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.

No comments:

Post a Comment