I would like to get straight into it this week- I am doing well, aside from overcoming a nasty cold (I'm currently plagued by a splitting headache, so please forgive grammatical errors), and I went to the dentist last week- may or may not be in need of a root canal (joy) but the tooth seems to be doing me less trouble than before (had a few fillings and things... apparently my jaw and the strength of my bite cracked a back molar -a result of stress I think- which became infected and bacteria entered in, which has been causing some discomfort... all is well now). So I wanted to recount one of my past experiences this week.
Last Thursday we were out finding- we didn't do much fresh finding that day, but whilst doing some housing, we happened across a middle-aged Chinese woman who was eager to learn about Christianity- she was at the crossroads of choosing between Christianity and Buddhism, but she needed a second opinion. We arranged to teach her a lesson at the chapel and informed her we would be bringing one of our Chinese friends when we did so. We met a few days later at the chapel, and we introduced her to Aaron (English name), a recent convert of 9 months or so. Immediately those two -both uni students- hit it off. We took her through a brief chapel tour and then sat down to teach her the first lesson right in front of the baptismal font (wink-wink nudge-nudge). We taught her the message of the Restoration and she was entirely receptive. Aaron offered priceless support in overcoming the English language barrier by translating more Gospel-related terms (ie. "apostasy", "revelation") and she absorbed the lesson completely. She had a question about the Godhead in which we were able to apply a very unorthodox way of teaching her (it's known very uncommonly as the "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Joseph Smith" teaching method). Upon answering her questions in a way she understood, we proceeded to invite her to pray. We prayed first, by way of example but also to ask for our own desires of an answered prayer to be given. She prayed secondly, and it was the best prayer I've ever heard in a very long time.
We asked her how God had answered her prayer and she wasn't sure. Again, we retaught very briefly how the Holy Ghost communicates with us and asked her what kinds of thoughts, feelings, or impressions had she experienced. She didn't waste time in telling us that she felt very peaceful. We explained to her that God had answered her prayer, and her face lit up in a way I've not seen anyone light up for some time. We invited her to be baptized on the, and she readily accepted. I knew, as we taught this humble and willing Chinese student, that the work in which I am involved truly is God's work, and He answers everyone's prayers always. I knew, and I still know, that this is absolutely God's work- if it was some other work, the absolute impeccability of that lesson would not have existed. I have not had anyone working towards a baptismal date for -unless I am mistaken- almost 7 1/2 months, which is far too long for any missionary.
Our new investigator came to all three hours of church the next day, and made fast friends with a number of members. She was introduced to the bishop, met all of the proper quorum auxiliaries, was introduced to ALL of the Chinese members, and was led and guided every step of the way- I've never had an investigator so well chaperoned throughout the duration of our church meetings; she received quality treatment.
The next day, a regularsince we went to the temple today, I was very close to telling my companion that I was not up to leaving the flat. Plagued by a very cruel cold and feeling exceptionally weak, I was tempted to remain in the flat. But in the previous night's blessing which my companion rendered to me, it had been made known to me that this illness in particular was a test of faith. I had at the same time felt a very subtle prompting to take a day and rest, but I was ignoring it, thinking that only Satan would advise a missionary to stay within the confines of his or her flat. My foot was barely out the door, hovering above the tiled patio just a step down and out of the flat, when I felt the phone vibrate. I was surprised to see a text from our Chinese investigator, and began to read it just as I stepped out of the flat.
She dropped us.
She had experienced an unpleasant dream, which rarely happens, and she took it to be a sign that the church was not the right place for her. She was very apologetic and sincerely thanked us for what we had done for her, but she refused to come to the chapel for any further discussions.
I read the text out to my companion, pocketed the phone, and started down the driveway (we had decided to walk due to my weakened state). My companion slowly followed behind me. I knew he was crushed -who in their right mind wouldn't be?- but I had already made a decision earlier in the day that I was going to work as much as I could that day, and I did. I pressed onward and tried to encourage my companion along the way, all the while feeding on the inexpressible sadness that was beginning to consume me.
But it was that testimony which I had gained whilst teaching her that pulled me through. I had been given fresh knowledge that this is God's work and He is the Master of it, and will control and drive it as He will. The same feeling that had overtaken me whilst teaching her, a feeling of uttermost joy that one of Father's daughters was willing to come back to Him, was again felt as I remembered that this was still God's work, regardless of how anyone chose to use their agency. Thus, as with the Lord who gave so freely of his talents to his servants, I took happiness in knowing that I had taken that talent which had been afforded me (strength to my testimony of missionary work) and was able to increase it through applying and remembering what I had been taught in the face of discouragement and defeat. Hence I have titled this "Talents."
It is true of any gift which we receive from the Lord, that we are expected to use them to the betterment of ourselves, our fellow man, and any other way we can that will bring about positive growth in ourselves and others. Just as two of the Lord's servants were able to increase their given trusts by half, so too are we expected to increase that which has been given, no matter how much the original "amount" imparted. In my case, I was given strength and hope and confidence that I am a servant of the Lord and am involved in His work. In the moment of trial, I could have done one of two things: applied the talent afforded me, or bury it deep in the earth for fear of losing it at the hands of further disappointments. As taught in the parable, the third servant who hid his talent lost that which was given him, and then he lost even more. I'm glad I didn't turn straight back around and retire to the flat, using my illness as justification to hide the would-have-been doubt that perhaps this was not the Lord's work, and perhaps He had left us to ourselves. I know that He has done no such thing, nor will He, and I am thankful that -so soon after gaining a talent- I was able to increase it. If anything, I know that this is still the Lord's work, and I know that more than ever before. I know it sounds off, but perhaps it was the disappointment that drove me to look for new and remember old occurrences in which I came to know that I am on the Lord's errand, and ultimately, I gained more than I had when we first taught our now former investigator.
I didn't mean to rant on that, and I don't even know if that last bit makes sense- perhaps this whole experience is one that I alone will be able to treasure. But I tried to share it, and I hope someone gets something out of it.
We did go to the temple today, and I have photos, but unfortunately I did not bring my cord, so I cannot upload them. Suffice it to say that the temple was wonderful, as always, and I was again directed in a divinely appointed way. I received more revelation relevant to my actions as a district leader, and I even felt that the Lord had marked with His seal the approval of my service thus far. My Mum sent me an email loaded with counsel that I deeply needed, and in that way, I have yet again been answered by the Lord through my best friend (funny how that happens). I was even answered when I inquired as to how I could refocus my mind on finishing my service with heightened focus, as it has been very easy for me in the recent weeks to long for home. It doesn't help that I am especially longing for a companion of more feminine qualities, and I certainly shouldn't be as a missionary. Perhaps that is why I have been blessed with the opportunity to serve around so many Sisters- I'll know the exact kind of qualities to look for in a companion upon my return, BUT that return is not going to occur for a decent amount of time, and having asked the Lord how to refocus and having been answered, I intend to do that which the Lord revealed to me. So don't ask me what I'm looking for because it's distracting. xD
Anyways, sorry for that- I've oftentimes told my companion that I must be the most real missionary there is, in that I'm willing to say what everyone is thinking but not saying. Is that a good or bad quality? I'm unsure. xD
Transfers are in four or so days- please pray for Alice Springs! xD I have never asked the Lord nor petitioned President or the Assistants for a desired area, but I have roughly two areas left in my service unless I stay for an extra long stay here in Marion, in which case I'll likely only have one area left, and I would like to see the Territory again, specifically the part I haven't seen yet.
Anyways, I'm off to go eat, and do some light shopping -because it's transfers- and then rest my head (headaches.... are the worst). I love you all and I hope to hear from you soon!
Shout out to my Nan (Grandma) for faithfully sending a letter every week (THANK YOU SO MUCH!!!) and to Brother Murrow- it's good to know my old YM leaders are still collectively men, but individually "the man!" xD
Love you heaps!
-Elder Jeffrey Schomburg