Friday, 31 October 2014

The Place of Firsts

It was into the first week of my membership in the Church and I was already worried about keeping the Sabbath day holy. You see, I’d just started working as a cashier at a local supermarket (by local, I mean my mom’s place as I was there for the varsity holidays). In the world of retail, getting Sundays off isn’t all too easy and it seemed that none of my colleagues had Sunday off.

Elder Tew seemed less concerned about this detail than he did knowing I’d be working Monday to Sunday, 07:00 to 20:00. He lectured me on recharging my spiritual batteries and trying to find time to at least see the missionaries in Alberton. The week passed and Saturday came. I was cashing up when I finally broke the ice to my manager, since the supervisors took no heed to my pleas.

“Yes,” she said. In the end, it was easier than I expected. In the end. Before that, it was a nightmare. I’m grateful, though, that faith pulled through and that Heavenly Father answered my prayers. My journey at a new “branch” as it was in 2013 had just begun, my very first Sunday as a member in a brand new unit where nobody knew anything about me. Or so I thought.
I arrived at 08:00, in preparation for sacrament at 09:00… and nobody was there. I didn’t know the code to get through the gate and began wondering if anybody was coming. Eventually, at 08:09, a man named Albert (I think) arrived and let me in. We set off the alarm and Fox security arrived. Fortunately, it all worked out. We waited until 08:49 before the first member arrived.

I seated myself and observed the differences I noted from my home ward. Very different, as the local congregation kept pointing out. They asked questions and spoke to me. “We’re weird, hey?” Yes, you are, but mostly because everyone keeps asking that question. I noticed the missionaries being used far more often that the ones in Centurion and that we had intermediate hymns, which I had never experienced.

I joined the missionaries in Gospel principles, noting that they (and not the ward mission leader) taught the lesson. Still, a very good lesson – engaged the three of us who were there. It turned out that Elder Carpenter knew me, because Elder Tew happened to be his father (trainer in normal terms). Apparently Elder Tew asked about me often.

So, it was my first time at a unit other than Centurion. The weeks continued, and I learnt that testimony Sunday was actually Fast and Testimony Sunday. Why did nobody tell me this?! So I participated in the fast and bore my testimony.

I was then asked to assist in blessing the sacrament, another first. I went out teaching with the missionaries (Elders Carpenter, Mead and Pulley). Then, as the holidays drew to an end, I was asked to give a talk – another first (and it wasn’t even my home ward).
I returned to Centurion and told Brother Kevin of all my firsts and he kindly pointed out that I taught a priesthood lesson at Centurion first (as an investigator) and that I partook of the sacrament first in Centurion, that I was baptised, confirmed, and ordained in Centurion and that I’d attended conferences with Centurion, first. It may have brought about a little competition.

At Centurion, I was asked to assist in blessing the sacrament and went out teaching with the missionaries. But, to this day, I’ve never given a talk there, and never had a calling there. Though, if I’m to be fair, I got my recommend for baptisms at the temple in Centurion (and did baptisms) and received my mission papers there.

My firsts continued as I visited Alberton, to pass sacrament. The Patriarch for Bedfordview stake even wanted to give me my patriarchal blessing, which I learnt about at Alberton. I learnt a lot a Alberton, and eventually came to wonder what Centurion missionaries had actually taught me. Because they sure didn’t finish the lessons with me.

Elder Tew took it personally and tried to catch up, but neither he nor his successors ever finished. He did, however, start teaching me from Preach My Gospel and how to use it. He is the reason I took a few swings at tracting and prepared me well for my calling as Ward missionary, in Alberton.

I visited Alberton the day it was upgraded from Branch to Ward. Eventually, I moved to the Alberton unit and continued to work side by side with Alberton missionaries. Everything got busy. Assisting with sacrament became nor, teaching, tracting and fellowshipping with missionaries became a regular experience, until I was eventually called as a Ward missionary. Which I noticed, didn’t change much with regards to what I actually did.

These missionaries, now, however, use me far less than any of the previous missionaries – and it is bitter-sweet. But that’s another story.

So that is Alberton – the place of many firsts. I started Home Teaching in Alberton (don’t get me started on the chaos that was the non-existent Home Teaching in Centurion) and I’ll be ordained as Elder here, receive my permanent temple recommend and endowments through Alberton, and receive my call to serve a mission here. Oh, and I also attended my first priesthood session with Alberton.

That is the passing of time from Centurion to Alberton to Centurion and then back to Alberton again. The Lord truly does work in mysterious ways.

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