Chalco, Estado de México, México
We are coming up on six months in the Misión Ciudad de México Chalco. Sister Bird has been busy with four teclado (keyboard) classes which keep us busy three evenings and afternoons a week. We started with three days in the Mission Office but now are there five to six days a week. We no longer have a Día de Preparación (Preparation Day) and schedule blocks of time during the week to do the necessary items of life as a Senior Missionary in México. I have become an expert in the daily fight of driving a car and become adept at "aggressive" driving techniques. Sister Bird tries to sleep through it or at least keep her eyes closed. Life in México is not relaxing and we return home at night physically drained.
We have a lot of sickness and injury with los misioneros de tiempo completo (full-time young missionaries). We lost eight in the month of Marzo (March) due to medical issues; physical and emotional. I was very concerned and then our Presidente de Misión Crickmore told me that many presidents in this area are reporting 25% to 50% of missionaries not able to work because of sickness or injury. We are being blessed in this Misión. Missionary service in México, and probably many other parts of the world, is extremely stressful and any preexisting physical or emotion issues will quickly surface. So as a suggestion, as we promote and prepare others for missionary service, any existing physical or emotional issues really need to be resolved and put away before entering full-time missionary service. The Lord indeed blesses and protects us as missionaries but we have to make sure we are really ready and able to serve.
Sister Bird started her teclado classes at the first of January. For Elder Bird it has only been in the last month or so that I have finally determined what I should be doing. For several months, we have been working to organize the Mission Office, this is a saga in itself. But I have never really known what to do in this Misión.
The following is to help us all prepare or help others to prepare to serve as Senior Missionaries in this moment of service. We were originally called as MLS (Member and Leadership Support). We felt we would be working with members and local units in some support role. I had always felt I would be working with Stake and Ward leaders with menos activos (less activos). But we never received any training or direction in what to expect. When we are called to a specific missionary calling such as Temple or Family History, we slide into an existing organization, structure and work plan. MLS seems to be the assignment when no one knows what to do with us. There is no real plan nor organization we can associate with. Mission Presidents are not trained to deal with Senior Missionaries and, at least in México, there is no organization of Senior Missionary service. We were the only Senior Missionaries in this mission until last month. As a result, I personally "wallowed" never knowing what I should be doing or how to work with the local units. Many times I was in conflict with programs we knew nothing about.
Finally a little over a month ago, I received a bit of inspiration (not from local or area leadership) on how to move things on. I have renewed excitement about my mission and things are starting to happen. The lesson here is that if you are MLS you will have to learn you role and make your own organization because missionary leadership will not know how to use you. (That may sound negative but it is simply the reality of MLS Senior Missionary service today. I hope it will change for others or in the future.)
We all have heard and probably had some training in La Obra de Salvación (the Work of Salvation) which is missionary work of members with members, and we are all members. This Nueva Visión (New Vision) is based on the assumption that the organizations and councils are functioning. In México, they are not. New members are baptized, enter one door and are out the other before anyone gets to know them. Retention is a HUGE problem. Average Sacrament Meeting attendance around the Misión is about 100+. At first glance this looks good; however, this represents 14%-25% Sacrament Meeting attendance. This means that for every 100 in attendance, 400-800 are not. In addition, the majority of those attending are women, children and youth. So there is a huge Leadership deficit. Full Tithe payers are also few.
In addition to attempting to organize the mission office, I am now focused on working with the Stakes and Wards to organize and follow established programs and councils. The culture in México trains leaders to be "Bosses" and not Priesthood leaders. Few have read the manuals and either try to run their own programs or do not know what to do.
We are attempting to do the following to help the Units organize so that we can support them in la Obra de Salvación. Our greatest challenge is to learn to support the local Priesthood keys and let them run their programs.
- Remind them what the manuals already define; Ward Mission Plan, Ward Council, Ward Missionary Coordination Meeting, Ward Mission Leader and his Assistant, and most important, Ward Missionaries.
- We support the programs and activities of the Units, we do not plan or organize their programs.
- Train leaders about Senior Missionary service; what we are and what we are not. We train on how to use us and work with us. And most importantly, how to find, invite and call Senior Missionaries.
This is the key to la Obra de Salvación in México and probably in other parts of the world: Senior Members of units serving in their units as Senior Missionaries.
We have discovered three types of Senior Missionaries here in México:
- Full-Time Couples and Sisters serving from their homes. Few senior members of the Church in México have the financial resources to leave home to serve in other areas. They can serve at home and that is where we need them.
- Service Missionaries assigned to the Misión for specific mission functions.
- Ward Missionaries serving in their Units. There are some Ward Missionaries but they are all younger preparing to serve missions or recently returned. What we need are mature couples that can visit and motivate the less active families.
Since starting down this path,
- We have one Matrimonio Mayor (Senior Couple) who have received their call and are serving in the Mission Office. They are dealing with Missionary Housing and Finances. This is becoming a HUGE responsibility.
- We have two additional Matrimonio Mayor that are in the process of applying for missionary service. One of these couples has been serving with us in the Mission Office as volunteers while waiting for their call. They are dealing with Baptismal Records and helping with Housing. There are many problems with past and current baptismal records.
- We are meeting with four senior couples, from one Stake, next week that want to serve but do not know how to proceed or how they might serve.
- We have one senior Hermana (Sister) waiting for her call as a Service Missionary working in the Mission Office. She will be working with References and general assistant in the Office.
This is the tip of the iceberg and there are many, many more waiting to serve. The Units just need to find them and invite them.
In all cases, we invite the Senior Missionaries of all types to work with their home Units during the weekend in La Obra de Salvación. They are working with their own families, neighbors and friends. They participate with the Ward Mission Leader and with the Ward Missionaries. They help in any way they can. Some are serving in Ward leadership positions while they activiate the future leaders.
There are many obstacles in this work but the Lord really is in control.
Am I excited? Yes! Am I tired? Yes! Do I have enough time to get this done? No, that is why we need help.
I am looking forward to continuing to work in la Obra de Salvación when we return and while we return to service at the Temple.