As a classroom teacher I always wanted to control the teaching/learning atmosphere as much as possible. I would arrange the room, use the media well, and ensure that the walls had appropriate things hung on them. I worked under the belief that if the physical atmosphere was well managed then both the teaching and the learning would be elevated.
Teaching as a missionary brings a whole new dimension to the teaching atmosphere because a missionary can rarely control the physical aspect of it. You are invited into someone's home and you just go with what is there. Here are 3 experiences I had last week. The first was in the evening. A mother and her teen-age son are studying with us. We went for a lesson and she was trying to get dinner ready, keep her other 3 younger daughters under control, keep the television off or at least keep the volume down, answer the phone, and be engaged in the lesson. Not an ideal situation.
That was followed by a lesson with a single man who lives in a hotel. We taught him in the lobby of the hotel. There were 2 chairs in the whole lobby. He sat in one, I in the other, and the two young missionaries stood. People were coming in and out, the desk clerk was right by us and there was the usual commotion associated with a public place. Again, not ideal.
Two days later we went at 10 a.m. to a home to teach a single woman. She lives in a 3-story, 6-unit building, the type that are so common in these parts. She couldn’t invite us in because one of her roommates had started drinking earlier in the morning and was well into his first six pack of the day and not in a good mood. So we stood on the porch and taught – we in our white shirts and ties, she in her bathrobe. We competed with her phone, the trash trucks, a fire engine, lots of neighbors flowing in and out of the building, and the general noise of the street. Far, far from the ideal.
All three of these situations would never be considered excellent teaching venues, but here is what happened. The first woman and her son were on their fourth discussion and it went well. She shared with us some experiences from her life where she felt the Spirit but didn’t know what it was that kept guiding her towards better things. We helped her see what it was and she was filled with the Spirit again. The second man had already committed to baptism and this was a little tune up lesson for him. He accepted it very well. He was edified as we all were. The third woman was very agreeable to the message, accepted a Book of Mormon, committed to read it each night, and invited us back.
What made these lessons come alive and overcome very poor ‘classroom’ set ups? Of course, it was the presence of the Holy Ghost. Nothing makes teaching too difficult for Him. When we pray and invite His presence, real teaching and learning occurs no matter what the setting and situation. Now, what will happen with these people and their relationship to the church only time and experience will tell. But I do know that on each of those particular occasions they were given the best opportunity to hear and accept the message because of the presence and active involvement of the Spirit in the teaching process