May 22, 2017
When asked “What will you miss most about your mission?,” most missionaries respond, “The people.” As cliche as it sounds, it’s true; the people we serve–the members, other missionaries, and especially companions–open our hearts in a way that we never expected before being set apart as a full-time missionary. Instead of talking about the investigators and converts I’ve met and grown to love as a missionary, I want to talk about my companions and what I’ve learned from them.
1.Elder Ethan Starkweather was my companion in the MTC. He’s from Dallas, Texas. Elder Starkweather is a convert to the Church, and has a powerful testimony of the Book of Mormon. I heard him testify many times that he is a member of the Church because of the Book of Mormon. Despite being a convert, Elder Starkweather is a scholar of scripture, and understood the Standard Works better than most missionaries who are lifetime members. Im forever grateful to have served with Elder Starkweather; he taught me that our most effective tool for conversion is the Book of Mormon.
2. Elder Jack Varvel trained me in Tainan. He’s from Greenwich, Connecticut. One of my fondest memories of Elder Varvel was watching “The District” with him. I’ll never forget the “Exhortation for Jynx to read the Book of Mormon” segment. Elder Varvel watched this video so many times that he had every word memorized, including the actors’ movements. It was as if Elder Moreno were sitting right next to me. Elder Varvel mouthed the words and mimicked the missionary’s hand movements, including clutching the Book of Mormon between his hands while testifying that his entire message hinged on that book. Elder Varvel was a terrific teacher. He embraced Preach My Gospel, especially Chapter 10, and taught me how to study, rely on the Spirit, and use the lesson of trial and error to make myself better.
3. My “breaker” was Elder Dominic Stringham from Layton, Utah. I’ve never met a missionary better than him at following-up with investigators. I believe it is because he fixated less on the application, and more on the doctrine. Far and away, his favorite shoe brand is Sketchers, yet for the sake of literary device I jump to his second because when it comes to following up with investigators you’ve got to be like Nike; “Just do it.”
4. My first companion on the islands was Elder Jarron Ahfua from Taylorsville, Utah. Elder Ahfua loved learning and sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It wasn’t anomalous to spend half of companion study hearing Elder Ahfua’s rehearsing the symbols in Revelations 2:15. He was superb with his studies, and more sensational was how willing he was to share with companions everything he knew. He empowered me, made me a better student and helped prepare me to train and lead.
5. Elder Orin Duffin from Idaho Falls was my second companion in Penghu. We came together as budding, eager missionaries and while we were together we found 11 souls that would find their way into the Kingdom through the waters of baptism. I’ve thought a lot about why were so successful during our short time together, and decided that it was the result of our combined faith. It takes faith to find.
6. I was transferred to Douliu where I served with Elder Lin Xiu Yi from Taoyuan. The Lord knew that my Chinese needed some polishing and allowed me to serve with Elder Yi. I will always be grateful for what I learned from him. Elder Lin’s Chinese was up-to-par and he loved me enough to teach me. It’s Chineasy as that.
7. Elder Lincoln Westcott was my first trainee. He’s from Alpine, Utah. If he were a Buddhist he’d have already attained nirvana because he has a profound understanding of life, more specifically the Gospel. I believe that knowledge is power, but what I learned from Elder Westcott is that knowledge comes through understanding. We must not expect our investigators have an understanding that transcends our own. We must understand what we teach.
8. Elder Hagen Jensen from Holladay, Utah was my next companion. Mission lore suggests that I called him “Caiaphas” for the first few months of our time together in order to wring-out every last drop of self-righteous in him. To set the record straight, Elder Jensen is one of the most Christ-like people I’ve ever met. He lives and breathes Chapter 6 of “Preach My Gospel”.
9. Next was Elder Jonathan Poon from Sandy, Utah. Elder Poon once told me that working with the ward is working with the Lord. Side-by-side he taught me that it’s true; missionaries who learn to work with members are successful missionaries.
10. Last and certainly least, Elder Thorup from West Valley, Utah. Elder Thorup arrived in Taiwan, knowing exactly why he’s here and what he wants to accomplish. This knowledge led to an immediate potency and influence in the companionship. Effective missionaries must understand and act on their purpose.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention my mission presidents.
President Blickenstaff: During interviews with President Blickenstaff he would grade you based on the quality of your Planner, and that grade weighed heavily on his decision making. I’m most grateful President Teh does not continue that praxis; nevertheless, President Blickenstaff taught me the importance of planning and goal setting is. It weighs heavily on the work.
President Teh: When transfer night rolls around I suggest you grab some popcorn, sit back, and enjoy the show. 不用 predictions…they’re always wrong. President Teh most assuredly heeds the Spirit’s guidance. I know because seemingly ill-fated transfers have led to miracles. I have learned from President Teh to seek the Spirit, and act on those promptings, despite how it may look to everyone else.
It took 10 companions and two mission presidents to learn the lessons outlined above. Interestingly, these are all principles and lessons that can be learned through studying and exercising the truths taught in “Preach My Gospel”. Be a converted Preach My Gospel Missionary.
I had to learn to love, serve and listen to my companion. No matter how great two missionaries in a companionship may be on their own, they can only be truly effective missionaries when they are united and can act as one, not two.
I testify that Jesus Christ is our Savior. Christ’s final message to his disciples was “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all the things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world.” How grateful I am to be one of his disciples and to do my small part to feed His sheep. In the Taiwan Taichung Mission we heed the Savior’s petition to teach repentance and baptize converts.
I say that in His name, even Jesus Christ, amen.