May 6, 2013
Where do I start this email? This has been an absolutely crazy week with so much to talk about. First off I'm here in Welkom (that is "Welcome" in Afrikaans) and the area is completely different from my
first area. In PJ I was the only white person but here there are quite a few whites. It is about 80% Sotho and 20% Afrikaaners/English people here in Welkom. Welkom is a mining community so whenever mines shut down everything is cut back and a lot of people move. The branch fluctuates quite a bit based off of what is happening in Welkom. There is a chapel here in Welkom which is really nice! The chapel was built in the late 1950's but it was recently rennovated so it's nice inside. The branch right now has between 45 and 60 people that come to church with quite a few less actives. The auxilaries are all filled and everything is very organized so I don't have to act as a chorister or clerk anymore which is nice!
Okay now to the kind of crazy thing I learned when I arrived. My companion and I actually cover 2 branches! The other branch we cover is in Bultfontein which is about 75 km's away (about 45miles). The
branch there was started about 10 years ago by a single man and his family! It is now a very powerful branch with about 50+ members each week at church. It is very similar to my area in PJ, very humble
people and no whites there. The people there are pretty poor. The meet in a high-school in the center of the area and from what I've seen it looks like a pretty nice school. The branch president there is legit
and loves missionary work. The branch has "mini missions" each month where they go out after church and do tracting! Then they give all of their referrals to the missionaries. Pretty cool eh? We switch off
where we go to church each week. Yesterday we went to church in Welkom so I'll have to tell you about church in Bultfontein next week. We switch off where we work each day. We work in Bultfontein on Tuesday and Wednesday and the rest of the days we work in Welkom.
So our district currently consists of 3 companionships. My companion and I in Welkom, 2 Elders in Kroonstad (small group meeting about 70k's from Welkom) and 2 Elders who just opened an area in Virginia (about 20k's from Welkom). On Wednesday when I arrived we went with the Elders and the couple missionaries to dedicate the city of Virginia for missionary work. Virginia has a few members living there and it's a really nice community. We went to a hill overlooking the city and said a dedicatory prayer. It was a very special experience and there was an incredible peace in the air. I believe that area will thrive! It's exciting to see the expansion.
Okay so you are probably wondering why I titled this email "the blind leading the blind." So within our district 4 Elders are brand new and the other 2 Elders have only been in their areas for one transfer (6
weeks)! My companion is completely lost here in Welkom. There are so many round abouts! They do not have traffic lights here in Welkom but instead just round abouts. It is crazy and really confusing. So my
companion doesn't really know the area all that well and it's been a struggle. I'm really considering buying a gps or else we are just going to run around lost. We are really trying to find less actives
but that is hard to do when you are lost.
We did manage to find a couple of really cool less active families though! I'll tell you about one of them we met yesterday. Their name is the C_____ family and they are really fun. There is a mother and 2
daughters (ages 18 and 13). Both my companion and I met them for the first time last night. They haven't met with missionaries in a long time and they haven't been to church in a couple of years. With less
actives you can't just go straight into their home and tell them to come to church, you really have to get to know them first. We spent 2 hours in their house just talking, laughing and getting to know them
without even discussing the gospel. After that we were about to get the daughters to open up. After there mom left the room to go cook we were about to get the daughters to tell us what was going on. They
told us they were all sealed in the temple about 10 years ago as a family. Then we found out their dad passed away in 2009 and their mom couldn't deal with coming to church anymore because it brought too
many memories of their father. They are still committed to the gospel but we just have to get them to see the light again. I was able to share some of my experiences with losing my mother the same year in
2009 and how the gospel and church helped me pull through that. The spirit was so strong and they really had a desire to help their mom start coming to church again. I think we'll be able to get this family
back but it may take a little time. The spirit was strong though and I was grateful we were able to be led by the spirit and discover their needs.
It is unfortunate to see people go less active in the church because I know the blessings the church has brought me in my life. I was able to overcome some of th emost difficult challenges in my life because of the gospel and the loving support of church members. In the worlds of Elder Andersen (I paraphrase): "You do not leave the protection of a storm shelter right as the tornado is in view" and the same applies to the gospel. You should not leave the roots of the church and the foundation of the gospel in your life as the challenges present themselves. Life is not easy but neither is salvation, as Jesus Christ
told his apostles in John 16:33: "...In the world ye shall have tribulation, but be not afraid I have overcome the world." There is someone who has experienced our pains and knows our challenges, Heavenly Father is very mindful of our needs and we can overcome anything as long as we exercise a little bit of faith and patience.
Love you guys and Happy mothers day this week!!