So sorry I didn't give an update last week! Because of all the love and support for which I am so very grateful, I read and responded to nearly 50 emails! I ran out of time before I could write about the week, so I apologetically present two updates concerning this past week and the week before. Sorry!
Week before last:
Incredible things happened from forces above and below this week! Firstly, Kevin Dumith (do • mith; short "i") is a man who Elder Hilborn and his last companion were working with two weeks before I came into the picture. Kevin is a single, forty-nine-year-old retired war veteran. He had a very rough life throughout his Catholic childhood, but developed a great amount of faith after his hardships. When he received the gospel, he reported feeling as though the Lord was finally leading him to the truth. He studied the Book of Mormon and all the material he came across whether given to him or found by him. Such a miracle and an amazing thing to see. His faith grew stronger and stronger until the day he was baptized! That was January 30th.
|(Left to Right: Elder Hilborn, Kevin Dumith, Elder Christiansen, Elder LaMont)|
The day of course brought challenges because our jealous and fallen brother doesn't want anyone baptized, but these challenges brings a funny story: Kevin asked our zone leader, Elder Christiansen, to baptize him. Elder Christiansen accepted during Kevin's baptismal interview in which Elder Christiansen met with him. That prefaced, directly after the baptism, Elder Christiansen was in the bathroom planning on changing from wet baptismal clothes to his suit for the remainder of the service. Unfortunately for him, when Elder Christiansen fully stripped to his birthday suit, he realized he had nothing to change into! He had not brought his suit with him! So Elder Christiansens solution was to simply wait for help. Meanwhile, Andreas (on • dray • us; a Less-Active the sisters brought for the service) rushed to the bathroom. When he arrived, Andreas happened upon Elder Christiansen in all his glory! Elder Christiansen asked Andreas to retrieve his clothes without covering himself. Andreas rushed out of the bathroom looking panicked and, of course, embarrassed as possible. The story ends well because I'm pretty sure I saw Elder Christiansen with a suit and tie on his way out the door, and Andreas is still meeting with the sisters. They parted ways as unlikely friends.
If you're a believer in 'regression to the mean', the price of the baptism was not fun. Somehow, I managed do contract a hellish case of gastroenteritis, an inflammation of the intestines. This resulted in a symptom of extreme vomiting that lasted close to seven hours from 12:30 am to 7:30 am. It is mandated by the mission if you are vomiting longer than three hours, you are to go to the emergency room. I arrived at about 12:00 pm, the afternoon after my tumultuous episode to be laid in a gurney and asked, "How would you rate your pain?" to which I responded, "It's killing me." Clearly the doctor was not familiar with Brian Reagan, but I thought I was funny. All the doctor could comprehend was that I was a very troubled patient when he again asked me to rate my pain and I said, "Eight!" and couldn't keep myself from laughing. You have to understand, I only had two hours of sleep and I just had the second worst night of my life. One thing led to another and it was decided they would IV me for 2-3 hours. There is a lovely picture of pale, sickly, me taken by my perfectly sympathetic companion who asked, "Can I take a picture so other missionaries will believe this story when I tell it to them?" I don't believe I answered yes, but here it is:
The most exciting part of my week came from something unexpected. It is commissioned new missionaries establish what is called 'My Clear-Cut Vision for Baptism' with the intention of each missionary having and working towards a number goal of baptisms for our two-year service.
That's great, right? But I have an issue with it. My problem comes from this: my zone leaders (the bosses of the district leader, my companion) push so hard for baptisms, it's becoming detrimental to the trust the ward has for the missionaries. For this reason, the investigators are not being received into the ward as well as they should. This can create hard-heartedness within recent converts. This area needs something more than just a constant flow of baptisms. The ward and its missionaries need to unite, less-actives need a hand to reach out to them. Yet the zone leaders push for better numbers than what we report, demanding more baptisms sooner. A mission is more than baptisms! Baptisms are not going to matter if the brother or sister dunked in the water is simply going to fall away because the missionaries needed +1 baptism for the month. This is a really frustrating thing for Elder Hilborn and I.
Because of my just frustration toward the short-sightedness of my superiors, I titled this document 'My Clear-Cut Vision for the Salvation of Souls' instead. I clearly state a refusal of having a number goal. I prayed and followed the close direction of the spirit as I wrote this, and I would like to share it with all of you and ask what you think of it.
Here it is:
My Clear-Cut Vision for the Salvation of Souls
"I am a missionary. I am a soldier of atonement in the war against Lucifer. Ever concerned of my responsibility to bring Christ's lost sheep to my Father, I will serve to my maximum capacity. I have full knowledge of my accountability for these spirits and I will never stop fighting for them until we meet in the next life to rejoice. Satan will not best me. I'm still on my mission because I refuse to mourn for these children I could have saved if the devil had his way. Love for the savior enables the endurance I will need.
With the sword of truth in hand, I march brothers and sisters through the atonement, blowing open the gates of Heaven. Because they are my brothers and sisters, I will never associate them with numbers. I am a missionary. I am a soldier in the war of sounds that never ended. This is my sacred calling. If it ever gets hard, I will remember the words, "Elder LaMont, wear out your knees." My goal is this: save as many as I can."
Aside from this, preparation day is the second-best day of the week. Elder Hilborn and I leave the house early to attend an Aikido class at 9:00 am (Central Time) because one of our investigators, Brandon Nimz (Nihm • z) is the sensei. Aikido is an awesome martial art! It is one of disarming throws using the energy of the aggressor. Our first lesson last week was about wrist grabs and how to use them when attacked with a weapon or a simple punch. We practiced against a knife and a baseball bat. So much fun!
Yesterday I was able to anoint oil and assist in a blessing for an 2-month old girl named Kaitlyn. She is having a mess of medical trouble with her heart and has had multiple open-heart surgeries. It was a really wonderful experience.
Last week on Tuesday I attended my first institute class and I wrote a quote by David O. McKay I want each of you to consider: "What you sincerely think of Christ will determine what you are, what your acts will be. No one can study this divine personality of Christ without becoming conscious of refining influence within oneself."
As I daily increase my understanding of the savior and my love for Him, I work harder to try to be the missionary Christ would be in my place because I am here in His place.
I want all of you to know how grateful I am for the support you have given me. Specifically, I am immensely grateful for the emails, the prayers, and the love. All of this help influences me to keep pushing through the hard times and rejoice even further in the better times.