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


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.
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!!
Elder Summers