The Beginning of the Good News

We met with our Mission Leadership Council this week. As always, it is my favorite day of the month. I love these leaders. We do a variety of things during our meeting. We council together about how to improve and how to better support the missionaries.

We developed a new Standard of Excellence this week. Our missionaries will be participating in five service experiences per week. The Samoan people are incredibly generous and do so much to care for our missionaries. They very seldom will allow the missionaries to perform service for them. We decided as a council to watch for spontaneous service opportunities--help someone pull weeds, help someone take their wash off of the line. These service moments don't have to be long. We decided together these kinds of service experiences will bring greater joy for the missionaries and build trust with those they serve.

In an effort to begin to spread the good news. I wrote down some comments from MLC so you can see what remarkable leaders are serving the Lord in Samoa. Each month, the zone leaders study their zone statistics, report on their strengths and weaknesses, and then choose a chapter in Preach My Gospel to focus on for the upcoming month. We asked if they thought these chapters and focusing on them for an entire month were making a difference. Their comments included:
  • "Focusing on a Preach My Gospel chapter helps our missionaries break down the work so it is manageable."
  • "We use Preach My Gospel to address a specific problem. Every missionary question is answered in Preach My Gospel. We need not turn to other sources." 
We talked about helping our missionaries who are struggling. The discussion was full of hope and help and love. Comments by our leaders included:
  • "You can look at leadership as a burden or as an opportunity to serve. When we look at it as an opportunity to serve, the Spirit helps us know exactly what our missionaries need."
  • "In order to give advice, you have to be living it!"
  • "One-hundered percent of the time we have to maintain a higher standard of love, patience and respect for our missionaries."
  • "I love how there is a chapter in Preach My Gospel just about how to become like the Savior. Studying that chapter will help us know how to help our struggling missionaries."
  • "A struggling missionary needs to know he is never alone."
  • "We have to provide the opportunity to change. We also need to allow others to change."
We also asked each zone leader companionship to talk about one missionary in their zone--what have they seen them do that they appreciate and admire? They said:
  • "We saw him and his companion riding their bikes in the rain one day. When we asked them why (because it had been raining all day), he said 'there are people to see!' He is never afraid to stand for what is right."
  • He has a great desire to be a great missionary. He is always trying to use Samoan although he is still learning."
  • "He inspires others by the way he fulfills his calling as district leader."
  • "She is very teachable."
  • "He never complains. He is always enthusiastic. He is getting a great start to his mission."
  • "He has embraced a difficult companion and is making a difference for him."
  • "We have been inspired by how prepared he was to serve a mission. He is quiet and humble, but powerful."
  • "He is positive in every situation and is eager to learn what it takes to become a good missionary."
  • "He is always asking, 'How can I help?' He takes charge as a leader."
  • "He is conscientious about his studies. His area is very hard, but he never complains."
So, you see the good news is everywhere. These leaders teach me and lift me. I am grateful for what they see and how they want to help. They love the missionaries they serve. They embody the statement made by President Uchtodorf recently, " God loves us deeply, perfectly and everlastingly." Because they see other missionaries through His eyes, they see the love that He has for them and, with that understanding, serve them the way He would serve.

Mission Leadership Council May 2015

The Plan

In the Missionary Handbook it states that leaders are to "represent the mission president in carrying out his plans for the mission." As part of our leadership training, we asked our leaders if they know what our plan includes. We were pleased that they were able to quickly list much of our vision and plan. Their list included:

  • Create and support a culture of obedience because we love the Savior
  • Follow the Missionary Handbook
  • Share the good news
  • Develop a stronger testimony of the Book of Mormon
  • Live by the Mission Statement
  • Become a Preach My Gospel missionary
  • Be healthy-spiritually and physically
  • Improve temporal well-being 
  • Help others to find true conversion
  • Become master teachers and teach by the Spirit
  • Become dignified missionaries
  • Strive to achieve the Standards of Excellence every week
  • Listen to every opinion

The Missionary Handbook continues: "Opportunities to lead other missionaries should never be treated lightly. Missionary leaders should always remember that their loyalty is first to the Lord, then to their mission president, then to missionaries." 

It is a blessing to a mission to have strong leaders who understand that "their goal is not merely to supervise or motivate, but to lift, encourage, inspire, and bless." (Missionary Handbook)

"Jesus . . . said, Ye know that the princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them, and they that are great exercise authority over them. But it shall not be so among you: but whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister; And whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant: Even as the Son of Man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many." (Mathew 20:25-28)

We are grateful for leaders who minister to those they lead. They give their lives to this work through their goodness, steadiness and faithfulness. Many of them feel inadequate and yet rise to the sacred trust of leadership. They learn as they work and come to understand that the best way to lead is to serve. 

Tutuila Leaders 

Spread the Good News

I used to tell my own kids when they were at home that the "mother grapevine was alive and well." They knew it meant that I would eventually find out what they were up to through the mothers of their friends. It worked, and it worked well.

There is a healthy and hardy grapevine in this mission, although President Tolman and I don't seem very connected to it quite like when I was a mother. News travels from missionary to missionary faster than the speed of light when something happens. It seems to move faster when it is bad news. We started our leadership training this month. When we were in Savai'i, one of our zone leaders said that he felt it was vital that as leaders we support the righteous decisions of the missionaries we serve. It led to a discussion about looking for the good things that happen in the mission and talking about those instead of the negative.

We asked for examples of good experiences when we were in Savai'i and then again here in Upolu. (Tutuila leadership training is the end of this week.) It was incredibly strengthening to hear missionaries talking about other missionaries and the good that they see in them. One missionary talked about the courage of another as he stood alone in a setting in which he was asking everyone there to make a better choice. One talked about zone leaders who say "we love you" every time they talk on the phone. One talked about the strength that is shared through another's ability to bring happiness and positivity to every situation. There were others, but I think you get the idea. I am deeply grateful that they could find the positive and share it openly.

It got me thinking about our tendency as humans in this fallen world to look for the negative instead of the positive. Why is that? I am sure there are many reasons why we tend to see the negative, but I like this explanation: "The brain gives more attention to negative experiences over positive ones because negative events pose a chance of DANGER." That seems reasonable to me. What seems to be more important though is that we don't get stuck in the negative cycle. Somehow we must look for, find, and hold to the positive. After all, isn't that what the Savior wants and expects of us? The last part of the thirteenth Article of Faith states, "If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after these things." There it is; the commandment to see things that are virtuous, lovely, of good report and praiseworthy. Those things still exist in the world. Do we seek them?

We have worked hard to develop a culture of obedience in our mission. It is now time to also develop a culture of finding and talking about the good things that happen. I often like to ask the missionaries "what would happen in our mission if . . .." I neglected to ask them "what would happen if our grapevine is only full of the good news?" I like to think we will have happier missionaries. I like to think they will be more motivated to choose good and do good because it is what we all are talking about. I know they will be better representatives of the Savior because they will carry love in their hearts for their fellow missionaries. I know they will be blessed in their work because the joy of finding the good in others will be seen by those they teach and touch. I know the work will feel lighter because the Spirit will attend them as they make room for Him because they focus on the positive.

The Book of Mormon tells a story of a missionary, Ammon, who is overcome with joy in the work of God. "Behold, this is joy which none receiveth save it be the truly penitent and humble seeker of happiness." (Alma 27:18.) Humble seekers of happiness see God's hand in their lives. Humble seekers of happiness find happiness even when things look hard and dark. Humble seekers of happiness change the conversation from bad to good. Humble seekers of happiness know that through Christ all things are possible. Humble seekers of happiness find the good in everyone, celebrate others' goodness, and spread the good news!

Zone Leaders and District Leaders in Savai'i

Sister Training Leaders, Assistants, Zone Leaders, and District Leaders in Upolu

They Just Keep Coming

It is thrilling to continue to see missionaries commit to His work. We received a new group this week. They are excited! They will bless the mission and many in Samoa. Check the Life with Missionaries page for more pictures!

We also said good-bye to two incredible missionaries. These Elders stayed faithful during difficult times and challenges. It was hard to see them go. I am sure they will use this mission experience to bless the lives of their families and friends.

Fully Consecrated

Bishop Causse said of missionaries, "Consecrated missionaries are not content with just conforming to the mission rules. They are not servants who must be commanded in all things. They work with zeal and do 'many things of their own free will' to accomplish the Lord's work. They are not satisfied with a reasonable effort, but work to the very limits of their strength. They understand that success comes after the trial of their faith, often at the last minute, or at the last door, or at the end of a long and exhausting day. When missionaries are fully consecrated, they forget themselves. They do not look back to their former lives. They are not casual or frivolous because their hearts and spirits are entirely turned toward the glory of God and the well-being and salvation of others."

That is quite a statement about 18, 19 and 20 year old Elders and Sisters. Is it possible? Speaking from experience, I can say it is possible. It is an amazing process to watch. Each quarter, as we repeat our calendar of interviews, trainings and conferences, we see the change. We see them go from scared and worried to powerful and committed. We find them doing hard things with a smile and energy. We hear in their voices their earnest desire to live a life fully and completely committed to Him and His work.

I often wonder what they will think at the end of their missions. Will they look back with regret or with complete peace knowing that they have given everything possible to the Lord. I often wonder that about myself, too. This assignment truly is the hardest thing we have ever done. We all fight the "natural man" as we work to become consecrated missionaries. We all have challenges that sometimes feel too big and too hard. And yet, in the middle of it all, there is God standing shoulder to shoulder with all of us. How would we ever accomplish any of this work without Him? When missionaries learn to do His work in His way is when they become fully consecrated. And in the process, they come to really know Him.

Bishop Causse continued, "Any disciple of Christ can legitimately ponder the questions 'Am I obedient enough? Am I lacking anything?' Our belonging to the Church requires more from us than simply being obedient and faithful members. We must be ready to submit ourselves to even higher laws that will prepare us for exaltation." This growth towards consecration takes time and effort. It takes prayer and pleading. It takes humility and confidence in God. It takes letting go and holding tight to His will and His light. And if you ever wonder whether consecrating your life to God is worth it, just look into the eyes of a consecrated missionary!

Besides finishing interviews, we held Mission Leadership Council. Following are photos. I regret that I didn't get one group's picture; I was sick that day. We also had a change in assistants. Elder Hodges was very much needed in another area of the mission. We welcome Elder Smith.

Upolu Apia Zone

Upolu Nuumau District

Upolu North District

Upolu Apia District

Upolu Central Zone

Upolu Faleasiu and Malie Districts

Mission Leadership Council