Memoirs of a Missionary
Smile. (Story # 3)
When someone talks about there mission there is always a huge amount of growth to account for. Trying to explain all of the experiences and details that makes a mission such a wonderful growing experience is difficult. Sometimes you can pin point single events. Sometimes it's not that easy. In the book "How to Win Friends & Influence People" by Dale Carnegie, there is a chapter titled "A Simple Way to Make a Good First Impression". I can testify that it is not only simple, it is a spring for the waters of life. It is a Smile. Next time you walk around somewhere, or drive down the street, look at people. How many people are not smiling? How many are? The smiling people are usually talking to someone else and it's a very small number. Of course many will offer a smile after being looked at but in the usual daily run, not many smiles exist.
Here are some 3 short run-ins I have had with smiling.
1. Personally - I have a deep love for individuals but often I have had a hard time showing it. Literally showing it. If you asked someone about me you might get back a response about being nice. In other words, I get along well with others, which makes me a prime example. While I was in the Missionary Training Center my first companion was Elder Ben Penick. I have not seen more love come from any man and this 6' 7" Elder was completely involved with the lives of others and it showed. We had many opportunities to teach together and eventually we began to notice something, or rather, he noticed. I didn't smile much as we teach. I just didn't think about it, I cared for these people we were teaching but I didn't show it. So I began to show what I felt through my face and it was amazing. Even when I was butchering the Japanese it was still comfortable because my confidence and love showed. It was a principle I never forgot. Don't just love people, show that you love them.
2. Observing - While in Japan Elder E****** who didn't smile. He was from Australia and not use to expressions of love. Many asked him about it, some thought he was mad, others thought he was conceded. The Mission President asked if he was depressed. He wasn't any of these things but he was comfortable not expressing himself. When I saw him again a year later I was very surprised to see him smiling. What changed? Nothing, except the fact that Elder E****** decided he was tired of people wondering if he was dying. He went from being a very pleasant Elder to being a very pleasant Elder who was loved, and he noticed the change, and in the typical Australian way, casually acknowledged it.
3. Mr. America - The most brilliant smile I have ever seen comes from the most unlikely source. Elder H******. In the MTC Elder H****** may have very well have been voted kicked off of the island. He came close a few times to returning home and he will admit to this. He had a certain problem with "rules" and "authority". But you'll never ever guess what happened. As time went by everyone who worked with him loved him. He had the cutest Hollywood smile. Much like the little kid in the cereal commercials. One person said about him, "The reason I first started listening to the missionaries is because of Elder H****** 's smile, he's always so happy".
Don't forget, smiles come in many shapes and sized. It can be heard on the phone. A smile can be seen in the eyes, noticed in the posture. It becomes your attitude. Smiling is like praying, when you don't feel like doing it, that is when you most need it. Therefore you Smile until you feel like smiling.
This I learned, took to heart and used daily in the mission field. If it is possible, these words I am typing would be smiling right now. Now I too am prone to the frailty of a week mind and there are times that I let my mind get so involved that having a sincere happy face escaped for a while. In this smiling is again like prayer. We often forget about it until we really need it. I can't let that happen and I will help another to smile also by my example.
Learning Tango (Story # 2)
12 missionaries for 12 weeks in the Missionary Training Center makes up the typical Japanese district. There were 6 districts at a time. My district was all Elders. Our major task at the MTC was to learn Japanese. This was wrapped around meal times, firesides, Large Group Meetings and sleep. The language training program at the MTC is so effective that many companies and even the FBI come to watch how they teach foreign languages so they can implement it into their own programs (we saw them there actually).
One of our favorite teachers was Gallusius Sensei from Washington. He was just married, had just returned to the MTC and was very adept at making class as interesting as possible. He would teach us Japanese words then try to help us discover the meanings ourselves. Following is an excerpt from class. This may be one of those "you had to be there" situations but it still cracks me up.
To listen to audio clip: Click Here
Sensei: “Nokosu” Class “Nokosu”
Sensei: “Nokosu” Class: “Nokosu”
Sensei: “Nokosu is a surefire way to become a millionaire.”
Australian Student: “Steal?”
Sensei: “No, I meant in other places rather than Australia.”
Student: “to penny pinch?”
Student: “To pick pocket!?”
Sensei: “No… ok, one track mind… you know… what’s the most surefire way to become a millionaire?”
Sensei: “In a more cheaper term…”
Sensei: “Let’s say they got this one of a kind marshmallow salad at the cafeteria, and like ‘oh this is the best marshmallow salad I’ve ever had, I want to have this every day’ so you take a whole bunch of it, stuff it in your suit coat and take it back to your apartment…”
Sensei: “Save, right, you save the little bits of marshmallow stuff under your bed”.
Sensei: “to save” Class: “Nokosu”
Sensei: “to save” Class: “Nokosu”
Does this sound like an effective enough method for the FBI to use?
Day two (Story # 1)
My second day in Japan should have been stressful but I couldn’t stress it. I was “ready for anything”. The previous night President Gottfredson had taught my MTC group (or doki) and I who our first companions would be. I was going to Kita Kyushu to be with Elder James R. White. I admit I was upset to find my first companion looked nothing like the pictures you see in the ENSIGN. He was chubby and the only thing President Gottfredson told me about him was “he’s good at Kanji”. I did not realize then that I was only told one thing about my companion, I was just happy I could learn Kanji from him. On my second day I woke up from a bed, my last time for the next two years. After the rounds of the day I was the last one of my doki to leave on a bus from Tenjin bus center. I remember being a little concerned about what to do. The last thing I asked the Assistances to the President was, “How do you say get off the bus in Japanese?”. AP Elder Kauwe taught me “oriru” or “to descend” but I wrote it down wrong and forgot it less than 2 minutes.
I sat next to the window the entire way there, about 2 hours north. The hills were rolling, the trees looked ever green. I felt like I never left home. As a mater of fact I never felt far from home. I always felt if I wanted to return I could, but I didn’t want to. I loved my family, friends and my girl but first thing first. My last day in the mission President Gottfredson, quoting a general authority, mentioned the following. It is true that if you put first thing first and second thing second, you will in turn receive both. If you put second thing first and first thing second you will receive neither. For example, your family. Family comes before work, correct? If you put family first you will have both. If you put your job first then you will in effect lose your family to neglect and as it has been proven may times, your career that you slaved over is over. I had a beautiful young lady waiting back home and I put first thing first, as to not lose both. And I was blessed to be in Japan. I sat scrunched against the window with my luggage near me, three fairly huge bags.
In the MTC I had memorized the baptismal prayer in Japanese because one of the Sensei’s told us his story of entering the mission field and being asked to baptize someone that very same week. Now I was working on 1.2.1. That means I was working on memorizing lesson one, principle 2, paragraph 1. It would be funny to note here that I was so wrapped up in memorizing that I missed my stop… but that is not true. I was too cautious. Eventually the bus driver realized (probably because of my poor Japanese and obviously concerned voice) that I had no idea what I was doing. Eventually an overly kind lady who entered the bus noticed my problem, looked at my ticket and right before she got off she told me in broken English to get off at the next stop. (later I learned that my stop was the last stop)
I rolled my luggage off of the bus and was smack dab in down town Kita Kyushu. I had no idea where to go but I was on a little side walk in the middle of the road so I entered a convenient elevator (an out door elevator) and went to the overhead walk way. I was planning on going down the elevator on the opposite side. While rolling my luggage around, I saw, or rather was seen by my new companion. Just as plump as I remembered, walking out of a fast food shop. (Kyushu was filled with McDonalds and Mr. Doughnuts.) Elder White was not happy to see me, talked very little but he knew how to get back to our apartment, so I followed, just happy to have been found.
We took a train for a while. There were many people there including a set of High School girls, sitting and giggling. (I learned later that this is basically all that they do.) They also spent too much time looking in our direction. It didn’t really feel good but then again, who doesn’t like being admired, if that was actually the case. After getting off the train we continued on foot to my new apartment. By now some conversation started to kick up. Where are you from, what did you do. He also knew Elder Jon Kerr a very little. If it wasn’t for Jon and being from Seattle I am sure he would have just hated me. We took a short cut home but in the long run it was a long walk. That is to say, the short cut wasn’t so short and we got lost. It was also during this time I got my first lesson in anatomy related vocabulary words as Elder White went on to explain what the giggling high school students were talking about. I know we can’t be saved without knowledge but surely in this case, ignorance is bliss.
We arrived at our first floor apartment. I can’t explain what I felt. I still feel that way about that apartment. I feel young just thinking about that apartment. I remember the heat with the air conditioner, the cold with many blankets, pokémon, cooking, planning, a sense of being lost and not knowing it and just a feeling that is indescribable. Something didn’t feel right there. I had never had another apartment like it. “This is where your stuff goes”, Elder white proclaimed leading me into the most junked up room I had seen since a garage sale in a hurricane. I didn’t care. I was “ready for anything” and never ever complained during my two months with Elder White. Mainly for two reasons. First, I had confidence that perhaps he was doing what was right. Second, because I really knew nothing. I unpacked some and little by little, mostly on our Preparation Day, I cleaned out the room. That was when Elder White praised me. “Great, I can use this as a recording room now”
There is a genuine innocence that I definitely had in my earlier missionary days that I miss and, yet again I don’t miss. I am very fortunate to have gained a certain amount of knowledge in God, even more in His Christ, His work and what one must do to accomplish it. Yet with that knowledge has come a lack innocence and acceptance that I previously unknowingly enjoyed. There has been a phrase I have coined that plainly says, “Missionaries just need to wake up”. Once they do the world around them changes. There is a certain awareness of why you are really a missionary, that the work wont just get done for you, and this kind of awareness only comes after the trials. Most missionaries have to weep bitterly over the possibility of a soul of God, whom they know, lost in one way or another. This is in order to make the resolves to be an obedient, missionary tool of God. If this not external weeping then definitely it will have to be internal weeping to see past the old cares and find the new, brilliant, radiating, important ones. “The worth of Souls is great in the sight of God.