One Time I Went TractingThis past Christmas break was when I decided that it was time to start getting my butt into gear about going on a mission. The sister missionaries for our mission have recently moved into our ward boundaries, so within a dinner appointment or two I already had agreed to go on splits with them (they were in group of three at the time).
What an interesting thing that was.
If you've never gone out with the missionaries for an extended period of time, don't worry. It's terrifying and really strange and you find yourself wishing you had never gone, but once you're safe at home you realize that you actually learned a lot.
At least, that's what happened to me. Of course, just my luck, when I went out with the sisters the day after Christmas, I quickly found out that they had no set appointments for the day. What is that code for? Tracting. (Which is Mormon code for going to a town, parking the car, and knocking on doors and talking to everyone you see.)
Well, okay, we started off looking in the big old binder that had the names of all the contacts the sisters had, and we tried to find people that they had spoken to before and seemed interested or people that had been referred to them, or recommended to be contacted by a friend or family member.
We knocked on at least three doors in a row with no dice. I was quickly realizing why it was a good thing that Sister Maybin made me to wear her big, heavy, lined boots. New Jersey can get pretty dang cold, especially in winter.
We got back in the car and traveled a town over to try and reach a few more families, with absolutely no luck at all. We gave a card to the mailman, talked to a woman loading things into her trunk, had a theological discussion with a guy whose cat tried to escape mid-conversation.
But still, no dice.
That was my first time with the missionaries. All of the people we tried to contact were either not at home or had one good excuse or another, and while the people were surprisingly nice when they opened the door to see us (something I wasn't expecting in New Jersey), it was, nine times out of ten, a solid, resounding "not interested."
A few days later I went out with the sisters again, this time paired with Sister Watson. Our first appointment fell through so we drove around, trying to find people they had contacted in the past or who had been referred to them. Most of the time I just stood there, smiling, nodding, putting hand-warmers (or "toasty toes," as the sisters called them)in my mittens and boots. Our second appointment of the day fell through, too, and I found myself going home for the second time without knowing what it was like to actually teach a lesson to someone.
I'll just admit it: I avoided the sisters after that. Sister Maybin, who's home from her mission now, will probably laugh if she reads this. I'm sure that every brand new missionary feels the same way I do about tracting.
I'll admit this, too, that tracting is the absolute weirdest, hardest thing I've ever done thus far, besides joining the wrestling team for a semester two years ago. Actually, tracting is sort of like joining the wrestling team without any wrestling background. You go out and you get thrown to the mat over and over again. You knock on door after door and get rejected again and again. You learn new moves to try and take your opponent down (in a Christ-like way, of course) and you still suck at it and get slammed to the mat over and over again and get brand new bruises.
But after a while, when you've got the moves down and your stance is solid and you're past getting upset about getting thrown around and rejected, it's not so hard anymore. And here's the point where I'm glad that missionary work is not at all like wrestling, because when you really do get a foot into the door as a missionary, or a second appointment, or someone crying in the doorway and saying that you are an answer to their prayers, you suddenly know why you're doing it. The Lord blesses you so much, to know what to say in order to get that foot in the door, to get that second appointment in your planner, to get that baptismal date set.
And as much as tracting royally sucks, you can get used to it. If you're in the right mindset, it shouldn't be tiring to have your message rejected, just sad that you've found another person who isn't ready to hear the message of joy of the Gospel. You get to meet crazy people and collect great stories about how you stalked an on-duty mailman in order to talk to him, and eventually you'll be on a plane home and realize that those days that were the hardest are the days that you are most grateful for, because they taught you things.
So here's a shoutout to my companions for a few hours, Sister Maybin, Sister Watson, and Sister Meeks. You are some of the strongest, sweetest, most wonderful people I have ever met, and you are great missionaries. Sister Maybin, thank you for teaching me so much about myself and about how a missionary should learn to think, and having the patience to let me talk about my own feelings; Sister Watson, thanks for teaching me that I'm not the only one who has trouble waking up before 7:30am, and that sister missionaries really can be cool and spiritual at the same time; Sister Meeks, thanks for being sassy in the best way possible and teaching me how to have a good attitude even when it's freezing out and nobody wants to talk to you.
Fellow future missionaries: don't let tracting or other things about a mission intimidate you. As Sister Maybin so wisely said when I admitted I was afraid I wouldn't like my mission call if I got called to the States, "A mission isn't about the area, it's about the people." She's right. A mission isn't about the area you serve in, or how much your feet hurt at the end of the day, it's about the people that you grow to love and what you do with that love. If you let that love draw you closer to your Heavenly Father, then you're doing well.
(P.S. Go follow @oysmf on Twitter.)