From time to time, the mission gets “short” a missionary. Elder Michael Estrada and his parents approached us several months ago and volunteered to have him serve should a need arise. In late December, just such a need arose and Elder Estrada joined us for a 10 day mission. I should mention that Elder Estrada has a social anxiety issue that makes meeting new people rather difficult. But, serve he did – all 10 days of it – and he and his companion taught 30 lessons during his first week here!
Here is his companion’s account of his experience. Read all the way to the bottom for the clincher!
In summary of the ten days spent with Elder Estrada I would like to keep my feelings brief, but personal.
Let it be known that I am proud to have served with Elder Estrada. With no doubt in my mind I can say that I walked away from this experience a better missionary, and a better friend. Regardless of apparent struggles socially, it was clear that the spirit remained unchanged. One of the hardest things to accept is that no matter your previous knowledge or experience; if from now on you rely on the Lord, “it shall be given you in the very hour that portion that shall be meted unto every man”. Elder Estrada brought the spirit. Every where he went. A strength that I noticed was apparent was that of complete and total honesty. I felt comfortable in every stage of missionary work, knowing that standing by my side was someone I loved and trusted.
I can only imagine the feeling of being thrown out into the hastening of the work without the comfort of proper training in the MTC. In the specific circumstance of Elder Estrada with his difficulty in talking to others, I can hardly comprehend the overwhelming pressure he had to have felt. But he’s still my favorite! He did such a great job with the knowledge he had. His parents should be proud of him. Even though I only had the privilege of 10 days with him, his growth was significant. One of the many blessings during the week was our planning. I could tell the Lord wanted to give Elder Estrada an uplifting and positive experience. Everything in our plans went perfectly. Hardly anything fell through. Every where we went miracles followed! A blessing of diligent studies and hard work.
Elder Estrada had a moment to shine when we were able to invite and investigator over to the home of one of our members. We sat Dorian down and got her started on FamilySearch.org. I had no idea what I was doing. So I just sat back and let Elder Estrada work his magic! We all have our talents and I wanted to make sure he got a chance to use his.
The following is an account in regards to the feat which I feel was most difficult for him to overcome. A specific experience spent battling the pressure of an often misunderstood personal Goliath known as social anxiety. I feel we all at one time or another face emotional, or social conflicts in our mind. Confusion between logic and our emotional feelings. However the radical fear of rejection and social disapproval I found was hard to relate to. I pray that this experience was best for him.
Perhaps one of the most critical skills we all must develop is the ability to talk to strangers on the street. Like tracting, I feel like one of the most common activities associated with the average missionary is that of street contacting. Simply put: walking up to a stranger on the side walk and turning them into an investigator. A skill mastered over the course of your whole mission.
Throughout the week we met a lot of new people. I figured that if anything was going to make Elder Estrada feel exactly like one of us, it would be giving out his first Book of Mormon. There’s a reason why when new missionaries come in, that’s one of the first things they are told to do. Regardless of what area you’re in, it feels almost like an initiation. Once you’ve handed one out completely on your own for the first time, you feel the spirit of missionary work hit you like nothing else. The power of the Book of Mormon can change lives.
One morning, I brought Elder Estrada out to the back yard. I knew this would take practice. We spent an hour or so role playing situations where he would have to approach strangers and offer the message of the gospel. We then biked over to the busiest part of area down on main street. With a Book of Mormon in hand, we walked around side by side. When someone approached, I whispered to him “He’s all yours!” and slowed down and let him take lead. I will admit, it took time. Person after person, he got shy and walked past. After a while, with uplifting encouragement, he started opening his mouth. I kept reminding him that the Lord prepared someone for him personally, and that he just had to find them. He eventually built up from “Hi, how are you today?” (then walking away) to the confident “Hey can I share with you a Book of Mormon?”. The first handful of people shot down his offer every time. After one couple rejected his invitation, he turned to me and said “Hey it’s actually not that hard!”. That made me laugh! I could see his faith building.
As time got close to dinner we saw a young teenage boy, probably about 14 or so, sitting outside his apartment. Elder Estrada approached him and asked if he would like a Book of Mormon. The boy looked confused. Elder Estrada explained that it was written by prophets and was very similar to the Bible. The boy accepted the offer.
Walking away from that apartment I couldn’t help but have watery eyes. I knew that the Lord was pleased with Elder Estrada, and I knew that he knew it too. To force himself out of a comfort zone like that was a challenge, but it all paid off. One might say that a confused 14 year old boy sitting outside an apartment will never be interested in that book. But to us the confusion of a 14 year old boy can lead to the restoration of Christ’s Church on Earth and change the history of the world forever. I shall never forget the example of courage and faith of the one and only Elder Estrada.
-Elder Preston Buckley