My guest writer is Susan Mathews Hardy, the mother of Elder Nathan Hardy, one of Daniel’s missionary companions. Susan wrote a letter to Daniel’s mission president, timed so that Daniel will receive it from President Greer on the night before Daniel returns home.
November 25, 2010
Dear President Greer,
I know you will be sitting down soon with Elder Willoughby as he leaves the mission field. I wanted to take the time to tell both of you thank you: thank you to you for following inspiration to pair my son with Elder Willoughby; and thank you to Elder Willoughby for being an exemplary trainer. Elder Willoughby taught Nathan to “be the best missionary you can so God can work miracles though you.” He taught Nathan that missionary work is real and very rewarding.
Nathan wrote to us this week, “it takes two to ‘kill’ a Willoughby” because “he is a really good missionary! When I talk to the other missionaries who came out with me, I feel very blessed that I had a trainer who taught me good habits. Your trainer sculpts your view of missionary work and it’s hard to break bad habits that your trainer teaches you. I will miss Elder Willoughby when he goes home in 3 weeks.”
We knew that Elder Willoughby was special and that Nathan was blessed when we heard that Willoughby had had the experience of serving in three mission fields. This realization was confirmed each week as Nathan wrote home.
Elder Willoughby taught Nathan humility (to pay tribute to those who had gone before). From Nathan’s first letter home: “We can definitely tell when the last missionaries in our area worked hard as well. If it’s God’s will and if people can become just a little more converted by the Spirit, I’m sure we’re going to bring 5 people into the church this transfer. (Maybe 7, but less likely). My trainer told me that never happens and that the last Elders must have been really hard workers.”
Elder Willoughby taught Nathan to work hard. From a recent letter, “I hope my new companion is willing to work hard like Elder Willoughby and I did. A lot of missionaries are lazy. My motto is GOY BAR – get on your bike and ride. Missionary work is really that simple. If you’re willing to just leave your apartment, God puts people in your path to teach.”
Elder Willoughby taught Nathan to value the Spirit. “It’s a lot harder out here to keep the Spirit with you all the time than it was in the MTC. But, we’re praying a lot and trying to keep it.”
Elder Willoughby taught Nathan to serve. “Some people choose to schedule doing tons of service projects for people doing yard work and everything. This is a great use of time because it softens people’s hearts and makes them listen to you a lot more. They see that you’re really dedicated and they don’t understand why you’re out there just to help people. This curiosity leads people to conversion.”
Elder Willoughby taught Nathan to give investigators their space, to let the Spirit work a little longer in their lives. “We are pretty laid back, we never push anyone too hard; we just befriend people and invite the spirit into their lives.”
Elder Willoughby taught Nathan to attribute miracles for what they were: miracles (to recognize God’s hand in his life). “I’m not sure I ever told you guys about the story of the bike lock. We really felt like we should tract this one area and we rode way out there and then we were locking up our bikes and we realized we didn’t have the key so we couldn’t lock them up. We looked everywhere including in the lock and our backpacks and everywhere and we were so disheartened because we knew we needed to tract right there right then. We looked at each other and I said let’s check the bike lock again; we did and it was there. We were both shocked, because we had just seen it wasn’t there. We had, no doubt in our minds, already checked there. Both of us. We said a thank you prayer. Those things happen every day. I couldn’t write all of them cause it would take too long and it kind of takes away from how special those experiences really are.”
Elder Willoughby taught Nathan to not concentrate on numbers and that it is OK (and even better) to relax while working hard. “Many missionaries push people hard and take themselves too seriously as a missionary, focus on the numbers, and get stressed out. Elder Willoughby and I don’t. We never get stressed out. Many people have this determined attitude going from appointment to appointment as fast as they can. We ride fast often, but we kind of lollygag a little in our travels and go ‘hey lets go down this street to get to the next appointment.’ This may seem bad—it did to me at first—but I realized that if you keep your mind clear, then it’s a lot easier for the Spirit to guide you. Every time we feel like taking a different way, even when it means we might be a minute or two late to the next appointment, we do it; and every time it’s been inspired. We end up doing more work than those people who are tense because they have to take breaks. We lollygag a little sometimes, but we work from sun-up to sundown; we ride our bikes like 20-25 miles a day; and we teach A LOT of lessons. I love it. It’s fun.”
Elder Willoughby prepared Nathan for being forgotten by those at home. “This is the first week of my mission that I haven’t gotten any letters at all. It’s funny because Elder Willoughby told me that somewhere between 4 and 6 months everyone forgets about you and stops writing. I used to get like 2 letters a day and now I haven’t gotten one in a week so it looks like his prediction is coming to fruition.”
Elder Willoughby taught Nathan how to be positive through the opposition of being dropped. He also taught Nathan to spend his limited time with the people who are progressing. “We’re working hard. In the past couple weeks, like 10 of our investigators have dropped us or we have dropped them. Then, two were baptized. So, our teaching pool is a lot smaller, so we get to do a lot more tracting which is nice. It’s nice also ‘cause we get to focus our efforts on new people and finding the elect ;).“
In recent weeks and the weeks ahead, Elder Willoughby will reflect on what good he did in the mission field. Most elders reflect on the converts that they have. However, I think that one of the most important things that Elder Willoughby has done is being an extraordinary trainer. He has left a legacy of “sons” and future “grandsons” that will carry on what he has taught them. What he has taught the next generation will result in more conversions than is humanly possible for one elder. His influence will grow exponentially.
With tears of gratitude in my eyes as a mother, I say that I count one of Nathan’s biggest blessings in the mission field is to have been trained by Elder Willoughby. Thank you to both of you for seeking to be Heavenly Father’s hands and seeking to follow the Spirit.
Susan Mathews Hardy