Tuesday, October 03, 2006


I've been in Ukraine for a little over a year, and I'm just barely writing a blog about tracting?? Actually the reason I haven't written a blog for so long is because we just don't have enough time at the internet club on P-days to read e-mails, write home, write friends and write our mission president. Therefore my blog scene has suffered for the last couple months. But I have a little extra time today as I wait for my unnaturally slow companion to finish up an english lesson.

Tracting. Some people shudder at the thought, others sing praises to the hardworking robots who tract all day and don't get anything. For those who aren't familiar with the institution of tracting, it basically consists of going door-to-door and trying to talk to people about your church. Yes, like the J-dubs. Those freaking idiot J-dubs. I realize that there are few things more unpleasant than a weird person showing up on your doorstep who wants to talk about the purpose of life. It's highly uncomfortable and definitely inconvenient, especially when you'd much rather watch television or take a bath. In general, tracting is just one awkward experience door after door. Naturally after a year of doing it I've become numb to this sense of awkwardness, but there are still those unpredictable situations that leave me feeling terribly humiliated. So why do we tract?

I'll tell you one thing, it's not to get baptisms. I came to Ukraine with one main objective (we'll save all the tangent objectives for other blogs) and that is to baptize people with power and authority as it was restored by God through the Prophet Joseph Smith. Naturally no one really grasps that as we go door to door trying to talk to them, and I have seen very little success from tracting. Every once in a while you'll find someone cool that'll invite you in and you can have a wonderful discussion, but I haven't seen one baptism come from tracting. If baptism is in fact our main objective, why do we spend so much time doing something that doesn't yield results?

It's something I've thought a lot about. When I was in Mariupol I was a very enthusiastic and optimistic greenie. I looked at every door as a potential baptism and was devastated when people shut us down. I was determined to find the perfect door approach that no one could shut down. My goal was to master the Russian language and say the perfect thing that would make them want to let us in to hear our message. Well after a year of knocking doors I'm quite aware that there are just some people who will reject you no matter what you say. And although I try to have a lively attitude and a variety of approaches, the phrase "ne nado" (don't need) as been seared into my brain. I'm to the point now where I wouldn't even be surprised if I didn't get a baptism from tracting. Naturally I still have faith that it's possible, but my expectations are significantly more realistic.

So why do I tract. I've compiled a fairly comprehensive list of all the reasons that I go tracting. It's subject to change, but after much reflection and discussion with other missionaries I've concluded on the following reasons:

The first reason we tract is to show our faith. Although we don't expect success, we've promised the Lord that we would come to Ukraine and find his children who are ready for the restored gospel. Since we can't stand on soapboxes and preach to congregations, we have to show our faith by preaching in the next best method, one by one, door by door. Effective? No. Tiring? Yes. Good way to show our faith? Ask Him.

The next reason we tract is to fill up time. In a nine hour work day there's just no way to fill up every slot without a little bit of knocking. And it is the ultimate backup plan. Even if your investigators dog you, if all your appointments fall through, tracting is always there for you. Those apartment complexes aren't going anywhere, so you know the moment your investigator ditches you what you'll be doing. (Finding more investigators to ditch you.)

The next reason we tract is to practice our Russian. Some nights I feel like all I want is a decent conversation in Russian. Yeah, I can talk to my companion all day in Russian but there's no substitute for talking with a native. The only problem there is that tracting has a very repetitive nature, so you don't get a lot of variety in your conversation practice. This feature of tracting is nice for new missionaries, who rapidly learn tracting vocabulary - ne nado!

The next reason we tract is to, I'm gonna say it, inflate numbers. Oh it's terrible isn't it? You worked the whole week doing productive activities, trying to give our Church a good name, trying to make friends with people, trying to share the gospel . . . and you didn't get any numbers. Sunday night call-ins creeps around every week and if you don't have anything to report, you're gonna look like you weren't working. Oh no! So whaddaya do?? You grab four copies of the Book of Mormon and you hit those stairwells so you can teach some other lessons. Yeah, there honest lessons, but you know and I know that they probably won't go anywhere. (See my entire stay in Dnepr)

Another reason we tract is to humble ourselves. I doubt if I could think of something more humbling than ringing people's doorbells and trying to start a coherent conversation in a ridiculously complicated language like Russian. The look on the confused inhabitant's face says it all. I think 2 years of tracting in this place is sufficient time to humble the proudest man.

The final reason we tract, and this is honest, is to have fun. It's true. It's long, it's hard, it's mind-numbing and usually pointless, but tracting really can be fun. You see some crazy things happen and you meet some pretty odd people. I'd have to say most of my good stories about Ukraine will come from tracting. And since we're so used to the routine here, it's always funny when something unexpected happens. You think you've seen it all and then some crazy baboushka opens the door and starts screaming.

So tracting. Yeah, the prophets in the Book of Mormon did it. I wouldn't say they had a lot of success though until they got in with the influential people and did some good service. So when I came to Sumy that's kind of the approach I decided to take. Get in with the members, get in with the city, and then maybe some magic will happen. But in the mean time, there's a lot of free time you gotta fill up . . . and you can only teach English so many times a week . . . better get knocking.