Monday, January 26, 2015

And Their Prayers Were Answered... Week 96

So before I go about updating you's on the week, I need to answer a question that I was recently asked by my Mum. I guess if you (Mum) want to share this you can or don't have to or whatever- I trust your judgment. =D

[To preface: I recently asked Elder Schomburg his feelings about not having as many baptisms as many of his friends who have also served missions in other parts of the world.]
Sometimes I wonder why it is that I've only baptized three people. Aside from Mick, Alisi, and Annie, Dennis was baptized up in Darwin the transfer after I left (I'd taught him for about 2 transfers); DJ was baptized the transfer after I left Broken Hill (taught him a number of times); a Chinese student named David was baptized almost eight months after Elder Lisati and I became the first missionaries to ever teach him when I was in Evandale, and I taught him twice after that with Elder Anton (all on trade-off) and even ran into him again when I was in Clarence Park. I didn't baptize them personally or even organize their baptisms or take any part in them, but I was privileged to have taught them, and I find great joy in knowing that I was able to teach several people that were baptized later down the road. In some way, shape, or form, I helped them progress towards covenant-making with God, and that's good enough for me.
To be honest with you, Mum, I don't really let myself think about it too much- I just square my shoulders and march out the door; whatever God wants to happen will happen.
I would leave you with that for an answer, but I know you want more. [I was satisfied with that answer, but apparently Elder Schomburg had more to share.] I am sad about it; I didn't think I'd be the missionary that comes home and says, "Well, in two years I baptized three people!" but at the same time, before I left for the field I wasn't imagining baptizing heaps of people anyways. I was a little more than halfway through my mission when I dubbed myself the "ground-tiller" of missionary work. You've got the seed-planters and the harvesters... but before you can even plant a seed you've got to till the soil, and sometimes that is some really hard work. Every area I've had is one that has had nothing going for it when I got there, and so far, I've only left one area as I found it, and that was Mildura North, the area I happened to be in when I was the most disconnected from my purpose. Aside from Mildura North, every area I've left was in better shape than when I first showed up. I don't say that to be prideful, I just say that because it's what I've found to be true. I am the ground-tiller; somebody has to do it, and if the Lord has decided that I can take the trials of being a ground-tiller, then that makes me the man for the job and I'm gonna do it! I don't get to see very much fruit because some "soil" is more difficult to till than other soil (Broken Hill vs. Clarence Park) but that's something that I've accepted. I can sleep easy at night knowing that I at least gave another set of missionaries a chance at planting some seeds and doing some harvesting. That is good enough for me. 

But to talk about the week, on Saturday we had a day of service planned: we went to Sister Ward's to demolish some old wardrobes and split logs (most fun service project ever!), then we went to the Sturt's to help them clean up their old property that they're looking to sell (lots of gardening and yard work [straight up my alley, eh Sister Welch?]). After that, we went to the chapel to clean the baptismal font. It occurred to me the other day that if we wanted to baptize at all, we'd need to get the dust out of that font and make sure it was ready. I was also hoping that doing so would show the Lord that we believe we can baptize in Port Pirie, and after showing such faith, I hoped to be gifted with new investigators that were ready to be baptized. So we tried to clean the font but the drain actually clogged... yeah, there's that much dust down there. We cleared it but we need to go back and get it done properly, after we get the pipes looked at.
The next day, we walk up to church and President Armstrong (he is the coolest branch president I know, save for President Paewai) calls us into his office. He immediately informs us that he was speaking with his mate, a branch president in Queensland, who was informing us that four investigators had just returned to Port Pirie from an extended holiday and that they would be attending church with us that morning. We were told there were four of them, but we didn't know ages or affiliation or anything- could have been four bikies or a family, we didn't know.
As we're greeting people in the foyer, a black SUV (pretty rare in Australia) rolls into the parking lot. An Aussie male in a suit, his Filipino wife in a lovely blouse and skirt combination, and their two beautiful boys (toddlers in age-group) walk up to the chapel. I thought to myself, "Those aren't investigators, those are members!" and I believed they were. Hadn't met them, but it's not uncommon for visitors passing through to stop in and attend church in different wards or branches, so I believed they were members.
We greeted them as per the norm, President Armstrong took over, and I didn't see them until after Sacrament Meeting (I gave a talk... it was alright). We were then properly introduced to Phil and his wife Lynnie or Linnie (not sure about the spelling), and became aware that these were the investigators we were expecting. I was alarmed! I immediately apologized and explained that they looked so sharp that I thought they were members! So we had a bit of a Gospel Principles class (no lesson was prepared because no one shows up, but...there should have been one prepared) It worked out in the end. We closed with a prayer and Phil immediately approached us while his wife entertained Brother Haggard, and he asked us straight out, "How do we get in contact with you? I'm looking to learn more about this church and I want to get this thing going, so what are the steps?" We exchanged details and he then offered to have us over for tea sometime (I mean dinner if you haven't been keeping up with this blog) which was absolutely shocking; an investigator offering tea? What? We then talked in the foyer some more before Priesthood, and he pried into Elder Barnes' and my own personal conversion stories. He mentioned that he had been baptized and confirmed as a lad into the Church of England, but had never felt anything special. He had church-surfed off and on for some time and failed to find God, but his wife had attended church (LDS) three times whilst being in Queensland and had even been taught the first lesson by the missionaries there. She was sold (that's why I'm not mentioning her as much- she's practically already a member, just hasn't gotten wet yet). I've never, in all my time as a missionary, met anyone as prepared as they. Phil was asking a lot of questions, but it wasn't to tear down or nit-pick; he is an honest seeker of truth, and he is eager for it.
ASK ME HOW EXCITED I AM!!!! It's so exciting when prayers are answered!!!
I don't believe in coincidence anymore, not after serving the mission I have thus far served, but I definitely know that this was anything but coincidence- things don't just happen like that.
I hope I haven't rambled too much or sounded too preachy, but I just want you all to know that I have felt your prayers and I can see them being answered, bit by bit. I love you all and am so grateful for all your love and support! Thank you so much! I know this church is Christ's church, and I know that Heavenly Father is indeed a God of miracles, and I say that in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
-Elder Schomburg

[The formatting on the computer Elder Schomburg was using appears to be a bit wonky.  Sorry for the strange look of this week's post.]

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

A Horse! A Horse! My Kingdom for a Horse!... Week 95

G'day all!
Today I am feeling unusually spiritually filled, and I feel like saying something uplifting. But first, an update on the week.

We have one new investigator! The first one in three weeks! Welcome to my mission. His name is Harry, he's 84 years old, and the only reason we found him was because we were referred to him by the friend of a former that we had intended to see but wasn't there. I have a testimony of asking everybody for a referral, because -as I predicted, or rather, estimated using previous knowledge gained from past outlying areas- the only investigators we are going to receive and baptize are going to be referred to us while I am in Port Pirie, of that I am certain. Our first lesson was appalling, which made me into a raving psychopath in my head because that's where you lose investigators: that first lesson needs to be darn-well near spotless, tailored perfectly, made to fit, and topped with a cherry if we want to get a return appointment. The Lord made up for our imperfections and shortcomings; we're seeing him again on Wednesday and we'll be covering the Book of Mormon. That's about the most exciting thing that's happened all week. Oh, well, just to report, I've given probably 10 blessings since being in Port Pirie- I reckon we give two-three blessings a week. This is a branch full of widows, and there's not enough Priesthood to go around. The Lord's church really does need the Priesthood to function and we're feeling the lack thereof.
Recently I've been thinking about what I'm going to share with the mission for my leaver's testimony. I know, I shouldn't be thinking about that, but here's the thing: two years of my life has been spent being a missionary. At the end of that two years, I will have approximately 3-7 minutes to testify of 1-3 things that have helped me as a missionary. This assignment is challenging, so I want to make sure I pick the right things to say. A common theme for my mission I've discovered is simply this: true discipleship.
Over the course of my service thus far, I've come to several conclusions (many of them the hard way) about how missionary work should be conducted in order to be effective, and thus, display Christlike discipleship.

1) A missionary needs to forget him/herself and get to work. I don't mean this in the way that most people think of when they hear that phrase. Rather, I intend to communicate the following: if a missionary is worried about what he (I mean she's as well) is going to say next whilst speaking with someone, he has not forgotten himself. If a missionary is worried about how he did not plan an effective day and is finding it difficult to accomplish anything, he has not forgotten himself. If one's thoughts are still self-centered in the least degree, he/she hasn't forgotten him/herself yet. When the missionary begins instead to worry about the person's salvation, and what they need to hear and what they need to learn, then the missionary begins to show true discipleship. Paul did not write all his epistles whilst worrying about the possibility of sounding like an egg; he wrote them understanding that those who were receiving his words needed to be told what the Lord had told him, and that was the end of it. A missionary should not worry about himself and the way he looks or sounds as he preaches the gospel; that is not Christlike discipleship.
2) A missionary needs to stop worrying about the numbers. Numbers (referring to the numerical goals that we use as missionaries) represent people. We need them to hold ourselves accountable to something. But the Lord doesn't care about statistics. Surely, as Jeffrey R. Holland pointed out, a God who will leave the ninety and nine to save the one is not worried about or preoccupied by percentages or statistics. At the end of the day, a disciple is not asking himself "How many lessons can I teach today?" but is instead asking "How many people can I draw to Christ today?"
3) A missionary needs to go back to his purpose in the most pure and raw form. "My purpose is to invite others to come unto Christ." That is all. That is the end of the story. When we engage people in conversation on the streets, we should not be pushing for more than that which they are willing to do.  A disciple does not condemn, because a disciple is not the Judge. A missionary that is a true disciple of Christ will show mercy, forgiveness, and will do all he can to leave a positive impression of Christ in the life of the individual he just entered to whatever degree. A missionary will do all that he can to invite the person to learn of Christ, not do everything in his power to force the individual into doing something he/she does not want to do or is not prepared to do.
But I've actually got to go now- my computer was slow and didn't start up properly so I'm behind as it is, but my companion is finished and as per the usual, P-Day is already not going according to plan and it probably won't. Ahhh... P-Day's are the most stressful days of the week. But a disciple does not stress about P-Day!! xD
Love you all, I'm good to go =D
-Elder Schomburg

Monday, January 12, 2015

Down to Port Broughton... Week 94

G'day all! 

We got mail! I don't know who's mail or who sent it because we haven't opened the three big, yellow envelopes that we have yet, but we will. If you wrote me recently, I probably have what you sent! Thank you!

Now for the week:

This week we made a trip down to Port Broughton; having become impatient with the lack of people whom we can preach to in Port Pirie (Elder Barnes has literally spoken with everyone), I brought to his attention that perhaps it was in the outlying towns that we would find who the Lord had prepared. We planned on it, prayed about it, prayed about it personally, and then reviewed our feelings the following morning. We both felt like we needed to go to Port Broughton, so we did. Upon arriving, we stuck to mainly walking, getting a feel for the town. I am so ready to teach somebody (our investigator pool became 0 yesterday) that I wasn't very shy about knocking random doors. I got the vibe that Elder Barnes wasn't really keen on tracting, but I knocked some doors anyways- anything to talk to someone who hasn't been contacted in more than a month. As we approached one house, I held in my hand a Gospel of Jesus Christ pamphlet, and I felt a very quiet prompting that the Plan of Salvation was the way to go. I hadn't felt such promptings at previous houses, so my hopes got up in that we might be tracting into an investigator-to-be. We knocked the door and an older lady came out. She is religious but because of her recent move, has been displaced from her chosen church. She was considering going to the one just across the road from her house. We got to talking a bit more, having decent conversation, waiting for her to say something that we could tie the gospel to, and we caught a break- she's recently had several deaths in her family, and though she stated that she remained faithful, sometimes she found herself asking why the bad things always happened to the good people. Was the Spirit spot on or was it spot on with teaching the Plan of Salvation? We leapt on the opportunity -as calmly as we could (well, Elder Barnes seemed alright; I was just so excited!)- and taught her using the pamphlet. She said she was going to be busy soon, but that we could stop by another time when she was more free. She also said she would give the pamphlet to her 13 year old daughter to have a look through, as well.

Well, we kept on with our little outing and walked about some more. The little port town has a nice, seaside feel to it (I reckon Dad might want to live there- I'll take photos next time if I can get my hands on a camera that actually works...). As we walked, we saw a group of six teens coming down a hillside- three boys and three girls. They looked like they were up to no good, and knowing the history of the Port Pirie area, my combat mind kicked in and I deduced that we would have more than a fair chance at winning if they decided to start something. My companion was better than me; he told me later that he was getting ready to turn the cheek, when in comparison, I was getting ready to turn theirs. Anyways, before we got to this group, we heard someone call out, "Elders!" from inside a house. We spun around and who should come out but a woman named Janine! I've never spoken of Janine before, but Janine was a less active member I knew when I serving in Evandale. She was the Assistants' less active and had made the decision to begin coming to church again. She had planned on taking us to lunch one day, me and my companion, but things fell through. She is a lovely lady and she loves missionaries!

The fact that we had found her in this little town with a population of maybe 1,000 was far beyond coincidence- I reckon that was inspired. We gave her our number and she told us she would take us out for a feed to catch up sometime when she came to Port Pirie next, and she'll be in the area for about a month. So we're anxiously waiting to catch up with a lady whom I met a year ago and somehow found in one of the smallest towns Australia has to offer. Far out, that was pretty crazy.

So anyways, we continued on, and two of this group of six teenagers engaged us; it was one boy and his less-than-confident girlfriend. He said something about wanting to talk about his Church of Satan or something like that. Elder Barnes kept going; I stopped and got ready to listen. I try to talk to people every day about my beliefs, it would be hypocritical of me to ignore him, no matter how muck-around he is being. Elder Barnes didn't get far, though, and soon he had both our attentions, and that startled him. He went on to stammer something out about how we have the ability to choose for ourselves what we will do in this life, who we will become, all the rest of it- he basically was teaching the principle of agency. Elder Barnes and I exchanged glances, and then in unison said, "Yep, all that is true." Talk about a shocked, 16-17 year old boy. What he had to say wasn't anything remotely satanic in nature, but in fact was true doctrine, and he was defending avidly the very thing which we fought for in the Premortal Existence: agency.

He suggested we check out Youtube for more information (didn't give us a proper title for which video he was suggesting) and then began to walk away with his girlfriend. His mates were laughing, as proper mates would be. I admired him, though; even if he had been egged on by his peers, he was the only one that had brawn enough to do it, and not only that, but what he thought would happen -two churchies keep walking past- didn't happen. For a moment, I thought about teaching him how to do proper missionary work; he had the approach down, bold and fearless, almost, but he didn't give us a proper place to find out more, there was no testimony offered, and he didn't acquire a means to follow up with us. But it was his first go, so he handled himself well.

Church on Sunday was splendid- I love Sundays, and I look forward to the days when I will be able to -before doing more Sabbath thingson Sunday like reading scriptures or Ensigns and what have you- take a mohe' (nap) as soon as I get home. I. Am. Trunky in my head. But I'm trying my best to stave it off. I must be honest- I really want to see my family again. It's been a long time, I am tired, Port Pirie doesn't have the Paewai's so missionary work is frustrating (Sister Paewai, because I know you read this, will you please come to Port Pirie and teach these members how to missionary?), and I miss Mexican food. Still haven't decided if I want real Mexican food or classic American food when I get home. There better be heaps of whatever it is, though (sorry, it's time for lunch over here, at least for me).

Anyways, I love you all heaps and I will talk to you soon! Please pray for us- we don't have any investigators at the moment and I really am getting tired of not having anyone to teach.

-Elder Schomburg

I saw this photo earlier today and it definitely reminded me
 of Elder Schomburg when he was just a little tyke...
and maybe as he is now, too.  Always pushing the envelope. :) 

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

The 12 Week Dying Program... Week 93

G'day all!

I have officially begun my 12 week dying program- not the 12 week training program, but the dying program. Does that sound morbid at all? It should- I have 11 weeks left to be a missionary and I have mixed feelings.

First, thank you all for your Christmas cards and letters and packages, of which I received many! Christmas was yet another wonderful experience and was unseasonably cool this year, which was a blessing to me. As of late, it's been fairly warm. Also, I'm so excited for my Sissy!!! She went to the temple, she's missionarying off in a month or two, and wow, she is the man and no one can convince me otherwise!

I find myself in Port Pirie, a small, barely coastal town west of Adelaide across the Spencer Gulf, if I remember correctly. My companion is Elder Barnes, the "son" of Elder Litstir. Elder Callahan was Elder Nay and Elder Litstir's son, so I find myself asking the question, "Why do I keep getting paired with Elder Litstir's seed?" Either the Lord is trying to straighten me out or he wants me to offer the balance that is needed for Elder Litstir's type of missionary work- I haven't figured out which, yet.

Elder Barnes is very obedient. I've been being a good boy, but it is very difficult, and sometimes I want to pull my hair out. Elder Witehira (who went home this past transfer) warned me of this. In his words, "The last 12 weeks are the hardest, but not because of what you think; being obedient and not being trunky is the hard part." That is a true statement. As I've thought of where I am as a missionary, I think back to what Elder Covey told me about being at this stage in the mission. On occasion I asked him, "How does it feel to be a dying missionary with only a transfer left?" He responded, "It's weird- part of you wants to be a missionary still, but most of you is done; you're ready to go home and do something else." I'm finding this to be true, as well.

That might sound really bad, as I'm sure most people want to hear missionaries say, "I want to be a missionary forever!" and some days I do, but for the most part, I am really ready to do something else.

This has been fairly frustrating- I want to not only endure, but I want to endure well, and thus far I feel as though I am enduring very poorly. Some say that this time in the mission flies past especially fast, and others say that it goes by excruciatingly slow. I'm tasting a little bit of both.

But enough of that. The branch here in Port Pirie has about 30-40 people in attendance, and most of them are older, single sisters. Elder Barnes has tracted every single street with Elder Litstir and he knows about 70% of the town, which makes conducting our own finding difficult, at least in as much as being effective goes. The branch president is actually an American and I have yet to formally meet him (church doesn't count) so we'll be going there tonight to have a yarn with him. President Armstrong seems like a very good guy, very organized, and he loves his branch. He loves missionaries too, but that doesn't excuse me from giving him even more reason to love missionaries. I'm excited to serve here and in this branch.

Port Pirie is a small town, not unlike Broken Hill.  Adelaide-style missionary work cannot be conducted in small towns if you want to baptize. These towns require adaptability and a lot of tact, and lots and lots of member work. I'm discovering that -because so many of the single sisters do not have males to accompany them- very little member-missionary work has been done. The sad part is that there is a clear avenue to getting into their homes because we have a male YSA here who, coincidentally, needs more fellowship from the branch members in order to stay active. All we need to do is bring him along and we're golden. Why wasn't this done before?Tracting does not do anything in small towns where doors have been knocked countless times. We need to encourage the members.

So I've decided to do what I know to do best and that is to rub shoulders with as many members as possible. After all, it is the members that have the friends that need the baptizing, and many of the members here are missionary-minded; they just haven't had opportunity to be taught how to do missionary work. And I've decided that in these last 12 weeks of mine, I'm going to get my hands dirty and rub some elbow grease on everything BECAUSE this area really needs it. I've spent a total of 7 1/2 months in Adelaide and the rest of it in outlying areas- (not to boast) I think I know a thing or two about conducting missionary work in isolated towns.

But that's about all I've got to say. I couldn't have picked a better "grave" according to missionary jargon, as it's highly likely that I'll stay here until my time is spent. I reckon this transfer Elder Barnes will be sent away, and I'll spend my last one training a new missionary; Port Pirie has a reputation for being an area where missionaries die and missionaries are born at the same time, and I reckon President has the same idea for me. But we'll see what happens.

I love you all and I hope to share some spiritual experiences soon.

-Elder Schomburg