Greetings from the Mission Field!
My first area in the Iowa Des Moines mission is, drumroll please... the Kirksville 2nd Ward in Kirksville, Missouri. My trainer is Elder Haden Flint from Layton, Utah. He will be training me for his 4th and 5th transfers. He went to Northridge High. He is 6'5" and about 270. He played football, defensive end, for his high school. After his mission he has a scholarship to go play ball down at Dixie State. The funny part is, is his girlfriend's name is McKenzie.
The Elders in my district are pretty weird, but not too bad. Elder Flint is pretty normal. Then in the Kirksville 1st Ward, we have Elder Prows and Elder Smith. This is Elder Prows last transfer, and he is feeling trunky.
It is weird out here. Small town life. Kirksville has a population of about 17,000, but it is the "big city" for about 30 miles, so it feels extra small. There are outlying farming communities with populations of 400. So I should be grateful that I live in the big part. Although my area is pretty large.
There are 3 types of areas in my mission. One has cars all the time. One has cars every other week. One is no cars, and instead you bike or walk. My area is one with cars every other week. We switch off with the other Elders in our district each P-Day.
The ward I am in has a lot of young couples with a kid or two and they are in their late twenties. A. T. Still University is in Kirksville. It is a school for doctor management, so we have lots of mormon families from Utah or Idaho. They are quite awesome. I've already had dinner at a few people's houses and am looking forward to more in the near future. We get probably between 3-6 dinners a week. Me being here not a full week yet, I'm not sure, but that's what Elder Flint says. So you can get an idea of a little bit of the student demographic, there are 10 babies due by December and 2 due this week. I love seeing the little kids, and it kills me not to be able to hold them or anything. But it is the rules and I will abide by them.
Of course there is a Wal-Mart in town so that takes care of any needs I'll come across.
I walked into a baptism. It was pretty crazy. She is a nice 64-year-old lady named Margie. She was baptized Saturday and confirmed Sunday in church. So far we don't have any new investigators out here, but we're going to contact some referrals this week and get out there. We've been building member trust because there were some issues with it before my trainer was whitewashed in when he first got here. (Whitewash is when they pull both elders out of an area and put a new companionship in the area). And it has also been a little crazy with the baptism. I feel like we haven't worked our hardest yet, and I am eager to apply everything that I learned in the MTC. This week is looking to be a lot more promising. We have a good full day today and the rest of the week is looking like good time for spiritually finding and such. President Jergensen doesn't believe in tracting, because we pray about where to go and then go knock on doors. I'll probably say tracting sometimes, but know that spiritually finding and tracting are virtually the same. Spiritually finding is guided tracting.
So I finally discovered why we can only listen to MoTab in this mission. Last December they had a Zone Leader council and they discussed our mission goal of baptisms. For 2011 the goal was 500 and we only got about 350. President Jergensen asked everyone to pray about a number before the meeting and come to the meeting with their ideas. At the meeting they spent a long while having heated discussion about what it should be. Some said 500, 600, 700. Some said 250 so we can actually meet their goal. This went on for at least a half an hour. Finally, one of the Elders said, "This is the Lord's number, why don't we ask him?" So they quieted everyone down and this Elder said a very simple prayer, asking how many people the Lord had prepared to be baptized for this year. After that prayer, President Jergensen announced, "The number of baptisms is 400. And the sacrifice we will make for this goal is to only listen to MoTab this year." So that is why.
We are at 230 baptisms as a mission right now, with 67 baptism dates. Please pray for those in my mission that we may find them. We are working with the members right now. We go and help get them psyched to help us reach our goal. Elder Flint shared some statistics from a General Authority that astounded me. Statistically speaking, 1 in 1000 people tracted to will be baptized. 60 in 1000 people recommended that the missionaries see them from a friend will be baptized. 660 in 1000 people taught in a members home will be baptized. I didn't realize members were that big of a deal. But they are! Do your part at home to help others come to Christ. Invite them to come to your house and invite the missionaries to teach in your home. When someone is invited to their home, they already have that framework and support system of friendship before they are overwhelmed with the gospel too. We don't have that with people we tract. Be a friend first.
That is all from me this week. I love getting letters! I only promise letters to those that send me one first. I wish I could write you all, but I simply don't have time to send them all out.
With Love from Missouri,
Elder Zachary R McKenzie