Saturday, 6 June 2015

Why am I Even Here?

There is a question that gnaws and aches at every rejection, and every cancelled appointment. There is a question that echoes in every sleepless night, and the Sundays that nobody comes. And there is a questions which grates at the sound of the words "Devil Worshiper".

Why am I even here?

In the words of my companion, "Why did you choose to leave your family to be rejected, cursed, spat on, and all out disappointed?"

I mean, to go one day without being rejected... never. And even in a country where persecution is limited (unlike northern parts of this African continent), it isn't hard finding someone willing to tear your faith to pieces. So why am I here?

1. Because God told me that I needed to be here.
All worthy males able to serve a full-time mission should. In fact, it is a commandment from God. But moreso, missionaries found me and it would selfish if I didn't do the same for another.
I remember the words of David Wayne Tew (the missionary who baptised me) as he said, "Why do you think you found the Gospel at missionary age?" Why? I could have found it earlier. I could have found it later. But why now?
It was then that I took the opportunity, and the circumstances surrounding me at the time to ask God what He wanted. And what He wanted was for me to serve.

2. My family, and my friends.
I would be lying if I said that I didn't want to do all that I could to bring happiness to my friends and family. Being on mission exposes me to different people, different environments, different circumstances, and every effort is focused on helping people and reaching them; these skills will help me help them.

3. I want to be the best me I can be.
I've always wanted to be the person God would have me be. Because He is my Father. Because I know He knows best, and that He wants me to be the best me I can be. And since He knows more than I do, I trust that every step He leads me to paves the way for the absolute best me I can be. I may not know who or how I'll turn out to be, but He does, and that's good enough for me.

Some of the lessons I've had in the last couple of weeks have even shown that there are, in fact, many more reasons. In particular, a lesson with a former investigator, who - at first - wasn't even interested in talking to us. After talking, and simply talking, we were able to share experiences and open up, only to find out that she no longer trusted God. She shared with us, Why didn't He send you guys when things were going well? Why didn't He make my father phone me then? It's too late now. I didn't know what to say. Everything that was said came from the Spirit, tears were shed, a verse was shared, and by the end of the lesson she was smiling from ear to ear, asking us when we'd return, saying, "I'm going to find my Book of Mormon today!". As she prayed, she felt Heavenly Father's love once again.

This experience was, once again, able to remind me why I'd gone through all the things I'd gone through in the past, and why I was here. To see someone begin trusting God again in the space of an hour, to see the tears people shed, and the smiles people give, a burden lighter and an answer found. This is why I'm here.

It has been packed with heartfelt lessons, unexpected changes, and tears of joy, tears of sorrow. Last Saturday evening I was informed that I'd be transferred from Botshabello to Hillcrest to serve with Elder Bryan, to whitewash (I'll explain lower down). I'd be leaving my first area, after three months, and the responses reminded me once again exactly why I was here... why I am here.

Tumelo compared my departure to the death of a much beloved family pet (specifically, a dog), saying that I had become family. Sister Mofubelu called us over for dinner, asking for a scripture she could remember me by, asking me to remember Botshabelo as I went out to do the Lord's work, "You have the keys to do this work. If you don't fight for it, who will?" And among them all, the one that broke me the most, was Bhaki - a  nine year old kid who broke down in tears after requesting a picture with just me and him. It showed me that the most meaningful impacts are the ones you didn't even realise you made. I took the opportunity to remind him how close to home he was, and that it wouldn't be the last time we'd see each other - in this life or the next.

And so my time in Botshabello came to an end. I climbed on a bus, an eight hour drive, and met a young woman going home for varsity holidays. Nqombile is studying Medicine at the University of the Free State (UFS), and a friend of hers is just about to leave to serve a mission. She, however, is not a member - and, apparently, he and her often argued over whether or not we actually lived with God in the life before. We didn't come from anywhere.

It was a good reminder of how important listening is. I tried my best to understand exactly where she was coming from, and by the time she thanked me for the chat (at the end of eight hours... or ten... I was tired), she was convinced of a pre-mortal existence. And she was ready to ask God to confirm to her what we had spoken about - pre-mortal existence, the Book of Mormon, Joseph Smith, the restoration of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and what He wanted for her. Prayer, at the end of the day, prayer is the only way to truly know. We cannot just accept something someone tells us - no matter how convincing it may be.

And so, it brings me to the week that just past, as my companion and I whitewashed (both he and I are brand new to the area, know none of the people, and nobody knows us) Hillcrest - a big people's area. Elder Bryan and I were even commenting that we were no longer in South Africa, "It's California!" The houses are big, the security is tight, and finding through our own efforts does NOT work. We cannot buzz gates, an we have one investigator, and just about nobody else to talk to. So the creativity starts. My companion (who's been on mission for one year, nine months) and I are doing things we've never done before.

We've been to the local market to organise a stand, the hospital to give are service and talk to some chronic patients and some of the staff, and to a place called Focus on the Family, which is a Methodist ministry focused on God's standard for the family. As my companion was born in the Church, he has no idea what other churches are like, and so the prayer session we were invited to was completely new to him.

As we continue to implement new ideas, have open houses at the chapel, and work with the members to find people the same way missionaries found me (invited for dinner at a member's house the same time missionaries were there), we hope to find success. Oh, and I am the most recent convert in the Hillcrest ward... that's how long it has been since they've had a baptism.

I pray that God continues to bless you, and that you continue to find happiness and success. He loves you, and cares for you, and has a plan for you and the people around you. We are here for a reason. Never doubt that!

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