Sunday, September 20, 2015

Teach a man to fish

Hey there!  I am good and happy and healthy. My week was pretty good, less chaotic than last week for sure. This week the Assistants came into town and we had a split with them. I got the chance to work with Elder Mateer. He is from Britain and he is pretty cool. We also had a good Zone Conference with all the missionaries meeting here from Irkutsk, Angarsk and Ulan-Ude.  Zone conference was super good. President Perkinson has such a strong testimony and it really helps us remember why we are here and what goals we have.

Our meeting was in Irkutsk at the church building here. And yes I have been eating vegetables - I can't eat only chocolate bars, as much as I wish I could. Ha ha.

I am not too surprised that it looks like snow is coming. It is cold here. J  I remember in Nakhodka, I got there the first week of October and we didn't have snow yet and I am hoping that it waits that long here, too.  As soon as the snow starts, it won’t go away until May. It is a real problem in my opinion. In Nakhodka they had poor street work. The snow piled up and only late into winter did they start cleaning the roads and sidewalks. Hopefully it will be a bit different here in Irkutsk.

When I was a Zone leader I think we had 8 missionaries in our zone. But at the Zone Conference there were 21 people. Haha I am glad that we are getting more people here working.

Of course I am happy that we have more missionaries working here but I had a worry this past week. I realized that the branches are dependent on us and it is not good at all. We need to help the branches but more than just help them by setting up chairs and stuff, we need to help them stand on their own two feet. I think that is the key to giving them real help. It brings me back to the old Chinese proverb: Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day, teach a man to fish and you will feed him for a lifetime.

Right now we are just giving the Irkutsk branch fishes, but we need to buy them a really pretty fishing pole and give it to them. That will be better in the long run. This week one of our church leaders asked if we could get some bread and bring it to the church for sacrament. We said of course we could help but that it would be better for him to give the responsibility to a member instead of missionaries. His reply hit me like a ton of bricks. He replied "The members already are coming to church. You expect them to buy bread too? That is just too much".  After picking my jaw off the floor we went and got some bread. I was a bit upset that one of our church leaders had this kind of attitude about church attendance and I really shouldn't have let it bug me.  I realized that he was doing what he thought was the norm. Normally at churches here people just come and take the sacrament and go home and that is that. Our LDS church is different. We expect a lot from our members and I can't get upset at our members here if we haven't taught them this principle yet. I thought also about the talk by Elder Uchtdorf from a few conferences ago. It is titled "Come, join with us". Give it a quick read if you haven't already. 

Thanks for the advice on setting goals, I will try and incorporate that into our upcoming district meetings and work. We worked on that a little bit this past week, which goals we have and what we each need to do in order to make these goals work out.  It was good but I think we get quickly discouraged when no matter how much we try to help the members, they leave church 2 minutes after taking the sacrament. That happened this week. We blessed and passed the sacrament and before the first talk was over there were about 5 people who had already left. After the first talk some lady got a call on her phone, she answered it without getting out of her seat and she wasn't speaking quietly. She then said "No I am not busy" and stood up and squeezed out of the row and walked into the hall to finish her conversation the whole time just chatting on the phone. Just before that a member was making big hand gestures waving at someone across the room and doing the super loud "Whisper" thing trying to get this persons attention. She was whispering but in reality it was louder than if she would’ve just spoken normally. She wanted that person to turn the AC off. The person turned off the AC and a few minutes later this lady stood up and changed seats anyways. I don't know it bugged me a little bit. After church we were trying to have a missionary meeting and in the hallway there were kids running around slamming into walls and screaming and it was bugging me too because the parents were doing nothing about it.

It hit me that this branch is still relatively new and I need to be more tolerant when they make mistakes because they don't understand yet. I am sure that is how Jesus felt sometimes when teaching his Apostles. They didn't understand everything completely but getting upset doesn't help. It only helps if we show them a good example and teach them correct principles so that they can learn to work independent of missionary help. I hope you have a good week and thanks for showing me the book "How to Win Friends and Influence People" all those years ago :)

Yesterday we had a great day, we met with one of our members whom we haven't seen in a long time. He is studying to become a doctor, and he is already getting his hands in there practicing a little bit. He is 20 and he is pretty cool.  We also went to visit a member who hasn't been coming to church for a few years. We invited him to come to our Open House day at church on Wednesday and he invited us in. Turns out he is a way cool guy! His name is B  and he was one of the original members here in Irkutsk when the church first opened up here over 10 years ago. He has a sweet mustache too haha  You can't see his lips when he speaks, his mustache just dances when he speaks haha.  He said probably 15 times during our meeting "My American Friend" in English - he is a pretty cool guy :)

I am a fearless world traveler! I have found myself able to sleep about anywhere. I have slept on trains, on planes, on busses and I even fell asleep on a lesson or two back in Nakhodka when I didn't understand what was going on and the member just wanted to talk and talk and talk. I can sleep sitting up, or laying down, or with a book in my hands, or even without anyone noticing J  Haha I haven't had any sleep problems and I am very thankful for that. Then again, sometimes I fall asleep when all I want to do is stay awake. I don't really have any control over that and I wish I did.  

Anyways, I am glad to hear that all is well at home! Keep up the good work and remember...Be a missionary always and when necessary use words.

I love you

Elder Gardner


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