wow, what a crazy week, in a good way of course!. seriously though, it is amazing to me how as a missionary everything in your life can change in no time at all! When you are transferred, all the places, people, responsibilities of daily life change completely! It means a lot to have people at home to write to, I am glad that you dont change!! haha.
so, I promised to write a little about my last week in bathurst! I wont be able to write everything I had wanted to, but I wanted to send just a few thoughts!
-we had a lesson with the northey family, the feeling I kept having in the lesson is that “they are just too nice and humble of people for the spirit not to work on them!” haha. They are a part member family, and when we first met them they made it clear that they were not planning on coming back to church, but they were happy for us to visit! As I expected though, as we have visited them a few times, they seem to be very interested in the message we have to share! I have found that when people are as nice as this family is, it doesnt take much for the spirit to tough their hearts and change their minds 🙂 I hope to hear good things about them in the future!
-I found out that one of the missionaries I was a zone leader to, who finished his mission a few months ago is now a branch president to 3 branches in china! This elder is very special, his name is elder Liu, he visited hong kong a while ago and had all the misisonary lessons and was baptised in 2 days! He really wanted to serve a mission, but obviously, growing up in china there was not much opportunity to join the church until he visited hong kong… He did not know much at all when he started his mission, he even told me that he first learned how to pray while in the MTC! but now, he will be one of the most experienced priesthood leaders in China having served a mission. what a miracle, I am so greatful to have examples like elder Liu in my life.
-Brother Su’a appointed us his counsellors in the elders quorum since he did not have any, haha. that was short lived for me! haha, so fun getting to have additional responsibilities while serving in small branches.
-We went on companion exchanges with the assistants to the mission president, during that, Elder Heata gave me one of the greatest compliments I have ever heard as a missionary, he said that there are very few missionaries that can be trusted to get the job done, but he said that he and president look to me as one of those missionaries that they can trust to put in any area, with any companion, with any assignment and not worry that I can do it. That was very special to me, I dont know if elder heata would have known this, but president simmons (my first mission president in sydney) once challenged me near the beginning of my mission to become that kind of missionary, he used almost the exact wording elder heata used, so be an elder that he could trust with anything! This really humbled me, to see some evidence that I am becoming the kind of missionary my mission president wants me to be. I am so greatful Elder Heata was willing to share this with me, gives me alot of confidence with my current assignment which I see as one of the most importnatn and also most intimidating assignments a missionary can have! I hope I can live up to what president Lew and Elder Heata see in me!
-Ahh, so much more I could share, but ill leave it there 🙂 I loved my time in bathurst, but I am looking forward to what lies ahead now!
So, that leads me to thsi past week!!! Man, it was awesome! I think I wrote last week about how I am back in bankstown with 8 missionaries! It has indeed proved to be a challenge to divide the work here! honestly, It did make me a little sad to realise that most of the people I taught when I was here are now being taught by the other missionaries, It took a lot to swallow my pride and be okay with that and be willing to just go and find new people to teach. But it was not as hard as I tohught it might be, you really look at things differently when you only have 5 weeks to go! I am not going to waste any of that time being upset! And there is not reason to! I am realising that there are so many things that I wanted to do here that I was not able to because we were so busy teaching our investigators. I am so excited to now have time to go and meet the other members that I did not have a chance to get to know before, and to extent a hand of love and fellowship to them, we have already received several refferals from members as well that we will hopefully be able to begin teaching this week! I keep telling my new companion that this is one of the best wards in the mission, probably the world! haha, he is so lucky to have this as his first area! The members are just so wonderful and supportive and excited about missionary work! and it shows! On tuesday we went to the weekly rescue night and it has really grown in the past 3 months! there were over 20 priesthood bretheren that met and then split off to go and visit less active and part member families. And it has been working! I was amazed at church yesterday to find that the church attendance has grown dramatically, in only 3 months! I think before there were usually about 200 people at sacrament, but the average has grown to close to 270!!!! wow, this is the work of the rescue, that president monson keeps emphasising, at work! I am just so impressed with the leaders and members of this ward at how they have answered the call to rescue, its a miracle, perhaps that will be one of the greatest blessings in being able to come back to this ward, to see that amazing progress, to witness what was announced in the reccent worldwide leadership trainging broadcast, that the Lord is hastening his work! That is certainly happening here in banckstown first ward! The examples of the leaders and priesthood brethren in this ward will bless me forever!
-During the rescue night I went to visit the takai family with brother talivakaola, I really did not know this brother at all when we paired off to go visit the family, I found out later that I did not know him because when I was here 3 months ago he was less-active! but a few months ago he made the decision to come back to church, and is now helping each week to go and rescue others! He really has a special testimony, he has seen the light of the gospel come back into his life and it has made such a marvellous difference to him, and he wants to share that with others! It was a special night, he told me as we drove back to the chapel that when bishop told him to pair up with me, he was really nervous! The reason he was nervous was because before that night, bishop always took him with him, probably because he is just new back to church and wanted to be there to support him! So this was his first rescue visit without bishop! I was so greatful to be with him for that experience, we had a really very spiritual lesson with the takai’s and brother talivakaola kept telling me over and over again as we drove back to the chapel how impressed he was with how comfortable and confident I was in teaching and thanking me for helping him and supporting him in what we shared, wow, I did not even know he was reccently re-activated, I had no idea how special an experience this was for him until after! I am so greatful bishop was prompted to pair me up with brothe talivakaola, It was a very meaningful night for me to see how excited he was to be involved with home teaching and how happy his with being back in church, I love this guy!
-We voulenteered on thursday with a youth organization called “bankstown multi-cultural youth centere” I was awesome! we just helped with a barbaque for some struggling and underprivledged youth in the community, the amazing thing was that we actually met 5 or 6 less active members through this activity! It may be something we do every friday because it was so sucessful! they also have a football comp on wednesdays that we may be able to help with as well! I really had not done much of this sort of thing on my mission until I went to the PCYC with elder moyes in cowra, but I have really enjoyed working with the youth in the community, so hopefully we can continue to work with this organization in the next few weeks!
-I am back running in the mornings! I am glad that my new companion is willing to run! I am very displeased with how out of shape I am! haha, but its good to be back running! hopefully it doesnt take too long to get back to where I was before my mission!
-We got to help with the stake primary activity saturday morning! it was so much fun! the theme was “I can be a missionary now”. the kids got a “mission call” to a country, and then went to a room about that country and learned a bit about the culture, got some cultral food, and learned a song in the language, we helped sister jackson from our ward in the “chile mission” haha, then there were several activities for the kids, the station we helped with was “a day in the life of a missionary” it was just a bunch of little challenges loosly related to missionary life, haha, it was so much fun! I am not sure missionary work is meant to be as much fun as we have had this week! haha, just kidding, I have really learned how to balance work with fun as a missionary! I am glad we have had a few activities like this for elder lacroix’s first week!
Oh, yeah! duh, I have not told you about my new companion yet! His name is Elder Lacroix, he is from canada! He is awesome! so fresh out of the MTC, haha, its great, I am so glad to be training! Still getting to know eachother!
-I was very touched by our ward mission leader this week, I love this man so much, He went and bought us a shopping cart full of groceries, I know how much his family struggles financially, so it was so hard to keep back the tears when I saw this, in fact, its even harder to keep back the tears now as I am writing this, I am not sure if the other elders know how much he sacrifices for us, but I do, and its so hard to accept! I begged him for something we could do for his family in return, but he responded as he has before by saying, “no, we will be fine, I know the Lord blesses us as we serve the missionaries” I have thought about this alot this week, it has really been new for me to be the recipiant of such charity as a missionary, but I am coming to know that the Lord really does bless the people who serve us, I have seen it so many times, It really does not have much to do with us at all, it is because we are the Lords servants, so, I have offered several fervent prayers this week for brother manakafoa’s family, and all others who have fed, clothed and helped us as missionaries, prayers of gratitude for their kindness and faith, and to request that they receive many blessings for their sacrifices on our behalf. I hope as a servant of the Lord those prayers will reach heaven, and be answered with many blessings upon the heads of these wonderful people.
Ah, there is never enough time! haha, just a few concluding notes!
-We visited Lewly and nela this week, you may remeber that lewly was baptised when I was here before, and nela was reccently returning to church, well guess what? they both now have callings!!!!! Lewly is a secratary in primary, Nela is a ward missionary! I cannot tell you how heppy this made me to see them and to see them doing so well! I love this family so much.
-I told you last week about how the Aiken family got baptised! I so wish that I could have been there to see it, but, it was enough to get to see them this week, sister aiken was so happy, it touched me when she told me about how happy joining the church has made their family and how greatful she is for all that we have done, especially for brother Aiken, when we first started teaching this family, brother Aiken had alot of concerns that he was quite stubborn with! haha, but over the past few months as the missionaries have continued teaching them, His heart has softened, and I got to see both brothe Aiken and their son bruce receive the aaronic priesthood. IT amazes me every time, the miracle of a family coming into or returing to the church, I say this alot, but it makes every struggle and pain associated with this work just fade away when you see these miracles happen in the lives of real people. I love my mission.
-So, Just to finish off, I just want to say again how happy I am to be back here in bankstown, It has made me just so so happy to be reunited with so many people I knew here, I have been really overwhelmed by how genuinely happy many of these people have been to see me be transferred back into the ward, it was almost like coming home for me, I think I will really enjoy these last 5 weeks, I love these people, It is such a priviledge to be back in the ward!
Anyway, I love you all, I look forward so much to hearing from you this week!
God Bless you
Elder Ryan Faulkner