First off, I have to share an experience that happened my first week here that I have forgotten to relay to everyone: So, in the MTC, President Willes is our Branch President. He's super nice, very wise old man ish and leads everyone very well. He called me to be the District Leader for the (then) five of us on our first night here (which you already know). Well, I figured that I was doing very well as a District Leader and being very mature and responsible. And I was. But one night, probably four days into our stay, it was. Planning time. I was board. Elder Miller was slightly late in walking in to join our planning session, like he did every night. I heard the door begin to open, and I happened to be holding a pencil, so I figured I would punish his tardiness by hitting him in the leg with my pencil.
I timed it perfectly. I threw it slightly early so that as soon as he opened the door enough to expose his body, he would get hit right in the leg. The pencil arced through the air in the most beautiful parabola I have ever seen, right on target. It was all so perfect, except it was President Willes who had opened the door. In my haste to time things exactly right, I had forgotten the number one rule of throwing things at other people: MAKE SURE YOU AREN'T THROWING SOMETHING AT YOUR BRANCH PRESIDENT. Surprisingly, he deftly dodged my projectile and said "That was close!" I have never been able to describe my emotions as mortified before in my life, but that was the exact word to describe my feelings at the time. I wanted to dig a hole in the floor and precipitate myself into it. Thankfully, I haven't been reprimanded and it was never brought up again. But I've definitely learned my lesson and I will never ever ever throw anything at someone ever again. Unless I've appointed a lookout to signal me when the right person walks through the door.
As for how everything else is going, class is great. I've reached the point in the last couple of days where things have really clicked with Marshallese. As long as I'm not feeling way tired, I can chat with my teachers in Marshallese pretty easily about most common topics. Which is really fun because now we mostly laugh and joke around because it's all part of practicing the language still. Elder McFall is doing really well too. I'm able to turn to him during the lesson and let him take over without being worried about what he might say. He's still got a ways to go, but seeing how much he's improved makes me so happy.
That's about all that's going well though. The zone as a whole.... Man. We've got a lot of problems with disobedience. All of the Fijian Elders are just fine. They are super humble and obedient because they know why they are here. But everyone else... It's like trying to work with a bunch of toddlers. "I just cleaned up the mess in the kitchen and now you've thrown up on the living room carpet!" They don't like to stay with their companions, they don't use the internet properly, many of them waste time by sleeping and playing games rather than studying, and no matter how many times we talk to them, it only amounts to them trying to do it behind our backs, rather than openly.
It's especially hard because one elder has a real desire to be exactly obedient, even more than those in my district who have been here for as long as I have. Every morning, at exactly, I find him studying in the lobby because his companions are still showering. And one of his companions is a District Leader, who we have talked to several times about being an example. We see this elder trying so hard to be obedient, but being forced to babysit his companions all the time and it just kills me because I know it's really hard for him.
I'm not saying this to ruin your image of missionaries. The majority of them are obedient. But the missionaries in our zone are just all about their own feelings. They are too hard-hearted to care about making change. They hear all of the same things that changed our hearts, they are spoken to lovingly and sternly and it doesn't matter. They haven't decided who they want to be yet. So they are stuck between both worlds and it is uncomfortable for them and uncomfortable for us.
However, this ties into my message/challenge for the week. Elder Hirinuki and I have been trying so hard to do what is best for this zone and for each individual missionary, but it's been so difficult. We honestly have no idea what to do. My natural inclination is to sock them all right in the face and get in their faces, because that's the only way I actually learn anything. That was what I needed back when I had the same problem as them. But, I know that's not the right way. So, we've been praying. All the time. And it has become a huge blessing.
Every time Elder Hirinuki and I get together to discuss what needs to be done, we have ideas coming into our meeting (mine usually involving my fists). But after we begin with a prayer and ask for the Spirit to guide us, we always sit and listen and then without fail, we've received quiet promptings on what to do. I have never been directed like this before. Probably because I used to think that I knew it all. But I've been so humbled here and that means that I've been teachable. So when I've sincerely sought to be directed, I've received guidance. And not just in general. Specific things. Like who needs to give lessons and exactly what we need to talk to the District Leaders about. It's never come with a voice of thunder, but I have never been unsure of what answers I have received.
The point I have in sharing this story is this: Right now, being a Zone Leader in this zone is super challenging. I'm not very wise and I don't really know how to help the others. But, through this struggle, I've not only grown through opposition, but I've also received a major blessing in learning how to be directed by the Spirit. So, my challenge this week is this: Don't just view trials as a challenge. Look for ways to receive a blessing from the opposition.
We all hear so many times that trials are blessings in disguise. Well, sometimes trials are just trials. But. At those times, if we humble ourselves and turn to Christ, we can discover blessings that wouldn't ordinarily have come. If I hadn't prayed and sought direction, yeah, I probably would have grown a little in the wisdom of the world and would have learned a little more about leadership (and how I should use my words and not hit when I'm upset). But I never would have learned to receive specific revelation from the Spirit. So, when you are struggling: turn to the Savior. If you do, you will not only grow temporally, but also spiritually, and you will enjoy a closer relationship with him than you understood was possible before.
Thanks for all of your emails and support! Again, sorry if I don't respond to everyone, but know that I do read everything you send and it means the world.