Wednesday, June 5, 2013

The Spirit of God

May 20, 2013
Family and friends,
It has been an absolutely powerful, uplifting and humbling week. God truly does live and this really is His church! I can't even begin to express how I'm feeling at the moment. Let me just start out by saying that I was struggling a little bit coming into my new area because I was missing all of the great people in PJ. It's always tough coming into a new place because once again you have to learn everything from the start! I received so many tender mercies from the Lord this past week and answers to my prayers. Sometimes the call to serve as a missionary can be quite overwhelming especially with heavy responsibilities. As I was reflecting on some of the things weighing me down and trying to see how I could best move forward. As I was pondering and reading I immediately had the words of a hymn come into my mind: "Because I have been given much I too must give..." I have been blessed with so very much and the least I can do is serve the Lord for 2 years with all my heart, might and strength. Although at times the call to serve can be difficult, it's worth it! I felt the Lord ever present in my life this past week and found that just going to work and serving those around me was the best antidote for any struggles.
Well those answers to my prayers came at the start of my week. We then pressed forward going out and rescuing the lost sheep in our area. We were able to track down a couple of less actives that haven't seen the missionaries in years. Sometimes it is so difficult to find these less actives but we were led to a few of them. I will relate one experience that helped me feel the presence of the spirit stronger than ever before on my mission. We were trying to find a less active girl who was around 25 years old. We went to the address but found that she had moved and her number had changed. We were able to find her new address which just happened to be within the vicinity. As we visited her new address at first we found a friend who said that someone by the name we were looking for did not live there. But as we were about to leave then I asked who lived there and found that she was using her other name (Africans have many different names). We were led in and just "happened" to find her there. Most of the time she is working and not home but she just once again "happened" to be home at that time. Nothing happens by coincidence in missionary work.

As we sat down and began to talk to her she told us everything that had been happening. She hadn't been to church in a couple of years and was kind of hiding because of some things that had happened. We were able to relate to her the power of the atonement and the story of Enos. I love the story of Enos in the first 8 verses because it shows how Enos was forgiven. His guilt was swept away because of his faith in Jesus Christ. I could relate to her on some levels and the spirit was so strong. I really hope she will have the courage to come back and overcome the trials that she has been faced with. It gave me further testimony that the Lord is mindful of all His children.
Well I thought the week was going pretty well and then it got even better. We came to Bloemfontein (about 2 hours away, we apart of that district) for district conference on Sunday. It was a historic weekend because Bloemfontein was turning into a stake! Okay so that might not sound like a very big deal but let me give you guys some background. South Africa has not had a district turned into a stake in a very very long time. Most of the stakes created here have been stakes that have been split or stakes added onto an existing stake. Elder Carl B. Cook came to Bloemfontein under the direction of the First Presidency to create Bloemfontein into a stake of zion. This was Elder Cook's first time since he has been a in the Africa South East area presidency and a member of the 1st quorum of the seventy that he has seen a district created into a stake here in Africa. That kind of gives you an idea of how incredible this moment was.
As the service began on Sunday you could just feel the excitement in the air. The chapel was completely packed! Just imagine one of our stake centers being packed all the way to the stage and then having to use overflow classrooms. There were close to 1,000 people there! The spirit was so strong and the meeting started off by singing hymn number 2 "The Spirit of God." Wow, I don't know what else to say. It was powerful when we sung that hymn as a congregation! There were so many wonderful testimonies and it was great to see the new stake presidency called. And to make it even better about 15 people from the PJ branch were attending! I was able to see some of my great friends from PJ, including Lebohang and Lerato who we baptized. They were both sustained and set apart to receive the Melchizedek priesthood at conference. That will be so great for that branch! After conference we stayed in a hotel for the night because we had zone conference the next day (today). The hotel was so nice!! We had a way nice breakfast made for us and incredibly comfortable beds. I felt like I was in the MTC again haha. That was a lot of fun!
And then to top it all off we had an incredible zone conference today. This was President and Sister Von Stettens last zone conference on mission. They are heading home in just a months time! I thought I had felt the spirit strong the past week but I can't even begin to describe the spirit that was felt in that chapel as 40 Elders sat and listened to their mission president bear his testimony and final words. I have never felt more committed and ready to go out and serve the Lord. President Von Stetten is an incredible mission President and it will be so sad to see him go. His service to this mission has been unbelievable. He completely turned the Durban mission around from what it used to be 3 years ago (it didn't have the greatest reputation before). I only wish I could help people fully understand the peace and comfort that comes from the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. Although the gospel requires sacrifice and trials do come, I know my Savior loves me and I always have the strength to move forward with that knowledge. This truly is God's true and living church upon this earth today, I have no doubt. What we know will always trump what we don't know in the words of Elder Holland. Never let your doubts or questions with regards to the gospel overcome what you know to be true! I love you all!
Elder Summers

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