Monday, 26 January 2015

My Ventures in Jo’burg Town

January 2015 has been an interesting year thus far. Immediately after my endowments, I ventured in and out of Jo’burg town more times than I’d have liked and encountered a missionary opportunity while exercising patience with regards to a, now, investigator. The soaring high met a drowning low, but – through it all – my spirits kept strong.

This is how it went.

Once I had finished at the Temple, the missionaries wanted to eat out. We were to rely on the GPS on my phone, which wasn’t working. The highest point in Jo’burg, and my phone couldn’t find signal. So the missionaries led us out to a different location, in hopes of finding signal there. They took the slipway left, towards town, instead of going straight. We drove until Elder Broadhead decided, let us just go home. Needles to say, when the GPS finally loaded, it took us the route through town instead of the same way it took us to get there.

It was hot and my GPS kept recalculating. As the missionaries followed, I ended up taking the wrong off ramp, having to drive through town to get back onto the highway. On the highway, the GPS took me into a dead-end road. Fortunately we got to a place the missionaries recognised, so they took the lead.

We had lunch and they went teaching – they decided not to use my services as a ward missionary.

From there, I returned home to pack my bags and head out to my best friend’s house. Benjamin Bankart. He had just turned 21 – which we celebrated epically in Wilderness the week prior.



On my way to his house, my GPS (yes, I suck at directions, leave me alone) took me through Jo’burg town (Ben stays in Melville). The GPS lost signal countless times and kept recalculating. It was blistering hot (and no, my car did not have an aircon, just a fan which blew hot air) and anyone who knows Jo’burg knows that you cannot open your window. I was almost mugged three times (fortunately the lights went green just in time). On the bright side, one guy led me over a recently paved road I needed to get over, so I gave him 20 bucks for a drink or whatever. But the nightmare had just started.

My GPS sent me in circles, traffic was backed up, roads were blocked, and metro police pulled me over for a random car search. I finally got to a place I thought I knew, but still looked over to see where my GPS wanted me to turn… It was dead. My heart began to pound. How? It was on 56% I pulled over and plugged it into the car charger. Nothing. It began a cycle of turning on and dying before the main screen loaded. It looped. It was hot. Blistering hot.

I closed my eyes and began to pray.

My phone was dead and I knew there was no way for me to fix it. Not here, at least, and not now. So I began driving, not knowing where I was. I drove down every street corner, hoping to recognise something. I began singing hymns and praises, praying to God for guidance out of this. I couldn’t find my way to Ben’s place, much less return home to Alberton. What was happening? I had just come out from the Temple. Everything was supposed to be going well. I had just done good. I didn’t understand.

I continued to pray and found a man on a pizza delivery bike. “Melville Boulevard” it said. “Thank you, Father,” I uttered. I asked him to direct me to Ben’s house and he did one better; “Follow me,” he said.

The nightmare was over, I thought. We got to Ben’s house and I banged on the gate. I rang the bell and called out his name. Again, and again. The pizza delivery guy, Elvin (I believe), waited with me a couple of minutes before I struck up a conversation. “Do you go to Church?” Eventually I was able to learn of his desire to follow God and invited him to Church, telling him of the restored Gospel. He took down the address and thanked me – no phone.

Fifteen minutes had passed and Ben’s neighbour told me he wasn’t home. What?! How was he not home? He knew I was coming. His car was there. His door was open. I waited just over thirty minutes, praying and singing hymns from my new mini hymn book the Farquharsons had just bought for me.

My phone turned on. Just long enough for me to send Ben a message… and then it died. He came out and let me in.

His girlfriend, Priscilla, came over a few minutes later and we watched anime, searched the internet, chatted and played games. We ate ice cream, ordered Chinese food and watched some more anime. Priscilla went home and we continued before going to sleep at 22:45 that evening (surprisingly early, but then again I woke up at five and drove all over town).

The next day, Ben was kind enough to lend me his spare phone as a GPS before I headed out for Church. Johannesburg Chapel was the place of the weekend and Vincent was the investigator heading over to meet the Ward Mission Leader for the first time. There are no missionaries in Johannesburg (too dangerous). So let me tell you about Vincent before I continue.

I met Vincent at Jo’burg Gen, Wits Dental School, end July 2014. I was there to have my wisdoms removed for my mission papers (trust me, I wouldn’t have done it for any other reason). We were handed out a form to fill in, and I noticed the guy to my left, Vincent, did not have a pen to fill it in; I offered him mine. I then struck up a conversation, gave him a pass along card and an Articles of Faith card. For some reason, I chose the Gospel of Jesus Christ as the topic focus. At first, he kept trying to shrug away and wiggle himself out of the conversation. He couldn’t even bring himself to say Christ’s name. But I persisted, the Spirit prompted strongly and I could not deny it.

Eventually we reached the principle of repentance and I noticed him draw nearer. Our conversation took a complete turnaround. He began confiding in me, bordering on tears. He told me he felt unworthy of even having this conversation with me. Unworthy to even think Christ’s name. He told me he had sown bad seeds and that the scriptures tell us we will reap what we sow. He grew up as a Roman Catholic, but lost touch with God along the way. I then informed him of what the Spirit had just told me, that “Regardless of the crops we reap today, we still have the next season to sow better seeds than before. That is the miracle of repentance. We have the opportunity to turn around and go back to our Father in Heaven.”

It was a powerful spiritual experience, and as we spoke I learnt about his childhood, where he lives, his parents, grandparents, and even the path he had taken. He expressed joy for the message he had heard and said that he now felt worthy enough to repent, that he was grateful the opportunity existed. He then informed me that in our three hour conversation, he didn’t even think of smoking once, when normally he would have gone out at least five. Then, he told me, he was planning on mugging me, to take my phone and all the money I had on me. That he had done it before. He was just waiting for me to walk out of the Hospital, alone.

From this, a friendship enveloped. He stopped stealing and created his own goals to quit smoking and strive towards repentance. We stayed in touch, sent each other verses, called each other brothers. Unfortunately, missionaries had just been taken out of Johannesburg, the area where he stayed, so I couldn’t give him as a referral. I lived in Alberton at the time, so I couldn’t meet him oft.

But this year was the year. I got to Church for the eight o’clock service and waited for him, trying to direct him. I missed sacrament meeting and went into Gospel Principles and assisted in the lesson. I kept going in and out of Church grounds to see where he was, but still no success. The ten o’clock service was about to begin and I needed to go in to partake of the sacrament. The Ward Mission Leader from Johannesburg 2, the one who’d be teaching Vincent said that it’s impossible for someone to take 2 hours to find the Chapel, that he was just pulling my leg. Still, I persisted. Halfway through sacrament meeting, I phoned him back to find out where he was.

He made it! The patience pulled off. I introduced him to the Ward Mission Leader (after pulling him, the Ward Mission Leader, out of High Priest’s class) and we discussed how his teaching process would occur and when he’d be baptised (just prior, the Ward Mission Leader and I discussed an appropriate number of attendances to indicate commitment before baptism would be considered). The Ward Mission Leader then said, with all confidence, you should come to his baptism.

I took Vincent to the last few minutes of Johannesburg 1s sacrament meeting (after being mistaken for the missionary who’d be performing the baptismal interviews for them) and he said that he felt inspired and prompted to find means to make the Saviour a priority in his life, to help others and continue coming to Church. It was a powerful experience.

If all my efforts as a member from 8 December 2013 to now don’t pay off… If all my hard work, dedication and commitment to missionary work results in him being the only person I, personally, bring unto the fold… It’ll all be worth it.

There were trials that weekend, but if efforts in preventing me from going to Jo’burg that weekend are at all an indication, Vincent is going to be a powerful member. This must be Christ’s true Church and I must’ve been doing something right, otherwise the adversary would have no reason to fight so hard. I would do it again. My faith has been strengthened and I know God is in control.

The war that began at the foundation of the world is continuing today. The question we need to ask ourselves is, which side are we on?

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