Saturday, October 5, 2013

Spiritual Help With Transfers

As we prepared to begin our assignment, I listened to audio recordings of the 2012 Seminar for New Mission Presidents. President Monson spoke of the importance of mission presidents teaching and developing missionaries. He spoke of the need to guided by the Spirit, particularly in making assignments for new missionaries and then in making transfer assignments. During the 2013 Seminar which we attended, he gave much the same counsel.

For me, this is one of the most challenging responsibilities I face as a mission president. I worry about making the correct decisions. There are no flashing signs in heaven (at least none I have seen) advising which missionary should go where. Rather, we were advised that the promptings would come as feelings or impressions, usually felt not heard.

President Monson, and other leaders, were clear on one additional point: only the mission president can make a transfer. Though the president's assistants can recommend, they do not make transfers. The final decision rests with the mission president and with him alone.

Due to the call of my predecessor as a General Authority, I began supervising our Mission in mid-May, 2013. We still were in the US as we waited for word on visas. Hence, it was necessary for me to make the first set of transfers before we even got to India and met the missionaries. I confess that the best I could do was review the recommendations of the assistants and try to feel if any of their recommendations were incorrect.

Since arriving in the mission, we have done numerous transfers. Transfers come about every three weeks, with missionaries alternating arrivals from the Provo MTC and then from the Manila MTC.

In making transfers to accommodate these arrivals and the departure of experienced missionaries, several experiences confirm the truth of President Monson's counsel and promise.

We have a missionary with emotional and mental health challenges. Change is very difficult for him - even a small change in his daily routine. His response often is simply to go silent - sometimes for a full day or even two or three days. His prior companion made several visits to me, requesting that I speak with the missionary and "make him talk." After the last of these visits, I sat in the office pondering whether I needed to make a change in the companionship. As I looked at our picture board, my eyes came to rest on a specific picture. I had the feeling that this was to be the new companion for my challenged elder.

The next morning I called the assistants and asked them to tell me about our challenged missionary. Their response was "We've been thinking about him. We think he needs a new companion. We think it should be Elder _____. . . , and they named the very missionary to whose picture captured my attention the previous day. That was sufficient confirmation for me.The transfer was made, and while there have been occasional hiccups, the missionaries are working well together.

In another instance I needed to split a companionship of sister missionaries and have one of them train a new missionary. For a number of reasons, this was not an easy move. One of them would get a new missionary and one would get an experienced sister. One of the newly constituted sets then would move to a new city and start in an area with no investigators. At various times each of the involved missionaries shared with me their concerns over issues which would be impacted by the transfer I was considering. I was unable to come up with a scenario which resolved the concerns of each of them.

After giving the matter much prayer, I tried to listen to what Heavenly Father was impressing me to do. I outlined transfers which conflicted with the expressions from two of the three sisters. I called the sisters and told them what I wanted to happen. My call was not greeted with enthusiasm. Within a week, each of the sisters advised me that she was happy with how her new companion was working and each was happy in her area.

A final incident. For several weeks, I felt that Elder D needed a new assignment. I was inclined to ask him to be a zone leader and to move to a new city. However, as he only has 2.5 months left on his mission, such a change did not make a lot of sense. I struggled with the decision for several days, though I felt that it was right. Finally, I told the assistants that this was what I wanted to do, and we needed to build the rest of the transfer around this move. We did so. When I called Elder D to tell him of the move, he advised me that there was a young woman in the branch where he was assigned who was starting to look very attractive to him. At that moment, I knew that this was an inspired transfer.

I do not feel that every transfer is affirmatively inspired. I do feel that each is approved by Heaven. It is very comforting to know that Heavenly Father knows His missionaries and will help even slow presidents to get transfers correct.

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