Monday, November 25, 2013

A Week of Learning... Week 35

G'day from down under!
First off, I just want to congratulate Elizabeth on her performance-best musical production ever is what I heard. That's awesome! What an amazing experience and opportunity! It was cool to look at pictures of Elizabeth with her fan club, signing things and whatnot- that is cool =D What an awesome little sister I have! She's not so little anymore, but she always will be to me. XP 

Mrs. Anna and fans

Mrs. Anna, King, and children

Hello Young Lovers

This week I was also blessed to have a Thanksgiving dinner at Sister D's- she used American recipes and cooked up almost all the traditional Thanksgiving meals there are (she forgot the cranberries, BUT she did have them- just didn't cook them XD) and it all tasted amazing! My American taste buds were overjoyed, and the funny thing is that most of the things she cooked were using Aussie ingredients. They must've doubled the amounts of sugar in everything though, because Aussie sugar is weak as. So that was cool, and probably the only time I'll get that on my mission. The only thing that was missing was a game of grid-iron playing in the background, and the usual Halo ads (Bungie always seems to time their new games near Thanksgiving time). But that's alright because the food (and the quality thereof) was lovely.
This week has been relatively quiet as far as missionary work is going- it's kind of hit and miss in Broken Hill. But we've got a good week planned and we're hoping to start teaching heaps of people. The members here are keen as to do missionary work, and President Paewai told us the other day that he didn't want us to have any time to do any tracting. We've already filled up this evening and all of Tuesday with teaching appointments and hosting FHE [Family Home Evening] with a few families the Paewai's want to introduce to the gospel.
I think the most spiritual thing that happened this week was probably at church. Our recent converts weren't there, our only investigator A who is 10, so she was in Primary. Not exactly wanting to go into the Gospel Doctrine, Elder P and I opted to help Sister Q teach her Sunday school class, just to mix it up a bit. Unfortunately, the only ones in that class are Sister Q and her daughter E (13). Well we sat in, not really teaching but more so learning from Sister Q, and then K (a recent convert) stepped in as well (surprise), and it was actually a really good lesson. We talked about choosing a life motto -something to turn to and live by in times of duress- and we ended up doing a simple maze activity, but it was revelatory for me.
The maze began at "Birth", eventually led to "Fulfilling the purpose of life" and ended at "Death" (the lesson had been oriented around the Plan of Salvation with the focus on Mortality). I eyed over it briefly, found a path that would roughly get me from point A to B to C, and then attacked it. The surprising thing was that I was often times on the path I had eyed out, but was surprised when the maze took me in a completely different direction. I didn't hit any dead ends, but definitely didn't go the original direction I had planned out. Eventually I did complete the maze. So what does this have to do with anything?
Revelation for me comes during the most mundane activities, I'm finding, such as doing something so small and trivial as a maze activity, but I did get this out of it; as we strive to live gospel standards, and stay on the strait and narrow, sometimes we go through paths that we do not anticipate. The more I pondered about it, the more the revelation came. This one thought stuck out to me, though: "You don't always go the direction you think you need to go to get where you want to be, but you'll still get there." That is SO true! I thought about it and decided that there have been a number of times in which I had the finish line in sight, so to speak, and ended up taking a much different, and very little anticipated path. I did not see myself going through Tennessee to get to Australia, but I still got here. I knew I was going to mature and grow on the mission, but I did not think that I would have to go through so many varieties of trials to get to where I am, and I doubt that I'm actually going to take the path that I can "see" as I continue on in the service of the Lord.. The path we want to take is often not the path that we are going to take, and that is ultimately because Heavenly Father knows that even if we did end up where we want to be by going our own way, His way -while it is probably not the easier way- will leave us feeling more satisfied and with more knowledge and experience gained than if we had taken our own path.
I might also mention that this morning -via conference call- we were given a training by our Area 70, Elder Hamulla(sp?). He mentioned some things that really helped me with prayer. For the past couple of nights I've been in prayer with my Father in Heaven, and I haven't been receiving many answers. I had evaluated my questions to make sure they were relevant to me or those I was in connection with, answerable, and to make sure an answer would benefit me or others in some way, missionary work or personal. I evaluated my own worthiness to receive one such an answer and did not find any flaw that would disqualify me for receiving revelation. Why was I not receiving any answers then? I didn't challenge my Father in Heaven and ask Him why He was withholding answers, because I've learned thus far that everything happens for a reason, and Heavenly Father KNOWS what He is doing, and if He didn't see fit to answer my prayers, I'm sure I was supposed to be learning something. Elder Hamulla put it like this (paraphrasing and poetic licence have been claimed): "Sometimes -even though we're worthy and our question is one that is worthy of an answer from God- we don't receive an answer. That isn't because you aren't worth answering, or because God didn't hear you- He just wants you to use your intellect and reasoning skills. In other words, Heavenly Father is telling you that He trusts your judgment." What a humbling, if not indirect, answer to my own prayers!
I felt extremely humbled after I heard that, because the Spirit made it manifest to me that Heavenly Father was doing that exact thing with me. Ultimately things were going to work out in whatever category, regardless of the action I took, or Heavenly Father knew that I was going to make the right call. Either way, that is humbling, and just made me feel all warm and fuzzy inside, knowing that I have earned Heavenly Father's trust- enough so that, as far as some things are concerned, He knows I will make the correct choices. How cool is that!? The God of All trusts me to know how to act on my own in some given scenarios. I do not say this to say that I'm above praying all of the sudden- I have a firm testimony that praying is essential and necessary, no matter how in tune with the Spirit or how trusted by God you are; the Prophet that God has chosen is still required to pray, and yes, he still NEEDS to pray, just as we all do. All I'm saying is that sometimes the things we ask for are not necessarily things that Heavenly Father needs to answer. I picture this when I think of it: just as I've fallen to my knees to pray, wondering what direction the Lord would have me take, He gives me "that look" that says "You know what you need to do." Sometimes it'd be nice to get an answer anyways, but as the scriptures say, "It is not needful that I command in all things." [Doctrine and Covenants 58:26-28]
It is dangerous to rely on the Lord for ALL things. We must rely on Him, absolutely must, don't get me wrong, but as is taught in the Book of Mormon, "The grace of God is sufficient for all, after all we can do." [2 Nephi 25:23] We must do all in our own power before turning to the Almighty for help. We must do as the scriptures say and "ponder it out in your heart, and if it be right, I shall cause a burning to rise up in your bosom." If it's not right, we're taught that we'll experience a "stupor of thought" which to me basically means you'll start to wonder why you're even asking what you are, but it's different for everyone I suppose. I stick to what I know, and I know that simplicity and plainness is of God, and complexion is of the devil- that's always helped guide a few answers to my prayers.
Well I didn't thing I'd go that direction, but I did- what can you do? I've got more time today, so I'll try my very best to write everyone. I'm very sorry for last week- that was a rushed as letter home and I feel bad for it. I also didn't get around to writing a few people I promised I would write that day, so I'm very sorry. Speaking of that, I've sent out some letters for the family and I'll try to pick up the slack on that- I feel bad when I don't write back. Oh yeah, HAPPY THANKSGIVING!!! Oh, one more thing... 8 months in two days (not that I'm counting, I just know the month mark)... XD The sisters I came out with have 10 months left... what!? @.@ Time seems to be speeding up recently... how strange -and very inconvenient- that Time be so finicky with it's chosen speed.
I love you all heaps! Keep smiling!
-Elder Schomburg

Monday, November 18, 2013

Carry On! Carry On! Carry On! ... Week 34

I have received emails of love from loved ones and today, find myself in the lush greenness of Mildura. I didn't notice how green Mildura was at first, but given the fact that I've spent almost two months in a desert now, I can finally appreciate some green patches of grass (still miss the snow-capped mountains of home, though). What a blessing! Our entire zone is actually together and this is probably the only time it will ever be like this again! Robinvale came down for a fireside that Mildura was holding, so Broken Hill also came down with the Paewai's and Brother C to watch it as well. What a packed house! There were over 200 people who came, and half of them weren't members! Brother C and the Paewai's loved it- I think they needed it, to know that there are more out there like them and not just the 20-30 that come to Broken Hill.
There was another miracle yesterday as well- two less active members (Sister E and Sister F [with three of her kids and one of them, A, our investigator who wants to be baptized on the 7th of December]) came to church! Not only that, but DJ turned up! It was really awkward with him, though- he lets his guilt get in the way and the relationship that we used to have is strained because of it. So we had two rescues yesterday and wow! What a miracle! The fireside was the perfect way to end the week as well- what a great success it was! The only sad thing from last week was that two baptisms in Mildura fell through on the day of... that was a hard one to take, BUT this is the Lord's work, and "[His] hand is in everything" so we must not fret!
After reading through various emails from home... I've decided that home is under stress right now, and this is saddening to me. Elder P and I were discussing it recently (because I had been writing a letter to Mum in which I had been venting all these negative waves) and he did tell me something that I suppose I just hadn't yet accepted. He said something along the lines of, "There are tender hearts at home Elder and they care about you. They worry about you! They want to know that you're doing well and that you're happy and when you send things that are negative, you're doing more damage than good." When I first sat down to write home, I thought about getting some things off my chest, but now I see that -because home needs some strength and comfort- it would be unwise to do so. 

[Please remember when writing to Elder Schomburg to avoid the temptation of pouring out your heart of worries or stress.  While he has always been a wonderful and compassionate listener, he is on the Lord's errand now and needs to be able to focus on his current mission.  Always send uplifting and positive messages so that he may feel the strength and support that he needs to "carry on" in the Lord's most important work.]
My first trainer sat me down one day when I came to him with all the troubles in the world. I was stressed, I was scared, I was angry, I was filled with wroth, I was uncomfortable, and I questioned my ability to press on. We sat down and Elder L pulled out a pen and paper. He looked at me and said, "Elder, tell me everything that you are concerned about." I let it all out! The floodgates were lifted and I vented like I'd never before done. He wrote down everything, and ended up filling both sides of the paper. Then, he looked over the list, and with a long sigh, looked back up to me. He asked me, "Elder... what of these things can you change?" We boiled it down and eventually came up with about three to five things. Then he asked me this, "Elder, which one are you going to start with?" So I picked the one that seemed the most important. There were probably fifty things that I had been troubling myself with, to the point that I was considering coming home (thankfully the fear of returning early and the shame that would come with it were still stronger than my utterly depressed state and desire to give in).
Why do I mention this? There are times when we feel like we are on overload, when we feel like the very world's survival rests upon our shoulders. How much of that stress comes from things that we cannot change? We cannot decide who issues the tests we face, nor the difficulty thereof. However, we can decide how we will respond to them. We have our agency to do whatever it is that we will; the consequences of our actions are out of our hands, but we have that initial choice that sets the pace. There will be hard and difficult times in our lives, this is completely unavoidable, but we can still choose our reaction. Sometimes it is difficult to remain completely at ease because it is in our nature to be initially negative, but there is One who we can always turn to.
My time is so very short in Mildura, so I cannot finish this (curses!) but please please please don't forget to pray! And don't worry about things you cannot influence! The only really important thing you can influence is your own reaction to life's many hurdles. Sometimes we hurdle and trip and fall on our face. It hurts, but we should always be getting back up! We don't have to get back up alone- there's always a helping hand available.
I love you all heaps!
-Elder Schomburg

Here is the hymn which Elder Schomburg referenced in his title:

Christmas is coming - cards and letters greatly appreciated!

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

Monday, November 11, 2013

The Lord Works Miracles... Week 33

G'day brothers and sisters, family and friends!
This week I have truly been shown how merciful, understanding, and caring the Lord is. This week has also reminded me of just how important the Sacrament is, but the means by which I received this reminding was not through the typical spiritual experience while partaking of the bread and water. No, this experience came through being able to witness one of our brothers, MC, be received into the Lord's church through baptism by immersion and the laying on of hands for the receiving of the Holy Ghost.  When I was able to see MC step into the water with President P, I could not help but feel overwhelming joy! The change that I saw take place in Mick was extraordinary! He used to be deep into drugs (crystal meth was a regular), he chain smoked, he got drunk whenever he could, and he wasn't shy about sleeping around with girls. He did the works, and he's not shy about talking about it -which is the only reason I'm mentioning it. To see him come full circle was incredible. He looks physically better, and he just has this elated glow about him. He's happier than he's ever been- President P, who has known M for three years, even said that the change that he has gone through is unreal. The Atonement is real, that is undeniable. No matter how far gone anyone is, the Atonement can and will work for them. M came straight out of Babylon, in fact Mick was probably living in the Red Light district of Babylon -if you catch my drift- and he STILL was able to turn it all around with the help of the Saviour. I've never seen such a solid recent convert! He bore his testimony shortly after the ordinance was preformed and my jaw dropped- the words he spoke sounded like those that might be spoken by a Church veteran of twenty years! He is going to be a solid Priesthood holder someday, and he understands exactly what that means. Shortly after he started down this path, we offered a blessing of healing for him to overcome his addictions, as his "flesh was [not yet] subject to the spirit", and after we rendered the blessing to him, he darn-well cold turkey-ed everything! I've never seen nor heard anything like it in all my young life! He comes to church in his nice, Italian-style suit, makes friends with all the members, and he is the most missionary-minded out of all of them (save for maybe the P's). He is an example of what true repentance is; he is an example of how powerful the Atonement is. Not only that, but by doing a complete 180, he has shown that the Father's hand of mercy truly is probably the farthest reaching out of any of them.

Filling the font

Waiting, waiting...

Happy Day!
Elder P preparing the font

Well, the week of M's baptism, Elder P and I were wondering what we would do after he was baptized. With DJ fallen completely off the radar only after going hard-out on the drugs again, we weren't sure who we were going to teach next. Personal finding in this town is downright unsuccessful (even the locals say this is the hardest town in all of Australia, and I'm tempted to believe it), the members didn't have anyone else lined up, and we didn't have any referrals. We were really worried about what was going to happen in the area and what we were going to do next. At the baptism, however, Sister P brought two friends, who after the service, approached us and asked us if they could take the discussions. How on earth did that happen??? We baptize our only investigator, and suddenly, without much effort done on our own part -aside from praying fervently- two investigators fall out of the sky. The Lord understands that the missionary work in Broken Hill is HEAPS different compared to any other area, and He knows that we, Elder P and myself, will do everything in our own power first before calling upon Him to help us. This was the perfect example of the Lord making up the difference; with nowhere left to go, Elder P and I were very nervous about what would happen next, and then two new investigators come out of nowhere. They were the P's friends and one had heard things from the missionaries in the past (way in the past) but neither had come to the baptism with the intention of taking up the missionary discussions, and now they're both extremely keen. There is a Lord... and He loves us each and understands our own situations just as well as we do, if not more so, of this I have no doubt. The Lord is a Lord of miracles, no questions asked.
Aside from this miraculous week... there's not a lot to report. Sister D is going to cook us up a feast for Thanksgiving, which is going to be awesome; the Aussie's don't do Thanksgiving, so I was very surprised when she came to me specifically and asked me what my favourite dishes were from back home. Most of the time Aussie's smash America but every now and again you get one or two who actually appreciate Americans, and then -very rarely- you get those Mum Away from Home figures like Sister D and Sister G (who's actually like a grandma away from home) who will go out of their Australian way to tailor to a lonely-az American. Lovely people, really. Christmas is also creeping up, eh? And you know what that means- when December ends, I will have three more months before reaching the halfway point... time has been crawling up until now, and suddenly I feel this slight increase of adrenaline being pumped into my bloodstream- where has the time gone!? I'm almost halfway through (not really) and I've only baptized one person! Excuse me while I mentally freak out (I do this a lot, but I find that people get concerned when you physically freak out and display your discomfort in ways that others can visually see, so I keep it all in my head).

Oh yeah, we also go to shear sheep this week (well, we shore a little off of one sheep... it was hard) and we got to corral them up into their pens with a sheep dog! Now that part was fun! I have a video that I can't attach, but I'll keep it so we can go through them all when I get back.
I love you all heaps!
-Elder Schomburg

p.s.  In the photos -we found these metal statues while we were out and about. We're not sure what they are or why they exist, but there were about eight of these statues. In the other photo, the sun was illuminating the baptismal font when we carried out the baptism- the photo was taken about an your beforehand. It made it look very celestial.

I cannot look at this without tears in my eyes and a lump in my throat...
and gratitude in my heart.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Be Not Ashamed... Week 32

G'day one and all!
It is, as always, a pleasure to be writing to everyone! It sounds as though Halloween was fun for Robby and Elizabeth! I kinda wish I hadn't missed out BUT it comes with the definition of being a missionary: "Missionary- a person who leaves his/her family for a short period of time so that other people can spend all time and eternity with their families."

Hawk Eyes


This week (I'm not sure how much time I have so I'll cut out the fluff and tell you what's up, and maybe I'll get more time later today to tell more, but we'll see) Elder F (one of the Zone Leaders) and Elder W (the District Leader) came up from Mildura to interview our TWO (count 'em) baptizees. M is set to be baptized this week on the 9th, and DJ (a friend of M's and a mutual friend of President P's) will follow him the following week on the 16th. Elder W had to interview both of our investigators since these are convert baptisms, and after spending plenty of time with both individually (a period of time in which I was more or less anxious) he said our investigators were good to go. He advised that we focus on strengthening DJ and continue to keep his mind focused on the "strait and narrow path" that we all know is baptism into the Lord's church. M is strong, though (he's been sober and hasn't smoked for 6 weeks and he knows that if Satan's been withholding the big guns, this week is the week he will use them), but even so, we're going to continue to give him the support that he needs. Baptismal week is always a nervous week for missionaries because this is the week that Satan will work overtime. Please please please pray for M and DJ- they will need all the help they can get, no matter how firm their foundations.
This Sunday was Fast and Testimony meeting as well, and I've never seen nor been in such a spiritually fulfilling meeting in that branch before. Our attendance was at 20, and usually there's a brief pause in the beginning of any testimony meeting in which no one goes up to the pulpit. At first I feared that would occur, and we would have a testimony meeting in which us missionaries were the only ones to bear testimony. I was proven wrong though, when Sister O -an older albeit spry woman- charged to the pulpit. After her, Sister G went up (not a big surprise- her words are inspired and she never fails to speak her mind). Following her, Sister W (visiting from New Zealand) went up, followed by her husband. Elder P then went up, having deemed it alright to do so (as missionaries, we try to wait before going up to the pulpit, to give the members a chance to bear their testimonies). Elder P was followed by Sister D, a semi-active member who shared her overall life experience and the role the Church and Heavenly Father have played- I've not heard such an inspiring testimony in all my life (save for that of my very own mother's)! Then Elders F and W went up, and M was going to go up after Elder W -and I after him- but we'd already gone thirty minutes over our time and President P then chose to close the meeting. Still, the Spirit was SO strong, and it truly was a humbling experience that I think would shame some of the larger wards. There have been sacrament meetings like this in which -after the time is given to the members to bear their personal witnesses that they know what they believe and practice are true doctrines- no one takes the stand for AGES and there are long and awkward silences. Here in Broken Hill, in our chapel designed for 150-200, we met -the 20 of us- and had a testimony meeting that -should every ward and branch in the world experience the same- would have shaken the very gates of hell.
I got to thinking about it, just briefly (because I know that the spirit of contention is strong with me and I did not want to feed it), why is it that when the time is given to us to bear our testimonies... we don't? Is it fear? Fear is of the Devil, and cannot coexist with faith. Is it because of shyness or nervousness? Both stem from fear, which is of the Devil. Can you see where this is going? Testimony has strength- as missionaries we are taught that when you cannot "convince" anyone that what you are saying is true, bear strong, firm testimony, to which no man can argue or dispute. It is true- no one can make further argument when testimony of truth -no matter how simple or short- is born from the lips of the righteous. Our testimonies are our own personal conviction that what we claim to believe and live is true, and by sharing them, we can not only rebuke the words of those who dispute and argue against truth "thinking they are learned", but testimonies also strengthen those who are weak. How have you felt after an apostle or prophet has born solemn witness that what he has taught is true? How much stronger is the Spirit's presence? I know that a simple testimony has the strength to help an investigator overcome addiction, freeing himself from the Devil's flaxen cords. I know that a simple testimony can invite the Spirit at any time and place. I KNOW that by bearing testimony, we can not only be forgiven of our sins (as is the promise from our Father) but we can lift, strengthen, and encourage those amongst us who are struggling. Satan knows this as well- that is why he encourages us NOT to go up during Fast and Testimony meeting. He knows as well as we do that our words -our testimony and conviction- could very well be the one thing that would bring a less active member back into the fold, or even introduce a new person to it.
Testimonies do not need to be long, drawn out, or be spoken with eloquence. "I know the Church is the Lord's church, and I know that He lives" is an example of what a testimony is. If spoken with conviction, with true conversion burning in the bearer's heart, the Spirit will come, and those simple words will cause the hearts of everyone else to burn as well. You do not need a story of conversion lined up and ready -word for word- before you approach the pulpit. You don't need a story of something you did earlier in the week to back up your claims. You don't need anything, save for your own conviction that what you know is true. There is always around 30-40 minutes of time to bear testimony, and I know that the entire Monument Ward -EVERY member- could bear his or her testimony in that amount of time. Think of the affect that would have on a new investigator, who has just been brought to the Church for the first time; if he or she could sit and watch as member after member approached the pulpit -even lined up down both lanes in the chapel- to tell everyone else that they knew for themselves that everything they had been taught was true. A testimony is like a prayer; when we pray, we do it so that we can converse with Father. The same is when we bear testimony- we don't do it so that the people below us in the congregation can say, "Wow, what an excellent speaker!" We do it because we want the Father to know that we love Him enough that -though we have that twinge of fear in our hearts- we are willing to tell everyone else that what we believe is true. That is what it means to be a true disciple of Jesus Christ, and everyone that is a member of His church -EVERYONE- covenanted to stand as a witness of Him at all times, and in all places, and in all things. Sister D's testimony really struck me, and she said some things that sunk in deeply to me. She helped me to understand more fully how repentance works and what our own part is in it. She helped me understand that part of repenting is forgiving yourself. This was not new knowledge, but I finally learned how to apply it through her instruction.
Every member of the Church has a testimony of something, no matter how "small". If there are any of you that doubt if you have a testimony, I promise you that you do. Take it from a guy who feared his lack of conviction and wondered if he hadn't just tricked himself into thinking happy thoughts all the time (so to speak). I attended church for 6 months, was involved in the Teachers Quorum presidency, passed the Sacrament, went to Mutual, and did all things Mormon for 6 months, and still I wasn't sure if I believed what I claimed to believe. I can promise you, brothers and sisters, that members don't continue to do what they do unless they have at least a sliver of faith that what they're doing is right, and what they believe is true. One of our less actives, Brother E, used to drive to Sydney (10 hour drive one way) for temple trips with the District Presidency once a month, carried out all of his duties, and indeed says that he had so many tasks that he could not see straight. He served for 30 years.... THIRTY YEARS, and claims that now, he never had a testimony and that's why he stopped coming to church. That. Cannot. Be. True. No one -NO ONE- does everything an active member has to do for 30 years and then throws in the towel because he/she doesn't have a testimony. I can promise you all that -even if you can't yet "see" it- you must have a testimony of some kind if you only do so much as come to church. The Spirit is subtle sometimes, and only by going back to the basics of reading scriptures, praying, and going to church can we learn to more fully feel of his presence, and once we can feel of his presence to the point that we can identify it, we will know that we have a testimony. I was so happy to hear that Elizabeth bore her testimony about keeping the Church as her center, or her keystone. I know -and this knowledge racks my heart with grief- that when we drift from the basics, and when we let other things get in the way of church, and when we start to slip and neglect "doing the basics" we become partially active, and then less active, and soon we are inactive and even adamantly opposing the Lord' church. It is a subtle transition -Satan has always been cunning like that- and it will happen when we neglect the basics. Stick to what you know, and STICK to it, and always bear your testimonies. Share your conviction that what you know is true with anyone and everyone, even when it's not Fast Sunday- only then will you have a firm foundation. I can promise -though I am young and in my youth- that as a representative of Jesus Christ, the Lord's blessings will be upon anyone who heeds to this counsel, and I leave these things with you in the name of our Lord, Savior, and Redeemer, even the Lord Jesus Christ, amen.
-Elder Schomburg