Monday, December 9, 2013

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

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