Saturday, March 4, 2017

Missionary Stages

Week of Feb. 28-March 4, 2017

It’s been a while since I last wrote here.  With everything going on and every night spent calling people I let my habit to write slip away.  But now I’m on a bus and will be for about 7 hours, so I have some time.
            Last night I was looking at some old pictures.  Old as in when I first got in the mission.  I realized how different I am.  Not just in my appearance, but I thought about my attitude, my goals, the things I worry about, the things I don’t worry about.  I thought about why I started my mission papers, then why I sent them in, why I accepted the call, then why I left to the MTC, why I came to Brazil, then why I’ve stayed in the mission all this time.  I realized all these “why’s” had different answers.  My motive to enter the MTC is different from the motive I have now to stay in the mission and finish with honor.
            There are many “missionary stages.”  And I think I’ve passed through a good part of them. There’s the MTC missionary:  nervous, A little lost, then near the end of his MTC time, he’s on top of the world.  He’s the “old guy” who knows all the tricks and turns.  This missionary soon goes to the greenie stage, where he realized how little he knows.  He’s totally dependent on his trainer, maybe learning a new language.   He had no experience, but what he lacks in experience he makes up for in his faith.  He believes in everything, and in every person.  I remember the first baptism invite I made.  His name was Claudio.  I invited him to be baptized, and he accepted and I got SO excited.  Looking back, I remember that he was smoking, had beer cans on the ground, had never gone to church nor wanted to read the Book of Mormon.  I’m pretty sure now that he wasn’t even understanding my Portuguese.  But at the time I noticed none of that.  I really honestly believed he would be my first baptism.
            After my greenie stage I entered the junior stage.  This was with about 3 months in the mission.  I now had more experience, but I still was leading by faith.  My first few companions weren’t the best missionaries in the mission, but they taught me a lot. There was a lot of personal growth at this time.  I remember Pres. Parrela calling me at one point and he said, “Elder McKee, you’re in a stage where your job is follow, obey, and learn.  Soon, you will be the leader, but for now, learn to obey.”  That was a hard lesson to learn, but I acquired a lot of humility in this junior stage.  I learned to focus on what I can control, like dad always tells me, and leave the rest to God.
            6 months in the mission, and I went to my district leader/trainer stage.  I skipped the senior stage.  I loved this stage, and I stayed in it for 6 months.  I loved following up on and setting goals with other missionaries, the few I had in my district.  I worked hard to gain their confidence and respect.  I trained 2 missionaries and I tried to give my best to them.  In this stage I feel like I hit my prime. I was relying on the Lord, but I had enough experience to know what I was doing. I was helping others.
            About a year in the mission, and I got to my zone leader stage.  Again, I loved gaining the missionaries confidence and helping them, but looking back I believe that in this stage I started to lead more by experience then by faith.  I still worked hard, just as I’ve tried to do all my mission.  But like I said my motives changed a bit.  My attitude changed.  I got prideful.  Not in thinking I was all high and mighty because I was zone leader, but I lost focus of whose work this is.  My 6 months as a zone leader were great. I could see that people looked up to me, asking for advice, and following my example. 
            Now it’s been about a month since I entered the AP stage.  I have a year and 7 months in the mission.  Looking back I realize and regret a little, my attitude change.  Comparing my faith with Claudio in the greenie stage to now. I enter into the houses of people, and without realizing, after about 10 seconds, I’ve already decided if they will progress or not.  I look at their fingers to know if they smoke, their left hadn’t to know if they need to get married or not, their mouth and eyes to know if they drink, their book shelf to see the kind of movies they watch or books they read.
            I do a contact in the street ready to reply to any of the excuses I know they will use.
            These and about 100 other things I do, and only yesterday realized that I do them.  It’s without thinking.  All my experience in the mission, the 100’s of people I’ve talked to, have lead me to these habits have taken my faith in the people out.
            Now, I still work, and I still do what I should do but I was doing it without really believing the people would accept.  My attitude was “I’ll do my part to give them the chance to do their part, but I know they won’t”.  IT’S LIKE TRYING TO HAMMER A NAIL IN UPSIDE DOWN!
            Yesterday was my wake up call.  I’ve got 5 months left in the mission, and I refuse to let “lack of faith” be on my list of regrets after the mission.  We do a million and five things as the AP.  Transfers, conferences, counsels, numbers, commentaries, part-time missionaries, exchanges, meetings, visits, talking with church headquarters in Sao Paulo, missionaries leaving, missionaries coming, problematic missionaries.  We are always running, and I love it.  It’s a blast.  I think God gave me this chance to be AP to wake up my faith again.  My faith that there is always hope for every person to chance.  Some times all they need is the chance to change. 
            My whole mission I’ve worked my tail off.  I’ve been truly really happy.  But I believe that God always has something more to offer us, and He’s giving me my chance now to work even harder and be even happier.
            Something that happened on Sunday….we had spent the whole week trying to find new people, with no success.  We were doing everything. After the ENTIRE week of nothing for new investigators, on Sunday we visited a less active woman. She told us of her friend Janete, who was passing through a really hard time right now.  She said that she had told Janete about us, and Janete wanted to meet us.  So, she told us where Janete lives.  We went and knocked.  She came, saw us, and smiled, and said, “oh it’s you guys!  Come in!”  It had been a LONG time since we’d had a reaction like that.  We go in and start talking.  She has a HUGE family, lots of kids and grandkids.  They are extremely poor.  We talked for a while with her and her husband. They were so humble in asking for help.  We taught them how to pray over the food, and marked a part for them to read in the Book of Mormon.  It was a great lesson. I thin it was the Lord blessing us after a week of hard work to find this great family to teach.
(1) QUARTA (Wednesday):  Today was a division with the zone leaders.  One thing that was good today was in a lesson with a guy, and at the end I was bearing my testimony. After he kept looking at me and then said, “You know, a lot of people have come here to try and convince me that their church is true.  But you guys are the first that actually speak from the heart.  I can see it in your eyes that you really do believe what you say.  And for someone so young, that’s very admirable.”  WOW.  That made me want to explode.  I was so happy.  I’m always feeling that my testimony isn’t strong enough or that I need to strengthen it, and while I still think that’s true, it was good to see that I do have a testimony and he felt it.  We were able to answer a lot of his questions. 
            I’m focusing on really trying to help people. I’m trying to be more patient and caring.  And I need to stop complaining.
(2) QUINTA (Thursday):  Today was an exchange with my son and grandson; Elder Jesus Santos, who I rained, and Elder Jensen, who he is currently training.  Elder Jenson is from Mt. Pleasant, I think.
            We met a man whose kidneys are OUTSIDE of his body. I t was an old man.  He told us he had had a surgery, and then he showed us his stomach, on each side of his stomach was a hole, and his kidneys completely out of his stomach, but still functioning.  There was a plastic bag over each one.  He said, “but the surgery didn’t help.”  I wanted to yell, “of course not!  They forgot to put your kidneys back in!”  It’s been like that for a bout a year he said.  CRAZY!  I’ve never seen anything like that.

When are your baptisms for the family with 11 kids?  Tonight.  There are 7 people getting baptized and 4 of us elders will baptize them.  I’ll send pictures next week.

Will you be traveling again this week?  Yes, on Monday we have the council where all the ZL’s come, then Tuesday I’ll go to Cruz Alta, but not to first ward, then I’ll go to Santo Angelo.

I love you all.  I’m healthy and happy. 
Elder McKee

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