Monday, December 9, 2013

Zone Conference with Elder Cook

Dec 9, 2013
Dear family and friends,
This past week was a spiritually uplifting and motivational one! We started off the week by having zone conference with Elder Carl B. Cook of the seventy on Wednesday. Before we started the zone conference he had a short meeting with the missionary leaders in the zones attending, that was an amazing experience as he expounded the scriptures before us and exhorted us to lead by example. Elder Cook is so approachable and he doesn't make you feel scared to ask questions or make a comment.  The entire zone conference was centered around becoming consecrated missionaries, teaching for conversion not baptisms and obedience with exactness. It was probably one of the most spiritually uplifting zone conferences I have attended since I have been on mission and made me really reflect on how I can become better.
One of the quotes that I have written in my white handbook that I am striving for says: "Obedience brings blessings, obedience with exactness brings miracles." I am feeling a monumental difference as I strive each and everyday to become more obedient, even to the small rules that seem like they sometimes don't matter. As President Benson once said: "When obedience ceases to be an irritant and becomes a quest, God will endow you with power." What a promise from a Prophet of the Lord! As missionaries if we are not living honorable, obedient and righteous lives the Lord will NOT lead us to the elect prepared to receive the restored gospel. That is something I know to be true with all my heart!
I'm grateful for the elect we have been able to find here in Osizweni the past weeks. We had some more incredible experiences this past week as we continued to go out and preach the true gospel. On Saturday night we were coming out of our last appointment at 8pm when by "coincidence" a guy runs in front of our car and tells us to stop. I quickly recognized it was X____ from my previous area who had been baptized a few weeks before I left Marian hill. X____ is originally from Osizweni and he is visiting here for the holidays. He is a powerful convert to the church and I was so grateful the Lord led my companion and I to him while in Marianhill. Anyways, we talked for a minute and then he told us he would be coming to church the next day. Well he came to church on Sunday and he brought one of his friends with him, he wants us to start meeting with his friend so we set up an appointment and got a nice referral from him! It was great to be able to see him again. I was thankful for that tender mercy of the Lord after a somewhat slow and stressful day.
We currently have 3 people preparing to be baptized on the last Sunday of this year (29th of December). Sister S____, Brother D____ and Brother S_____ are all taking great steps forward as we continue to teach them and prepare them to make this covenant with the Lord. Since we started teaching all of them around the same time a month ago they have come to church every single Sunday! They are incredible and all progressing so well. Den continues to walk over 10k's round trip to church every Sunday and it's incredible to see the change in his countenance as he is accepting the gospel into his life. Something that Elder Cook emphasized on when teaching converts is that they need to know, feel and do in order to be ready for baptism. I feel as though S____, D____ and S____ do know, do feel and are indeed doing what they need to in order to make this step forward in their life.
It's so vital that we teach these individuals the true doctrine and help them understand this step they are taking. We are not here to just build membership and baptize people but instead we are here to help people repent and become clean through the atonement! Something that Elder Cook counseled us on is to never believe our purpose is to just baptize people and then we are successful. There was a question as to why the missionaries who are seen as being disobedient can baptize people in droves while the obedient missionaries seem to have more struggles. He told us that if we baptize people who are not ready, who do not understand the covenant they are making then we bring condemnation upon ourselves. Those are some pretty strong words that hit everyone hard, it's better to baptize 2 real converts then to baptize 20 people who will eventually go less active. That's something I have really striven for on my mission as I have taught the gospel and prepared investigators for baptism, it was nice to have Elder Cook counsel us on that point.
Central to everything we do is the atonement of Jesus Christ, without the atonement none of this would even be possible. I love how preach my gospel tells us that as our testimony of the atonement grows so will our desire to share the gospel. That's something I have come to see in my own life as I have felt the succor, cleansing power and healing that comes through the Saviors infinite and eternal sacrifice.
Thanks for your support and love, may the Lord bless. Until next week!
Elder Summers

Success!

November 25, 2013
Dear family and friends,
I am just so happy right now! Wow this past week has been incredible even though it's been tough not having a companion. I have been sleeping with the 4 Elders in my district in their house, we have an awesome 5 man district. We got to celebrate thanksgiving with the couple missionaries in our area last night, that was awesome! I have been working with a YSA all week in the area, he is preparing to leave on his mission soon. We had a tiring but exciting week and I have some stories to share. I'll start off with transfer news first; my new companion is Elder Armstrong, he is an American and my first American companion! I know him a little bit from my previous area and I'm excited to work with him. I will be picking him up tomorrow and it will be nice to be able to move back to my apartment, sleeping on a couch all week has not been too much fun! Haha.
So last week I spoke about 2 guys that started coming to church around the same time a few weeks ago. The first one is named D___ and he is a really cool guy. He lives over 5K's from the chapel and he walks all the way! It's incredible how we found this guy and how the Lord has prepared him. He is 23 years old and he has been struggling a lot with direction in his life. Well he showed up at church 3 weeks ago and I didn't even recognize him, I thought he was the other Elders investigator! It wasn't until last Sunday that I spoke to him and we started teaching him this week. He said that he read the whole pamphlet we gave him that day (Plan of Salvation) and he liked it so much he decided to come to church. When we met with him on Tuesday he told us he wants to be baptized and he loves the church so much because he said he feels "special."
We have started teaching the whole family and the mother made me laugh when we met yesterday because she said: "I see D____ wants to follow you guys but I'm afraid when he joins he will be taken away from me for 2 years just like you!" We explained to her how it's voluntary and that made her feel better. She then said: "If you are willing to do this for 2 years then your message must be true." Yeah, she was exactly right! She also told us that since D___ started coming to church he has completely changed, he isn't smoking or drinking anymore. Wow, that blew me away because we haven't even taught him word of wisdom yet!
The other guy we are teaching is named S____. He is also 23 years old and he is one of the most humble guys I have taught my entire mission. He is progressing incredibly fast and he is planning to be baptized on December 22nd. Only 2 days after we gave him the Book of Mormon he had almost finished all of 1 Nephi. He loves church so much and he will be an incredible addition to this branch. He has been through quite a bit in his life with the death of his mother and sister at a younger age. He doesn't have much family around him, he is pretty much by himself and he really wants to start serving God in his life, he is an incredible guy and I'm very humbled that the Lord has led him to us.
We have been teaching a sister named N____ for about 5 weeks now. I think I spoke of her last week but I can't remember now. She is 20 years old and she has been progressing so well! She originally wanted to be baptized a few weeks ago but then she became scared of leaving her church. We kind of slowed down with her and just encouraged her to read the Book of Mormon and really know this is true. She is a very intelligent sister and she has been blazing through the Book of Mormon with incredible understanding. Well we had an amazing lesson with her yesterday that changed her whole perspective! I could see in her eyes that she really knows this is true and we challenged her to baptism again. We really tried to help her understand that fear comes from satan, satan is trying to make her scared so that she will not act on the truth. I simply asked her: "Do you know the Book of Mormon is true?" She looked back at me and said: "Yes I know this is really true." I then told her that nothing else matters! When we find the truth we have to act on it. She accepted to be baptized next month and that she will lay her fears aside. I can't wait to see this sister baptized, she will be a powerful member if she joins the church because she has gained a strong testimony of the Book of Mormon.
One last story about sister S_____ who we have been teaching. This is the sister that has been helping us purchase the old supermarket to renovate as a chapel. It is simply amazing how the Lord led us to this mother through the supermarket! Not only have we found somewhere to build a chapel but we have also found someone searching for the truth. She came to church again yesterday and we met with her afterwards. We read with her from Mosiah 18:8-11 and when we read v. 11 her face lit up and she began to smile. That verse says that after Alma had told the people about what they need to do to be baptized the people "clapped their hands for joy and exclaimed this be the desire of our hearts!" I asked her if this was the desire of her heart and she said enthusiastically: "Yes!" She said that she has never felt this happy in her life since we started meeting with her. Before we found her she said her faith had been wavering and she wasn't sure if God really lived but that since we have met her she has received so many answers to her questions. After she told us all of that I couldn't help but have a huge smile on my face! We are also planning on baptizing her on December 22nd if we can prepare her in time. If everything works out we should baptize these 2 brothers and 2 sisters on December 22nd.
It has been an incredible week and has helped me continue to see the Lord's hand over this great work. I am so blessed to be serving here in Osizweni and I can't wait to see what will happen with all of the people we are teaching. Thank you everyone for your prayers, I truly feel them and I know the Lord hears them. Love you all.
Elder Summers

A Week to Remember

Nov 18, 2013
Dear family and friends,
It has definitely been a week to remember to say the least. So much has happened and I don't really know where to begin so I'll take it day by day with the major stuff that happened.
Tuesday- I had to go on exchanges with the other Elders that are in our area here in Osizweni. My companion stayed with the car so I went on bikes with one of them. It was so nice to get out of the car and be able to ride bikes around. We went tracting and found a guy who believes in this "S" church. “S” is this guy that claims to be the Jesus Christ for Africans and he does a lot of miracles. I asked this guy why he started believing in him and he told us because “S” can perform great miracles. We were able to sit down with him and help him understand the role of prophets and Jesus Christ. He is newly converted to this “S” church so we want to help put him back in the right direction! The lesson was great and he began to understand the role of prophets, we helped him see that Jesus Christ prophesied of many false Christs and prophets in our day. At the end of the night we got caught in a terrible thunderstorm that came out of nowhere so we were soaked in rain as we arrived at a members house but it was fun nonetheless!
Wednesday- We are teaching a young woman named N_____. She is about 20 years old and we started teaching her when I arrived in the area. She is a very intelligent sister and she has a strong desire to know this is true. We had a great lesson with her, we taught her the plan of salvation again but in more detail this time while using the Book of Mormon. She has been reading the Book of Mormon like crazy and she told us: "I'm beginning to feel it is 'real' and that what you are telling me is true." When this sister is baptized she will be a strong member because she is really developing a true testimony before deciding to be baptized.
Friday- Once again we had to go on exchanges (our zone is big so we have to do a lot of exchanges to check on everyone) with some Elders who are doing training. I went with a young Elder from Utah into the area for the day. We had an awesome day and found some really cool people! First off we found an American girl living in the township. Yeah I was pretty shocked when I saw another white person here, we started talking to her and discovered she is working for the Peace Corps. She will be living there for 27 months, she is from California and she said she knows the church very well. We got a return appointment with her but unfortunately I won't be able to go since that's not my area. It will be interesting to see if the Elders will progress with her at all, it would be so cool to be able to baptize an American here in South Africa.
We also found a mother and daughter while tracting. They were very friendly and invited us in to teach them, we sat down and decided to teach them the plan of salvation. It was a great lesson and the daughter especially had profound questions to ask us. It was wonderful to be able to answer all of their questions with regards to our purpose in life and life after death, the restored gospel is pretty incredible when it comes to answering questions.
Saturday- My companion had to go home early unfortunately. I drove him down to Durban and left him at the mission home. This pretty much took up the entire day since Durban is a very long drive from Newcastle. It was nice to be able to see President and Sister Zackrison again though. I'm currently in a trio with no new companion, transfers are coming up this next Tuesday so I will be getting a new companion in about a week. Until then I'll be living in the house where 4 Elders are staying in our district.
Sunday- Another amazing Sabbath day! We had 2 more baptisms and we also had the 2 confirmations from last Sundays baptisms. The 2 sisters that were baptized were named T___ and T____. T____ has been taught for a while by missionaries but we started teaching T_____ when I got to the area. It has been great to see her progress, she has a strong testimony and she will be a powerful member in the church.
The best part about Sunday is that the sister we taught last Sunday named S____ came to church. This is the sister that we had an amazing lesson with last week and the Lord has prepared this mother. She really enjoyed church and we had a lesson with her after church. We finished the restoration with her and the spirit in that room was undeniable, she was overwhelmed and she once again told us she felt so happy. She said that all of her questions are being answered and she feels as though the Lord has led us to her. It will be awesome to keep teaching her!!
We also have 2 brothers who started coming to church a couple of weeks ago. I thought they were the other Elders investigators but it turns out we had given them a pamphlet a few weeks ago and they read it and decided to come to church. They have come for 3 Sundays now and we are going to start teaching them. It's always nice when you have investigators show up off the street, it makes our job very easy. The work here is going so well and I'm excited to be serving the Lord in this part of His vineyard. The Lord is preparing the hearts and the minds of His children, he truly does place us where He needs us.
The transfer is coming to a close and no more exchanges this coming week!! I'll be letting you know who my new companion is next Monday.
Love you all,
Elder Summers

Locked keys, more baptisms, etc

Nov 11, 2013
Dear family and friends,
Happy Veterans Day! It's always important to remember the freedoms we are blessed with due to the sacrifice of the military veterans within our country. Surprisingly enough I remembered it is Veterans Day but I totally forgot it was Halloween this past week...They don't really celebrate Halloween here so it was just another normal day.
Interesting tidbit before I describe the things that really matter. My companion accidentally locked our keys on the backseat of our car at about 8pm in front of an investigators house. We are supposed to be in our apartment by 9pm (about 30 minutes from our area) and we had no idea what to do! There are no locksmiths in the place where we are serving and we can't leave the car overnight because it will be broken into overnight. Our investigators started helping us by trying to break into the car haha. They got a wire and were attempting to do what the police do when they have to open the lock... We did that for about 20 minutes with no success. Now the next part is hard to describe but I'll do my best, we are driving a Chevy Aveo by the way so put that into your mind. Two of us pulled the seal of the top of the door back and stuck the wire through the top of the door. We hooked the wire onto the key chain and slowly pulled it through the top of the door. It was crazy!! Normally there is a backup key but our car is currently in Durban being repaired so we are using an old car from the church and they don't have the spare key here.
Now onto what matters! This past week has been great and our baptism was an amazing experience. Two sisters that have been taught for awhile were baptized and their testimonies really touched me. They were being taught by the missionaries with their mother but their mother passed away a couple of months ago before she could be baptized, I know their mother was so proud of them.
After our baptisms yesterday we had an incredible lesson with a mother named S____. We found her about a week ago in a unique situation. We have been searching for land for a chapel when we found an abandoned supermarket. We are hoping to purchase this supermarket for the church so it can be renovated and used as a chapel. We found the address for the owner of the supermarket and went to find him. When we got there we found S____, she is living there but the owner of the supermarket has moved. We got the owners phone number from S____ and we are communicating with him now about purchasing the supermarket, hopefully that goes through.
We set up an appointment with S____ and went back to meet with her yesterday. I was asking her some questions about her young daughter when I discovered that her daughters twin passed away a couple of years ago when she was only a baby. I had a strong impression that we needed to teach her about why infants do not need to be baptized and about where we go when we die. We asked her a few questions and discovered that she had never received an answer as to where we go when we die. We gave her the answers and answered all of her questions. She had so many questions as to why God isn't there for her and prayer. We were able to show her that God gives us what is best for us and not what we want. The spirit in that room was undeniable and she said at the end: "I feel so happy right now, thank you so much for coming!" She was so happy and it made my week! It is lessons like those that make everything worth it. I really believe that this Sister was prepared by the Lord and I hope she continues to move forward with the lessons.
The crazy thing that I discovered at the end was that the day we met her was a total "coincidence." She is normally at work at that time of the day but she happened to have that day off. Nothing happens by coincidence in God's work!
My testimony continues to develop and grow each and everyday as I serve the Lord. I am so grateful for the experiences and challenges I continue to face everyday in the mission field. I continue to see how the Lord is not only helping our investigators grow but he is nurturing me and helping me develop. It is tough sometimes when I see YSA's here decide to pursue other endeavors in life over serving a mission, I wouldn't give up these 2 years for anything. Thank you for your love, support and encouragement as I continue to serve God's children here in South Africa.
Love,
Elder Summers

Elder Bednar Visit

Oct 28, 2013
Dear family and friends,
It has been a hectic week with baptisms, general conference, exchanges and of course an apostle of the Lord visiting our mission! I'll start with the best part, Elder Bednar's visit to the mission. He came on Friday and we had to drive all the way from our area to Durban for the conference. The drive took about 4 hours, we had to leave early Friday morning and we arrived late Friday night! It was a long day to say the least but totally worth it. Elder Bednar came with his wife, Elder Carl B. Cook of the Seventy and Elder Craig C. Christensen of the Presidency of the Seventy. I know you might be jealous! Haha. I don't think I'll ever have this experience again of seeing an apostle and members of the seventy and being able to ask them questions.
The entire zone conference was comprised of a discussion. Elder Bednar asked us questions and we were able to ask him questions. There were no talks, no set agendas and no reading from PMG. It was entirely directed by the spirit; the spirit in that room was incredible with an apostle, members of the seventy and over 100 missionaries there. He began by emphasizing on the importance of agency, he was not there to have us guess answers to his questions or to try and "quiz" us, he wanted us to act for ourselves and not to be acted upon. He never randomly chose people to ask or answer questions, he only invited us which made the discussion very comfortable.
I'm not going to rehearse everything he said but there were so many things that I learned. He told us at the beginning that we have a "false tradition" in the church of writing down notes from speakers verbatim and then losing them 3 weeks later. He told us do not write down what I say but write down what spirit directs you to write. I had so many spiritual impressions as the conference progressed and I received direct answers to my questions not only through Elder Bednar but from the answers of other missionaries. It made me realize just how important it is to let the spirit direct the discussion, especially as we go and teach investigators. Elder Bednar emphasized on the importance of getting people to use their agency correctly by acting upon what we are teaching them. He used the example of how Joseph Smith did not arbitrarily go into the grove of trees seeking an answer, he searched and acted before he went to pray to Heavenly Father for the truth. 
Elder Bednar also emphasized on the fact that for us as missionaries we must get out of the way (not literally). We need to allow the spirit to convert people to the gospel but unfortunately too often people are converted to the missionaries and not to the Lord. This statement really helped me to recommit myself to letting the spirit do the work and not trying to just get people to get baptized because we tell them to. I really have tried my best throughout my mission to let the spirit do the work but sometimes as missionaries we can fall into a routine and we become like robots sharing the same message of the restoration. It is so vital that we look at each of our investigators for who they truly are and not simply as baptismal statistics as Elder Holland states in PMG. Elder Bednar really tried to stress this point and help us remember that this is the Lord's work and not ours!
His final testimony was the most powerful witness of the Savior I was ever experienced. He closed by saying: "I don't declare, I don't just know, I witness that Jesus Christ lives!" When he bore his testimony a feeling stronger than what I had already been experiencing penetrated my heart. This man truly is a witness of the risen Savior. This conference motivated me in so many ways to continue to humble myself before the Lord, be directed by the spirit and to accept the Lord's will, timing and direction in all things.
In addition to the conference we also had a baptism of 3 people the next day! We had to go into our area very early to prepare the temporary baptismal font. The water was cold and very slippery but everything went well. I almost baptized myself when I got into the water first and slipped, luckily I caught myself and didn't go all the way under! There was a young man named M______ (17 years old) who was baptized first. He is a very humble guy and he really has the desires to serve a mission in the future, he already started helping us come out and do missionary work. In addition to M_____ there was a mother and father who were baptized. I'm grateful for the missionaries who have planted seeds in the past that have now been harvested. This work is all about planting seeds and seeing them sprout fruit, often times we don't see it immediately and we must be patient. I experienced this first hand this past week not only here but in one of my previous areas. In my second area in Phutaditjhaba we found a young woman named A____ and her mother around easter. A_____ was baptized about a month after I left and I was happy to hear that her mother was also just bapitzed about a week ago in the newly completed Phutaditjhaba chapel!! I was thrilled not only to hear that her mother was baptized but also that PJ finally found a place for a chapel and it was completed.
In addition to these wonderful spiritual experiences we finally watched conference! We weren't able to watch the whole thing but I watched 3 of the 5 sessions. It was great to hear from the leaders of the church and to receive their counsel.
Everything is going great here and I'm really enjoying this area. We are so busy and I am really exhausted! It doesn't help that I've been battling a cold the last couple of days but hopefully I'll be able to overcome it soon. We also received news that the group here in Osizweni should become its own branch soon which is exciting, I hope I'm here for that when it happens. They are currently working on 3 different locations for a chapel, the church is truly growing here and it's great to be apart of! It is only through the Lord's restored church that we can receive the necessary ordinances for salvation and exaltation and that is why it's so essential that we spread these truths throughout the world. More than ever before I truly know that this is His church, I don't know how to describe how I have felt this past week with these experiences that have strengthened my testimony beyond imagination.
Love you all and wish you a fantastic week!
Elder Summers
Oct 21, 2013
Dear family and friends,
This week has been incredible! I was transferred to Osizweni on Tuesday; it was a long bus ride and I was sad to leave Durban but I was so excited to come to the Newcastle zone. I have heard great things about this zone and I can now say for myself I understand why people love this zone. This is the 2nd largest zone in our mission with 18 Elders and 4 couple missionaries. Newcastle is currently a district and is working towards becoming a stake.
We have awesome couple missionaries that live right next to us. We live in town here in Newcastle which is about a 30 minute drive away from our area in Osizweni. There are 4 of us Elders working in Osizweni along with the couple missionaries. This is my first time working closely with couples and it is a lot of fun, it makes our work a lot easier! They help us organize family home evenings at members homes where we can invite investigators and neighbors. They also organize activities here to get the community involved and to get the church recognized. Osizweni is currently a group (not a branch) but is big enough to be its own branch; they will become a branch once they can secure a location for a chapel. Sacrament attendance apparently is about 70 to 80 people, we had 82 people at church yesterday. We meet in a very small school and we were running out of chairs!
The area here is just awesome! The work here is really moving along and it's nice to come into an area that is doing so well. There are going to be 4 baptisms this Saturday and we currently have 6 or more baptisms scheduled for next month. The youth here do a lot of missionary work from what I can see which makes our work a lot easier. We actually are teaching so many people here that we have had to go on exchanges with some YSA's to cover all of our appointments, that's a first out of all of the areas I have served in!
The longer I am on mission the easier everything becomes, I feel as though the Lord is just pouring down blessings upon my head. Every morning I wake up I just feel happy and peaceful with so much hope! I don't know how to describe it to be honest. It's amazing what the gospel of Jesus Christ can do for us, it provides each of us with an eternal perspective instead of the limited scope which the world provides.
I was able to speak in sacrament meeting since it was my first Sunday. Apparently it is tradition here that they introduce the new Elders by letting them speak. Of course I didn't find this out until Sunday morning! Haha. Luckily speaking is very easy when the spirit is with you and gives you everything to say. I decided to speak on sacrifice and I just got up there without an notes and gave my talk. Everything that needed to be said just flowed to my mind and I was grateful for the Lord's support. I even bore my testimony in Zulu at the end which was a lot of fun, I was kind of nervous about that though! Apparently I did alright, it is awesome being able to speak with click sounds! Don't worry, I'll share my testimony in Zulu when I come home.
Thanks for your love, support and prayers. I wish you all another great week and I'm happy to hear that the Cougars are playing well!!
Love,
Elder Summers

Saturday, October 19, 2013

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Back to Outer Darkness!

Oct 14, 2013 Hello everyone, Transfer news is here and I'm headed back to the outer parts of the mission once again. I am being transferred to a town called Osizweni in New Castle. It's about a 6 hour bus ride from where I am currently located in Durban. It will once again be a very small branch (It's actually only a group) and they are meeting in a school. I'm hoping to serve in at least 1 ward while I'm here but I do enjoy helping these small branches grow! I only spent 3 months here in Marianhill but it has probably been one of my favorite areas! I am so sad to leave this soon but I know that the Lord places us where He needs us. I really enjoyed being companions with Elder Wambuzi for these 3 months, we found a lot of success here after white washing the area and we were able to turn things around. The Lord really opened doors for us, I am forever grateful for the people we were able to find and the lives that have been touched by the restored gospel. This past week we had a couple of incredible experiences, I couldn't think of a better way to close my time here. First off we have been teaching a sister named S___, she is 21 years old. We have been teaching here for these past 3 months and she is a very intelligent young lady. She has been somewhat difficult to teach because she doesn't want to leave her church. She has recognized that everything we are teaching her is true, she kept saying she wants to be baptized by our authority but that she wants to stay in her church. Well we came to a road block on what to teach her to help her progress and we haven't been able to get her to visit church...BUT that all changed this week! As we were planning and trying to decide what to teach, I had an idea to show her this video called "How Rare A Possession The Book of Mormon." I watched it one time in a previous area with an investigator who also did not want to leave his church. The video is perfect because it shows a man who was a pastor but he finds the Book of Mormon on the street and becomes converted to its teachings. In the video it describes this mans experience as he prayed and how he received his answer. As he described how he felt warmth and joy come over his body as he prayed, Sne said: "That's exactly how I felt when I prayed about the Book of Mormon!" Sne was really touched by the video and she finally recognized that she was taking the Book of Mormon for granted and she needed to act! She agreed to be baptized and she came to church yesterday. I hope that she continues to progress with the missionaries and I'm happy the spirit finally touched her heart in a way that made her act. We also continued teaching this girl named N______. This girl has had a terrible past until she came here a couple of months ago and is living with a member. We have been teaching her and she is going to be baptized by the end of the month. She told us that she has seen a huge change in her life and that she just feels so happy. She can't read so I bought her the Book of Mormon audio CD's and she was so happy! It was great to see her reaction. When I told her that I'm being transferred she started crying and it was hard to say good bye. I can understand that it can be difficult for our investigators to see their "first" missionaries leave. It has been so enjoyable to teach her and to see the incredible change in her life. When we first met her she didn't even know who Jesus Christ is and didn't even know how to pray. Now she prays constantly and we can all see a change in her countenance. It is always a difficult thing to say goodbye to people in an area. I am so grateful for the friendships I have created here and the many seeds we have planted. I have no doubt that some of the people we are teaching and the people we have found will continue to progress towards the waters of baptism. The Lord is over this work and I truly have seen miracles as my companion and I have been obedient with exactness. There is something magical that has happened here these past few months as my companion and I have exercised unwavering faith, worked diligently and continued to do our best. We have seen the Lord's hand and have felt the Holy Ghost in an undeniable way. I love you all! I'll be reporting from a new area next week. Elder Summers

The Lord is Preparing His Children

Oct 7, 2013 Dear family and friends, Not everyday in missionary work is always easy but everyday is a learning experience! I am truly grateful for all that I am learning in the Lord's service. I recognize that I still have a lot to learn but I'm really trying to do my best to continue to develop Christ-like attributes and brings souls unto Christ. It's incredible to see the difference the restored gospel is making in the lives of God's children here. We found 2 incredible families prepared to receive the restored gospel this past week and they both came to church yesterday after only teaching them once! I'll tell you about both of them. The first family is the A___ family. The father is Indian (he used to be Muslim, turned Christian now), then there is the mother, 2 teenage boys and 2 young girls and the grandmother. The mother and kids are colored (colored is the term used here for a mix of white and black). We found the grandmother (elderly white lady) outside of her house while tracting on Tuesday. I was kind of shocked to see a white person here because where I'm currently serving there are no whites living here (or so I thought). Anyways, she was very friendly and wanted us to come back and meet the family. We returned on Thursday and met the entire family. They were all there and we sat down and talked with them. The family is confused by the many different churches, teachings and conflicts among Christians. They told us they are searching for the truth but they have not found anything. They had a lot of questions regarding life after death, including a question for us that they said no one has been able to answer for them. They asked where good Muslim people would go when they die? They said that although Muslims do not accept Jesus Christ they cannot be bad enough to go to hell with the likes of murderers. Well of course they were right and we explained the kingdoms to them. They were shocked and by the end they were so excited to learn more. They came to church on Sunday and it seems like they really enjoyed it. We are meeting with them tonight and I'm anxious to see how they will progress. The other family we found is called the D____ family. There are 2 older sisters, a teenage girl and teenage boy. This family is also in search for the right church and they told us that their faith has been wavering in the midst of trials. We taught them the restoration on Saturday night and they were very excited. They came to church the next day and they told us they loved church, they are so welcoming and anxious to learn more. I also believe this family has a lot of potential and I hope it continues to go well. They are really fun to teach and they like to joke around a lot which makes it fun to visit them. The work continues to move along here and it is incredible to see how the Lord works miracles. Those who search for the truth are always led to the truth. I'm grateful that the Lord has led us to some of these families and I hope and pray the Spirit will continue to touch their hearts as we teach them the restored gospel. Despite the opposition and difficulties we face at times, the Lord always provides a way as we exercise faith, patience and obedience. Transfer news is this weekend, I'll let you know what happens! I love you all! Elder Summers

More Baptisms Coming

Sept 23, 2013 Dear family and friends, Well this past week we met a man who told me he hates everything about America, a young woman who wants to be baptized by our priesthood but won't leave her church and a lot of other crazy things as usual. That's missionary work I guess! It was a great week though and we continue to move forward with our investigators. I had my interview with President Zackrison on Tuesday, it was nice to be able to meet with him. He is so open with us and he has a passion for this work. He is making a lot of changes to this mission and we'll see what happens in the future. We have another baptism coming up this Sunday! We have been meeting with a family called the Z____ family. Their daughter is a member of the church in Utah. She joined the church here but then got married and moved to Utah. We found this family a couple of weeks after we whitewashed the area. They are a family of 4- the father, mother, son and daughter. We have mostly been meeting with the mother and their daughter, Anele. Both of them want to be baptized but only the mother will be getting baptized this Sunday. Anele still has to meet a few more commitments before she can be baptized. We were going to postpone the mothers baptism so she can be baptized with her daughter but she told us she wants to be baptized now! She is very excited and she has been coming to church every single week since we met her. We are working with the rest of the family to try and unite them all in the church. Small story from yesterday. We decided to check a young mother who we hadn't seen in over a week, her name is M_____. She was busy but let us sit down with her. She was so excited that we had come to see her, she said that she had been having a tough day. We tracted into Mandisa about a week after we whitewashed the area. She is Jehovah's Witness (kind of less active there) but she told us from day one that she wants to find the truth. She is usually busy so that has been the biggest struggle in meeting with her. We are trying to help her develop a testimony of the Book of Mormon so that she will have the desire to be baptized. Since she was busy we only spent 15 minutes with her but we were able to answer a question that she was struggling with by using the Book of Mormon. Her question had to do with forgiveness so we shared the story of Nephi when he forgave his brothers after they bound him with cords. She was really touched by the story and how Nephi so freely forgave and exhorted his brothers to pray to the Lord for forgiveness. We shared a few other scriptures with her and helped her understand the principle of forgiveness better. By the end of the lesson she was close to tears and told us: "Thank you so much, you have made my day." It's small moments like this that make the 2 years all worth it. When I see the spirit working in people and the change the restored gospel makes it is the greatest feeling ever. I continue to learn each and everyday here in the mission field. I've been reading through the D&C for the past 2 months. I'm about finished and I have learned a lot from this book. I've almost complete the entire standard works on my mission, that has been such a blessing in my life. I now know that as we search the scriptures the Lord really does unfold the mysteries of heaven to us. I have received so many answers to questions as I have searched the standard works. I'm thankful to my Heavenly Father for the many tender mercies I receive each and everyday. There is no greater feeling in the world then the peace and joy I feel in my heart as I serve the Lord. I feel your prayers and your love. Thank you for all that you do back home!! Love, Elder Summers

Baptism Week

Sept 16, 2013 Hello everyone, Another week comes and goes in the blink of an eye. I know I say this every week but I just can't believe how fast time goes. Has it really been 15 months? Anyways, another awesome week as the work continues to move forward here! The baptisms of Xolani and Melisa went by smoothly and they were both so happy. It was great to see their progress and I know they will continue to grow in their testimonies of the restored gospel. X___ is anxious to learn more about becoming a missionary himself someday. He actually had to be baptized 5 times yesterday because the guy baptizing him was so much shorter and was struggling to put him under the water. He came out extra clean I guess! Haha. We were able to find some really cool people this week that we believe we'll make progress with. We found this guy named S____ on Saturday while tracting. When we knocked on his door we talked to him for a few minutes and he was shocked to hear that we do this for 2 years. He invited us back because he said our message must be more than just sharing the Bible if we do this for 2 years. We taught him the restoration and he was very interested by the end. He was in a rush for time so we left him with the Book of Mormon and he was very anxious for us to come back. We are going to meet him tonight, we'll see how that goes. There was a lady that we found that was visiting her family here this week. She told us that she has been searching for the right church and has been very confused by all the differences in Christianity. We taught her the restoration and she was so interested. She has a lot of potential but unfortunately she went back home to Johannesburg yesterday. We forwarded her information to the missionaries there and I hope she comes in contact with them. The area we found her was an area we almost never work in. We felt prompted to go there and maybe finding that lady was the reason why. Our job is not only to further the kingdom here but to plant seeds for other missionaries. I had a good feeling as we left that house and gave her the Book of Mormon. We taught L____ and her daughter N____ the word of wisdom and law of chastity this past week. They are preparing to be baptized by the end of the month. They were shocked to hear about tea and coffee in the word of wisdom. They love to drink tea and coffee they said. By the end of teaching them the word of wisdom I asked them: "Will you live the word of wisdom?" They responded: "Of course, we have to! We didn't know about this." They were so willing to live this commandment from the Lord. I have never taught a family on my mission who is so attentive to everything we teach and so willing to live the commandments. The only problem that might delay their baptism is they are struggling to get to church at the moment because of transport issues. Hopefully we'll be able to figure something out. I also got a great phone call yesterday. I don't know if you'll remember a young man by the name of L_____ from my first area in Margate? He called me yesterday to tell me he got baptized a few hours earlier and it was his birthday today. He said it took him awhile to find my phone number but he finally found it through some Elders. He really wanted me to come to the baptism but unfortunately we're not allowed to leave our areas. We were so close to baptizing Lwandile while I was in Margate but his aunt wouldn't allow it. Well he turned 18 yesterday so he was free to choose for himself! I was so happy to hear about that and it really made my day. The work continues to roll forward here with the Lord's help. I am thankful for all of the amazing people I am meeting here and the eternal friendships that are being forged. The Lord is behind this and I know this is His work. Keep moving forward in faith and the Lord will work miracles!! I love you all. Elder Summers

Too Many Things This Week...

Sept 9, 2013 Dear family and friends, It has been a week of overwhelming spiritual experiences, some moving apartments, hectic transfers, sickness and the most horrific traffic accident I've ever seen! Where to start? First off we started the week with a great lesson. We met with a mother named L___ and her daughter N____. We tracted into this family but only found some small girls. We left a pamphlet with our number and the mother called us that night (that has never happened on my mission). She told us to come back so we've been teaching her and her 17 and 15 year old daughters for about a month now. They have come to church a couple of times. We asked them how they feel when they pray to know our message is true. Ntokozo said she had taken time the day before to pray and she felt an incredible joy after she prayed. She said it was something she had never felt before. Then her mother said that she knows what we share is true because she just feels so happy and peaceful each time we visit. We helped them understand the spirit and how God was answering their prayers. We are working towards their baptism at the end of the month, we'll see if they are ready in time. We also met with a man named S____ (about 30 years old) for the first time. We tracted into him about a month ago and he told us to come back anytime. We had checked a couple of times before but could never find him home. Usually when that happens I tend to give up because it's like a wild goose chase but his name kept coming to my mind. I felt a certain "push" to keep trying. Well we finally found him home on Tuesday and he invited us in. He was happy to meet with us and was so open with his feelings. He told us how he had been struggling so much and how his faith as been wavering. We helped encourage him and show him that God does care for him and that's why He has sent us here. We taught him the whole restoration and he was so excited by the end. At the end of the lesson when we gave him the Book of Mormon he said: "This is the answer to my prayers, I didn't realize how much I needed you guys." Awesome!! I hope this guy can continue to progress, we are going to meet him again tomorrow. X____ was interviewed for baptism yesterday, he passed with flying colors. He is so excited to be baptized! This past week he asked us: "How do you feel now that you've won a soul?" I started laughing. He says he "can't wait to be a missionary someday." This guy is power and it's cool to see how quickly he has progressed. He understands very well and his mother (young women's president) is thrilled because she will now have a priesthood holder in her house! He is only a couple of months younger than me so he can still serve a mission. The new Elder moved into our boarding earlier this week. We had 4 Elders stuffed in this little apartment. Luckily the church purchased another apartment next door and the other 2 Elders moved in there. Our apartment is now more open and will be a lot easier to keep clean! You know what they say... Cleanliness is next to Godliness. Having a clean apartment really does make a big difference in feeling the spirit! Alright and then I got sick... as sick as I've felt on my mission. I felt terrible on Wednesday but I still pushed myself to go in the area which wasn't the greatest idea. I hate sitting at home but I'm glad the Lord gave me some strength. I decided to rest the next day and not be a hero. That Wednesday night my fellow Elders gave me a priesthood blessing and by morning I was feeling so much better. My body was still weak so I had to recover a little bit but I could feel the worst part was over. I know the priesthood exists, I have seen it time and time again on my mission. As we exercise even a particle of faith we will see miracles. I'm doing great now and no more problems! On Thursday one of the worst traffic accidents occurred that I have ever seen and it happened right next to our apartment. 30 people were killed when 3 taxis and 1 small car were bulldozed by a semi truck who ran a red light. We were coming back from our area just about an hour after the accident and we found out from the members the next day what happened. One of our investigators has a relative who was killed in the crash. This accident is being talked about by everyone. It's such a terrible event and unfortunately some people begin to question why God would do such a thing. Death is something we all deal with and we cannot avoid but there is HOPE in the gospel of Jesus Christ. As Mosiah 16:8 says: "the grave hath no victory and the sting of death is swallowed up in Christ." The amazing thing that we know through the gospel is that all of us will be resurrected one day and life does not end when we leave this mortal estate. Everyone is given agency in this life and that is why terrible things happen, it's part of our experience here in this life. No matter what happens God does know everything and we cannot begin to question His plan. Despite this accident, I felt a certain peace in that I know life does not end here and I'm grateful for the reassurance of the scriptures. We will continue to move forward in faith and by God's grace. May you all have a blessed week! Love, Elder Summers P.S. I heard BYU crushed Texas, about time BYU gets a big victory!! Go Cougs!!

Transfers

Sept 2, 2013 Hello everyone, The work is still going great here. We had transfer news Sunday night and nothing major happened. My companion and I will still be together (not surprised). One of the Elders in our apartment is being transferred but he's only going right across the street! A lot of new Elders came in this transfer and the mission is really expanding. President Zackrison is taking a whole new approach and it's interesting having "new" management. One exciting thing is that we are getting a new apartment! The current apartment is way too small for 4 people. The apartment right next door to us is not being used so 2 of us will be moving in there. It will be a lot nicer for sure! On Saturday we had M____ interviewed for baptism and she passed. We will have X____ interviewed this week! They are both doing great and it will be exciting to see their baptisms on the 15th. We also have about 4 or 5 people I think will be ready for baptism by the end of the month but we'll see. The branch is really growing and hopefully they will become a ward soon. They are really trying to find land for a chapel right now but there is a lot of opposition from Satan of course. They are having difficulties with the local municipality. They have been meeting in this dumpy school for the past 5 years unfortunately. It would be such a blessing to have a chapel in this area. I know the Lord will prepare the way as the church continues to develop here. I don't have much to say this week. I'm not sure why but I can tell you that everything is just running smoothly. We just keep teaching, finding and working hard and the Lord is preparing the way! I was reflecting on a statement I read this past week in a letter that I received: "Obedience brings blessings, exact obedience brings miracles." Amen to that. I have been trying to work towards becoming a consecrated missionary and trying to see where I can improve. It is really important to not try and tackle every weakness at once and to progress one step at a time. Something I struggled with at the beginning of my mission was trying to improve on everything at once! Instead it is important to be patient and work one step at a time. It has been so great to have so much time to study the scriptures and other church materials. I recently completed reading a book called "Believing Christ." It is a fantastic book and really helped me understand that perfection comes not in myself by through Christ. We give it our best and Christ does the rest. We simply have to lay everything on the table and Christ will be our advocate with the Father. I have also been reading the book called "Infinite Atonement." This book is incredible! Elder Callister is brilliant and he examines the atonement from all angles. This book has really blown my mind and helped me develop a deeper appreciation for the greatest act in human history. As my testimony of the Savior and his selfless sacrifice grows, so does my desire to share his gospel. I feel as though time is against me and I just want to make everyday count! I'm so grateful for this opportunity I have to serve another transfer here and see some of the fruits of our labors. The Lord really does guide this work and he can see the bigger picture. I love you all and wish you another great week. Elder Summers

Sunday, September 1, 2013

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Great Week!

August 26, 2013

Dear family and friends,

The work here in on fire! This was a great past week with some crazy experiences. We currently have a ton of people progressing towards baptism! Almost all of these people were found the first couple of weeks when we white washed the area. We will be having 2 baptisms on September 15th. An 18 year old young woman named M...... (from Zimbabwe) and a 20 year old guy named X....... They are both doing great and are excited to be baptized. Especially X....., we started teaching him a couple of weeks back. He is progressing great and loves church. I could definitely see him as a future missionary. 
 
We had a great lesson with a young mother named T........ She is my age and we challenged her to baptism white teaching the plan of salvation. She is really excited and she wants to learn. The difficult part has been getting her to church. So we got a recent convert around her age who lives pretty close to come to our lesson on Friday with her. It was so great to have this member with us! She bore a great testimony and talked about all of the blessings since her baptism. And guess what? Thule came to church on Sunday. It is so powerful when the members help us do missionary work. The investigators are able to see that normal people living around them go to this church we represent. 
 
It is incredible to see the hand of the Lord over this work. I am shocked to see how fast the work has moved forward here considering we just white washed the area a month ago! As we continue to work hard, stay obedient and exercise faith the Lord will open the windows of heaven. I guess this principle is really applicable to all aspects of life. The Lord won't help us if we sit around all day wallowing around in self pity. As Nephi of old said: "I will go and do the things the Lord commands..." The Lord always provides a a way as we "go and do." Sometimes the direction we must take is clearly visible and other times it takes more searching to find the right path but either way He does prepare the way. In this case the Lord has opened doors for us immediately. It wasn't by coincidence that our mission president felt inspired to white wash the area. This is further testimony to me that President Zackrison holds the keys for the South Africa Durban mission. 
 
Thank you for your prayers and your love. I love you all!
 
Elder Summers


Catching Fire!

August 19, 2013

Dear family and friends,
 
The area here is catching fire! I'm really hoping I won't be spending a short period of time serving in this area. Since my companion and I white washed the area it is likely that one of us could be transferred. The area is really progressing and my companion and I can see why the Lord needed this area white washed. When we first got here we couldn't understand but were seeing the Lord's hand more and more. 
 
When we got here there was one person being taught that was scheduled to be baptized. These past 2 weeks we have been able to put over 10 people on baptismal date for September. We are expecting to have at least 3 or 4 people baptized by September 15th if all goes well. We have been so busy and I don't think I've ever been this tired! We are working hard and seeing the miracles that are coming. This branch here is on the verge of becoming a ward and we just need to find a couple more priesthood holders. I'll tell you about a couple of people we have found. 
 
We are teaching a young man named X...... He is 20 years old and his step mom is the YW's president. We started teaching him this past week and he is very excited. He accepted to be baptized next month and he came to church on Sunday. He enjoyed church a lot and he has great support at home. He will be another potential Melchizedek priesthood holder in the branch. 
 
We are also teaching a young married couple (wahoo! hard to find married couples) from Mozambique. They struggle a little bit with English but the father is very excited and interested. He is very humble and wants to be baptized. He came to church for the first time on Sunday and at the end he said he loved it! He said he will be here every Sunday but the biggest problem is that he is working on Sunday sometimes. Hopefully we'll be able to continue to progress with him and move him towards baptism. 
 
As we were shopping last Monday my companion met a father working at the store. This father is humble and has a whole family. We are meeting him this week and hoping that it will work out. It is so hard to find father led families here that are interested in the gospel. The majority of fathers here enjoy drinking too much and have zero interest in hearing the gospel. This father seems very interested and is a humble man. I'm excited to see how it goes! The Lord will continue to prepare the way for us as we work hard and have faith in Him. 
 
I'm so grateful for the tender mercies of the Lord on my mission. I feel them each and everyday. I truly see that the Lord puts us in an area for a specific reason. When I first arrived here I was struggling to see why the area was white washed and why I had to leave Welkom so soon. I should have known the Lord always has His reasons! There are some people that the Lord has specifically prepared for us to teach as missionaries where only our testimony can touch them. I've seem that time and time again as I go throughout my mission. The only thing that we have to do is remain worthy as missionaries so the Lord can lead us to those people. 
 
I'll continue to keep you guys updated on how it goes with some of these people. This work is true and I see the Lord's hand manifest everyday in this divine work. 
 
I love you all. 
Elder Summers

The Lord Prepares the Way1

August 12, 2013
 
Dear family and friends,

This past week has been another great week in the service of the Lord. It is amazing how fast the weeks come and go as we are busy working hard. I've never tracted this much my entire mission! White washing the area was a little bit difficult at first but we have a solid teaching pool after all of our knocking on doors. We have found some pretty great people who are prepared to receive the gospel. One of the difficulties at the moment is finding potential priesthood holders. The branch is so close to becoming a ward but it needs a little bit more priesthood. Unfortunately most of the homes are fatherless or the fathers have no interest in the gospel. I know that the Lord is preparing people though and we'll keep going forward.
We found these 2 women that are friends a couple of weeks ago. There names are M..... and K...... They both have children but are living alone. We taught them the restoration and they were very interested. They are both in search of a church right now and they want to be baptized correctly. We have challenged them to both be baptized in September and they have accepted. They are interested and want to develop their faith in Jesus Christ. We will continue meeting with them and helping them progress.
We also are teaching a young mother named T....... She is the same age as myself (20 years) and has a baby boy. She really wants to turn her life around and find a church. She hasn't attended church in years but she does believe in God. She is a very smart young woman and has a lot of interest in our message. She has a lot of great questions and she wants to find the truth. We'll just have to see how it continues to go with her. One of the difficulties as always with most of these investigators is getting them to church. The biggest problem is the distance and lack of transportation. Hopefully it won't be a huge difficulty with some of these sisters that we are teaching.
We are working hard and doing our best right now. I can feel the blessings of the Lord in my life as I continue to give my all. There is something that money can't buy and that's peace in my heart that I feel right now. There is nothing greater in life then the peace and happiness that comes from keeping the commandments of the Lord. As Mosiah 2:41 says... Those that keep the commandments of God are blessed in all things both temporal and spiritual. And if we hold out faithful until the end we will be received into a state of never ending happiness. I can testify that this is true! May the Lord continue to bless you all as this marvelous work and a wonder continues to roll forth.
Love,
Elder Summers

Not Many Stories

August 5, 2013
 
I don't really have many "stories" for this week so I'll just tell you individually a little bit. This past week was amazing to say the least. We have been knocking on a lot of doors and finding incredible people. The branch here is really growing and has a goal to become a ward by the end of the year. They are also working on finding land for a chapel. This is the largest branch I've served in so far, usually church attendance is around 60 to 90. The school we are currently meeting in isn't the nicest so I hope they are able to find land for a chapel soon. 

A lot of the people we are teaching are people we found just this past week so we don't have many progressing investigators at the moment. A lot of the people we found though are very interested and a lot of them have serious potential. We are really hoping to find more priesthood holders. A lot of the investigators we have found are women, which isn't a bad thing but we need to find priesthood to help the branch really grow. We did find one guy named R..... that is really interested and is fascinated with the fact I'm from America. He is a really smart guy and has great questions, he has a lot of potential to progress. 

We had a total of 22 new investigators this week which is way more then I've ever had in a single week. So many people are just inviting us in when we knock on the door and we are teaching them. English isn't as much of a struggle as my last area but it can still be a challenge at times. Most people know English pretty well here. I'll let you know how it goes with some of the people we are teaching and hopefully I have more updates next week. 

 Love,

Elder Summers

White Washing the Hills

July 29, 2013
 
Hello to everyone from the coast of Durban!
 
It has been an absolutely crazy week with many unexpected things happening. When I got the transfer news last week I was really surprised I was getting transferred because President Zachrison had told me in interviews only a couple of weeks before that I would be staying another transfer. Well let me explain why that all changed. I have been transferred here to Marian Hill in Durban to white wash this area with my companion Elder Wambuzi. White wash means that the 2 Elders here were taken out and the 2 of us have replaced them. The crazy thing is that my trainer, Elder Jallah, white washed this exact same area after he finished training me about a year ago! That is extremely rare to have the same area white washed in a year. They said that hasn't happened for a very long time. I was not aware I would be white washing the area until I got here. I remember my trainer said it was really hard white washing this area and now I can see why! 
 
My companion is from Uganda and he has been on his mission for a little over 4 months. This is his second area now and I'm his third companion. I am getting companions from all over Africa.   Anyways, my comp is very humble and quiet but a good missionary. He joined the church in 2011 and he is the only member in his family. I'm excited to work with him.
 
I was talking to President Zachrison on the phone when I got here. He told me he wasn't going to transfer me but then he felt he needed to white wash the area and he felt inspired to put us here. I'm not going to question inspiration, he holds the keys for the mission. Now let me tell you a bit about the area. 
 
There are 2 others Elders staying in our apartment with us. They go to the same branch and their area is right next to ours. One of the Elders in that area was also transferred so there is only 1 Elder here that knows anything. The problem is that he only knows his area because they are walking while we have the car. So he doesn't know anything about our area because the other Elders would drop them off in the morning and pick them up at night. The 4 of us meet together at church in a small primary school. The school isn't the nicest but it's OK. The branch is very close to becoming a ward so a lot of the auxiliaries are filled. I was mistaken when I wrote last week that this was a ward with a chapel, I was thinking of another ward that is close by. While our area is called "Marian Hill" the branch name is the Umbedula branch. 
 
White washing this area is not easy at all. Addresses and street names are impossible to find. This isn't like the United States where I can type in an address and find the house. I had to buy a GPS my first day here or we were going to be completely lost and not be able to do anything. This area is HUGE. The area is all hills and mountains. I have heard of this area before because it is referred to as a climbing area not a walking area. I am really glad we are the ones that have the car and the other Elders are the ones walking (climbing... haha). I love walking but here it's tough! I'm tired just after getting out and going tracting. I can't imagine walking in this place all day. The area is absolutely beautiful though and I'll show you some pictures. The weather is just perfect right now in the winter time, it's not cold like my last area. 
 
So since the GPS doesn't really pick up addresses or street names we had to have some members show us around. There is also an Elder in our zone that served in this area for 6 months that showed us around for a day. They were able to show us where people live and I could save that location in the GPS. I am very grateful that Elder served here and just "happens" to be in our zone. That is a tender mercy from the Lord! We would have had serious troubles finding anything if that Elder wouldn't have shown us around. 
 
The people here are Zulu and very different from my previous 2 areas in the Free State province. They are extremely friendly and willing to invite us into their homes. We didn't know where many of the previous Elders investigators were so we did quite a bit of knocking on doors. The people are very humble and willing to invite us back. Although I've been very stressed and overwhelmed this past week, I felt peace in my heart that the work will move forward here. I have a feeling I'm really going to enjoy this area. The members are so willing to help us and finding new investigators is pretty easy from what I can see. 
 
Thanks for all your support and prayers, I really felt them this week I can assure you. I feel that the Lord continues to challenge me to help me grow. I can see my patriarchal blessing fulfilled more and more as I go throughout my mission. The Lord really does know us! 
 
Love you all,
Elder Summers

Expect the Unexpected!

July 22, 2013

Dearest family and friends,

In missionary work you should always expect the unexpected, especially with a new mission president. There were huge changes made on Sunday night with transfer news. 7 of the 10 companionship's in our zone changed including me! That's right, I'm getting transferred which I am really shocked by. I'm being transferred to Marion Hill in Durban. I'm finally leaving outer darkness! I haven't even been in Durban my entire mission and I haven't even been to the mission office in my 13 months on mission! For those of you that don't know our mission boundaries are HUGE. Anyways, entire zones around the mission were changed and President Zachrison is definitely taking a different approach as our new mission president.  Everyone in our district of 6 has new companions and they were all pretty shocked I'm being moved. When I received transfer news from the ZL's there was a mix of emotions as I found out I'm being transferred. I'm really excited but at the same time rather sad at the moment. I'm leaving on a bus tonight, it's a 9 hour bus ride to Durban, leaving at 11:45pm tonight and arriving at 9:30am. I wasn't expecting to leave so I didn't say goodbye to anyone. I'll be able to say BYE to a couple of people here in Welkom today but I didn't get pictures or anything with the people in Phahameng which is unfortunate. I'm really going to miss my current companion, Elder Mokoena, and some of the other people here. I formed some great friendships in these past 3 months that will not be forgotten. 
 
I was hoping to be here longer as the work is starting to move forward and everything was going smoothly but President Zachrison holds the keys and if the Lord needs me somewhere else then I will go and do as Nephi says! It will be exciting to serve in Durban where the church is very well established and people can speak English very well. One of the difficult things about serving in Freestate (that's the province where Welkom is and my previous area) is that language is sometimes a problem. The further away you get from major cities the less English people speak. Now that I'm going to Durban that will be a Zulu area where schools are very good. All of the schools here in South Africa teach in English but once again the more advanced the city the better the schools. I've been around Sotho's and Afrikaaners here in Freestate. Now it's time to pick up on some Zulu again. There are too many languages in this country, I was starting to learn a lot of Sotho! 
 
Anyways, my new companion is named Elder Wambuzi. I'm pretty sure he is from Uganda or Kenya, somewhere in northern Africa. He is younger than me on mission. My trainer actually went from training me to serving in Marion Hill. He was telling me over the phone last night that it is a really nice area where the members love the missionaries. It's a ward and I'm pretty sure they are meeting in a chapel. This is definitely going to be very different from my first 3 areas! In my first 3 areas the members were very spread out and there were no chapels (except Welkom). All of the branches I've served in have had attendance under 60 every Sunday so it will be interesting to serve in a ward that is well established. It's such an incredible and humbling experience to serve among all different kinds of branches and people. There is so much diversity here in South Africa and it's so amazing to meet these people from various cultural backgrounds. Heavenly Father is mindful of all of His children and is no respecter of persons. The gospel of Jesus Christ is for each and everyone of God's children no matter what they believe or where they come from. 
 
Welkom has taught me a lot in these past 3 months. I have grown more in these 3 months than in any of my other areas. Sometimes the Lord sends us to sanctify an area and sometimes we are sent to an area to be sanctified. I felt as though it was the latter in this case. Serving in Welkom was not always easy. There is a reason that Welkom is the oldest branch in South Africa and still has some work to do to become a ward. It took a lot of hard work but I felt as though I gave it my all here. In Preach My Gospel it says that we should strive to leave our areas better then we found them. That has been one of my top goals since serving a mission and I feel as though that has happened here. I hope it continues to move forward and that some of the seeds my companions and I have planted with continue to grow. I am grateful to the Lord for the strength He has provided me and the doors that He opened for us. I know that it is only through Him and the guidance of the spirit that we can minister in this great work. 
 
One of those seeds that was planted happened yesterday after church. We have been struggling big time here to find families. We have been praying and fasting to find families but nothing seems to be happening (or so we think). We seem to only find YSA's and young people. Well after 2 of our appointments fell through I had an impression to check a house. We had been teaching a large family (former investigators now) with a mother, 5 daughters, and a young boy. They weren't very serious about our message but the 4 times we went there we always found a boy that was their neighbor. He was always playing there. He seemed somewhat interested and we asked him where he lived. This was about 3 weeks back. Well his image came to my mind and I remembered where he told us his family lives. We visited their home last night and the father invited us in. We sat down and taught the restoration to the father, mother, son and daughter. They are very humble and friendly and currently are members of no church. I hope and pray this family will accept the gospel and that this is a family the Lord has prepared. Time will only tell though. 
 
Sometimes we have to be patient and accept the Lord's time table and not our own. That is a lesson I have been repeatedly taught since serving a mission but I can't seem to understand this at times. I know that as we wait on the Lord and accept His will be done and not our own, miracles will happen. 
 
I love you all and wish you another great week. 
 
Elder Summers

Blessed are the Persecuted

July 15, 2013

Dear family and friends,

This past week was not the easiest in the world to be honest. The good news is that Sunday was awesome and our baptisms went very smoothly! Both of the young women were baptized in very cold water. It is the middle of winter here and we had to fill up the temporary font with a cold water hose. Usually they boil some water in pots and put it in with the cold water to neutralize the temperature but the electricity was out for all of Sunday! The young women didn't complain though and it counts all the same. The spirit was so strong at the baptismal service and it's exactly what I needed after a tough week. 
 
My companion and I were discussing about the Saviors teachings when he said: "Blessed are those who are persecuted for my names sake..." We were joking that every time someone is rude to us, closes the door or rejects are message we receive a blessing! We had quite a few people rejecting us this past week and it can be really easy to be discouraged if you don't remember your purpose. Satan really uses discouragement but we are doing our best to stay positive. I feel as though serving a mission is sometimes a roller coaster with regards to my physical, emotional and spiritual health. It can be draining at times but then I feel my Heavenly Father's love when times get difficult. 
As I've mentioned before we are currently teaching this man named bro. N........ We felt as though he was really starting to make progress but our lesson this past week was not what we expected. He flat out said to our faces the Book of Mormon is not true and he doesn't even feel the need to pray. Unfortunately we don't feel like there is anything else we can do. We he said it isn't true I bore testimony more boldly then I ever have before. I couldn't stand someone telling me to my face that everything were saying is false and basically we are wasting our time. It's unfortunate he isn't willing to go to God for answers, instead he continues to turn to the internet and books for answers. That is quite contrary to Moroni's counsel to pray with a "sincere heart." Anyone that prays about it with a sincere heart and real intent will receive an answer without a doubt in my mind. We can't expect God to answer our prays if we are skeptical He will answer us in the first place. 
 
Well not much else happened this week. I met my mission president for the first time and he is awesome! I am really excited to work with him and he is very enthusiastic about the work. Transfers are coming this next week but it sounds like I'll still be in Welkom for another transfer. 
 
Love you all,
Elder Summers

Tired but Moving Forward

July 8, 2013
 
Hello everyone,

It's been another great week here in Welkom/Phahameng. The work is moving forward in both of these areas and I am physically exhausted! I hope my body can keep up. I was reading through D&C 84 (oath & covenant of the priesthood) and there is a special promise the Lord gives us as we remain faithful to the priesthood. He says that as we are faithful we will be blessed with the renewal and sanctification of our bodies. I have definitely felt that which I am thankful for! As President Monson said in this past conference, missionary work is not easy! It requires long hours, selfless service and dedicated work. It is all worth it though as I feel the blessings of serving the Lord each and everyday in my life. I've never felt more peace and joy then I currently do as I am serving the Lord with all my heart, might and strength. 
 
This past week we were able to move forward with a couple of investigators we are teaching and 2 young women were interviewed for baptism. L..... and N..... (both 17 years old) were interviewed and are ready to be baptized next Sunday which is exciting. My previous companion and I started teaching them a couple of months ago. They come to church every Sunday and they are very ready to be baptized. N.......struggled a lot with English when we first started teaching her, we had to have someone translating for us at first. Now her English is great and no one has to translate anymore. It's incredible to see how the Lord has blessed her and how the gospel is changing her life. I'll report on their baptisms next week! 
 
We also are teaching a YSA girl named A....... My previous comp and I tracted into her home a couple of months ago. She has been progressing pretty well and we challenged her to baptism this past week. She said she wants to be baptized correctly because when she was baptized when she was 11 she didn't feel it was right. We have had great lessons with her and we hope she continues to move forward. 
 
We also met with bro. N....... (the one who has A LOT of questions) a couple of times this past week. He attended church the previous Sunday so he had a ton of questions about church. He loves everything about our church. The humanitarian aid, the values, the focus on families, the programs, us as missionaries, etc but he won't read the Book of Mormon! He says our church is great except for this book. We finally forced him to read with us in a lesson so he can see it's not a devils book. As we related some scriptures to him we could tell he is starting to feel the spirit. He keeps trying to get us to contradict ourselves but each time by the end he always says: "You guys just have all the answers and it's pure Christianity!" He is getting there and his wife is starting to get interested too. She was giving him fire in the lesson saying that they need to start reading the Book of Mormon. This guy is a future branch president I'm telling you if he can develop a testimony. It may take a little time but he's getting there! Bro. N...... makes me think of what I would have been like if I was an investigator. I think I would have had a lot of questions like him haha. In the end it all comes down to reading for yourself and knowing it's true by praying to God. 
 
The church is true!! 
 
Love you all,
Elder Summers