Hello everybody! Happy New Year (Year of the Rooster)
Man this week has been an exhausting week. So to tell a little bit about my physical state as I’ve been out on my mission, to be completely truthful, I expected it to be more physically taxing than it had been the last 6 months or so. I’ve always heard stories about how a mission is the hardest 2 years a person will experience up to that point, but when I came out, I don’t know, I guess I expected more in terms of stresses. Make no mistake, we work hard here, and there are some days where the hot weather and long bike rides have me coming home completely wrecked. But over the course of 6 months, I’ve found that it’s generally been pretty easy to cope with the physicality here. I realize that sounds really prideful but hear me out for a second. Over this last week, I was thinking a lot about why my mission has not been as draining as I expected it to be, and I came to the conclusion that a mission is what you make of it. There’s no set standard or bar for how difficult a mission is, and a missionary struggles based on whether his coping abilities are below or above that bar. If I were to be honest with myself and everyone reading this, I’d say that my ability to cope with stress is pretty high, definitely higher than what I thought the standard “bar” for mission difficulty was. What I learned this week as I reflected on that resulted in 2 questions: Does my ability to cope mean that I can just breeze through my mission? Absolutely not. I learned that where much is given, much is required. The Lord blessed me with an ability to cope, but that’s no excuse for me to go at the “standard” pace. He expects so much more from me, and I realized that it’s my own fault that I haven’t lived up to His expectations for me and come home tired everyday (just to clarify, I’m measuring myself living up to His standards based on how tired I am when I come home for the day. To me it means I worked hard). That means, I have to raise that bar higher for myself. The next question is “How do I do that?” Luckily, Elder Dat and I have found a way to help our branch. Most of our time is spent teaching investigators (of which we only have 3 and can only meet once or twice a week) or finding new people to teach. In spite of that, we still have a lot of extra time on our hands, so Elder Dat and I decided to flood those extra hours with tracking down and visiting all the less-active members in our branch who don’t come to church or have no one from the church going out and contacting them. In terms of coming home tired, it’s worked. I’ve woken up the past few days sore, tired, and even just a tad less motivated to go outside, and so when I feel that way, I think to myself, “Yes, I lived up to His expectations yesterday.”
We’ve definitely seem some good results from it. One of the less-active families we visited this week ended up coming to church this Sunday. Other than that, I’ve really felt my love grow for the people of this branch. Frankly speaking, the church is too new here for the members to understand that in order for it to grow, they have to support one another and visit each other to see how everyone is. We’ve found less-active members who still have faith, who still pray and read their scriptures, but simply don’t go to church because they have no friends there. It’s different from church in the US, where I feel like because the Church is so much more well-established there, members know that they have a responsibility to fellowship each other and help each other progress. It’s really touched me as we’ve contacted these less-actives, and hear how happy they are to hear that at least someone from the church cared enough about them to call them to see how they were doing. It’s definitely something that needs to be encouraged amongst the members here.
That’s basically what I’ve learned during my week here. There’s always something we can do to be better missionaries and magnify our callings here. I’m slowly figuring it out and how I can best fit into God’s plan for this place. It’s been quite the journey of self-discovery so far, and I’m just sad that it took me this long to figure this out. But anyways, that’s over and done with now. Time to look forward to this next week and see how tired I can make myself as we spread our net out wide and try to find these “lost sheep”. Wish us luck!
Much love, Elder Phan
Pictures: Our district dinner at a member’s house; our last lesson with Anh An before the Tet season, along with a return missionary named Anh Binh, who trained Elder Tri’s trainer; a snake I found on the side of the road; and the empty roads of Saigon thanks to the Lunar New Year