My life and missionary work has once again taken a rather drastic change! So yes, I am once again in a new area with very new responsibilities with a new companion starting from scratch again. Is something wrong? No. Well, besides being absolutely heart broken from being pulled out of Gaoxiong at such a critical time.
This is how the story goes. Last Monday about five minutes after I logged off the computer from emailing you, we were sitting gathering our stuff when we received a call from President Bishop. At first thought, I couldn’t think of why he would be calling us on a Monday afternoon. I listened to Elder Sanford exchange pleasantries with him, and then heard him say, “Yes, he is right beside me. Just a moment.” As I answered the phone, President Bishop said, “Hello Elder Bailey. I need you to serve as the new Operations Manager for our mission. I know this comes as a huge surprise, but I’ve had some unexpected things happen and the Lord indicated I need you. Can you do that for me?”
To be honest, I was shocked out of my mind. I had just become a new Zone Leader, and from how that typically works, I expected to be a Gaoxiong West Zone Leader for the rest of my mission. Regardless of the shock, I decided long ago when a call comes to me from the Lord, I will accept without hesitation. So I feebly said, “Yes President, I believe I can do that.”
To understand the shock you must understand two things:
- The operations manager of the mission is a rather busy assignment. As one individual you wear 6 hats in one. I am responsible for:
- Apartment repair, furnishings, and safety
- Communications between multiple channels (Salt Lake, other missions, parents, missionaries, etc.)
- Mission distribution (orders of thousands upon thousands of proselyting materials)
- Event and meeting planning, and all the miscellaneous behind the scenes work
- IT tech repair and development
- Mission reports and minutes
So basically I both run a small business and become the panic hotline for 160 other missionaries.
- Because of the hours the Operations Manager works in the office, and because other missionaries never actually see firsthand most of the things the operations manager does, there is a reputation that office missionaries are not “real missionaries” because most of their day is in an office rather than on the streets proselyting. At least that is how I viewed it…
So, when I got that call, my first reaction was feeling like an absolute failure. Elder Sanford and I didn’t baptize together in Gaoxiong, and I felt like I had failed as a Zone Leader and was just getting decommissioned and put in the office. I kind of kept it to myself till we got home and then talked with Elder Sanford about it. Funny fact: Elder Sanford was one of the previous Operation Managers (you typically serve for 6-7 months). After punching me, and telling me that is not how it is at all, he explained it really is an important position in the mission, and if I’m not there, the other purposes of Christ can not roll forward. On retrospect, Elder Sanford is one of the most well known and respected elders in the mission. Though I was still disappointed, I went into my room and just knelt down and prayed aloud. I haven’t prayed that sincere in quite a while. I just sobbed for a little bit and apologized if I had failed. As always, the soothing voice of the Spirit entered my heart and assured, “You did not fail, but are merely needed elsewhere. Your work legacy in Gaoxiong and will continue on.” It was in that moment I discovered where the utter disappointment and discouragement came from. I had invested my whole self in the Gaoxiong Zone. I had given all my time, money, and thought to who I could lift our zone. We had done some pretty amazing trainings about the power of families and had helped the zone narrow to a razor-like focus. I knew Elder Sanford would be leaving soon, and I believed I would be staying and carrying out our long term plans for baptizing families in Gaoxiong. We had planned a HUGE thanksgiving party with our ward which I was heading up (the ward gave us over the equivalent of $800 US dollars for it), and amid all these plans I was asked to walk away in 3 days. I had come to love Gaoxiong with my entire soul.
It was then the words of the Spirit once again came to me and said, “It is not where you serve, but how you serve.” It was then I realized I had received an answer for my prayers from conference. Amidst the sacrifice I was giving up, Elder Sanford helped me see I was not stepping down from Zone Leader. I can still lead others to Christ. As Operations Manager we touch every single missionary in our mission. Elder Sanford told me, “Your phone becomes unlimited, you can drive in Taiwan, you learn all the business vocabulary you will need one day, you get to stay at the super nice apartment above the mission office connected to the mission home, you can use the computer and the internet, and make changes and policies that shape and change the mission. It is a great blessing, Elder Bailey.”
To make the situation a little better, I am back at the chapel I was when I lived in Dakeng. Dakeng was my old area with all my dear recent converts right next door! We are actually going up to surprise Sister Deng (the owner of the restaurant). So in all, I am good with being here now. I have very clear goals to be the best Operations Manager this mission has ever seen–to bring back the reputation that an office manager can baptize leadership-quality families, and keep up everything I was doing as a Zone Leader.
I now live with the assistants, and we see President Bishop every day! Right now I am being trained by Elder Hansen (former Office Manager) and my new companion is a native of Taiwan who is the mission recorder, Elder Wang (his English is really good too).
So now my preparation days are on Saturday.
-Elder Spencer K. Bailey