May 26, 2013

Everyone!

            I couldn’t say this was the best week of my mission, but it seems like whenever I sit down to write these letters at the end of each week, I see how the Lord has given me many reasons to rejoice. I won’t bother to record any of these weeks’ lemons, because there was so much sweet to remember from this week. I will share the best news for the end.

            I mentioned last week that we have started a new project in Dapto to help member share the gospel. Elder Young was actually the one to suggest it after seeing some success in his last area. What we have been doing is watching a few short DVD segments from the church website about young men’s experiences sharing the gospel with their friends. These youth stories are quite incredible really, one young man helped 16 people come into the church, the other video talks about how one young man inviting his friend to church led to 25 people coming into the church. Really the main focus here is that if we will open our mouths, and talk about the gospel, we will find those who are interested and prepared to receive the gospel’s message. Sometimes it is as simple as mentioning that we went to church over the weekend which may lead to people asking questions and having a desire to come along and see. We have sometimes mentioned a familiar statistic that it takes people an average of seven contacts with the church before they are willing to accept missionary discussions. So our focus as the missionaries in Dapto has not been just to ask for referrals, but to help these members set goals for “open your mouth” moments (OYMs) for the next 7 days. Not necessarily a goal for how many they will invite to church or to take the discussions, that is usually a bit daunting, but a goal for how many times they can mention something about the church and make one of those “seven contacts”. We have found that the members really have a desire to do missionary work, and they say that they already talk to their friends all the time about the church! “That’s easy!” they will sometimes say. So we have asked them to set goals for the number of times they will do this in the next 7 day and the next week we have followed up to see how their experience was. So far this has not led us to any new investigators, but it has encouraged some of these members to talk about the gospel with people they had not thought to do so before, is this not our commitment at baptism to stand as witnesses of god at all times and in all things and in all places? We hope this small project will help to build their confidence as those great witnesses of the gospel, and to look for opportunities to share testimony and experiences with those around them.

            On Tuesday after a companion exchange with the APs we drove back to our flat to find the other missionaries already parked in the driveway. So we drove a bit further down the street to park and talk about the exchange. As we spoke I noticed two men on our front lawn, pretty soon they took out a camera and were taking pictures with our house. I thought that was pretty weird, but as I got out of the car to see what was up I was put at ease to find one of them wearing a BYU shirt. Haha Gave me a bit of a scare for a second, but it was just a couple former Sydney missionaries on a visit to see the old areas where they had served. I was fun to catch up with them for a bit and talk about the mission.

            A funny coincidence this week was that we seemed like we kept breaking everything this week! I don’t know what the deal was, but I broke my watch while cleaning the gutters for sister bramblett who’s husband is in hospital, I split my pants while lifting some furniture for a member of the bishopric, as we were unlocking the gate around the chapel (and I still have no idea how this happened) the padlock fell to pieces! But don’t worry it’s held together with scotch tape at the moment. Haha. Hopefully we have better luck next week!

            A couple of weeks ago while shopping at Woolworths we found a less-active member named Robin who is not on our church records. As a side note, I am amazed at how many members I have found on my mission who are missing from the records. I don’t think it is a coincidence that the Lord puts these, his missing covenant people in our paths. In any case, he was a nice guy and gave us his phone number and address. We finally went to go visit him this week. He is a bit eccentric, has had some negative experiences in other wards where he has lived in, but seems to have a strong faith in god and the priesthood, etc. We had a good talk with him, but did not think much of it until that night when Elder Young and I were laying in bed talking about the day and got a phone call. It was robin calling to thank us for our visit that day. He shared that as we were having the closing prayer, he felt something that he described “another presence” in the room that he had only felt once before in his life when ordaining a young man to the priesthood. I was pretty amazed by this; we had no idea prior to his call that he had experienced such a profound and noteworthy outpouring of the spirit. I had actually been having a pretty crummy week prior to this and was not feeling much in the way of spiritual strength at all, but in spite of that, I suppose the spirit accompanied us that evening, and we were privileged to be present as this man felt the presence of God in his living room. He invited us back whenever we’d like, I hope we can continue to help strengthen him.

            I heard a cool story from an older couple who invited us to dinner this week that I think is worth remembering. Sister Legget told us of an experience from when she was raising her sons on a remote property in western Queensland. She said one some other boys came to stir up trouble and were trowing stones at her sons, which of course led to a bit of a brawl. She said she did not know what to do; she was just a young mother with no neighbours close by, and a husband away at work. She followed a spiritual prompting to go out to the group of boys and say “alright boys, its time for afternoon tea” To her surprise, almost immediately the argument was resolved and the boys all came inside for lunch. It’s a testimony to the simple mindedness of young boys, but even more a testimony of the saviours counsel to bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you and pray for them who despitefully use you and persecute you. That is how we become the children of God, and I know he blesses his children.

            There are two ladies that Id like to mention because of their kindness. I suppose a few sentences cannot express the goodness they have shown us, but perhaps through the spirit you can know of my gratitude. The first is colleen Sloan, and older aboriginal lady always happy for a talk with the servants of the Lord as she calls us. The last few weeks however she has decided it to be her personal mission to feed us. She is a widow so we cannot go into her home, but she has a few plastic containers that she fills up, and whenever we try and return them she calls us the next day to say that they are full of a new dish she would like us to pick up. It’s pretty cool because she has also shown us a few traditional aboriginal dishes. Anyway, I am particularly touched by how she never fails to remind us that she is praying for us that the Lord will use us in his work, and last night she said she loves us as if we were her own sons. I am so grateful for her kindness. The other motherly figure I’ll mention is leane shepherd. Ill tell you a funny story from last night that demonstrates her kindness and concern for the missionaries. Since we had exhausted our kilometre allotment in our car, we have been on foot for a while. Last night we went to have dinner with leane and her son Ben. AS we left she was so worried for us to be walking in the dark, I have no idea why, elder young and I are not at all petite, and its really not in any way a dangerous neighbourhood we were walking through, but she insisted that she would give us a lift home, but since there was no adult male, we had to decline and after a bit of resistance she allowed us to leave. But in just a couple minutes, leane and Ben pulled up beside us and invited to give us a ride. Of course, being against mission rules we had to decline. So she insisted to follow us in the car until we made it home safely. Honestly this made me pretty uncomfortable to be followed by a car as we walked home, ha-ha, I felt pretty silly because there was nothing at all dangerous or irresponsible with what we were doing, but I am grateful for her motherly concern, and for everything else she has done for us.

            We attended a baptism in Wollongong because it was scheduled right before our regular interviews with president howes. He ended up being really late which made things hard for our schedule that night, but it was good to be at the baptism. The Wollongong sisters had only been teaching this Japanese guy named Vincent for 3 weeks, he was found at a bus stop with no previous belief on god. He bore his testimony after the baptism and seems to be very solid. A great blessing to see someone progress so quickly. Interviews were great as well, President is a great man, he helps me so much. While elder young had his interview I was talking to sister howes about the scriptures. She asked my favourite scripture and I said Romans 8:16-19, she then pointed out one of her favourites on the next page, Romans 8:35, 37-39. I would definitely recommend you read those! I will be pondering them a lot in the coming days.

            So as I said, I saved the best news for last! I hope I left myself enough time. So this may sound funny, but I have been nervous to talk to the Matthews family about teariki’s baptism. I think It’s because I love that family so much, so the same reason it’s sometimes hard for family to invite family members to progress. They have been making so much progress! They have come to church 5 times in a row, a record for the past 8 years, so I guess I have not wanted them to feel pressured. But I heard that in the next week sydelles family will be visiting from New Zealand for a few weeks. So I found the courage to suggest that it may be a good time for tearikis baptism because his grandfather could perform the ordinance and his family will get to be there. I was pretty nervous that they might feel pressured, but I was wrong. To my great joy, they had already been thinking about this, but did not know how to proceed, they literally just needed someone to invite and encourage them. So now that’s the plan J Teariki will be getting baptized in the next few weeks. As we talked about this, I could feel the spirit sweep over this family. Honestly, I think they have surprised themselves at how far they have come, I don’t know if they would have imagined this. Just a few months ago the kids hardly knew anything about the church, now their families are regulars. Anyway I will have more to say next week, but I too am amazed by the power of the spirit, and the joys my mission has brought me.

            Have a wonderful week 🙂

            Sincerely Elder Faulkner

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