June 11, 2013

Everyone!

This was really a wonderful week for me! I hope you enjoyed yours! I am so excited to tell you about everything that happened this week.

            One very meaningful thing for me was that this week I reached 18 months as a full time missionary! I cannot believe how quickly that time went, especially the last 6 months. There are some very interesting feelings that come when reaching this milestone. The first being a shock or sadness or anxiety with how short my remaining time as a missionary now is! Only 4 transfers! Only 24 weeks, only 6 months! Wow, it is especially poignant with Elder Young as a companion, who finishes in just one week, constantly reminding me how quickly these next 6 months will go! This is honestly hard for me to think about, I love my mission, it’s hard to finally be realizing that it will end, I have always known that of course, but never felt so real until now. There is a silver lining to all this however. Looking back on my mission, I found that one thing that really helped me progress near the beginning of my mission was the separation I felt from my former life. Really everything was different or new, or special and exciting in some way, it was not difficult to give my whole heart and soul to it, because everything I was doing was different from before! But of course, as I went along, I started to become used to life as a missionary, all those features that once stood apart, that forced me to learn and grow became ordinary parts of my life. You could guess that in many ways this was a great thing! I was more comfortable and confident in missionary tasks, but as that gap of newness and separation just faded into normal life, so also faded a bit of fire and excitement of being set apart as a missionary. I found this week however, with the end finally on the horizon, that sacred setting apart return to me. For the first time, while writing these words, tears are in my eyes as I realize once more that this mission is not ordinary life. It’s different from the beginning of my mission as it is not motivated by a shift from my previous life, but now because I realize that missionary life will only be temporary. I don’t know if this makes complete sense? But I am certainly realizing in a new way how much of an honour and privilege it is to be serving as a full time missionary. I am grateful for this new personal perspective. Moving forward I do not just see a continuation of what has become “my life” but I see the final stages of the greatest opportunity and responsibility of my life to date. This perspective will not allow me to be casual or to miss opportunities, but I hold these final months as sacred and precious, and I hope to do as much with them as the Lord will allow me.

            So, What I am doing to restore that excitement and vision I had at the beginning of my mission that helped me grow so greatly, and to set these last 6 months apart was first on the eve of my 18 month mark, I asked Elder Young to give me a blessing, as a kind of similitude of my setting apart. It was very powerful for me, from the moment he put his hands on my head until he finished, tears streamed down my face, there was comfort and assurance of my efforts to this point, and strength and counsel given for what lies ahead. Aside from this blessing, I have started a list of goals for my last 6 months. I am still adding to them, but I will include a copy when I am finished. I am very excited for what lies aheadJ

            So about my week, I will start with P-day. On Monday we went to a burger shop in Towradgi called “fish nets” as a district plus our zone leaders. We ate two of their “mammoth burgers”. Really only a photo can describe these things. They are disgustingly huge! Even divided among 4 it was almost impossible to finish, I will definitely not forget this P-day. Ha-ha. Afterword we walked down to the beach and saw a jellyfish wash up on shore. Elder Young and I were standing on a ledge near a rock pool watching the waves until one came a soaked us, ha-ha. The zone leaders were not too happy with this little “accident” Anyway, we finished the day playing a bit of touch rugby, it was a blast. Tomorrow for Elder Young’s last P-day we are going fishing with the husbands of one of the ladies in our ward. Fun P-days and heaps of dinner appointments are some of the advantages of having a companion who is finishing.

            Weird news was that the office mailed me a missionary tag in Chinese. Ha-ha. I did not order it, and after talking to the APs and president they don’t know anything about it either, so I don’t know how this happened, but I am pretty stoked because I have always wanted one.

            We visited a less-active woman whose profession is dream interpretation. We suggested a couple weeks ago that she read about lehi’s dream and the interpretation given to nephi a few chapters later, she really enjoyed that. She is an interesting lady for sure. She told us “her angles” told her to live on “Prana” which apparently means that you give up eating permanently and are sustained by energy or something. She said since she has started she has gone up to 20 days without food, but always gives in and eats again. Wow. Kinda surprised us because she is not the slimmest lady I have ever met. But anyway, you meet some interesting people as a missionary, but she is super nice and seems to enjoy our visits and has expressed a willingness to attend church meetings! Hopefully we can help her get back to church.

            There is a Chinese member we visit sometimes named cherry. She was baptized about 5 years ago. We stopped by one evening and she invited us to stay for dinner. She said she was making nachos based on a “how to” video she watched on you tube the night before. I share this as a kind of commentary on the lack of good Mexican food in Australia, but hers was the best I have had since coming here! I was a bit surprised that the most authentic Mexican I have eaten down under was made by a Chinese girl who had never had Mexican before in her life. Ha-ha. Certainly a pleasant surprise! But the real story here was that before we left I asked her to say a prayer in mandarin! There’s not very many Chinese here so I take every chance I get to practise what I have learned, but she said she did not know how! Ha-ha. So I had the great opportunity of teaching her the basic intro/closing language of prayer in mandarin. So she was able to say her first prayer in her native tongue. That was really a great experience for me.

            MY cowboy friend Brother Bramblett is out of hospital finally. He is an amazing man. He told us about how he was trying to convert the whole hospital, and even gave us the phone number of a man he found that was interested in learning more. He has so much faith. He asked me to give him a blessing. When you give blessings you sometimes feel the faith of whom the blessing is being given and that power pull down words from heaven. This was the case here. What impressed me the most, but did not entirely surprise me was seeing Brother bramblett hobble into church on his crutches, the first week after being released from hospital with a knee replacement, heart attack, quadruple bypass surgery, and kidney stones, it is clear that is there is any way thins man can be in church there is nothing in earth nor Hell that will keep him from being there, not even his incredibly weakened condition. There is a lot I can learn from this man.

            So I saved the best news for last! Ill start with Margret. During our lesson on Wednesday she asked at the end “so what about tithing”… since we had not talked at all with her about tithing I was a bit confused and asked her to clarify. She said something like “well I don’t see a collection plate passed around on Sundays, all I do is take take, I would like to know how to pay tithing” Incredible! We of course then explained more about tithing and luckily sister Tyson had a tithing envelope with her so we explained how we pay it and the other offerings we can give through the church. This really amazed me! I have heard other missionaries tell stories of investigators who pay tithing before baptism, but this was the first I had seen of such an experience! And completely initiated by her! But we have more good news about her! As a background, a few weeks ago Elder Young and I had planned to invite Margret to be baptised, but during the lesson, as much as I tried, I just did not feel it was the right thing to do, I did not know why, but I could tell somehow that Elder young was having the same feeling, so we didn’t. Afterward while talking about the lesson Elder young said he had a strong feeling that sister Tyson should be the one to invite Margret to be baptised. I have tried to invite fellowship to invite investigators to be baptised in the past, but they have never been comfortable with doing it, but since sister Tyson is such a great missionary, I supported this prompting and she accepted the challenge. I wished so many times in the next few weeks that she would have made the invitation, but she was waiting for the right time, and today she did! And… Margret accepted! She was so prepared to make this commitment and she is now planning on her baptism before the month is over! It is such an honour to play a role in Margret’s conversion, she is a great investigator, and sister Tyson is an amazing member that will help her every step of the way, it’s a great thing to see. More good news to come!

            The biggest news of all is Teariki’s baptism this week! It is scheduled for Thursday evening! He has passed the interview, the ward is on board and everyone is excited. I will tell you next week how it all went! Speaking of the Matthews, we got to go to Tylah’s first rugby league game! So the story goes that teariki has a deal with his dad that for every tackle and try he gets in a game his father will give him a certain amount of money, tylah was a bit jealous of all the money he was making so she decided she would give football a try herself! It turns out that in practice she was better than most of the boys on her team! But she had not played in a game until Saturday. Its fun to watch little kids play sport. She was pretty nervous and a bit hesitant at first, but it was cool to see that after she got her first tackle ho her confidence changed, she got up with a big grin on her face and played great the rest of the game. I am sure there is a parable in there somewhere. Ha-ha. It was a great moment to see, and afterward she was awarded player of the week.

            All in all it was a really enjoyable week. Really looking forward to this next week, being elder young’s last week before going home!
Let me know how everyone is back home
Love
Elder Faulkner
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