Tuesday, January 28, 2014

New Horizons... Week 44 *UPDATED*

G'day everyone!
Unfortunately I do not have as much time to email anymore (dang) so these are going to be brief and hopefully to whatever extent the Lord wills, spiritual. This day finds me in Adelaide, serving in the Firle Zone in the Evandale area. My companion is (drum roll) Elder Taylor!!! haha, who would've guessed that!? You're not supposed to whoop or shout for joy in transfer meetings, but I really wanted to! XD It was funny though, because as Elder Taylor and I talked about ALL of our past experiences and swapped manly stories about Tennessee and the MTC and our areas here, we couldn't help but feel that maybe it was too good to be true. I didn't unpack my bags until I knew for sure that I was staying in Evandale, because part of me still thinks this is all just a big misunderstanding and I should be serving somewhere else, but I guess that's always been my initial reaction when good things happen! XD

[Elder Taylor and Elder Schomburg spent some time together in the MTC in Provo while waiting for their visas.  They also traveled to the Tennessee Nashville Mission where they served temporarily while still waiting for their visas and then they traveled together to Australia. I do believe Elder Taylor and his former companion were the host companionship to Elder Schomburg and Elder Prouting when they visited Adelaide for the mission Christmas celebration as well.]
I had the opportunity to drive from Mildura to Adelaide, so I guess you could say that I embarked upon my first great road-trip from the driver's seat while on my mission in Australia. The drive was scenic, and long, but Elder F helped to keep me entertained with more than the road... until he fell asleep for a time. We spent Monday night in Modbury, and then had transfers on Tuesday. The Evandale area is the closest area to the mission office- I fear that I may have done or hinted that I was going to do something wrong in the eyes of President Carter, but there are other solid missionaries here, so I suppose I'm not all that bad.
I'm excited to use what I learned in Broken Hill out here. I can see at least a little as to why the Lord brought me here- some missionaries are still smashing old ways, like actually planning to tract places (no good). I'm excited to share the success that I was able to experience by working alongside the members in Broken Hill with these missionaries, and hopefully everyone will cling on to "the wave."
I was heartbroken when I left Broken Hill... I love Broken Hill... nothing else I say can truly relate just how much I do love Broken Hill, and the people there and the members and investigators... I loved it, and I'm grateful to the Lord for having granted to me such a wonderful experience that has truly blessed my life.
I was humbled this week by President Carter (last week I sent a letter to him in the spirit of rebellious contention) and I want to spare the details, but suffice it to say that I'm learning that obedience to the Lord's commandments are not so much about reaping blessings that will make us successful missionaries- it's more about showing love for the Lord. I love the people, and have learned to love them... now I have to show the Lord that I love Him, too, and if I can come to love Him as much as I love His children, I know that it will be well with me.
I can say though, as a point of interest, that this transfer I did not feel anxious or worried or concerned, at least not as much as usual. I assume my blood pressure probably spikes around this time because my heart doesn't really slow down for days leading up to and during transfers, but this time I was comforted by the Lord's Spirit. Elder Prouting and I knew something was coming, and we both knew that one of us had to go... he just ended up being the one the Lord needed to stay in Broken Hill, and to be honest, he is the better missionary for it- I don't know what I would do with a new companion in Broken Hill- it's so unique that unless a missionary is willing to adapt, nothing will happen in that area. But that's another story for another time.
Evandale... that is my new area. Elder Taylor had been praying for a companion that he could work with, someone humble and diligent and someone he could have righteous fun with. I don't know about humble, but I can promise that he'll get at least 2/3 of his prayer answered. XD He told me that he always knew we would be companions someday- I was hopeful in that but didn't believe it would ever happen. How blessed am I to be with such a well-refined, patient, humble, and loving companion! I love Elder Taylor, and we're extremely unified- the other missionaries have already told us that it is evident in the way we teach during role-plays.
I do feel the pressure- coming into an area that hasn't baptized very much with a track record of having baptized twice in a newly opened area definitely turns heads, and I can be honest in saying that I definitely feel hawks' eyes on me... the Lord will provide for my comfort and ability in delivering more than what is expected of me here. I can feel it, though... I can definitely feel the eyes, and I don't really like being put under a microscope, but if they are looking to learn, then I hope they learn heaps, even if it comes at my pride's expense.
I love you all so very much- the only exhortations I have to you is to please keep the Lord close in all that you do. Focus on your personal prayers- you are conversing with our Heavenly Father, who is our Father, of course, but He is also the Creator of All, and if not for Him, we would simply not exist. Read the scriptures with purpose, and not just to read them- study them out, dig into them, and learn from them. Be humble enough to be taught from on high. Prepare yourselves properly for receiving spiritual insight before praying and studying from the words of the Lord's prophets. I promise that if you will do these things, you will see the Lord's hand in your life so much more; you will be humbled because of the knowledge that He will bless you with, and you will be strengthened and learn and grow as you put to practice that which you learn. A gift is meaningless if we do not use it, and revelation from on high is a gift to be truly treasured indeed.
I love you all very much, I hope I don't sound too preacher-esque, and I pray that the Lord will watch over and guide you all in your ways continually, no matter your circumstance, trials, or successes.
-Elder Schomburg

Hastening the Work... Week 44

While we did not hear directly from Elder Schomburg this week, I did receive word through some of the members of the Broken Hill Branch that he has been transferred and will be serving in a new area.  Monday was traveling day and I am sure he has gone directly to work in his new area (wherever that may be), so we will most likely hear from him next week.  If he happens to write sometime today, I will edit this blog post with his letter.

I received two friend requests on Facebook from members of the Broken Hill Branch and here is what one of them had to say:

"Our Elder Schomburg who reopened the Broken Hill mission with companion Elder Prouting has now moved on in the mission field. So sad to have our last supper with our brother. He is and was truly a stripling warrior. Yes, it always was a pleasure to have their company here. The work they have done here was fantastic. I could never not tell them how powerful, influential and patient they were sister. My husband and I prayed for about six months to get missionaries back, and then He sent honestly, two of the best right here. His work still rolls forth with two more baptism dates set in. For in Broken Hill, the field is white. Much love to you in your travels Elder Schomburg, Till we meet again!"
Elder Schomburg helps with the sheep shearing efforts in the outback.
It is such a blessing to hear about the ways in which our son is touching the lives of those he serves.  He developed a great love for the people of Broken Hill and they for him.  We are proud of the work he is doing and in his opportunity to share the love of Christ with the people of Australia.

This postcard/photo came in yesterday's mail.
 It is a wonderful depiction of two of the Lord's finest foot soldiers.

I have included a story here from the Church News about God's plan and purpose for Hastening the Work of Salvation.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

And Then I Discovered A Paradox... Week 43

G'day all!
First off, HAPPY BIRTHDAY ELIZABETH AND GRANDMA!!! Elizabeth, I already wrote you a little something in a letter that I'm sending to the family today, but suffice it to say that I didn't agree with the vote for you to turn 18 and therefore you actually aren't 18! XP But wow, happy birthday! Not 18 though, that's crazy! XD
As far as news with me is concerned, I actually spent Tuesday thru Friday in Adelaide. We were receiving a training by Elder Pearson, a counselor on the Pacific Area Presidency and a member of the Quorum of the 70. All I can say is that Elder Pearson is the man, and even though he spoke for 6 hours, it was the most revelatory training I think anyone's ever had. He smashed the mission, though- the Australia Adelaide Mission is the lowest baptizing mission in Australia, and therefore probably in the world as well, and I think I found out why, but I will explain the "paradox" later on. There are fires everywhere right now, though I'm not sure about specifics. I know that when we were driving back to Mildura we passed a very large fire that had turned the sky black and the sun was casting a hellish orange light on everything due to the smoke, and when we woke up Saturday morning the flat smelled like burning wood and the haze was incredibly thick. The Q's went on holiday, or tried to, but never reached their destination because of the fires, and they're actually encircled by the fires now in Victoria, so please keep them in your fervent prayers- they really need some help.
I received mail this week from Ms. Duval, who gave me a very lovely photo book of the last shoot we did with her and the whole family, so THANK YOU JEN!!! I also received cards and letters from Grandma, Mum, Sister Welch, the Betts (when did Cheyenne -now Sister Betts- go on a mission!?), and Andrew, so THANK YOU ALL!!! As always, your letters and cards and postcards and all manner of things is greatly appreciated and really does keep me in high spirits- I definitely love and appreciate the backup. Also, I got a photo book from Mum and the family, along with lists of things that they all love about me! That was a pretty cool deal and I loved looking through the photos, and who doesn't like to be told an accumulative 100 things that people love about them? All I can say is that I just felt really special the last two weeks and very thought of by my family and friends, and I so do love and appreciate all of you and all the effort you put into making sure I know I'm still loved back home =D I'm pretty bad about writing back, but I've made a concentrated effort to write back to everyone whom I haven't yet. Chances are your lives are busier than mine, which makes it even more embarrassing for me having not written you back yet though you've all sent me something of some kind, and for that I have your forgiveness to ask, but I will do better!
So, in Broken Hill this week, we held a fireside last night- Elder P and I organized it for the past two weeks and dished out assignments and picked a theme; we did everything for this fireside and we were hoping to bring some potential investigators to it through the members inviting their friends. As it turned out, the P's, Sister P, and President C showed up, along with two of President P's sons, H and S. Because half of the people who had speaking assignments didn't come, Elder P and I did a lot of improvising. Even though there were probably only 10-12 of us there, we had musical items, film presentations, and a number of talks and testimonies given by those who were there. Despite our few numbers, the Spirit was ever present, blessing us with his sweet and humbling influence. I couldn't help but think that maybe that is how it felt when the Church was first organized in this last dispensation- they were very few in number, but I'm sure the Spirit was overwhelmingly powerful, as it was at the fireside. More less actives came to the fireside than active members (we're going to have to address that sometime), but everything that took place and was shared was just absolutely beautiful, and few people left with dry eyes (I did... not on purpose, I'm just a hard case like that...).
I also got to give a talk on Sunday about commitment. All I can say is that where I've got pretty good material, I tend to blast through it- poor Brother C had about 20-25 minutes left to speak, even with the intermediate hymn. I guess I just prefer to be quick and to the point. [Only when he is speaking, I think. :)] That, and I was asked to give the talk Saturday night at about 9:00PM, which limited very greatly the amount of time I had to prepare for it. Nevertheless, the Lord is merciful and allowed me to prepare something that was both found in doctrine and backed by the words of the prophets, so all is well. I was also told that it was a good talk. Unfortunately it didn't get the point across- none of the other members came to the fireside, even though they've all committed to do things like that because of their membership in the church, to keep it in a nutshell... what can you do?
This week in my study, I was trying with much effort to explain why -though I was having trouble waking up on time- I was still experiencing success as a missionary. As I studied the White Handbook and mission rules and the scriptures, searching for blessings predicated on obedience, I thought I was getting close to answering the question. And then I discovered a paradox (thus the title). 
As I've been companions with Elder P, who likes to ask hard questions, he came up with something that stumped me (not the first time I've been stumped, but this is a matter that I myself had been trying to solve for a few weeks now, and to no avail). Elder P is a lot like me- he likes to ask the hard questions and he likes to question everything; I can't say it's annoying because I actually enjoy having in depth conversations and figuring out everything there is to know about something, particularly with a companion whom I've really enjoyed serving with (Elder P and I are actually pretty close and we're not looking forward to transfers this week because we're almost positive one of us will have to go -this is our third transfer together, after all). Anyways, the question that Elder P and I eventually ended up asking -after much asking of other smaller questions- was this: how is it possible that disobedient missionaries are baptizing more than obedient missionaries?
Brothers and sisters, I have spent a lot of time thinking about this, and studying this in the scriptures and Preach My Gospel and in the White Handbook and that cursed thing we call the Blue Binder (mission-specific rules... there are LOTS). This is basically what I've come up with, but in order to communicate it effectively, I have to use some examples and explain some things. This will not be brief, but hopefully I can keep your interest.
There are three missionaries that I know of and one that I've heard of that actually started to bring reason to the original quarry of why disobedient missionaries were typically baptizing more often than the obedient ones. I will not mention names. The first elder was notorious for his record of disobedience, but he was also famous for his record of 27 baptisms before he went home. Another elder was disobedient all the time and hadn't been blessed with any baptisms- to my knowledge, he still hasn't had any. A third missionary was one with whom I had gone on enough trade-offs with to call him my companion, and whom I came to love and respect greatly- he had 20 baptisms by the time he went home, and he had established a perfect balance in his missionary work, and was exactly obedient, or at least almost. Finally, a fourth missionary -one whom I met very recently in Adelaide is EXACTLY obedient... but hasn't had a single baptism.
I started to try to connect the dots; why would a notoriously disobedient elder baptize more than an exactly obedient elder? And not just baptize more, baptize heaps more. As I studied obedience and the blessings that came with it, I slowly but surely came to the conclusion that obedience to the mission rules would heighten one's ability to receive revelation through the Holy Ghost's companionship. I reasoned that because one would be more in tune with the Spirit because of their obedience, they would be able to experience success because they themselves would be a more effective instrument in the hands of the Lord. But the example of this EXACTLY obedient missionary trumped that- if he was as effective as he should have been made by being exactly obedient to the mission rules, surely he would have baptized or reactivated someone based on the results of my study. So, I looked deeper, and analyzed these missionaries more thoroughly.
The disobedient elder who baptized 27 was a "loose cannon"- word had it that he did some pretty crazy things while in the field, and it was only through President Carter's mercies that he remained in the field. But no one ever doubted his love for those he taught. Indeed, this was a trait that others would boast about- his Christ-like love was incredible, and he truly cared for those he taught. I then took this attribute of this one missionary and applied it to the others. The second missionary, who was disobedient and didn't baptize anyone seemed to hate everything and everyone, full stop. The third missionary was my zone leader for three transfers (that narrows it down for you)- he sometimes fell asleep after doing push-ups in the mornings and we were five minutes late back to the flat one night, but he followed all the rules with exactness as well, and he too loved everyone. He had 20 baptisms by the time he went home. The fourth missionary I just met recently, and lived with for the space of two days- he is EXACTLY obedient, but he hasn't had a single baptism. It was also clear through his teaching style and the way that he treated others that he was just there to teach the lesson and leave, therefore it can be said that it appeared that he does not love any of his investigators either.
That is where I made the connection- the reason a "disobedient" missionary had more success than even the most obedient missionary around was because he loved. I wasn't satisfied with this answer alone, though- it was too simple and unless I could back it up with scripture, any argument made to any other missionary (if ever challenged) would be lacking in support, so I turned my study (and this "study" took place over the course of several weeks) to studying charity, and figuring out just exactly what it was, and if it was actually the thing that had made the difference between the four missionaries I had chosen. I threw in my own example as well- in Darwin I was exactly obedient, but I didn't baptize anyone, and I was actually a pretty unhappy bloke. Here, I can honestly say that sometimes I spend longer than I should at investigator's or less active's or member's homes (never overstaying my welcome, mind you), and because I'm developing some kind of mild sleep insomnia (if you can call it that), I haven't always woken up on time (it takes a really long time to fall asleep, but this is no excuse, I know). Despite these infractions, I've been blessed with two baptisms... curious, isn't it? I found that I have actually started to develop a very sincere love for the members and the investigators here, however, more so than what I felt for them in Darwin, and for that matter, Tennessee.
As I studied charity, I came across a number of scriptures that supported my claim that obedience to mission rules does not dictate a missionary's success. This sounds very apostate, but I promise that I am not an apostate missionary AND I in no way condone the breaking of major mission rules (I can't say I don't condone the breaking of all mission rules because I am guilty of that; I have spent longer than 45 minutes in someone's home teaching them about the gospel... they say you shouldn't do this, but one was baptized and the other is starting to come to church more regularly soooooo... there you have it).
Colossians 3:14 reads, "And above all of these things put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness." Clearly we won't be exactly obedient, or perfect, until we have charity, or this "everlasting love" as is mentioned in other scriptures that I forgot the reference to. Furthermore, 1 Corinthians 16:14 says very simply, "Let ALL your things be done with charity." In everything we do, we should have that everlasting love, no matter what it is that we find ourselves doing. D&C 12:8 says this: "And no one can assist in this work except he shall be humble, and full of love, having faith, hope, and charity, being temperate in all things, whatsoever shall be entrusted to his care." NO ONE can take part in this work and be successful unless they are charitable.
As I studied it out more, I came to some sort of conclusion- until a missionary becomes charitable, he or she will not be blessed with success, no matter the level of "obedience". Again, I don't want to sound apostate; it's my belief that a missionary should be obedient, but he should first be charitable, and in that way, he is being obedient. Ether 12:34 says that "except men have charity they cannot inherit that place which thou has prepared in the mansions of thy Father." We're so focused on building Zion (or the Lord's kingdom on earth) out here, but if we don't even love the people that we're trying to bring into Zion, we are actually shooting ourselves in the foot because we become disqualified for entering the Celestial Kingdom, which is very far from being "exactly obedient". Indeed, I believe it can be said that to not be charitable is to actually be disobedient in the worst of ways, and therefore success is not reaped. This is backed by the examples of the missionaries that I have picked to communicate my thoughts.
I know that sometimes I have stayed too long at an investigator's house, or a less active's house, or even a member's house; I know that I've in some cases spent more time getting to know someone and trading manly stories than teaching them the truths of the gospel, but in doing so, a gospel conversation has always been made available through just talking to someone normally. Amulek taught that if one did not remember to be charitable, they are "as dross, which the refiners do cast out, (it being of no worth)" (Alma 34:29).
If our success as missionaries really is predetermined by our obedience, we have to learn charity, because being without charity is actually one of the worst sins anyone can commit- that much is evident in Moroni's promise in Ether 12:34. If we don't love the Lord's children first, we are nothing, and our success -even if our lights are always out at 10:30PM and even if we keep our lessons to 45 minutes maximum- will be next to nothing because of our severely sinful state. Brothers and sisters, please don't think that I'm trying to look for ways to justify or rationalize disobedience to mission rules- you know me and I hope that you know that I do not enjoy being in a sinful state, so I would not be the one who would rationalize being disobedient; it's dishonest and that is not me.
It's no secret that this mission is one of the lowest baptizing missions in Australia, and therefore probably the world, but this mission has always found pride in being the most obedient mission, or so they say. Is it really? I thought long and hard about the mission culture that I've thus far experienced, and I'm not sure it is. It's my thought that even if every single missionary was following perfectly the White Handbook and Blue Binder, we would still be where we are because a very key something would be missing, and that is Christ-like love for all of God's children. If the majority of the mission behaves as though the end of the world will come because they were at a tea-date with a less active for five minutes too long, and will even step on their less active's toes to get out the door as soon as possible, it's no wonder we're not baptizing or rescuing as much as everyone else is- we're too concerned with being obedient in the wrong way! That is how the culture is in this mission- I cannot count how many times I've been with a missionary who has been so worried about getting out of the house on time, or getting to the flat on time, or whatever it is, that they've rudely ejected themselves out of whatever situation it was that they were in. When I'm with these "exactly obedient" missionaries who will smash anyone they have to in order to get out the door and home on time, I really do feel as though the world will end if we break even the least of mission rules, even so trivial as staying an extra minute in someone's home in order to better clarify a gospel doctrine or principle. Which is the greater sin? To stay an extra ten minutes and clarify a doctrine, or heaven forbid, build a stronger relationship, or to have to end up rushing out the door in order to stick to the time?
This last missionary that I mentioned was one with whom Elder P and I went on trade-offs with when we were in Adelaide. We went to follow up with a potential investigator, whom we had met on the street. His name was Mr. Read, and he had actually been given a Book of Mormon ages ago, recognized it as scripture, was reading it, and wanted to be taught more about it. A "golden investigator" had fallen out of the sky- this never happens.
When we went to teach Mr. R, and he poured us glasses of Pepsi inside of very unorthodox cups (all very dirty), and began to heat up some garlic bread- it was all the humble man had. He told us his life's story, basically, and just an hour or so earlier, we had received a training from Sister Carter on listening. During this training, she explained some things about herself, told us she had just mentioned 25 things about herself, and asked us to record all of them from memory. I only got six, and most other missionaries accomplished only that much as well. She explained that half of the mission probably didn't care what investigators had to say, and that may have been a reason why we weren't teaching as well or baptizing as much. With this in mind, I tried to pay extra close attention to what Mr. R had to say, and he was a talker- he spoke for a long time, and literally told us everything about him. Elder P saw a teaching opportunity and seized it, and after he had started teaching, the missionary we were with interrupted and insisted we start with a prayer. I felt that the time for a prayer had passed, though we should have begun with one anyways. This interruption actually stalled the flow of teaching, but we conformed and the elder said a prayer. We were "exactly obedient".
We were lucky that Mr. R wanted to learn and was excited to- I'm not sure how we would've started again otherwise. The elder we were with, upon hearing Mr. R start up again, interrupted and explained that we had 30 minutes to teach him and that we wanted to teach him about the Book of Mormon. Elder P and I exchanged some dumbfound expressions- what on earth was this elder doing? We're taught to establish the grounds of why we're there and to make sure our investigators know, but Mr. R already knew! He had QUESTIONS! And they weren't all about the Book of Mormon, though he was particularly interested in it.
Well, we taught him a doctrine, and he told us even more about himself and just why he agreed with that doctrine. The unnamed elder brushed over his comments, explaining with emphasis that we only had 20 minutes remaining and that we wanted to talk about the Book of Mormon. Elder P and I were shocked- Mr. R had given us hundreds of teaching opportunities for things such as the Plan of Salvation, eternal families, the Priesthood, even baptism, but this elder was so focused on teaching the exact lesson, getting all the points in, and being sensitive to time that he was ignoring all of that! Mr. R was concerned for his family, worried about his friends, fearing for the welfare of his very life... but we were going to explain to him that the Book of Mormon was a record of ancient peoples recorded in the Americas from about 600BC to 421AD... Elder P and I did our best to use the Book of Mormon to answer his questions, but this unnamed elder was making it very difficult by wanting to cram the above information -and things like unto it- down Mr. R's throat, rather than actually teach FROM the Book of Mormon.
Well, the same cycle repeated a few times- Mr. R would tell us something that greatly helped us understand where he was at (therefore helping us to know what to teach him at that moment) and this elder continued to blast through it and smash the Book of Mormon. It came time to eat, and we offered a prayer on the garlic bread. Then, this elder stood from his seat, clearly stated that we had run out time, grabbed a piece of garlic bread, and we were out the door- talk about eating on the run. Elder P and I were saddened. We followed the rules with exactness, and in the process, probably offended a man who had come to us with questions of his own and an interest in learning. We had sat down, listened to him tell his life's story, basically ignored it, taught him about the Book of Mormon, then offered a closing prayer and ran out with his food... but we were "exactly obedient." 

This is what I'm getting at - without having a Christ-like love for everyone, no missionary will ever experience success, regardless of how "obedient" they are.

"Master, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all they mind.  This is the first and great commandment.  And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love they neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets. Matthew 36-40
I love you all heaps and I hope to hear from you all soon!
-Elder Schomburg

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

A Truly Blessed Week... Week 42

G'day from down under!
This week, Broken Hill became the first area in the Mildura Zone to baptize! Wow, what a service! I'm not quite sure where to start with this whole week- the Lord's hand has been seen immensely in our work this week!
To start off... I wonder if I can let some creative writing get in here... I think yes! ;D
On Thursday, Elder P and I found ourselves with little to do- we knew A was getting baptized on Saturday, but her family had gone up to Menindee to do some fishing and swimming in the so-called "lakes" that are up there- from the photos I've seen, the "lakes" are no more than ponds. "Auntie" E was home, however. This is key because it is actually she who holds all stewardship over A and as the day of baptism approached, it was made known to us that she wasn't entirely on board. So, Elder P and I suited up and started the journey (and it is a journey) to Auntie E's.
As per the usual, we trekked over the largest and barest hill in Broken Hill to get to Auntie E's house. We took the usual photos of the 10 or so kangaroos that occupy the desert land, and we were even entertained by a few emus- clueless creatures, really. As we hiked out in the bush, we were both a bit apprehensive about approaching Auntie E one-on-one, especially since it had been made known to us that the boat was rocking, so to speak. Auntie E really is a wonderfully lovely lady, and she absolutely loves missionaries... but she is extremely anti towards the gospel and the Church, thus our anxiousness.
We arrived to her home tired and sweaty with dust clinging to the ends of our slacks, as is the norm, and knocked on the door. We waited, and we waited, and soon the door opened very slowly, revealing Auntie E, who had just woken up (and she looked it, too). She invited us in, and we thought we were going to relocate to the back (lacking an additional 18+ year-old male as we were), so we were a bit surprised when we saw her retreat back to the lounge room, lay down on her pulled out mattress bed, and resume watching television. We didn't want to linger, but we hadn't quite worked up the courage to ask her about A's baptism yet. It didn't last long though, and Elder P initiated the conversation. I wish I could say something amazing and spiritual occurred- it didn't. Auntie E struggled to communicate clearly and kept slipping in and out of sleep, so Elder P and I left her with the parting words of "We'll see you tomorrow and we'll talk about A's baptism."
Friday found their home thriving with activity- distant family had come to visit, including A's birth mother and her husband. Unable to actually create a situation in which we could talk about A's baptism, Elder P and I waited for an opportunity. In the meantime, with the goal ever present at the back of our minds, we socialized with anyone we could. The conversation was difficult to take part in however as most of it revolved around the most popular club in town. Nevertheless, eventually everyone took off and... That is when I seized the day!

Elder P was outside, keeping conversation with Sister F on the back veranda, and I was in the kitchen just next to the veranda, with Auntie E seated at the table, alone. I do not like engaging others on my own, but for a missionary, it's part of the job, and nothing less is acceptable, so, in a well-thought out and previously pondered question, I asked Auntie E, "Are you going to come to A's baptism tomorrow?" Auntie E proved to be too wise and experienced for me, and she responded with a good counter; "I didn't even know about it." This put me in a tough spot- we had told her and asked her permission to do one such a thing numerous times before, and she had been alright with it earlier, but now the story had changed, and I had only two options- humility or pride. I chose the former, and apologized to Auntie E for not involving her in the process as intensely as she had desired to be. Unsure of where to go after that, I waited for her exchange. She promptly finished making herself some toast, sat at the table, and then recounted to me the tale of how she had become less active.
Without going into sensitive details, Auntie E was very hurt at one point after joining the church and decided that she was not going to set foot in the church again and she was to be left alone. Obviously since the time the offense occurred, elders have returned to try to fellowship and reactive her, but to no avail. She loves elders, but unfortunately hates the Church- simple as that.
It was about this time that Elder P -who had heard the conversation begin- came in and offered some much desired back-up. He jumped into action and shifted the matter back to A, posing questions such as "What do you think is best for A?" and so forth. He asked her, "Will you let us baptize A?" and Auntie E flat out said, "No." Full stop. I did more listening than talking, because being in such a delicate situation, I wanted to choose my words very carefully, and I have a tendency to be a bit more bold and direct with these kinds of things. I had plenty to say... but saying it would have only compromised the situation. Thus, I listened... and I listened... and I listened as Elder P talked it out with Auntie E.
Finally, Elder P -having expired every trick in his book- offered for us to sing a hymn with her. "I am a Child of God" was what he chose, and A and her cousin came in to listen as well. Singing the hymn definitely helped us to bring the Spirit into the room, but I felt that she needed an extra push. Though I had refrained from saying some more confrontational things, I may have actually done about the riskiest thing a missionary could do in the given situation; I pulled out my scriptures and asked her if I could read one with her and A. Previously, she had made it known to us that there could be praying but no scripture reading in her home. She didn't say yes or no when I asked her permission- in fact, she didn't speak at all, so I continued and read to her Mosiah 2:41.
"And moreover, I would desire that ye should consider on the blessed and ahappy state of those that keep the commandments of God. For behold, they are bblessed in all things, both temporal and spiritual; and if they hold out cfaithful to the end they are received into dheaven, that thereby they may dwell with God in a state of never-ending happiness. O remember, remember that these things are true; for the Lord God hath spoken it." 
Upon finishing the scripture, I told her that the Lord wanted to bless A even more than He had already, but could only do so as she became worthy of such blessings, such as having the gift of Holy Ghost, which is only available to those who had been baptized. Not only that, but those who follow the commandments of God are blessed both in their spiritual lives as well as in their temporal lives, and A would be more entitled to those blessings with every commandment she followed. I then said to Auntie E  that we would be more than grateful if she allowed us to assist the Lord in blessing A more fully. Again, she did not speak, and again, Elder P asked her, "Will you let us baptize A?"
Brothers and sisters, I have never prayed so hard out in all my life, (except possibly the time when the Porsche's engine exploded while I was doing 80 on I-25 in the fast lane); Elder P had been praying hard out as well, for the record. We thought we were going to lose the baptism, and our spirits just dropped when Auntie E said, "No." But thankfully her heart was softened by the Spirit. We left with huge smiles on our faces, even though we were saddened because Auntie E refused to come to he baptism.
Well, Saturday found Elder P and I getting ready for the baptism- filling up the font, setting out some Books of Mormon for visitors and newcomers, and for me, running through two talks. The zone leaders had called the night before and invited us to teach the Restoration to someone while the baptizee and baptizer were getting changed. It was then made known to them that Elder P was going to be performing the ordinance, so the commitment shifted to me. I told them I'd do it, and after hanging up the phone, Elder P asked me who I would teach it to. I told him that I was just going to teach it over the pulpit, to which he acted very surprised, but to be honest, any other way of doing it hadn't registered in my head because of the lack of logic- singling out someone else and teaching them alone when there were going to be other nonmembers present didn't make sense to me; why not just teach them all? Needless to say, I was nervous about the whole prospect of it- I would again find myself without a companion to back me up or offer a second testimony to my own.
The baptism was lovely- A went down and came up with a bit of a surprised shout (it had been her fear that she was going to drown), and her entire family came (aside from Auntie E)! There were a lot of unbaptized folks who came to the baptism. I had the privilege of speaking first, and it was shocking! I know not everything, but certainly a fair bit, about the principles of faith and repentance, but never before did I give so shaky a talk as a missionary. I felt a bit discouraged at this because I wasn't sure anyone else could feel the Spirit yet, which is what the first talk should have done. Anyways, Elder P baptized A, and then we returned to the chapel. It was now "show time," and I had been more nervous about speaking about the Restoration than the previous subjects, regardless of how many times I've studied the lesson layout and the doctrines and all that is relevant to it. I know my stuff concerning the Restoration, but my confidence just wasn't there.
I cut it short and started at the point when Jesus Christ was baptized in the river Jordan. Though traditionally not part of teaching the Restoration, I found it relevant given the circumstances. I announced to the congregation gathered there that I had left my notes on the bench because in the last talk, I felt that they had tripped me up. Really and truly, I was relying on those "treasures in the treasure box" which is to say that I was relying on what "treasuring up in [my] mind the words of life" is supposed to bless us with. I was relying on the Spirit, the scriptures, and my knowledge alone. To be honest, it felt a bit freeing. I started off a bit rough, but made sure to emphasize the Priesthood and went about teaching the Restoration from that point. Eventually it started to flow even smoother as I got to talking about Joseph Smith and his experience, and to top it all off, I invited any in the congregation who had not been baptized, who had even felt so much as a thread of curiosity in that maybe the things I was teaching were true, to follow Christ's example and be baptized by someone holding the proper Priesthood authority of God. I have to thank Elder P, though, because I saw him come out of the bathroom- he was changed and ready, but he had the intellect to know that if he came in at that time, I would have rushed and botched the lesson. He waited until the last three minutes of my talk to come in, and I was able to finish up appropriately. Again, I wasn't sure if anyone had felt the Spirit, but from what I heard coming down the grape vine was that it really hit some of the people there. After the service, a Book of Mormon -one of seven- had been taken, along with a Mormon.org card.
I know this has been lengthy, but there's more to it. On Sunday, a few folks showed up, even a less-active Melchizedek Priesthood holder ended up coming. But A and her family hadn't shown up yet. Elder P and I bless the Sacrament every Sunday due to our lack of Priesthood holders in Broken Hill, so we were watching as late-comers came shortly after 9:35AM. Needless to say, after the first hymn was finished, I was nervous. This is usually when President P takes care of branch business, and A's baptism would have been one of them, and she would've been confirmed then, but she was not there. I'm sorry to admit that my faith began to waver, and I wondered if the Lord really had approved A's baptism or if it was just my desire as a missionary to baptize everyone that had brought us to where we were.
We blessed the bread, and Brother G passed it at his request. Still no A. We blessed the water, and Brother G passed it. Still... no A. Elder P and I woefully rose from the altar to return to our seats amongst the congregation. As we were about to sit down, lo and behold! A came in, followed by her family and the same friend that had come to the baptism. What a glorious day it turned into! Elder P and I looked to President P with utter glee in our eyes, and he gave us the nod and announced that because A had just arrived, we were going to confirm her now. When we got up to the front and surrounded A and laid our hands upon her head, all feelings of dislike or disfavour left me (a certain sister had been giving us some trouble about the baptism) and since I was actually the one that A had picked to confirm her into the church, this experience was very special for me, and I was humbled and honored to do so.
I don't think I've ever felt the Spirit so powerfully before. As always, I was a little nervous about what I was going to say during her blessing- I didn't want to promise things that would not happen, or bless her with knowledge that was not true, or anything like unto that. Nevertheless, as we laid our hands on her head, all the apprehensive feelings just... left. I wasn't sure where to start after I said to "Receive the Holy Ghost" (and I took time in the confirmation to clearly announce everything, as there was no microphone), but when I opened my mouth, it was filled. I did not start with the usual "A, your Heavenly Father is very pleased with you" as is what begins most blessings that I recall. Instead, I felt prompted to tell her something else, but I can tell you that her Father in Heaven is very proud of her and wanted her to know that eventually. I've never felt revelation -as it were- flow so easily before. Though it was nothing revelatory, so to speak, it was what God wanted A to hear and to be blessed with at that time, and so in a sense, it was very revelatory. I didn't find myself having to pause for very long whilst giving the blessing because I knew exactly what it was that Heavenly Father wanted to tell this young girl, and when the revelation stopped coming, I had no fear as I closed the blessing (usually I'm left wondering if I said all that was needed to be said or if I said too much and all the rest of it, but not this time). Needless to say, I'm a bit spiritually pumped- I can see through my own efforts that becoming more consecrated and obedient as a missionary is "paying off" because I've never been so blessed with such "spiritual eyes" as it were.
I know that this is the Lord's true church on the earth today, President Thomas S. Monson is His prophet in these latter days, and that God still speaks to Man. What a wonderful and beautiful blessing this is- to be able to commune with the God of All. I love you all very much, and it is my prayer that if you are reading this and do not yet know if it is true, ask God, for He still hears and answers every prayer, and I testify of this in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
-Elder Schomburg

A's little face has been blurred to protect her privacy,
but I promise that she has the biggest, most beautiful smile! :)

Elder Schomburg cleaning the font.
We follow the example of Christ and believe in baptism by immersion,
so the font really needs to be clean. :)

Elder Schomburg mugging for the camera.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

More Refinement... Week 41

G'day all!
First, I need to answer Mum's questions. I have not yet received a large envelope (but might receive it later today, I'm not sure), I used $13 for postage, I haven't heard from Ms. S (is she getting married or baptized?), I did receive a birthday tie (thank you Sister W! [but you haven't seen any photos because I loaned my camera to Sister P who has actually misplaced it]), my tooth is not really a concern anymore, and your Samoan missionary is probably interested in this mission because there are heaps of Poly's, or Polynesians and islanders, in this mission- I wouldn't be surprised if he knew one of them. D and K won't be being baptized this Saturday, but if all goes well, A is scheduled to be baptized on the 11th.
Now, to report on the past week. It was, for the most part, a week in which we did work mostly with the members. The P's were out of town on holiday for the past two weeks, so Elder P and I were forced to adapt and start visiting the members that we don't often visit. With this also came the opportunity to begin missionary lessons with them so that they can start teaching their friends about the gospel. As a result, we've more or less hyped the branch up for doing missionary work, which is always a good thing. Though there are lots of things in Broken Hill that make missionary work challenging, it is a missionary's dream come true when the members get on board as well.
Church attendance was greater than last Sunday, though no investigators came to church. A. didn't come because her ride didn't actually wake up to take her, so that was a bit of a downer, especially since this is her week, but all is well. Elder P and I were called by assignment to be the First and Second Counselors to M, who has been called to be the Young Men's President! To be honest I'm not sure how this is going to work out- M needs something to keep involved so he can continue learning and growing in the gospel, but at this point, the only young man we have probably knows more than M does. Still, M is excited and ready to fulfill his calling- probably because he has no idea what he's getting into! XD
Sleeping has been a bit rougher these past two weeks- mostly just spooky things happening in the flat, not unlike what occurred in Darwin and whatnot.  Not to worry, though- it's all part of the Plan and Heavenly Father wouldn't suffer such things to happen if He didn't think it was going to benefit us in some way.
To be honest, but hopefully keeping with the doctrine that we should not worry or concern those back home, I can only say that this week has been one of emotional, mental, and spiritual fatigue. I don't believe I've ever struggled to feel the Spirit so much -which is evidence enough that something needs to change- and I've never been so exhausted mentally- for a time, it felt as though my drive or my will to do good had just left me this week. That is to say nothing of the emotional toll that I seemed to have been smacked over the head with. I did what I knew to do to stave such things off, such as turning to the scriptures in deeper study so as to gain a greater knowledge or understanding, focusing on making my prayers more meaningful and less rote, and I even found it necessary to complete a self-assessment used in tracking a missionary's overall status in fields such as physical, mental, emotional, social, intellectual, and spiritual. I was concerned when I found that I ticked more things off that needed looking into than when I had been at my lowest points in Darwin. Clearly this is no good, BUT I woke up feeling good this morning -tis the start of a new day and a new week, after all- and I know where I need to concentrate my efforts. The first place to start is to stop worrying about myself- selfish and self-oriented thinking never did me any good in recovering from setbacks, regardless of their category, and so I've committed to work even harder this week and really put myself out there and do whatever it is that I can to really serve others and that means more than doing dishes after tea for the members.

But I am well- the Lord is looking after me AND this is part of His plan for me. It requires that I be stretched and tested and pulled and pushed until all my rough edges are sanded down. This is the process of becoming refined, and though it is definitely not fun in the moment, I have yet to look back at a rough or tough time and not be thankful for the experience. Usually the thanks only comes after the trial has been overcome, but I think that's okay.
I love you all and pray that you are all well and finding yourself in with the Spirit's company wherever you may be.
-Elder Schomburg

[I know that many of us experience a "let down" following the excitement and busyness of the holidays and missionaries are no different.  While the start of a new year can be exciting and full of promise, it can also be an overwhelming time filled with feelings about the need to change and grow. It appears that Elder Schomburg is doing some important self-reflection and experiencing the associated effects of knowing that he wants to do and be better.]