President's Pen 6-26-17 (Wheel's Aligned)

As missionaries in the Texas Houston South Mission, we know our purpose is to invite others to come unto Christ, by helping them receive the restored gospel through faith in Jesus Christ and His Atonement, repentance, baptism, receiving the Gift of the Holy Ghost and enduring to the end. We do this through our constant efforts to find, teach, invite, retain, and activate God’s children; we love it, we live it, and we do it! “We begin with the End in Mind”, and see God’s children as he does. We are Disciples of Jesus Christ that teach repentance and baptize converts and the best missionaries in the world!

 Dear Elders & Sisters,

I love ya! A scripture reference for you to ponder today found in Alma 13:3, “And this is the manner after which they were ordained—being called and prepared from the foundation of the world according to the foreknowledge of God, on account of their exceeding faith and good works; in the first place being left to choose good or evil; therefore they having chosen good, and exercising exceedingly great faith, are called with a holy calling, yea, with that holy calling which was prepared with, and according to, a preparatory redemption for such. And thus they have been called to this holy calling on account of their faith…”  Elders & Sisters, this is you! You have been called and prepared before you came to earth because of who you were!  You had chosen good, exercised your faith, and you have been called to the Lord’s work in this part of the vineyard.  It is not by circumstance you are here, in the area in which you currently serve, or with the companion you have been assigned to labor with.  I testify to you that you need not wonder why you are here or what you are to do.  Go forth with faith, hope, and charity, and give your all to the God who gives you daily breath! Oh, how great is your call!

As a missionary family we have our preparation day on Saturday.  Before we were called to the great Texas Houston South mission, I enjoyed competitive cycling and triathlons and on our pdays I try to get out and ride my bike first thing in the morning.  For the past two years I have ridden solo on each of these rides.  Two weeks ago, however, was the first time since we arrived where I was able to join a group ride.  I had ridden about 15 miles on my own when I saw a group of 30+ riders moving at a high pace in the opposite direction.  Upon seeing them, my pulse started to race, my competitive juices started flowing, and I knew I had to join in.  I quickly turned around and joined at the back of the group and within minutes three things became wonderfully apparent: first, I was no longer fighting the headwinds on my own.  Second, I was traveling at far faster speeds than I can sustain on my own.  Third, I was exerting less effort, but covering more distance without tiring.  Within the group, we were in complete alignment, our bikes were wheel to wheel, we pushed each other faster, and everyone took a turn at the front to pull the group ahead.  Instead of riding 20-30 miles, I rode 40 miles that day (in just over an hour and a half) and when I returned to the mission home I was grinning from ear to ear!

As I was riding along with the group all I could think about was how effective missionary work is when members and missionaries work together.  I spent the first 15 miles of my ride pushing the pedals on my own, and there are times when we as missionaries do the same thing.  We can and should knock doors and street contact, but the work is never as effective (headwinds, slower, more effort) if this is our only approach.  When missionaries align their wheels and efforts to the goals and efforts of the ward and line up with the members, we accomplish more, we move faster, we find more, we teach more, we invite more, and more come unto Christ.  When we do this, we come home from our daily missionary efforts grinning from ear to ear!

Let me share with you a recent example of how the members and the missionaries aligned their wheels and worked together in the Pearland and Memorial Park 2 Wards.  The Mahdzadeh family arrived as refugees from Iran in December.  The Pearland Ward received the assignment to adopt this family of five and a miracle occurred.  Sister Austin Blackwell, she herself a recent convert, was given the assignment to coordinate the efforts among the ward to look after the family.  The father of the family was Muslim, and the mother of three kids was Christian.  After getting the family settled, Sister Blackwell offered to take them to any church they wanted to attend.  Not knowing where they wanted to go for church, the mother said we’ll go to yours!  Sister Blackwell and the ward family jumped on the opportunity and welcomed them with open arms.  The family lived in downtown Houston, but Sister Blackwell and the other members of the ward would make the drive in to town each week to pick the family up and bring them to church (for three months!).  In simple terms, the ward adopted them. After a period of time, the family was integrated into the Memorial Park 2 Ward and several member families continued to adopt them there.  They were introduced to the missionaries and at the beginning of May, the Dad, Mom, and oldest daughter were baptized.  Just two weeks ago, the family attended the temple for the first time and it was a beautiful thing to see. 

Had the missionaries randomly knocked the Mahdzadeh’s door, perhaps the miracle of conversion would have never taken place, but through awesome ward members, and missionaries called to teach repentance and to baptize converts, a miracle took place for this little family.  There are countless stories like this in our mission, and I have had many converts share with me their experience of being adopted by a member family.    

A few reminders for you Elders & Sisters on how we can continue to align our wheels and pull together with the members… When you find someone to teach, you need to immediately work with the ward mission leader and or other members of the ward council to identify a family/individual that can adopt them.  Sister Blackwell of the Pearland Ward experienced this for herself just under a year ago.  The Hugo family in the Pearland Ward adopted her and her two kids. Sister Blackwell described to me that when they arrived at church, and members swarmed and greeted them, they immediately felt like they had arrived in a place where they felt like part of the family.  My hope would be that whenever an investigator comes to church, as missionaries you never sit with your investigators, but that you make sure a family/individual in the ward does.  You need to be relationship builders and seek to establish opportunities for the investigators to thrive without you.  You will all leave the area at some point, and far too many missionaries don’t go out of their way to introduce their investigators when they join us.  Some very wise missionaries have also started a member area book that helps them know more info about the members when they need to call upon them. It’s also a great start for any new missionaries that come into the area (think Susan Fulcher case). 

Three more simple missionary invitations you can continue making as you ride shoulder to shoulder with the members. These are already familiar to you, but we must keep extending them! First, invite them pray to have the desire to do missionary work.  There is not a member in the Church that can’t pray each day to have the desire to share the gospel.  From the young to the old, you can invite all to pray for the desire to share how faith in the Savior, repentance, baptism, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end will lead them back to their Father in Heaven

Second, invite them to keep living the gospel and to let the Savior’s countenance shine in theirs.  We are peculiar people for a reason; help them let their light shine so people can see their good works.  Help them know how they can talk about the gospel in everyday conversations, share what they did at church this weekend, and how to be an everyday missionary by opening their mouth.  Continue to teach them how they can share the gospel to friends directly over social media like Facebook Messenger and Instagram.  Help them overcome their fears teach them that success is measured when they invite!

Third, invite them to pray for a specific opportunity to do missionary work and help them to be willing to open their mouth when the Lord puts someone in their path.  Every member connection (at least 10 a day) needs to include a missionary based invitation.  The key to all invitations is your follow up.  Most members have shared with me that the missionaries invite them (some more than others), but never bother following up.  Many members don’t get involved, not because they don’t want to, but they have come to expect the missionaries to never follow through.  Don’t let this be you!

Elders & Sisters, I testify that the work of salvation is best achieved when we work together, wheels aligned.  We discussed this at our last zone conference and I have included something related to working with the members in every zone conference since we arrived in the mission.  I am following the counsel given by our Prophet and a wise missionary will use all finding sources, and especially the members in their efforts to find.  Be patient, be tenacious, and above all love them for their willingness to help you. When we align our wheels and each pull together, we are stronger, we are faster, and we help others receive the joy of the gospel in their lives.  Love ya!

President Hall