G'day all! I haven't heard from Mum yet but I'm sure that's just because it's another hectic(ironic, I thought was supposed to be a day of rest). Most of my experiences this week can be summed up with what I wrote to President Carter, so I've decided to just copy and paste what I wrote to him and send it all to you. I hope you don't mind, it's just because I don't have very much time.
We received transfer information this morning, and it was a bit of surprise for everyone, to be honest. [I have chosen to edit the 2 paragraphs concerning the surprising transfers of the entire district and simply jump to the chase concerning Elder Schomburg.] Elder Fleming will stay in Clarence Park and...... assume the position of leading the area, because I am packing. Yes... Clarence Park, that area which is said to have crushed missionaries whom were believed to have unconquerable spirits, has either slain me, or I've slain it. I think it's a draw- my testimony is still intact if not stronger, but I didn't baptize anyone here. I've been adding it up as of late, as I wasn't sure if I was leaving or staying, but on the off chance that I was leaving -and I am- I thought I would keep score, and see if I had done anything in Clarence Park. I'm pleased to report that, though I wasn't able to do much, I did something; the area has grown since I've been here. It might not appear so numerically (and I don't even know about that field because I haven't looked at it yet) but I know that it is organized, efficient, and ready to go. It has been, like most of my past areas, prepped for a missionary who baptizes.
Now I have been picking up on this pattern throughout my service. I am typically sent into areas where nothing is going on, and I have always left these areas just when things get started. Two of those areas baptized after I left and two others gained more investigators than when I had been there. At first I figured that just meant that I was holding the work back for whatever reason and by whatever means, but I've come to the conclusion that if that were the case, I would not have been assigned to teach a missionary how to work, nor would I have been given the assignment to teach other missionaries how to work. Instead, I've drawn the conclusion that perhaps that is just my specialty, or my niche if you could call it that (I'm not even sure that's the right word). When nothing is going on in an area, Elder Schomburg is sent in to give it a kick and get it going- after that's accomplished, it's time to pull him out, and put in a more effective teacher and baptizer. As I thought more upon it, I decided that such a theory is largely in alignment with what I have come to learn is difficult and easy for myself. Getting an area going again is VERY difficult, and I'm starting to feel very drained and very tired; I think I'll be able to fulfill that goal of dragging myself off the plane when I get home, but I need to ensure it happens in the remaining seven months. If I were sent into areas that just baptized, I would probably be able to say that I was having fun (which is different than being happy, as I am happy, but not finding much fun xD) as a missionary, and I would probably have a more positive outlook on things. But someone has to be the one that has grit, and someone's got to be the one that can clench his teeth every now and again; someone's got to be the one that plans for the worst-case scenarios expecting that the best things will happen- otherwise we'd all be softies.
I've been told more and more recently that I'm an optimistic person, and I'm always seen wearing a smile on my face despite any kind of difficult circumstance. That's quite a change coming from early on in the mission when I was actually given the improvement of smiling more often, but it's something that I haven't really noticed. Well, I'm not always optimistic in my head, but I guess that has been something that I'm starting to see fulfilled, as it was written in my Patriarchal Blessing that one such a gift as optimism had actually been given to me from on high. I can't say that I'm always happy and looking forward with a smile, regardless of whether that smile is or is not physically present, but I can say that the only thing that really helps me to push through the difficult and strenuous times is that unspoken hope that maybe, just maybe, a miracle -no matter how significant or insignificant- is just around the corner and we're about to run right into it; maybe, just maybe, something is about to happen that will make this day a most blessed day. I can say that my hope in such things, as this being God's work and of miracles being promised to those in His service, has only ever been dashed once, and that was in Clarence Park. At times while I have served in Clarence Park, I have felt as though the Lord Himself was standing over my shoulder as I taught His children about His restored gospel; other times, I have wondered if God -whom I never doubted existed- had just turned from us for a time, and left us to our own devices. Both occasions have helped me to gain much experience.
As you'll read later on in my letter to President, I was doing some reminiscing this morning, and ultimately I came to the conclusion that I'm not really a boy anymore so much as I have become a man. I am hesitant to label myself as a man because I still feel like a boy, but the only reason I say it is because men are required to do hard things; a man has to square his shoulders and work through the pain, the sweat, the tears; a man has to face opposition headlong; a man has to do the things that no one else wants to do. I know that I've had to do all of these things whilst serving in Clarence Park -I can't recall how many times I have had to do the hard things that no one else was going to do- and looking back, I can honestly say that I am very different compared to when I left Evandale for Clarence Park. As I said, I caution saying that I have made it to the point where I can claim manhood, but I do know that I'm definitely not a boy anymore. This may all sound ridiculous and irrelevant, but I just wanted all of you to know that being a man -and growing up into manhood- is not easy. Nevertheless, I know that our capacity to do hard things can increase- it doesn't make doing anything a missionary has to do any easier, it just means that the ability to do that which is difficult increases.
This is what I wrote to President, btw:
"My companion and I had a bit of a miracle yesterday. We were going with the original purpose to follow up on a former that we had found at the beginning of last transfer. Instead of meeting our former, we met one of his mates. Both are Iranians, but where our former was Muslim, this man, Farhid, is Christian, and he readily invited us in. His English is very broken, but we were able to sit down and establish that he reads from a Bible printed in Persian on a regular basis. After some simple communication, we established that we were missionaries and our purpose was to bring others even closer to Christ, and understand how He has called a prophet in this modern day.
Farhid quickly pulled out his Samsung and was able to use a translation app as we taught purely from the pictures in the Restoration pamphlet. It must have been the simplest lesson I've ever taught, and my companion was quick to use Farhid's phone to type in unfamiliar words or phrases that were then translated into Persian. I can honestly say that we did not ask very many inspired questions due to the language barrier, but he understood -at least in part- the message which we intended to share with him. He gave permission for us to return with a Persian pamphlet so as to better teach the lesson again, but we did briefly check his understanding and he got the most important parts- God is our loving Heavenly Father and there is a modern-day prophet. We couldn't count him as an indicator because our return time was not specific, as per Preach My Gospel, but other than that, we did everything else required to count the lesson as a doctrinal lesson, and further we were able to pique a man's curiosity about Christ's church being restored to the earth. Again, it was all very simple due to the language barrier, but we're willing to work around it.
We got transfer information today, and I'm a bit shocked with some of it. I asked my companion how he was feeling afterwards, and he's not overly concerned about leading the area- in fact, he feels fairly comfortable with his knowledge of the area and layout. I apologized to him for not leaving him very much to work with in the area, but he recognized that we had tried our best. I really do feel like Clarence Park was, for myself, a battleground in which I suffered defeats and enjoyed victories on a roller coaster-like pattern. It has been my most difficult area thus far in the mission, but I know that I have learned a very great deal from the experience and -though I do not enjoy or even wish for the experience in the moment- I can honestly say that I am grateful for having been able to serve here, to test myself and to learn how to be a more diligent and smart missionary.
There's nothing else to report, President. Thank you for this opportunity to serve as a District Leader in the Marion District, but especially thank you for letting me serve in Clarence Park- I can honestly say that serving in Clarence Park has molded me into a different missionary, a different man. I caution referring to myself as a man just yet, because I still feel like a boy, but if there was ever an area that demanded a boy "man up" it was Clarence Park."
Well, I love you all heaps! I have to go now, but thank you for writing me!
[While we did not hear from Elder Schomburg as to his transfer location, (he did not know it when he wrote) I received word from a member in the Broken Hill Branch via Facebook on Wednesday that Elder Schomburg has been transferred to Mildura. They are very excited to have him back in their District and nearby again.]