Sunday, July 28, 2013

Is It Worth It? Week 18

G'day Everybody!
I received a handful of emails and I'm hoping to get some expected pouch after I send this, and so as always, THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR WRITING TO ME (be it in email or hand-written, I accept any and all forms of love)!!!! Really and truly, if you could see my face every time I open an email from home you would come to truly understand how much I appreciate mail!
This week was good for me, perhaps a bit rough on Elder Traconis. So far he's seen a naked man, witnessed a woman breastfeeding, got a chin-full of bat (flying bat, not baseball bat), ran over a rat, and this week he stepped on a pile of feces as well as rode through one. Some of the less fortunate homeless people who roam the streets of Darwin don't exactly have any care for public toilets, so they'll just do their business wherever. Consequently, my poor companion has suffered the wrath of various sicco's ("poop" or "feces" in Tongan) and it's rather put him off, understandably so. He talks about his last area often and is sometimes quite homesick for Adelaide. I can't see why- Darwin is the place to be! I'm not anxious for transfers because I don't exactly want to leave yet. As I'm finding out, through spiritual promptings I will know a week beforehand if I am leaving or staying, so at the end of this week I should know. I think I've got one more transfer up here, and then they'll send me packing.... I don't want to leave Darwin, especially now- the work this week was solidas.
It was yesterday during Priesthood meeting in which Brother Baqinquito (our new ward mission leader [has been for three weeks]) informed the Priesthood body that there are 8 baptismal dates for the Darwin district. Just taking the knowledge that Elder Traconis and I have, we were able to deduce that -by using our own numbers- half of those dates are mine and Elder T's. To say that I have been battling pride this week would not even do the struggle any justice. I've been trying very hard to understand that without the Lord those dates would not exist AT ALL. Elder T and I smashed it this week: our member-present lessons were off the charts, we blasted a number of goals out of the water, and we've got four investigators preparing for baptism. Unfortunately (and I think this comes with being a more down-to-earth realist) I'm also struggling with having any faith in those dates. The investigators with them are solidas, and I'm not kidding when I say that. But in my experience, baptismal dates have only ever been pushed back repeatedly before being dropped. I really REALLY don't want that to happen with our investigators. One of them, Dennis (a former Catholic), recently committed to living the Word of Wisdom. [We believe that the Word of Wisdom is God's law of health and obeying this commandment will bring blessings.] He said, "I don't like it, but I will do my best," because he doesn't agree with not being able to drink tea or coffee. In the end, our final argument was nothing health related- we said (paraphrasing, of course), "Dennis, we've often taught you about the Holy Ghost, and the momentous blessings that having his companionship brings us in our lives. You yourself have experienced this. Now, we can't tell you what's unhealthy about tea, but we can tell you this: the Lord has said that the presence of the Holy Ghost in our lives is dictated upon whether or not we live and follow the commandments, and this is one of them. We don't know why tea is in the mix, but we do know that if we have a glass of tea, we're telling the Holy Ghost to take a hike for the next hour or so, and in that hour or so, we might have received a life-saving prompting that could have helped us or someone else, had we been accompanied by the Holy Ghost. You have to ask yourself, 'Is that glass of tea worth it?'" Is it worth it?  After putting it into perspective, Dennis -with a smug grin and a discontented huff- said, "I don't like this, but I will try to follow the commandments." He knows how important having the Holy Ghost in our lives is, and he understands that not having the Holy Ghost leaves us very exposed and, in a sense, very alone. He's retained all of our previous lessons, and he knows that the Book of Mormon is the word of God, and he knows that Joseph Smith is a prophet. That is how he was able to commit to living the Word of Wisdom. "If the Church is true, then what else matters?" as the saying goes. He's probably the most solid investigator we have right now, and we're very excited for August 24th (his [as well as everyone else's] baptismal date).
Didn't think that was where I was going with this, but hey, that's where it went (and chances are, that's where the Lord wanted it to go). I myself know that the Holy Ghost is something that I need, and I need him all the time. If I don't have the Holy Ghost accompanying me, I won't know which street to turn down, which person to talk to, or what to say when in the middle of a lesson. You can memorize lesson outlines and scriptures all you want, but without the Holy Ghost, you'll never be able to teach anyone according to what it is that they need at that moment in time. It's pretty cool how it works, too; I've been in lessons where an investigator will have a concern -something that I didn't even think of- and a scripture that I had previously read a month ago will pop into my mind, and as soon as I read it to them (or have them read it) their concern is resolved. Experiences like that are nothing extraordinary or out there, but without them, working as a missionary would be absolutely miserable. I know that the Holy Ghost's company is a blessing, and something that everyone should strive to maintain. If you've got him right beside you, you've got nothing to worry about.
That's about all from this week. Again, I appreciate all of the letters and emails that everyone sends me! I am eternally grateful and I love you all!
-Elder Schomburg

Sunday, July 21, 2013

What Has Been Seen Cannot Be Unseen... Week 17

G'day brothers and sisters and friends and family!
As the title may have hinted towards, there were several things which I witnessed as a missionary this week that I hope no one ever has to see/ go through ever again. To start off, yesterday we approached an elderly couple watching a footie game [rugby] in their car port under their house. We made ourselves known, started to talk to them, and after we established that they were Greek Orthodox and didn't want to change, a man (their son, we think) shouted from an outdoor shower, "What the **** is going on!?" at which point he exited the shower... Behold, our eyes were scarred as our gazes fell upon his beer belly and other accompanying things. He shouted in surprise and retreated back into the shower, and I began to walk away, confused and horrified at what had just occurred and what I had just witnessed. Elder Traconis turned and ran back to the bikes as I followed in a shell-shocked stupor. Hence, the title: what has been seen cannot be unseen. To add to that, we were trying to get to know a person so as to teach him when his wife or sister -I'm not sure who- pulled out her breast and began to feed her infant. That's probably the tenth time that's occurred on my mission, in which me and my companion have been giving a lesson or talking to someone and ta-da! The wife, or the woman present, just whips 'em out and starts feeding right there, absolutely no decorum.  Ah, the glories of serving a mission! I can't honestly say I'm not fazed when that occurs anymore- it's happened so many times it's almost expected.  Unfortunately for Elder Traconis, that was the first time that's happened to him, so he was a little red in the face and noticeably averted his entire body to where he had almost done a complete 180 while trying to teach the father/brother figure. To follow that up, he was hit in the face by a bat yesterday as we rode back to our flat, and he unintentionally ran over a rat the same night. To top it all off, we've been having bike trouble like no other pair of missionaries I know, and we've had to change out tubes almost every other day this week. Oh, fun side-bar: I can ride my bike with no handle-bars... anyways...
The work was average and involved lots of walking due to our unfortunate, recurring bike situation, but at least I've started to pick up some on the weak points that I identified yesterday. Now, my mother has made it known to me that she caught some flak for the way I went about discussing my own imperfections last week, and the simple truth is that when she speaks for me she is right- the bar that I set is my bar, and if I fall short, it is me that does the rebuking. I will be fine, and the only thing expected of us missionaries is our best. It just so happens that my best is very high up there and I tend to be disappointed if I do not hit that mark. I do not feel it wrong for me to have set ridiculously high standards for myself- the Lord expects our best and I intend to give the best. I do need to acknowledge that the chances of me attaining the perfection that I so eagerly desire are not very high, and it is not going to happen in this life, and I should be a little more forgiving of myself, but alas, I do not want to let that become a way to rationalize poor performance. Thus, the bar remains high. Please, for heaven's sake, my mother knows me better than anyone else on this earth, and if she says I'm just being me, chances are very high that I really am just being me. I would highly recommend that those who doubt what she says concerning me rethink their own train of thought. How would it be that my mother -the woman who carried me, birthed me, nursed me, raised me, and has spent more accumulative hours with me than anyone else- would not know me as well as you think you know me? Not trying to shoot anyone down here AT ALL because I do love you all heaps!!! I just get a little peeved when others think they know me better than my own mother does; that is -as we refer to it in the mission field- false doctrine, and to be truthful there are probably only two other people who can even hope to come close to her concerning their knowledge of me and my nature (Dad, and Amber- they've been named, stop trying to figure it out XD).   [I actually just told him that people had asked if he would be okay and commented about him being so hard on himself - I was trying to let him know how much people care about him. He apparently mistook concern for him as criticism of me.  Such is the dilemma of black and white text across 9,000 miles. :)]
Hopefully I have more happy tales to tell next week. I got heaps of mail from my family and grandma, and I'm trying my best to write you all back! Thanks to everyone who sent me those lovely emails today- I really do appreciate every single bit of love that you all so generously give! Especially letters and cards! There's nothing better than getting a letter in the mail! Just so yous know... ;D
Lots of Love from Down Under,
-Elder Schomburg

Sunday, July 14, 2013

I Don't Want to be 'That Guy!'...Week 16

G'day from Darwin!
First, big thanks to those who wrote me this week, I was happy to have received your emails. I sent some letters home and am planning to send a few more, so I hope that those whom it may concern recieve that which has been sent. I cannot express enough how much I appreciate those who write me emails and letters and send me cards and whatnot- though I may be slow in responding, your continual support is greatly appreciated and deeply needed.
This week has been one of the most laid back weeks I've ever had as a missionary- I really do not like it... I REALLY do not like it. I have fallen and subjected myself to the temptation of lowering my own standards and conforming to those of my companion's, thus the work has suffered, I have suffered, and to be very honest, I am not happy nor proud of myself, and recovery will take some time. We were lazy this week, and my personal studies lacked in quality, our companionship studies were more like two teenage boys talking and discussing things of the world, and the Lord has rewarded us with that which we have earned: Ben has become a dropped investigator. He's not been retaining anything and will often times be home when we stop by, but will refuse to come out to have a lesson, let alone talk with us. He's just become stagnant, and is unwilling to progress. The potentials that we attempted to see were either not home or refused to see us again. A couple of people shouted at us to get off their property and continued to offer harsh words thereafter. I wish I could say that was all Satan, but in truth, all of that is/was caused because an absence of the Heavenly Father's presence. Now do not mistake me, the Father never forsakes anyone, but through our own actions we are more than capable of pushing Him further from us. I've not really felt the Spirit as often as I would have liked to this past week, and I know that this time it wasn't Satan actively influencing the surroundings to get me into a down or angered mood, but was in fact my own weakness that brought these results. If I had not yielded to that temptation to "take it easy" and relax some as a missionary, we would have had a smashing week. I wish I could report that we had a smashing week- we did not, and it is our fault. Repentance is something that may or may not take very much time- attitudes and behaviors must be modified, and restitution must take place. As always, personal forgiveness will take the longest (as is the case with myself). I'd like to take a moment to apologize to those back home who have contributed funds for my mission and to those who think I am representing them and the Church well; last week I did not represent the Lord well, I did not represent the Church well, I did not represent those who have given me SO much support well, and I did not represent myself well. I've had a pretty painful spiritual smack in the face, but it's definitely been necessary. I am better than what I have been, and I am committed to reattaining that drive to work and the diligence that is needed to be a performance-minded and consecrated missionary. I'm not going to lower my own standards to conform to those of my companion ever again- I do not conform to anyone's will save for my Heavenly Father's and that's the end of it! I'm not going to be "that guy"!
I'm feeling particularly fired up right now, and it's because I really did not perform as well as I should have. The result of that has shown in the numbers this week. Elder Traconis is convinced that we did what we could, and we certainly did all that we knew to do and what we could, but we could have done it more diligently. I can and will do better. If I am not physically and emotionally spent at the end of the week, then I have not worked hard enough, and today I still feel energized and strong. That's not right. As a servant of the Lord -especially as a missionary- I have covenanted with Him to work until I've collapsed from exhaustion, and then to work even more. This should be true of all members of the Church (did you know that only 13% of Home Teaching is actually getting done within the Church?), but being a missionary, this is my life for two years, and when I fly home in two years, if I can still walk off of that plane on my own strength then I have not worked hard enough- that's all there is to it. A common theme that I've learned while being a missionary is that there is always room for improvement. You can take that two directions, and I've done both: you can look at it and say, "Wow, every time we get together and evaluate how the work is proceeding our leaders always tell us to step it up, and nothing we do will ever be good enough". That's true, it will never be good enough, ever, not in this life. But the direction it should be taken is this- "Wow, there are a hundred different things that I can be doing better at- let me start with these five and we'll go from there." That's what I intend to do- there are fifty billion things I can be doing better at, but how do we "eat the elephant"? One bite at a time. Again, I'm sorry that I did not represent all of you back home very well last week and I hope that you will forgive me. I am going to do better though- my mind is set and if you know me, you'll know exactly what that means.
I love you all and I hope to hear from you guys again soon!
-Elder Schomburg 

[Please keep in mind that the opinion expressed here is that of Elder Schomburg and not his leadership or anyone who knows and loves him.  He's a pretty tough nut but we are always very proud of him. :)]

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Blessings abound... Week 15

G'day y'all (gotta get both adapted languages [Tennessean and Territorian] in there somewhere),
This day finds me in the library sitting next to Elder Traconis, an American from none other than San Diego, California. He's a solid planner and teacher, though a bit loose with his words. In any case, we're getting along okay- we've got shopping to do later so we'll see how much our appetites clash.
This week we spent most of our time in Karama (a suburb in our area), and most of that time was spent pulling out the map, looking around, riding around, and then finding out that our potentials lived right next to each other (derp). Elder Traconis does not favor the bike, to put it politely, and we've discovered through careful observation that one member of one of our less active families more or less has a thing for missionaries... nothing has happened, but it doesn't take a lot of intelligence to know when someone is infatuated with you. Another problem with that is that the youth in question is somewhat attractive, which is a slight distraction to my companion, which makes visiting and teaching her older brother Jake -who has expressed interest in going on a mission- a somewhat difficult task, as they are together most of the time (and she. Is. A. FLIRT. Blarg!). Being the senior companion, I'm trying to rethink our approach to reactivating the family without risking distraction or thoughts that would be detrimental to maintaining and keeping the Spirit's company.
Now aside from that little complication, we've been teaching an Aboriginal named Ben. He's 60 years old and has had some pretty interesting spiritual experiences. He used to be a minister or preacher for a church, but he's very open to listening to what Elder Traconis and I have to teach. As we taught him the Restoration one day, his 15-year old son, Lucas (whom we did not know existed), came out of the house, sat on the grass with us, and listened in. We handed Lucas a Restoration pamphlet and continued to teach him and Ben, and Lucas just blasted through the pamphlet- read the whole thing right in front of us. Naturally, we moved on to the next thing to bring up: the Book of Mormon. We explained what it was and then revealed two copies and presented them to both Ben and Lucas... I have NEVER seen anyone's face light up so quickly. I have NEVER seen anyone so excited or so thrilled to receive the Book of Mormon. One would have thought that we had just presented a million dollars in cash, they looked so happy! We left them with a chapter to read and returned the next day (as was requested). [Click here to get a FREE copy of the Book of Mormon]
We found that they had both read, but their reading comprehension was very poor, so we read with them and explained what the passages meant. We also invited them to church, and Ben wanted to bring his whole family (meaning him and his three kids [his wife is in prison]). A little taken aback, Elder Traconis quickly siezed the situation and said that we could bring Ben and Lucas this week, and find a ride for all four next week. When does that kind of thing ever happen!? Elder Laca and I weren't sure Ben was going to be very solid, but he -and Lucas (who woke up from a nap to come and listen to us teach the second time)- are just eating it up! Again, the only complication is checking to make sure they understand what is being taught, but ultimately, they are solid. I'm a little apprehensive about helping them understand that by being baptized, they have to change and continue to live after the lifestyle that they will eventually adopt by being baptized, but it's in the Lord's hands and everything is going more than well so far (I have a bad habit of being too skeptical).
To sum it up, this week was VERY low in numbers, but as I wasn't permitted to work in my area until Thursday and even then did not know it by heart, I think Elder Traconis and I did very well with the time that was granted to us. I truly have been blessed with a good companion- I've never seen anyone plan as effectively as he does, nor have I seen anyone more excited about working with the members. I really do think that he, being my "step-father" (I've had an adoptive father, father, and now a step-father, how lucky could I be?), will teach me the last bit of things that I need to know before I finish my training with him. I really have been blessed with having three different trainers because it has given me a lot of experience and I've been able to discern what it is that I like in missionaries and would like to adopt, and what I dislike and what I will not adopt. It's all a big learning experience though (wow, random but can you believe this is the start of my fourth month, which means I'm two months away from reaching the quarter mark of my mission? Why is it that the time only goes by fast after it's already gone [because that made a lot of sense]?). 

Anyway, I'll be off for now. Thank you all so much for writing and for praying- I can definately feel your prays in my life and I really need them, believe you me XD
Love you all! Ta-da! (which is actually a way of saying 'goodbye')
-Elder Schomburg