As the title may have eluded to, this is the beginning of the end of Elder Schomburg's last six weeks as a missionary. Transfer information came last night and Elder Barnes is packing- I'm not sure who my companion is yet but I'll know bymorning.
First, an update of the week's events. We received a phone call this week from Sister Hannan, one of our office missionaries. She was calling in to tell us that we had received a referral from Church headquarters, which is about as rare as finding a cut diamond in your backyard. The man we were meant to contact was named Alex. He had been discussing various faiths with his two missionary mates (one serving in Argentina, the other in Alaska) and had finally decided to check out Mormon.org. He began chatting with a sister missionary who started brief discussions with him- nothing too in depth. Eventually she went home but continued to keep up with him, working on sharing the gospel with him regardless of her lack of assignment to do so. She referred him to our mission office, which she informed him would help him come into contact with missionaries in person to be taught properly.
That's where we come in. Alex lives about 10k's outside of a small town called Clare. It's about an hour and a half drive from Port Pirie to Clare, but after speaking briefly over the phone with him, my companion and I set up a time to go see him. We departed morning, met him in a busy street in Clare's town centre, walked to a cafe, and proceeded to talk for the space of three hours. That's a lot of time to be talking, but I could tell you just about everything you need to know about Alex and then some. We taught the Restoration for about thirty minutes and the rest of it was spent mainly getting to know each other and swapping manly stories (Alex is 21, so that makes it a bit easier to make friends). Turns out he is the most American Aussie I've ever met; he likes guns, he likes trucks, he loves muscle cars, he wants to join the military and if he can, he wants to move to America and join our military. He is about the easiest guy there is to talk to and definitely easy to have a laugh with.
His interest in the Church was this: he had done a fair amount of church surfing (according to him, he had "attended every single church in all of South Australia) because he values a relationship with God. He was perplexed by how it was possible that so many different churches existed and stemmed from the teachings of a single compilation of the same scriptures (the Bible) and yet taught so many contradicting things. He got himself kicked out of one church because he wanted to date a particular girl, but apparently he needed the pastor's permission to do so and he hadn't obtained it, so he was excommunicated and they made repentance for him nigh well near impossible. That's when he started taking his missionary mates up on their offers to learn more about the Latter-Day Saints. At the end of our lesson, he committed to be baptized though we set no specific date- because of distance, we're not sure how often we'll be able to see him and teach him what he needs to know before baptism, but at least he is completely willing and accepting of the doctrine behind baptism. He's been baptized before into other congregations, but he understands the link between the Priesthood and saving ordinances very well, which made it easy for him to commit. We told him we want him to know the truthfulness of our message for himself by exploring it and asking God if it was true, to which he responded, "I'll do it, but just telling you now, the fact that you came all the way out here just for me shows me a lot about who you are and how important your message is- I'll believe whatever you say based on that." Sounds a bit like King Lamoni and Ammon, if you're familiar with your scriptures. So now we've got three investigators who are genuine seekers of truth... blessings.
We had interviews with President Carter over the phone this past week as well, and President and I have a pretty tight relationship. As in all my relationships, I'm fairly honest with what I say and how I feel about things (honest to fault, as worded by some ;D) and we got to talking on very real terms, President and me. He expressed his own experience with trying to remain focused even though he already has movers coming in and out of his home and he has to start thinking about taking over his past businesses once again (he departs for home in June, but we all know he'll be one of the Seventy). I felt it appropriate to tell him how I felt as well. At the start of my mission, I was so popular; everyone was writing me all the time, I got mail like it was nobody's business, and there was just a buzz of excitement. The mission life continued and only a few faithfuls continued to keep up with me, and now that the mission is ending, there's a buzz, and it's exciting, and everyone wants to get geared up for my long awaited return. I love it all, but I was a bit torn that morning during my personal study- do I study for being a missionary, or do I do what my mission has taught me and start planning ahead so that I'm not the guy that gets home and says, "Now what?" I told this to President and he gave me a challenge, invited me to do something: every P-Day that I have left, I am to take an hour or two and set goals and make plans for coming home. He told me there's no shame in that and it is not disconnected. The trick is, he said, turning those thoughts off the rest of the week and working hard until the next P-Day. Easier said than done, President, but I'm not one to back away from a challenge.
So as I was preparing my last planner last night, I decided to stick with what I have done my entire mission. On every planner there is a space to write where your current area is, and on every one, I have written "Round One" or "Round Two" or however long it is that I was in the area, starting over every time I went to a new area. I wrote on the small line in the front page of my last planner, titled "Transfer XVII" on the top of the front page, "Port Pirie (Final Round)". I shouldn't have put that down. Perhaps it was because it was nighttime and I give myself leeway to ponder on anything I want to, or perhaps it was the fairly solemn music that was playing in the background (that's what happens when you don't DJ) that provoked such thoughts, but irregardless of the cause, I felt a huge surge of... I'm not sure what. That heart crushing, overly excited, anxiously nervous feeling that splits your heart in two overtook me and I suddenly had that feeling that I did right before I left for the mission field. Nevertheless, I went into one of my studies this week and asked the Lord, "What more would You have me do before I leave this place?" and I got this most calm and gentle reassurance as I turned to my scriptures. Basically, I learned that my service has been acceptable to the Lord, and that all there is left to do is to do what I have been doing to the very end. I intend to. And thus I can sleep easy at night.
I love you all and will write again soon.
|Elder Callahan and Elder Schomburg|
Wentworth Dunes near Mildura
|Wentworth Dunes - Mildura|
|Fish 'n Chips|
|Elder Schomburg and Elder Barnes|
On their way to a service project
|It's what Elders do|
|Off they go...|