Yeah, I know I told you all that I would have a really exciting email to send home this week...but I don't. Sorry about that folks. I mean, it was a crazy week here in Vietnam (each week is), but nothing toooooo crazy and out of the ordinary.
I've told you all before about "shop-contacting". Well now that I have a white companion contacting just got so much easier! A white girl and an indian girl (that's me) walk into a store and speak Vietnamese together = instant contact. People are so freaked when they hear us speak Viet and then we're like
"Oh, hey, come to our English class."
Then they come to our English class, and we're like
"Hey let me tell you all about Jesus."
Then they're all like, "Okay."
And then I'm like, "Hey wanna get baptized and wash away all of your sins?...For FREEEE?"
Then they're like, "Deal."
Then skip to the end of the story and it ends like this, "And they lived happily ever after in the presence of God in an eternal family unit."
So yeah, that's what I imagine the fruits of my week of contacting will be.
Anyway, so I want to share a talk with everyone about ways that we can help those "lost sheep" and help them return to activity. I may have shared it before, but it's the best talk I've read my entire mission and I would appreciate it if you all ACTUALLY read it, lived it, loved it. Here's a story from the talk and I'll add the link too so you can read the whole thing:
Some will say: “We must be careful with the weak among us. It is better not to call on them to pray or to bear testimony, for they will be frightened and repelled and will leave us.” That is a myth! A commonly accepted one, but a myth nevertheless! I have asked bishops—hundreds of them—whether they could certify to such a happening in their personal experience. I have had very few affirmative responses—in fact, all those bishops produced only one or two instances. So the risk is very small, whereas such an invitation may result in a lost sheep being reclaimed.
Several years ago I visited a stake presided over by a man of unusual efficiency and ability. Every detail of the stake conference had been scheduled. He had done the usual thing in assigning prayers from the selected circle of the stake presidency, the high council, the bishops, and the stake patriarch. Those brethren had not been notified, so we changed the assignment from those who deserved the honor to those who needed—desperately needed—the experience.
The president had a detailed agenda for the general sessions, and he mentioned that there were 20 minutes in one session that were not scheduled. I told him that we could call on some to respond who otherwise would not have the opportunity and needed the strengthening experience. He countered with the suggestion that he alert several able, prominent leaders to prepare for possible speaking assignments. “There will be many nonmembers present,” he said. “We are used to having an organized and very polished conference performance. We have very able people in the stake. They will leave an excellent impression.”
Twice again during our meeting he mentioned the schedule and pressed to have the stake’s “best performers” called. “Why don’t we save this time for those who need it most?” I said. His reaction was a disappointed, “Well, you are the General Authority.”
Early Sunday morning he reminded me that there was still time to alert someone and thus leave the best impression.
The morning session was opened by the president with a polished and stirring address. Next we called on his second counselor. He was obviously flustered. … (We had previously indicated that both counselors would probably speak in the afternoon session. We were to go to his home for the noon meal. He had known there would be time to go over his notes, so he had left them at home.)
For want of his notes, he turned to testimony, giving an inspiring account of an administration he had performed during the week. A brother, given up by his doctors, had been called from the very shadows of death by the power of the priesthood. I do not know what was on his notes, but surely it could not have compared in inspiration to the testimony he bore.
An elderly woman sat on the front row, holding hands with a weathered-looking man. She looked a bit out of place in the fashionably dressed congregation—rather homespun by comparison. She looked as if she ought to talk in conference, and given the privilege, she reported her mission. Fifty-two years before, she had returned from the mission field, and since then she had never been invited to speak in church. It was a touching and moving witness that she bore.
Others were called upon to speak, and near the close of the meeting, the president suggested that I take the remainder of the time. “Have you had any inspiration?” I asked. He said that he kept thinking of the mayor. (The voters in that large city had elected a member of the Church to be mayor, and he was in attendance.) When I told him we could have a greeting from the mayor, he whispered that the man was not active in the Church. When I suggested that he call upon him anyway, he resisted, saying flatly that he was not worthy to speak in that meeting. At my insistence, however, he called the man to the stand.
The mayor’s father had been a pioneer of the Church in that region. He had served as bishop of one of the wards and had been succeeded by one of his sons—a twin to the mayor, as I recall. The mayor was the lost sheep. He came to the pulpit and spoke, to my surprise, with bitterness and with hostility. His talk began something like this: “I don’t know why you called on me. I don’t know why I am in church today. I don’t belong in church. I have never fit in. I don’t agree with the way the Church does things.”
I confess that I began to worry, but he then paused and lowered his eyes to the pulpit. From then until his talk was over, he did not look up. After hesitating, he continued: “I guess I just as well tell you. I quit smoking six weeks ago.” Then, shaking his fist in a gesture over his head towards the congregation, he said, “If any of you think that’s easy, you have never suffered the hell I have suffered in the last few weeks.”
Then he just melted. “I know the gospel is true,” he said. “I’ve always known it was true. I learned that from my mother as a boy.
“I know the Church isn’t out of order,” he confessed. “It’s me that’s out of order, and I’ve always known that too.”
Then he spoke perhaps for all of the lost sheep when he pleaded: “I know it’s me that is wrong, and I want to come back. I have been trying to come back, but you won’t let me!”
Of course we would let him come back, but somehow we hadn’t let him know that. After the meeting the congregation flooded up—not to us but to him to say, “Welcome home!”
On the way to the airport after conference, the stake president said to me, “I’ve learned a lesson today.”
Hoping to confirm it, I said, “If we had done what you wanted to do, you would have called on this man’s father, wouldn’t you, or perhaps his brother, the bishop?”
He nodded in affirmation and said: “Either of them, given 5 minutes, would have presented a stirring 15- or 20-minute sermon to the approval of all in attendance. But no lost sheep would have been reclaimed.”
All of us who lead in the wards and stakes must open the door to the lost sheep; stand aside to let them through. We must learn not to block the entrance. It is a narrow way. Sometimes we assume the clumsy posture of trying to pull them through the gate that we ourselves are blocking. Only when we have the spirit of lifting them, pushing them before us, seeing them elevated above us, do we have that spirit that will engender testimony.
So what have I learned and realized from this story? I realized that I have heard talks from the same 15 people while on my mission, and also while at home. If I go home and the same people that have been sharing talks for the last 5 years are still sharing and doing things like the "spirit cry" I will #PMITF (you have to be my friend to understand that one.)
Come on, give other people a chance to speak! While at SVU, if I was never assigned to give a talk I never would have had the impression that I should serve a mission. Yeah, I gave a bogus talk that lasted three minutes, and I will go ahead and assume that no one in the congregation got too much out of it, BUT the spiritual impressions that I received told me that I should serve a mission and entirely changed my life.
So yeah, that's what I have got to say about that. You were all thinking it, I'm just the one who said it.
Until next week,