I received an early call from President Merrill two weeks back, which usually means one of two things: Either I am getting some special leadership assignment, or I am going somewhere rough and he wants to give me some counsel on what's up.
I was getting so sick of all the negative comments Elders were making about the dead area of Grassy Park. Everyone, even a previous AP, was saying, "Wow, I would rather be out in banishment for the rest of my mission than to get sent there! That totally blows!" They'd laugh and ask what I did wrong to be stepped down from being a Zone Leader in Queenstown to being a District Leader in Grassy Park. They really knew how to build a guy's faith.
I remember our first day (Wednesday) together, Elder Martinez sat down and said, "To be honest, we don't really have anything going on. So I am not sure how you think we should go about this.." I assured him it's all good and we can start to make something happen now. He told me how everyone always just told him this was a bad area. Even the attitudes of the missionaries serving here was that of negativity and them expecting no success. He then got really excited as we started speaking of some of the miracles that we both have seen throughout our mission. As he reflected on how the Lord helped him in his last area, he got to the point where he was asking, "So then why wouldn't God help us here?" - Counsel does work. So we just talked, set some goals and decided just to go and get after it.
Thursday we set some goals and made some plans for the less actives and trying to involve the members. We felt that we needed to find a teaching pool, so we just went out and started testing the promises of God. Of course, we saw miracle after miracle! Elder Martinez said, "Ahh! Why is this only happening now!? - Wait, I know. We are really working hard." Every day this week we found and taught two new father-led families. Now we have 8 that we are on the beginning stages of the lessons. Sometimes people think it takes a lot of time to build an area up... Nope, it takes about as long to build an area as it takes to say, "Heavenly Father, we are ready to give it everything. Will you help us?" And help us He did.
One experience, out of many, was just on Saturday. We were finishing up doing some finding around a members house when we were about to get into the car I saw a Nigerian guy smoking, and I just felt the urge to ask him. "Hey! Do you want a Book about Jesus Christ?" He threw down his cigarette and jogged over. We started introducing the Book of Mormon to him, when a tall guy from the Congo ran up and said, "Elders! I have that book! Please come to my house now." - We kind of just looked at each other, saw the Nigerian guy walk off and we started following this mysterious three nephite sort of stud. So we followed him. We went into his house and he pulled out the Book of Mormon. He started telling us of how he was almost baptized in Jo-burg but he felt like he needed to come to Cape Town to stay with his wife and three kids and look for a job here. He said he has been looking for the church for the past three months now until he saw us start talking to that other guy. He was smiling so big and kept saying, "Ohh my brothers, God is looking out for us." So we taught him, he accepted baptism, said his wife will love to as well, and also said he wants his 8 year old son to be baptized as well. He should be coming to church this coming Sunday. We are so excited about him and his family. They want us to come every day, but our schedule is already filling up so fast that we can only see them two or three times a week! It's an awesome problem to have.
Alma 26:37 comes to mind, "Now my brethren, we see that God is mindful of every people, whatsoever land they may be in; yea, he numbereth his people, and his bowels of mercy are over all the earth. Now this is my joy, and my great thanksgiving; yea, and I will give thanks unto my God forever. Amen."
All I know is that the Lord has made things happen here, SO FAST. I think he just saw our desire and is helping us in this work. Like we learn in Jacob 5:71 and 72, "And the Lord of the vineyard said unto them: Go to, and labor in the vineyard, with your might. For behold, this is the last time that I shall nourish my vineyard; for the end [of your mission] is nigh at hand, and the season speedily cometh; and if ye labor with your might with me ye shall have joy in the fruit which I shall lay up unto myself against the time which will soon come. And it came to pass that the servants did go and labor with their mights; and THE LORD OF THE VINEYARD LABORED ALSO WITH THEM; and they did obey the commandments of the Lord of the vineyard in all things."
I think that scripture says it all. The Lord is laboring alongside us family. Now, we hope to get the rest of the district and the members on board and I know this will be one of the most desired area's to be transferred to in the mission.
GOOD NEWS: I am now in Cape Town. Which means I will get mail MUCH sooner. So send it my way erryone.
Mdala Mitchell Ryan Thayne
South Africa Cape Town Mission
PO BOX 181, Observatory,
Cape Town, 7935
Republic of South Africa
Crazy Story: Elder Martinez and I were driving by Lavender Hills (don't be fooled by the pretty name, this place is as crazy as they come), and we saw a dead body of someone that had been shot. So we pulled over and saw people running back and forth. The cops had just shown up. We were just kind of like, "OHH DANG!" But we kept our cool and asked some people what had happened. I guess there is some major gang warfare going on here. One of the more well known/well established gangs out here are called The Americans. So yeahh, we had the thought come to us that we should ask the Policeman where the family was. So we got directed to where they were standing and crying. We spoke to the family and told them we have a message called the Plan of Salvation and would love to come share with them where their son is now. They, through their tears, accepted and asked us to come this Wednesday. Poor people. The gospel is the only thing that can help them.
Funny Story: I was walking by a police officer in Grassy Park and I was so sure he was a Xhosa guy. So I just went to greet him like I would any other Xhosa Buthi. "Yes Tata! How are you?" He just scowled and walked past saying, "I am not your tata, boy." Ouch! My soul. Haha whatever though. We are still laughing about it.
Here are just some pictures of me saying goodbye to the Ndabeni family for the last time. Probably one of the saddest goodbye's I have had to say. They all went around one by one in a circle telling me why they loved me and what our service had done for them. It killed me, but I loved it.
Then just a picture of President Merrill with some of us elders after Stake Conference yesterday. It was so powerful.
Mdala Mitchell Ryan Thayne
Saying my goodbyes in Queenstown
Senzo and Linda, who just got married and he got baptized
My first area, Mdantsane
Stake Conference in Cape Town with President & Sister Merrill
Nearly a mission's worth of Missionary Planners