September 29, 2013

Dear Family,
It has been a really great week for elder skinner and I. I am actually emailing from bankstown this morning! We are here in sydney for mission leadership council, so we came down a bit early so we could spend the preparation day with some of the missionaries. After we finish up here I am going to lunch with my last companion elder bennison and his new companion at el jannahs, which is the best lebanese charcoal chicken place in australia. haha. then we will play some sport with some other missionaries in the mortdale zone before heading to the leadership council. Pretty stoked about it.
But like I said, It really was a great week!!!! let me update you on a few details!
-On monday we had organized a cottage evening with the stanley family, the reiri family, and brother su’a. It was an incredible sucess!!! our investigator tania was there a YSA girl in the branch named florence brought her friend Adriana who has attended church with us the last few weeks, A bunch of less-active families were there. It was really a very sucessful night, so good to see everyone getting together to support these investigtors and less active members. This branch really is like a family, It is really an honor to be a missionary here, and I really mean that, these people give us so much thanks and praise and honor for our calling as missionaries, they welcome us and support us, and of course feed us heaps! haha. It am so gratful for te chance to have opened this area to missionary work. I think the other elders in the zone are felling similar responses and support.
-So, tuesday was an interesting one, dont let this alarm you, but we met some very very negative people while we were out “finding”… One guy shocked me in particular, we were just walking up to the door and he came out and said are you mormons? I said, yes! and then I heard the loudest, most persistant, most threatening string of profanaties I have ever heard in my life!! He escorted us off the property threatening our lives! wow, It wasent really all that scary, this guy wouldnt have really done anything to us, but It took me back a bit, I have never seen anyone so angry before, and only because he found out that we were missionaries, I have no idea what kinda darkness must be in this guys life that would cause him to respond to us in such a way. We took a chance to say a prayer for this guy, if it were a bit milder I think I would have felt a bit angry at him, but he was just so over the top that I think our hearts pitied him greatly… I said to elder skinner as we were driving to our next appointment that I think there must be something really important that we need to do today if satan felt it necesary to abuse us in this way. I really have seen that on my mission, whenever great persecution comes, it is usually is quickly followed by great miracles. well I think that was the case again in this isnstance!!! Later that day we had a lesson with that family president reiri took us to go see last week! It was wonderful, It is a part member family the missionaries have worked with for a long time, but we did not have an adress til last week! It turns out the daughter named jolie was very close to being baptised a few years ago, but was just a bit shy, but she still seems very interested in the church! awesome! so after school holidays this week we will begin teaching her the missionary lessons again! Also, later that night, while we were on splits with brother su’a, we FINALLY got to sit down with the Northey family, whichis a part member family we have been trying to work with since day one! They are such a nice family, and one of their daughters is particularly interested in the church. so we had a nice visit with them and have a family home evening scheduled with them for next week after the holidays. These people have so much potential, they are the people that are just so kind that it is impossible for the spirit to not touch their hearts, I dont know how long it will take, but I can definitely see these two families coming into the church. So it turned into a really great day.
-I think I have mentioned this in the past, but here in bathurst, we have fewer investigators than I have ever had, we have fewer less active families than we have ever had to work with, we also have fewer active members than most places, BUT, the people that we have been working with are really amazing, we have the priviledge to be teaching several families, mostly part member families! how cool is it to help a family become more unified by helping them be unified in faith and purpose in the gospel. I love it.
-At one point during the week, Elder Skinner andI were walking, and I thought that I would like to get an ice cream cone from McDonalds, My brother once told me to follow every prompting, even if it is only to get a smoothie or something. haha. I never really thought much of this advice, but used it to justify my craving, and guess what, we saw 3 less active members there! one had just finished work, another was there with her family, and the other was them son of our relief society president. wow, so we got to confirm some plans and set up times to see a few of them! it was a great use of time! haha. plus I got ice cream! I am sure that craving was inspired, haha.
-Our investigators are doing really well! Ill tell you more about church in a second, but we had 4 of our investigators attend sacrament meeting this week! thats the most we have ever had!!!!! it was awesome! One of our investigators who was not able to attend, Enro, is still making great progress, I wanted to mention him in this letter… He is a great young man, he has grown up with a great family and mother who taught him to have faith in christ, but in the last year or so, he has begun to have alot of doubts about religion, thats what we have been facing since we first began teaching him! he just has not been confident this is all real. The only explaination is the spirit, but he has slowly been returning to his faith. I dont know everything in his heart, but in our lesson this week, we realize that he is so much more comfortable, confessing the possibility of the truth of the gospel, he has been praying, and reading the scriptures. It is such a miracle to see this miracle unfolding in his life. I am not sure if he can see it, but there is an amazing difference in him from just a few months ago. Him along with several others we have been teaching.
– I got my flight itinerary. Wow, this has really come quick. I have 9 more weeks, I will arrive in the nashville airport December 3rd and 10:54pm. I am soing to do my best to use, and cherish every one of those minutes between now and then.
-A huge higlight to the week was that we had the chance to go on another exchange in Dubbo! I wish I had more time to tell you about everything, but it was awesome. I was especially greatfuly for the chance to actually go another hour and a half north to gulargambone to visit a family I did not get to see last time I visited dubbo. Thats where daina weldon, the young girl I baptised over a year ago lives. I was so sad to find that she was actually away for the school holidays, but I did get a chance to talk to her mother Glenda, who is a less active member. I dont think I can describe how happy an opportunity this was for me. Since you dont know the weldons it may be hard to understand, but Glenda has had a bit of a hard lot in life, all I can say is that when I saw her two days ago, it was like she was a new woman, she had a light and a spirit in her eyes like I have never seen. I cant explain it, she has not really made many changes for herself, but compared to how I knew this family a year ago, I can clearly identify the lords blessing in this home. I hope that she can work out what she needs to in her life so that she cn have those blessing more fully and in greater abundance, but I was so humbled to witness the lords hand in her family. I pray that that will continue in the lives of eevryone I have come to love here in australia. She actually refered us to a friend of hers around the corner that I am glad will give the dubbo missionaries an excuse to contine to make the long journey to Gulargambone and hopefully bring the gospel again to this family that I worked with so much when I was serving there a year ago.
-We also got to visit the branch president’s family, the Ryans. great name if you ask me. haha. again, it was so great to catch up with this family. One highlight, was that they gave us root beer! you really cannot get root beer in australia very easily, but since sister Ryan is american, and she loves it, she found a way. haha. I have not even thought about root beer in probably a year, so this was a real treat, I think I made like 3 root beer floats that day. haha.
-Perhaps the greatest part for me in this trip to dubbo was the chance to see one of me old investigators named Tegan. she is 14 and actually goes to a boarding school in Sydney, When we planned the exchange in Dubbo, It did not even occur to me that she would be in town, but since it is school holidays here, she was up for a few weeks visiting her mom, so when we went there I was really surprised. Tegan was so close to baptism a year ago, but we just did not have the time to get her there before she had to go back to sydney, but to my great delight, she still has the set of scriptures we gave her, she says she prays every day, and seems to still step by step be growing in her faith. She goes back to sydney soon, so I am not sure we’ll be able to get her baptised this time around, but I did have the chance to invite her again to prepare for baptism, and she would like to, who knows, Another family I care alot about in dubbo say they will be getting married in a years time, maybe Ill get the chance to invite tegan to be batised again in another year if I visit dubbo for that occassion? haha ;P would be the longest teaching experience I have ever heard of. anyway, This was a great tender mercy for me, I am so glad we had our exchange this weekend. I say this all the time, but I think constantly on the people I have taught, I wonder how they are, what kinda affect I had on them, if they are still growing, if the lord is blessing them, It was such a blessing to again have one of these crazy miracles in dubbo where my former investigator happens to be in town when I was there, seriously, this happened twice  last exchange, if you can remember, I really did not think It would happen again! I am simply amazed, I really am thinking that a great part of why I was put in bathurst, was that my work was not quite done in dubbo, It is a curious experience for me.
-Time is getting short, so Ill quickly tell you about our sunday! we had several visitors along with our 4 investigators that came to sacrament, so it was a very exciting weekend! Our new district president, pres. sullivan came, also, the newest member of the mission presidency, pres. simpson and his wife came, and also, the australia public affairs missionary couple named the tanners visited (have you ever seen the john tanner story? thats actually elder and sister tanner’s ancestor! cool!) It was so great to have these visitors, I think the branches really rely on these visitors for strength and support. Anyway, I got to speak at ascrament meeting as well!!! Just before the meeting started president reiri asked me to give the first talk, so I guess I was the backup youth speaker! haha. I chose to speak about the sacrament, I felt prompted to share an experience I had on my mission with nancy taylor.  here is a quote from one of my weekly letter over a year ago:
“This last week brought one of the biggest miracles I have seen in my life, something that has occupied a great majority of my thought the past few days. we had a lot of wonderful experiences this week but as I sit pondering on last weeks service, this is the only story that I feel prompted to share. It has humbled me, it has instructed me, it assures me of God’s love, and of my testimony of the redeeming grace of the saviors atonement.
Someone that has become a dear friend of mine passed away last Wednesday evening. Her name is nancy taylor, she was an elderly woman with many many health problems. Since the very first week Elder Welch and I came to Dubbo we have been visiting Nancy a few times a week and bringing her the sacrament. I always looked forward to that sacrament meeting each sunday afternoon with nancy where we would sing hymns, she would share of her past family and church experiences, we would share a spiritual message and of course, administer to her the sacrament. Because of her health problems she was not able to come to church, and the last month of her life she was confined to a hospital. 2 weeks ago her condition progressed and she was moved to the intensive care unit. That sunday we still planned on visiting her, but she was asleep, we tried again a few hours later, but the nurses told us she was still resting. The next day Nancy’s son (who will be baptized next month) asked us to come with him again to the hospital where we unfortunately had to witness some of the disturbing realities of her condition, she could hardly breathe, she did not have full control over her arms or feeling in her feet, she did not know where she was or what year it was. I felt quite out of place standing at the door of her hospital room while her son tried to calm her and bring her back to reality, but when she spotted us there she called me over to her bad, I took her hand and gave her words of comfort. I cannot recall any of her words except two.. sacrament, please. it did not take long before we were ushered out by nurses so the doctors could attend to her. at that time I had planned to return the following sunday, but wednesday morning all I could think about were those two words… sacrament, please. I was amazed at her faith, the spirit that still abided in her despite her many infirmities, and her request for the emblems of christs atonement. I simply could not be comfortable until we filled her request. so we did, we came that afternoon happy to see that she was doing better, comfortable. she was not entirely “there” mentally, but she told us how ready she was to get out of the hospital, to go home, and how glad she was that we had come. as we started our sacrament meeting, I looked around the ICU and said that maybe we’d wait until next time to sing so we did not disturb anyone trying to rest, but nancy gave us a gentle rebuking and told us not to chicken out. so we sang her favorite hymn “put your shoulder to the wheel” I hope that hymn also was carried to the hearts of other patients that listened past the curtain of her room..
we were informed the next morning that nancy had passed away, just a few hours after we had left. We were her last visitors, the last thing she had done in mortality was to praise God by renewing her covenants in partaking of the body and blood of Jesus Christ.
May we always remember how our father is aware of his children, he loves us, and he may call on us to administer that love and relief to others of his children, just as he calls on others to minister to us. May we always be worthy of the spirit, and posses the faith and humility to follow all of His quiet directions, so we can take part in the great work of saving the souls of men.”
I also shared two scriptures that have deepened my understanding and appreciation for the sacrifice, and the marvelous gift of the atonement first in john 6 ” 47 Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that abelieveth on me hath beverlasting life. 48 I am that bread of life.49 Your fathers did eat amanna in the wilderness, and are dead. 50 This is the bread which cometh down from heaven, that a man may eat thereof, and not die. 51 I am the living abread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever: and thebbread that I will give is my cflesh, which I will dgive for the elife of the world. 52 The Jews therefore strove among themselves, saying, How can this man give us his flesh to eat? 53 Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye aeat the flesh of the bSon of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you. 54 Whoso eateth my aflesh, and drinketh my bblood, hath eternal life; cand I will draisehim up at the last day. 55 For my flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. 56 He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood,adwelleth in me, and I in him. 57 As the living Father hath asent me, and I live by the Father: so he that eateth me, even he shall blive by me. 58 This is that bread which came down from heaven: not as your fathers did eat manna, and are dead: he that eateth of this bread shall live for ever.
then in D+c 43 ” 3 Listen to him who is the aadvocate with the Father, who is pleading your cause before him— 4 Saying: Father, behold the asufferings and bdeath of him who did no csin, in whom thou wast well pleased; behold the blood of thy Son which was shed, the blood of him whom thou gavest that thyself might be dglorified; 5 Wherefore, Father, spare these my abrethren that bbelieve on my name, that they may come unto me and have ceverlasting life.
-There are few subjects that I have deeper feelings about than the sacrament, so, it was not hard to put this message togeter with no time at all. I am so glad to have had another chance to speak 🙂 Oh and efter church we had a big potluck lunch with the branch it was awesome!
-elder skinner just accidently deleted a long letter he has been writing for the past 2 hours. poor guy.
-what else…. oh, I sent a friend a package last week, if they read this will the email me and let me know if they got it? thanks 🙂 speaking of that, It looks like chad updated my blog so that people can email me directly from the blog. pretty cool, thanks chad!
so the other elders look like they are ready to go! so I better wrap things up. But I love you all so much. I love my mission so much, My brother was reminding me of the countdown, only 9 weeks to go, I cannot tell you how excited I am to see everyone and have the chance to catch up with everyone, but Its going to be so hard. This Land and these people own a huge portion of my heart. I am so excited to see what these final weeks will bring, these days, it seems like all of the lessons and emotions and everything are becomeing much deeper, more meaningful. The spirit has a great hold on me these days, I am so glad to be in that position. I hope and pray for all of you, many of you by name, every day, I hope you are happy and hopefull and healthy.
Elder Faulkner
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