October 13, 2013

Dear Family,
Wow, it has been a crazy week! It was a really fun week actually! I am pretty awesome, but am feeling on a bit of a happy buzz right now, haha ūüėČ
So this is the last week of the transfer! You never really know what will happen with transfers, but since there are over 40 missionaries coming in next week, I really have no idea what will happen! We’ll definitely be working as hard as we can this week and do the best we can to see everyone that we have been working withjust in case one of us move! In fact, a couple weeks back I started planning for the whole rest of the transfer just to be sure that I could accomplish all that I wanted and needed to here in Bathurst and in the zone, I did not want to miss anything Just in case! Anyway, I am feeling really great at the moment, With general¬†conference and some other great experiences we have had, I am just really feeling at a high these days!
Let me tell you about some of the fun and meaningful experiences we had this past week!
-So on preparation day it was a public holiday, so everything was closed and we had to email at the chapel. Since there is only one computer there we had to take turns, I got a bit bored while elder Skinner was emailing and ended up finding some balloons and learned how to make balloon animals, haha, I also found an old film projector and some old film reels, that was a ton of fun! but a major highlight was that I took some time to just take a nap, that did a lot of good! I had felt pretty exhausted so I was glad to have some time to catch up on some rest, it makes a huge difference!
-On Monday evening all our plans ended up falling through, which was a bummer initially, but ended up being a great thing! at exactly the same moment elder skinner and I both thought to go visit a part member family that we have been trying for weeks to visit and teach. When we pulled up to their house, Adam who is not a member was outside and said “hey boys want to come in for a feed?” which was funny because about five minutes before I was telling elder skinner how hungry I was (I skipped dinner during preparation day to have more time to sleep and write a letter, haha) so we got to have dinner with adam and Kiara who is a less active member, and also adam’s grandmother, we got to share a short message and found out that adam has been working on some painting, so we talked him into letting us help him, which he seemed really greatful for! so Saturday we got to spend a bit more time helping him out and getting to know him. He is a cool guy, since he is 24 and has many similar interests to me it was really a fun time, he is a great guy, looks like we’ll be having a lot more to do with this couple! Funny story was that when we got there Saturday morning, we got started on painting and then adam had to duck out for a minute to drive kiara to work, we thought he would be back in about 10 minutes, but he ended up getting pulled over by the police because his registration was expired, haha. Poor guy, there were so many cops in town this weekend for the Bathurst races which ill tell you more about in a second! fortunately he did not get fined! but¬†the painting¬†was great fun, we even went over to watch his cricket match later that day during our lunch time.
-Sister Child took us over to have a tour of¬†their house that the church begun renting for the senior couple coming in a few weeks, it is really really nice! we were joking that maybe they will move the elders in there and give the senior couple our flat, haha. we’ll see.
-Before I forget, I have an idea for a Christmas gift for my friends and family this year, I have been working on it for a while and it is finally piecing together, Ill keep it a secret for now, but wanted to mysteriously allude to it here to hopefully pique your interests and get you excited, its pretty dang cool I think. haha
-So I told you about the successful young men’s activity a week ago, well guess what! the young mens and young womens presidents have decided to start holding weekly mutual activities on Tuesdays! There is not a whole lot of youth, but definitely enough to have a successful activity each week, Since there are some less active or semi-active youth, I think it will be a very important thing to keep them connected to the church! I am glad that they have asked us to be there as well ūüôā this week we had a short spiritual thought and then learned how to make muffins, all the young men came! it was awesome, this week the young men are in charge, so I am looking forward to it! I am so happy that the branch has decided to have mutual again! I remember how much I loved mutual and boy scouts, I think that did so much in encouraging me to be involved in the church and surround myself with wholesome friends and influences as a youth, I am so happy that these wonderful youth will now have this in their lives!\
-This is a bit weird, but one day when we got back to our flat, we found some kind of animal faeces on the ground. what the? we searched for a long time but could not find any ferrel animals lurking around our flat, we could not find any open doors or windows and we could not find anything else amiss, this was pretty weird, the only thing we could think of was that maybe when we left our garage in the morning a cat or something got in when we had the garage door open and then it ran out stealthily when I opened the door later that evening. Anyway, we cannot really account for this, but it helps me to sleep at night, haha. sorry for the weird story, but it was a notable feature of our week! haha
-So one of the biggest highlights of the week of course was general conference!!! Everyone in the states would have seen this last week, but here in Australia they play it the following weekend. Since we are in a small branch, they chose to only play the sunday morning and priesthood sessions. Quick funny story, we told our branch president that we would download the sessions and copy it to the chapel computer for him. Since we were going to be on exchanges in cowra on Friday and coming back Saturday morning, and the branch chose to play the priesthood session at 7am on Saturday, we were going to have to miss priesthood, so we watched it on our own on Wednesday, Ill tell you more about my thoughts on conference and the companion exchange in a minute, but guess what, somehow we forgot to copy the sessions before we left for cowra, I am still kicking myself about this! so… we ended up driving back to Bathurst Saturday morning so we could deliver the sessions before¬†7am. haha. Cowra is an hour and a half away! haha. so.. we ended up having to wake up at¬†5am¬†to be there on time. I think the reason we forgot, was because the Lord wanted us to see the priesthood session twice, and as tired as I was, I am so glad that I was able to! For anyone who may not have seen it, The entire first presidency spoke! this amazed me! I don’t have a great memory, maybe this happens all the time? but I cant recall this happening recently that the whole first presidency spoke in one session of conference? well… whether it is unique or not, I was so grateful for that, Especially grateful to see it twice and I am thinking of watching that session a third time. I really learned so much, I hope everyone, including the sisters will take the time to read the messages, they did so much for me, This is true of a lot of the talks in the other sessions as well, but it seemed to me that the talks in the priesthood session were personalised to me, they spoke right to my heart, my mind turned so much to my family and loved ones as well and their needs, and what I can do to be a better friend, son, brother, and future husband. I am just filled with a hope and a desire to be a good priesthood man, I am so greatful for the great leaders of this church, they display for me in their lives and their words everything that I want in my life. Sometimes I drift from that eternal perspective, and even with it, I am far from perfect in putting that vision into practice in my daily life, but I am just so grateful for conference and how it refocuses me and fills me with hope on¬†what is most important in my life. I felt the sincerity and the Love of the first presidency, they know we are not perfect, but they make me want to be¬†better, one day at a time. I especially loved elder Uctdorfs talk, he spoke generally, but also directly to me, that “you can do it now”… If there is just one talk I would want everyone in my family to read it would be that one.¬†in fact here is a link! ¬†¬†http://www.lds.org/general-conference/print/2013/10/you-can-do-it-now?lang=eng¬† I add my witness to his, that the saviour loves us, he has patience and longsuffering for us, no matter how many times we may have fallen, we can do better today, we can overcome those things that have been ailing us, we can be redeemed, transformed. It is so easy to give into the lie that we are our mistakes or that its too late, but with the saviour, it is never too late, it is never too much. My mission has taught me this, well, specific people I have known on my mission have shown me this, that it is possible to overcome the past, redemption is real and it is possible, so I add my confidence and assurance¬†to what elder Uctdorf Said :”We acknowledge that your path will at times be difficult. But I give you this promise in the name of the Lord: rise up and follow in the footsteps of our Redeemer and Savior, and one day you will look back and be filled with eternal¬†gratitude¬†that you chose to trust the Atonement and its power to lift you up and give you strength. My dear friends and brethren, no matter how many times you have slipped or fallen, rise up! Your destiny is a glorious one! Stand tall and walk in the light of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ! You are stronger than you realize. You are more capable than you can imagine. You can do it now! Of this I testify in the sacred name of our Master and Redeemer, Jesus Christ, amen.” He shared an experience where he had fallen and could not get up, but with the assurance and in the hand of his grandson, he found the strength to rise up… I don’t know the needs or the pains of everyone who may read this, but if I had the wish of my heart, I would take you by the hand, hold you¬†close,¬†look you in the eyes and tell you that you can do this, whatever your struggle may be. I wish I could be that for you, but at very least, I share this testimony in the name of the Lord, with him, all things are possible. I give my thanks to many who have filled that role for me.
– We had a wonderful time on exchanges in cowra, I had never been to cowra before! It was a blast, I got to work with Elder Moyes, he is¬†such a great elder. It was a great day as well. Its funny, I got to see the cowra chapel for the first time, it is actually just a house! haha, I should have gotten a picture, it is a normal white house with a big sign out front saying The church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints! I got to meet several of the members out there, they are so wonderful! This district just amazes me! in every branch there are such faithful and strong saints that keep the church alive and vibrant out here in the frontiers of the church. I picture myself looking back to my time as a missionary in the orange district for many years to come,¬†to find a great well of faith and strength and example. These good members are just that for me, amazing pillars and examples of faith and devotion that will inspire and strengthen me perhaps forever. Anyway, it was a fun day, I saw a camel! random, I thought there were only camels in the northern territory. We also went and volunteered at the PCYC in the evening, which is the “police citizens youth centre” Kind of like a YMCA run by the police here. It was really cool, the cowra elders volunteer there a lot and Friday night was basically just a sports night that gives underprivileged and troubled youth a place to go to stay out of trouble and escape from difficult households.¬†We just helped run the whole thing, there was over 60 youth there and only two officers, so it probably was a bit of relief to them, and gave us the chance to play a bit of touch rugby and basketball with the kids. It was really a blast, I was very impressed with the kids as well, according to the officers many of them have criminal records, but it seemed like they all got along quite well and were sharing and working together, it was great to see! It made me so grateful for my family and all of the wonderful opportunities and positive environment they provided for me as a kid, I wish everyone was so fortunate. I hope these kids will be able to rise up and see their great potential, anyway, it was a great experience. Anyway, the best part of the exchange was getting to know elder Moyes better, At the end of the exchange it really amazed me how much he opened up and trusted me and valued my feedback, seriously this amazes me that anyone of the missionaries in this mission would look to me for any amount of leadership or advice, I see elder moyes as such a strong missionary, but because of his humility and strength we were able to have a really great discussion and I was able to give him some encouragement, counsel and bear testimony. I just love being a zone leader¬†in these moments, sometimes the love I feel and the words that come out of me seem like so much more than anything that comes from me. I have learned so much about the saviour and leadership in this zone, I wouldn’t trade it for anything.
-so time is running short, so Ill start wrapping up! one cool experience was that elder skinner and I taught a lesson in a sheep shearing shed this week, haha. Elder skinner keeps saying it felt like we were in one of those doctrine and covenants movies of missionaries soon after the restoration teaching farmers or something. haha, I don’t know about that, but it was pretty unique. Its definitely different as a missionary out here in the country!
-So, to finish up, I could not forget to mention that it was the Bathurst races this weekend!! wow, it was something else, obviously we did not go to the actual races, but it was impossible to ignore the event! Thousands of people from all over the country poured in for the event, streets were packed, shops were packed, there were people camping out in pretty much every available piece of grass around town, you could hear the roar of the engines from all the way across town, including all through our church meetings, haha. There were even louder jet planes and helicopters and trick planes flying overhead constantly, and of course it was all everyone was talking about all week! Even in cowra! apparently there are people who stay there because accommodation is completely full in bathurst and drive into Bathurst to watch, apparently people rent out their homes for people to stay in as well for thousands of dollars, its hard to even describe how big a deal this was for the town, they estimated like a 25 million dollar profit for the week. Man, I know nothing about car racing, but the country people love it! haha. We did take a few minutes to park on a hill a few kilometres away and could see a fair bit of the race, they do go pretty fast! and it is a very windy course.
Anyway, I have got to go. Love you all very much ūüôā
Elder Faulkner
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