Thursday, 26 February 2015

A Week of Learning

Where do I even begin? This past week has been filled with experiences and learning opportunities I could never have imagined; even in this tiny MTC.

We were assigned companions (a missionary you teach with, and stay with 24/7), separated into Districts (groups), and presented with leaders who'd be available for assistance and guidance with missionaries and activities in the MTC.

First off, President Collins is serving with his wife, Sister Collins, as our MTC President. They're both from the United States and were called to serve here in South Africa almost a year ago. My companion is Elder Katimbo, from Uganda, who will also be serving in the South Africa Durban mission.

There are nineteen missionaries here at the MTC. Seventeen Elders and two Sisters. Ten will be serving in the Uganda Kampala mission while nine will be serving in the South Africa Durban Mission.

Interestingly enough, there are only four Americans with us. One of whom is Elder Barrett from a small town in Utah. He and I exchanged student cards. There is also Elder Dean, who is a convert (most of us are), and Elder Hart.

Sitting next to me at the moment is Elder Manqele from Durban (he'll be serving in Uganda Kampala).

My companion and I have been assigned to the Helaman District (others include Ammon and Moroni). After which, we were called to serve as District Leaders (making us responsible for the Heleman District).

On our first Sunday, we focused particularly on the Atonement of Jesus Christ and what it means to us, and what it can mean to our investigators. Fortunately, my experience with Gospel Principles class (Sunday School) helped prepare me somewhat for running last week's District Meeting after Sacrament.

As the week went on, we learnt various teaching techniques through practice, study, and observation. Apparently this group of missionaries came more prepared than any of the previous group. Most of us are converts. All of us have been ward missionaries. All of us have active experience with missionaries and know the Gospel and scriptures quite thoroughly.

The Church is particularly focused on creating an entirely different breed of missionaries. We are not being taught what to teach, because we're expected to know that already, but rather how to teach. We're being taught how to identify concerns and rectify them as soon as possible.

We need to be able to commit people to baptism at our first lesson and have them come to Church. And because we are teaching people, and not lessons, they have to have concerns rectified. They have to have the Gospel answer questions to their soul. It is about them. They have to trust us and we need to know them.

We learnt through the District that we, as missionaries, spend every waking moment helping our investigators. We study and search for answers that they need, practice in the most effective ways to help find answers to their questions and lead them in that direction.

"You will always be a hero to them." This we learnt in an MTC devotional. And I know it is true. "Those you baptize, will remember you for all time and eternity." I know this. And how grateful I am to be in the same MTC as the man who baptized me; David Tew. His face is on the wall I pass everyday.

Oh, and whenever I say his name, people think he's Chinese, until I show them his picture on the MTC wall. "Is that your missionary?" they ask. And yes, yes it is.

We had an "investigator" who asked us why Christ had to die in order to Atone for our sins, and why Heavenly Father couldn't simply forgive our sins. Sitting in the lesson, my companion and I had to work quickly to find an answer to this question in the scriptures. You can understand why this would be a concern, it was even a concern for me.

Fortunately, we have the Book of Mormon. In Alma 42, Alma and Amulek spoke specifically concerning this matter. And I would invite anyone struggling to understand why our Savior had to die (and overcome death) for us to be saved, to read these chapters. We learn here how our Heavenly Father made the perfect plan to fulfill the demands of justice and mercy.

Another concern came regarding prayer. There are many who feel that they are alone in prayer, not knowing how to identify answers. "I feel silence," they say. And, to this, I would answer, Galatians 5:22-23. By the power of the Holy Ghost, we find our answers - some of us have visions, some hear answers, while most feel through the fruit of the Spirit. And one such fruit, one such answer, is peace. Pray about it. Think about it.

On Tuesday we went to the Temple. For my companion, it was his first time. Phenomenal experience.

When we came back, we went to teach another "investigator", and our teacher pulled us aside and said, "Instead of teaching me today, I want you to help me. You two are my strongest companionship, and I need you to help me help the others."

She took our experiences growing up as a sign of God preparing us for this moment, and similar moments in our field to come. "God prepared you through your critiquing of the Book of Mormon, and you, Elder Katimbo, through your family, for your investigators and the missionaries you'd be serving with."

Later we were sent to teach President Collins (as one of the three companionships to teach him).

But it isn't all good. We found ourselves in a lesson where both my companion and I forgot where to find a verse we needed to answer an "investigator's" question. We went out having the "investigator" think we answered her question, and I immediately felt guilty, preparing verses to present her the next time we visited to actually answer her question.

But through this experience, I have learnt how to rely on the Spirit's promptings. Even as we teach, we are taught. We are inspired to say certain things and find certain verses. We are guided to target specific concerns and teach people, not lessons.

The investigators need to know we care. They need to know why we are there and we do this by saying and showing. We remember, commit and follow up. We are with them every step of the way.

President Hamilton said something which has stuck with me, "What do you really have to offer, besides your testimony? Besides pure conviction, what impact can you really make?"

And as I think on these words, I think on Alma, as he said "save it was to bear pure testimony" they could do nothing.
So I testify, He lives. Through Him, redemption cometh. And because He loves us, He calls His
servants to find us and to lead us to that strait and narrow path. The Bible and Book of Mormon testify of Christ, and together they answer questions of the soul.

May the Lord bless you, as He has me, and may He answer your prayers as He has mine. This is my invitation, to read, to ponder, and to pray. The same invitation that has existed from the beginning.

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