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

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