Jump to content

Missions are not boring!


Recommended Posts

7 minutes ago, Storm Rider said:

I served my mission in southern France. Prior to receiving my call the only place in the world I did not want to serve was France - did not have a valid reason, but for some unknown reason, it was the place I chose to avoid at all cost. Fortunately, God ignores the silly ideas of humans and called me to serve in the best mission in the world. The best, not because it was perfect, but because the people of France are so wonderful. My mission was interesting to me because of the people, the country, the culture, and the language. 

The absolute strongest spiritual experience was while teaching a man and his wife, both Jewish Holocaust survivors, and while teaching about Jesus Christ, tears streaming down their faces learning and coming to know that he was their Savior and the gospel of his redeeming love was true. What is significant is that even with this powerful experience they chose to not go any further when we returned the next week. They did not want to change and the path offered to them was too far in their minds. Spiritual experiences can be overwhelmingly powerful, but it remains a choice to follow or not. 

Knocking on doors was one of the most productive activities for me and my companions; however, after I became a senior companion we only went and continued knocking if we felt the Spirit.  Once we felt like the Spirit was not with us we stopped. Incidentally, I learned that if the Spirit is not present it does not matter how good or bad you think you are, the work will not be productive. 

I learned that loving the people was a fundamental requirement if I was going to be useful/productive tool as a missionary. This was back in the 70s; our labor was very productive relative to the majority of missionaries. Though I never personally baptized a single person, my companionships saw families, single men and women, and couples join the Church. 

I lived in an apartment in a building that built prior to Columbus sailing to the New World. 

Nothing is better than French pastries, getting croissants hot from the oven in the morning to eat with hot chocolate, French bread, and pate with a little fruit and cheese makes one of the best lunches in the world. We made and ate six liters of yogurt each week (an apartment of 4 elders). 

Our district formed a little singing group and sang in retirement homes and schools, hiked in the Pyrenees on P-day, visited Lourdes, went to midnight Mass at St. Front cathedral on Christmas Eve (Mission President encouraged us to experience the beauty of French culture), visiting with Catholic priests, there are too many - countless - cultural experiences yet always as a servant of Jesus Christ.  

 

lol, I went to the North of France and had an almost exactly opposite experience!

Link to comment

I played basketball on a P-day with Elder Rasband (when he was much younger - just called to the area presidency as a Seventy in Europe).  I was guarding him one game.  Mind you, I'm not good at basketball in the least, but he apparently played quite often while a mission president in NYC.  He was pretty good!  Midway through the game, he says to me "Just because I'm a general authority doesn't mean you can't guard me."

I don't know fore sure, but I swear he was trash talking me.

Link to comment
7 minutes ago, SouthernMo said:

I played basketball on a P-day with Elder Rasband (when he was much younger - just called to the area presidency as a Seventy in Europe).  I was guarding him one game.  Mind you, I'm not good at basketball in the least, but he apparently played quite often while a mission president in NYC.  He was pretty good!  Midway through the game, he says to me "Just because I'm a general authority doesn't mean you can't guard me."

I don't know fore sure, but I swear he was trash talking me.

I heard stories of my first mission president, Harvey Horner, dragging the office elders out of bed at 5:00 a.m. or earlier and making them go with him to the stake center in downtown Taipei and play basketball.

Quite a competitive fellow, Pres. Horner.  I loved and respected him and his wonder ful wife.

Thanks,

-Smac

Link to comment
23 minutes ago, bsjkki said:

Thank you for sharing all your stories! It has been so fun to read them! Even those that were not all positive. I would like to know how to read JK's book. I know this thread was not meant as a sales pitch...but it did make me curious. Thanks!

I purchased it on Amazon.

https://www.amazon.com/Heaven-Up-Here-John-Williams-ebook/dp/B005WYQ7SI/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535390653&sr=8-1&keywords=heaven+up+here%2C+john+k.+williams

Link to comment
4 hours ago, smac97 said:

A few thoughts:

1. I served my mission in Taiwan.  The bulk of our "work" days, as in virtually all of it, was spent knocking on doors, contacting people outside, teaching lessons (I averaged 15-20 per week), and service projects. 

2. In retrospect, I wish we had done more service projects.  There was just something fundamentally good about serving others in simple, but needed, ways.

3. One memorable service opportunity was a twice-a-week trip to a nearby Catholic orphanage for handicapped children.  As I recall, our understanding was that most of these children were not "orphans," but had been abandoned.  Most of the nuns there were from Africa.  Far too many special needs for these few wonderful sisters to meet, so the missionaries came twice a week to spend a few hours helping feed the kids and just sit and play with them.  There was one little girl who had been born with some pretty substantial defects.  She had no external ears, and an ear canal on only one side.  She was over three years old, but was very small for her age.  I named her Sarah.  All she wanted to do was to be held, so I held her (she was small enough to be held like a baby).  She would press her head against my chest, I think to listen/feel my heartbeat.  I would feed her, then hold her for an hour or so.  I would talk around the room and hum songs to her, and she would cling to me like a spider monkey.  Putting her down was always difficult, as she would get upset, and the nuns would then get a little upset at me for indulging her.  But I did it anyway.  

4. I was able to visit several beautiful places in Taiwan.  The National Museum, Taroko Gorge, the Chiang Kai Shek Memorial, all sorts of places.  Perhaps my favorite spot was a tiny town on the southeast coast called Chenggong.  Very out-of-the-way.  We had to hitch-hike to get there from and return to our assigned area (55 km each way).  There was a beautiful waterfall in the mountains nearby.  We hiked to it a few times.  Probably not as safe as it should have been, but beautiful.  There was also an open-air restauraunt in the town that had some of the most delicious Chinese food I had during my two years on the island.  There was also a beautiful set of tiny islands just off the coast, called San Xian Tai:

1920px-Sansiantai_Bridge_01.jpg

I haven't been back to Taiwan since I left it in 1995.  I sure would like to return some day.

5. Learning the language was fairly difficult (listening/speaking and reading and writing are all quite different skill sets).

6. I really came to love the Chinese people.

7. A few interesting experiences:

  • I had two physical altercations on my mission, each involving a man beating a woman.  Both times the man was inebriated. 
  • I hitch-hiked in an "ambulance" carrying a dead body.  Long story.
  • I had a few experiences with typhoons. 
  • I cleaned up public parks, most of which were very overgrown and heavily littered.  Hard work, but the locals were very appreciative.
  • I helped change bed linens in a hospital.  The hospital didn't have fourth floor, because "four" in Chinese sounds similar to the word for "death." 
  • The hospital also, for reasons unfathomable to me, kept a large collection of aborted fetuses, in jars of formaldehyde, stored on tables under the stairway, in full view of all passers-by.  The sister missionaries always took the elevators, as they did not want to talk past this display.
  • While was a Zone Leader I had a young black missionary in my zone.  He was the son of Joseph Freeman, the first black man ordained to the priesthood after the 1978 Revelation on Priesthood.  Elder Freeman was a good guy.  He did face a bit of discrimination, though, as Taiwanese folks back did not have the best perspective on American blacks (mostly derived, I think, from the glut of "gangster" movies in the late 80s and early 90s).
  • Prior to me serving my mission, I spent 18 months in the Army, 12 of which were spent studying Russian at the Defense Language Institute in Monterey, California.  8 hours a day for 12 months.  And then I was called on my mission to . . . Taiwan.  However, on my mission I met and taught a Russian family.  The father spoke some English, but the mother and daughter spoke none, and none of them spoke any Chinese.  The mother and daughter saw an ad for free English classes for kids taught (we missionaries were the teachers), and the mother decided to take her daughter.  I happened to be teaching the lesson as they walked in, and as soon as I realized they were Russian, I switched over to Russian and began chatting with the daughter.  We then set up appointments at their hope.  I gave them my Russian Book of Mormon (probably the only one on the island) that included my testimony in Russian.  I was, as far as I knew, the only missionary on the entire island who spoke Russian.  I taught them 2-3 lessons, then I was transferred.  I never found out what happened to them.

8. I had a companion who considered himself quite a basketballer.  He was only 6' tall, which is not much in America, but made him quite formidable in Taiwan.  He heard that Patrick Ewing was coming to Taiwan to promote his line of shoes, and that he would be judging an all-island high school dunk contest.  Somehow my companion secured permission from the mission president to attend, so we went.  It was in a large sporting arena in Taipei.  Somehow my companion persuaded the officiators to let him participate.  Unfortunately, he had sprained his ankle a few days later, so he couldn't complete the dunk.  However, none of the other participants did, either.  He did, however, get to meet Patrick Ewing.  

9. My greatest regret from my mission was being a bit too distant.  I went into the Army right out of high school, which was quite a shock.  I spent 1.5 years in training, then went home for three weeks, then went into the MTC.  I was a bit too regimented.  I was not as attentive as I would have liked in terms of just getting to know the wonderful people of Taiwan, as well as other missionaries.

10. On the other hand, I worked very, very hard for the full two years.  I took the work seriously.  I was sincere.  I studied the language, I followed the rules, I knocked on countless doors and spoke with probably thousands of people.

Thanks,

-Smac

Wonderful experiences. Thanks for sharing.

Question: Would it not have been against the rules of the mission for you to hitchhike? It strikes me as fraught with risk.

Link to comment
3 hours ago, Waylon said:

My mission was pretty awful.  It was totally knocking doors for ten hours a day, trying to get numbers, being micromanaged, etc.  I was deeply introverted, and never could figure out what to say to people or be effective (in retrospect, I could barely make friends in high school and certainly never had the courage to ask girls out, so of course I was ill prepared to excel at missionary work).  I had a couple of major fights with my mission president, a man who I don't think ever really understood me and who I did not feel comfortable around.  I didn't baptize a single person the entire two years.

The best part about my mission was, when I got home, the experience made me take a long, hard look at the Church and how I truly felt about the Church, and to closely check out other religions as well (atheism, islam, protestantism, catholicism).  In so doing, I was very surprised when I found out the Church, the Book of Mormon, and the doctrines taught therein, really were all true!  I thought I had a testimony on my mission, but it is nothing compared to what I received afterwards, when I really did go through a period of deep questioning.  To get to this point, I did have to separate my feelings towards my mission with my feelings towards the Church, and approach my search for truth with an honest heart and an open mind.

My Act 2 with the Church has been wonderful, as I have embraced Mormonism as a deeply personal religion I absolutely believe in.  However, I still have negative feelings about my mission, and my solution for that has been to just disavow the whole thing rather than try and look for any silver lining.  My mission was a failure, and while I am glad I showed up for the Lord, I am more than happy that the whole experience is behind me.  I guess I am proof that you can be a good Mormon but not a good missionary (and, based on some of the lives of my companions, the inverse holds true as well).

I also know that my experience is not the usual mission experience, that most people have a much better time than I did, so I keep my opinion to myself a lot.  However, if my children decide to go on missions, I plan to have a long talk with them about exactly what my experience was.

I don't think a mission is for everyone. I also don't think that some mission presidents are the best for missionaries. My first MP was a great guy, but my second was not a very good one. 

There was always a discussion about the dichotomy - either a spiritual missionary or one that followed the rules first and foremost. I always fell out on the spiritual side. The rules were there for guidance, but they did not dictate my actions if I felt there was something more effective to do. 

Northern France is a different kind of mission, :).  The south is where it is at. :D

Link to comment
19 minutes ago, Scott Lloyd said:

Wonderful experiences. Thanks for sharing.

Question: Would it not have been against the rules of the mission for you to hitchhike? It strikes me as fraught with risk.

I was wondering the same thing. We weren't even supposed to ride in private cars, whether or not we knew the driver/owner. Maybe that was just my mission. 

Link to comment
22 minutes ago, Scott Lloyd said:

Wonderful experiences. Thanks for sharing.

Question: Would it not have been against the rules of the mission for you to hitchhike? It strikes me as fraught with risk.

No, it was authorized (according to our zone leader, who was a pretty straight-arrow kind of a guy).  As I recall, the only restriction was that sister missionaries needed to be accompanied by at least four elders (since sister missionaries could not hitchhike on their own, nor could two sisters and two elders travel anywhere together).

We were in a pretty remote part of Taiwan.  No public transporation to speak of, so we hitchhiked on trucks.

The rules have probably changed now.  Back then, the only way to get to some remote places was to hitch-hike.

Thanks,

-Smac

Edited by smac97
Link to comment
1 hour ago, smac97 said:

No, it was authorized (according to our zone leader, who was a pretty straight-arrow kind of a guy).  As I recall, the only restriction was that sister missionaries needed to be accompanied by at least four elders (since sister missionaries could not hitchhike on their own, nor could two sisters and two elders travel anywhere together).

We were in a pretty remote part of Taiwan.  No public transporation to speak of, so we hitchhiked on trucks.

The rules have probably changed now.  Back then, the only way to get to some remote places was to hitch-hike.

Here's a photo (circa November/December 1985) of me, my companion, and two older couples in the remotest area I was in. This is how we got from our town to the nearest town, 60 miles away. They would lay planks across the back of a pickup, and you'd pay a couple of bucks to make the trip on some muddy jungle roads. 

ETA: the building in the background on the corner is the little place we rented as a chapel. The white building behind it is the house where my companion and I lived (we lived in the garage). It was a little town called Riberalta in Northern Bolivia. but the population has quadrupled to 100,000 because of a boom in the nut trade. 
 

riberalta.jpg

Edited by jkwilliams
Link to comment
4 hours ago, smac97 said:

I am curious as to your thoughts on this.

The 3/4 of the day was just not enough time to get everything done on p-day. Without a car, we walked a lot and took busses which ate up a lot of the day. So, shopping was difficult and doing whatever else was hard if travel was involved. An extra day might help in this area and might rejuvenate the missionary allowing him/her to be more effective.

Link to comment
18 minutes ago, smac97 said:

No, it was authorized (according to our zone leader, who was a pretty straight-arrow kind of a guy).  As I recall, the only restriction was that sister missionaries needed to be accompanied by at least four elders (since sister missionaries could not hitchhike on their own, nor could two sisters and two elders travel anywhere together).

We were in a pretty remote part of Taiwan.  No public transporation to speak of, so we hitchhiked on trucks.

The rules have probably changed now.  Back then, the only way to get to some remote places was to hitch-hike.

Thanks,

-Smac

I dare say I was on my mission years before you were on yours. When we needed to go somewhere remote and there was no public transportation, we biked or got special permission to ride with members. 

Edited by Scott Lloyd
Link to comment
1 minute ago, Scott Lloyd said:

I dare say I was on my mission years before you were on yours. When we needed to go somewhere remote and there was no public transportation, we biked or got special permission to ride with members. 

We didn't have bikes, so we took public transport or walked. 

Link to comment
5 minutes ago, Exiled said:

The 3/4 of the day was just not enough time to get everything done on p-day. Without a car, we walked a lot and took busses which ate up a lot of the day. So, shopping was difficult and doing whatever else was hard if travel was involved. An extra day might help in this area and might rejuvenate the missionary allowing him/her to be more effective.

Since we paid people to shop, cook, clean, and do our laundry for us, P-day was mostly about writing letters and then going to the central post office to mail them. Then we'd have a late lunch at a restaurant, and then head to zone meeting. Sometimes the whole zone would go out to eat together or we would make pancakes after zone meeting. 

Link to comment
1 hour ago, jkwilliams said:

Here's a photo of me, my companion, and two older couples in the remotest area I was in. This is how we got from our town to the nearest town, 60 miles away. They would lay planks across the back of a pickup, and you'd pay a couple of bucks to make the trip on some muddy jungle roads. 

 

 

 

Here's how we got from one small city to another in Austria, 1972. A lot of miles were put on those bikes.

1147725263_bikeride.thumb.jpg.8437b66b16ddefc86da4d2680d8c21bb.jpg

 

Link to comment
1 minute ago, JAHS said:

 

Here's how we got from one small city to another in Austria, 1972. A lot of miles were put on those bikes.

I rode a bike exactly once on my mission: on the last day before I headed to the mission home to return home. We had scheduled some baptisms, and the family was late, so I borrowed a bike and rode over to make sure everything was ok. I got a few blocks and found them on their way. Seeing how happy they were at their baptism was the perfect way for me to finish my mission. 

Link to comment
1 hour ago, jkwilliams said:

Since we paid people to shop, cook, clean, and do our laundry for us, P-day was mostly about writing letters and then going to the central post office to mail them. Then we'd have a late lunch at a restaurant, and then head to zone meeting. Sometimes the whole zone would go out to eat together or we would make pancakes after zone meeting. 

Compared to what I was used to in Sweden, that sounds like opulence: paid cooking, shopping and housekeeping and weekly restaurant meals. I don’t doubt there were aspects of it that wouldn’t be appealing, though. 

Link to comment
Just now, Scott Lloyd said:

Compared to what I was used to in Sweden, that sounds like opulence: paid cooking, shopping and housekeeping and weekly restaurant meals. I don’t doubt there were aspects of it that wouldn’t be appealing, though. 

Well, opulence is relative. Couple that with no running water, intermittent electricity, and poor quality food (including restaurants) that was likely to get you infected with parasites. 

Link to comment
10 minutes ago, jkwilliams said:

Well, opulence is relative. Couple that with no running water, intermittent electricity, and poor quality food (including restaurants) that was likely to get you infected with parasites. 

This is what I had in mind when I said there were undoubtedly aspects I would not find appealing. 

Link to comment
5 hours ago, jkwilliams said:

What made your mission "interesting"? What experiences that you expected made it interesting, and what happened that you hadn't expected that made it interesting?

My mission president signed off on allowing me to serve as the drumline instructor for the local high-school in my first area.

The school obviously had some restrictions about overt proselytizing, but we were allowed to wear our name tags.

When I started the kids were, without exaggeration, the absolute worst sounding group of drummers I had ever heard in my life. And, trust me, I have heard some really, really bad percussion sections in my day.

The heartbreaking part though was that kids all knew how bad they were, and everyone else in the band did too.

Whenever they practiced you could just see the self-esteem draining out from their poor little high-school selves. 

The noble drummer inside me absolutely lost it. 

For those of you who don'w know, the drumline is (objectively) the coolest part of marching band (sorry brass, that's just how it is), and I wasn't about to sit by and let these kids feel like losers just because nobody ever bothered to show them how amazing they could be.

So, I poured all of my free time into writing warm-ups, practice drills, cadences, etc.

When my companion was playing basketball on P-Day, I was on the sideline re-arranging all of the music for the band's performance pieces - seriously, the kind of dreck that gets passed off as the percussion part in most songs is just...bad - abysmally, horribly, offensively bad.

Anyway, we started having drumline practice every day of the school week, Monday through Friday: an hour before school each day and an additional hour or so on Monday afternoons (since that was P-Day and we weren't required to count that as part of our official weekly allotment of "service" time). 

It was amazing to see how fast they improved.

After a week, it was like the light-bulbs were all starting to turn on. After two weeks they were really getting the hang of things. And after a month they were sounding legitimately good.

Which was a relief, because we had been keeping all of their 'cool new stuff' under wraps until I was satisfied that they were ready to actually perform it - flawlessly. 

When it came time for them to show off the goods, I got permission from President to attend the Friday night game and oversee their performance. 

They performed to perfection, just like they had practiced - laying down one sick beat after another. 

To paraphrase the great George Clinton, they tore the roof off the sucker!

The band instructor went flipping wild. 

The rest of the band went flipping wild.

Every single flipping person in the entire flipping stands got up on their feet, and they all went flipping wild.

The drumline, however, was chill.

You know, because laying down funky beats is just what they do.

Every. Dang. Day. 

Still, it was pretty tough for a few of them to keep from smiling a little bit at least, and nobody could have missed how brightly they were all glowing with pride.

When I went to church the next Sunday, one of the members of the ward who taught at the High School (who arranged for me to work with the kids originally) said that he had been sitting with the administrators and that they had all completely lost their...you know what...when they heard the drumline perform. They thought it was a college band or something; none of them could believe it was their own students.

When they learned that the only change was that one Mormon missionary from BYU had helped out with the drumline that Fall, they asked if the Mormons had anyone else they could send to take my place whenever I left. :)

Had I done nothing more than help those kids do better with their music and feel better about themselves, that would have been more than rewarding enough. 

As it happened though, as a consequence of just having worked together, several of the kids ended up investigating the church, and at least one of them was ultimately baptized.

In my patriarchal blessing, the Lord said that I would serve a mission and that I would serve him in "unexpected, unanticipated ways." 

I consider that prophecy fulfilled. 

 

Link to comment
Guest
This topic is now closed to further replies.
  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    • No registered users viewing this page.
×
×
  • Create New...