As missionaries, we focus on communication a lot. We learn about how to communicate the missionary lessons, how to communicate with members and investigators and how to communicate with Heavenly Father through the spirit.
Most returned missionaries can probably look back and pinpoint a companion who they worked the best with. Sister Tofilau, my 5th companion, grew up in Western Samoa and I grew up in Arizona. She comes from a family of six brothers. I have two sisters. She is tough, bold and seemingly fearless. I love her so much. Our differences often fostered learning experiences and great conversations. We became good friends.
Sister Tofilau’s English is amazing and most people she meets have no idea that it wasn’t her first language but there were still times when we would misunderstand each other. One day, in the middle of a long planning session, we were both tired and wishing we were out proselyting. I honestly cannot remember what I said but it must have been insensitive because it was matched with a glare and a few words from my companion before she stormed away to our bedroom. We were both tired and frustrated. I sat in silence, confusion and anger for ten minutes before Sister Tofilau came out and apologized. I couldn’t believe it! I was so impressed by her and embarrassed that I hadn’t been the one to go and apologize. I had no idea what to say.
We followed a pattern our mission president shared with us to overcome companionship arguments and we each took a turn praying aloud. We each asked for the spirit to return and help us communicate with love to understand each other. After praying, we took turns explaining what we had each said and understood. We had both completely misunderstood each other and the conversation ended in tears and laughter. We couldn’t believe the way that a language and fatigue could blend together to confuse us.
This experience taught us that Satan will use just about anything to pull us away from the spirit. He turned us against each other and stalled our work until Sister Tofilau was humble and ended our silly silence. The first Samoan phrase she ever taught me was, “ou te alofa ia te oe” which means, “I love you”. From that point on, Sister Tofilau and I worked hard at dispelling misunderstandings. We not only built a strong friendship, but the added measure of the spirit that we felt drastically improved our missionary work. We could use our communication skills to help the other sisters in our zone and to improve the lessons we taught to investigators.
Satan tries to use our weaknesses against us, but Heavenly Father will turn them into our strengths every time if we humble ourselves and let Him. I am so grateful for my time with Sister Tofilau and the things we learned about love together.
Sister Stimpson served in the Oregon Eugene Mission.