Saturday, April 12, 2014

The Stalling Effect

Cool picture of the welcome gate to Cotonou

Stalling. That's something I've really come to learn on my mission. Of course, there's car stalling since I drive stick shift now... I don't stall as much as I used to but it does happen every once in a while! 

However, that's not the stalling I wanted to talk about this week. Actually, stalling is something that happens quite often in missionary work and it's quite tiring. 

What stalling is, according to my dictionary of life, it's when things just aren't going anywhere with what you're doing. In my current sector, as well as my past sector, I felt like I had a lot of amis who were just stalling. Even with the two amis that I have baptized in these two sectors, you could tell that they were willing to be baptized and wanted to, but the conversion process was always kinda iffy. I've noticed that a lot of people will accept what you have to say, but will either be really slow to act on it or not act on it at all.

I call it the stalling effect because you could say that I'm trying to shift gears with them, trying to help convert them to the Gospel, but I always feel like the engine stalls, or rather the ami stalls when they don't follow through on a commitment or when you can tell that things are really not going anywhere on their path of conversion. And really, that's how most of a missionary's investigator pool is: people who are willing to see you but slow to progress, slow to change. 

And a lot of times, you just kinda have to deal with it. You can't force people to change, neither should one want to force somebody to change. Patience, as they say, is a virtue. An annoying virtue, but a necessary one at that. Like a car stalling, you just gotta turn the engine back on and keep trying to progress. 

To tell you the truth, that gets pretty tiring after a while. Personally, a lot of times I tell myself that maybe they will be converted a long while after I'm gone... maybe they'll realize and understand that what we talk about during lessons isn't just a little chit-chat, but it's actually there to help improve your life! The problem with maybe, however, is that it's just that: maybe. I always have faith that the Lord has me meet with specific people for a reason, but it's hard to see that reason a lot of times. I always have faith in the Lord, but when little results follow your faith, boy... the mission sure does get tiring! 

And then... every once in a while, you have some people that fall into your lap that really, well, for lack of a better word, inspire you. I could also say that really re-invigorate you as a missionary. 

Happily, two of those kinds of lessons happened to me this week. The first one happened this past Monday with our ami, Armand. We haven't taught him too much but he has been very interested in the Church and has come the past three out of four weeks. Also, what's nice, is that he is surrounded by members at his house and they have really gotten him interested in the Church (hmmm... members being a help... who would have thought!?). 

As we were teaching the Plan of Salvation with him, you could tell that he had already brushed up on everything we had to say. Everything we were teaching him, he was just soaking up. Awkward silences were minimal and the few silences there were were when you could tell that he was thinking of a question that he sincerely wanted answered. One of them was when he asked about how salvation works for people that have already passed away, that didn't have a chance to hear the Gospel. Of course, we start talking about baptisms for the dead and other ordinances that can be done at the temple for the dead. The whole time we were talking about that, he was just nodding his head and saying yes... it was like somebody who was wandering in the desert for years finally downing a bucket of cool water! You can ask Elder Lala about how giddy I was after that lesson... really, it was so cool to actually see how the Gospel seemed to finally be filling a huge void in somebody's life.

Then, my second lesson happened with an ami, named Innocente, who is the mother of one of our current amis. It was funny how we met her actually, because we were teaching Anabelle (her daughter) a lesson and she was sleeping on the floor of the room we were in. Then, she woke up, saw us there, and started listening. She didn't say anything the first time that we saw her but the next lesson we had with her daughter, she was super excited to see us come and again, loved everything that we had to say. 

This past week, we had a lesson with her and we invited her to be baptized. She hasn't come to Church yet (that should be changing tomorrow) but her answer was interesting. She told us that she wanted to pray first. She told us that she knew God's answer was probably already yes, but she wanted to pray first. And then she asked us a really cool question in asking if her life would get easier after getting baptized. 

Thankfully, during my Book of Mormon study, I had recently fallen upon the story of the followers of Alma (who were baptized in the Waters of Mormon). I had shared with her that scripture and told her how these people were so excited to make the baptismal covenant with God, but shortly thereafter were put into slavery. Then, we read from Mosiah 24:13-15 which talks about how the Lord did not forget the covenant that they had made with him and how through/because of that covenant they made, he made their burdens light and eventually got them out of their captivity. 

I could see in her eyes that that was something that she really wanted. She told us that she still was going to pray, though she said she already knew the response.

Honestly, as a missionary it is really so cool to see how the Lord has prepared people for this Gospel. And it's also interesting to see how it responds to so many of the questions people have had throughout their lives but have never gotten satisfying answers to. Of course, there are always those amis who just keep stalling, who keep testing your patience, though you keep hoping they will one day progress in their conversion. 

But then... there are those few amis who you can tell, were readily prepared and have been waiting for it their whole lives! Those amis who give you hope that you're not just waiting for miracles to happen, but that you're actually part of a real miracle in somebody's conversion! 

And that's why I'm here... not to keep stalling, not to keep waiting for a miracle to happen, not to keep hoping that something will happen...

But, I am here to move mountains, as Fro would say. Whether that be a rocky mountain or a conversion mountain, it doesn't really matter to me... because a mountain is a mountain, and no matter what, they're hard to move! 

But, with a little faith... you would be surprised the things that happen!

Hope you all have another wonderful week! 


Elder Hawkins


We went to the Songhai center again this past week with a zone (remember the Adventures of Elder Lala and Elder Hawkins?). Here are some pictures of what the place looks like/does. Basically, it's a place where people go and learn how to create eco-friendly/low waste farms and agricultural factories. So, everything they do there is environmentally friendly and local

Fact: Turkeys do gobble. And it's hilarious!

Fish in a weird green pond. But it's Tilapia apparently!

Fields of... err.. stuff. Pretty though!

 Okay this is cool: All that stuff in the middle are sliced up pieces of grocery bags. What they do is they take those and make them into pellets of plastic and then make stuff out of it. Example: the trash cans that you see behind the thing. Pretty cool, huh?

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