Monday, August 26, 2013

Growing Pains... Week 22

G'day from Darwin!
This week has been a rough one, and not because of the stubborn people we've been sent to teach, but because of dissension in the companionship. As the title is referring to, at the beginning of every transfer I often times wonder if the new companion I get is going to be "the one that drives you up the wall". I had been hoping that Elder T had been that companion- I was wrong. For the first week and a half, Elder A and I were smashing it- our member present lessons were off the charts, we smashed our other lessons, and we found heaps of new investigators. Then, I experienced a day-long stomach bug in which I was quite ill; we spent the day in the flat. As the Elders out here say, "Better to stay in and be sick for a day than to go out and be sick for a week", so we stayed in. Not two days after I came to, Elder A came down with a terrible migraine that put him out of the fight for the second half of the day (we turned into the flat after seeing our last set appointment, which was about 4:30). I gave him a blessing and I was about to start studying when he took the phone and disappeared into the study room.

Well, being slightly suspicious (because the last time he made a call it was to a single sister in Adelaide, but he had told me), I found a reason to go into the study. I could hear him talking from the other room (the phone wasn't on speaker, strike two for suspicious), and it didn't sound as though he was trying to set up a lesson with anybody or trying to get the members to come out with us- the conversation was too lax. As I entered the room, he switched to speaking Samoan. In a short time, he finished the call. I returned to the study, sat down with some study materials, and then asked him, "Elder, did you get permission to make that call?" He didn't look at me but left the room and said, "Yeah." He groomed himself in the bathroom and before he came back I checked the phone log, looking for a text or call to the Zone Leaders that would confirm he had obtained permission to make a call outside of the zone. I found none. He came back, and I asked him again, a little more insistently, "Elder... did you get permission to make that call?" He looked at me quizzically and said, "Permission to call a member? You don't need it," to which I responded, "If that member is in Adelaide, yeah, you do." I think that's what sparked our two-day war. He was deeply offended and we exchanged some harsh words, left the flat to go out and proselyte, and every appointment we had made fell through. We returned to the flat then, because there just wasn't any Spirit at all. We then exchanged more harsh words, and argued and yelled at each other, and that was how the night ended. The following day was Sunday and it seemed as if all was well. But I still had to report his misconduct- as his companion and as a missionary, I had a duty to report ANY misconduct of that nature. Sleeping in is something that, unless done regularly, doesn't need to leave the companionship. The same goes with starting studies on time and other mundane things, but making a phone-call outside of one's zone is something that no one should let fly, and I had no intention of doing so.

After Correlation Meeting, I took Elder C aside and told him what took place. He appreciated the report and said he would look into it and call the Assistants. When Elder A and I got back to our flat, he confronted me about what I had said to Elder C. I told him -word for word- what I had said and what took place. Elder A then left to the living room/bedroom, and after about five minutes called me to come out and talk with him. Well I knew where this was going, but I went anyways. Details aside, we fought and argued even more heatedly than before and ended up saying some pretty hurtful things to each other. He retired to the study and I sat outside, both of us fuming for an hour or so. He then came out and ate a bowl of Wheetbix, and I went into the study and started reading a talk by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, titled "The Divine Companionship". I was feeling pretty yuck at this point- I was nervous and on edge because I had put off a 6'5" Samoan who got angry very quickly, the Spirit had departed entirely, and we hadn't taught anyone all day. After about the space of another hour, Elder A came into the study and sat at his desk. He looked very somber and very tired, as was I. He then said with a heavy tone, "Elder Schomburg, you mind if we talk?" At this point I didn't want to talk anymore- every other invitation to talk had ended in a verbal beating of some kind, and I was not in the mood for another one. But, I knew that the problem had to be fixed, otherwise the people in our area, the people we were supposed to be teaching, would be denied the Restored Gospel with the reason being that the missionaries assigned and trusted to teach them were incapable of doing so due to their own utter disability to love each other. So, I nodded my head and waited for him to speak. I was surprised this time, however, because he said, "Let's start with a prayer." A prayer? Both of us praying together? Why, that hadn't happened in almost two days. I know I had been praying fervently for some kind of divine intervention, not knowing what to do with a fuming Samoan roaming in the flat, but praying together? That was almost unheard of. Well, we knelt down and he offered an opening prayer. It was a very heartfelt and sincere prayer, and after closing it, we sat for about five minutes in silence. It was then that he said, "Elder Schomburg, I just wanted to tell you that I'm sorry." WHAT!? I was utterly flabbergasted, and absolutely speechless. He was actually apologizing. He went on to say that it was his pride that had caused the dissension between us, and that the situation -and the negative and hateful atmosphere that had developed between us- was his fault. Well, it wasn't all his fault- I certainly could have gone about many things much differently, so I too apologized. As it turns out, we both came to realize that we were feeling very similar feelings: I didn't want to be enemies anymore, and neither did he. I didn't want there to be such a negative atmosphere between us, and neither did he. We took a step back and looked at where we were- being companions, we were supposed to be treating each other like brothers. We should have been strengthening each other, and doing our very best to help one another. Instead we had been tearing the other down, and smashing each other in every way we could think of. Needless to say, we felt very stupid after we came to these conclusions. We closed with a prayer and then gave each other a manly hug.

Then the Zone Leaders called later that night, and asked to have a minute with Elder A. I removed myself and he took the phone off of speaker, and I went into the study. We both knew what the call was for and what would happen, but it wasn't something we needed to talk about at that point. I came out after about ten minutes, when their call had ended, and the simple communication between us was something along the lines of me asking, "All goods?" and Elder A flashing a thumbs up and confirming, "All goods." Now, to say that everything is daisies and roses is not true- we're still trying to figure out how to teach with each other, and how to live with each other, and do all other normal missionary things with each other. It's not easy, and we're still trying to rebuild that trust that once existed between us. It's amazing how long it takes to build trust compared to how quickly one can destroy it, and usually repairs take longer than when originally building it. I can be honest and say that I did not in the least bit like where we were. I wanted to be ET-ed (emergency transferred), and if not me, I wanted Elder A to be ET-ed. We didn't work for two days, out of being obedient to the Lord's commandment of, "If ye receive not My spirit, ye shall not teach," which as Elder Holland teaches, is actually spoken in the form of a commandment; that is to say that what the Lord is saying, or as it should be interpreted, is "If ye receive not My Spirit, ye are forbidden to teach." Our area took a hit from that, and Satan won the victory for the space of two days. That is something that I'm not proud to admit.

I can say that I feel like I've grown from the experience. To be honest, as it was all playing out, I couldn't help but think about what it would be like to be married and in such a state of unhappiness (it's funny, Elder A thought of the same thing). I would only dare say that I got the smallest hint of the torment that would come from being married to a spouse whom you hated and vice versa, and it really did teach me about proper communication, and how to work through problems. Notice that only after Elder A and I had taken it to the Lord did things work out, and that is what every prophet from the time of Adam has ever taught, in one way or another: there should always be three in any relationship (in this case, a companionship, but the same applies to marriage), and those three are the husband and wife, or the two Elders (missionaries), and Heavenly Father. Someone very close to me wrote me two weeks ago and gave me this analogy: when three toothpicks are fashioned together so that the points are touching, and an equal amount of outside pressure is exerted onto each point, the chances of the toothpicks yielding and breaking is 8-10 times less than that of only two points touching. Thus it is in any kind of relationship, be it a companionship of missionaries or a married couple- Heavenly Father must always be a part of it or it will be much weaker on its own. Now, it is to my understanding that divorce rates are very high; I contend that a large part of that is due to the lack of having a proper common ground within married couples, such as being based on the Gospel of Jesus Christ and leaning upon Heavenly Father for help and guidance and strength when things get tough. My parents and their story is a perfect example of this- only by leaning on Heavenly Father and learning to accept His will did they manage to restore their marriage, which I daresay is ten times happier and more joyful than it was before, but you'd have to ask them about that.

Well, I didn't think I'd go there, and this seems to be the common theme for the past two weeks. Tune in next time for another episode of Elder Schomburg's Marriage Counseling XD jokes! Seriously though, I wonder what the Lord is trying to teach me sometimes, and why it is that some things happen the way they do, and sometimes learning and growing can be very painful. Just like when we're children and we start maturing physically, sometimes we experience the same growing pains when the Lord allows us to go through trials (or sometimes brings us to them), except on a more spiritual level. But, as is the same with physical growth, when our bodies become mature and strong, the same happens with our spirits: we become stronger than we were before, and we're capable of doing more than we were when we were children. Of course, I'm not sure that's the best analogy to use, because someday we all get old and the next thing you know you're using a walker and someone has to help you to the bathroom again and then you die... again, there I go on a random tangent. I'd better shoot this off.

I love you all, and thank you heaps to everyone that writes me! Again, mail is never a bad thing to get! And, as my 6-month mark is fast approaching, I feel it necessary to say that most missionaries tell me that this is the time when people back home start to forget about you sooooooooo..... don't let these missionaries be right!!! And that's about as much of a "Please Write To Me, I Miss You Guys" as you're all going to get XP take it or leave it XD

I love yous heaps!
-Elder Schomburg 

[You can find Elder Schomburg's mailing address below.  His birthday is also coming up - as far as international shipping goes - on October 17th. He'll be 20 years old.]

Elder Jeffrey Scott Schomburg
Australia Adelaide Mission
P.O. Box 97
Marden, SA 5070

Look - It's a coconut!
Eating/drinking coconut


Elder Schomburg's unattractive tie selection.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

I Like Your Fish... Week 21

Well, it's another week in lovely and tropical Darwin, and the dreaded "Build-Up" is coming! Build-Up (August-November) is when the temperature increases and humidity levels rise to around 90-99%, but it doesn't rain, which means it will be a beautiful 36C [91.4F] outside and it will feel more like 55C [131F - I sense some exaggeration here]! I'm excited, are you excited? The mornings used to be cool and crisp and now, it feels like as soon as I walk out the door of the flat to do some bench-pressing, I've been hit all over my body with a nasty mop... anyway, I'm not one to complain about weather.
Transfers were this week and again, much to everyone's surprise, Elder T was sent south and I spent a day and a half with Elder F, driving the car (a 2012 Toyota Corolla) in between our two areas. We also knew the Sisters would be adopting the car, so we cleaned every single surface we could find on that car, inside and out, and when we were done, it was hard to look at in the sunlight because of how shiny it was. It was a little hard to give the car up, especially after having saved it from the terribly poor condition that Elders V and H left it in- Elder F and I earned that car through 2 accumulated hours of cleaning and restoring it to its proper state... but it would just be wrong for the Elders to be using a car while the Sisters ride bikes. Anyway, that's one the first big things as far as announcements go: there are now Sisters in Darwin.
Sister missionaries are... curious creatures. After having gone 4-5 months without seeing any Sisters, you start to question whether such things exist, and they certainly do, and it is strange. The Darwin Zone used to be a boys' club, flat out- ten Elders and that was it, and it was great! We can't play contact sports, but you didn't have to worry if you accidentally slammed into an Elder playing Darwin Ten-Step (our variation of Ultimate Rugby). Basketball was the same- if you slammed into an Elder, everyone laughed and you apologized and slapped each other around and all was just roses and daisies! We had morning sport a little while back, and the first thing I noticed as we stepped onto the basketball court was -aside from the fact that there were four Sisters present- the smell. It smelled... like perfume; all kinds of sweet fragrances and flowery aroma's permeated the court, and there was conversation... enough of it to talk your ears off. But that wasn't all; someone would throw the ball and someone would catch it and they would laugh. Someone would make a basket and they would laugh. Someone would say something like "Shoot it!" and they would laugh! I quickly found that every Elder there, rough-and-tumble Elders who had no fear and would fight viciously for the ball if need be... were not longer vicious. They would tactfully stick to the outside of the court, trying their luck at long-range shots. When driving the ball, they all took extra careful attention to avoid any kind of contact with the Sisters at all, which made playing much more difficult- it was like playing basketball in a minefield, so to speak. All of us Elders would sooner have tripped and broken a leg than accidentally even brush against a Sister. Whenever they had the ball, the competitive nature of every Elder dropped tenfold, and any kind of defense just... vanished.
That's not all though; I'm convinced that Sister missionaries only get 18 months because they come out into the field already 6 months into their missions. One of the Sisters that was in my intake is easily as much a veteran as an Elder who has been out for a year. They teach more clearly, they love more easily, they speak and hold conversation much better than any Elder... sorry, boys, but girls are just better missionaries. There is a balance, I suppose- most Elders are effective at being bold, we work diligently without distractions (for the most part), and we're very purpose-minded. Sisters tend to be a bit more goofy, and fall into being easily distracted, aren't as bold in extending commitments or invitations or what have you, and once they get off track (which happens rarely) they're really off track. As I said, though, there's a balance- their strengths as Sisters certainly make up for what we lack as Elders, and our strengths as Elders definitely makes up for what they lack as Sisters. Amazing, it's as if the Lord intended males and females to work together... hmmmm....
Elder A is from American-Samoa, and he really is exactly that: a Samoan, raised on a little island that is like unto America, thus he speaks like an American, likes what Americans like, and does what Americans do, with a little Islander twist. It's funny, Elder T said that whoever I got as a new companion would decide whether or not I got all Americans for most of my mission or had an equal half-and-half between Americans and Islanders. He said this after I explained that I had had two Americans and one Islander for companions. Well, now I have an Islander who is technically an American XD awesomesauce! Elder A has been a blessing to me- it is such a RELIEF to have a companion that is, for the most part, very obedient. I haven't had to call him out on anything really, though he did do something stupid early on when he called a single, YSA-aged [18-30 years old] recent convert sister who lives in Adelaide to check up on her. I wasn't too worried at first, and I did inform him that making the call was out of line, but only after he had made the call did it become known to me that she was a single sister in the YSA. Luckily the Zone Leaders were at our flat, and they straightened him out pretty quick. His intentions were good, but he should have gone through the right authority before making a call like that, especially to a single sister within mission boundaries. Other than that infraction, he's very solid, and very spiritually minded. He is a convert like no one else knows -really turned his life around- and now he is a very insightful and fun-to-be-around missionary. He also doesn't impede the work, as I discovered was what Elder T did in one way or another. We smashed finding this week, and gained 27 potentials, which is 3-4 times as many as Elder T and I found in that week. As I look back at it, and really evaluate Elder T as a missionary... he could definitely be doing things a lot differently, and if he would do that, he would experience way more success.
Elder C, one of the Zone Leaders, went on trade-off with me for the last time this week, as this is his last transfer. When I first met Elder Covey about 5 months ago in Adelaide, [Elder Schomburg has obviously lost all track of time - he hasn't even been on his mission for 5 months yet - in Australia for only 3 months. haha] I wasn't sure I liked him, and even early on in Darwin, I still wasn't sure I liked him. He's really changed in that amount of time however, and so have I, and this was the best trade-off I've ever had. Elder C even ranked it up in one of the best he's had, and he's been out for a long time now. He came to my area and we rode the bikes all day, stopped for lunch at Subway (expensiveas up here, shouldn't have done that), and then we worked more. We knocked one massive street, taught several lessons inside several people's homes right then and there, and we found heaps of potentials. He said that "There wasn't five minutes when we weren't working" and he mentioned that that day had been the most diligent day he had had in about 5 months. I'm not saying that to make my head sound big- I made the plans and I led the way because it was my area, but that was ALL Heavenly Father. Before I do anything that involves proselyting or preaching the good word, I always bring Heavenly Father into the mix. Our successes on that day were all blessings bestowed by Heavenly Father, and there is no way that we would have had as a good a day if we hadn't involved Him. He gave me some very good improvements and I've been applying them- by just talking to everyone you see, you can meet a lot of people who are ready or at least willing to listen to the message of the Restoration. Elder C said that he could see a vast change in who I was and how I worked as a missionary, and I argued and told him that nothing had changed. I said, "Elder C, every time I walk up to a door I'm trying to run away screaming 'I don't want to do it!' on the inside." at which point he asked me how I had overcome that. I told him that every time I approach a door, I take a breath and just do it. I say, "Elder Schomburg, you are going to knock that door and you are going to talk to whoever answers it no matter how scary they are, and if the opportunity presents itself you are going to teach them what you know to be true." Elder Covey just nodded his head and told me that he had seen that, and that the confidence I displayed had increased exponentially. I haven't seen the change, but it's good to know that it has been taking place.
Elder C taught me a lot about just talking to people as well. As we knocked on a door, the lady who answered was in the middle of having lunch, and as she turned us away, Elder C tried every trick in the book to try to get her to stay and have a conversation. More often than not, the people that outright say no will actually let you come back if you can manage to tell them who you are and teach them according to what is relevant to them. Elder C was trying to buy some time, to drag something out of the lady, and as she left, ignoring his request as to whether or not she knew anyone in the neighborhood that could use the message we share, he called out (only after noticing the massive snapper that was mounted above the threshold into her living room), "I like your fish!" Unfortunately the remark did not perk her interest, and she kept on her way. As we turned and began to head away, Elder C said, "I like your fish', that was a dumb thing to say," and I just laughed and said, "Elder, whatever keeps them talking is good, because it will give us more opportunities to teach." As I applied the principle of not being afraid of saying/doing stupid things, I noticed that they would happen regularly when I tried to talk to people. I shouted out to a lady who was sitting on her porch, and as we started talking over the noise of her obnoxious, yapping dog, I more or less dismounted my bike and it quickly slipped beneath my legs and crashed in a heap beneath me. I looked down at the bike thinking, "Wow, that was dumb and now I look like a fool." but as I looked back up and saw the younger lady trying to hide a laugh (I would've been embarrassed for me, too), it seems as though the ice between me and the lady had been broken, at the expense of my pride. Again, do whatever it is you have to keep them talking. I think that's been the main difference this week- I've been contacting much more than I used to, and sometimes you say stupid things or stumble on words, but every contact is different and if you want to get good at something you have to keep doing it.
Now my mother did ask me how I physically cope with having to adjust to a new companion. I'll admit, I have become notorious in the Darwin Zone for "killing companions": that is to say that I've never been with the same companion for more than one transfer. As I pondered the reason as to why the Lord would want it to be like that, this thought occurred to me: every so often, I wonder when/if I'll get that companion that just rubs me the wrong way in all the ways (Elder T may have been him), but I had never thought to consider that I might be that companion for everyone else. I'm not sure what it is that may drive my companions up the wall, and maybe it is just that they learn what they need to from me and then get transferred out, or vice versa, but whatever the reason, I've had to transition a lot recently. How do I do it? I'm not quite sure. I always pray heaps before transfers, not in order to change the will of the Lord, but more so to accept His will. A lot of the Elders here say that I'm one of the few missionaries they've met who doesn't have a list of problems and things they dislike with every companion. That's mostly because I read a talk called the "Grapefruit" or something like that. [The Grapefruit Syndrome] In the talk, a woman who used to be the president of the Relief Society said that she had been reading in an article that in order to maintain a healthy and strong marriage, the couple had to regularly come up with things they didn't like about each other and then tell each other (the idea being that emotions wouldn't build up and tempers wouldn't fuse). She came up with five things for her husband and the last of which was that he peeled his grapefruit like an orange before eating it. She told him how it drove her crazy and how it just annoyed her to no limit. She then asked for him to tell her five things he did not like about her. He thought for a time, and pondered, and then looked up to her and said, "Well, Honey, I don't think there's anything about you that I don't like." Heartbroken, she turned from him in an effort to hide the tears that were now streaming down her cheeks; she had found fault with her husband in such a meaningless and trivial thing, and yet he had found no fault with her that was worth mentioning. I apply the same thing with companions: every single companion I've had does something that I don't find terribly amusing, and unless that something is not in compliance with a White Handbook guideline or other missionary conduct-related matter, I don't find any reason to bring it up. Why should my companion have to change something that he has always done -that is in compliance with all missionary rules- simply because it would make me more comfortable? Why should he have to change a silly habit, like washing his clothes in the shower, to appease me when chances are I do something else that just irks him to no extent? Just as in marriage -a union between two imperfect individuals who learn to love each other despite the other's shortcomings- a companionship between Elders or Sisters should be the same- unified in purpose and accepting of each other despite the other's "flaws", as it were, and they must be especially forgiving of one another. There are things that some Elders do that drives me crazy... but if they aren't breaking any celestial laws/rules of conduct, what motive would I have in mentioning it? I can't imagine the division that could result from someone telling me that the way I drink my milk makes them mad. Now if I was disregarding all table etiquette and slurping and sloshing and blowing bubbles, that would be reason enough to bring it up, because correction would be necessary, but if correction is not necessary, why bring it up? Elder Aiono washes his clothes while he showers- it's sort of weird, and it's not something that I thought of, but why should it bother me? Anyway, I hope that answers some questions.
Well, I've rambled on a bit and I'm not even sure I included any spiritual thoughts... dang. I hope you all take at least something away from this, even if it is just something little. As always, thanks to everyone who writes me in any form, and I love you all!
From Darwin, Australia
-Elder Schomburg

Sunday, August 11, 2013

One More In Darwin... Week 20

G'day friends and family and anyone else who happens to be reading this!
We just found out about transfer info about five minutes ago (we should have had the info last night BUT as it is this week was pretty crazy with President and the Assistants being up north, so info was a bit slow and some last minute changes were made). This transfer, for August-September of 2013, I will be staying in Darwin, serving in the Malak area. Elder Traconis is packing 23k's and is headed south with Elders Villierme, Hawkes, and Bennett. We're also getting four sisters, one of which has literally just entered the mission field. For the next few days, I'll be serving with Elder Fala in both the Nightcliff and Malak areas using Darwin City's car, seeing as their being transferred (whoop whoop!). I'm always a little nervous with driving- I was able to go on trade-off with one of the Zone Leaders, Elder Rapana, about two weeks ago, and I was allowed to use their vehicle for the day. Driving on the left is not the hard part- the switched interior of the vehicle is just a bit difficult to adjust to.
This week was a very slow week for Elder T and I; we smashed tracting this week and still only found 3 potentials, and other than that, our numbers were just low. I'm not overly worried- I'm starting to see a pattern in my missionary service in which some weeks we will work very hard and see the results, and other weeks we work just as hard and see absolutely no results. This is the Lord's work and He will do as He sees fit- His judgement is much better than my own and so long as I am committed to doing the work, I am not in the wrong. This week is probably going to be equally low in numbers due to the fact that Elder Fala and I will be serving in both of our areas at the same time. I'm not sure how much we'll use the car, so we'll see what happens and how productive we manage to be. Should only be for a day or two, no worries here. As far as what I think my own future holds as a servant of the Lord, I think this may be my last one in the Territory, or at least in Darwin (I'd very much like to see Alice Springs sometime- it's the closest to "out Bush" as anyone can get). As far as for how I feel the work will go... I'm not sure. I'm excited for the transfer and as always I'm anxious about getting yet another new companion, but thus far they've all been pretty top-notch companions... for the most part... anyways, I'm hoping and praying that we'll be able to find new people to teach and be able to get some of our current investigators baptized sometime soon.
We had a specialized training session up here with President Carter this week, as I hinted at just a bit ago, and it was extremely spiritually uplifting and enlightening. I really do love President Carter, but I'm not sure he appreciates my honesty. As I sat in my interview with him yesterday, he asked, "Elder Schomburg, how're you doing? How's your mission experience been so far?" I answered him with an affirmative, "I'm doing well, and so far my mission experience has been alright." He cocked his head quizzically and his eyes watched me with scrutiny as he posed the question, "And why just alright? Why not great?" I was honest and told him the simple truth, "President, my mission experience is becoming great- I'm starting to find a groove here and things are going well for me. The first three months of my mission were very hard, though, and I considered calling it more than once. Satan's been working on me mentally for the most part, and he's been working overtime, and it has been very difficult." I then expressed to him how mentally challenging it has been for me, and how it's just been recently -this transfer in fact- that I've actually started to get "comfortable" in a manner of speaking. I told him that I'd been trying to tackle every single issue I could all at once so I could become the instrument the Lord needs me to be even faster, and how doing so had pointed out hundreds of my many imperfections, which are difficult to accept sometimes. I told him how this week I had been studying the Atonement, to more fully understand it. When I had been talking to Elder Traconis about it, he basically summed up all of my words and responded with a simple question: "So what you're saying is that the Atonement applies for everyone else but you?" I was flustered and almost angered that he assumed me to think something so arrogant- of course the Atonement applies for me just as much as anyone else, every missionary knows that! As I thought about it though, he was right; for the longest time, my mindset has been that my past sins are stuck with me and even though I've gone through/am going through the repentance process, the Atonement just isn't going to cut it for Elder Schomburg. As I explained this to President, he felt as though it would be appropriate to read some scriptures out of the Doctrine and Covenants, section 93 I think. As we read the scriptures, he asked me if I understood what he was saying. To be honest, I could not make the connection of my quarries and situation to the scriptures he had chosen to read. He explained it and spelled it out, and even then I didn't quite understand what he was trying to teach me. In the end I told him that I would have to study it myself before coming to an understanding of what it is that he meant.
Anyway, I don't think President Carter has ever really received honest answers from missionaries when he asks, "How are you doing and how's your mission going?" Now maybe I'm just that guy who can find fault with everything and naturally views things morpessimistically than others (thus my answers are a bit more forward than others might be), but I did not feel impressed to put on a false smile and say, "President, everything is just roses and daisies!" because that just isn't true. I feel like President Carter probably gets lots of missionaries who will tell him what they think he wants to hear, which is "Everything is roses and daisies!" but I just can't lie like that. I've never really been one to put on a fake smile and tell everyone it's all great and wonderful if it isn't great or wonderful. Consequently, I think lots of missionaries (because I'm honest in these matters with everyone) give me a quizzical look and often cock an eyebrow that has "Are you apostate?" written all over it, and they probably come to that conclusion, which is quite silly of them. I am not going to lie about it to anyone- being on a mission is hard, and often it's not like it's made out to be. I'll use the analogy of war movies- they often depict all of the exciting and glorious and courageous parts as happening in rapid fire sequence in a way that keeps you on the edge of your seat for hours on end. However, when one studies warfare, they find that the nature of war is quite the opposite to what many movies depict- often times soldiers spend a lot of time (hours, days, weeks) waiting for the fight, and when it finally comes, it is not glorious or action-packed, but rather is long and drawn out, resulting in few instances of heroism or any grand displays of patriotism. The same could be said for missionary work- the common depiction is seeing missionaries tracting down a street where everyone welcomes them in with smiling faces, and investigators are getting baptized in droves and there's never a moment when the missionaries or those they are speaking to are never smiling. FALSE!!! Instances like the above are... well.... they haven't happened to me yet. I haven't baptized anyone. Probably 80% of the people we meet are swift to reject us, 15% listen but reject us anyways, and 5% will actually start taking lessons. Out of that 5% only 1% will ever be baptized (don't quote these statistics, I'm using them to help paint a picture of what missionary work is like). The other day Elder Traconis and I did a lap around the general perimeter of the chapel (not our area, but we were waiting for our ride back to Malak and we wanted to be productive, so we thought we'd help the Nightcliff Elders). We talked to a man who is Lutheran and is happy to stay like that, but he was kind and polite and offered intelligent conversation. As we continued our perimeter scan, we waved to a man across the street from us. He flipped the birdie and shouted things like, "Go back to Utah, f****** American pests! Stupid American b******s!" We smiled and waved and told him to have a good day, and then he yelled something in German. I politely called over my shoulder, "Auf Wiedersehen, mein freund!" and we continued walking. I can honestly say that I didn't get down or hold anything against the man- honestly, it didn't affect me at all, and when the time comes when Heavenly Father asks, "Elder Schomburg, do you forgive this man for having been a bit rude?" I will say "Yes, I do."
Now why am I ranting about how missionary work is not what everyone thinks it is? It's like Sister Carter said: "Missionary work is not for sissies- it is hard work, and it is work, the hardest work you'll ever do." I pity the boy or girl who thinks that coming on a mission is going to be easy- it is hard. HOWEVER... there is no place on this earth that I would rather be. I look back at the short time I've spent in the field (I feel like I left the MTC yesterday [which probably doesn't help me in writing home- it feels like I left a week ago]) and I can honestly say that yes, I've had some really challenging times as a missionary. I've pondered coming home a handful of times, and each time I've thought of that, I think of why I'm here. Some time ago, not sure how long exactly, I was with Heavenly Father at that same counsel we all were at, and it was decided that on August 12th, 2013, Elder Schomburg was going to be in Darwin, Australia, preaching the Restored Gospel to those who would be willing to listen. Some time ago, not sure how long exactly, it was decided that I was going to be a missionary for the Lord, and while I was at that counsel, I have no doubt in my mind that I said to someone that I can't remember since crossing the veil, "I will share the Restored Gospel with you, and I will help you come back to Heavenly Father." Someone out here, no matter how rough or how hard it gets, has previously been promised by me that I would find them, and that I would help them come back to Heavenly Father. I promised someone that I would help them come home to live with Heavenly Father again. I've been told that I am the "go-to-guy" and that I can be relied on to get things done, and that is exactly what I intend to be while in the field. Missionary work is hard and it's not going to get any easier. The results are not instantaneous in my own experiences and most of the time, the said missionary will never see the results of his/her labors in this life. We don't baptize every week up here in Darwin. We are rarely received into someone's home, let alone looked at with a positive nature.But it is so worth it. There is no work more important on the face of this earth than sharing the Restored Gospel of Jesus Christ, and I can find satisfaction just in the fact that, though I haven't seen many immediate results, I've put myself out there and thrown in my two cents. Something that Elder L. Tom Perry said just recently is (paraphrasing), "This time in the Church's history is just as important and just as exciting as the First Vision, and when the Book of Mormon came forth," That hasn't quite sunk into me yet, but how blessed am I to be on a mission at one such a time in the Church's history!? The Lord is hastening His work and He's not sparing a single moment, so neither should I. I am excited to be here and I know that the Lord needs me and planned for me to be here where I am, right now, for whatever reason. It's like I've said throughout my whole mission thus far: "I don't know what it is that I'm doing here or why the Lord has sent me here, but He knows, and that's good enough for me."
Well I'm not sure what anyone is going to get out of this blog post, but I hope you all can find a way to apply some principle in your own lives. I love you all and I want you to know that! I love you heaps!
-Elder Schomburg

[I have added captions as Elder Schomburg described the photos - I know nothing else. haha]

Crazy tree at night

Yellow watermelon - champagne melon
Elder Schomburg's first attempt at taking his own photo

Gourmet meal - sausage, potatoes, eggs, cheese

Elder Lacanivalu - first companion in Australia

Watch for frilled lizards!


Light saber - no idea why!

Light saber 2 - still no clue

Elder Traconis - 2nd companion in AU

Monday, August 5, 2013

Another Week in Darwin...Week 19

G'day brothers and sisters and family and friends!!!
First off, my mum (that's your new name- Andrew calls you madre so I have to adopt my mission language and call you mum) is awesome, and has always been an example of strength and determination and steadfastness in my life, and without my mum I really don't think I would be as effective of a missionary. I'm still not sure how some missionaries come out without the support of a mother back home, because I definitely don't think I would have lasted as long without her loving encouragement and the example that she has always been to me.
Secondly, transfers is this week and I know nothing! My spiritual impressions suggest that I've got one more in me in the Territory (I was 'born' in Darwin, how cool is that!?), but time will tell. I've got to answer Andrew's question as well, pertaining to baptismal dates being a ways away. We set the dates typically a month in advance to give us the appropriate time we need to not only teach the doctrine but also address any of our investigator's concerns or Word of Wisdom/Law of Chastity issues. The closest date I've ever set was two weeks in advance and that one fell through- she didn't have adequate time to conquer her addiction to smoking and she doesn't want to be baptized until she knows she's quit cold-turkey (which is very noble but not completely necessary). I don't know how the people in Ecuador are, but in my experience here, the Word of Wisdom and the Law of Chastity are the investigator 'killers'. They will accept everything the gospel has to offer until we explain that smoking and drinking are not condoned, and neither is 'jumping the fence' and other things like unto that. I've lost two 21-year old male investigators to the Law of Chastity and who knows how many to smoking and drinking. It's just the Aussie way, ESPECIALLY in the Territory- if you're not a drinker and you live in the Territory, you are a freak of nature. Most Aussie's from the Territory are born drinking, and it's not exactly something that's easy to give up. As always, the concern is more social than anything- to stop drinking means to lose one's social status with who knows how many people. The same could be said of smoking. As for the Law of Chastity, there are very few people who understand just how sacred the power to create/share intimacy on such a scale really is- to the vast majority of people, sex is just another way to spend the evening when you're bored. It's a much different crowd in Australia, and to be honest I'm beginning to wonder if I'm going to baptize anyone at all. Elder Traconis has been out for a year and hasn't had one baptism. Of course, it's like I was telling Elizabeth- there are three different types of missionaries: seed planters, harvesters, and rescuers. I'm still not sure who I am or what category I fit into yet (could be all three, only God knows). But anyways, that's why we set the dates out there- almost every investigator has an issue to be overcome with the Word of Wisdom or Law of Chastity, and they need time to overcome it. In most other cases, it's usually the fear of change that pushes them all away. If we baptized every investigator with only two weeks time (and there are those that can be baptized that quickly), retention would plummet. There are 1,000 members on the rolls in the Darwin Branch and only 200 in attendance, and as a missionary, I refuse to baptize anyone if I know that they will not remain within the fold (2 Nephi 31:14).
In other news, Dennis has told us not to visit him for another 3 months- his mother-in-law is staying with him and his wife for that duration, and she is extremely anti-Mormon, thus Dennis has opted to put our lessons on hold. To top that off, Salem and Lauren (less-active and investigator) moved out of our area into Palmerston's area, so we won't be teaching our awesome part-member family anymore (she was the lady mentioned above with the Word of Wisdom issue). To top THAT off, we've been losing investigators left and right, and now our teaching pool is very very shallow. Thus, Elder Traconis and I have opted to smash tracting this week, and probably well into next transfer. It's hard to fulfill our purpose when we don't have anyone to teach.
While tracting, we ran into a very interesting man. We had come to the address because we had a potential there that we thought was named Albert. Turns out that Albert is our potential's brother. We were a bit surprised, but taking the situation and accepting it for what it was, we tried to teach him. Turns out that Albert is a minister for an unnamed Christian faith (I'd venture a guess at Baptist due to his questions and Bible scriptures employed, followed by his prying of 'Have you been saved?'). He taught us some very interesting, if not completely full doctrines, and asked us many questions that actually made me and Elder Traconis think- not out of lack of doctrinal knowledge, but it was more of an issue of trying to understand his questions that were based off of incorrect doctrine, and then coming up with an answer. As he went on, he did what I hate most of all- he challenged Elder Traconis and I to really evaluate what we were doing as missionaries, to really question if our faith was correct (something we do EVERY day). Well, it's a good thing Elder Traconis was there- I was mad. It had been a long day, we'd lost two investigators, we hadn't found anyone new, and the night was late and I was hungry and still 2k's from home on the bikes. Now I was being told that my faith was not true, that I didn't study my Bible enough, that I didn't know who Jesus Christ is, and that I had been led astray by the "cunning craftiness of men". I'm not usually one to smash anyone, even in Bible bashing, which I really do hate (waste of my time and the Lord's time, and it doesn't help anyone's spiritual progression), and I had wanted to leave about thirty minutes earlier (Elder Traconis had opted to stay and continue to converse with the man). Then the man refused to take the Book of Mormon I had offered, and said he would throw it away. I appreciated the honesty, but he was pushing the limits. As he and Elder Traconis continued to converse in a very controlled manner, Albert said, "Are you sure you're saved? Because I'm not so sure Mormons go to heaven,"............
I. Snapped. Albert had been doing most of the talking, and now it was my turn. I told him, full on, how we study the Bible every single day for several hours. I told him how we know who Christ is and how we know. I told him exactly why I am on a mission. I told him how I had come to know that the Book of Mormon is true. I told him where I knew I was going if I died right then and there. I told him that we did not come out as missionaries to be talked down by others who think they know who we are. I told him that he did not have any idea or clue about who Mormons are or why we're even called that BECAUSE of his refusal to read the Book of Mormon. I told him how his ignorance in not exploring the fullness of truth would be his downfall. I told him that someday he and I would stand before the judgement bar of Christ and he would know that the things I had taught him were true. I was not kind. I did not sugar coat anything. I did not relent. I ground his arguments into dust and then spat on them (metaphorically speaking). His once 'educating' look (the look that he wore as he had been 'educating' me) had vanished as I quoted scripture after scripture to defend my arguments. His eyes became squinted and his lips became silent. His ability to argue any of our doctrinal points ceased entirely. He attempted to put up further argument and stumbled on his words and contradicted himself, tying his web of ineffective and utterly useless arguments that had no base in doctrine. I am not usually one to lash out or explode in such a harsh manner, but I did, and I did not give him any room to breathe. Elder Traconis then took over, and in a much calmer, much more friendly way, continued to support what I had said and converse with Albert, who no longer talked to me.
As we left, I was still fuming, and it took me some time to recognize the lesson that I had to learn from it all. I've been given some very powerful gifts and promises as a missionary... and they are not to be misused. With my minuscule yet effective knowledge of the scriptures I tore Albert to pieces, and with my various experiences of conversion I was able to testify in a very angry way that what I knew was true. As a missionary we are very blessed with the ability to learn scriptures and discern or read others very well, and I used those gifts to utterly destroy what Albert thought was true. As missionaries, we are supposed to build upon another's knowledge however, not tear them down. The experience is one of which I am not proud. At first I was thrilled in a war-like way; I had completely decimated my enemy. But Albert was not my enemy, and we weren't even at war with each other. I, being the missionary, being the disciple of Christ, should have taken his knowledge, and built upon it so that he would be spiritually uplifted, and so that he could see that we missionaries really aren't bad guys, and Mormons really aren't bad people, and most importantly, that our message is true. I did not do this and I am very ashamed of it. One would think that I could find satisfaction in having crushed my opposition... but I was left feeling very empty, very fruitless, and very alone. The Spirit had left me for a time, and it was then that I knew that I was in the wrong. The moral of the story: do NOT misuse gifts given from the Lord. I learned this the hard way, and it was not a pleasant lesson to learn.
Aside from that, Darwin is still awesome and I love you all HEAPS!!!! Keep on keepin' on and stay awesome!!!
-Elder Schomburg