So it was a pretty different week here in Bathurst. Starting a brand new area comes with some interesting challenges! not to mention helping a brand new zone get started in their own areas! A lot of time spent just trying to sort where everything is, and who everyone is, planning, organizing, etc. We have kinda just scratched the surface on all this, but I think we have a pretty good idea about what we need to do and the direction we are going! The good news is that we have pretty much met every active member in the branch! They are all so wonderful! One of the real positives of being the first set of missionaries in a long time is that when people see you they are so excited!!! Everyone we visited was so happy to see us, was so welcoming, most have invited us over for dinner already and many have told us about friends or family they would like us to work with. I have felt so welcomed and special in the homes of these good members. As you may imagine, our arrival became a huge topic of conversation among the members this week! not to mention in our fast and testimony meeting, every testimony we heard included the members testimony of missionary work and their gratitude to finally have missionaries again in Bathurst. It reminds me of the great honor this calling is, I cannot express haw privileged I feel to be here in this area and zone. Of course, part of that privilege will require a lot of work! probably harder work than has ever been required of me, I have to remember that this calling is a sacred trust and great responsibility from the Lord.
We had the chance to have the first ever Orange Zone Training meeting. The “training” I felt prompted to give was really just an extended testimony of the things I learned a year ago when I had the chance to open Dubbo branch to missionary work. It has been sweet to have this time to think back on all the miracles we saw during my time there, my hope was that my testimony would aid these young missionaries in developing faith to find those miracles in their own new areas. Because of some logistical issues, we actually ended up giving two separate trainings, first to orange and dubbo on Thursday evening, and then to mudgee and cowra on Friday morning. So I modified my remarks a bit based on the needs of the different missionaries and areas, but basically it was that I wanted these missionaries to know how wonderful an opportunity this is, some would grumble about the challenges of going to a area with no investigators, but I just marvel at this chance. how many missionaries get this opportunity? very few. How many get the chance to be part of a brand new zone? even fewer… So its pretty undeniable that this is kind of a hard assignment for everyone, but I did my best to explain the strength of our position. We talked a bit about 2 cor 12:7-10 which reads: “7 And lest I should be aexalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a bthorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure.8 For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me.9 And he said unto me, My agrace is sufficient for thee: for my bstrength is made perfect in cweakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may drest upon me.10 Therefore I take pleasure in ainfirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in bpersecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am cweak, then am I dstrong.”
This is a major lesson I have learned from my mission. I have come to glory in my challenges like paul because those are the times that the power of Christ, by necessity, rests upon me, and his power is much much greater than mine. I plead with my missionaries to develop a similar attitude. I told them that to be successful in their new assignments that is would require MORE than the very best of them, It would require the power of God. So I am so greatful to have a situation that exceeds my abilities, its in those times the Lord has promised me his help… It reminds me of a quote that has become scripture to me… I don’t know the author but it says : “don’t pray for tasks that are equal to your abilities, pray for abilities equal to your tasks, and the performance of your tasks will be no miracle, YOU will be the miracle” there are not many better situations on the mission to see these scriptures fulfilled than while opening a new area!
I spoke with some of the missionaries about Joseph, who was sold by his brothers into Egypt. He was thrown into a pit but it then led to him being in charge of potiphers house. He later was thrown into prison, but he soon became in charge of the prison! and later, second in power of all of Egypt. How can this be? both potipher and the prison keeper shared their feelings: In Genesis 39: 3 and 23: “3 And his master saw that the Lord was with him, and that the Lord made all that he did to aprosper in his hand. and “23 The keeper of the prison looked not to any thing that was under his hand; because the Lord was with him, and that which he did, the Lord made it toaprosper.”
I know that as these elders will work according to the spirit, they will find that all they do will prosper. It does not matter how hard a task we are given, the Lord has power to make it prosper… Joseph later said to his brethren when they asked forgiveness for throwing him into the pit (gen. 50) ” Fear not: for am I in the place of God?20 But as for you, ye thought aevil against me; but God bmeant it unto cgood, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive. 21 Now therefore fear ye not: I will anourish you, and your little ones. And he comforted them, and spake kindly unto them.”
I expect that when these missionaries look back on their mission they will have similar feelings, they will have no ill feelings tword our mission president for throwing them into a hard task, because they will have seen how it was the work of god, to “save much people alive” again… how many missionaries have an opportunity like this… I challenged them to work as hard as they can, so that their service here in orange will be a witness of the power and majesty of God….
Idk, as I looked into the eyes of these missionaries, half of them are brand new, some only 18, all are new to their leadership roles, I thought of Pauls words in 1 Corinthians: 27 But God hath chosen the afoolish things of the world to bconfound the wise; and God hath chosen the cweak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; and “1 And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the atestimony of God. 2 For I determined not to know any thing among you, asave Jesus Christ, and him bcrucified. 3 And I was with you in aweakness, and in fear, and in much trembling.4 And my aspeech and my preaching was not with benticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the cSpirit and of dpower:5 That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the apower of God.”
The fruit and sucesses we will surely see will be nothing short of a miracle and a demonstration of the power of God.
There was a lot more I said, but I think Ill leave it at that for now. I have so much faith in these young missionaries, I have so much joy for them in all the growth and challenges they will see in the coming months, I feel humbled to be a leader to them, perhaps all of the growth and challenges and miracles I have seen have prepared me for this task, surely my mission has taught me to believe that good can come from hard things.
now I have some other news I want to share!!!!!!!!
-Mark timothy Riley, a man I baptized and ordained to the Aaronic priesthood in dubbo last year went to the temple a few weeks ago! Also, following up on several people I found in dubbo, there are many who are still progressing, two are going to be baptised very soon! Its so cool to get to see how my old area is doing!!! I hope I can see some of them when we go on exchanges in dubbo!
-there is a member that had a dream last weekend, she saw in her dream two elders in a white car! her husband jokingly told her that she should see a doctor! but has now apologized after finding a few days later two elders with a white car come to Bathurst! that was really cool.
-We have an investigator named tania, in the first few minutes of teaching her she said she is planning on being married so she can get baptised!
-Elder skinner was really happy to find that we have a Japanese member in our branch! he said this is the first Japanese member he has met in Australia! so they actually invited us for dinner tomorrow, he is looking forward to having some Japanese food. haha. Elder skinner is a great cook himself by the way, its great having a Japanese companion.
– We had the chance to give several priesthood blessings this week, that is always a great honour, the reason I mention this is because two of them were actually the daughters of our investigator Tania. I am so amazed by this woman, I think I said last week that she has been to church several times, and from what we can tell, knows a lot about the church already and has wanted to be baptised for several years! Its not every day you meet someone so prepared to be baptised!
-Our branch president invited us to come see his work today for P-day, he works in the jail! haha, he oversees an aboriginal art studio in the jail, so it will be pretty cool to get to see some of how aboriginal art is done!
-I had a great thought this sunday in our fast and testimony meeting. Both elder skinner and I bore our testimony, after I sat down, I realised something… I have had for years a kind of vision of the kind of testimony I wanted to develop on my mission, you know what I mean, when you hear RMs speak they have a special spirit in their words, you feel that what they are saying is based on two years of intensive spiritual experience. I have coveted those testimonies, I have served my mission with that in mind, I have exercised faith, worked hard, given my heart might mind and strength as best I can with a hope that one day I would have the personal experience and faith to say I KNOW these things are true…. I realised that I have come to feel that way. It was kind of the first time I realised this, but everything I bore witness of was based on my own personal relationship and dealings with My heavenly father and jesus Christ.. I felt some emotion in this, surely that is one of the greatest rewards of my mission, to be able to say authoritatively within myself that I KNOW these things are true, I have felt it, I have seen it, I know it… The joy of this is far deeper that I could have ever known as a young men looking up to those Return Missionaries, Its a joy I could only feel from actually having served a mission… as I sat pondering this, our branch president got up to bear a closing testimony, and I noticed something new… He said very similar things to what others have said, but I felt a powerful spirit in his words. I realised that my journey is far from over… The Lord has brought me close to him through my mission, but I realised that there is a witness I do not yet have, I looked back into my life to all the Men I know like President Reiri (branch pres.), my grandfathers, bishops, stake presidents, even the few seventy and apostles I have met. These men have not only developed the I KNOW of personal experience, but have gained an I KNOW of living faithfully and committed to that knowledge their whole lives. This is my hope for my life, its going to take a lot more than two years, its going to require the rest of my life, but my hope is that when my life comes to a close, I can be like those high priests I now revere, and be able to stand and claim Jesus as my personal Saviour, I will be able to stand and allow my life to be a witness of my love for him, perhaps I will not need to say very much at all, but I will know and God will know that I have loved and served him to the end. I hope I never forget this.
I really love this work. I really am not perfect, its funny, when you come unto Christ he does show you your weaknesses(ether 12:27), but I have a hope he will help me overcome them. I love you all. I have heard a lot of good news from home and friends these past few weeks… I am thinking of several people when I say that… so if you are reading this please accept this as a personal message to each of you: Thank you for your faith in Christ, your faith strengthens me more than you could know. I am so happy for the blessings you have shared with me, I hope its okay if I count them as blessings for me as well, because I have been praying for you. I love you, there are indeed awesome things in store for those who follow the commandments and the spirit, please hearken unto that voice and none else. (Isaiah 30:21) “And thine ears shall hear a word behind thee, saying, This is the way, awalkye in it,” please walk in that way, even if it means taking a few steps into the dark, even if you think you may stumble, even if looks like a long road, you will not be left alone, follow the spirit, I know it leads to joy, joy only god can give.
I send my love and gratitude.
Elder Ryan Faulkner