You hit the nail pretty much on the head. While it´s true Elder B is my assigned companion and we train together, set up conferences together, eat together, the whole shebang, the offices much of the time is a wash of missionaries in a group. If the financial secretary needs to go to the bank, and his companion isn´t around he can grab any one of us to go with him. The same goes for just about anything. For example, yesterday a sister from the Iquitos mission who had gone to the border to fix some visa issues lost her passport on the plane from the border. Well, being American she can´t travel from Lima to the jungle without her passport, so she got stuck here in Lima. The travel agency got her from the airport to our offices, but the personal secretary was already busy in other things so he asked if the records secretary and I could figure out where she could work for the day until the evening flight came in and hopefully her passport would turn up or she could get a workaround fixed up. So that´s what we did. We called the sister leaders from the closest zone and she went with them to teach during the day, then when the time came she went with Elder M and I to the airport to catch her flight using a photo copy of her passport and a police report saying it had been lost that we obtained through the travel agency (they said they keep copies because about 2 in 5,000 missionaries end up losing their passports the exact same way every year in Perú). Anyhow, all that time my companion had gone with the personal secretary to accompany him to center of Lima. The thing is that nobody ever gets left without a companion, but all of us share in a group companionship until it comes to official things like conferences, meetings and proselyting.
Elder B is an excellent teacher. He can be hard on people, for example someone that supposes we don´t believe in the Bible as much as in the Book of Mormon, he would respond shortly that we do and that he does in fact use the Bible more than the Book of Mormon in teaching. However, he teaches really detailed, and knows the scriptures better than probably any one of my companions. He continues to learn English every day. At least once a day he´ll ask me about some word or another and usually it´s not a basic question. For example, the other day he asked why it´s "everyone believes" instead of "everyone believe" because technically when talking about a group of people, "they believe." The same pattern can be shown in the majority of verbs because "everyone" in grammar is treated as a singular pronoun even though it refers to many. He can speak fairly well, still has an accent but definitely is progressing, losing it little by little and learning new words all the time (last Sunday’s word was franchise or in Spanish concesión and franchiser, concesionario.)
Stubbornness is a dual trait I have come to know very well. I am possibly one of the most stubborn people I know. I think stubbornness is something learned from a sincere conviction of one´s beliefs. I´d love to say that every time I have ever been called stubborn it´s been because I didn´t want to give up a principle of truth, but I don´t think that´s true. Stubbornness is manifested in my life by an unwillingness to change or to consider other views. It´s a blessing and a curse, the latter of which I am slowly trying to get better at. You can think of it like a toddler throwing a fit. He thinks he should go out to play but his babysitter says he can´t because the clouds are dark and it looks like it will rain soon. The frustration builds as the rain starts to fall until he becomes teary and violent in his own toddler way. His mom gets home and he continues to rebel unknowingly at whomever the adult is whose legs he throws his fists against. Even when it´s explained that it could be dangerous, as it´s a full out thunderstorm, it doesn´t make sense. Looking out the window through bleary eyes that suddenly go wide, he sees a bolt strike the trampoline and it finally dawns on him that those he blamed most were those who wanted his safety. He falls into his mother´s arms, exhausted from his fit, but somewhat embarrassed for not having believed.
I think a lot of the time we don´t follow everything that the prophets have said or even what our parents or other leaders have said or even what we ourselves know about our own character. The reason is because we don´t see the problem for what it is. In Moses 6:27 the Lord describes the state of the people in Enoch´s time as having hardened their hearts and closed their ears, and that their eyes cannot see afar off. Sometimes we just can´t see far enough to transcend our own myopia and become what the Lord wants us to be. In short, we seek to council the Lord (Jacob 4:10) when we know that He knows what´s best, only because it´s a hard thing to do.
Anyhow, being stubborn is me, but I know that it´s been something damaging in the past and I am working hard on beating it. Stubbornness in a lot of ways is a manifestation of pride, and in the Lord´s work there is no room for personal pride, only pride in our great God (Alma 26).
Most of the misconceptions we have in trainings come from not having said it well the first time, or it´s because as time goes on, new missionaries come in and sadly some of the trainers pass on bad habits, and what is knowing rebellion to them is something normal that their trainer did to the new missionary. It´s all a cycle and the answer is to teach well and publically as much as we can and to correct the disobedience always. As soon as we let something slip by thinking it is just innocence (which it well could be) we are perpetuating it.
This week there was another massive wedding in the stake center adjacent to the offices. We got everything set up 4 hours earlier this time around, so we were all much better rested when 23 couples came streaming in the door early on Friday morning. President Erickson was pleased because he saw that we were basically on time with everything that went on. Not one couple came late and all of the witnesses also arrived early. The Independence Zone created a choir and sang several family-centered hymns and the city officials came away impressed at the orderly presentation once again. One of President’s counselor´s wife is one of the public relations reps in the area or something like that and so she interviewed several of the couples for the marriage. She said the last one was posted on the church news website with a bunch of pictures. It´s at the Peru branch of mormonnewsroom.org which is noticiasmormonas.org.pe. In October there won´t be one in the offices and we are somewhat relieved because it´s a LOT of work. The next one is the22nd of October in La Parque de la Reserva Circuito Magico de Aguas, that one park with the lights and fountains I told you about last time.
In events like the marriages we are helping so many people on a bigger scale come to know many more members of the church than on the stake level activities. One of the bigger examples of that is that the zone leaders go to do the paperwork necessary for the marriages. Well, they are really great missionaries and have given a Book of Mormon to N, the lady at the city offices that handles marriage papers, and she´s actually shown a lot of interest in the Joseph Smith story. As well, having the balloon arch and the announcement out about the marriage brings a few curious onlookers into the chapel every marriage. The missionaries are stationed at the door contacting everyone and handing out church literature to read while they wait for the ceremony to start. It´s a marriage, but really it´s a giant proselyting event.
I love you all, I know that this is true, and that everything we do has to be focused on spreading it because we still meet people in the street who say they have never talked to a Mormon before. If we open our mouths, they will be filled with the words to say to enlighten the lives of our friends and neighbors. It only takes that first monumental effort of opening our mouth.