A good couple of letters illustrating the ups and downs of missionary life. A lack of success can send Elders into a downward spiral, feeling desperate, lonely, and frustrated. Usually, the lack of success is caused by some issue in the Elder’s life or their companionship. When the breakthrough on that comes, success returns and you’ve back to over-the-moon with joy.
Mom and all, (11/13/89)
That thing with the Christmas looking paper on it is your English Christmas present. It’s authentic English Christmas pudding, cooked by a local charity (recipe included). Not much, but it’s English. The American Christmas present is just a wish of love.
Afraid I’m not in the best of moods right now. We’re on a train to Northampton for a zone meeting. Which wouldn’t be so bad if it didn’t destroy our P-day. We have to have the 20 yr old member that hangs around with us do our laundry and shopping or it wouldn’t get done. Grr. We have to catch a train at 10.30 to get us there at 12.30. And of course it’s a half hour late and costs 6 pounds. Such is the life.
I’m kind of having trouble getting my trainer motivated too. He spends an hour in the tub (not an exaggeration) and piddles around so that we’re eternally late and inefficient. I try to push him, but he’s [the] senior [companion], so I have to be careful. If this is [like] marriage… I don’t know.
He’s great, don’t get me wrong. And we do get things done. It’s just that when we don’t place a single Book of Mormon all week, I feel inefficient. I mean, I’ll have had probably 4 or 5 baptisms by Christmas, but three are 10-year-old boys whose families are inactive and just can’t be bothered to baptize them at 8.
Well this is sounding negative and I shouldn’t get you all upset about me at Christmas time. I’m growing so much, though. Almost every day, I learn something about myself, try to make improvements. For example, why can’t I snap myself out of a negative mood like I’m currently in? Really, we have a lot going for us.
We’re getting some inactives out. My bike is fixed. I really don’t have many more big expenses – most everything’s bought. (I’m considering selling that cargo bag and getting a bigger Pullman. What do you think? I’m going to be overflowing real soon, if not now) We are baptizing. We’re living in a great place. Lots of dinner appointments, and a wonderful, supportive family.
I was counting my blessings yesterday. The kids here just don’t have the fortunate circumstances I had. There are no [list of great families in my home ward…] out here – they’re all less than valiant military Mormons or recent English converts that get more and more put off by all the Americans. Sad, really. There are six 18-20 year old boys in the ward. ONE wants to go on a mission.
I certainly don’t want anyone to think that I would generalize that all Mormon families in the military are inadequate spiritually. This was just an observation of a trend in this one area by this naive 19-year old.
I feel a great responsibility to reactivate. There are so many here that have just forgotten. I know my calling is – I guess – to convert and baptize. But baptize people into a shell of a ward? Activity is at about 35% (150 out of 400-ish). And about 70% of the actives are Americans that work rotating shifts and leave the ward after 2-4 years. Strange place, this is. Elder B says it’s not real typical and that I’m in a great place to train because it’s a difficult, though fun, area. Looks like I’ll be here thru the end of Jan by the way.
Time’s flying and I have mixed feelings about ever coming home. Sorry, but it’s true. No, I really am looking forward to coming home, but I make it a practice to pretend not to.
Love and kisses. I’ll put in some English chocolate – you can taste the difference. Yum, yum. Have you had the missionaries over [for dinner] yet?
Love, Elder Chris
Mom and all, (11/24/89)
It’s been a pretty incredible week. I’ll try to get everything in here. We had an exchange with some Zone leaders and we had some fun times with them (I got cussed at for the first time! Persecuted for the Lord! Hooray!) The next day, we had a teaching appointment with a lady that was tracted up some months ago in an outskirt town. We spent 3 hours giving her one discussion. Of course, with 8 kids under age 6 in the house (6 are hers), it was bound to take some time, but wow! She invited us back, anyway. Became friends with all the kids, etc.
Thursday, I was at Zone Conference and Stake Missionary Meeting in Northampton all day. Very inspiring, spiritual message about Joseph Smith. What a man. I knew, but I didn’t realize… also some deep, deep doctrine (D&C 93 and King Follett stuff) that I just love. Makes me wonder. Hard to believe we all have that potential. Even I, dizzy, stubborn, opinionated me has that potential. Stake Miss Mtg was a lot of fun. Remind me to have the ward do this activity when I get home. I can’t tell what it’s like. I guess you’re only supposed to do it every 10 years or so in an area because the idea is that noone knows what’s going on. So just remind me. Great adult fireside.
I sure wish I’d provided some kind of clue here, because I have NO idea what activity I’m talking about 🙂
Anyhow, next morning we find our bikes were stolen. Yes, they were locked up. So, now we’re on foot. And out 80 pounds. Listened to a fireside by the temple president that night, so at least I slept. But the next morning, I get a depressing letter from T (she’s enjoying dating more than boyfriends) and a gift from your dad. I love him dearly, but he outdid himself this year. A pewter-looking, truck-driver belt buckle. Sure, it’s quality and is of mountaineers [I enjoyed mountain climbing as a teen.], but… it’s a good 3 x 4 inches. With a suit… Right. I just laughed. That’s grandpa. I guess if he’d sent something I could use, I’d be disappointed. Thank you note is already written, mom.
So, I settled my mind on those later counts. Told myself how silly I was to even think about worrying about T. If she’s there, great. If not, fine. I meant it. I mean it. I made decisions last year that should settle all questions. Anyhow, that area’s fine now. With that settled, Conference was enjoyable and I decided I could handle the steady downturn in luck.
Then, Monday we taught the lady w/ 6 kids. The kids love us now. (of course, I bribed them w/ goodies, but…) We had a great discussion, passing off her 6-month old twins between principles. I asked her to be baptized and she said she’d pray about it! She’s all excited to see us tomorrow and is reading the Book of Mormon on her own. I’m excited.
Same day, we get in contact with a lady we placed a Book of Mormon with 5 weeks ago. She read what we told her to read and it really upset her. She couldn’t sleep, thinking "how bad do you have to be to be in darkness?" [we must have given her 3 Ne 11 to read, which starts with the people in darkness before the coming of the Savior] She asked us to give her some answers and we asked her if we could come back and talk at length. She said great because it really was bothering her. We had a great day. We’re seeing her tomorrow too.
Today, [a local member of the church] finds my bike. Some used bike lot in a back alley place was selling it. I should be able to pick it up tomorrow.
So, things have certainly gone up and down this week. Christmas fever is striking and I’m already singing carols all day long.
Gotta go, I’m getting this off 2 days late as is. You should be getting a package before Christmas. Ho ho ho.
quite enjoyable. hope someone besides me is reading, but i\’m impressed you can get so many good details in a letter at 19 years of age.