More personal history: One by One

This post is a transcript of another one of my mission letters, dated for the week of “28 Nov 2005 – 4 Dec 2005.” The following week had been the low point of my mission coupled with one of the most humbling experiences in my entire life. I had been in a considerably difficult area for the past four months and felt incredibly frustrated and angry. The Assistants to the President (APs) had been sent to see what was up with an area that seemed lackluster and wilting. I had spent months in the attitude of Jonah preaching to the citizens of Nineveh that the great city would be destroyed unless they repent – and relishing in the idea of the Lord nuking it. The lesson I consequently learned only through tears and disappointment has helped shape my theological mindset and my spiritual world view and continues to do so today.

Dear President,

This week, I have felt a lot like Peter in the sense where I said, “Though I shall die with thee, yet will I not deny thee,” only to look back and see the faithlessness, causing me to weep bitterly. The training visit with the APs have caused me to re-evaluate a lot about how I’ve been doing missionary work.

This area has been a large growing process and I have felt that I had been working hard. I am, by the natural man, fairly lazy and so I have been surprised by my own dilligence[sic] in going out and getting shut down numerous times every day. Any other place I would have become discouraged a long time ago but something kept me from giving up and continually trying to improve this area. I had been praying and fasting for answers on how to get this area to catch on fire. Many ideas came together, but it was still producing meager results.

At the peak of my frustration and despair, the answer came to me thrice (the Lord always uses the magical number of 3). The first time, it was in sacrament meeting where a member spoke on how Christ deals with us not in the mass, but one on one. How nice, I thought, but I felt that message was more for the members. Then, in our interview, you said, “The genius is said in so little by Elder Holland – Just chat! The gospel will come up,” speaking of the CTI. Again, I thought, ah, that is nice. But again, I denied it as advice for me and I felt that advice was more for the members.

Then, at the training visit with the APs, as we contacted, Elder Dennis said, “You know, you can make more friends in 2 months caring about them than you can in two years trying to make them care about you.” I then realized what was missing. The Spirit quickened my mind and it all snapped together. I had been trying to deal with the UCO student body in mass, trying to invite as many as I could a day, always in a rush, not bothering to know them one by one, as Christ would. I failed to follow the counsel of our apostles in just chatting and instead tried to bludgeon people with the gospel. And I had failed to care about other people, instead trying to get people to care about me and the message I had. That night as we saw the success Elder Case and Elder Chang had on campus, (Elder Dennis & I spent some time contacting less actives and trying to invite them to the baptism) indeed that night I “went out and wept bitterly.” I wondered how I could have been so blind and insensitive to the Spirit, who was trying so hard to teach and loosen an inflexible and fossilized servant. I felt I had wasted the 4 months of the Lord’s time and even wondered if my paltry sacrifice on the altar was even acceptable to the Lord.

But thank goodness for the atonement! How I love it and appreciate it more and more each passing day. Elder Chang and I discussed what we were doing wrong and commited[sic] to implement this concept of caring, of having charity, into our missionary work. It works! We had much more success in contacting people and setting appointments. And I felt lighter and happier, more unburdened. Indeed, the difference is as stark as night and day. I felt this small thing is the one degree difference…

My regret is to not be able to bring back those 4 months…How I wish I could stay another transfer or two to undo the damage I have done. But I have learned a long time ago to not try and change the Lord’s mind.

Elder Chang and I strive to keep the commandments and the mission rules. Now that the light at the end of the tunnel is visible, there is an increased incentive to be exactly obedient. It’s not all roses and fun, I know, but the yoke of Christ is easy, I have found…

Thank you for all you do, president. You are a help for us all. I’m sure it goes unappreciated, but I am grateful that you demand so much from us (and I know that it isn’t you, but the Lord who is asking for it). And I am grateful for your faith in us. Thank you for not letting us settle for mediocracy[sic]. We love you and we’ll see you this Christmas (or sooner)!

Your brother in the gospel,

Elder Ted Lee

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