I had a bunch of pictures to send, but I am at a different internet café today and they don't have a camera adapter for me to use.
Recently I was studying in The Book of Mormon and began to read the chapters that expound on the missionary work of two great missionaries - Aaron and Ammon. As I studied these chapters, I noticed a difference in the teaching techniques and success of the two. I do not mean to criticize Aaron in any manner by what I say, for he truly followed the counsel of "Preach My Gospel" and opened his mouth to "talk with everyone" and he later became a very successful missionary, but when we compare the success of these two missionaries in these two situations, it is clear that one was more successful than the other.
Let's take a look at the story of Aaron (Alma 21):
Aaron enters the mission field in the city of Jerusalem and begins to "open his mouth" and preach to the hard-hearted people in their synagogues (verse 4). The people begin to question him and ask him how he can believe in such foolish things (5-8). Aaron opens the scriptures and begins to explain the doctrine of Christ (10). The people begin to Bible Bash and reject him (10-11). He and his companion are cast into prison (14).
Yikes! Not exactly the greatest first week in the field. Don't worry Aaron, an awesome recent convert and the Assistant to the Mission President are on their way to bail you out and P-Day is right around the corner!
All right, now let's take a look at the story of Ammon and his first week in the field (Alma 17-18):
Ammono receives his mission call to serve among the Lamanites (17:11). He and the Elders in his district at the MTC leave the MTC and enter the field and receive their area assignments (17:12-13). Ammon is called to serve in the area known as Ishmael (17:19). When Ammon first enters the field, the people are unsure and suspicious of him (17:20-21). They ask him who he is and what he is doing here (17:22). He tells them that he really likes it here. It's a nice place and that he will be living here for a while - two years to be exact or, as we missionaries like to say it, until he "dies" and returns home. They ask him if he can date or get married on his mission (17:24 *you have no idea how many times we get asked this question). He just laughs and says, "No, but I want to serve all of you." (17:24-25).
So he starts in on the service, finding ways to serve people day in and day out (17:26-39) and he starts to gain the people's confidence and is filled with joy in his service (17:29). The people start to spread the word about a great guy in a white shirt and tie who goes around serving people (18:1). One man is really impressed and wants to know who he really is (18:2-3). He seeks him out and Ammon is found at a service project (18:8-10). When the man sees this, he thinks to himself "Wow! Now I really know that this guy and whoever he represents is great!" He asks Ammon to come over to his house and Ammon does, after finishing his service project (18:11-13).
Ammon asks the man what he can do for him (18:14-15). The Spirit helps him ask inspired questions and discern the thoughts of the man (18:16-18). The man is impressed and asks him who he is and what he can do for Ammon, for he will do anything for him after all he has done to serve him and his friends (18:20-21). Ammon smiles and says, "I thought you'd never ask."
He tells them that he is a missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ and that he has an awesome message for them about God and Jesus Christ and asks them to hear him out (18:22). They immediately agree (18:23). He starts in on the teaching (18:24-39). Many people believe him and have a desire to repent and change their lives for good (18:40-41). Some reject him (18:32), but many are converted and are baptized and receive the Gift of the Holy Ghost (18:35-36). *Ammon becomes AP and goes on divisions to help some Elders who are having a hard time in their area (Alma 20)
Wow! What a striking contrast to the experience of Aaron. As I contemplated these two stories, and why one missionary was more successful than the other, I finally realized the reason why hymn #249 was titled "Called To Serve" instead of "Called To Preach." As missionaries and members of the Church, we are called to serve "to help others come unto Christ by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and HIs Atonement, repentance, baptism, receiving the Gift of the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end." Sure, "preaching" is part of the job, but when we are truly focused on serving our fellow brothers and sisters, we will find far more opportunities to "preach" or share the Restored Gospel with others.
Recently, Sister Pereira and I tried to follow the example of Ammon and apply his technique in our missionary service. When we made contacts every day, instead of saying, "We are missionaries for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and we want to invite you to visit the Church. We meet every Sunday at 9am, and the church is located...", we mixed things up a bit. We start off by asking people if they can "do us a favor".
It is kind of funny watching the difference in people's facial expressions. During the original, normal contacts, which involved just inviting people to church, people's facial expressions usually react with a face that displays, "Ugh! Not again! These Mormon missionaries have invited me to church more times than I can count! When will they recognize that I don't want to visit their church?!?!?!?!" Instead, their faces respond with a surprised, unsure look. "Um...sure," they reply. We then start in, "We're looking for opportunities to voluntarily serve and help people and were wondering if you know anyone that could use some help."
The change in people’s facial expressions will become even more amusing now. Their eyes will widen and some will even say "Graças a Deus!" ("Thank God!” – Here are some people who are actually trying to make the world a better place!") The people will think for a while. Some will actually come up with some people who need help (Woo Woo!!!). But, unfortunately, most of the time, they won't be able to think of anyone.
Confused and curious, they will ask us who we are. We will then reveal that we are in fact missionaries of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and that, aside from voluntary service, we also like visiting people's houses and sharing messages about our Savior Jesus Christ. We then ask them if they know of anyone who would be interested in our message. Some will say no, but more often than we think, many will give us referrals or even say that they themselves are interested. In the last two days we have found over ten new investigators. :)
The scriptures are very sacred and special. If we study them diligently and prayerfully, we will find and learn things that we can apply to our everyday lives and to help the work of the Lord progress here on earth. In China, where we cannot share the Gospel as easily and openly as in other countries, Ammon's technique is perfect. Let us search for methods to serve and help our fellow brothers and sisters daily, be they family, friends, church members (active and less active), strangers, etc. Everyone can use some form of help even if it is just a warm smile, a kind "good morning", or a sweet "bilhetinho" (note).
One of my favorite talks in General Conference was David Bednar's directed to non-members of the church. Read it over again. It is wonderful.
I received my packages - at least the one from Annette and the one with two diaries. Thank you so much! The American Elders and Sisters and I had fun eating the chocolate during General Conference. It was an AMAZING conference. The main theme that I found for the woman's conference was temples and for General Conference, it was definitely conversion and believing in a living prophet through personal revelation. I wrote down a list of 12 questions I had before conference, and not a single one of them went unanswered by the time conference had ended. It was wonderful!
It was also really amazing hearing Elder Godoy speaking in Portuguese. I watched part of conference in Portuguese and part in English. Luckily I was watching in Portuguese when he spoke Portuguese. Everyone thought that it was funny listening to Elder Wong speaking in Cantonese. I was smiling the whole talk even though I didn't understand anything. I did understand some of the Spanish-speaking speakers though.