What a week. It has been full of legendary exchanges. I have learned a lot from each missionary I have been with.
Tuesday: Elder Dangerfield, from the Isle of Man which is next to England. We taught a few lessons together, did hours of service and felt the spirit big time. It was a great experience being in East London again. SUCH A STUD.
Wednesday: Elder Meijsen and Elder Randrianamampiherinaivo - Yes, that is his real surname. He is from Madagascar, and Elder Meijsen is from Jo-burg. Anyway, our exchanges were in my greenie area of Mdantsane. I served in NU 7, 8, 10, 11, and 12. So we were able to go there, teach many people, and see a few of my recent converts and other people I taught. It was amazing.
I also found out, while I was there about my first baptism of my mission/life. Siphenathi Nake. Well, he was an amazing young man. Walked to church every week. He knew the gospel. Had a desire to serve a mission. He was 19 years old, but didn't have much support from home. We baptized him, along with several others.. Well, after time he was peer pressured into drinking. After doing so he felt so guilty he stopped going to church and meeting with the missionaries - the people and the place that could help him overcome those challenges and repent! After almost a year, I called the elders serving there and asked them to go find him. They went to his house, and he just grabbed his scriptures, shoved them in their hands and said, "I don't need these anymore. Please take them away." Several months later, while on drugs and dealing with the burden of sin, he ended his own life.
Wow, it was a pretty shocking blow for me as a missionary to take. I was so sad. So sorry to hear that someone who I loved, felt the spirit with, and personally baptized had digressed to that point. It gave me a testimony of two other things though.
1. We all have the choice. Agency is a gift to all men. 2 Nephi 2:27 tells us of the choice that we have to choose happiness or misery. It states,"and all things are given them which are expedient unto man." That means God has given us everything we will need to be successful and to make the right choices. He has given it to us, and lets us make the choice. I gave him everything I could to help him be successful. He had the choice, and he chose to walk the forbidden path rather than the straight and narrow one. That is something that makes my heart ache, but I know he has a LOVING and merciful Father in Heaven who understands what it is that he has been through.
2. Ultimately, this is EXACTLY why we need to have members and missionaries working together. Because of his lack of support and fellowship from members of the church, when he, as the lost sheep, wandered from the fold, there was no one who left the ninety and nine to go in search of him. He was left to the wolves. That is also due to my lack of understanding with how to involve the members and help THEM do their missionary work. We need the members in every phase of this great redemptive work.
Sorry, I am finished with that sermon.
Thursday: I had a killer exchange with Elder Mashego, who is from Mpumalanga, SA. We worked in Mdantsane, Ward 1. Taught several people, and ended off with a real nice dinner at some lady named Babes' house. It was really nice. The best part of the exchange by far was when we sat in the car for another hour outside of our flat and told each other the our stories. We felt the sprit and were able to testify to each other how God has blessed us and changed us throughout our lives. It's the best feeling to be able to connect with a brother from a completely different background, who is a different color, lives on the opposite side of the world, and just see how similar we really are. People in this country, and in other places, focus on color too much. I found a brother, and I love him!
Friday - Sunday: I was with my main man, Elder Johnson, from Northern Utah. We were working, then went to church, in Queenstown. Gosh, I love this Elder so MUCH. It's funny how he is so much younger than me, but I look up to him so much. We went out and worked hard together. We laughed most of the day, and I was able to show him a few less active families and show him a few other Father-Led families that I had been working with there in QUEENSTOWN. It was awesome to see so many of the people that I love and that I had worked with who were still so strong in the gospel. I saw three of the guys we baptized stand up and get sustained to receive the Aaronic Priesthood right there in Sacrament meeting. Everyone was so excited to see me. I had people throw me a late birthday party and others who just couldn't stop flipping out that I was there. It was so special.
Then on top of that, Elder Johnson and I had the chance to give two blessings to two different people. I gave one to a Tata who was sick and needed one, then He was able to give one to a fellow missionary who was struggling with doubt and discouragement. It is such a wonderful blessing to be able to have this priesthood and use it to bless and strengthen those who are feeling, for a moment, overcome by the world. It was awesome to see what a priesthood man Elder Johnson has turned into and to be able to see how the Lord is preparing him for service in the future. I shared Alma 13:3-5 with him, because he is someone very involved with Leadership and was called for a real specific reason. It was a spiritual and growing experience. I'll miss him a ton.
AND then we came back to East London and now I am writing all of you. So that's been my week.
I have almost loved hearing about the persecution and the attacks that have been made against the church. Then despite all of that, I just see how the Lord's work just continues to move forward completely sure and consistent in it's course. It strengthens MY testimony of the truthfulness of this gospel. The Lord gives no heed to those who try to derail and deride that which we believe, so why should we? "Men despise religion. They hate it and are afraid it may be true." - Pascal - That is so true. There are those who are living in a way contrary to what they feel deep down to be true, and would rather make excuses or attack the truth in a futile effort to justify the sin in which they indulge in. It's interesting how people think it is easier to just say the truth is false and live with the burden of their sin, rather than to take responsibility and turn to the Lord for help.
Elder Bruce R. McConkie once said: “Keep all the truth and all the good that you have. Do not abandon any sound or proper principle. Do not forsake any standard of the past which is good, righteous, and true. Every truth found in every church in all the world we believe. But we also say this to all men—Come and take the added light and truth that God has restored in our day. The more truth we have, the greater is our joy here and now; the more truth we receive, the greater is our reward in eternity. This is our invitation to men [and women] of good will everywhere.” That's where the money is. This is the truth. We accept and embrace all truth, and just invite others to do the same. Amazingly, there is still so much opposition, but it's alright. We are on the Lord's side.
Here is an awesome poem I just got sent from one of my favorite missionaries who went home just over a year ago. Keletso Obonye.
"FATHER IN HEAVEN"
Father of love,
He is our Father above,
He is our loving FATHER IN HEAVEN.
God of truth,
Yet also God of forgiveness,
Humankind is drenched in filth, we are unclean,
Yet He gives us a marvelous gift, REPENTANCE,
He is merciful FATHER IN HEAVEN.
Perfect in all things, above all things,
He has all knowledge, He is the KING OF KINGS,
Yet of all these things, He prefers we call Him "Father".
Yes indeed! He is the pure Almighty FATHER IN HEAVEN.
SIN separates us from Him,
But He draws us in, through His beloved Jesus Christ, we are not lost; darkness prevail, NO we cannot FAIL!
For He is light! : therefore let us always remember to Him with all our Might!
Don't forget He is our glorious FATHER IN HEAVEN.
He sent us to the earth to gain a body,
To learn and grow, But I know,
When we see Him we will be like "OH!"
WE REMEMBER THEE.....
"He is our loving FATHER IN HEAVEN"
And there you have it. He is our Father in Heaven. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is GOD'S church. I know it. I learned that truth when I knelt down at 15 years old and asked Heavenly Father if Joseph Smith is a prophet. I have lived and applied this gospel and the Savior's Atonement full-time for almost two years now. I know this is it. This is the truth. This is Salvation.