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

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