Sunday, July 7, 2013

Happy 4th of July!

July 1, 2013

Happy 4th of July everyone!

It's crazy to think that this time last year I was leaving the MTC and entering the mission field. This past year has definitely changed my life (for the better of course) and I'll never be the same. A year ago I was so nervous to enter the mission field and unsure of what was to come. Now I know what I'm doing and I'm enjoying mission more than ever. I feel like I could do this forever honestly haha. Teaching the gospel is great! My companion and I are getting along very well and the work is on fire right now. We are really starting to find great people and the Lord is working miracles.

I don't have a lot of experiences to share from this past week but there was something I was reflecting on. In South Africa there are many "prophets" and people that perform "miracles" in front of huge crowds. Every time I see them on peoples TV's here I feel peace leave my heart. So often people ask us if these people are real prophets. Each time I point them to Mathew 7 which talks about false prophets and by their fruits we will know them. Then we direct them to Galatians 5:22 which tells us the fruits of the spirit. When they hear these prophets do they feel the fruits of the spirit? There response almost every time is a resolute no. If we don't feel peace or joy in our hearts then we will know that these things are not from God. This leads me to an experience we had this past week.

We were doing tracting and found a pastor that invited us in. At the door she asked us a question about being "born again" and I directed her to the Saviors conversation with Nicodemus in John 3. Like many pastors here in South Africa she quoted Romans 10 which talks about confessing with your lips and in your heart and you will be saved (even if your a murderer and you confess Jesus on your death bed she said...not joking). As she was talking she started to yell and get really loud. Immediately I didn't feel the spirit and I felt as though the spirit could not be present in the conversation. As soon as I felt it leave I decided it wasn't even worth it to try and Bible bash with her. We told her what we believe and cut the conversation short. I knew the spirit wasn't there and it wasn't worth our time. Only the spirit can teach us the truth and if it's not present then we can't do our job.

Teaching by the spirit is essential to everything we do in missionary work. The way that I know Thomas S. Monson is a true prophet unlike many people who claim to be "prophets" is because I feel peace in my heart when he speaks. The spirit more often then not does not work through overwhelming emotions. As the scriptures describe it, the spirit is a still small voice which will bring peace to our hearts. Sometimes we feel like we have to have these overwhelming experiences in order to say we "feel the spirit." As members of the church we have all been given the gift of the Holy Ghost. Most of the time the spirit is going to give us calm and peaceful feelings. This is something I wish I understood a little bit better before I came on my mission. Now I more fully recognize that the spirit is with me even when I'm not feeling a huge burning or overwhelming experience in my heart.

Each and everyday I am learning something new through the spirit. I have come to recognize that only through the spirit can we teach and learn. There is a father named Bro. N____ that I spoke about last week. We had a lesson with him on Wednesday and he was firing questions at us left and right. He likes to use the internet by the way. I've never received so many different questions in a single lesson. After we answered one of his questions his wife started to give him fire saying that some of his questions are ridiculous. He responded by saying he was trying to give us a "challenge." After that we told him that the spirit of a man teaches the things of a man but the spirit of God will teach the things of God. He was trying to have us convince him but that's not our job! Our job is to teach our message with clarity and simplicity and have them gain an answer through the spirit. We are really trying to help him understand that the ONLY way to receive an answer is not through us but by the spirit of God. It was an important reminder for me that we will always have questions but the only source of truth is our Heavenly Father. As Elder Holland said in conference, it's okay to have questions but what we know will always trump what we don't know. All things are possible to them that believe. We will never know everything but that is part of the purpose in life. As Mosiah 4:9 states: "Believe in God...believe that he has all wisdom...believe that man doth not comprehend all things which the Lord can comprehend." We must believe and don't let our belief waver because unanswered questions. Go to God and He will answer you through the spirit, don't go to the internet for answers.

I know this church is true not because other people have convinced me but because I have prayed and I feel the spirit of peace, love and joy when I pray to my Heavenly Father to know the truth.

I hope you all have a great 4th of July and never forget the sacrifices of those that gave us independence! By the way, this past week on June 27th was the anniversary of the martyrdom of Joseph and Hyrum Smith in 1844. I hope we never forget all they sacrificed so that we have the fullness of the gospel today.

I love you all!!

Elder Summers

Knocking, Knocking, Knocking...

June 24, 2013

Hello everyone,
This past week was powerful to say the least and the Lord is pouring down His blessings upon these areas we cover in Welkom and Phahamang. We currently have 3 young women between the ages of 17 and 18 (all referrals from the branch) in Phahamang ready to be baptized on July 14th. We just started teaching all 3 of them about a month ago. They are all progressing very well and it will be exciting to see them all baptized together. Phahamang has its struggles when it comes to finding investigators but we are starting to find some great people there.

As for Welkom we did a lot of good ol' knocking on doors this week. Welkom is a little more difficult area because it's mixed with races and people are richer there. We were able to find some really cool people through finding this week and I've never found that many new investigators my entire mission. We found one family of 6 and another family of 4, including a few other individuals. The family of 6 consists of a mother and mostly daughters and we have had 2 good lessons with them so far.
We also found an Afrikaaner named I_____who invited us back. Now when it comes to knocking on an Afrikaans door it is often pretty difficult to get a return appointment. I_____ is the first Afrikaans person I have ever gotten a return appointment with on my entire mission. We came back on Sunday and had a lesson with him, his brother, his cousin and his girlfriend. They are all between the ages of 18 and 30. We had a great lesson with them and helped answer some of their classes with regards to life after death. They have potential to progress and it was the first white family I've taught since I've been in South Africa.

Now the cool story of the week was this family of 4 (N____ family) we found in Welkom. My companion and I have specifically been praying and fasting to be able to find a father led family. The Welkom branch only needs 1 or 2 more active priesthood holders to become a ward. We were doing tracting on Wednesday night. We approached a door and found no one home. As we were leaving a car pulled up to the house. A father jumped out with his 2 sons and greeted us in Zulu. It was weird to hear Zulu because this is a Sotho area and there are pretty much no Zulus living here. We greeted him back and he invited us in. He was so happy and willing to let us in. He sat down with us and said: "So gentlemen what school do you go to and how can I donate?" Haha he thought we were school children, not too uncommon I guess.

Well we explained that we are missionaries and started helping to answer his questions. He hasn't attended church in years because of the politics within churches and the pastors becoming very rich. Then he asked us: "What makes your church different from all the hundreds of churches here?" We began to go into the restoration and we eventually got to Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon. After explaining the entire restoration, he said that he could tell something is different here. Then he asked us if we have a website. He got his laptop (pretty rare to see that here...) and pulled up We watched some Mormon messages with him and even got onto the topic of temples. All of this happened in the very first visit with him! We ended up being with him for 2 hours. As we were leaving and telling him thanks for his time he replied: "No, thank you to you guys for opening my eyes." Wow, the Lord was preparing this guy. We will see what happens but we think he has a ton of potential, future bishop!

The Lord is preparing His children to receive the restored gospel and the work is progressing. We currently have a ton of people progressing at the moment and we will hope to see some of them entering the waters of baptism very soon.

Love you all,
Elder Summers

Happy Father's Day!

June 17, 2013

Happy fathers day!! 

I can't believe that one year ago at this time I was giving my farewell talk! It's incredible how fast time flies by. I was able to give a talk in sacrament meeting once again for fathers day except this time it was with the Phahameng branch of 40 people meeting in a very little school building. It was really cold too! This place is becoming colder by the day, I never knew Africa could feel like back home. It was great to give a talk to this little branch and I felt prompted to speak on overcoming trials. There have been a lot of people facing difficult trials within this branch recently so I think it went well. No matter the challenges we may face we can always find comfort in the fact that our Savior loves us and He will help us move on. 

So I got my new companion on Tuesday. I dropped off Elder Ramasinandro on Monday night to take an overnight bus down to Durban (about an 8 hour bus ride) to his new area where he will complete his mission. I then slept over Monday night while waiting for my new companion to arrive Tuesday night. On Tuesday I was with Elder Hilton for the day while he awaited the arrival of his new companion too. Elder Hilton is from Cedar Hills and he went to Lone Peak. I have seen him a lot on my mission and we have become pretty good friends. I can't believe I never knew him before coming here! He is a really cool guy and it was fun to work with him for the day. My new companion then arrived that night and we headed back to Welkom on Wednesday morning. My new companion is Elder Mokoena and he is from Johannesburg, South Africa. He arrived on mission one transfer before me (6 weeks) and this is his 3rd area here in Welkom. He served for 6 months in Swaziland and 7 1/2 months in Durban, those are long times in an area! He is a really cool guy and we are getting along great so far. I believe we are going to find some success together. In case anyone was wondering this is my 6th companion and yes all of my companions have been from Africa. It will be weird when I get an American companion, I've gotten too used to being with Africans. 

So I'll relate one experience from this past week. We were doing quite a bit of knocking on doors because a lot of our appointments were falling through. Literally everyone was rejecting us while knocking on doors which is pretty unusual for South Africa. Usually we can get in about 75% of the doors we knock on. I felt like I was in Margate again (that's my first area for those wondering... it was a very rich and difficult area). Well after knocking for a while I decide we should check on a contact we had met on the street. She had given us her house number a few weeks back and she lives pretty close to the chapel. When we got there we found the father outside and he let us in. The girl who gave us her details was not home but we started talking to the father and mother. Their name is the M_____ family. They are a Xolsa family, Xolsas are a minority tribe in this area (they have a lot of clicking sounds in their language!) I have mentioned before that this area in Welkom is primarily the Sotho tribe but in my first area of Margate it was primarily the Xolsa tribe so it's been a while since I've heard Xolsa. 

The mother then asked us a question: "Are you saved?" A common question here. I responded: "It depends on your definition of saved, how are we saved?" She didn't know how to respond to the question so then her husband sort of was making fun of her. The husband said: "You are a church goer every week but you are empty up here! (pointing to his head)" Then the wife shot back in kind: "It's better I go to church every week then going to the tavern everyday like you!" We started laughing, we couldn't help ourselves. Then the husband said: "It doesn't matter where we pray. We can pray at home, on the toilet or even in the tavern! 'Dear God, How many beers can I drink tonight?' and 'Dear God, please help me drink these 3 beers!'" My companion and I started laughing so hard. This father was hilarious. After a little discussion the mother really wanted us to come back but as we were leaving the father said: "I probably won't be there, I'll be praying in the tavern." Ahh too funny. 

Well we went back to visit this family yesterday. They have 9 people in their family, mostly girls. We sat down with 6 of them yesterday (mother, 3 daughters, young son and the house keeper). As we came into the home it was weird to hear Xolsa language again, I haven't heard it for almost 10 months. I could still remember some Xolsa so they all started laughing when they heard me (a white American) clicking and asking them in their language some questions haha. This country has too many languages but I have learned some basics in Zulu, Xolsa and Sotho. I haven't learned any Afrikaans yet, that language is hard! Anyways, we taught them the entire restoration and they seemed pretty interested. They have a very limited knowledge of the gospel but we feel like they can make some progress. We left them with the Book of Mormon in English and Xolsa, they were excited to see we have the Book of Mormon in their language. We'll see what happens with this family, we meet them again this Friday. The smartest person in that lesson that understood the best was the 10 year old boy! That kid had great English for a 10 year old and I was shocked that out of everyone he understood the best. It's always weird for me to see some kids speaking such great English here because it's not their first language. 

Well it's been a pretty great week with my companion and I'm excited to head into my 2nd year of serving the Lord. I cannot wait to see what is still to come and the miracles that lay in store. I love you all and I am so grateful for your continued support! I am especially thankful to those that write me letters, they mean so much. 

Elder Summers


June 10, 2013

Hello everyone,

First off I just want to congratulate my dad and my new step mom on their marriage! I wish I could have been there but unfortunately there are quite a few miles separating American Fork and Welkom, South Africa haha. I am so excited for the 2 of you and wish you all the best moving forward. It's interesting about a year ago this time I went through the temple for the first time to receive my endowment at the very same temple you were married in. That's pretty cool!

This past week was pretty amazing. We had some awesome spiritual experiences and we found some great new people. We were able to find a couple of fathers that are pretty interested in our message in Phahameng. The difficult part of serving in Phahameng is the language barrier. The majority of the community is very impoverished. The schools there are not teaching English adequately so we struggle to communicate. Most of the older people only know Sesotho and Afrikaans (learned Afrikaans in school during apartheid) so Americans like myself really struggle. We almost always have a translator with us but it really is just too hard to teach the gospel having everything translated. Anyways, these fathers we found actually speak English pretty well so we are hoping to progress with them. And by the way, we don't face many language problems in Welkom because it is an established community so almost everyone knows English here.

We had a really funny lesson this past week when we were teaching a father, his daughter and the brother in law. Only the daughter knew English and the 2 older men don't speak English. One of the men speaks Xolsa and Sotho and the other one only knows Xolsa. Our translator with us only knew Sotho so we were having English translated to Sotho then Sotho translated to Xolsa. We literally were talking in circles but they were such humble men and they really want to learn. We are hoping to focus on the daughter because she knows English very well and wants to learn. Hopefully we can help her be converted and she can help her father and brother in law learn.

Then on Saturday we had a lesson that I'll never forget. We went in to teach a young mother for the first time. Her younger brother has been less active and when we were visiting with him she asked if we could come teach her. When we sat down and started teaching her it was obvious she doesn't know much about the gospel. She is very confused by the many different Christian churches and stopped going to church a while ago. She said every time she goes to church the pastors just dump information and she doesn't learn anything. As we began expounding the basic doctrines of the church the spirit instantly filled the room. We were helping her understand basic questions such as who is God and what is the gospel. Those seem like such simple questions but they are incredibly misunderstood here! As we began answering her questions and teaching her both my companion and I got the same impression from the spirit: "Challenge her to baptism." At first when that came to my mind I said: "What? It's only our first meeting with her!" But as we challenged her to baptism she accepted and she was so excited. I have never seen someone so happy to hear to gospel and be baptized.

She said that every time we come to visit in her home with her brother she "feels something different." She said that every time we leave she feels something leaving with us. We helped her understand that's the spirit and asked her if she would always like to have that feeling. There are also a few members who live around her and she says that she sees something different in their lives. They are always blessed and seem happy and she said she wants that. This just goes to show that example speaks louder than words! You never know who is watching and I am very grateful to the example of those faithful saints in living the gospel. Because they are living the gospel it has prepared the way for another sister to enter into the waters of baptism. When we were teaching her I couldn't help but smile, I don't think I've ever felt that happy in a lesson. And the best part is that this has motivated this less active brother to come back to church. He has been at church the past 2 weeks after not attending for a few months.

Keep living the gospel, you never know who is watching.

Elder Summers