Monday, May 25, 2015

the promised land

I think everyone should just come and live with me in Queenstown. It's the promised land.
Things are great. Elder Stegelmeier and I had a harder time this week when it came to working and helping our investigators progress as much as we'd like, but we were still able to teach and accomplish a lot. Elder Stegelmeier is still extremely focused. He is very diligent and attentive when it comes to the little things. So he definitely makes up for where I lack and is teaching me a lot. That is something I have loved about being a Zone Leader, my companions have been unreal.
We went on two exchanges this week. I was with Elder Mohale in my area. He has grown A LOT since I saw him in Cape Town. I think he really has come to understand much more that he can influence others for good. While on the exchange he really opened up to me asking for advice on how to be a better District Leader and how to improve the work in their area. We spoke a lot about member missionary work and getting things done that way. It really inspired him. They have been trying to visit members and committed to do it more this week since it is part of our faith extension plan as a zone. He is such a stud.
Also, during companionship studies we had the impression that one of our investigators needed to as well apply "testing the promises of God" in her own little faith extension month. So Elder Stegelmeier and I had printed out a blank template for a faith extension month, added a few scriptures and Elder Mohale and I taught her about applying faith to see miracles. We gave her the template, explained how it's done and committed her to fill out and make a plan. This weekend, we went back and found she had filled it all out in an extremely detailed manner. She was so excited about it. She has different faith building goals she is going to apply each week for the ultimate goal of softening her husbands heart so the Elders in Illinge can teach him. It was amazing. This testing the promises and faith extension is something we are now using with members and investigators. It works.
Then I had an exchange with Elder Sekhasimbe in his area. Wow. What a great elder. He is here for the right reasons. He shared with me how his mother had passed away on mission, and how he was working to always stay focused and to keep things in the eternal perspective. I was really humbled on hearing his story and working with him. He is very diligent and detail oriented as well. He is very focused and helpful with helping his investigators progress and working with them on what their needs are. It was great. I interviewed three of his baptismal candidates. It was a good exchange in Sada.. We didn't teach a lot due to dropped appointments and baptismal interviews.. the one lesson we taught was dominated by Xhosa... but I could say a few nice things! Haha it was a humbling experience. First time I have really felt out of my game in a long time. It was good for me.
Last of all, we have started working with the families in our area and helping them establish a "Family Mission Plan." They are excited about it. Mom, you sent me a format a while back for it in the mail and we made copies of it and are using it in the families in the ward. They set six family goals in six different areas on how they are going to contribute to the work in one way or another. If it keeps going well I'll let you know. I think we will start to see more of the fruits of it in the coming weeks. As we had taught a few families pamphlet teaching that has helped us with having lessons with their friends in their homes which has been great. We now hope this family mission plan will give their energy some more focused direction.
One question for everyone: Any suggestions on how to uplift and encourage elders who are struggling with discouragement in the work?
Some stories for you: Some tata came up to us, drunk as a skunk on new years eve and started saying how much he loves Jesus. We then proceeded to tell him that if he reads this pamphlet (the word of wisdom - which cautions us on using any addictive substance.) that the Lord would bless him. Well we saw him later and he came up to us proudly pointing at the front cover where there is a young couple running together and he said, "This is my wife, thank you for this book. Where can I get her?" Well, it was a little too much for us and we started to laugh.. Sweet guy, but it just goes to show we really don't function too well when we are drinking.
Then another one: This guy named Sipho has just come to church the past two weeks after Elder Stegelmeier and I taught him and his totsie friends once.. We met them while walking over to a group of thug-like guys and asking them about if they love Jesus. Then they started saying how they were going to mug us until they saw we were "with Jesus." Classic. Anyways he has been coming to church. He is so thug we are afraid to send him home with anyone because we were afraid he would steal something from them or something. In the end he just was feeling the spirit so much that he stood up in Priesthood and said, "I am here because God loves me, and I am a son of God." Then sat down... we all were just like, whoa... okaaaayyyy. Well thanks man! Then we finished the lesson. It was pretty sweet of him though. Haha 
Also, while with elder frietas we were buying some cookies at a spaza shop in eZibeleni. Then this tata comes up and says, "Give me some." He was really drunk so I said, "No tata, I can't." He then pulled out a knife and yelled, "Give me some!" I just told him no again. Then he was all mad and stormed away. Didn't cut me or anything. Just wanted to try and flex his muscles. Haha pretty funny. I have never felt less intimidated in my life. It was really weird. This mama was all shocked and said she is so sorry that happened. We said, "Ahh ma, it's no problem. So have you every heard of the Book of Mormon? No? Well it's a wonderful testament......" That stuff happens too often and we are always alright. God really takes care of us out here. Even with all this Xenophobia stuff, the missionaries are protected and safe.
As always, we are seeing miracles and learning SO much. I am pretty sure every lesson we had this week we had to rebuke people for not being committed and not making an effort to grow closer to God. Every day on mission is another adventure. 
"I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear."
-Nelson MandelaLove.
Elder Mitchell Ryan Thayne

Monday, May 18, 2015

Miracles never get old.‏

Things here are going great. We have been implementing the "Faith Extension Month - Queenstown Edition" throughout the zone and it seems to be going really well. The Elders have taken it seriously and seem to be working on it. It's been a great experience for Elder Stegelmeier and I. We have been working hard with showing the Lord we are serious and living up to the covenant we made with him as a zone. The blessings are for sure raining down. We had six investigators at church on Sunday. It may not be as incredible as when we were in EL or as many as some of the other elders are having, but for us that was a real miracle. We are able to teach a lot, but the commitment isn't going as well for these people. So we have been studying PMG chapter 11 inside and out really trying to help these individuals make and keep these commitments that we are extending. Also I really was learning a lot about the follow up. Just like Elder Ballard said in his general conference talk a while back, "Inviting is certainly part of the process. But notice that there is much more to missionary work for members than simply extending invitations to people to listen to the missionaries. It also includes follow-up with the missionaries in the cultivation of faith, the motivation to repentance, the preparation for making covenants, and enduring to the end." We studied the talk and saw the connecting line between following up, and like Elder Evans taught us at our Zone Conference, helping others live the gospel of Jesus Christ more fully in their lives. We, Elder Stegelmeier and I, have seen also how follow up is so important in Leadership and working with these other missionaries. It's been a great learning experience for me to have to learn how to handle more of the administrative duties of leadership. I have always been more comfortable and used to be a leader in just a day by day sort of way. Lead by example. But now I have to learn to encourage elders, follow up on tasks they have been asked to do by other leaders and also just help others see that there is a higher level of service and discipleship.
One thing I have seen is a higher focus, by some elders across the mission, on having these high numbers instead of focusing on being a true disciple and touching these lives people one by one just as Christ did his entire ministry. They seem to be concerned about "looking the part" instead of actually playing the part. It reminded me of Elder Uchtdorfs talk this last general conference. He talked about us sometimes putting up a face. He asked the humbling question, "What is my ministry?" I also had asked myself that and it has made me more of a consecrated missionary. I am not perfect, but I am really really trying.
Anyways, those are just a few things that have been on my mind a lot lately. I had a powerful exchange with Elder Malpage, the Assistent to the President, the past few days. We worked hard and really saw some great things. We were working together and just feeling great about how everything went. I learned a lot from him about really being steadfast in why you are there and how to show where you stand. He really knows what's up. He loves his mission, and he sure loves the people. So it was great to be able to work with him. We just wanted to get after it together and really take things to a new height. It was a great learning experience. And of course being around Elder Mchunu was awesome as well. He is my oldest friend on mission and continues to teach me so much. I know Elder Stegelmeier really enjoyed his time with him as well. Lucky duck.
The Zone is doing great. I love them all. It's amazing how being a leader really helps you love them all so much more.
One quick story. That Pastor, Tata Matoti, that we are teaching is doing so well. We saw him twice last week and have another appointment set for today. Anyways, last week we taught him the Plan of Salvation. After teaching him he was asking all about how he can go to the temple and then related the entire Plan of Salvation back to us. We were almost in tears. We told him to continue reading the Book of Mormon and praying for that answer. The next appointment we felt impressed, since he was on 1 Nephi 8, to go through Lehi's vision with him. We took it step by step and he was blown away. We asked him if he had received his answer on if the Book of Mormon is true. He told us that the night before he had been sleeping. Then he woke up in the middle of the night ultra focused and thinking about the Book of Mormon. He then went to his study at 3 am looking at and reading through a chapter. He said all of the sudden the feeling hit him that he needs to be baptized into this church. 
He then told us he wants to come to church next Sunday, after his big conference this past weekend with a bunch of other pastors, and see what this church is all about. He told us he is prepared to leave everything. He just needs help. He said he brought well over half the congregation into the Methodist church, including his whole family. He said he had baptized them himself. So if this is the church, then he was ordained incorrectly. He said he is praying to Heavenly Father for strength on what to do if he really should leave all this behind. It was amazing. Probably the most powerful lesson of my mission. Elder Stegelmeier and I were in shock.
As we were leaving Tata Matoti told us he was going to that huge conference with all those other pastors and that he is taking his Book of Mormon. We warned him that they might start saying things and try to make him feel ashamed, just as the people in the great and spacious building did to those who partook of the fruit. Then he said, "If they tell me to throw away this Book of Mormon, I will tell them they first have to throw away their Bible. I know this book teaches of Jesus Christ. They can't tell me anything else." That was a pretty awesome sidenote. The Book of Mormon is for sure the most powerful tool for conversion. It's working miracles in many lives here in eZibeleni.
Well sorry for the long email. Things are great and I am learning and growing so much. My companion is teaching me and always pushing me to be better. It's a pleasure working with him.
I saw basically the most sweet thing I have seen my whole mission this week. A member family, the Ndabeni's, were gathered around their parents bed when we walked into their tiny house. They all were each going one by one telling Tata how much they loved him and everything since it was his birthday. It was mama's turn and she basically pointed to this small plate of fruit sitting on their bed and said, "Tata, we are sorry we don't have more to give you for our birthday. This is all we have. But you and I, one day, will be together forever. Even though we don't have anything material, we have each other. And someday we will have everything that God has." It was probably the sweetest thing I have ever seen. There aren't many complete families here in SA, and I don't know of any who have that much love. There are 7 kids in that family, they stay in such a small house.They don't have much, but somehow, they have everything that matters.
Family and friends, "Life is about relationships, everything else is just details." - Steven Jay Merrill. Relationships with God, family and friends. It's all that matters.
Mdala Mitchell Ryan Thayne

Monday, May 11, 2015

Celestial Glory‏

MOTHERS DAY WAS AWESOME! It was a heavenly day. It was not only mothers day, but it was also my brother Halsten's birthday AND Elder Stegelmeier's (My companions) birthday as well. I didn't do anything for him... don't you worry, I have something planned for my companion. I couldn't be SO obvious as to have his birthday party on his ACTUAL birthday. We have something planned later this week when he doesn't see it coming. But yes, it was great seeing your lovely faces. "Grayson.... you look like a MAN!"
The Zone Conference was amazing. I really got a lot out of the training. The thing that really stood out to me in Elder Evan's training was when he was speaking about how we need to help others live the gospel of Jesus Christ. In all it's aspects. Something that was mentioned in a stake conference in East London a while back was, that the celestial kingdom is represented by the sun. The moon is something that just reflects the light from the sun, and the stars are something that don't have enough light to really help or bless anyone else. But the sun is different. The sun only gives. So just with us, as we strive to become celestial beings, we too must only give. And that is what we are out here doing as missionaries all day every day. And it's the most fulfilling and wonderful experience. I know any Elder who is truly doing his best and trying to make the most of every day will agree with me. So as I thought about that, thing that really hit me was the fact that when I am here, I must give and help others partake of the blessings of the gospel in ALL aspects, and then that is not something I should stop when I am home. My mission has started, but it won't ever stop.
I have had a lot of thoughts come to me as of late. My mission has started, but it will continue at home. I need to be mindful and prepare for how I am going to be an effective disciple of Jesus Christ in my life at home as well. Thinking about how to be better for when I am home isn't taking away from my mission, it's preparing me to help others fulfill theirs. It was a foreign thought to me, but something that was cool to consider.
Elder Stegelmeier is doing great. He is working hard and really just so consistent and solid. He is teaching me a lot. I have to say, God hooked me up for my past two companions. I have honestly loved and learned from all my companions, but Elder Freitas made me and Elder Stegelmeier really makes me have to sprint to keep up. I love it. Whatever you ask E. Stegs to do, he will do it.
The entire Zone seems to be doing well. They were all very pumped up after a little Zone meeting we had together Friday night. We set goals and created a "Faith Extension Month" plan for them. We are excited to start implementing it today. Every week we add a couple things we are going to do as a zone to help us create miracles. I'll let you know how it goes. We just hope by the end of this transfer to have each one of our 5, 5 & 5 (Five Recent Converts, Five Less-Actives and Five Investigators) at church the last Sunday. It'll be a powerful way to test the promises of God but focus on all aspects. We created a plan and we are involving all our wards in the work of contacting, meeting with and fasting for these people. The Zone seemed excited. After the little meeting we all knelt and offered a prayer covenanting with Heavenly Father that we would do all we could to make that happen.
We all loved President Merrill's and Elder Evans training's. I know for me, they both seemed to just hit me right between the eyes and tell me exactly what I needed to hear. God does know what He want's his servants to say.
We have a WONDERFUL father-led family. We are focusing on the father, his name is Khaya. I love this guy so much. He came to church this Sunday, after like three weeks of us asking, in his huge Taxi bus thing and everyone was super excited. The Bishop, his councellors and everyhone was offering to help fellowship. Khaya really enjoyed it and said he will for sure come back next week. He is probably the person we are MOST excited about.
Ohh, and we just saw our Mfundisi (Pastor) Tata Matoti here in the email shop. He says he is taring through the Book of Mormon and wants us to come read with him tonight. SCORE.
We really have been testing the promises of God. Basically that means - God has given us all different promises. We can search for them in the scriptures. Christ has said in 3 Nephi 18:20 That whatever we ask in his name, will be given. This is of course if our desires are righteous and it is in the Lord's will for you. We just need to learn to ASK - Then we SHALL receive. test God's promises. If you are doing school, kneel down and make a covenant promising the Lord that you will always study the scriptures, attend the temple, pay your tithing, etc. As well as include how you will do everything you can to be successful in studying and getting your homework finished. Then petition the Lord for his help in doing well in your classes. HE will make it happen. We apply this in our missionary work every. single. day. I know it works. When we pray and dedicate the next, eg. 2 hours to finding a father led family, and ask the Lord to help us while promising that we will do EVERYTHING in our power, He always answers the call. Every time. Try this in your life. I know it works. "I will not fail thee, nor forsake thee." - Joshua 1:5 He has promised that. Let's put that to the test and do all we can in our power then, as it says in doctrine and covenants, stand still with the utmost assurance and wait for the Lord to reveal His hand.
D&C 84:88 has an amazing promise that we are entitled to as we live up to our covenants.
All I really am saying is, CTR. You'll be happy you did.
- The pictures are randoms with a drunk tata, Mama Nkomfe was the mama we celebrated mothers day with (I love my South African Xhosa Mama), then pictures of us at a Zone Conference with the Mdantsane, East London and Queenstown Zones. - I have served in all those zones, so it was super cool. The humans actually catered at the Zone Conference so it was GREAT seeing that wonderful family again. Then last picture was with Elder Stegelmeier and I doing some stuff with the lights on our phones. If you look close, lightning struck in the background. SUPER COOL.
Mission is the best. You should all go. Grandma and Grandpa Thayne and anyone who is an older member of the church and is able, you need to go on a mission. You will be blessed SO much, and you will be such a blessing and support to the work throughout the world as well. If you want to, then the Lord will provide a way.
Love you everyone.
Mdala Mitchell Ryan Thayne

Monday, May 4, 2015

My new companion - Elder Stegelmeier

My new companion - Elder Stegelmeier is a stud. He came in after serving for 6 months in Botswana to the South Africa Cape Town Mission. I love him a lot. He just is a quiet good guy. He doesn't do things for recognition, he does them because they are right. Always deflecting compliments in order to build others up. He turns 20 the same day has Halsten! So cool! I know I'll be learning a lot with him. He is from Idaho and I think he is going to help me be good at eating well and exercising. YES IT IS COLD HERE! Ohh my word. WE are freezing. I heard sometimes it even snows in Queenstown. Party.
We had hardly any time in our area this week due to the fact we were traveling and stuff. So I don't have too many cool stories. Things are good and I am happy. Just working our guts out here in SACTM.
We travel SO much. For transfers (when missionaries move areas after six weeks) I was out of my area for forever. Four days in a row I was sleeping somewhere else. It was nuts. Then we had one day back, then I had to drive to Mthatha for an emergency with some elders... it's crazy. Then tonight we may need to drive back to Mthatha (three hours) to help a sick elder and take him down to East London (three more hours) get him to the docter and then take him back. Then on Friday our whole zone is going to East London, from Queenstown and Mthatha to have a Zone conference with Elder Evans. Head of the missionary department. he is a pretty big deal. i am so excited. Learning a lot as always. but it seems like we never have enough time to do all we need to do.
Love you elders. - Hahaha fail. I literally was trying to write "everyone" but elders has become so second nature. Fail.
Sorry it's so short this week. Just trying to stay focused.
- Mdala Thayne