This week the Lord rather vividly illustrated the point that this is His work, not mine. Literally, within the very last week of my 18 week stay in Borlänge, we just seemed to bump into people asking to be baptised. I have worked and wept and worked some more to seemingly no avail these last four and a half months and in the very last week the rewards are reaped. One of those is a 6’6″ Ugandan who plays for the Swedish national basketball team and wants to be baptised at the end of the month…. Now it is Swedish basketball, so not like teaching Steve Nash (that is about as far as my basketball knowledge goes) but he really is quite a blessing to teach. And it feels great. It feels great to be able to hand these blessings off to another missionary and go off to another area to work some more.
.…But I am off to Sundsvall, a wee little dot in a massive area in the gorgeous wilderness of northern Sweden. I’ll be leaving behind all the baptisms that will happen here in Borlänge, and entering back into normal missionary status. This is just about certainly my last area and I will not achieve any honourable rank of leadership to put on my dating resume for the remainder of my time here in this gorgeous country. But this isn’t a woeful swan song I’ll just quietly exit the public stage and get the opportunity to really, purely get down to proper raw missionary work.
Though leaders shouldn’t be viewed as above us according to the doctrines of Jesus Christ, (see Matthew 20:25-28) we are still quite mortal, even in a church mission organisation, and therefore subject to psychologically creating a pyramid of nobility. It is part of the human condition. Place a random selection of mankind on an island and within weeks they’ll have produced some form of class system with a select few chosen to be a higher rank and higher power based off some certain skill they excel in. As the weeks progress into years, and the civilisation advances, the purpose to life for the people would no longer be mere survival physically as it was in the beginning weeks, but survival socially, by obtaining the top of the arranged chain of being. Pride is competitive. Pride seeks gain. As C.S. Lewis said “pride gets no pleasure out of having something, only out of having more of it than the next man…. It is the comparison that makes you proud the pleasure of being above the rest. Once the element of competition has gone, pride has gone.”
Competition that could begin as innocent motivation to work hard and have a bit of fun can derail even the kindest of hearts into a ravine of spiritual darkness if left uncorrected. Competition is not of God. It therefore has no place, even in the slightest sense, in the work of the Lord. To embrace missionary work in a spirit of competition is much like siding with terrorists to destroy your enemy. You may be going after the right gain but with the absolute wrong means. As Ezra Taft Benson questioned “would we not do well to have the pleasing of God as our motive rather than to try to elevate ourselves above our brother and outdo another?”
So my advice to all missionaries all over the world set your vision higher than leadership. Never mind the Percys or even the Malfoys who somehow get leadership. If you get leadership, great! Use it wisely to teach that faith, hope and charity are what matter most.
Lastly, an awesome story time: We were on a train that just stopped, literally shut down in the middle of literal nowhere…….at first I was pretty sure a dementor was going to come on the train in search of Sirius Black….We just sat there for two hours and then the train conductors pulled out all the food from the bistro so we got to snack on as much swedish chocolate and reindeer meat as we wanted. The whole experience was a great manifestation of the goodness of swedes…. Not a sinlge passenger complained, even though they were missing connecting trains. Everyone was very calm, considerate and took the opportunity to discuss how beautiful the nature was outside….so swedish… anyways….eventually we all had to climb out and carry everyone’s bags through the swedish forest until we came to a dirt road and got picked up by a bus that had to go in reverse for thirty minutes….quite the adventure.