Wow, it was a really great week, I think I have a lot to say! I am not really sure just where to start! But I had some really wonderful experiences this week.
-So we went to jail this week… that may sound alarming, but I have a good explanation. haha. our branch president is actually a prison guard at Bathurst prison, most of his time he oversees an aboriginal art studio for the aboriginal inmates. He invited us to come by this week to see the art that they produce there. IT was really a cool experience! There are some really fantastic pieces of artwork that have gone through that place. my favourite was a picture of Christ that was carved into an emu egg. Most of what they do is fill large orders of small souvenir type products like boomerangs and the like. president says he can hook us up with some cheap prices…. so… if you are wondering what kind of souvenirs I will bring you from Australia… don’t be surprised if its a boomerang made in prison. haha. ;P
– so I thought of a minor miracle that I forgot to share a few weeks ago that you might think is pretty cool… so when we first got to Bathurst, we had a key to the chapel, but when we went there to check it out, we found a large gate around the property secured with a combination lock… the miracle was that I figured out the combination in a matter of minutes. haha. it was not a number that you would have guessed, just kinda good luck?
– So, perhaps prompted by some recent news from my older brother, idk, Elder skinner and I at one point in the week got into a LONG discussion about our plans for our future families. haha, actually, I remember elder skinner asking some small question about what I would do in my future family, not knowing that he was getting himself into a very long discussion, all about the ideas I have formed on my mission, and opinons and plans and taditions and hopes I have for my family. haha. anyway, I wont share too many details of what we spoke about, but I have just a few thoughts…. actually, I had a similar experience with my last companion elder bennison and at some point in our conversation he paused and said… we are so strange, almost no single men in their 20’s anywhere else in the world would be talking about this sort of thing, they would talk about sports or cars or who knows what else and here we are talking about how much we are going to love our wives and children and how we plan to make sacrifices etc for our families. haha. That thought has kinda stuck with me. I am so grateful for this mission, it has really made me… peculiar, I suppose, by the worlds standards, but Its amazing to see how its focusing me on things of eternal significance… anyway, I’m grateful that elder Bennison could point that out for me. haha, but I definitely owe a lot to my companions and certainly my mission for helping me prepare for a future family. Its funny, I just read my patriarchal blessing recently and something stood out in a new way to me, it mentions how as I reflect upon my missionary service, that I will gain a testimony of eternal families and have faith to go and choose a wife and start a family in the gospel. that’s not a quote or anything, but that’s the gist of it. I never really knew why my mission would be connected to my testimony of eternal families until recently, I think I still have a lot more reflecting and growing to do in that, but Its a nice feeling I had this week, I can certainly say that whomever I do marry, my mission will have played a significant role in helping me to love and honour her, I suppose the same will be true of my future children… that’s a long time a way, but on my mission I am already growing a love for them, a desire to be better for their sake, a desire to prepare for them, etc. anyway, enough about all that, ill give you an earful after I have finished my mission. Ill try and put those thoughts away for a bit longer. haha.
-So, we had a great experience while teaching maggie and enro asalemo this week. remember I told you last week maggie is a less active member, enro is her non member brother. Anyway, we taught the plan of salvation, at the end enro asked a question and as we were answering I noticed in the corner of my eye (I was speaking to enro) that maggie was sobbing. I was so surprised because the whole lesson was mostly pointed at enro… Its enough to say that I felt a massive turn at that point in the lesson, the spirit just poured into the room, there was something that opened maggies heart, at that brought a power to our words that we could not bring on our own… I am excited to see them again in a couple of days, but I just wanted to share this as a testimony of the power of the spirit, We can do all we can as missionaries to teach by the spirit, and that can go a long way at times, but there is something unique and special when the person being taught opens their heart, it goes so much further than we could do ourselves…. Theres a lot to be learned here, Ill probably reflect on this again and again.
-so probably the biggest news of the week is that we travelled up to dubbo for a companion exchange after our monthly district meeting (since its such a large zone we only have district meeting once a month instead of every week) It was AWESOME! It was great working with elder olsen, he is from California, he is one of the brand new missionaries in the zone. I was very impressed with his maturity and confidence, he is much more prepared than most! He will definitely go far. But, theres more to it than that! you probably all know that I was assigned to open dubbo area over a year ago!! at the same time I was training, and I had only been on my mission for 3 months… We saw so many miracles in this area!!! I have so many good memories from this place, this area has been a foundation for so much of my missionary work. I never imagined that I would have the chance to visit later as a zone leader. So this was quite a unique opportunity, the chance to visit my old area after more than a year! The first thing I want to say was just how I felt as we were driving up there, its quite a long drive, so there is a lot of time to think. I had an odd flash back to a year ago when I was first driving there…. I remembered vividly the fears I had, the excitement I felt, the faith In my heart. Its kinda hard to measure growth in yourself…. it happens so slowly over time that you cannot really compare yourself to how you were in the past…. but this was different, probably aided greatly by the holy ghost, but as I found myself in that familiar location from my past, I could feel of how different I have become. Many of the fears and doubts and weaknesses I remembered have left me entirely, My knowledge, personality, testimony , etc, have changed greatly. anyway, this is quite hard to put into words, but It was really amazing to me to return to this place as a completely new person. I don’t have a lot of time on this computer so I wont be able to share everything that I would like to. but ill tell you a few important points! on Friday evening I got to see three people that I taught. First Tim Riley, and also Ririwi fox and Fiona fox (formerly Fiona Stevenson). So… we helped tim to be baptised, I also had the priviledge to ordain him to the Aaronic priesthood. Fiona was also a recent convert who was engaged to ririwi fox, I got to teach them the temple prep seminar! So… Since the time that I left a year ago, all three of these people have been endowed in the temple, and Fiona and ririwi have been sealed together. I really cannot tell you how much joy I felt to see these people. It was so much more than just people that I taught, It was like being reunited with family, as we spent some time together It was as if I had never left at all. These people so clearly demonstrate to me the true purpose of missionary work, its so much more than baptism, its pointing them tword the temple and exhaltation. These people mean a great deal to me. Every pain and struggle in missionary work just flees away when I think about people like them that I have had the chance to help on that pathway to salvation…. again, I wish I had some more time. Another family that I needed to go and visit was kevin and pearl Dickinson. so. they are a part member family that we spent A GREAT DEAL of time with. I gave my heart and soul in trying to help this family. They have not made as quick of progress… well, if you had not known them as well as I do you may think that they have not made any progress, but they have 🙂 the biggest news is that after being together for 10 years they have decided to be married! a year ago they were very opposed to this, I tried EVERYTHING I could to convince them, but they wouldn’t budge. but now they have decided 🙂 again, it was like I was visiting my brother or sister or something, These people are like family to me, again, it was like I had just seen them yesterday, none of that friendship we developed faded in the slightest degree…. so we were also teaching kevin’s sister Glenda she had said she would like to be baptised, but… she is a very very shy person. It took me SO LONG to gain her trust for her to just speak in front of me, so after I left, she kinda stopped meeting with the missionaries She just is so shy. Anyway, when I was coming to dubbo for exchange, a huge goal was to invite her to learn again, I was so sad to hear that she had moved to Sydney! she had not been in dubbo for months. dang! but that’s probably the biggest miracle of my week…. completely out of nowhere, when I was visiting kevin and pearl Saturday morning, she texted kevin saying that she was on a train to come visit dubbo for a week. WHAT ARE THE ODDS OF THAT? that she would randomly decide to travel 6 hours to dubbo from Sydney the exact day that I was visiting dubbo? amazing. anyway, that was a sweet experience, she got to town a bit before we had to leave to come back to Bathurst, I had the longest conversation I have ever had with her… actually, the first conversation I have ever had with her! haha, we gave her a new book of Mormon, invited her to learn from the sisters in Sydney. really, Its amazing how the lords hand is in the work, I have stopped believing in coincidence, especially since the same day, another investigator named shanae, who had moved, just happened to be visiting when we visited her mom’s house later that day… seriously, twice in one day?…. anyway, she has had a pretty hard year this last year, has gotten into some serious problems, but she too accepted the invitation to learn again…. WE had time to visit several other people that I had worked with, It was good news in every instance 🙂 I cant tell you how greatful I am for the chance to visit and renew some of the work I left behind in Dubbo, and see how many of the seeds I planted have brought marvellous fruit. I would not trade that for anything.
-This visit to dubbo really helped as I was preparing my talk for sacrament meeting, the topic was missionary work! what a great topic! I cant remember everything that was said, but I knew just what to share… that being… I have gotten to the point of my mission that I have the ability to look backwards as well as forward… As I look back at some of the people I have had the great priviledge of teaching,( I gave the example of people like Tim, Ririwi, and Fiona, who have made it to the temple, as well as someone else that I taught that has written me recently updating me on her repentance and some amazing steps of faith she has been taking in her life.) I just completely marvel at the Fathers grand design for my mission and their lives. I remember that my purpose as a missionary is to “invite others to come unto Christ, through faith in Jesus Christ and His atonement, repentance, baptism, receiving the gift of the holy ghost, and enduring to the end” I have made thousands of invitations to people to come unto Christ, some of those have been accepted, others rejected… Really, these are not my decisions to make, they belong to those people, its my job to be there to help them make the right choices, that will ultimately lead them on a course to many other choices that hopefully others will be there to help them make…. I don’t know if I am making sense, but Ill share a poem that I memorized a while back, I don’t know the author, sorry:
He stood at the crossroads,
all alone, the sunlight in his face.
He had no thought for the world unknown,
he was set for a manly race.
But the road stretched east, and the road stretched west
And the Lad knew not which road was best.
So he chose the road which lead him down,
and he lost the race, and the victor’s crown
he was caught at last in an angry snare,
because no one stood at the crossroads there,
to show him the better way.
Another day at that self-same place,
a lad with high hopes stood,
he too was set for the manly race,
he too was seeking the things which are good.
And one was there whom the roads did know,
and that one did show him which way to go.
Now he walks the highways fair,
because one stood at the crossroads there,
to show him the better way.
So, I suppose as missionaries we have the duty to stand at the crossroads of peoples lives, to share with them our testimony of what nephi calls “the only way” which is Christ. (2nephi 31:21) I have seen how those whom have heeded the message of the gospel have received the blessings of the second man in the poem. That’s a great honor to be the one to “show him which way to go” its a responsibility far greater than me, or anyone really, its the work of almighty God for the salvation of His children. Its humbling to think of myself as “that one” from the poem showing people where to go.. Its frightening to think of those I may have missed who may turn out like the first lad in the poem… In any case, I love my mission, I love those people I “invite to come unto Christ” I hope they continue faithful.
Now, I really feel, looking back on my mission, that it is the ones that have accepted those invitations, that I have been sent to… If I had the wish of my heart, I would tell these people individually, that it was for them that I came on my mission, it was for them that I lived worthy, and prepared, it is for them that I endure cheerfuly the challenges of missionary work, no pain or struggle or trial has ever come close to persuading me to give up this great chance to come and bring them unto Christ. I have loved them long before I met them, and I will always hold them close to me in my heart. I pray always that they will continue on that path they have been set on.
– man I feel like my grammar has been terrible today. worse than normal. haha. I am so sorry about that. I hope you have read this with the spirit of discernment, or perhaps the gift of tongues? I know what nephi means when he said that he is not mighty in writing like he is in speaking. lol
I love you all so much. I miss you all terribly! but I have got a lot more work to do! I hope to hear from you this week.
Elder Ryan Faulkner