22 Days left.. Not that I'm counting. Considering that I still have another two email days left it may be a bit premature for a mission-in-review email, but it gives me something to email about, so I'm going to use that card up today. Though, there's probable a lot that I can find to talk about, so maybe I'll do it in segments. A bit this week, a bit next week, then finish up on the last week.
I came out on a mission because I wanted to. When I was in basic training the Lord blessed me with the opportunity to share the gospel with others in my platoon. I believe one week we even had 12 people come to church with us. I read the Book of Mormon at every available opportunity, and tried my very best to share it with anyone who would listen. About halfway through the three months I spent there, I remember thinking "if this is what a mission is like, then that's where I want to be."
So I went because I wanted to, and that knowledge was indispensable in keeping me going.
I spent two weeks in the Auckland MTC. While there I was a pretty serious guy; always did everything exactly on time, took everything very seriously, and did my best to learn as much as I possible could. By the time those two weeks were coming to a close, I couldn't wait to get out of that shoebox and start in on some actual teaching, get going on some actual missionary work.
I started in the New Zealand Auckland Mission, my mission president was President Lekias, and my Trainer was Elder Manua. That first transfer was the worst six weeks of my entire mission, as I'm sure it is for most missionaries. Since I had already spent a fair bit of time away from home I never really got homesick, but I sure did get what I referred to as mission sick. My companion was pretty fresh from Samoa, so I couldn't hardly tell what he was ever talking about. Our interests were nowhere near the same, and he was always coming down on me for this thing or that thing. Not to mention that the Auckland Mission was jam packed with never-ending nonsensical rules way past White Handbook standards. I was never good enough, no matter how hard I tried, and I spent the time thinking, "I don't miss home, but I don't want to be here."
I spent this first six weeks being very serious. Never making jokes, hardly ever having a laugh. I think it nearly killed me. Out of everything that came from that six weeks, I did learn a thing or two, even though it may not have been the things that my trainer was trying to teach me.
First blessing I found in it was that, since me and my trainer didn't talk much, I was able to study nearly around the clock. Within that first six weeks I read through the Approved Missionary Library, including reading Jesus the Christ nearly twice. I finished the Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price; and I still managed to study Preach My Gospel nearly every day. The amount of knowledge that I accrued during that short time span has blessed me for my entire mission. The second thing that I learning from that first six weeks is that the Lord called me on a mission. He called Elder O'Neal on a mission, not someone that looks like me, but isn't me. He called me. He chose me. So I learned I had to be me. One of the reasons that first bit almost killed me was because I felt like I had to be somebody that I'm not in order to serve the Lord, but that isn't the truth. The Lord calls each one of us to places where he needs us. He needs us to reach the people that others can't reach, and you can't reach them if you're trying to be someone you're not.
After my first transfer, I stayed in Cambridge, and my companion got moved up to Auckland. I got my follow up trainer; Elder Fesuiai. I learned a lot of things from Elder Fesuiai, though again, they weren't really the things he was trying to teach me. Fesuiai had been out for a while, a year in fact, and as such, he was pretty confident that he knew everything. He had this whole missionary thing down pat. He taught me a lot about pride. I know I'm a prideful person, and I came out knowing that it was something that I would struggle with, something that I would really need to work on. Heck, something I still really need to work on. With Elder Fesuiai it was either his way or no way, because I was new, and he was the seasoned veteran who could do no wrong. He helped me to see who I would undoubtedly become if I wasn't careful. From his actions and character, I learned to continually watch myself. I also decided that I never wanted to become like that. I know that I haven't been perfect out here, far from it, in fact, but there have been many times where my memories of the time I spent in Cambridge surfaced, and I knew I needed to check myself.
Within this time period the mission changed from the NZAM to the NZHM, aka, the New Zealand Hamilton Mission. We got a new mission president, President Rudd, and I was able to finally see the difference between serving because of duty, and serving with a willing heart. President Lekias had always seemed much more concerned about the numbers to me. He was a banker by trade, after all, and I imagine a love for the numbers was simply ingrained within his heart. As such, I struggled to have a whole lot of respect for him, and most certainly struggled to find the love. President Rudd was different, or rather, he is different. He came in and, from the beginning, treated us with respect and love. Almost like we were all his long lost children and he was happy to have found us. I soon developed a deep respect for this man, and began to understand how fulfilling missionary work can be when done for the right reasons. I began to work because of a love for the people, and not for fear of retribution for poor numbers. I began to work because I knew that my mission president loved me, just as the Lord loves me, and I wanted to disappoint neither.
This has been a powerful lesson for me. How would I feel if I knew that I had let down President Rudd, and by extension, the Lord? I would be devastated.
That ought to do for now. I just realized how long the letter is, so I'll finish off for today.