Monday, April 28, 2014

Orange Zone... Week 57

G'day all!
The title of this entry refers to the "Stress Level Colors" which are used to describe where a missionary is emotionally and mentally. Simply put, green is good to go; yellow is sort of stressing it; orange is pre-mental breakdown; red is breakdown. I find myself, on this beautiful Monday morning, in the orange! Why is it that, you might be asking? Because being a district leader is HARD! Holy Moses- when they gave me the assignment I didn't want it, but I didn't know that I wouldn't want it this much until after my first Call-In Summary Report with my Zone Leaders! What a joy it is to be the district leader, which is (and I'm not saying this to sound boastful) arguably the most difficult assignment to receive as a missionary!
Last night I started Call-In's at 9:35 with my Zone Leaders- they're in my district, and therefore are my missionaries, and must first report their efforts in the Lord's vineyard to me. They had a very clear "vision" for the week which they opted to present in SWRT format (which is to say that they found the Strengths of the area, the Weaknesses, their Resolutions, and possible Threats). It was very thorough and I enjoyed it. At the same time I really didn't like conducting the call-in because I felt like I had no idea what was doing. I had been hoping to received further guidance from them afterwards but none came- we said a prayer and that was it. Then I started with the sisters in my district... a training that they gave to all the district leaders was to not dictate how a vision is presented, but it was highly recommended that missionaries use the SWRT or "Where We Are, Why We're There, Where We Want to Be, How We'll Get There" formats (I haven't come up with a short version of the latter type). Well neither companionships of sisters presented their visions in either way, and the information I received was limited, but I had no idea what exactly I was looking for or what was needed. Call-In's ended at about 10:28 (a bit too close for comfort). I thought the call-in's had gone relatively well.
This morning I had to account for the efforts of the district to my Zone Leaders. As the call-in began and they started asking questions, I came to realize that I did not have the information that I was supposed to have received from the sisters in my district, I did not have answers to unexpected questions, and I did not truly understand what it was that the Zone Leaders were expecting. I felt angry and frustrated and annoyed about a great many things by the time they hung up the phone. I felt even more adamantly about my dislike for being assigned as a district leader, and I reckon I'll have this assignment for awhile because I don't want it, and I would like to be released from it- there is the cold, hard, honest truth. I. Do. Not. Like. My. Job.

[Elder Schomburg is nothing, if not honest. :) Keep reading...]
But what I like and want is completely and utterly irrelevant- the Lord has chosen me to watch over this district, and He did it for a reason, and He chose me because He knew I could do it. SO, even if I am experiencing a pre-meltdown, I have resolved to do all I can to be the best district leader there is. That being said, I am going to sit down with my Zone Leaders today, apologize profusely for not having been properly prepared for Call-In's, and ask them to set an expectation so that I can meet the demand and get things running smoothly. All I need is to know what's expected from me and I'll deliver, but it's hard to deliver something if you've got no idea what it is that's supposed to be delivered.
... sorry this isn't more spiritually filling... I'm sort of angry at the moment, which is just a masked emotion for something else... probably insecurity or self-doubt and what have you... such is my nature.
Something spiritual did happen this week, though! After District Meeting last week, Elder Aiono and I were lost coming home, but he felt like he was being led and I felt like it was the right way to go. We preached by the way as we traveled and found a young family. The mother, Meegan, and the father, Travis, were both going for a walk with their little one in the stroller. Elder Aiono -being very blessed with being able to go where others are spiritually before bringing them to his level... if that makes sense to the outside-of-missionary-work-realm- was able to talk with them and they accepted an invitation to be taught more. Later on, as we checked the address they gave us, we found that it was out of our area. We passed it on to Sisters Moss and Aspinall and didn't hear about it until last night during Call-In's. As the sisters reported on their baptismal dates, they said that Meegan was set for the 1st of June- Elder Aiono and myself were thrilled (I told him after the call-in's)! We knew that, even though we had been lost, the Spirit still led us down the roads we traveled, and now a whole family is being taught the gospel and at least the mother has a baptismal date! What a good start!
Some unusual things have been occurring in one companionship of Sisters area, though- they called last night at about 8:40 and sounded very frightened. After they had calmed down, they explained that they had been in a certain suburb in their area that they were growing ever concerned about. They explained that whenever they did finding there, or went to teach lessons, that a few select others would watch them very closely. In time, they came out to their car one evening and saw the wipers put up. This is easily written off as a prank pulled by other missionaries (it's popular -if you see another missionary car- to leave a sticky note that says "Tag!" or to flip the wipers up). Then it happened again in a completely different suburb, and again in the sketchy suburb last night. So, Elder Aiono and I talked it out with the sisters, and after exhorting them to report anything else unusual that occured and to travel irregular routes, Sister Farr asked us to keep praying for them. Well I didn't like the idea of hanging up and then saying a prayer separate from them, so I offered to say one over the phone with them. I don't typically find myself doing this, but I was very grateful for the Priesthood allowing me to do it; having the Aaronic Priesthood allows those who hold it to command the ministering of angels, so I asked the Lord for a number of his angels to be placed between the sisters and any evildoers that were seeking to do them harm. Unable to actually do anything myself at the moment, I knew that the Lord would, and having a firm belief that angels do still minister to God's children, I was very confident that my request would be answered. It was just at 9:00 when Sister Moss and Sister Aspinall had just gotten back to their flat, and they called up and asked us if we had been serious when I told them they could spend the night at Sister's Farr and Viaulla (that's another story). I had been serious then, but now I had yet another reason to let them, so all four sisters stayed the night together. I think it did them some good... though I should probably keep that in check... sisters LOVE sleep-over's...
Oh! I had my first baptismal interview this week as well with a woman named Val. She's being taught by Sisters Farr and Vaiulla, she's an older lady, but the most kind woman ever. She was SO nervous coming into that interview! I thought I was nervous, but she was REALLY nervous. I can honestly say, though, that as soon as I had closed the door for privacy, the Spirit calmed me straight down and I felt like I did right before Tae Kwon Do belt tests- it was game-time, and I felt really confident. I treated the situation with as much love and patience as I could possibly muster, and I must've done something right because afterwards she shook my hand and expressed just how appreciative she had been of all that I'd done for her. I was a bit confounded- all I did was get to know her, say a prayer, ask the questions, ask inspired questions, read a scripture, and fill out her record. I tried to picture Sister Welch during the whole thing so that I would better know how to talk to her. Sister Welch, thank you for helping me to hone my gentlemanly skills because they really pay off when it comes to reassuring more mature ladies that there isn't any reason to be nervous about a baptismal interview. =) Now that I look back at it, that was a pretty cool experience to have. So I guess being a district leader isn't all that bad... but it sure is difficult @.@

[The frustration of being a new district leader has been resolved in less than a letter.] :)
I'm not sure what else to say, so I should probably end this. We're having a district activity at a park by the beach today- going to play some volleyball, put on a barbie, and watch the ocean (at least I will- Elder Aiono isn't as fascinated by it because he's surrounded by water in American Samoa).
I love you all heaps! Um... my family and friends have been really REALLY good about this, but sending cards and postcards is good for my sanity. =D Just food for thought... ;D
-Elder Jeffrey Schomburg

P.S. I wanted to send you some pictures, but this silly computer is actually too old-school to do any such thing. Maybe I'll just send print-outs sometime.  [Due to Elder Schomburg's lack of photos, I chose to add some of the beautiful photos Elizabeth took at Temple Square this weekend when we went to retrieve Andrew from BYU.]

LDS Conference Center collage -
exterior, auditorium, and sunset from the roof

Christus in the North Visitor's Center

Hand-crafted door knob on Salt Lake City Temple door

SLC Temple Doors

SLC Temple at dusk

SLC Temple
SLC Temple

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Called to Serve... Week 56

G'day all!
I received a very good message from my mother this past week (and I also received Year Mark lollies from Nan [that means candy/treats from Grandma] and Valentine's lollies from Mum a few weeks ago and a letter from Dad most recently). I do so hope that you all know that my Mum is the best of them all and nothing anyone says can change that. Transfers were this week as well, which is why none of you heard from me until now (sorry how it works out like that sometimes). I don't recall much of what happened in transfer meeting after they called my name. It went something like this:
"Serving in the Marion Zone in the Clarence Park area as the new Marion District Leader will be Elder Schomburg and his new companion Elder Aiono." After that I sort of lost track of what was being said and tried to trick myself into thinking that Elder Holmes (one of the Assistants) had just read it out wrong and that Elder Aiono was the district leader, as he was the district leader for one transfer in some far away place. It would've made more sense for it to be like that. But then, when the transfer meeting was over and all the hustle and bustle began, a short islander elder, Elder Pulalasi, approached me and handed me a binder, saying as he did so, "Elder Schomburg, how are you, district leader? Everything you need is in that folder." Then I got corralled into the primary room of the chapel into what is known as "Leadership Training" and sat down with my Zone Leaders, Elders Dos Santos and Cook. Then, I pulled out my journal (because it was all I had on me) and started to furiously take as many notes as I could about everything. To be honest, I think my brain must have shut down and gone into some kind of autopilot in which I was able to do that which needed doing without my conscience being present- I may have been having an out-of-body experience... actually not, that's a bit exaggerated, but I still couldn't believe my ears.
So there you have it. President Carter said that this hadn't been one of those transfers where they were scraping the bottom of the barrel looking for those who could fill the proper roles, but that it was divinely inspired. Therefore, the Lord has seen fit to make me a steward over several of His missionaries, and I was very (and still am a bit) overwhelmed with it all. I held my first district meeting today (they're supposed to last an hour and a half) and I actually ended up crunched for time because I had planned to train on too much... I was very worried about filling the time appropriately. It probably wasn't the best district meeting in the world (especially since I've got a throat cold and cannot actually speak....) but I was told that it was good by everyone else. Filling leadership shoes is hard... I have no idea what I'm doing. But the Lord assigned me, so here I am, and He will sustain me in my assignment as His district leader in Marion. [Marion is a suburb of Adelaide - approximately 10km south.]
I've got a solid district- the Zone Leaders are in my district, as well as two companionships of sisters, and then myself and Elder Aiono. It's fairly small but there are very good missionaries in this district, and the Marion Ward has been referred to as Zion. After meeting with Bishop Davidson and our Ward Mission Leader Brother La Santi, I could definitely tell that Marion has got it down. It was a very spiritual meeting in which we discussed how Bishop would most effectively employ us, and he had very high praise for the work the previous missionaries (and some of the current ones) were preforming. I am very blessed, to be honest.
I didn't get a chance to unpack my bags until this afternoon, and last night's sleep was pitifully poor- between not being able to breathe properly and still pondering heavily on the training that I had to give the following day (this morning), I didn't really sleep.
The companionship with Elder Aiono is great- we've both changed a lot since our time together in Malak and I'm happy to be his companion again, just as he was equally happy to be my companion again. I suppose that either we didn't learn what we were supposed to learn from each other the first time, or now is the time in which the Lord knows that -because we've become a bit more seasoned since our first round- we'll actually be a great companionship together. I know he's been a great help to me so far, especially with seemingly running around performing district leader duties. In a military analogy, the district leader is the sergeant in a platoon, with the zone leaders as the lieutenant. If you know anything about the military, you'll know that -as far as my district is concerned- it's up to me to make things happen, and that has me a bit worried. I have to conduct my first baptismal interview after church on Sunday, and that same night I have to conduct Call-In Summary reports with the missionaries, which is what district leaders dislike doing, or so I've heard. That may have something to do with the general nature of the call- celebrating success with the missionaries, and then correcting them in their ministry. It has to be done with love, but I just hope that the district trusts me enough to actually let me have good call-ins with them...
I suppose I don't have much more to say for now- busy, busy, BUSY. The nature of the assignment I've been asked to fill leaves very little room for personal time, so any letters I write home (and I've got a few pending for Mum and Robby) will be very. Very. VERY. Slow in coming.
I love you all very much, and I know you do so everyday for me, but I could really use your prayers at this time. I'm excited and scared out of my mind, but what can you do? Just keep on doing!
-Elder Jeffrey Schomburg

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Acceptance... Week 55

G'day all!
I was going to talk about this week, but I fear that I don't have much to say. The trio is working smoother than it was before, but I'm finding that Elder L and I are oftentimes at odds with each other- just a matter of differing opinions and pride, really. I asked for this though; a few weeks ago, I was afraid that my "seasoned" status as one of the "old missionaries" (apparently there are more young missionaries than old missionaries, and I find myself in the small number of old missionaries) was going to get to my head and I was seeing signs that it was, so I asked the Lord to humble me. Though I do not enjoy the humbling process, I understand that it is necessary, and I never want to be that stubborn, prideful, arrogant person that I previously was ever again. There are a lot of things that I'm discovering that I was and am not now, and the more I discover them, the more I question how I had any friends or any loved ones back home at all. If you could all see the person I am becoming, I think your jaws might drop; a lot is changing. Though I'm still me, I'm becoming a much better me. I may not be the smartest bloke, and I may prefer the more simple things in life, and I might not become the most amazing person in the world according to the standards of the world, but no matter my simplicity on the outside, I know that I am becoming more like the man that God wants me to be.

Something that I just felt impressed to share was this; I was thinking recently of the time when I'll come home (a year from now and I'm nowhere near trunky... I just was trying to make some goals of where I wanted to be in a year) and I was thinking specifically about the last testimony I would bear at the end of my last transfer meeting. I decided that I don't want to share any stories- every missionary has stories and those are more appropriate to talk about in a less formal setting I feel. Instead, I thought I would just go with what President Carter has been telling all the leavers to bear witness of before they leave, and that is of three things that have helped them the most on the mission. Lots of missionaries still like to chuck in stories though. As I was thinking of the three things that have helped me the most so far, or the three things that I would like to see help me progress even further, I made a few decisions on what I want to share with the younger missionaries when that time comes.
First, and not necessarily the most important one, is diligence. I know that being diligent is the key to serving the Lord to the fullest. When I have always had something to do, I have been the most happy, I have been the most tired (as I should be for now), and I have felt the Spirit constantly. Filling the day with things to do to fill up blocked periods of time, however, is not being diligent. Diligence, to me, is when one is actively doing all that they can to bring souls closer to Christ, and they have a real desire to- not just a desire to fill in the blocks of time with things to do.
Second, and arguably the most important, is loving everyone as Christ loves them. I know that if I am leaving my flat for any other reason than a Christlike love for those I have been sent to serve, I am leaving for the wrong reason. I know that it is only by showing people sincere interest in their lives, concern for their welfare, and actually wanting to get to know them, that they can then identify you as a servant of the Lord on His divine errand. People do not care about how much you know until they know how much you care, and that is as true a statement as God is our loving Father in Heaven. I know that everyday-people are children of God, just like us- they have hopes and dreams and aspirations, and He loves and cherishes them just as much as He does you and for me. Love is the only thing that motivated the Saviour to do what He did for us; love is the only reason that Father sent His Firstborn on our behalf; love is the only reason we should leave our flats to preach.
Thirdly, and most definitely the most important, is applying the Atonement in our own lives. Without going into detail, I have needed Christ's Atonement daily, and on occasion, I have needed it very desperately. I do not fully know how the Atonement works, I do not understand all of its details, and I don't know why things are the way they are that makes such an Atonement necessary. But I do know that it is necessary, regardless of the why it is the way it is, and I do know that the enabling power of the Atonement is real. I don't know how it is accessed, I just know that I have accessed it before and I strive to access it continually. I cannot see the enabling powers working in the moment, but I can see the aftereffects, and truly, I know and can offer my personal experience as a testimony of it, that the Atonement heals, and that it will change us if we use it with real and sincere intent. I know that God loves us and is merciful towards us... His mercy, and His desire to be merciful far outweighs His obligation to be just. Christ's Atonement satisfied the laws of Justice for those who access it, and choose to repent and come unto Christ. I don't know how it works... but I know it works because I have seen the end result in myself. I am not the same person as I was, and I reckon I will continue to change as my service to the Lord continues for the next year.
Last of all, I want you all to know that I love being a missionary! I love being a devoted servant of the Lord; I love being able to bring God's children back into His fold. Though I despise some things in the moment, ultimately I love the challenges and the heartbreaks and the difficulties- they are opportunities for growth, and I know the Lord is telling me that He loves me when I go through them; only a perfect parent would love one enough to let them struggle on occasion. I love seeing others allow themselves to receive the fullness of God's blessings by being baptized; I love witnessing His children humble themselves as they repent, as they develop a desire to fully follow God that Father and do all that our Advocate, Jesus Christ, asks of us. I love watching the look on their face as they come forth from the font, dripping wet with water running down their smiling faces- you know that they are changed individuals when you see the glow in their eyes.

I know for myself that this is the Lord Jesus Christ's church restored to the earth. I know that the Church is modelled to exactness after that of Christ's primitive church; I know that the Priesthood, which is given to Man that the blessings of God may more fully be poured upon His children, has been restored to the earth, and because of it, families can be together not only in this life, but in the eternities to come. I know that God loves us- His love for us is incomprehensible, and I do not understand it from a parent's perspective, but I do understand it from a son's perspective, and I know that He loves me. I know that He is our Father, and that nothing can separate us from His love for us, not even our own sinful actions. I know that He is merciful towards us... words cannot describe how merciful He is, and how much He wants us to taste of that grace and mercy which can be attained only through the Atonement of His Only Begotten. I know this Church is the one and true church, and that Jesus Christ lives; He is the Master at the helm of it, and His only desire for us is to be able to return to live with Him and Father again.
I also love you all, and I pray that someday -if you've not yet accepted the fullness of Christ's gospel- you will allow yourself to develop a desire to accept all of it, that our Father might pour out His most choice and rich blessing upon you. "He who shall lose his life for my sake shall find it." I know that what Christ said is true- I experience it every day that I choose to follow Him. I love you all, and I leave things with you in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
-Elder Jeffrey Schomburg

Sunday, April 6, 2014

And Then There Were Three... Week 54

G'day all!
I'm trying to sound bouncy and fun and all the rest of it BUT a few changes have been made in my missionary service that have more or less thrown a wrench into what I had been hoping to accomplish in the next two weeks (transfers are in two weeks, heads-up). First, a missionary that I was close with whom I had the privilege of serving with has gone home early. The circumstances of his departure shall remain with me, as will his name, but suffice it to say that I was greatly saddened when I heard he was leaving. His companion, Elder L, who has been out for as long as Elder H (about 4-5 months now) is now my third companion for at least the next two weeks. It is difficult and my patience is being tested. The two of them aren't getting along very well- it's a clash of missionary styles and neither one is willing to give up what they have been taught previously, adapt and change what they know into something new that still works, or even yield to a better way. It's making my job a bit difficult, being the senior companion and all. We cover both Evandale and Glenside areas now (we call it Glendale-Evanside), and there are a LOT of decisions that need to be made. We've been given a car, thankfully, but we still have to plan a lot smarter so that we stay within our K's limit (kilometre limit), and with all our very separated investigators and whatnot, planning logistically as well as logically has become much more detailed. Elder H's frustrations seem to be at some sort of pre-climax, and Elder L appears to be slipping into some sort of mild depression because of the confrontations. He mentioned that I was one of the most fun missionaries he had ever met and that he loves being my companion, but if I'm the most fun missionary he's ever met, I fear he's just not been exposed to what really fun missionaries are, because I'm no fun at all. xD Anyways, such is the minor whining of the senior companion of polar opposite people. Why do I get the feeling that I'm in this situation because I will eventually have two children in my life who will fight like cats and dogs? Sometimes I wish I couldn't connect spiritual dots like that...
I'm jealous of everyone back home right now because you've all seen Conference already and I haven't! Any big announcements made are going to be old news by the time I get to watch Conference (this coming weekend for myself). [Click here to watch any talk from any session of General Conference.] I was very displeased to hear about an "Ordain Women" group that tried to detract from the sacred nature of the conference by protesting, however. I had thought about focusing my letter home on that subject and letting a bit of bottled emotion (stress from being senior companion to two elders that silently dislike each other) release... but I decided that, as my mother said, one should feel more God-like sorrow for them and instead of utterly smashing them with all points of doctrine that they've already been taught, to instead pray for them. Truly the Adversary is leading away very carefully even the elect. So, in response to such news, I thought I might just share this- "True doctrine understood changes attitudes and behaviours." If you feed on that for a little bit, perhaps even prayerfully, a whole plethora of spiritual knowledge will be granted to you.
My mother recently told me that sometimes people hear the conference talks and get down and grumpy because they don't feel like they are doing all that is expected of them. I can honestly say that sometimes I feel the same way. However, as a missionary I've come to love Conference SO much and I am SO excited when I get to see it! I'd like to relate a story to this situation and hopefully it helps someone out. We had a very emotional District Meeting last Wednesday- many testimonies were shared, very honest and pure in nature, and many missionaries confessed their anxieties about the work, or said that perhaps they did not know why they were still serving. After the meeting went on for a time, Elder L (different from above) -and I love Elder L; I've never before met such an inspired leader who loves his missionaries more than he does and he truly is inspired- procured a classic LDS painting of the Saviour, clothed in a red robe. We talked about the Saviour for a time, and Elder L said something that I too, have thought sometimes. He recalled how when he did something wrong, he would oftentimes pass that painting in their house back home and it almost appeared as if the corners of Christ's lips were frowning, perhaps out of disappointment or just sadness. On other occasions, he recalled that when he did good things, he would look at the painting and see the Saviour almost smiling. He said it was all in the eyes of the Saviour- though just a painting, he said that he felt as though the Saviour was telling him something every time he looked into the eyes- sometimes it was good and sometimes not as good, depending always upon Elder L's own actions.

I would submit that perhaps the same can be said when we hear the General Authorities speak. They oftentimes exhort us to change, to better ourselves, and they do this without even directly telling us that we need to do these things. That is the working of the Spirit within us, and means that we are not dead to the Spirit (ten points to Griffendor for still being spiritually aware xD). These promptings to do better are God-given and must be looked at with spiritual eyes- Father loves us, and does not rebuke us so that we will feel badly, but he does so to help us become better than we currently are- they are the simple pains of growing, the pains we feel when Father says "Okay, you're ready to move on to the next level." Satan knows that these opportunities which we are given to become even better, after hearing such exhortations by ordained leaders of Christ's church, could greatly increase our spirituality and help us move towards more spiritual refinement- the kind that Heavenly Father wants to see take place in us, because He knows what will best bring us happiness. With this knowledge, Satan knows that if he can interject, and twist these spiritual burnings within us into thoughts of self-hate, or thoughts of inadequacy, he can draw us away from God, and hinder what Father would have us learn. The Lord does not chastise us without reason- He knows our potential, and He wants to see us become all that we were created to be.
As a missionary, I get told to do things better a LOT, and I get to receive a near constant flow of improvements from all the missionaries I serve with- I've come to the conclusion that I'll not be a perfect missionary in this life, but that's okay. Something Elder L has taught me recently is to use a phrase that his mother taught him: "What an opportunity!" When I am told that I need to teach more simply, instead of shutting off and shutting out everything and everyone, I know that I have been given the improvement so that I can become better. Thus, I say, "What an opportunity to grow as a teacher!" Sometimes I'm told that I need to make more decisive decisions as the senior companion (especially with two missionaries now), and all I can say is, "What an opportunity to increase my ability to lead!" Without these opportunities for growth, there would be no point to living life- it would be contrary to God's purposes if we did not have room to grow.
A scripture that I read just this morning that I think might help some feel more adequate is found in Alma 41:5-6, which reads: "The one raised to happiness according to his desires of happiness, or good according to his desires of good... And so it is on the other hand. If he hath repented of his sins, and desired righteousness until the end of his days, even so he shall be rewarded unto righteousness." The whole chapter is a very good one and I would highly recommend it for reading, but if I may expound upon the scripture, I should like to. Father knows that we are not perfect, and He knows that we will not attain His level of perfection in this life, though we might achieve our own perfection according to our own sphere of existence (I've been reading Jesus the Christ...). We do that by constantly applying the Gospel of Jesus Christ in our lives- we continue to have faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and His Atonement, we repent when we make a mistake, we partake of the Sacrament to recommit, we follow the promptings of the Spirit, and we do so for as long as we can. Then we'll most likely make a mistake, have to show our faith once more by repenting, recommit by taking the Sacrament again, and repeat as necessary. In the end, the Lord will judge us according to our desires. It is my desire to be an exactly obedient missionary, and so I do my best, but in the end I slip up. But the desire is there, and I try again. This cannot be used to rationalize sin of course, as God will not be mocked, but at the end of the day "it is by the grace of God that Man will be saved, after all we can do" (or something like that).
I hope that kind of helps.
I love you all and wish you a great week!
-Elder Jeffrey Schomburg