One thing Nathanael has been feeling some stress about is how he can know he is a successful missionary. Elder Bednar addressed this very specifically in the Worldwide Missionary Broadcast this last week. I'm lucky enough that I got to watch it because I work with the team that produces it. The following is part of the email I sent to him this week that he references toward the end of his email:
Elder Bednar was talking about how a missionary can know he or she is successful. I thought it was exactly what we have been talking about with you and his answer was just perfect.
Elder Bednar started out by saying, “The success isn’t given to the missionary for him or her. Success is a blessing and a gift from the Lord.” Then he shared a scripture, Alma 26:22, which says, 'Yea, he that repenteth and exerciseth faith, and bringeth forth good works, and prayeth continually without ceasing—unto such it is given to know the mysteries of God; yea unto such it shall be given to reveal things which never have been revealed; yea, and it shall be given unto such to bring thousands of souls to repentance…'
Then Elder Bednar went on to say that many missionaries read this scripture and see it as a checklist. They think that if they do all those things they will baptize thousands. But he wanted to emphasize the idea that success is given as a blessing not a reward. Then he went on to read verse 27, 'Now when our hearts were depressed, and we were about to turn back, behold, the Lord comforted us, and said: Go amongst they brethren, the Lamanites, and bear with patience thine afflictions, and I will give unto you success.' And then Elder Bednar asked the most important question of all, “So I think the measure is, will a missionary do the simple things every day he or she knows he or she should do regardless of whether or not the Lord chooses to bless them with success?” I think that the person that told you that you had to be perfectly obedient in order to be successful had really good intentions, but I don’t think it’s a healthy way to look at your mission. Choose to do the simple things every day and let the rest follow. Don’t place expectations on the Lord, simply allow Him to bless you as he sees fit. You could come home not having baptized one person and still have been a very successful missionary.
It's overall been a great week. Yesterday and Friday were very difficult for me but the rest of the days were awesome. Lots of crazy stuff has gone down, by which I mean I'm basically being bullied into being a Brazilian. (I'm mostly joking, please don't worry haha) Our house has been completely destroyed by us. I washed dishes for an hour this morning and probably got about a third of it done. The good news is that living with people who don't speak English is really helping me learn a lot of Portuguese a lot faster.
The work this week was really slow. We knocked a whole lot of doors, worked with the area book, and talked to members. In the end I taught my record low of lessons this week and we had no one at church. Marco was progressing really well this week. He was feeling better and we visited him a couple times. We asked him what was keeping him from being baptized and he said that he feels he hasn't received a definite answer that the church is true. We felt inspired to promise him that the Spirit would touch his heart if he went to church on Sunday and prayed about it. Then we helped prepare him all week. We read Moroni 10:4 and went through the qualifications of receiving an answer to your prayers. I actually felt the Spirit testify to me that he is ready to receive an answer. We even fasted on Saturday and everything, and he didn't go to church. I guess it just comes down to the fact that people have agency. I was really, really disappointed though.
The only glimmer of hope we had was that a less-active couple came to church. That was rad. Man, we're trying. Something I'm starting to realize, I think, is that it's really, really hard to be a representative of Jesus Christ. It's impossible to be exactly obedient, it's impossible to be perfect. Dad, when you blessed me right before my mission, you blessed me that most of all, I will learn that the Lord's grace is truly sufficient. I'm starting to wonder if that means that ultimately I will be transformed into someone who is a "good enough" missionary for the Lord. I think I came here expecting to kick up a missionary storm or something and I just never even considered that it would be so impossibly difficult to live up to the standard I had in mind. I think I need to be easier on myself. It's odd to me but when I feel like I've had the worst, most rebellious day or whatever that's always when I feel the Lord's love swoop in and comfort me. Why? How can I deserve the Lord's love when I fall so impossibly short? Anyway, these are just some thoughts. It's rough stuff!! But I have faith it will be worth it in the end.
By the way, today is 20 weeks on the mission. I'm a fifth of the way done! Can you believe it?
We got to watch the mission devotional (in English!) and Mom, I loved the part you talked about in your email. [I included part of my email above so you can know what he is referring to.] That was my favorite thing. The idea that success is a blessing, and not something that's earned, is really interesting. I think that has the power to change the focus of the work a little bit. We strive and do our best every day but remember it's all on the Lord's timing. Also, we watched that conference with the whole mission and I got to see everyone from my MTC group, which was really cool. I had a really good time on that day.
I am still struggling with feeling like my skill level is low, but I feel like I'm learning according to the Lord's time table and that everything will work out.
Love you guys. Can't wait to talk to you!