April 21, 2013

Everyone!

I hope everyone is doing well! It has been a wonderful week for me here, here is a few thoughts from a kind of journal I started a few weeks ago. You maybe noticed that I am a bit more detailed and comprehensive lately in my letters. I have been realizing that I love my mission, I dont want to forget it, I want to be able to share these experiences better after my mission. so I am writing it all down and then typing it up every P-day, the appropriate things I am copying here to share 🙂 Love you all.         
I had a special experience about the Matthews family this week. They attended a baptism last week and it was great to see them connect with old friends, one being our ward mission leader brother Duncan who is also from NZ. The next day as we were finishing up our missionary coordination meeting we were talking about their family and brother Duncan turned to us and said “I should probably tell you about how sydelle (Sister Matthews) feels about you. He said that as they were talking the day before, she said that after years of inactivity, recently she has felt something different toward the gospel, something making her want to act. She said that she felt like “these missionaries have been sent to bring her family back to church” which is noteworthy because missionaries have been visiting them for years. With Tears in his eyes, no doubt remembering people from his own mission, Brother Duncan looked at me and said “there are people here that only you can teach, not that other missionaries were not as good, and not to lift you in pride, but everyone has people thy have been sent to, and only they can connect to and teach, and I just wanted you to know, Sydelle feels this way about your companionship, and she is ready, so keep doing whatever it is you are doing, and if you can, do more” This puts a great deal of responsibility on our shoulders, but in that short conversation, every pain and confusion about my transfer here just went away, and as we walked into general conference I found tears in my own eyes. I talked to president Howes a few weeks ago asking why he transferred me after only 5 weeks in Ginninderra and he said with his hand on my shoulder “I don’t know, this was one of those times I do not understand, I planned to leave you in Canberra for a while, but the Lord told me to send you to Dapto” I don’t know how he knew the Lord needed me here, but I am grateful to have a president so close to the spirit. It is an honour that someone feels I have been sent from God to them. There is no doubt in my mind that He is the one who brought me here. Ill need to repent for being so upset to leave Canberra, I suppose if Heavenly Father has sent me somewhere, there is no where I would rather be, and to know that motivates me to work with all my heart might mind and strength that I can stand blameless before him at the last day, and so I can find, and fulfil the calling he expects of me. I could have found this out on my own, but I am grateful Heavenly father answered my prayers and through my ward mission leader told me at least one purpose he had in bringing me here.

            On a lighter note, after an FHE we had with the Gonzaga family (phillipino) and their non-member friend, we sang karaoke, haha, so fun but very embarrassing.

            Also, we got our proselyting clothes a bit dirty while helping brother Bramblett repair the frame of his chicken coop on Wednesday. This guy is ancient, walks with crutches, but is found out working on his farm every day. I have so much respect for his work ethic. I decided we’ll make helping him a weekly service; we accomplished in a few hours what could have taken him two days. Anyway, it was fun going to our next appointment covered in dirt. Haha.

            Huge miracle… Sister Slone, an older aboriginal lady in our ward asked us to give her less active son Derek a blessing before he went to hospital. Apparently a load of bricks fell on him and for some reason that has been causing him a bit of discomfort, haha. Anyway this was the first time I met his family, there was the familiar powerful spirit that often accompanies priesthood administrations, His wife Suzanne was particularly touched as I noticed she was in tears. After, we were about to leave but I had a distinct impression to share a message on the atonement. At the end I asked if they knew anyone that would be interested to learn about the gospel and Suzanne teared up again and said we could visit her! I honestly thought the whole time that she was a member as well! Anyway, cool, not often people refer us to themselves to teach! Excited to see where this goes! We were also working with Derek’s sister Rebecca and her partner Troy (Investigator) I hope we can help this family!

            We had a mission conference this week! It was great! the whole mission minus Canberra and Coffs harbour zones were there (they were too far away). We got to take a mission photo! (Missing missionaries will be photo shopped in) 4 General authorities and their wives came! Elder Rasband (president of the seventy) Bishop Cousay (presiding bishop) Elder Watson (pacific area presidency) and elder Vincent, (the churches newest seventy) wow! Amazing! I first want to mention how great it was to see so many missionaries I have served with. As I saw them, so many memories and feelings flooded back to me. It was especially great to see my trainer Elder Ramell and my former zone leader Elder Rass. I also heard that one of my converts is going to the temple, another had a baby! Others are doing well. You could not peel the smile from my face. I think only the joys in family could match or exceed the joys of missionary work.. I cannot quite explain it, there was a special spirit there, something I hope will not fade for future mission reunions.

            I figured that to gather the whole mission and to bring 4 general authorities, this must be for something special and important! And it was, but not in the way I anticipated. They few times GAs have visited the mission I have learned so much, at least part of the message seventy’s bring is that we need more baptisms. This is of course not a bad thing! But sometimes makes me feel like I am part of a business, a means to an end, or a piece in a large baptising machine. Haha, but this conference was different, there was hardly any mention of “productivity” each of their messages were centred on conversion.  I waited to hear the press for higher numbers, but it did not come. This conference was full of love, there was no compulsory means, no guile, just filled with love and sincere concern. I am still amazed at how 4 GA’s came with a simple message of thanks, love, and encouragement. I will say this, nothing could have lifted me more, no training or technique or motivational device could have done more for me than the simple, heartfelt testimonies of these 5 great men (including my mission president) and their wives. So it was not the earth shattering conference I expected, it was better, and as I said, certainly special and important.

            This conference  and reunion prepared and strengthened me to do something very difficult for me. Our investigator Jason was scheduled to be baptised this weekend. We had not seen him in a while because his father was in hospital, but talking on the phone he was still planning on and excited for his date. We went to discuss plans for the service and I guess our questions were inspired, because to our surprise and devastation, we discovered that he was really not ready to commit to living a few of the commandments. I don’t know how we had missed this, we had gone over the baptism interview questions several times previously. This was painful for me to do, something I have never wanted to have to do, but the spirit guided me to testify of the sacred and serious nature of this covenant, and to encourage him to continue to prepare himself to receive it, but he could not be baptised this weekend as he planned. Yes I have delayed baptisms in the past, but never in this position, so soon before the service, with someone  so willing and excited. My love for Him grew that day, as did my testimony of the significance of this ordinance. Because I loved him, I could not let him do this until he was ready. HE was disappointed, but understood, He has been investigating for several years, no one wants him to be baptised more than me, but the spirit assured me, it cannot be now. Ill spend some serious time in prayer over him. I know he’ll make it, hopefully soon.

            One more sacred experience for this letter. I will start by borrowing Joseph Smiths words and say “No one need suppose me guilty of any great or malignant sins, a disposition to commit such was never in my nature. But guilty [of some things] not consistent with that character that ought to be maintained by one who [is] called of God as I [am]” I will share what I wrote late one night in the back of my planner: “I was having a talk with the Lord concerning a particular weakness I was experiencing and seeking repentance for. I told him how powerful the temptation was, how natural it sometimes felt, even at times seeming to be a part of me, and yet, when in my right mind, I knew was contrary to who I am and what I hope for in life. I told God that I did no want this, I have chosen Him, I am his disciple. I have rejected this part of me, and asked repeatedly for His intervention, and yet it was still there, a darkness lurking in the fringes of my mind. This caused me to cry out in my heart, why? Why is this so hard? Why can I not get rid of this? And then I had perhaps one of my nearest experiences I have encountered with our Lord. In a way I have never before felt, I heard in my mind a voice, almost imperceptible, but as the scriptures say, pierced me to the very soul. It said “I need you to learn to love me more than you love your sins” … I suppose our trials will not always be taken from us. Repentance is not just changing behaviour, but rather a matter of love and loyalty, and is found in those moments of sore temptation when love turns us back to Him. As one who has known both sin and somewhat of the miracle of forgiveness and redemption from the bondage of transgression, I testify that salvation comes from both His Love toward us, and our love toward Him”

            I hesitated to share this, it is obviously quite personal, but I hope it can touch someone out there who is having some sort of difficulty, or is frustrated by their weaknesses. I share that as one who, I don’t think is a bad guy, but not perfect, but trusts in a perfect and infinite atonement, made by a loving God and saviour. I am humbled that he was willing to speak this simple message to my heart. I suppose Love is always the answer. Ill try and find a way to know and love him more, perhaps this will be the object of my personal study time, so I can have the faith and strength to take another step toward Him and heaven.
With Love,
Elder Faulkner
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