September 23, 2013

Dear Family,
This week was a great week, sorry for a kinda depressing letter last week, haha, Was just at kinda a low point, but things are really looking up now. There is more to report from this week than I have time for! Things are going well, I am feeling the guidance and support of the spirit, I am feeling Our heavenly fathers Love in great abundance. Maybe that would be a good place to start this report… at the beginning of the week I was feeling pretty low, I don’t even really know why… A bit of stress with the area, the fact that I only have 10 weeks to go, etc… I had been trying to ignore all these things, but the stress had been building up, it felt to be out of my control, I just did not feel myself… Not knowing where else to turn, I asked my companion for a blessing, he asked what he should bless me with, and my biggest desire was just that the spirit would be in my heart, He gave me a wonderful blessing. Of course everything did not turn around all at once, but each day, step by step, I feel that the Lord heard and honoured the blessing Elder Skinner sealed upon me. Honestly, none of my problems have changed in the slightest bit! but I feel so much more ready and motivated and equal to face the challenges. I cannot explain to you the difference It makes to have the spirit present in your life, he gives life, hope, strength and light. This experience has added greatly to my testimony of the power of the priesthood, the power of the spirit, the power of the Lords grace which Ill write more about in a second… I urge anyone who may at anytime be going through personal struggle or temptation to be discouraged, to seek a priesthood blessing. The Lord can help us from the inside out, he may just be waiting for you to knock and ask.
so, updates from the week:
-We had dinner and a lesson with one of our investigators named Deon and his wife Elizabeth who is an active member of the church. It was like no lesson I have ever had! haha. Deon requested that we sing a hymn to start, and we ended up just singing hymns for 45 minutes or so! haha. We also felt prompted to read the first presidency message at the front of the hymn book (which I had never read before). This was really a special evening, there is so much power and so much we can learn from the hymns. For the lesson we just picked the hymns that taught what we wanted to share, and I think at least for deon, there would be no better way of conveying this message! Ill just echo what many apostles have said… Singing the hymns can help protect us in times of temptation, they can lift us, motivate us, teach us, and heal us by the spirit they invite… without really realizing it, I have gotten to the point that I rarely need to open a hymn book at sacrament meeting, haha, many of those words are like scripture to me and are written in my heart. I hope everyone has at least a few of the hymns memorized that they can sing to themselves in those times of need.
-We got a new missionary in the zone! a few more missionaries came in this week who were waiting for visas, so Elder Elder in orange was transferred to train a new elder in Liverpool, and Elder withers who has only been on his mission for 7 weeks was asked to train elder Griffiths in orange. Sad to see elder Elder leave, but what an exciting surprise to have a new missionary in the middle of the transfer! Elder skinner and I bought a few really Australian type things and wrote him a letter with a few pictures to welcome him when we met him on Friday. He is a great young man, he and elder withers, while they are both SOOO NEW and SOO YOUNG, are going to do great things! reminds me a lot of all the growth and struggle and joy I had at the beginning of my mission, I am so grateful for all these young mens example and desire to serve, if they have anything near the experience I have had, they are going to love their missions more than they can even know. Hopefully as the zone leaders we can help them to feel comfortable, confident, and ready to meet the great task ahead of them.
-So, I hope this does not make you think I am really immature or anything, but Elder Skinner and I scared the pants off of my old friend Elder Griffin in mudgee. haha. So, I probably would not have done this to anyone else in the world other than elder griffin, but we have known each other for a long time and we are always joking around, and he is always messing with us and things, he has a pretty wicked sense of humour, haha so it was just good clean fun… But, Thursday night they came to stay at our flat for the night so we could drive them to zone conference the next morning. What we did was, we told them we were going to be a bit late getting home, but hid a key for them so they could let themselves in. Really, I was hiding in the bathroom, elder skinner was hiding in the garage, and we turned out all the lights so it looked like we weren’t there. Just as we thought, a few minutes after they got in, Elder Griffin went to the bathroom and I was there waiting to scare him. haha. I did not know he could scream at that pitch. haha. What I did not forsee was that he was braced to attack me in defense. haha, luckily he could make out my face in the dim light and my laughing put him at ease. haha. It was pretty hilarious, wish you could have been there…. yes, I will try and grow up… ;P
-So Friday we had a zone conference in orange! It was awesome! I cant even tell you how much I enjoyed it! We got there a bit early so I could have some time to read those letters that had been waiting for me in the mission office. The letter delivery system is not very good as a missionary, haha, especially when you are in a zone that is so far away, some of the letters had been waiting in the office for a few weeks, after taking a few weeks to be delivered from overseas, but gratefully, the assistants brought them up to conference. It is really annoying trying to read a letter in the presence of other missionaries by the way, they are very nosy. haha. Anyway, the conference was awesome. President asked us to assign a few elders to give short talks on various “preach my gospel” topics. I think that was my favourite part, I am so impressed by the elders in the zone, we asked several of the new missionaries to speak, (this was the first zone conference for 5 of the elders) and they just did so well, I learned so much from them, but mostly just amazed by the fact that The Lord can take young men with no experience, and turn them into powerful tools for his work in no time at all! Its pretty normal to feel like we are not good enough, or don’t know enough to serve in various callings, but I will tell you this: that the Lord calls on the weak and simple things of the world, it is not knowledge or training that qualify us, it is faith, hope charity and love, with an eye single to the glory of god that qualify us for the work (d+c section 4). I see those things in these young missionaries, and I see the power of God within them. I hope they can see that in themselves. I am going to make that a focus for my position as a leader, to help them see who they really are, what they really can do, why they have no need to doubt or fear… Anyway, the rest of the conference was great also, I have said this before, but I will say it again, I love President and sister Lew, during their trainings I just felt the spirit walk into my heart. My mission has made me pretty soft I think, there are so many times that I just find myself in tears of gratitude, joy, or some other overwhelming manifestation of the spirit. Emotion is certainly not the only way the spirit can be felt, but often in those tender moments where God touches your soul, it will bring you tears, and there is no other way to explain the feeling but through those tears. Anyway, I am so grateful for those times, I had several this week. at conference, at sacrament meeting, reading some updates from a dear friend, and while listening to a talk in the car.
-After conference I had a quick interview with president to renew my temple recommend, I really wish we could go to the temple more, but it is so reassuring to at very least have the recommend. My original recommend expires the end of the month, so it was convenient to have president visiting this week, with that I feel that I am current with the Lord. I really don’t feel perfect, I still have a lot in me that unsettles me, and discomforts me, I have a lot of growing and changing still to do, but I did feel able and worthy to answer those few questions that allow me to enter the house of the Lord. I thought back to what elder hamula said a few weeks ago… you don’t need to be perfect, but you can be clean. I have really thought about the sacrament and our covenants and this life these past few weeks, I promise anyone who reads this, that it is worth any and every step required to be able to hold a temple recommend, I say that with all the Love in my heart. Anyway, after the interview I shared with President a few of my struggles, I kinda hesitated to do this, I never want to seem like I am complaining, but the spirit gently reminded me of presidents Love, so I had confidence to talk to him, I am so glad I did. He gave me some interesting counsel, not entirely what I expected, but exactly what I needed, It is amazing to me how that works, I am so grateful for priesthood leadership. Anyway, I wrote at the start of this letter that none of the challenges we are facing have changed, but I feel so much more ready to face them, that in great measure came from the brief chat I had with president, his words just lifted those burdens, put everything into perspective and gave me focus and hope for what lies ahead. He probably does not know how much he helped me….
-After the zone conference, The zone parted ways, but not for long! that night everyone came up to spend the night at mudgee’s flat for a district service project the next day! It was really fun! It does not happen that often that 10 elders are spending the night in one apartment, haha. We had a great time, the next morning we woke up early and the trainers and I taught all the new missionaries how to play touch rugby for morning exercise. Its always kinda hard for americans to pick up because it is so different from gridiron that we are used to, but everyone started to get the hang of it and it was a lot of fun, It kinda made me miss some of my previous areas where the missionaries were close enough to get together regularly to play touch. I am going to have to teach everyone how to play touch rugby when I get home, because I will miss it to much if I don’t. haha. then we all had personal studies and a brief zone companionship study, which was cool, was a bit of a struggle to keep the elders from drifting into to “deep” of doctrine, haha, missionaries, especially a few elders in this zone love dwelling on the unknowable mysteries of the gospel. haha. But then we went to the service project! there was a lot to do! there were members from all over orange district there, some had driven over 4 hours to participate. There really is a unique spirit of unity in the small branches and districts of the church, it was so great to see everyone working together from across the district to support one of the sisters in mudgee branch who’s husband (the former district president) had recently passed away, so we were helping to get her farm ready to be sold, because it has become more than she can manage on her own. It was a lot like what I imagine the early saints were like in Kirtland or navoo, the whole community rallying together to help one, knowing that they would do the same for them if they were in need. It was a great day.
-On the way back to Bathurst, we were driving the cowra missionaries because they parked their car at our apartment, we listened to a talk by brad wilcox titled “His grace is sufficient” I had heard this several times before, but as I listened again I felt Like I would really like my family and friends to listen to this as well!… so, I think this link is it http://speeches.byu.edu/?act=viewitem&id=1966
I should have taken some notes because there were a few thoughts that really touched me and Id like to share, but I cannot think of them at the moment, so if you could all do me a huge favour and listen to this message, I know there is a reason I felt prompted to share this, but Ill let you each find out the reason for yourself 🙂
-Church was awesome this week! President Bar (Sydney temple president) and his wife visted the branch and spoke. They are such wonderful people, they are so full of life and light, they are such great examples of what I want in my life and my family, I cannot think of anything specific to say other than that, they are wonderful, happy people, and I know it is because they have centred their family and lives on the gospel of jesus Christ, and that they love each other and the Lord with all their hearts. One of the sisters that spoke before the Bar’s mentioned “happily ever after” and how most fairy tales have a struggle of sorts, but end happily ever after… I think that’s possible, I think that’s what the gospel afford us, that despite all our troubles and our cares, there is a happily ever after promised to those who turn their lives to Christ. It was a nice thought!
-Ill finish up this letter with a pretty cool miracle! you are not going to believe this, so after church we went back to our flat to get something, This is really embarrassing to say, but I bent down and split my suit pants. I had a moment of frustration, because I am so close to the end of my mission and I really did not want to have to buy a new suit with such little time to go, why now? haha. We were going to give a blessing to brother oliver who is the second counsellor in the branch presidency, he is an older man and has a lot of health problems, so I quickly changed into some work trousers and tried to forget about the issue. As we were about to leave the olivers… I kid you not, sister oliver said… Elder Faulkner are you in need of a suit? Elder skinner looked at me trying not to laugh, I think my mouth was hanging pretty far open and I said… uhhh, yes actually…. how did you know. (we had not mentioned this to anyone, It had just happened a few minutes before, haha.) she said just as we were giving the blessing she had a random thought that brother oliver had an old suit he had not worn in years that did not fit him anymore, and she thought I might be the right size. She brought it out and amazingly it was a perfect fit, I don’t think it needs any alterations at all, which made sister oliver chuckle a bit, amazed that Bill was once my size (he has shrunk a few inches in height, grown a few in the waist, haha) Wow! I had just torn my suit less than an hour before, and immediately the Lord provided me a new one! I cannot even believe it, such a cool experience, adds new meaning to the versed from Jesus’s sermon no the mount Matthew 6: “28 And why take ye thought for raiment? aConsider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: 29 And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, ashall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little bfaith?31 Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? 32 (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father aknoweth that ye have need of all these things. 33 aBut bseek ye first theckingdom of God, and his drighteousness; and all these ethings shall be fadded unto you. 34 Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take athought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.” The Lord is so aware of us. He does not always provide for our needs so immediately, but I think this experience demonstrates that he is able to, He is in control, he is someone we can trust to provide and to guide us. Thank you to everyone who prays and thinks about me, I want you to know that our Heavenly father is taking care of us missionaries in every way. I pray always that he will do the same for you.
I hope everyone is having a good week wherever you are. I love you all very much, and I look forward to hearing from you all!
Arohanui,
Elder Faulkner
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