do think that when they are working most of their days in the office, it is difficult to find those amazing spiritually uplifting moments. At the same time, what a wonderful place he is at on his mission where THIS is what he is asking for, and not help with a companion, or with the language, or with Africa in general. It's been quite the journey, hasn't it? I hope our prayers for him this week will be answered.