Monday, May 27, 2013

The Eagle Has Landed... Week 9

[For those of you who are new to the Elder Schomburg blogs, I usually try to add links to interesting articles or pages if clarification or additional information is needed.  If it's highlighted, feel free to click on it and learn more about Elder Schomburg's experience. ~Lisa]

G'day from Darwin, Australia!

Wow, where do I even start. Let me just say this; Australia is NOT the United States. I'm still adjusting to, well, everything I suppose. Driving on the left is throwing me off and I'm slightly worried because of that; there are a LOT of islanders that come to this mission, and they don't have driver licenses. Americans do, and therefore, we are highly favored because of our ability to operate motor vehicles, so someday I will be driving a car here, and I still don't know which way to look for oncoming traffic. It is harder than it sounds.

Okay, aside from that, let's see... what to say? This has felt like the longest week ever (it's about 11AM right now, by the way). We flew from Tennessee to LAX, Qantas (the Australian airline we flew on) was extremely prompt on boarding the transfer flight and Elder Taylor took up all the time to call by speaking with his mother and father separately (which is why I was unable to call with the one phone available- I knew you wouldn't worry though XD). So after that began the longest plane-ride of my life in which I did get some sleep... sort of. We landed in Sydney at 6AM AUS time, left for Adelaide at 9AM, stayed the night in Adelaide, and then flew up to Darwin (pronounced Da-Win) at 6AM again. At first I wasn't too excited about getting sent to Darwin; it meant getting onto yet another plane and then flying up north about 1400 miles from Adelaide, and I didn't want the culture shock (Adelaide and Darwin are VERY different). However, suffice it to say that I LOVE Darwin! This is the place of Australia that most Americans think of when they think of Australia- it's not very desert-like, but there are tons of different tropical plants and animals (cockatoos and parrots are the most annoying things... they just screech and scream and it was cool at first but now it's just.. yes, anyways), and there are crazy trees out here. It's really pretty neat.

I got here just as dry season began, which I thought meant it would be hot and miserable. Turns out, dry season is the best time to be in Darwin because it cools down and it isn't as humid. Wet season is when it gets hotter and wetter, and rains both ways, which I JUST missed. It really is beautiful up here, it's sort of hard to describe in just these few words. If I had more time I'd go into more detail.

Teaching the people here is WAY different than Tennessee, and I think that's why I got my visa when I did- I had Tennessee figured out as far as teaching the people and getting around and whatnot. Australia, Darwin specifically, is full of a plethora of different types of people. There are Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims, Atheists, Christians... it really keeps you on your toes, and you've got to keep your teaching skills sharp.

The Darwin Branch is 200 strong (1000 on the roster) and the people are just awesome, and the same can be said of the missionaries here. Everyone is just awesome, and they're easy to talk to and they're just fun to be around. My companion is Elder Lacanivalu (la-tha-knee-va-loo) from Fiji, and he has the coolest Fijian-Australian accent mix. Speaking of which, one Elder in our zone (which is ten strong and is also the district in the same if you understand that) is from Utah and sounds like an Australian, and not to get anyone's hopes up but I find that the more I talk to people the more I adopt their verbiage and pronunciation so... XD pretty cool XD

I guess you're all probably sleeping or going to sleep soon... that's weird to think about. I can't tell you much from the future other than the work is progressing and I am having fun. I will admit, missionary work is mentally challenging on an unfathomable scale; there are moments and days where I just want to come home. The only way to push through such times is to just work, and remind myself of why I'm here, and then I feel better. Bearing testimony helps a lot too- anything that invites the Spirit really helps. I've been focusing this week on focusing less on myself and more on doing missionary work. I don't complain verbally, but I suppose I've been too lenient with thinking about the comforts of home, or rather, the people I miss that are at home. In any case, we all have those days, but today is a good day and I feel great!

My diet hasn't changed a whole lot... they eat very similar foods. I ate Jackfruit the other day- that's some pretty good stuff, you all should Google a picture of it or something.


Jackfruit is huge!
Elder Lacanivalu is one of the best missionaries there ever was, by the way; he's an awesome trainer, and very spiritual. He relies one the Holy Ghost probably more than any other missionary I've yet met, and he knows why he is here. He's got six months left and he used to be a "Bush Missionary" meaning he's served outside of Alice Springs (a couple hundred miles outside of) with the aboriginals, and he did that for eight months. The mission has started pulling Bush missionaries back in, so I might not get to do that, but I think it would be awesome. Next to being a Bush missionary though, Darwin is the place to be, and I really do love it here. This mission just feels like home and I fit in pretty well. There are tons of islanders, it's crazy. I'm actually Elder Lacanivalu's first American companion (REPRESENT!!!) so I was excited to hear about that. Not many Americans over here XD

Anyway, I hope I've answered some questions. Alright, I've got to go now.

Cheers, mates!
-Elder Schomburg

P.S.  Getting into Australia is a lot less intimidating than it sounds; I declared all my things that needed to be, security asked for specifics, I told them, and they let me in. Packaged food can be sent to Australia, but it can't be opened. Last I heard it costs around $55US to send a package here though, so I won't expect much food. They made me leave a suitcase with half of my things in the "vault" back in Adelaide but I should be alright with what I've got. I'll probably be in Darwin for a pretty good chunk of time; the missionaries sent up here tend to stick around for anywhere from 6-14 months so we'll see what happens :) I love you lots and I hope you get to feeling better!

Elder Schomburg arrives in Adelaide, Australia
with President and Sister Carter

Monday, May 20, 2013

H-Hour... Week 8

As the title may have implied for you more nerdy folk, "H-Hour" is commonly associated- in military jargon- as the time before an assault is made on an enemy position/location/stronghold, etc., etc. That being said... it has happened- I'm leaving for the Mission Office at 11:45 today, will arrive hopefully at 1:00, and after that I will be headed to Adelaide, Australia! I don't know anything about flight plans or whatnot; I was told to pack my gear and show up today at 1:00PM, so my gear is packed, and now I wait. I'm sorry that I don't have any more information, but if I'm allowed to, I'll try to call home before I leave the country.
This week has been... crazy, for lack of better words. Our third companion, Elder Toone, actually went to high school with Elder Fishburn, so those two hit it off pretty quick. The same day we got him (last Tuesday), President McKee informed me and Elder Taylor that our visas had come through and that we were departing Monday. After that wall hit us, we went back to work, and we worked hard. I'm sorry I keep forgetting to report back on Zach and Josh, but here's how those fields are: we made contact with Zach (finally) and he came to church on Saturday to play some church ball with me and my companions and a handful of priests and their friends. He has a girlfriend that he's "very attracted to" and we have reasoned that he fell off the face of the earth because of this. Before he went under the radar, he was almost ready for baptism, and then we mentioned the law of chastity... I'll let your educated minds fill in the blanks.
I had to say goodbye to my good friend Josh yesterday; he came to church and brought our mutual friend Joy with him (only after I guilt-tripped him into it [and I "laid it on thick", to hear Josh put it]). It was necessary; he felt bad for some things he had done in the week and wasn't going to come because he didn't feel worthy to. Unfortunately for him, he has a friend like me, and I'm very blunt and straightforward when it comes to things like this. So yes, I spoke some hard things against him and he came in the end. Joy and Josh also fed us dinner that night (I haven't really mentioned Joy, but Josh and Joy are very good friends and we're friends with both of them. Joy is a member and has been going through some difficult tribulations so we've been doing our best to help her along). After they fed us, we took some photos and parted ways. Yesterday was... melancholy for me. It was a good day for missionary work, but not so fun in regards to parting ways with some people whom I've come to greatly appreciate and respect.
I don't have any fun stories to tell about this week, and I'm not even sure I have anything spiritual to offer. We handed out a few copies of the Book of Mormon, we were offered water and shade by a Presbyterian man (left him with a Book of Mormon too), and tracted in 80 degree weather with probably 70 percent humidity (thus making it feel more like 100 degrees). It rained on Friday, as is custom, and I went on exchange with Elder Allen, a Spanish missionary (that is to say that he speaks Spanish but is of European descent), and so for a day and half I contributed virtually nothing to the lessons we (or rather, he) taught; hablo no Espanol, los siento.
Yesterday at Sacrament meeting (here, something spiritual!), I did truly come to appreciate what the Sacrament is. After having pushed Josh so hard to come to church, I found myself sitting next to him and Joy and wondering what had compelled me to have spoken with such guilt-provoking conviction as I attempted to get Josh to come to church. As I took the bread, I thought of a story I heard awhile back about an apostle or prophet who, once passed the bread and water, took them and looked at them for a moment before partaking. I was not looking to mimic him, but instead wanted to really understand the Sacrament as he had. I took the bread and passed the tray along, and I sat there and looked at that small piece of bread. I pondered over what it meant, what it symbolized, and why it was so important to take it every week. It more or less hit me like a freight-train; the Sacrament, or partaking of it, literally is a re-baptism of sorts. It is a renewal of baptismal covenants and much more.
I thought long and hard about what I had covenanted to do, having been baptized into the Lord's church, but more so, I thought of what the Sacrament did. Like baptism, which symbolizes a rebirth, taking the Sacrament symbolizes starting anew. It symbolizes our willingness to repent for mistakes made over the past week, and it shows that we are going to try again, even harder than last time, to do as the Lord would have us do. It enables us to become clean again, as baptism first did, and that really hit me. The opportunity to become clean and fresh in the eyes of the Lord through taking the Sacrament, and being able to access Christ's Atonement -and therefore be able to be rid of the guilt that comes with past transgressions- is one of the greatest gifts given to us, and we would not have it without Christ's sacrifice.
Alas, it is that time in which I must be going. Please don't mail anything else to Tennessee (I have sent letters out with Tennessee return addresses and those will reach you after I have touched down in the land down under). I love you all, keep on keeping on! The next time you hear from me I won't be in the US! 

Elder Schomburg

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

There is a Lord... Week 7

Good morning from Lebanon, Tennessee! As the title states, last week was very low in numbers as far as teaching appointments, lessons, new investigators, and everything else we do, BUT there is a God and I am doing very well, so if anyone out there thinks this is the worst thing I could possibly be doing and that I'm suffering, simply put and without any sympathy, you're wrong. Also, just a sidebar... these library computers won't let me drop photos, so I'll print some off at Walmart today and send them home with a few letters. But anyways, on to last week's report.
Before I forget, let me say this; it was one of my fears that I would have a fool-companion who would try to do something unwise with his bike and consequently crash into me. It turns out, that where there were no fools present, Elder Fishburn and I crashed into each other anyway. Now, Lebanon is a "miracle mission" and I have a testimony that this is true; if me -a 160lbs 6' 2" 19-year old- can take out a 220lbs, 6'4" 20-year old on his bike, remain perfectly fine on mine, and after sending his bike out from underneath him come out unscathed, there must be angels. The amazing thing is that he, Elder Fishburn, came out unscathed as well, and was like a cat as he danced on his feet, trying to avoid his careening bicycle as it sought to take out and cripple his legs. He had been looking for Zach's car (we were going to go to his apartment to see if he was home), and I had been looking over my shoulder, checking for traffic to make sure it was safe for me to ride shoulder-to-shoulder with Elder Fishburn. Our paths crossed, we hit each other, and we both came out fine. It was quite miraculous.
In other news, we were tracting Saturday night and we had knocked a few doors, were rejected a few times, stirred up a neighborhood of dogs due in part to the stray that was following us, and as we were leaving one house, a man in a white Jeep Cherokee came to a stop, put his vehicle in reverse, rolled down his window and called out to us. Elder Fishburn and I were absolutely confused- no one has ever approached us, and no one has ever approached him (he's been out for almost 8 months). We went, talked to this man on the road (much to the displeasure of the traffic we halted [sorry]), and we gave him a lesson about the Restoration and the Book of Mormon right there on the street. He was very interested, and he even ASKED for a Book of Mormon before we had even mentioned it. He had two little children in the back of his vehicle and was very receptive to our message. We left him our card and number, and we haven't heard from him yet but we're very hopeful. That has never happened before, and it was just what we needed at the end of a long and -numerically speaking- disappointing day (I was in high spirits the whole time; it wasn't raining on us while we were biking [which did happen after dinner on Friday, but that's okay, it was almost fun getting soaked to the bone XD]).
Yesterday was also Mother's Day (I wish all of you beautiful and amazing mothers out there a very heartfelt Happy Mother's Day) and I was able to call home. That was very cool and it was awesome to hear my family's beautiful voices, and of course, getting to talk to Mom was very fun and I enjoyed everything that everyone had to say!

Elder Fishburn and I are being put into a trio, or rather, we're receiving another visa-waiter fresh from the MTC. How this is going to work I have absolutely NO idea and I am just a little (or maybe very) apprehensive. I don't mind having a third new person within the companionship, I'm just questioning logistics- our apartment is fit for two, and now we have a third to watch out for... "We are all enlisted 'till the conflict is o'er! Happy are we! Happy are we!" This is my new song for whenever I think about having three people in our apartment that fits two people... smiles all around!
Until next week, goodbye from Lebanon! As always, emails and mail are much appreciated (every letter is a blessing). I love you all and hope our good Lord is treating you as well as he's been treating me.
-Elder Schomburg

Salt Lake City Temple
May 10, 2012
I took this pretty photo and just wanted to share.

Monday, May 6, 2013

And Lebanon Did Dwindle in Unbelief

Can you guess how things are going in Lebanon, Tennessee? 

To quote my senior companion, Elder Fishburn (who has been out for 7-8 months), "This has been the worst week of my entire mission, as far as numbers are concerned." It isn't all about the numbers, but when you're coming up with things like one other lesson taught, or maybe two lessons with recent converts/less actives (now referred to as returning members), you start to wonder certain things, like "WHAT ON EARTH IS GOING ON AND WHY!?!?!" I wouldn't have room to say anything if Elder Fishburn and I didn't work hard, but we do work hard; every day we work like there is no tomorrow, and now.... well, here's the situation: every appointment we make falls through. Every person we thought we counted as Progressing Investigators has fallen off of the face of the planet. EVERY door in Lebanon has been knocked, every street explored, every nook and cranny ventured into. EVERYONE seen on the street has been contacted, and EVERYONE seen has rejected us.
Aside from the fact that the missionary work in Lebanon has grinded to an utter and almost complete halt (thanks only in part to a... stubborn and stiff-necked people), we had zone conference. I will be honest (I am in a very blunt and honest and straightforward mood so I will attempt to choose my words carefully [the whole situation here has filled me with wroth]) and say that I do not enjoy large gatherings of missionaries. I don't have many friends here and the ones I do have already have closer friends that they typically gravitate towards when they see each other at these larger meetings. To be short, I feel very much like an intruder here; visa-waiters are typically unwanted in any mission field that is not their own because people don't think you will be around for very long, which is why it is difficult to make friends; no one wants to make friends with someone who could, at any given time, receive flight plans and a ticket to their assigned area (in my case, Australia). Cozying up to the ward has been difficult, and other missionaries don't get too close because, again, no one wants to make friends with someone they'll have to part with at any given time. Thus is the story of my life right now. I can honestly say I do really miss the Monument Ward; the closeness of the ward and the care they have for each other is exemplary. And you all have beautiful singing voices... no one here sings...
On a brighter note, Elders Fishburn, Alarcon, Rowley, and myself were awarded the first ever Golden Hubcap Award for having kept our car in such fine condition. Our pictures are going to be displayed in the mission office beneath the golden hubcap which will be displayed on the wall. Yay for us! How sad is that, though? Having my picture hung on a wall beneath a plastic Toyota hubcap spray-painted gold has been the highlight of me week...
It rained more, by the way. We had a few sunny days and today there's some sunshine, but it rained more, and to save on miles (we're only allotted 1,000 miles per month for the four of us) and to keep ourselves relatively dry, we opted to go tracting on foot. All I have to say is that rain is not conducive to doing the Lord's work. But why do we tract in the rain (we went over this at zone conference)? Because we love the Lord. Why are we homesick? Because we love the Lord. Why are we out here knocking doors, street contacting, and trying to set up solid appointments in a town that has completely closed itself from receiving the restored gospel of Jesus Christ? Because we LOVE the Lord. 

For any of you who know me, and I would hope many of you do, yes, I am in a "Fake It Until You Make It" mood, and I will make it eventually. Today is going to be a great day! I'm going to get a door slammed in my face and I will say "Mmm, what a nice breeze!" I'm going to get mocked and laughed at and scorned and you know what? It's like Elder Jeffrey R. Holland said in his talk "Missionary Work and the Atonement" (which you should ALL watch, it is... powerful): "When our missionaries ask themselves why is it so hard, they should all remember this: they are not the first ones to ask that question."
The whole video, "Missionary Work and the Atonement" is something that deserves some kind of award because by watching it, you will experience the best ten minutes of your life. It makes many comparisons to the challenges missionaries have to the things that Christ faced. Any time I want to complain about something or think that I've got it bad, I think of Christ. He was spit upon, he was whipped, he was stoned, he was crowned with thorns and he was NAILED (not tied, as was the more common practice among the Romans of the time) to the cross. When he suffered in Gethsemane, he -even the Only Begotten Son of God- asked "Is there no other way?" Like Elder Holland points out in the video, if we desire to share the gospel, and walk the path Christ walked, we must experience at least a little, an inkling of the suffering that he went through. If we did not experience at least SOME tribulation, or trial of faith, we would NOT be walking in the path that Christ walked. One of my favorite quotes out of the whole thing is when Elder Holland boldly declares, "Salvation is not a cheap experience; Salvation was NEVER a cheap experience!"

My time is short, but really, look it up on Youtube or something, and just take ten minutes to watch the video. I can testify that by doing so, whatever your ideas of Christ and his sacrifice are right now, they will change, and you will gain a much greater appreciation for what he went through for all of us.
-Elder Schomburg