Monday, December 31, 2007

LDS Missionaries Staying in Touch with Mormon Investigators/Converts

When you go on a mission it is inevitable that you will make friends with investigators and possibly baptize a few. Most of them will develop some type of a bond with you, particularly if they join the Church. On occasion these relationships will last a lifetime. You will probably receive letters, calls or emails letting you know about significant life events marriage, children, career advancement, Church callings. You might send similar happenings. Even if you don't you might include them in your annual Christmas list sending them a yearly family letter about your achievements which many Mormons are prone to do. A few return missionaries might get busy in their lives immersing themselves in education, jobs, or family life and lose touch with their investigators or converts for months or years. Many times people move to other places so you lose their addresses and then you have a hard time reestablishing the connection. The good thing is that you can always write the membership department in Salt Lake City and have them forward your letter on to your friend is they are still an active member. If they are an investigator you can pay to find them in the U.S. or Canada. In other countries you just plain lose them. You can always catch up in the next life. Most of this applied to well adjusted people of which I am not.

Most of my converts I have no clue what happened to them. I was never much of a letter writer. I never stayed in touch for over thirty years. I have only heard about them for the first ten years from other members or missionaries who did a better job at communicating with them. Whenever my wife and I take out our scrapbooks we reflect on what happened to our investigators. Neither of us knows since we haven't talked to them in many many years but we sure do have fond memories and can tell stories about what happened on our missions. We just imagine they had great lives and talk about possibly visiting our mission fields and checking up on them.

Today I read a post by AHLDuke on Mission Nostalgia. He has been home from a mission for a few years and had not kept in very good touch with some teenage girls that he helped convert with his companion. One of them was coming to the SLC area and wanted to have dinner with him and his wife. He reflected on the success of his mission. One of the measures of success is how did your convert turn out. He fortunately had a pleasant experience and reconnected with one of the women. He at least knows for a certainty how she is doing. He also had time for introspection about the quality of the people he baptized.

I wonder if there are many like me. I never once wrote any investigator or convert while on a mission or even after my mission. I did run in to a companion or two who gave me reports from time to time. I think I missed out by not staying in touch. I don't really have any rationalizations about why I didn't stay in touch. I just didn't and it is unlikely now I will do much more than I have. I did some reflection myself about staying in touch with converts. If I had it to do over and had been more mature I would have remembered them from time to time. At the time I worked with them I think I was only approaching my relationship as a short term one. I really didn't see the forest because I was looking at the tree. I lost out on some social growth.

I remember once when I was bragging to my mission president M. Russell Ballard about baptizing seven people in one month his response. "It is not the number that matters but the quality of the person." He then asked me where will they be in ten years, twenty years. At the time I thought every one of them would stay true to the Church. Now I wonder, how can I know the quality if I never stayed in touch.

We say that how great will be our joy in the next life if we bring someone to Christ. Is our duty only to baptize them or is it something greater? By staying in touch we might have a lifetime effect giving them some one to turn to when they are struggling or someone to celebrate with when they go to the temple, become bishop/relief society President, etc. I know I need to reexamine my relationship with those I baptized. Recently I recontacted people I knew in the distance past. A few we were able to pick up where we left off and now occasionally I email them but a few blew me off and a couple were downright hostile. Relationships need to be worked at. I wonder what experiences good or bad people have had with their investigators and converts. Do you think we have a responsibility to stay engaged in their lives?

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