What of the
AÒé³tæè[From Returned Missionaries
Brian Rawson served in the Tokyo South Mission under D. H. Groberg (1978-1981).
Hope this finds you well. I'm sorry that it has taken so long to respond to you. Indeed, the spirit is willing... but this stake president stuff keeps me pretty busy! Below, please find a letter that I wrote to my son Kyle who is currently serving a mission in the Paraguay, Asuncion North Mission. Their mission has been told by visiting general authorities that it is the highest baptizing mission in the world at this time. He loves being a missionary. He is currently serving as a zone leader and learning all those amazing lessons that can only be learned when losing oneself in The Lord's work. I couldn't be more thankful for The Lord's abundant blessings upon Kyle and the work in their mission. It is a great time to be alive! This letter was in response to a question that he asked when he was going through a challenging time in which his senior companion was quite ill and their zone leaders were pushing them hard to reach standards. He asked me my opinion about missionary work and "numbers." Here is my response. Please let me know if any of this would be useful for your website. Thanks.
February 5, 2007
Dear Kyle, Happy February! Hope this finds you well and happy. We love you. Before I forget, Mom said to tell you that we got your letters that you sent home to be sent on and she is taking care of all of that.
Next, I will tell you that this email is really long. If you can print it, you may want to do that. Up to you. Sorry. Also, I want to tell you that what I am about to say is absolutely not in any way to be interpreted as a suggestion that your mission should proselyte the way we did in ours, etc. It is just something that happened to me that taught me so much that I think will really help you... The principle here is what's important. You do what The Lord directs you to do that is right for YOUR area and mission.
Kyle, I need to tell you a story that happened to me as a missionary. To tell you this story, I need to explain a little bit about how we proselyted and the area I was in when this happened. I was in a place called Kichijoji. We lived next door to the church. About 150 yards from the church was a very busy outdoor shopping mall with LOTS of people. As you know, when I was a missionary, we did almost exclusively street contacting. We walked up to people on the street (males only) and started talking to them. We told them that we were missionaries, we would like to be their friend, get to know them, and help them to understand why we were in Japan. Then, we told them that if they had about ten minutes, we could go to the church and talk some more. At the church building, we would go into a classroom, introduce ourselves, find out all about them (so we would know how to teach them) and then give them a brief lesson (about 5 – 10 minutes only) that introduced the Plan of Salvation, Joseph Smith, The Book of Mormon, Jesus Christ, and Baptism. Then, if they were interested in learning more, we scheduled them to come to the church for all of their lessons. So, rather than us traveling to investigatorsf homes (which the Japanese are VERY uncomfortable with) we did all of our teaching at the church.
Whenever we were not teaching, we would go down to this mall and contact. That is how we picked up most of our investigators. We would always stay close to our companions but we would try to talk to people separately. Sometimes, both of us would pick up a person and all of us would go back to the church and have a group lesson. Anyway, every person that we met on the street and were able to get back to the church and give them an gintroh lesson was called a gshokai.h (gshokaih just means introduction). Anyway, this was a VERY important statistic to us because the more people we shokai-ed, the more people we would pick up as investigators, and the more people we baptized.
Of course, as you know, not everyone you talk to wants to talk to you. In my twenty three months in Japan, I estimate that I talked to between 15,000 and 20,000 people on the street. I estimate that we actually gshokai-edh around 2,000 people. As you know, this is hard, fun work and you have to get to a point where your feelings are like steel when it comes to caring about being rejected or made fun of.
So, now that you have the picture in your mind, let me tell you what happened to me one day in Kichijoji. I was serving as an assistant at the time. (The assistants in our mission were never companions. We had our own areas and junior companions who would team up when the Mission President called us in to the mission officec) My companion was a great missionary that had only been in Japan three or four months. He was a hard worker named Elder Swain. One morning we were having our companion planning just before we went out the door to street. We had lessons scheduled almost the whole afternoon and most of the evening. Our morning was completely open. We were about to say our prayer and go streeting and I said, gO.K., companion, today, lets get 20 shokais.h This was always our goal to get 20 shokais in one day. No one had ever done it before in our mission as far as we knew. I also knew though that we had 5 hours or more of teaching in the afternoon so I donft know if I really believed we could get it that day, but we always said letfs do it. Anyway, on that day, I said it again and Elder Swain stopped me and said, gElder Rawson, do you really mean it or are we just saying it would be nice to try for 20?h He really caused me to stop and think about what I really believed and was committed to work for. Also, I think it took real courage and faith for him to say that because we were already working extremely hard and were baptizing a lot of people for our mission at the time—and he was talking to someone who had been in Japan longer than him, etc. But, I am so glad that he said it. I told him that I really did WANT to get 20 but if we were to do it, we would need to work harder than we had ever worked and spend every single second of the day dedicated to that goal of getting 20 shokais. I told him that I was willing to sacrifice whatever necessary and asked him if he was also willing. He said absolutely. We then discussed what we would have to do differently that would allow us to reach this goal that had never been reached before. We decided that we could not spend the time to walk the 150 yards from the church to the shopping mall because it took too long. We decided that we would run to the mall instead. We decided that even if it were only 5 minutes between lessons, we would go streeting and try to pick someone up. (Remember, a shokai is not just talking to someone but it means you bring them back to the church for a short introc) We also decided that for lunch, we would only spend the time it took to eat—very quickly—and we would then immediately get back out on the street—and the same went for dinner. We committed to each other and then to Heavenly Father that we would dedicate our whole heart, might, mind, and strength to shokai-ing 20 people that day and asked Heavenly Father to recognize our efforts and faith and bless us with success.
Well, we started out and made all of the changes that we said we would. We ran to the proselyting area. We were enthusiastic and bold and amazingly successful. We were picking up people in the morning--which in Japan is often slow because the people donft start shopping until later in the afternoon. As soon as we finished shokai-ing someone, we would say a prayer and RUN back down the street to the mall. Usually, we passed the person we had just taught on our way back to the mall! We would just run past them and smile and tell them we would see them for their next lesson! Anyway, by the time our lessons started around 2:00 in the afternoon, we had already shokai-ed 10 or 12 people. This was REALLY GOOD for an entire day and we had been blessed to do it by 2:00! Well, the problem was that our lessons were back to back for the next 5 hours or so. But, we NEVER took our eyes or mind or heart off the goal of somehow getting 20 shokais before the end of the day. We took hardly any time to eat, we taught all of our lessons and if one ended early, we would go out and try to pick someone up. By 7:00, we had 13 or 14 shokais and a lesson at 8:00. We were supposed to be back in our apartment by 9:30 p.m. but if we were teaching, we could extend it to 10:00 at the absolute latest. The other thing you need to know is that after 8:00 in Japan, all of the stores close and things are REALLY slow. After 9:00, there are very few people on the street and most of them are drunk businessmen coming home from entertaining clients. So, anyway, we needed 6 more shokais and had a couple of hours total to get it done and also had a lesson in that time.
We renewed our faith and our prayers and our commitment and sprinted back to the mall to see what we could do. The Lord continued to bless us with success in spite of there not being many people on the street. By the time our lesson came at 8:00 we had 16 shokais I think—more than we had ever done but still not our commitment. We taught our lesson and ran back to the street and it was DEAD! Hardly anyone was out. We talked to everyone. We were blessed. By 9:25, we had shokai-ed 18 people! We were exhausted—but so close! We could have easily called it a day and been happy with our 18 shokais—more than wefd ever done before. But, our goal was 20. We said our prayer and sprinted back to the street. We just needed 2 more and we had 35 minutes to find them, shokai them and get back into our apartment—which fortunately was right next door to the church. We got to the mall and it was EMPTY. We spoke to any male who we could find. We talked to the drunk guys coming home, the taxi drivers, the shopkeepers going home, EVERYONE! We wanted it SO BAD! Finally, my companion picked up a guy and started heading back to the church. By this time, itfs like 9:45 p.m. and I know this is it. He has number 19 and I have to follow him back and I have to get number 20 on the way back or we will fall one short of our goal on this miraculous day! My companion knows exactly what is going on so he walks kind of slow and I am a few yards behind him contacting anyone that I see.
Kyle, I donft know if I can accurately describe the strength and intensity of the desire that I felt at that time. I wanted to find one more person to shokai that night more than I had ever wanted anything in my whole life. I wanted it more than I wanted to eat, sleep, drink, or even breathe! I begged The Lord to open the way—and I contacted EVERYONE. There was a stoplight on the way back to the church. There was a car at the stoplight waiting for it to turn green. I knocked on his window and asked him if he would come back to the church with us! I was trying everything I could think of but kept being told no. The last 100 yards to the church is kind of a residential area and there is hardly anyone on those streets in the daytime. At 9:45 in the evening, they are deserted. I was beginning to think that we might fall short of our goal. I refused to allow that thought to stay in my mind. I pleaded with The Lord to send someone and told Him that we had done our very best and asked Him for success. My companion and the guy he had picked up were getting close to the church and I was about 10 yards behind them and all of a sudden this guy rode by on a bike! I jumped in front of him so excited that our prayers were answered and that here was number 20! I was disappointed in my hopes. He said he didnft have time, and rode away. I thought, gWhat more could I have done?! Please Heavenly Father! Please!h My companion had slowed down but by this time he was turning into the gate of the church. There was no more time. It was over. I had done all in my power. Then, I donft know from where, this 14 year old kid just seemed to appear on his bike. As you might imagine, I was so excited to see him I made SURE that he stopped. I told him to gplease come with me for a few minutes into the church so that we can talk. I only have a few minutes but you need to know more about this church. Letfs go.h He did! He said that he had been riding by the church for a long time and he always wondered what it was like inside.
Well, by 10:00 that night, Elder Swain and I were back in our apartment. We had shokai-ed 20 people in one day! Heavenly Father had blessed us with the desires of our hearts and rewarded us richly for our sacrifice. It was the most amazing feeling! I learned what real faith and real righteous desire is—the kind of faith and desire that causes things to happen.
Now, let me tell you the rest of that story. There were four other Elders that lived with us in that area. They saw what we did that day—running to the mall, never stopping, using every single second to proselyte. They also saw the results. As you would expect, they started doing it too. Of course, my companion and I didnft stop after one day. From then on in that area and every area I was in, my companion and I ran to the streeting area. The work is urgent. Running made us feel the urgency and I know that it helped us to be more enthusiastic and pick up more people faster on the street. Well, before long, other missionaries had heard about the results we were having (that month was when we had 31 baptisms in our branch in 31 days of December—for a gwhite Christmas.h My companion and I had 16 that month—many of them because of the new urgency that we were displaying in our proselyting that came from that one day and our commitment to have 20 shokais.) Many missionaries in the mission began to run to their proselyting areas. Who knows how many more people were taught and baptized in the next two years because we started running to our proselyting areas?! The miracles of that one day raised the vision and the expectations of other missionaries in our mission. They knew that if we could do 20, then they could too! It became more and more frequent that you would hear about people shokai-ing 20 or more people in a day. It was amazing! It is like once the breakthrough happened, our faith and expectation and hope could not be held back. Our vision was lifted and the Lord poured out the blessings that we always COULD have had but had limited ourselves from obtaining by not believing and expecting and working strongly enough.
I experienced this my entire mission. When I was a new missionary, no companion set had ever had 10 baptisms in one month. President Groberg challenged us all to be the first to have 10 in a month to show that everyone could do it. The Lord was ready to bless us if we would stop limiting ourselves and believe and then work for the blessing. Finally, someone did it. After one companion set did it, it became more and more common—still very difficult but more common because we KNEW it was possible. We expected it to happen. I was just looking at one of my reports for the month before I came home. In that month, the mission had 599 baptisms and 37 different missionaries had 10 or more baptisms! So, after we were challenged to be the first to have 10 in a month, and someone did it, then President challenged us to see who would be the ensign to lead the way to have 10 baptisms in one week! Eventually, that happened as well. Then a companionship had 20 baptisms in one month, etc. He used to tell us that 1000 people who DONfT do something doesnft prove a thing. It is the ONE who DOES it that proves that all can do it.
Kyle, this is what I want to tell you. The numbers donft mean anything at all. The numbers in and of themselves are unimportant. However, what EACH NUMBER REPRESENTS is of supreme importance. EACH NUMBER represents a real person. Each number represents a brother or sister. Each number represents a child of God that has a chance to apply The Saviorfs atoning blood to become free of sin, find truth, peace and happiness, be sealed in the Temple, and return with honor and dignity with their family to that God who gave them life.
My experience is that when we get challenged to stretch further than we ever thought possible to reach goals and standards--that are expressed in numbers--, we find that indeed gwith God, nothing is impossible.h As we strive for higher and higher numbers and performance, we are blessed and our vision is raised and the windows of Heaven are opened, and our faith in God becomes UNSHAKEABLE. Remember, always remember though, that it is NOT ABOUT THE NUMBERS. IT IS ABOUT HELPING TO SAVE MORE AND MORE OF OUR BROTHERS AND SISTERS that are represented by the numbers.
So, Kyle, your instincts are correct. The best leaders are the ones who lead with love. A mission is about loving the people and serving The Lord. The more we love, the harder wefll work and the more we will be willing to sacrifice to help those around us come unto Christ. The numbers are extremely important--only because they represent how we are doing in reaching out to love and serve and teach and baptize and help people on the path to the Temple.
Because Ifve never worked with your zone leaders or seen how they deal with their responsibilities and stewardship, I donft know if it is the way that I would do it. I do know that it is O.K. for the leadership of your mission and you yourself to always be striving with your whole being to reach particular standards and goals that are expressed in numbers. However, again, it is not so that you can say you hit the numbers but so that as many of Godfs children as possible can have the benefits of the Gospel. Also, I would agree with you and hope that when you are in positions of leadership in your life that you will always lead with love, encouragement, building up, teaching, empathy, enthusiasm, and boldness. And, make sure that you hold those people who you lead accountable. Give them the chance to be accountable and report. That is the Lordfs way. You donft hold them accountable so that you can get mad at them, only so that you can help them to accomplish their mission in life and fulfill their stewardship.
I suspect that one of the reasons that this has bothered you a bit is that having a companion who couldnft work as much as youfd like, you were not able to reach your standards and NOBODY wanted to more than you. But, you were just in a position that made it more difficult than usual to do so. Itfs O.K., you needed to experience and learn those things. It will all be for your good. You have a new companion now from whom you will learn many great things and to whom you will teach many great things. Go out and blow the standards out of the water! (In a good way!) Reach standards. Then, see if you can figure out how to DOUBLE the standards! How can you use your investigators and members to do much of the finding work so that you are teaching even more? How can you constantly and consistently gextracth referrals from the members, investigators, acquaintances, street vendors, everyone! Go be the ensigns that raise the bar of your standards even higher! Most of all realize that indeed, geverything is going to be alright.h God has sent you there to do His work. You take care of His work, and He will take care of yours.
A couple more things: 1. You will find throughout your life that everybody has a different style of leadership. Some you will love and find very easy to work with. Others may be a little bit different from your style and be a bit more of a challenge. Thatfs O.K., wefre all different. Just smile and do what you know you should do and ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS sustain your leaders—even if you may not always agree with their style. And, make sure that they know that you sustain them. Donft hesitate to tell them so. 2. Never criticize your Church leaders—EVER. Donft criticize them to your spouse, or friends, or companion, or anyone—even if they may have made some obvious- to-you mistakes. I donft think you have ever heard me criticize a church leader. I hope that I have set a good example for you in that way. Also, donft let others criticize church leaders. Have no part of it. Donft allow it around you. They are called to fulfill a stewardship by God. Not one of them is perfect. We are blessed for following them--regardless of how they lead and how different their personal style may be from ours. Follow and sustain and support anyway. The Lord knows whatfs going on and will bless you for your faithfulness. The only time that it is appropriate to not follow a church leader is if they ever ask you to do something that is against the doctrine, commandments, rules, or clearly understood policies of the Church. In that case, you privately, not publicly, point that out to them one on one. Then, if that does not help, report it privately to their ecclesiastical leader. In all of my years in the Church, I have never had to do this.
Kyle, I hope that his helps to answer some of your questions and concerns. You are a great man and missionary. You are a born leader. You will in your life be given great leadership responsibilities. These responsibilities come with great blessings as well as serious obligations to lead in the way The Lord would have you lead. I am so happy with your attitude and desire and how much you are growing into the kind of missionary and man that will change the world. Please do not misunderstand. I do NOT think that you were criticizing your leaders by asking me the questions that you did and sharing with me your concerns. You did the right thing. I hope that your zone leaders will always be sure to help those that they lead to realize that the numbers are only important because they represent real people and we want to help the most people possible. Stretching for higher numbers really just means stretching to reach more and more people who we, and Heavenly Father, love so much. Kyle, go be happy and work with faith and boldness and enthusiasm and claim the amazing and abundant blessing that are surely yours!
O.K., now here is the rest of the rest of my long story: The guy who we shokai-ed as number 20 that night—when it would have been easy to give up, but we didnft because we were committed to shokai-ing the number 20 PEOPLE—that kid got baptized. Also, he introduced a couple of his friends to the Church. They also got baptized. They introduced another friend to the Church. He also got baptized. A few years ago when I was in Tokyo on business over a Sunday, I went to church in the same building where all of this happened. There, 20 years later, I met Brother Nasu who was one of the kids that was introduced to the Church by this guy who was our number 20 that day. Come to find out, Brother Nasu had become a missionary himself. He served an honorable full-time mission, came home, married in the Temple and was raising a family who was born in the covenant. He was happy to see me after all these years. As you can imagine, I was overjoyed to see him too. I am so thankful that we stretched for the whole 20 that day! The Lord works miracles in our lives when we truly desire to do His work and serve with all of our hearts, might, mind, and strength.
Numbers, in and of themselves, do not matter. We do not go on missions for numbers. However, what those numbers REPRESENT are what matters in life the very most—PEOPLE, children of our Heavenly Father, our brothers and sisters. Thank you for loving the people so much. Thank you for your righteous desires and such hard work and faith in obtaining those desires. Thank you for serving so well. Thank you for loving The Lord so much. You inspire me and our family and so many others. Keep up the great work! I love you son. Love, Dad