Last week, the mission president's wife, Sister Hannemann asked us to make a presentation at the Upolu Aleisa Stake Youth Conference on life as a missionary. Our first thought was, what do we know about missionary life; senior couples don't keep the same schedule, we're not involved with teaching the gospel, we don't work with the , we don't have companion study nor do we keep the same 6:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. daily schedule. We are usually awake by 6:30 a.m. but that is to go to the bathroom and then back to bed for at least another hour of tossing and turning, and we definitely can't stay awake until 10:30 p.m.especially since it's always dark by 6:30. And since we share an office or are together in the car every hour of every day we run out of things to talk about so companionship study is out of the question we already have way too much companion time some days. (Thus the need for more children and grandchildren pictures and stories.)
We had previously given a presentation in-be-half of the mission president to 400 middle school kids in Pesega, so we felt we had already done our duty. We told Sister Hannemann that these kids live in the farm belt and so they probably want someone who speaks Samoan Sister Hannemann's comeback was, "They want a senior couple who speaks English because they are stressing the importance of learning English." Okay, we'll see what we can do. We call Sister Mulianina, the stake Young Women's President and wife of the stake president (he is a great stake president) to find out the details. She wants us to conduct 4 sessions, 45-minutes each on a day in the life of a missionary.
We called on our 14-year old Cameron to see if he could enlighten us with some questions youth would have about a mission. We'll address those in a separate blog. Thanks Cameron.
-- Why are we commanded to go on missions?
-- Is it worth it to go?
-- Are the experiences you have there fun or just spiritual?
-- What are some of the lessons you teach?
-- Why should we go on a mission?
After considering Cameron's questions and talking to each other (companionship study - most of one full day), Theron came up with a brilliant activity: hand three sticky notes to each kid as they come in and have them write one or two words in answer to these questions:
(1) What is something that would stop someone from serving a mission?
(2) What does a missionary do? (We made a timeline poster that started at 6:30 a.m. and ended at 10:30 p.m.)
(3) What is something about a mission that worries or frightens me?
We pulled out our trusty 200-gig hard drive of Church media and went to work. We thought videos would be much more instructive than two old senior missionaries.
Saturday at 7:00 a.m. we arrive at the stake center. We find out we could choose to do one big session or three small sessions. We chose the three small sessions, it fit with our presentation. That would mean about 30-35 youth in each session. We were directed to our room and start setting up; the guy next door starts mowing the lawn (this means using his gas powered weedeater on what looked to us like an acre of property and sure enough we heard his buzz through all three sessions).
After a self-reliance presentation, our "round robin" sessions began. The first session we tried to explain what we wanted on the sticky notes, some caught on. The videos were short clips but there were too many and we went over time. We adjusted for the second session and it was better; the third time is always the most rewarding.
What did we learn?
We knew we had to address the one big elephant in the room - chastity and morality. We hit it directly with question #1. There were several who put on their sticky notes, "not worthy". There is a great video clip of a talk that Elder Holland gave called 'Stay Within the Lines' (February Come Follow Me curriculum). Every youth should see this!
Other things the youth listed that would stop them from serving was, no money, parents, don't know enough about the gospel, testimony and fear of a foreign language, what if i get sick or hurt. We suppose that these are the same concerns that prospective missionaries have all over the world and missionaries of every age. Cameron and Taylor do you have these same fears?
We went on to question #2 - What do missionaries do? The youth had the 'preach the gospel' part down. What they didn't write was, praying, living with a companion 24-7, personal study, daily exercise, companionship study, planning and of course eating.
Theron knew they didn't know much about the MTC, so we found a short video clip of life in the MTC. Looking at their faces and interest, this opened a whole new window to them. What a great missionary training program we have.
Question #3 was about them, personally. We found they were worried about language, meeting people, rejection, leaving home. Standard fears we all feel when we are put into new situations. There is a great video clip on YouTube about the life of a missionary. It talked about homesickness, rejection, personal study and most importantly service. We felt some hearts were changed and some fears were addressed.
We finished with a video of Called to Serve being sung by a huge MTC Choir in Provo. Our students were pretty much in awe as they grasped the realization of how many missionaries are always in training in just that one MTC.
So, using English, we taught mission life to 120 Samoan speaking youth, who, many will need to know English so they can learn a third language at the MTC. They are pretty impressive young people, and hopefully we helped a little to further their preparation and their dedication to the work.