Monday, September 8, 2014

Whoa-ses!... Week 76

Whoa-ses (wo-z-es) is a common expression here used by missionaries when they want to communicate shock, surprise, excitement, or express their surprise at still being alive after a near miss in a car or on a bike (happens a lot... don't be worried)- it is purely missionary lingo. The reason why I've titled this "Whoa-ses!" is because that's really all I could think to say when I saw the picture of my sister that is going to be her missionary photo... WHOA-SES!!!! I might not get to see my Sissy for a long time... =( but compared to the things the Lord blesses us with, I see it as a small sacrifice, if that. I'd be being selfish if I told my Sissy to stay home at least a little while longer so I could see her off...

Sister Schomburg - eek!
She will be submitting her mission papers
on Sept. 20, 2014
...and then we wait :)

Well, anyways, what can I tell you of my week? I'm getting to know the area fairly well, and it is a relatively small area. Nevertheless, we've had positive growth in our teaching pool, but it's still a very shallow pool. Deeper than Clarence Park's, but shallow nonetheless. We've invited all of our investigators to be baptized and a few said they'd think about it, and others said no, and others still said yes but didn't commit to a date to work towards. The work is sort of all over the place and I'm still trying to readjust to working in outlying areas. When I was in Darwin, Elder Traconis and Elder Aiono both mentioned that the work seemed slower than down in Adelaide. I didn't know what they were talking about and they had difficulty explaining it, but I can see now what they mean. Trainings given down in Adelaide are -for whatever reason- slow to make it to outlying areas, and perhaps it's just me, but I'm sensing an overall lack of urgency. It almost seems relaxed, working in Mildura, yet despite the easiness of it all, work still gets done. I haven't quite figured it out yet.

We're teaching a less active Fijian family. The father's name is Masi and he is the man- we're definitely great friends with him and he understands what we do as missionaries as well, so it's about as good of a relationship as you can get with anyone. Elder Hefa has been teaching this family for a long time, but only yesterday did Masi come to church. Not only that, but when he got home (and we were told these things by his wife Sophie) his daughters approached him and said confidently, "Momo (father or dad in their language), we're coming with you to church next week." Sophie really wants to get the kids going back as well, but a lot of things relied on whether or not Masi wanted to go.

This past week, Masi invited us to a dinner with him and his family. He said it was a club-sponsored dinner (he plays for a rugby club [the Warriors] in Mildura) and they were having a dinner to celebrate the season that just ended. Masi wanted to bring us with his family and whatnot to the dinner, but was very concerned that the environment wouldn't be good for missionaries. We got there and sussed things out, and it was determined that it was a good family setting up until 10PM, at which point the party for the adults would start. That wasn't a concern for a pair of missionaries- we'd be home by 9. So we stayed with them and socialized for a time, but as time went on, they were still working on getting dinner going. It was about 8PM and Masi looked to us and said, "Okay, we're going- I'll get you Hungry Jacks." We had been having a great discussion about church and the gospel just as we sat down at the table, so we continued it in the car. He dropped us off at the appointed time and then went back for his family.

Sophie told us the rest of the story last night, but here's what happened: Masi got back to the place just as dinner was getting started. Because it's Aussie culture, most of the people had been drinking and were already getting pretty tipsy, but things looked like they might get out of hand before 10PM. So Masi and his family scarfed some food and did their thing with receiving a number of trophies , and then Masi said to his wife, "Come, we're going home now." Well, she was a bit bewildered and asked, "Are you sure?" to which he responded, "I need to go home because I'm going to church tomorrow." So they left. 

At 6AM Sunday morning he woke up and asked Sophie, "Are the elders here yet? Did I miss them!?" She calmed him down and explained the time (we weren't even awake yet). He couldn't get back to bed because "[he] was just too excited for church" and when we showed up at 8AM,he was ready to go in a white shirt, slacks, purple tie, and a black jumper [sweater]- he looked like the man! He only came to Sacrament because he had a 12 hour night shift (he's a security guard) later on, so he gapped it back to his house, but most everyone said hello to him, and he said hello to everyone else as if he owned the place (the man doesn't forget a face, you see). So last night when we went over there after church to see how the family was, everyone was eager and excited to talk about church and excited for next week. They've got four children, all little ones, and the whole family wants to come back to church after being less active for... awhile. Miracle number one!

Miracle number two is this: I survived a Tongan lunch session. Straight after church we went to a Tongan sister's home to have a bit of a party; her baby had been blessed that day, so they were having a celebration. When we got there, I was the only palangi (awkward xD) until Brother Pioch showed up (older Aussie fellow, really cheeky bloke but awesome company to have). There was some kind of speech, they sang "Love at Home" in Tongan, to which -after I discerned that it was "Love at Home"- I was able to offer an English accompaniment, and then a prayer was said in Tongan. Then they all looked down the line and someone started giving orders in Tongan. My companion wasn't reacting -out of shyness maybe- but one of the sisters was sympathetic to my language barrier and said, "Come elders, missionaries eat first!"

Well, talk about intimidating- the only palangi around leads the charge to the head of the table surrounded by Tongans to start eating at a party that isn't even for him... worse things could have happened. xD

Anyways, I think I left that party 5 kilos heavier than when I first got there. I want you all to know that in the past 36 hours I have eaten KFC twice, Hungry Jacks once, bacon (ham) and eggs twice, and more than can be mentioned at that Tongan feast... I'm going to have to be rolled out of the terminal when I get home if this keeps up! xD I am well fed- don't even worry about that. Mildura is where they send missionaries to make them fat, and this one is going to be fat (192lbs, 86 or so kilos... watch out xD).

Anyways, that's about all I've got to talk about for now. I love you all heaps and hope to hear from you soon (meaning before I see you in person next xP that would be awkward for you xD)!

-Elder Schomburg 

Monday, September 1, 2014

Welcome to Mini-Tonga... Week 75

Fefe hake! Which is to say "How are you?" in Tongan. You'd never guess it, but the Mildura Branch (that's where I am) is about 70% Tongan, 27% Samoan, and 3% Palangi (directly translated, palangi means "white man with a big nose" but it's generally used to describe anyone who is white).

I've never been so out of place, so happy, so excited, so ANYTHING!!! I'm in MILDURA!!! Haha, wow, I'm really happy to be in Mildura again! Technically the first time was in Broken Hill, but the sights, the surroundings, the people- everything is familiar to me. Unfortunately when I was serving in Broken Hill I went on trade-off mostly in the Mildura South area, which I know much better than my own area, the Mildura North area. My companion is in his fifth transfer- his name is Elder Hefa from Tonga, so he fits right in. No joke, there are a great many islanders here, so that is why I am out of place- going from a population of Aussies to islanders is no small change to make, but thankfully I've been properly prepared for such an occurrence due to my many past islander companions! The Lord works in a perfect way and accounts for all the details- I've experienced no culture shock because I already know what to expect, and I love the islanders' cultures.

So what can I tell you? The drive down would have been scenic if we hadn't left Adelaide late- it was dark for the majority of the trip, so we didn't see much (no incidents with any 'roo's, thankfully [or emu's for that matter... clueless birds]). Unfortunately the Toyota's we've been supplied with are unequipped with cruise control, so after my leg was verging on cramping, I decided to pull over in the middle of the Victorian Outback, if you could call it that, and we had a brief stargaze- I've never been able to see the Milky Way so clearly; in fact I'm fairly certain I was able to make out individual particles of space dust as they drifted aimlessly in the black abyss. That's a bit exaggerated, but in order to properly communicate a truth, sometimes a bit of exaggeration is needed, only to compensate for the lack of everyone else's personal experience in looking up at the stars in the middle of nowhere... anyways...

Photo credit: Blacklegend @
Milky Way Rising - Tolcumwal NSW Australia

I mentioned a pattern in my missionary work in the last letter I wrote back, about my speciality getting areas going. Guess what Mildura North needs? Everything that Clarence Park needed when I first arrived. Do you dare to venture a guess at what I'll be doing in the coming weeks? That is right- I will be in the trenches of Mildura! I'm actually very excited- country folk are so much more polite than city folk. I feel badly for the elders here who have started here and think it's difficult- a taste of the city will change their minds eventually, and they won't know how lucky they are to be serving in Mildura until they've left. I have been blessed with a taste of everything, so I'm going to be sure to make this one of the most joyous transfers ever because I know just how much of a blessing it is to serve in Mildura!

My district leader is Elder Molisi and it's his first command, though he's the second oldest missionary in the zone (Mildura District is the Mildura Zone as well). My Zone Leader is Elder Tuigamala, and this is his last transfer. If you haven't already connected the dots -and it's okay if you haven't- I am responsibility free! At least as far as leadership positions go. WHOO-HOO!!! I am so excited to be able to focus solely on my area and thrash it!!! I'm being cautioned not to rest too easy, though- Elder Tuigamala is leaving after this, so they'll need a new Zone Leader- most have suspicions that my being in Mildura is a tactical move by President, because he knows he'll need to fill a position. I'm not really paying attention to that because I want to enjoy being a regular missionary for as long as I possibly can! But it wouldn't surprise me if President has the rest of my mission -and the rest of several other missionaries' missions- planned and plotted already. Elder Hefa thinks this will be my last area. I don't really know- it could be, only because Mildura has a habit of swallowing missionaries for extreme amounts of time ranging anywhere from 4-5 transfers, but Marion District had the same reputation and I got shot out of that one. Oh well, that kind of thinking doesn't really matter right now. It would be nice to know which area will be my last, though, only so that I don't get careless. I shouldn't be careless anyways, but I am -like most everyone else- prone to carelessness.

Speaking of that, a recent struggle for myself is not becoming the missionary that simply goes through the motions. Before I left last transfer, Elder Dos Santos gave me piece of paper after our trade-off with various compliments and strengths. He also admonished me to not get stuck in a rut of simply going through the motions. I'm finding -especially now- that this is beginning to be a trial for me. I feel like I'm taking all of the things I've learned and applying them, but doing so without a greater meaning to it. I made it a matter of study this morning as to how I can start caring more about the individual rather than the rote cycle of missionary work, and my answer is a bit detailed, but perhaps I'll share it at a later time- suffice it to say that it comes down to following the example of the Saviour and that of Heavenly Father, Who's greatest desire is to bless His children. If that is His desire, it is also His Son's desire, and if it be Christ the Master's desire to bless others, than I -a servant in His vineyard who wears His name every day- should have the same desire. I have decided to begin to ask myself what I can do to be a blessing to anyone and everyone, whether that be in teaching or finding or even just in the flat; how can I be a blessing and not a burden? Hopefully this pattern of thinking will scoop me out of the pre-routine rut that missionaries can become prone to falling into.

Just some insight into how I'm feeling now: to be honest, I feel very good. I feel sharp, alert, ready and able, but I want to keep my confidence in check, as I am feeling very confident- for me, I might appear outwardly humble but I can be pretty bad about being inwardly prideful, and I don't want to be prideful or arrogant- no two personality traits halt personal progression and -sometimes- the progression of others as efficiently as pride and arrogance.

That's about all I've got to say for now, though- I'm excited to be back in Mildura, I have the only area in the mission that covers two states (Victoria and New South Wales), and I feel great!

I finished reading Jesus the Christ as a side note- that book is a great book, and I want you all to know that it has helped me to know and understand my Saviour even more fully on an even more personal level. It was a challenge to read, but the reward was well worth it, and I would recommend it to anyone who wants to know more about the Saviour.

I love you all and I'll talk to you soon!

-Elder Jeffrey Schomburg