Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Missionary work can be challenging in many different ways

The weather was a factor this time in delaying Alex's weekly letter home.  When he was finally able to write home, he told us about the severe storms that they have been experiencing in Kansas.  Apparently the weather was so bad that it shut down the library for a couple of days.  Alex said that the temperatures had been around minus twenty degrees.  So due to the delay in writing home, Alex wasn't able to write a very long letter again.  He did tell us just how much he liked his new companion and how well they get along and work together.  Alex also told us that he is heading out to Wamego again for a few days to help the missionaries there build up their teaching pool a little more.  He expected to be doing a lot of tracting over the next few days in Wamego and hoping that the Lord would bless the Wamego Elders with some new people to teach. 

Tracting always sounds like a lot of hard work with not very much to show for it.  But for Alex, his opinion of tracting is completely different.  In his last letter home he talked about some of the tracting that they had done and the success that they have had just by going door-to-door meeting people.  Here is what he had to say about all of the door knocking that they did while in Wamego:
"So we have been doing a lot of tracting and street contacting lately, and we have been having some pretty good success from it. I really, really hate the missionary mentality that tracting is a waste of time. I think it can be very effective if you have good people skills and the spirit. I think that is a big problem in why missionaries never have anyone to teach. All they do is try to contact former investigators and wait for their ward to give them referrals rather than actually going out and being proactive. I just hate the stigma that is around tracting, its ridiculous!"

What Alex is saying here is very true.  Going door-to-door trying to talk people has always been one of the hardest ways to meet people and one activity that missionaries would probably like to avoid if possible.  However, talking to people is what missionaries do and if done right and with the guidance from the Lord, it can be very effective and obviously Alex's personal experience with tracting has proven just that.  Alex went on in his letter to tell us all about some of the teaching success that they had while tracting.  He told us about some really great people that they met and some of the opportunities that they have for continuing to teach these people the gospel.  During the two days that they were in Wamego, they taught nine lessons and most of those were people that they had met through tracting. 

Alex included some exciting news about a temple trip that is coming up.  One of the people that Alex taught and joined the church not long ago, will be going through the temple for the first time.  As a result, Alex gets the rare opportunity to accompany this member to the temple.  The other thing that is special about this experience is that the Independence Missouri mission does not have a temple within the mission boundaries.  The closest temple is near Omaha, Nebraska in Winter Quarters which means that Alex would actually be leaving the mission boundaries by special permission.  This will be the first time that Alex has been able to attend the temple since he left the MTC over a year ago.  I'm sure that we will hear all about this temple trip and the special experience that surrounds it.

Alex told us a funny story this week in his letter home.  Everybody in the mission knows that Alex is a bit of a heath nut.  Every opportunity he gets, he tries to exercise and keep in shape.  Also, as hard as it is sometimes on a mission, he tries to eat healthy as well.  So apparently he made a bet with one of the other Elders in the Manhattan area.  Of course a missionary betting with another missionary is probably not the most sanctioned mission activity, but in this case it was probably OK.  As it turns out, a group of missionaries decided that they wanted to visit the local Mongolian BBQ restaurant in the area.  While they were there, one of the other missionaries bet Alex that he could eat more BBQ than Alex.  Well if you know Alex, he doesn't normally back down from a good challenge so the bet was on.  Of course the more interesting part of this story is what the loser of the bet had to do.  Well, knowing that Alex is a health nut, the other Elder decided that if Alex lost, he would have to eat a roll of Oreos and a piece of cake.  That might be a consequence that Alex wouldn't want, but I think you would agree that most of us wouldn't mind losing that bet.  Of course there is always the other side of the bet as well.  If Alex won the bet, then the other Elder would have to workout with Alex for the next three days and finish every workout no matter what.  Knowing Alex and the kind of workouts that he is used to, this Elder was going to regret that he ever threw down the gauntlet on this one. 

So both Elders sat down with their very large portions of Mongonian BBQ and the contest started.  Again knowing Alex, there was no way that he was going to lose and this other Elder never knew what hit him.  As Alex explained the outcome in his letter, he really didn't have to eat that much BBQ in order to win the bet.  All he did was eat as fast as he could which really messed with the other Elder's confidence and resulted in the other Elder giving up before either one of them had really reached their limits.  What a strategy!  If you can't break them physically, messing with them mentally can be just as effective. ;-)  But the story doesn't end there.  I guess this Elder didn't quite learn his lesson the first time so he made the mistake of challenging Alex again to a water drinking contest.  This time the bet was who could slurp a cup of water through a straw the fastest.  No problem again, Alex won that one too.  Well apparently this Elder is a slow learner, but then again maybe not.  After losing both of the previous challenges, he again came back with a third one.  This time the challenge was who could make the most free throws.  Doesn't sound like a big deal until you consider that Alex is a wrestler and this other Elder played on the varsity high school basketball team.  Smart move Elder, but don't count your chickens before they hatch.  ;-)