Monday, June 23, 2014

No Rest for the Wicked and No Rest for the Righteous... Week 65

G'day all!
I'll have you know that I have moved out of the Orange Zone and find myself in the mystical "Blue" Zone (somewhere in between Green and Yellow). That is a good thing; in fact, that is a normal thing, and if anyone is spending any time with undue worry for my welfare, I invite you to repent and cease to worry.
I just thought I'd share a brief experience that I wrote to President Carter on this past week, and perhaps I'll go into more detail about how things are going here later on.
"Last week we were street contacting on a busy main road -busy with people, I mean- and we were in that area for around two hours. At first we just had the occasional contact, and we took turns leading off and teaching. Not much came from it- in fact nothing came from it. Undeterred, we continued to contact who we could, anxiously waiting for that precious 4-5PM hour in which we knew the street would explode with activity. As expected, it did so, and we went to work street contacting. Elder Fleming had to contact a number of people on his own because we became so caught up in talking to people. Later that night, during compliments, I gave him that one as a compliment- contacting people by oneself isn't an easy thing to do when that one is only 3 weeks into the mission. He then told me that at first he was mad at me for obligating him to do so- it made him uncomfortable, he wasn't sure what he was doing, and he didn't have any back-up. But he went on to explain that, as we went about contacting people, he was glad that I was actually letting him do it alone- he said that he learned very quickly and it showed him that I trusted him to do missionary work. That's something that I'm trying to plant in his head- he is a missionary now, the same as I am, and there is no "rank" system in the mission. I have my responsibilities and duties, and he has his, but we are both called to the same office and the same ministry. He's progressing well."
This week has been largely focused on finding, but we also tried to teach a few lessons. However, it's difficult to teach people when you've no one to teach. So, as Elder Fleming and I were sitting across from our desks, discussing the work in our area during our Weekly Planning session, we started to make some goals as to what we wanted to accomplish. I had been thinking heavily on the situation and decided to relay some of my thoughts to his.
In essence, there is what I like to refer to as the "Area Cycle" which basically looks like this:
Potentials ---> New Investigators---> Investigators on Baptismal Date---> Other Lessons Taught---> Progressing Investigators---> Member Present Lessons Taught---> Baptized and Confirmed---> Potentials
And so on and so forth. Now if just one of those areas is off, the whole cycle gets thrown off (which is why it is so stressed that we maintain balanced areas). If we stop teaching with members, we can expect that our investigators will not make their dates- there is no support system, no friend to guide and lead during the conversion process, and therefore a good missionary would think twice before chucking that person in the water.
In our area, the Potentials area is off, and thus the whole cycle has come to a halt- there's nothing happening because we haven't found anyone to teach. We are getting a few potentials, and we follow up accordingly, but many of them refuse to see us again or magically disappear (we're not sure where they go... Fairyland maybe).
So, I looked across my desk to Elder Fleming and said, "Elder, sometimes you have to do very unbalanced things to achieve the balance you're looking for. How do you feel about finding 20 potentials this week?" He readily accepted it as logic and agreed to do it. I went on to explain more of the situation and said, "Elder, this means we have to do consecrated finding every single day, and this means that we are not going to teach nearly as many lessons (not that we have been) or even prioritize them. This week would be just hard-out finding. How do you feel about that?" Again, he accepted. I wasn't convinced he knew (or still knows) what I'm talking about, but he said, "Are we talking four hours of finding a day?" I shook my head- four hours wouldn't yield the results we need in order to start teaching and baptizing. "Elder, we have to find all day- if we do this, it is going to be a very hard week. We stick to using the bikes (we got a car again, the exact same one but completely serviced; Elder Aiono reckoned it was a guy and named it Teancum, but I reckon that the unwritten law of guys drive female cars and girls drive male cars had to be observed, so I named her Shacha [it's Russian] because no scriptural things were coming to mind or really fit the car, and the District Sisters named their car Big-G, so...) and we work as hard as we can. We talk to every single person we see and we never stop finding- there are no breaks, even if we stop for a drink, we always find."
He nodded his head and said "Let's do it."
So that's how it is. The district is going well- Sister Farr and Sister Vaiula are a bit low because one of their Recent Converts said she doesn't want to come to church anymore. We're sorting it out, but that's just not like her, and it's got the Glenelg Sisters less than bushy-tailed and bright-eyed.
I'll see if I can send something more soon- my time is about to run out. If I don't manage it, I love you all and am thinking about you!
-Elder Schomburg  

[Twenty minutes later...]

And because I have a few extra minutes, I reckon I need to share something spiritual. To be honest, there aren't many experiences that I can draw upon this week- the endless finding and endless lack of investigators and return appointments made me pretty frustrated, and I'm still fairly frustrated about it. I was talking to Brother Li Santi after Coordination Meeting (he's our Ward Mission Leader and is great at what he does- honestly, the man) and because he's a deeply caring and interested person, he inquired as to how the work was. When I first became a missionary, they told us to tell them that everything was good regardless of the situation; however the recent instruction is to be honest (ironic, considering the calling) concerning the work. With this in mind, and knowing that he is called to help me do my job, I was honest.
I told him that we're not teaching anyone, and that finding is difficult- virtually no one is accepting the message (eight people did this week- it should've been eight people over the course of two days, not seven). I told him that we had been analysing ourselves over and over again, trying to pinpoint exactly what it was that we were doing that was not right. Then he told me something eye-opening. Paraphrasing here, he said,
"Elder Schomburg, you're called to a leadership position, and in such a position you're expected to have an area that everyone else can look at to know what they should be doing. You're the one that's supposed to be baptizing and confirming left and right so that you can teach the other missionaries how to do it. Now in this ward, the missionaries whom we've seen are pretty good about saying they haven't done enough when they've actually done marvellous work. Look at the Glenelg Sisters- they break their backs doing missionary work but they'll never say that it's enough, and a lot of the time, they start to question how they should be acting when 'nothing' is going on in their area, and the same goes for the District Sisters. You are supposed to be the example, and I wonder if the Lord is using you as an example of what to do when nothing is happening in an area, so that they know how to act and respond to it, because you, Elder Schomburg, get out there every day and work as hard as you can, even though nothing's going for you."
I never quite looked at it like that, and I was shocked that I received such insight from a ward member. But it did click in my head then that Brother Li Santi, though not set apart or called to be a missionary, is set apart and called to work with missionaries, so his words must have been valid. It just really helped me to open my eyes and look for the good in every situation. The Lord never ceases to surprise me like that- just when I think I've thought of all the reasons, He places something or someone in my path that teaches me otherwise.
I love you all! TTFN!!!

Monday, June 16, 2014

Schomburg vs. Orange Zone - Round II... Week 64

G'day all!
Here I am, with my head spinning about all of the things that I have to do ever; manage the district, manage companionships, manage a trainee, manage the area, manage coordinating efforts with the ward council, account for my efforts and the slowly dying Clarence Park area, and all the rest of it... thoughts of food have actually not yet entered into my mind, but I should probably eat soon if I want to get through the day. What're you going to do!? Just keep doing!
I think that's mostly the report I have to offer this week. I got a good rebuking from my Mum about redirecting my thoughts because I have been sorely concerned about matters that just... don't need to be concerned over right now. And yes, 9 months left- the Return Missionary Elder Schomburg has been conceived, so watch out world- it's inevitable xD
I've never been so tired, or so stressed, or felt so alone before. Everything that I find myself involved in at this point is reliant upon me and my actions. It's just the Schomburgster and the Lord, taking on the Clarence Park area as it slowly grinds to a halt in missionary work! Doesn't matter- the Lord is with me and that's got to count for something.
I guess I'm being vague, but my thoughts are everywhere and I only have 17 minutes to communicate them all (thank you, stress meter, for going up even more with that little tidbit). Our area has ONE investigator who is progressing by the skin of his teeth, and after the blitz, we ended the week with 17 potential investigators. Not enough... we're about 5 time short of how many we need, statistically speaking (not that's it all stats, but the stats show that ten investigators will be gleaned from every 100 potentials, and only one of those investigators will be baptized). Ask me how I'm feeling? My area needs to be a model area for the other missionaries and it isn't. My area needs to be teaching more so my companion can actually learn and we've no one to teach. My area is not going anywhere. I know it's on me- I just haven't figured out what I'm doing wrong yet. If I had, I would've solved the issue STRAIGHT AWAY because I'm really tired of this slugging through the trenches stuff.
My companion takes everything to heart- it's difficult to give him improvements because he'll take it personally, or at least sometimes he does, which makes him unpredictable. He has this idea in his head of what we should be doing as missionaries, and when I tell him "No, that's actually not what we do" he continues to do it anyways until he learns the hard way. For instance, we were tracting and his door approach was "We're missionaries from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and we've come to share a message with you." He asked me why it wasn't working. I asked him why the people should care that we're missionaries from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints with a message to share. I guess it got him thinking. Regardless, I told him to actually treat the people like people and hold conversation that is controlled and directed towards a gospel principle or doctrine that applies to the person (easier than it sounds). He continued with his approach. It didn't work. So I showed him. I took the next door, got to know the lady properly, assured her that our message would apply to her because -fill in the blank (it was eternal families and guidance for parents through prophetic teachings, but simply put)- and asked if we could come back. She said yes! I didn't rub it into my companion's face- that isn't how anyone should teach ever. Instead, I went to the next door and kept working. I could see the Spirit working hard on him.
"Okay, what was different?" were the words I asked him. He picked up on everything, but only then was he willing to try it out. Only after he had "fallen on his face" was he willing to try it out! Why does my son insist on learning the hard way? Why can't he just trust me when I tell him that "the stove is hot"? Oh well... we're working past it. Just needs more humility. He'll learn.
Met an investigator at church that I taught twice on trade-off's back in Hectorville (I was serving in Evandale). His name is David from China, and I was the first missionary, with Elder Lisati, to teach him. Now he's moving into my area, and he actually has a baptismal date. Coincidence? I've run into him three times now, and all three times, I've seen drastic change. Whoever was working with him did something right... now it's up to me not to stuff it up xD no pressure xD
Hey, I love you all heaps, I am okay- just orange for now. I have to go rapidly find something for my district to do today (cold and rainy, so that limits us GREATLY and I have no idea what there is to do in anyone's areas...  wish me luck!).
Love you all! My prayers go out to you!
-Elder Schomburg

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Excuse Me, Where is the Shut-Off Switch?... Week 63

G'day all!
This morning has already been extremely spiritual, and extremely emotional. I think it finally hit me just now; my friends back home, and my loved ones, and all that I hold dear... are moving on in their lives. Everyone is growing up and heading out and all the rest of it, and when it is time for me to come home, it will not be the same place that I left. I'll need to make new friends, I'll need to start doing grown-up things (like get a job and work), and I'll have to find a wife, I won't get to see my older brother or my sister as often. The world and those in it continue to progress while I get to watch... perhaps I just need to start looking out a different window. ;D
ANYWAYS! My melancholy is NOT going to sour the sweetness of the Spirit which I have felt this morning. But before I go into my spiritual highlights and all the rest of it, I have to report on what's been going on. Transfers went something like this, as Elder Bingham (the senior assistant) read the list: "Serving in the Clarence Park Area as the Marion District Leader will be Elder Schomburg, and he will be training." I want to show you all something, it's my surprised face- ready? =O Hhwhaaat!? This experience was cool. After Elder Aiono and I parted ways, I had to stay for an extra 3-hours of combined leadership training, and trainer's-training. After taking as many notes as possible, I departed for my area with Elder Nay (it's his last transfer), and we tried to proselyte for the space of  a day and a half before returning to Firle to pick up our trainees. Elder Nay mentioned something beforehand that as he had observed, the trainers and trainees usually found each other before the names were even read.
As the falsely confident new missionaries strode into the room and we shook hands, we started conversation with them. It was going to be time for tea soon (they call the whole thing Arriver's Dinner), and as I was about to take my seat, I felt almost compelled to sit next to one of them. It was as if the still small voice was urgently saying, "You must sit by that missionary and talk to him." So I obeyed- I always obey. I started conversation with the elder- he was as tall as me with a Sunny Bill haircut, skux smile, and a slight lisp. He hailed from Central Coast, just north of Sydney if I recall correctly, and he is the only member of the church in his family.
Tea came to a close and it was time to read of the names. Again, Elder Bingham read off the list, and he called the trainers first and then directed the trainees to sit by their trainers. I was the first name called, and though I knew that I wanted this elder I had spoken to, I wasn't going to hold my breath. "Serving in the Clarence Park Area with Elder Schomburg will be Elder Fleming." Ha-HA! Yes! That was my reaction- I could see something in this missionary and I wanted to train him, and what a blessing it has been to me to be able to be his trainer. Mum, Dad... I have a son! He may or may not be the only one I have, but my posterity has begun! Now I just have to train him properly and make sure he knows the ropes well enough that he could train right after his training (such is the expectation).
Now on top of that, they did take our car and promise to return it this week, but as of yet, we've had no word. Again, I think we've lost the car for good. But that's okay. We had a meeting with Bishop, like we do at the beginning of each transfer, in which he said he wanted to blitz the Clarence Park area. So, on top of training this missionary (and he's been a good trainee thus far), running the district, and managing the area (since Elder Aiono has gone, the area fell to me entirely), I was now tasked with coordinating a blitz. I did so with my companion, as he too receives revelation for the area. So, on Thursday 12 June, we are blitzing the Clarence Park area and your prayers will be much appreciated. The theme for the area this week is finding- we've got few to no investigators, and nothing happens in missionary work until you find someone to teach.
It's been good to watch him grow and learn, and so quickly. Truly, this intake of missionaries was a good one- Elder Fleming is a new breed of missionary, and once he accesses his potential, he will be far better than I, or anyone before me ever was. He is a great missionary -even wanted to give planning a go last night (and they don't plan until Week 6 or something like that)- and I have high hopes for him.
This morning my study was intensely spiritual. I remained grounded in Preach My Gospel and decided that every study I have for the remainder of my mission must be just as edifying, uplifting, and educating; otherwise, I'll not have an effective study.
I've been waking up at 4AM every night (I woke up at 1AM and 4AM the last three nights), and every time I awake, my mind is just as active as when I went to sleep. It seems as though I haven't been able to shut down or even calm my thinking. As soon as I wake up (and sleeping feels literally like blinking) I'm back into the rush of everything. I've been so busy this past week that I know that it is only by God's hand that I was able to continue on and do that which I need to do. I definitely feel the weight of my assignments and calling on me now. Last night's sleep was fair enough (awoke at 4 again and didn't get back to sleep, as per the usual), but I'm getting used to the new bodily routine of running on empty continuously.
Regardless of my sleep deprivation, the district is running smoothly, the area is going to get going even if I have to systematically take note of every single house that hasn't been knocked, and my companion is learning what he needs to be at this time. He keeps telling me that I shouldn't overwork myself, but "overwork" has become the regular "work", so no point in whining about it- just do it.
Anyway, my study was in Preach My Gospel, and I learned heaps this morning, and the revelation didn't stop flowing! Now all I have to do is actually apply it. I suppose being so busy occupies my mind from pondering on things that don't matter for the next 10 months. Nevertheless, I have been missing home a lot this week, and reminiscing on what was that will not be... the business staves off such distracting thoughts though.
I'm glad to be a missionary, and I am blessed to be the district leader and trainer of one our Father in Heaven's most valiant sons. Elder Fleming has a lot of mission left, unlike some of us, and I want to make sure that he has a better mission than I did; that he uses his time wisely and purposefully, and accomplishes everything that he wants to. I have regrets- there are things that I wish I had done better, or hadn't done at all during my mission, and I regret every wasted second. I will do all I can to ensure that Elder Fleming does not learn these lessons the hard way, so that he can have the mission experience that I feel I may have denied myself.
I am blessed to be a member of the Lord's restored church, and I am blessed to have the family that I do. Though my little sister is growing up, and though my older brother is off and away, I know that there will come a day when I will just have to cross a celestialised road to see them and the rest of my family.
I love you all heaps!
-Elder Schomburg

Elder Fleming and Elder Schomburg

Monday, June 2, 2014

Transfer 11... Week 62

G'day all!
As the district leader, I get transfer info before everyone else other than the Zone Leaders, which I think is pretty cool. Soooooo... Sister Moss and Sister Aspinall (it's her birthday today, wish her a happy one) are remaining, Sister Farr and Sister Vaiula (this is the correct spelling of her name... btw) are remaining, Elder Dos Santos is remaining and Elder Cook is packing, and as for the Clarence Park area... Elder Schomburg is remaining, and Elder Aiono is packing.
To be honest, this isn't much of a surprise- I think it was about week two or three of this past transfer that Elder Aiono and myself both knew he was leaving. Not quite sure why we felt that way or why it was made known to us, but we knew the game was over for Elder Aiono in the Marion District. This is his last transfer, so we're both fairly confident that he will be training (keep the oldies sharp and not as trunky, you see). We're also speculating losing our car- we were told to clean it thoroughly for transfer meeting tomorrow, which means that an incoming pair of sisters is probably going to adopt the car.
Um, what else can I tell you? There's been more speculation that I will be training, because it's something they like to do with district leaders -push them to the limit- so if that happens, it will more or less be the ultimate test sort of thing; it's like a leader's rite of passage if they train while acting as a district leader. But that's just a guess- I think I'm going to get paired with an older missionary who's not quite dead but slowly dying, probably a year and six months out. Or... I'll get someone who's just finished training and is what we call "feo pocco" which doesn't quite translate into English, but it basically means "prideful". We'll see what happens. I'm not too anxious about adopting the area- I don't know where much is still and our investigator pool is pathetically low, which means this transfer is the... how to put it politely? The "work until you're dead" transfer, but I'm excited all the same. It'll be good to freshen things up with missionary things (Elder Aiono and me were falling victim to being off balance as far as work and fun goes...).
The past week was incredibly successful for the district. We've been going this whole transfer with a constantly dropping number of people with baptismal dates, and I couldn't figure out why, and thus could not figure out how to help our missionaries adapt to and solve the situation. After talking to a number of my missionaries, I came to the conclusion that they were either not inviting because they feared losing their investigators, or they just weren't focused on it. So the last district meeting, I did what no missionary assigned to a leadership position wants to do- I "singed [their] eyebrows" as Elder Holland might put it. I did so in an indirect manner, and never once called anyone by name or implied any missionaries had done any one such thing; I didn't single anyone out or do anything in a way that was condescending; I guess you could say that it was sort of like when one of the General Authorities speaks and you know you need to change and do some things differently yet he never once mentions you by name. The Spirit did most of the smashing. Anyways, I just thought I'd mention that because I don't want anyone to envision me ranting and raving as a way to motivate missionaries to repent- that isn't the Lords' way and so it is not my way.

I was told afterwards that it was a very good training on inviting investigators to be baptized whilst extending a date for such to occur. Some missionaries definitely felt the Spirit because a number were in tears and others had deeply contemplative looks upon their faces. After that, we went into role-plays as per the usual, and they were the best role-plays I've ever had I think. But it was just really cool- the Lord definitely helped me out with that one, as He always does.

Every companionship taught heaps of lessons this week as well, and finding potentials and new investigators didn't drop or take a toll from their redirected efforts, which was great to see. They've all figured out what their areas need, how they can work more effectively, and they are SO good at identifying what they need to change in order to be even better. I couldn't express to them how proud I was of them- not that they are in any way accountable to me, but it just felt good to be able to watch these missionaries grow and work harder than they ever have before.

As for my own area, not much happened, unfortunately. I don't truly feel comfortable where I'm at because as the leader, I need to set the example and thus far the sisters are smashing me in that regard, at least as far as having model areas go and whatnot. But I know that whatever it is is on my end, so I'll be doing some more self analysis to figure out what I need to change to grow my area.

I suppose I don't have much more to report on. Thanks to Mum and the family for all pictures and the updates.

Keep me updated on what goes on at home!
Love yous!
-Elder Jeffrey Schomburg