Sunday, March 22, 2009

Stress 3/21/09

Weather at 9:30 PM
Temp -4.8 c (26F)
Wind westerly 1-2 mph
Clear Skies

What is stress? For me, it is not being busy so much as it is having more to do than you can possibly do and lacking the skills or resources to even do what you could do. Stress is a state of mind, not the size of your "To Do" list. Stress is having barriers to your success that seem insurmountable.

Stress cannot be laid on you from without. It is created within. Our mission is a case in point. First, we had the reality that we were going to a place we didn't understand. We had been in Russia before, but that was as a tourist for a few weeks. Even with that little experience, we knew that our way of living would be greatly changed and much of it would be out of our control. We were full of anxieties about the living conditions, the controls, the jobs we were assigned, the hostility of the people toward Americans, and the language. Most of those anxieties turned out to be well founded.

We had heard from every senior couple who reported on their mission what a great experience it was and what a spiritual high it was. Well, for the first two months here we were buried in the muck of our own making, trying to learn the jobs we had not the native skills for nor training for and were completely unprepared for, feeling the isolation of the language barrier, feeling the depravity of the housing situation compared to the home we had left behind, cleaning the accumulated grime from our apartment, sewing up the couch so we could sit on it without getting batting all over, and generally coming to grips with the entire situation physically.

In the next two months we began to deal with the spiritual issues. Church was a challenge because we didn't know what was going on most of the time and without a missionary or native translator church was a total loss except for the Sacrament. For me, I suffered from lack of reputation, lack of identity. These people didn't know who I was and once more, they had no reason to care. I was coming into THEIR lives, not the other way around. I was the "stranger in a strange land" and I felt that they had no interest or need for me. At home, when I walked into a meeting or even another ward in another stake, I had status, I had a reputation, I was known and as such, I was respected. Here, the people were nice enough, but I was nothing to them.

Humility is not always something you willingly put on yourself and in this mission, it was slammed down on me and I didn't like it. Now I had to decide what to do about it, and I took Ammon's example to heart; to be a servant. I prayed for opportunities to serve. I asked for advice of the native Russians in our office, I offered to teach the YSA fireside lessons, I worked with several of the Branch Presidents to help them with their finances, I did the local unit audits myself with a member of the District Presidency. I kept a low profile in classes where the discussion was elementary and made only rare and circumspect comments. I attended whatever class the missionaries directed us.

By the beginning of the 5th month, we were both beginning to feel some Spiritual awakenings and I was becoming aware that I was being asked to do things; to pray, to speak, to sing. I realized that I was beginning to earn the members' trust in ways that would allow me to serve them better and would in turn begin to define me in their eyes. Once more, I had lost the need to be known for who I was in Sacramento and just focused on serving in Novosibirsk.

By the end of that month we began to celebrate the American holiday of Thanksgiving and making preparations for Christmas. Making the stockings for all 60 missionaries was a stroke of genius by Cindy. It gave us a real feeling of being needed and that we had contributed something meaningful to our missionaries. Spiritual feelings became stronger and I wrote about several things that had touched me. Finally, the muck was beginning to clear and I was able to look to the heavens.

After Cindy's "Fall in the hall", my hernia repair in the states, and our Kazakhstan trip, we have again settled into our roles as servants to the people in whatever way we can be. Our stress level is much reduced and we have begun to feel more of the spirit and less of the stress. I am beginning to dream dreams again. Last night I had a dream about how to present the FEP to people. At the District Conference meeting the Young Singles sang and I had a vision of a choir that would touch hearts at Christmas, and tonight we had a powerful lesson on music and I think they are ready for that choir.

The Spirit is now dominant and the stress is much less. I pray that this trend will continue. I no longer see the setting sun over the coal-fired generation plant and think of the pollution; only of the beauty. I love the young people of our District. They are the hope of the future. They ARE the Church of the future. They are strong, spiritually sensitive, and they love each other. I hope to be accepted by them to the point that I can teach them how to love music and to use it to introduce people to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I want to serve them and pray for the chance to do so.

What a mission. What a country.


Trisha said...

Dad you are awsome. You have always been my hero. It is a wonderful feeling to be in the service of the Lord. It is true the stress subsides. Also 2nd Timothy 1;7 is always a great reminder of who we serve.

Shannon Simmons said...

I love you dad! Its amazing to think you have been full time missionaries for 9+ months! How the time flies when you are about fantastic things. Keep up the positive attitude. Its true -- as you focus on who you are serving and why, things become clearer and somewhat easier. I taught on missionary work in sunday school and referenced you! You and Sister Simmons are doing great things!

Belva said...

Thank you Dougie for your thoughts. I have felt all of those feelings during th blur of our first two months here in Denmark. Especially on Sunday with six hours of Danish. I have tried to understand little gems of words during the meetings but often have no idea what the message is. It is a very isolating experience. I feel that the barriors of distrust are breaking down between us and the good people of these two wards, and the YSA's but a surprising barrior is still there between us and our very own elders and sisters in our area. They don't trust us with much of anything and are not use to having anyone in "their" outreach center. They are the first of all the missionaries that we have met in Denmark, and the MTC, who have not made us feel welcome and well loved. When we break through this barrier I think that I will start to feel more like a missionary here. Thank you for your thoughts. It is a privilege to know you both. love Sister Wilberg