August 12, 2013

Dearest Family,
How are you this week? Its always great to hear from each of you, I am so grateful for everyone who has written me, your words and news from home sustain me more than you can know.
It has been quite a week here in bathurst. Kind of a hard one to be totally honest! haha. I have had a sore throat all week and I think maybe an ear infection?. I Kept hoping that it would just go away, but no luck so far, so I will be going to the doctor today haha. I have learned an interesting principle from this that I am greatful to now know! That is: when you are sick or uncomfortable, it is a lot harder to feel the inspiring voice of the spirit. It takes a lot more of self will to keep working! I don’t Know about you, but I think I can trust more int he spirit than self will! So, Ill try and take better care of myself in the future, missionary work is so enjoyable when you are happy and healthy, everything seems like good news! haha, but when your sick, pretty much everything turns into a burden! so…. take care of yourselves, sometimes the temporal details in life can have quite an effect on the spiritual, take time to be organized, rest, fix problems and the spirit will be in your heart in greater abundance.
It was a great week regardless! Ill share a few of the details!
-Some of the biggest news was that one of my investigators from dapto named Paul Souris was baptised this last weekend 🙂 If you go back to my letters from a few months ago, you will remember that this guy was really a miracle, I cannot tell you how happy I was to hear he made it to baptism 🙂 I really wish I could have been there, but it is enough to have heard it on the weekly conference call we have with the other zone leaders on Thursday evenings.
-We have started working with 4 more investigators this week, they are really really great investigators. Its great to see that while we do not have very many investigators at this stage of the game, the ones we have been able to find are very prepared! One is named Enro, he is about 18, samoan from new Zealand, he lives with his sister maggie who is a less active member, they were so welcoming when we stoped by their place this week, enro was very open to receiving all the missionary lessons, and we have actually set up to teach them every Wednesday! What was pretty cool is that they are the brother and sister of our relief society president sister Su’a, when we told her about everything, she was very surprised, she did not expect they would be so open to meeting with us, so this is better news than we even expected! ITs pretty cool teaching young adults, since we are about the same age we are able to relate in a way that promotes a lot of trust and friendship. I am pretty stoked to be teaching this guy, everyone needs the gospel in their life, but its especially important as a young adult I think, I hope we can help him to turn to god at this important time of his life. Also, we had dinner at a less active families (the fisk family) house last night, one of the brothers named Adrian invited his friend steph to come and meet us, the other brother damion has a wife named tracy that we also started teaching. This family is cool as. I will be honest, when we first met them I did not expect them to be all that interested, they are a bit rough around the edges, your typical aussie, love beer, a lot of swearing, etc. but I need to repent of that opinion, they are a very spiritually sensitive group. I have just been so happy about the couple of visits we have had with them. They love the missionaries for one thing, its obvious they had some very close friendships with missionaries in the past, but  its not just that, they have a great trust in god, they do have a desire to come back to church, damion even surprised us last night and asked how he could purchase a set of scriptures. I think we will be working a lot with this family. Its like we have formed an instant friendship, especially with the two sons. I hope we can repay them for their kindness with the message that we carry. Stoked about this family as well. One cool note, the father, Arthur fisk makes handmade longbows. He showed us around his workshop the other day, its amazing how much work goes into this, Also, he is in a wheelchair and has competed in 4 para-olympics (sp?) the last one in England brought with it some colourful stories including Arthur swearing at prince Charles. haha. He is one of the most interesting guys I have ever met, also such a sweet guy, loves the missionaries. I am sure my future letters will have more to say about this family.
-So, a huge part of our work at the moment is going through the records of previous missionaries to continue in the work they left behind. Its a bit complicated because there were a few senior couples that served here and they all have different ways of keeping records, so its been a bit tricky, but I am so greatful for the work they have done!!!! we owe so much to the work they did here. We have made some goals and plans to meet everyone on the branch records, and to follow up with several former investigators. This has brought some mixed results! haha. so far we have been able to identify that roughly 50% of the members on our records do not live at the address listed on our records. Also, following up on a former investigator took us on a bit of a wild goose chase for several hours outside of town only to find that she has moved to south Australia. haha. But it did afford us a beautiful country drive, seriously, the NSW country is gorgeous, Bathurst region has a bit of a different landscape compared to Dubbo, I guess we have gotten to see parts of Australia most missionaries miss out on.
-we had a bit of a scare with out investigator tania this week, remember she is the one that wants to be baptised as soon as she gets married? well, the mudgee elders asked us if we knew what their area boundaries were, and we had no idea! so the next day we went and printed out maps of the branch boundaries in the district… we were so sad to find that oberon (the town she lives in) is not only outside of Bathurst boundaries, but also is outside of our mission boundaries! haha, we had no idea, so we called our mission president to apologise for leaving our mission boundaries several times the previous week, haha. its seems like no one had any idea about this, because one of the counsellors in the branch presidency lives in oberon! The tricky thing is that the branch oberon is assigned to is an hour and a half away! and the missionaries assigned to cover oberon in the north mission are over two hours away! so, what it came to was that president Lew asked us to write up a report explaining the situation, he spoke with president howes and we have permission to still teach tania and go to oberon. Looks like that report has been forwarded to the area presidency to discuss potentially redrawing the boundaries to include oberon in Bathurst branch and sydney south mission permanently. Pretty cool! we’ll see what happens.
-I had a chance to speak in sacrament! one of those times the speaker was going to be away so president reiri (branch president) called meSaturday to ask if I would speak! It was cool, the topic was the spirit of Elijah/ baptisms for the dead. fortunately I had read the sections in the doctrine and covenants pertaining to baptism for the dead and temple work just a few weeks ago, so this was fresh on my mind. I have stopped writing out my talks, I think I am a bit addicted to the experience of speaking by the spirit. haha. That is really a wonderfully peculiar experience, to stand and give a talk equipped with nothing but my scriptures and what I have “treasured up in my mind”, I remember the first time I did that back in Canberra, it was a massive step of faith, but since then I have come to trust that, so long as I have studied and prepared, I will receive the promise repeated in  he scriptures, that “it will be given in the hour, even the very moment what I should say”. Again, that is a wonderfully strange experience I am coming to love. In any case, I think It went really well, something I was reminded of that ended up being a very touching experience for me, was that during my talk, I remembered an experience I had in the temple almost two years ago… I have never taken a name for my own family to the temple, so I was not able to testify of the blessings of that work, but my mind went back to the day after I received my own endowment. Since I was living in provo Utah at the time, I was very close to the temple, and decided to go back the very next day… I remember right before I went into the changing room a woman stopped me with a stack of names of her family members, since she was a woman she could not perform the ordinances for her male ancestors, she asked me to do one for her. I of course accepted this opportunity, (it has actually been my one and only experience like this, since every time I have returned to the temple since, I have just done names provided by the temple). in any case, the spirit reminded me of something from that day, I remembered clearly in my mind seeing that woman after the temple session in the celestial room where I returned the card for her ancestor. I remembered vividly her gratitude for the service I had done for her, a work she could not have done on her own. That was a sweet memory that brought power and spirit beyond my own power of testimony. In essence that is the spirit of temple work, a work for and in behalf of those who are not able to do it for themselves, It highlighted deeply in my heart the verse of scripture that for our ancestors being taught the gospel in the spirit world: “we without them cannot be made perfect, neither can they without us be made perfect, neither they nor we can be made perfect without those who have died in the gospel also” what a beautiful work, us on earth working hand in hand with missionaries in heaven to bring the ordinances of the gospel to our kindred dead. I suppose salvation is a family affair, we need each other 🙂 So, my testimony of vicarious temple work grew a lot this week… I have not thought about that woman I met in the temple for a long time, but this experience has become a great symbol to me of what it will be like to  one day meet those we have shared the gospel with in the celestial kingdom, the joy and love and thanksgiving we will share together will be powerful beyond measure.
-oh, I will actually be speaking next Sunday as well!!! this time a more familiar topic: missionary work and the priesthood!
-after church we had a branch potluck lunch. It was really fun! awesome food! the branch is really like a family here, such a different world compared to a large ward. I cant say it is better or worse, just different, I must express again my gratitude for having this unique chance to serve in this growing part of the Lords kingdom.
-We attended our branch council meeting after church. Again, so different when compared to a large ward, it seemed like EVERYTHING revolved around the missionaries in one way or another. I am not really one who likes to be the centre of attention, so, honestly, this was kind of uncomfortable. haha. but I guess this is one of those times we need to lose ourselves for the sake of the work. The Lord is teaching me a lot through this area already. reminds me of a quote I heard a few weeks ago. There is no comfort in the “growth zone” but there is no growth in the “comfort zone”. I am glad the Lord sees fit to direct me out of my comfort zones. I hope it is met with spiritual growth, there is definitely a lot of growth needed from my part. Anyway, the branch leadership are awesome! They are so committed to helping us find people to teach and be involved in our work, President Reiri told us he would like to organize splits with us every week! Since there are so few priesthood bretheren in the branch that is a massive commitment! Also, believe it or not, there are 4 families that say they want to feed us every week! We made sure to tell them they do not need to do that but they insist! I thought I would have a chance to lose weight in this area, I expected we would hardly get fed here, haha, but they are not going to let me off that easy. haha. I say that in jest, I am actually so grateful, so amazed with the kindness we are receiving here… Ill just have to put the weight loss off a few more months ;P
So, in closing, it was a great week, great people. We are no where near as busy as my previous area, its actually almost comical to compare the two areas, just completely different! haha. But I feel so good with what we have been accomplishing here.
I included a poem at the end of this letter. I have collected pages and pages of stories and poems and missionary tools from my various companions, this week elder skinner and I exchanged a few more, and while I was going through all that paperwork I found this poem. It really struck me powerfully, maybe it has a greater affect on me because I am a runner, IDK,  but I share it here in hopes that it will affect you positively as well 🙂 I hope we can all live by the message in this poem
Elder Ryan Faulkner.

“Quit! Give up! You’re beaten!” they shout at me, and plead.
“There’s just too much against you, this time you can’t succeed.”

And as I start to hang my head in front of failure’s face,
My downward fall is broken by the memory of a race.
And hope refills my weakened will, as I recall that scene,
For just the thought of that short race, rejuvenates my being.

They all lined up so full of hope, each thought to win that race.
Or tie for first, or if not that, at least take second place.
And fathers watched from off the side, each cheering for his son,
And each boy hoped to show his dad, that he would be the one.

The whistle blew, and off they went, young hearts and hopes afire,
To win and be the hero there was each young boy’s desire.
And one boy in particular, whose dad was in the crowd,
Was running near the lead, and thought, “My dad will be so proud!”
But as he speeded down the field and crossed a shallow dip,
the little boy who thought to win, lost his step and slipped.
Trying hard to catch himself, his arms flew out to brace,
and midst the laughter of the crow,d he fell flat on his face

But as he fell, his dad stood up, and showed his anxious face,
Which to the boy so clearly said, “Get up and win the race.”
He quickly rose, no damage done, behind a bit, that’s all,
And ran with all his mind and might to make up for his fall.

So anxious to restore himself, to catch up and to win,
His mind went faster than his legs; he slipped and fell again!
He wised then he had quit before with only one disgrace.
“I’m hopeless as a runner now, I shouldn’t try to race.”

But in the laughing crowd he searched, and found his father’s face,
that steady look that said again, “Get up and win the race!”
So up he jumped to try again, ten yards behind the last,
“If I’m to gain those yards,” he thought, “I’ve got to move real fast.”

Exceeding everything he had, he gained back eight or ten,
But trying so to catch the lead, he slipped and fell again.
Defeat! He lay there silently, a tear dropped from his eye.
“There is no sense in running more. Three strikes, I’m out, why try?”

The will to rise had disappeared, all hope had fled away.
So far behind, so error prone, a loser all the way.
“I’ve lost, so what’s the use,” he thought, “I’ll live with my disgrace.”
But then he thought about his dad, who soon he’d have to face.

“Get up!” an echo sounded low, “Get up, and take your place.
You were not meant for failure here, get up and win the race.”
“With borrowed will, get up,” it said, “You have not lost at all.
For winning is no more than this: to rise each time you fall.”

So up he rose to run once more, and with a new commit,
He resolved that win or lose, at least he wouldn’t quit.
So far behind the others now, the most he’d ever been,
Still he gave it all he had, and ran as though to win.

Three times he’d fallen stumbling, three times he’d rose again,
Too far behind to hope to win he still ran to the end.
They cheered the winning runner, as he crossed the line first place.
Head high and proud and happy, no falling, no disgrace.

But when the fallen youngster crossed the finish line last place,
The crowd gave him the greater cheer for finishing the race.
And even though he came in last, with head bowed low, unproud,
You would have thought he won the race to listen to the crowd.

And to his dad, he sadly said, “I didn’t do so well.”
“To me you won!” his father said, “You rose each time you fell.”

And when things seem dark and hard, and difficult to face,
The memory of that little boy helps me to win my race.
For all of life is like that race, with ups and downs and all,
And all you have to do to win is rise each time you fall.

“Quit! Give up! You’re beaten!” they still shout in my face.
But another voice within me says: “GET UP AND WIN THE RACE!”

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