Monday, April 29, 2013

Area number 3 here we come....

Hello friends and family,

This past week has been my final week here in the little kingdom of Phuthaditjhaba. I'm moving onto my third area! So the new place I'm going is called Welkom (pronounced velcom), it's a heavily Afrikaans area. My first area of Margate was a mix of the Zulu and Xolsa tribes along with Afrikaaners. My area here in PJ is all Sotho people and now Welkom is primarly an Afrikaans with some Sotho. Welkom is on the very outer edge of our mission so I'm going further into outer darkness haha. I've heard that they have a chapel there and it's a more established branch. I also heard some news that the Bloemfontein district that I'm currently in will be turning into a Stake. It will be the 3rd stake in our mission which is cool. Anyways, my new companion is Elder Ramasanandro, he is from Madagascar. I have met him a couple of times in the past, he is pretty old on mission I think. I'm covering all of the African continent with my companions! First one from Liberia, 2nd from Zimbabwe, 3rd from South Africa, 4th from Zambia and now Madagascar. 

The baptism yesterday went really well. There were 2 people baptized and we had the most people at church I've seen since I've been here. We had 60 people! We actually didn't set out enough sacrament cups (normally only like 30 people there in time for sacrament) so we had to go get some more water and re-bless it. Church was pretty hectic with the baptisms and directing all of the investigators that came yesterday. One of the speakers didn't show up for sacrament so the branch president called my name to come speak, I wasn't even prepare with anything when he called me up as the first speaker. It ended up being one of my best talks I've given because I was just telling what I know to be true with regards to the Book of Momron. I spoke on the Book of Mormon as the keystone of our religion and how satan cannot divide himself so he could not give us a book that leads us to Christ. It was great and I felt the spirit really stong as I bore testimony of the divinity of the Book of Mormon. 

Brother B______ gave a great testimony after he was baptized and it was so great to see how he has come to know the church is true. Something funny happened with his testimony though. In his testimony he said: "At first when Elder Summers showed up I had doubts about joining this church but now all my doubts are gone!" Then after he was done with his testimony the Brother conducting the baptism stood up and said: "Doubts...We all had doubts at first!" Hahaha it was pretty funny the way he said it. The water was so cold baptizing B______, I don't know how people get baptized here in the middle of winter. It was a really sunny day yesterday and it was still freezing. We are using a temporary pool that we have to set up before church and run the tap water through a hose into the pool. I'm glad I was just doing the baptizing and I didn't have to go under! One of our investigators who we started teaching a couple weeks ago, I have talked about her in the past, came to the baptism. Her name is A____ and this past week she even talked about how she wants to be a missionary. We committed her to baptism but she said she is scared of water. She said she enjoyed the baptism and I think it was good for her to see.  

Well onto my next challenge, I'll miss this place! I've met such amazing people and some of their circumstances have truly humbled me. It's hard to say good bye to people but hopefully I'll be able to come back someday. It's amazing to see the strength of some of these saints and the devotion they give to the gospel. They truly are willing to sacrifice so much and disciples of Christ. 

Elder Summers 

Friday, April 26, 2013

Snow in Africa


Hello everyone,

Wow it's cold here. Would you ever think of snow when you think of Africa? Well it was my first time seeing snow but it was only in the mountains. Apparently it won't snow down close to us until June and July. I'll be gone by that time though! Transfer news is this next Sunday and it sounds like I'll be leaving. I seriously felt like I was back home this past week it was so cold. We constantly have our little heaters running at home and I'm always having to wear a coat now. This is not what I was expecting when I got sent to Africa! I have no drank so much tea in my life, luckily not very many peolpe here drink coffee and the only tea most people drink is Roboles tea (herbal tea). I'm beginning to like it though.

I had the chance to watch conference the last 2 days! It was so great to hear from the leaders of the church. The talks were great as always and I can't wait to go back and read over them. My favorite talk hands down was Elder Holland, he is such a powerful speaker..."With those that believe nothing is impossible." Priesthood session was also really nice and applicable to this current branch. It's so great to see how missionary work is moving forward and all of the emphasis in conference on missionary service. There was also a ton of emphasis on obedience to the commandments, strengthing our homes and building our foundations upon Jesus Christ. There were definietly some themes throughout conference.

Well this past week nothing too crazy happened. B_____ was interviewed for baptism and did great! One of the couple missionaries interviewed him and after the interview he came to us and said:

Elder: "There is only one problem Elders."
Us: "Wait, what?" (Kind of nervous...)
Elder: "You need to find 10 more like him!"

Phew. That made me a little nervous when he said there was a problem haha. He is very ready though and I can't wait to see him baptized next Sunday. It's going to be a very cold baptism since we have to use the tap water at the school, lets hope the sun is out! B______ absolutely loved conference and just kept talking about all the talks he loved. He said he was thrilled to see how the church uses humanitarian aid throughout the world and just how large the church really is. Sometimes people think the church is just this little branch in Phutaditjhaba so we have to help emphasize that it's a world wide church.

This next week will be my final time in PJ and I'm excited to finish out the week here strong. The work is moving forward here and eventually it will be a strong and thriving branch I have no doubt.

Love you all,
Elder Summers

The Work is Hastening


Dear family and friends,

This past week has been pretty awesome. I'm not really sure where to start so I'll just begin by saying L______ is power! L_______ is the father we baptized on my birthday about a month ago. Every single week since his baptism he has brought a new friend or family member to church. Most of them are visiting from other places. For example, his sister visited from Johannesburg a few weeks ago and she loved church. We taught her the restoration after church before she went back home to Joburg. She is now meeting with missionaries there and attending church. L_____ is pretty sure she will be baptized. This past Sunday he brought his younger brother who is staying here for the month (He is also from Joburg) and his best friend from childhood. First off, both of them absolutely loved church. Everyone is always so shocked that we don't have a pastor that gets up there for 2 hours and preaches, they always love the gospel principles class where we have a discussion and ask questions.

 His best friend is just visting for the week. His name is C_____. We had a great lesson with him the day before church and he also loved everything about church. He literally sounds the exact same as L______ when we first met him, He told us he already has the desire to be baptized, the difficulty will be getting his wife back home to follow along because she has grown up in a church her whole life. C_____ is going back home tomorrow and wants to contact missionaries there immediately. I contacted our office to get the missionaries information and I also discovered that the branch is pretty small where he lives. This might be exactly what this branch needs there! Another strong priesthood holder. It is amazing how L______ is brining so many people into the gospel. One man is going to end up touching the lives of hundreds of people for generations to come. His parents are also super interested in being baptized but the difficulty is that L's father can't walk very well so it's hard for him to get to church. His mother also struggles with English but they are reading all of the Sotho materials we give them, including the Book of Mormon in Tswana. Tswana is a very similar language to Sotho, the Book of Mormon isn't in Sotho yet.

We also had a couple of powerful lessons with this family we found last week! There is the daughter, mother and a father. The daughter is powerful! We gave her the For the Strength of Youth last Wednesday, when we went back on Friday she had read the entire thing from front to back. This girl is definietly going to be baptized, no doubt in my mind. The mother keeps saying she feels so blessed to have us in her home. We have only taught them 3 times so far but I can already tell they are going to accept everything we teach them. They are progressing very well. They have all the right questions.

We also met with brother B______. He told us that when we taught him the word of wisdom a couple of weeks ago he immediately threw away all of his cigarettes and destroyed all of his beer bottles. He hasn't smoked since then. After we gave him a blessing he said he felt renewed strength and that he doesn't have the desire to really smoke anymore. He is still reading everything we give him like crazy and says that he is ready to be baptized on the 28th of April. He says that ever since we found him in January his life has changed and that the Book of Mormon is changing his life. He said he has never felt so much joy and peace. It's incredible what the gospel will do! So many of these people that find us and accept our message always say the same thing: They wish they had found us earlier! I always relate the story of laborers in the vineyard. It doesn't matter what time of day we come, all that matters is that we embrace it and move forward. The reward is the same no matter what time of the day we come into contact with this message. L____'s mother had this question because she said she feels too old to be baptized again. We told her to read the story of the laborers in the vineyard in Matthew. I love that parable, Elder Holland gave a great talk on it from the April conference of last year. I would recommend reading it if you haven't had the chance!

I was reflecting this morning on all of the things this area has taught me the past 6 months. This branch is currently run by the branch president and missionaries. There are no other mel. priesthood holders who are stepping up. Literally if the missionaries or BP left the branch would collapse. Due to this, I have learned how to be a clerk, use MLS, conduct the music in sacrament, teaching priesthood/sunday school with no prep, setting everything up for church, etc. etc. This branch has taught me to be grateful for the establishment of the church back home! Be thankful to even have an Elders quorum president! There is no clerk let alone an Elders quorum president here. The missionaries teach almost every class haha. I'm not complaning in the least bit, I kind of enjoy the challenge more than anything and it's helping me grow as a missionary. We;ve been able to bring in some very converted brethren the last couple of months that are working towards being ordained as Elders. We currently have 3 Aaronic priesthood holders (all eligible Elders) who were baptized in the last 5 months who are close to being ordained as Elders. All 3 of these brethren will help this branch so much. Including brother B_____ who is about to be baptized. The missionaries can't run this thing forever! The work is moving forward here and this branch has so much potential. We are really trying to put an emphasis on getting converts not baptisms in this mission. We don't need more less actives as a burden to the branch.

I have learned some valuable lessons here.There is opposition in all good things but ultimately God is great and has more power and His work will move on despite the opposition.  I'll most likely be leaving in a couple of weeks, transfer news is the 28th of April. I'm almost certain because the way this mission works is that missionaries serve in areas for between 4 1/2 and 6 months. It's very rare that a missionary stays in an area for 7 1/2, but it's always a possibility. This church is so true! The Lord has got this. I love you all!

Elder Summers



Dear everyone,

I apologize for not writing very much these past few weeks. We have faced some struggles in our little kingdom of PJ but through the Lord all things are possible. I find solace in the words of the Lord to the Prophet Joseph Smith while he was incarcerated in Liberty jail. D&C 121: 7-8: "My son, peace be unto thy soul; thine adversity and thine afflictions shall be but a small moment; And then, if though endure it well, God shall exalt thee on high; thou shalt triumph over all thy foes." Often times we expect immediate answers to our prayers and concerns when sometimes the heavenly virture of patience is required. This area has humbled me and helped me further develop the attribute of patience. It hasn't always been easy but in the end we feel stronger after we press through those trials and challenges.

Easter week was pretty difficult because everyone was busy with their church services. Here in South Africa there are literally hundreds of different Christian churches. Everytime I ask people what church they are from I swear I hear a new church each time. It's incredible but also helps us with sharing the message of the restoration. I have finally discovered an incredible way to entice people to hearing the message of the restoration this past week. A lot of people are reluctant to really sit down and meet because they think we are just going to open the Bible and discuss, they don't fully grasp the unique message we have to share. A question that so many people have here has to do with all of these so called "prophets" in South Africa. There are hundreds of "prophets" who go around performing incredible miracles in the name of Christ. Many people are confused by this because Jesus Christ himself said there would be many false prophets in our day so people want to know how they can find a true prohpet! Well fortunately we have the answers. We have been expounding the Bible when it comes to prophets and it really makes people interested when we help them discover how to find a true prophet. It's hard to describe just the amount of confusion here, there are literally so many churches and miracle workers around here. Well teaching about false prophets and finding a true prophet leads perfeclty into introducing Joseph Smith and his "fruit" of the Book of Mormon.

The dificulty the last month has been actually finding people. Well I am thankful for the promptings of the spirit and the guidance of the Lord here. I have been having an overwhelming feeling to switch the area we are tracting in to an area that is a little out of our way that we never go into. I finally decided to act on that prompting and start tracting there. We were able to find 3 families and a few other very interested investigators. Finding full families is very difficult here so the fact that we were able to find a few was a blessing. One family in paticular really motivated me to keep going out and finding. After having an appointment fall through in the afternoon, we were sitting in the car thinking about who we could visit. While sitting there, I had a prompting to check on this family we had tracted into. We found this family on Good Friday, the day of Christ's death, so they were really busy getting ready for church. They didn't seem all that interested when we found them and said we could just come back anytime (usually a sign they have no interest). Well we decided to go and check on them. We pulled up to the house and it looked really quiet, no cars there or anything. I was kind of confused why the spirit directed me here if no one is home. Well we decided to go knock anyways, to our surprise we found a young woman early 20's and her mother. At first they didn't really seem all that interested but we sat down an started to get to know them. We discovered they had just moved here a month earlier and don't really have a church, they are just going to a friends church until they can "find truth" they said.

Well let me tell you somethng, these 2 sisters have all the right questions. They are so confused by prophets, the many churches and where authority has gone. We taught the entire restoration and they were so excited. When we introduced the Book of Mormon the mother said this is what she has been looking for. The daughter is a really smart girl and I think this family has a lot of potential to progress. I'm really excited to go back and discuss more with them. We were able to teach a few other great families too, the Lord is opening doors for us.

In addition to the many new investigators we found this week, bro. B and sis. V are getting really close to baptism. It is going to be tight but unfortunately I think I'll be transferred before they get baptized. They are both ready to be baptized this very minute but they have to overcome word of wisdom problems first. Nothing else is holding them back right now. Both of them have the resolve to quit it's is just taking a little time. Brother B____ is progressing a little faster when it comes to word of wisdom, he has quit for about a week now. It will be great to have him in the branch because it will be another priesthood holder. It still amazes me to think he will be baptized, he is so different from when we met him a few months ago. He reads the Book of Mormon like crazy and loves reading everything we give him.

Patience. Sometimes patience is what the Lord requires of us. If we recieved answers immediately and never faced opposition there would be no test of our faith, no development of our character and no purpose to this mortal life. Sometimes we resist the very thing that would give us strength in hopes of an "easy" way out. Sometimes we need to step back and realize that the Lords "got this" and He sees the big picture. I find comfort in the words of Mosiah 4:9 in times of need: "Believe in God...believe that He has all wisdom...believe that man doth not comprehend all things the Lord can comprehend."

I love you all and wish the blessings of heaven upon you. Unfortunately I won't be able to see general conference for a few weeks, I hope you all enjoyed it though!

Elder Summers

Interesting Week


Hello everyone,

This past week has been an interesting one. We had transfers on Tuesday, one of the 4 Elders here in PJ (Elder Caldwell, the other American) left to a new area in Swaziland. The new missionary here is another greenie so we have 2 green missionaries here in PJ. The new Elder is from Uganda and he kind of forgot something important in Uganda... his license. My comp and I are in the walking area and the other 2 have the car. So the problem is I'm the only one with a license here in PJ! The other 2 have had to use the bikes all week and my comp and I have used the car. It's difficult for the other Elders because their area is huge and we don't really even need a car for our area. The car is a manual and I didn't know how to drive manual but I figured it out on Tuesday and were getting around just fine. Driving manual is actually pretty fun! Drivers here are crazy as ever though, especially taxi drivers.

We currently have 2 investigators who are progressing very well towards baptism. Sister V_____ and Brother B_________. The other problem we are facing with both of them right now is that they have some word of wisdom problems to overcome. Both of them really want to overcome their problems and they are doing their best. We challenged B_______ (he is a father, retired) to baptism about 2 weeks ago and he accepted. He has been reading the Book of Mormon like crazy! He understands what he is reading better than an investigator I have ever taught. He recalls such small details from what he is reading and the best part is that he is telling us how much it's changing his life. He said the Book of Mormon is making him want to repent and his faith in Jesus Christ is stronger than ever. The Book of Mormon truly is an incredible book. I have learned better than ever to not judge a person when you first meet them! When we first met B__________ I never thought he would be baptized. He had zero interest in meeting with us and just seemed like an old grumpy man. Now he loves us and is so excited to meet with us, the gospel can change anyone.

Sister V________ is also progressing well. We first found her and her family around the new year, we taught one of her daughters the restoration and referred her to the missionaries where she was going to school. She was baptized a couple of weeks ago, she called me and said that the Book of Mormon has completely changed her life. It will be so great to see this whole family become members. V_______ also has 2 little boys (ages 10 and 5) who will have the chance to grow up in the church. We are planning on baptizing B________ and V________ towards the end of April. I hope it all works out because I'll be leaving at the very end of April to a new area so it would be nice to see their baptisms.

Our recent converts are doing great. L_____ and L_______ both received the Aaronic priesthood the other week and they have both given talks in sacrament meeting. L_______ gave a talk yesterday and he sounded like he has been a member for a decade! I have never seen a recent convert so converted to the gospel. He wants to share the Book of Mormon with everyone! He is coming an doing missionary work with us and he is talking to all of his friends and family. His parents are super interested and they love us but the problem is that they speak very limited English. I'm hoping a translation of the Book of Mormon to Sesotho comes soon, there are quite a few Sesotho speakers in South Africa and the Book of Mormon isn't in their language. Anyways, time is moving fast and I can't believe I'll be leaving this area within a month.

I hope you all have a great Easter week! Jesus Christ lives and this is indeed His church on the earth once more.
Love you all,
Elder Summers
John 16:33