Monday, 16 March 2015

In the Field

I am out in the field... no longer training at the School of Prophets (Mission Training Center). Rather, spreading the word in South Africa Durban; more specifically, Botshabelo.

Yes, I am not in KwaZulu-Natal; I am in the Free State, serving in a township west of Lesotho. My companion, Elder Ocitti (hitherto referred to as my Father, a.k.a my Trainer), is from Uganda. And we, he and I, are the only two missionaries in the Botshabelo area (consisting of approximately two million people).

 Let me get started. Our boarding is actually in Bloemfontein, which means we drive out to the area every morning (about 45km). So that means I'm driving. First area, driving a Nissan Hardbody 2.5 in area with potholes. Yea, I'll call them that. Even though there is often a gap in the middle of the road - literally. More sand than road, more holes than landfill. But it's great!

Elder Ocitti is DLT (District Leader and Trainer) for our four man district - which includes Thaba-Nchu. The Elders serving that side are Elders Payne and Agabu (who served with me in the MTC).

So far, much has happened. From the MTC to the airport (meeting a musician from Brazil and an electrical engineer from Italy - Elder Martin and I tracted them). From the airport to the mission home in Durban. President Zackrison and his wife are great. An interview longer than any before and a driving test two hours after arriving. Let me say, waking up at 04:00 and driving an automatic car for the first time as a sudden and unexpected test - not fun. At least I have the experience now, and the authorization to be designated driver now. Which includes daily reports and servicing every 15 000km. We drive 100km a day.

From Durban, I boarded a bus to Bloemfontein. Nine hours on a bus, staying awake until 04:00, only to start working at 06:30 that same day.

And boy, what a journey it's been. We have five baptisms on date, 35 lessons each week, and we still find time to contact, and get home before 09:00. That means a solid seven lessons each day. Fortunately, people in Botshabelo are hospitable. We knock on their door and the first thing they say is, "Dumelang ntati, you can sit down." Often followed with a glass of something to drink.

One of our investigators, whom my companion and I invited to be baptized last week, reminded me so much of when I was investigating. His name is Tumelo, and he'd been taught by missionaries for quite some time. We were teaching him the Restoration, and he expressed that he didn't actually want to join because he noticed that being a member of the Church meant keeping commitments - specifically, covenants made with God. I was prompted to share my experience of only finding out, with certainty, after laying aside all distractions, prepared to follow through with any answer God gave me - and only then did I receive my answer.

We shared with him the first vision, an answer to Joseph Smith's prayer and told him that he would find no answer until he got committed. The Spirit was strong in that lesson - and we asked him, what was he willing to do when God answered. It rained that night - as it did when I received my answer - and I just knew. When we returned two days later he said, "I want to be baptized. I know this is God's Church." My heart was filled with so much joy. And I must say, he's been learning and understanding so much since that decision - participating as if he were already a member.

Getting to know the people has been great - with other powerful experiences along the way.

And then there are also those moments that you would never expect. Like praying in Afrikaans because the only two languages many people understand are Sotho and Afrikaans. Like tracting into Jehovah Witnesses - in Afrikaans - only to find them desiring to Bible bash with their Sotho scriptures... Right, because that's why we're here.

But all in all, it has been great. I found some time to read letters my friends and family left for me - and how grateful I am for the support (even though many expressed not quite understanding why). I am blessed to have people who love me anyway.

Now, a question I shared with family and friends:

What does it mean to us that the Savior has suffered "pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind" (e.g, Alma 7:11), has "descended below all things" (e.g., D&C 88:5), and was "in all points tempted like as we" (e.g., Hebrews 4:15)?

Alma 7:11 teaches us that Christ suffered pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind. D&C 88:5 teaches us that He descended below all things. And Hebrews 4:15 teaches us that He was tempted just as we were.

This tells us that He came down from above, from being King of kings, to be human just as we are. He descended below all things - he had no money, no home, no worldly possessions. The Creator of Heaven and earth came to the world with nothing, being born in a manger, and was tempted with all manner of temptations. Still, He persevered. Still, He never gave in.

For me, this means He truly knows us and everything we could ever go through. For me, this means that He loves and cares for us more than we could ever imagine. For me, this means more than words can describe. And, for me, this means that I owe Him all that I am - even though I can never repay Him for what He has done.

And as I close today, I'd just like to say, in two weeks I've seen more witnesses to God's love and mercy than ever before. I've felt His love and seen His work - and I know, without a doubt, that this Gospel is true. We learn from history that prior to 1820, the Christian world had grown to a place where they feared God more than they trusted in Him - where they prayed because of commandment, while some were taught not to pray at all. And it was only after the restoration that people were reminded that prayer is a two-way communication.

I reiterate, only after the restoration did people (from various sects and creeds of Christianity) begin praying to God for answers. Only after the restoration did people once again begin believing in the power of God and His love for man. Only after the restoration, did people begin praying to develop a relationship with our God. Now I don't know about you, but a religion that reminded the world that God still cares is one I'm willing to take a chance on.

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