This week worked well for me mostly due to a lesson I helped teach with the missionaries on Wednesday. Beyond that, the Mission Leader and I made our mission plan proposal to our Ward leadership council on Sunday evening and they took to it quite well. We will have to edit that a bit but overall it is set up nicely. This week I also set aside more time to pray and read my scriptures more than I have been recently.
The lesson we taught on Wednesday turned out differently than we had anticipated. The man we taught went to the LDS Church website a couple of weeks ago after a brief lesson the LDS Plan of Salvation was taught as part of his Pharmacy School; we did not ask him why the lesson was taught. He wanted to learn more about our faith, so he asked for a visit from the missionaries. They taught him a lesson two weeks ago and scheduled a return visit. The beginning of the lesson started off “slow” in that he seemed to be interested in what we were teaching from an academic perspective, but not a spiritual perspective. As we progressed through the lesson, however, I could sense a real change in him in that he started to be much more spiritually engaged in the conversation. By the end it seemed as though he was genuinely interested in learning more in the coming weeks and possibly even being baptized into our faith. He had some concerns about what his family would think since they are actively practicing Catholics, he is effectively non-practicing, is he decided to change faiths. I shared with him some of my experiences with my mom and coming from a Southern Baptist background and told him that his concerns were most certainly valid, that I had many of the same ones, but that most likely his mother would be accepting of it once she realized it was something that mattered to him, if he decided to take it that far. He even mentioned at the end of the lesson that he might talk to her during the upcoming week and tell her that he was exploring other faiths. We were certainly floored at the change we had seen. The missionaries had also talked before the meeting about trying to get him to commit to a specific baptism date, I was not sure about that to begin with, and during the course of the lesson I got the attention of one of them and whispered “No BCD*” Thankfully, he understood me and was in agreement, because it would likely have gotten quite awkward; I felt like our ‘investigator’ would have simply shut down and possibly not wanted to hear from us anymore. I’m not sure what caused me to feel that, possibly a type of individual revelation/inspiration, something that we need to be mindful of and recognize. I also felt that it was not some strange coincidence that this person was in the initial stages of something that I have gone through personally and I happened to be there teaching the lesson. More and more I realize that things happen that are simply beyond my logical understanding.
This past Sunday evening, we brought our mission plan proposal before the leadership council. They seemed to be very receptive of what we proposed. The goals for our church come to twice as many newly baptized members in 2014 than we’ve had in 2013 or 2012 and a 66% increase in our worship service attendance (from 150 now to 250 by the end of 2014). Much of this plan relies on each member doing their part, whatever they are individually capable of doing, to support the goals. So, while the council was supportive, we must still get a significant level of participation from the general membership. (perhaps we should have mentioned that with a larger congregation, we will get more funds from Church Headquarters for activities and such) But the Mission Leader and I were both quite pleased with the level of participation and buy-in from the council; we expected some rather significant resistance to the baptism and attendance goals we established.
Finally, I have felt better spiritually this week since I have taken more time to pray and read. This is something I have neglected a bit recently. Perhaps doing this has given me more clarity as far as being able to teach and relate to people such as I did on Wednesday, though I have no way of really measuring that. I am going to continue with this, I still want to finish reading the Old Testament before the end of the year, and hopefully I continue to grow and have a clearer mind.
*BCD= Baptism and Confirmation Date. Generally we will baptize someone on a Saturday afternoon in a separate service and confirm them a member on Sunday morning with the entire congregation present. The entire congregation could technically attend the baptism, though that never happens. I was uncomfortable initially with trying to get a date with this man because he had only been taught one lesson, now two, and simply had not had enough time to really make a decision. It seems to be an ‘unwritten rule’ among missionaries that we try to set a baptism date on the second lesson and I am semi-uncomfortable with that standard, though I can’t fully explain why.