Wow. This week has been incredible. I can hardly believe some of it. One of the most eventful weeks of my mission. but sadly I do not have a lot of time to write
I will start with the beginning and see how far I can get though! for our P-day we got to go fishing with a less active member’s husband named Hans hartman. He is a really interesting guy, but thats another story. Anyway it was a few hours in the rain only to catch a few small fish, but it was a fun time.
Tuesday we had an incredible experience with Paul. He has been away on holiday in coffs harbour for two weeks, but since he is back we offered to help him lay some mulch in his back yard. while we were doing so he said that he has definitely decided to be baptised, and soon, he doesn’t want to put it off any longer. Elder young said,well how long were you thinking, like tommorrow? haha. but he said in the next few weeks. Its amazing, we still have not taught him hardly anything, I am amazed at his faith, so interesting to watch him progress all on his own.
quick side note. I finished the gospels in the New testament and am on to acts, also, on friday our district leader thought it would be funnny for elder young’s last role play to have him role play asking a girl to marry him. haha, he did not think it was very funny.
We had an exchange with the wollongon elders this week that led to a lot of miracles, but two stand out. First being that elder samuela knew a missionary a few weeks ago in the mtc that has a cousin living in our area. He gave us her address and we went to visit her on our exchange. Her name is shayla Kautia, from NZ, its awesome because she is a less active member who is not on our ward records, so its a miracle to even locate her, buts whats even cooler is that she has a partner who has learned from missionaries in the past in NZ and they have always planned no getting married and him being baptised, but since moving to australia that all got put on the backburner. It turns out that she knows a bunch of the kiwi members in the area including sister matthews, shayla was impressed to hear that sis was coming back to church and that teariki was getting baptised, so hopefully she may have a desire to follow sydelle’s example, and she will have a great support system in the ward. They said we were welcom to come back any evening, heaps of potential with this family!
Believe it or not we contacted another part member family who are not on our ward list during that same exchange. The Amone family from Tonga, they are incredible, Their house looks like a night club, haha, but anyway its in the tongan culture to be very hospitable to ministers of religion, and they are the most classic examples of this I have ever seen. They invited all four of us to dinner that night, and as soon as they heard elder young was finishing his mission on monday they told us to come back the next day so they could cook us a pig and a farewell feast. I was pinning out, we had only known them for an hour, but by the next day after playing football with the kids and having that going away party, no one would have guessed that we were anything but the best of friends. They are amazing examplesof kindness and service and friendship. only the mom is a member everyone else is practicing catholics, but they love the missionaries. amazing family, I am sure the elders will have a lot to do with them in the coming months.
Teariki’s baptism went sooo well. The service was amazing. His grandparents both spoke and we even got sydelle to give the opening prayer, you could tell how much this baptism meant not only for teariki, but for the whole family. What made me so happy was that although we organized the whole program, the ward fully supported it and was involved, and you never could have known that missionaries had anytthing to do with it. I am still amazed how a few months ago this family was totaly inactive, but now blen in so well, no one would ever know they had not been active for their whole lives. its a miracle. Afterward the sisters in the ward organized the biggest post baptism feed I have ever seen. What was also great was that the matthews invited 3 non member families to the service, perhaps some work to do there as well! despite the fact that we did not have a key to the font and I had to jump over the glass before filling it up (its alot deeper than I thought, dont think Ill try that again. haha) and that teariki forgot to bring shoes haha, everything went so well. It was like a crowning event for all the progress this family has made, it was also very special for elder young, getting to see this baptism the last week of his mission and to participate for the first time in a confirmation. anyway, I have a bit more ot say for this family I will write at the end of this letter.
First a miracle to share. My district leader called and asked if I knew a vietnamese girl from hyde park branch named kimbibi, he said he met her that night and she said she knew me. She was actually the first person I babptised on my mission! so yes I know her quite well! Apparently that day they were teaching their investigator at the university in wollongon and a girl came up and asked if they were elders and if she could join the lesson. Turns out the investigator they were teaching was struggling with the decision to ba baptised because it would mean he would have to stop workin on sundays. Amazingly that was exactly kimbibi’s story, which she of course shared and bore testimony that her decision to quit her job and be baptised was the bast decision she has ever made. Wollongong’s investigator said that her experience and testimony was the greatest contribution to his decision to be baptised and they set a date for hisbaptism that night and he talked to his boss the next day. This was clearly no coincidence. I got to call her that night, it has been a long tims since I have spoken to her, it was amazing for me to see how she is still strong in the gospel and is being used as an instrument in bringing others the gospel as well. She said she was just visiting a friend in wollongon and she said he is not a member “yet” haha. so perhaps that will be wollongong’s next investigator. such a great experience.
President Howes called me saturday morning and said “Elder Faulkner I have a dilema, I want to call you to be a zone leader again, but you have a few baptisms coming up in dapto, so if you are willing to accept that calling, I will arrange for you to be able to go back to dapto for the baptisms.” I of course accepted, but I was a bit shocked at the same time. I had a feeling all that week that I would be transferred, but since elder young was going home I did not really want to believe it, that we would both go at such a great time of growth in the area. I wish I could describe the feelings that I had this weekend. A big mix of saddness, fear and hop that the next missionaries could continue the great successes we have been seeing, nervousness for my next assignment, but also a feeling that the Lord was pleased and accepted the efforts I have given in this area.
Anyway, We got to see margret that evening and set a date and plans for her baptism on the 28th of june. I am honored that she has asked me to perform that ordinance. She is a wonderful lady, she will be such a strength to dapto ward. I am so grateful that president will allow me to return for that exciting day.
So I cannot put entirely into words what I want to say to close this letter. Transfers give you such little notice, but while there was a lot of people I would have liked to see, the only ones I really needed to see was the matthews family. You may know by now after reading these letters that I have come to love this young family with all my heart, I have always known they would be hard to say goodbye to, but it wsa more than I could have imagined. I have told you before in these letters that there are only a handful of people I have really felt a deep connection to, and the matthews really stand out in this way. I was so glad that we got a chance to have dinner with their family sunday night and a few hours to play with the kids. Before we left, something peculiar and beautiful happened. We were going to say a prayer, up to that point no one had really said much about us leaving, I guess we all knew it would be a hard thing, but as we sat down to say some last testimonies, my feelings overcame me, and as I looked in the eyes of the whole family (excepting pokiah who had to go to work) tears were in their eyes as well. I dont know if you rememeber but about 10 weeks I told you about how brother duncan told us that sydelle felt that we were sent to bring her family back to church. Before that I told you about how confused I was to have been transferred from my previous area. I have also told you about a lot of unique struggles that I have had in this area, alot of the time I have really wondered why I was in that area. But in that moment, the spirit enlightened me, and confirmed an assumption I have had my entire time here, that the single most significat purpose I had in dapto was exactly what sydelle said, to bring this family back to church. The fact that teariki’s baptism coincided so perfectly with his grandparents trip here and the final week of this transfer is no coincidence in my eyes. The miracles we have see with them and finally a feeling that they are part of the ward before leaving here also confirms this feeling to me. Looking back at my heart during this time I have spent in dapto ward, I see how god has let me go through struggles and pain and even self doubt for the benefit of at least this family. I came to know christ in that moment, to see in a small way what it is like to be sent by god for the salvation of another. In a unuique way I came to know gods love for them, I know he loved them enough to send me, and that he loved me enough to send me to them. I dont remember what was said by everyone, but whenever I see tears of love and joy I will remember the feeling that was felt there. There are very few I have known who have been brought to tears because of the news of my transfer, but this family and I wept for a time. The apostle paul wrote to the thesselonians in 1 thess 2:3-9 about the godly ministry he and his companions sought for among them, in verse 8 he said that they “imparted unto you, not the gospel only, but also our own souls, because ye were dear to us” I feel that I also left somewhat of my soul with this family, along with several others scattered across the sydney mission field. My experiences with the matthews will always be held among the sacred memories of my mission. I cannot quite explain that feeling, its a hard on at the moment, but a powerful one, one that brings a deep and abiding joy, even the love of god. I hope I can find those others in my next area whom god has sent me to. I dont know if I have said this to you before, but sometihng I have learned on my mission is that if it is not painful to leave and area, perhaps I have not done the work how I should have. My calling requires all my heart, might and mind, its hard to know full if you have fulfilled this commission until you are called to leave, and I feel at least somewhat I have been blessed by god to have the love to claim this in dapto. I cant ttell you how much
Love Always, Elder Ryan Faulkner