Phoo I’m tired! The missionaries just got back from playing soccer with each other for 2 hours (we had to get up early in order to play while it was still “relatively cool”), so now as I’m writing this, I’m not in the most physically vigilant state…plus a guy sitting close to me in the ghetto internet shack that we’re emailing from just lit up a cigarette, so I’m gonna have to do this fast😬.
Oh man so much has happened this week! So I said a couple weeks back that because we’re starting out in an area with nothing, my companion Elder Thai and I have just been doing a lot of going out and contacting (which is basically going to public places such as parks and talking to as many people as possible to see who wants to learn more about the gospel). With contacting, it’s a lot like throwing your mashed potatoes at the wall and seeing how much of it sticks. That’s to say, it’s a borderline useless method to find investigators, or at least with my experience in Vietnam so far. But seeing as that was the only kind of missionary work we could do for the past few weeks, we did it. I recently read a famous missionary letter called the “Ricciardi letter,” which changed my perspective of missionary work, especially with changing my attitude towards contacting. The basic lesson that I got out of it is that our job as missionaries for 2 years to simply open our mouths and talk to as many people as possible. Whatever comes out of your mouth may be the stupidest thing you’ve ever said and you may feel like a complete idiot, but in the Lord’s infinite mercy, He deals with it and just requires that you keep opening your mouth and learning from your mistakes. So I applied that lesson. Luckily, at this point, I kinda have an idea of what dumb things NOT to say to people when I’m contacting, and now it’s having the courage and boldness to talk to EVERYONE! And by golly ladies and gentlemen, what do you know, it worked! By increasing the number of mashed potatoes we threw, we scored 3 new investigators this week, all from contacting! That’s miracle number 1. Miracle number 2: All three came to church for the first time and they loved it! Seriously, the text messages we got from those 3 thanking us for inviting them to church and sharing their spiritual experience there was extremely heart-warming!
(Picture: Elder Thai communicates with Vietnamese people – Elder Thai proselyting to the masses . Actually they only walked up to him because he’s American and they wanted to practice English)
I also wanted to share a very serious lesson I learned this week. We also had a lesson with a potential investigator (not one of the 3 above) named Chu Ngoc. He was the one I was talking about in my email 2 weeks ago as last week where he wondered why God doesn’t just appear before the whole world to prove that He exists and scare all the wicked into obeying Him. We had a lesson scheduled with him last Monday to answer more of his questions, and holy cow that was the toughest lesson I’ve ever sat in! Basically, this guy was waaaaaayyy too hard-headed to listen to anything we shared. He asked his questions, we gave him answers, but he was extremely close-minded to what we shared and didn’t stop to even consider whether or not this could be true. In the end, the lesson was mostly him yelling at the top of his lungs (in the church building I might add) something along the lines of “God should just scare the wicked into obeying him!” The punchline of that lesson was when he said “No, you go to church because YOU make mistakes. I don’t make mistakes.” I came out of that lesson feeling drained and little down on myself. Earlier that day, as we discussed what to teach, I thought it would be a good idea to move Chu Ngoc’s lesson to Tuesday instead of that Monday, so that we could have more time to prepare for his hard-headedness. Right as we were about to make the change though, a strong spiritual impression came to me to NOT change the date, that we should teach him on that Monday. We followed the prompting and taught him that Monday night. As I went to bed, I felt a little ticked at God. Why would He prompt me to have that lesson that night if He knew we were going to get burned?
( Picture : Saigon Zone Missionaries)
The next morning I got my answer. Tuesday was zone conferece, and over the past weeks, the missionaries in our zone were asked to prepare a talk about meekness, and then a few would be randomly called to share their thoughts. I thought about meekness briefly during the week, but never prepared, and didn’t do it the night before because I was so tired from the lesson. Guess who got called to speak at zone conference??? Yep, yours truly. As I went up there to speak, the experience from last night came up to my mind, and suddenly, words started coming out of my mouth. I used the experience with Chu Ngoc to talk about the what happens when we are not meek.
To be meek and humble is to be teachable, like a child. In the scriptures, God says “This is my work and my glory, to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.” In other words, God glories in the progression of His children. When we are meek and teachable, Heavenly Father is able to teach us and mold us. We can learn from our experiences and strive to be more like Him. One of the lessons that stand out to me the most is a simple lesson from my dad. He always told me “Be humble.” As I grew up, he kept giving me that gentle reminder to watch myself and always be humble. That lesson has stayed with me, to a point where I would often ask myself, “How humble am I?” Brothers and Sisters, pride kills progression and it comes in so many forms. It’s so much more and much more subtle than just thinking “I’m better than you”. Anything that prompts us to not accept God’s will can be sourced to our own little pride. For example, the mission is pushing us to clean up our language, to the point where we’re trying to not even say things like “Darn it.” Naturally, it’s a bit of a struggle to even accept that push, much less do it, and I wouldn’t blame a missionary for thinking “that’s stupid. What wrong with ‘darn it’?” At the same time though, why does he say that? Why doesn’t he want to sanctify himself and sacrifice just a little more of his will so that he can be a more worthy representative of the Lord? Pride
Another example. In the church, we have a lot of “rules”. No coffee, no tea, don’t spend money on Sundays, dress modestly, don’t swear, etc. It’s easy for anyone to say “That’s a stupid rule” or “I can’t follow that” and they give a various list of reasons. Maybe those reasons are not an outright “I don’t want to” but we justify ourselves by giving another more easier-to-swallow reason. Maybe something like “It makes me feel better about myself” or “God loves me the way that I am.” Is that not still pride, but much more subtle? Are we not still putting our will before God’s by not accepting his rules? God absolutely loves you, but it’s because He knows who you can become. He gives us His commandments to help us be the best person we can possibly be (progression), much more than what we could make of ourselves if we did our own thing. We, as His beloved children, must have to meekness to be completely open to whatever commandment He may give us, no matter how seemingly unecessary or inconsequential, and TRY our best to set ourselves aside and follow Him. Why didn’t Chu Ngoc learn anything from us? His spiritual door was shut to other ideas from the beginning, and because of that, we were not able to share with him the beautiful truth that we had to share with him. Pride kills progression. I’m grateful to have parents that were able to teach me that early on.
Sorry for such a long email this week. It’s a lesson that I’ve pondered a lot on. I hope everyone continues to have a good week. God bless you all!
(Tan Son Nhat District Missionaries)