Chapter 28: I don't have pix yet... ES has his phone but I want this posted. I promise pictures will be forth coming for this chapter and the next!
We woke up this morning saying to each other: “It’s Friday? Can you believe it?”
No, the weeks are whizzing by. Friday’s always start off with a District Meeting. Today was Elder Lea A’toas (?) first time to conduct. He did a great job but his accent is so strong (he’s Tongan) that I’m sure I missed a few bits of council. The Elders left me home to prepare lessons and went to Hazyview to visit a few people…investigators and a member.
The lesson in my Sunday School class was on the Plan of Salvation and the students asked where the Spirit World was located and I told them here on earth. Well, the more insightful ones figured out that that meant evil spirits are here as well. I told them to make sure their homes were blessed by the Priesthood. Those without Priesthood in their homes asked Elder Scott to come and bless their houses. He was doing his last one today. This is an area where evil is obviously present. The kids can feel it. They need all the protection they can get.
I’m still missing Elder Smith… And Elder Ah Wong. They were really a great team and of course, they loved us and showed us so much attention. Every time I look at my Mickey (they gave it to me for my birthday) I think about them. Elder Ah Wong sent us a box of New Zealand chocolate covered almonds called Scorched Almonds by Nestle. We complain so much about the chocolate here that he had his mom send him some great chocolate. And, wow, it was really great! I don’t do MILK chocolate so much but this stuff was uh--mmmmmm good!
We will love these two of course and when they leave we will cry but there are always those missionaries who stay in your heart. We have lots of them from New York and they will always be part of our lives and memories. I’m positive Elder Smith and Ah Wong will remain with us into the Eternities.
On Wednesday nights we have a Book of Mormon class for anyone interested in coming. We average about 13. Last week was no exception. I sure enjoy teaching this class as I love the Book of Mormon. It broke my heart the other day when a life-time member told me she hated reading the Book of Mormon because it was a “history” book and she hates history. I was kinda shocked! I invited her to come to class (I wish I could say that she had) because the Book of Mormon is so much more than a mere history of this great civilization. The stories and the principles contained therein happened to real people and they learned the lessons that we must learn as well. I love the men and the few women mentioned in the Book of Mormon—There are so real to me that I feel like I would recognize Nephi immediately if I met him on the street. I love teaching this group of mostly YA the insights contained in that great book. I want them to love the scriptures as much as I do. I want them to understand the truths contained within those pages. I want the people to come alive to them as they are to me. I truly hope that by studying this book that it will change their lives and make them immoveable in their testimonies. I feel like between the Book of Mormon class, Seminary class and my Sunday School class that I am fulfilling the purpose of my mission. I sure hope so anyway…
That and teaching Debbie. Debbie is a conundrum. She is the one who approached us in Mugg & Bean (one of our favorite salad places) and inquired about our church… In fact, she said that she would follow ES anywhere simply because of how pleasant and happy he was. So, we set up discussions and we’ve been discussing the gospel ever since. I’m sure it’s been over 6 weeks… maybe even 8 weeks. Yes, she is the one who was stung in the eye by a wasp and that was over Christmas holidays. So, anyway, a long time.
Her biggest hang-up is Jesus Christ. She believed that he lived but not that he was able to take upon him our sins. She believes in a Supreme Being…she even calls him God but she doesn’t know who He is. So, at first we let her just ask us questions and we’d answer them but you know how that goes. You can’t just answer a question about the nature of Adam and Eve without a bit of back story so everything would revert back to the plan of salvation. Well, this was getting us nowhere. She was learning a lot of NEW and Surprising doctrine but not gaining anything on her big hang-up…the Atonement. Finally, two weeks ago, Debbie agreed to let the Jrs. start at the beginning of the course of lessons and teach the foundations, Elder Smith was very good at that as is Elder Kankkunnen and that she would save her questions until the end of the lesson. Well, last week I was unable to attend as I was assisting the Family History people from Joburg with a special class they had set up for our branch. The Elders reported that it went well and they were able to teach the Godhead the way they had designed.
Last night, Debbie came in (she’s really a pleasant person and we have become fond of each other) and had several questions. She said she read the scriptures she had been assigned and some of it made sense but others didn’t. So she had questions. She asked one easily explained question about “what does it mean when you say that you must turn your life over to Jesus?” We explained that we don’t use that term as it is primarily a Born again phrase but basically it means that you must live as Jesus lived. Keep his commandments.
But, then she said, “I just can’t wrap my head around why Jesus could take upon Him our sins? Why must we go through Him to get saved?”
Well, these are the same two questions she has been asking for over 2 months now. I kinda lost it (in my head only) but I was so straight forward with her. She claims that she begs Heavenly Father for an answer; that she wants to know that Jesus is His son; that she wants to feel about Him the way others do. I simply told her that I don’t believe that she really does want to know. I told her that she has been on this quest for so long that she now is to the point of denying those answers when they come. She wants an angel to come down; a sign from God telling her in a huge billboard that Jesus is who He said and we say who He is. Because until she gets that she’s going to continue to ask, continue to doubt, continue to say I don’t get an answer. I told her she has had many answers but she doesn’t understand what FAITH is and FAITH is what we must first demonstrate before we get answers. She thinks faith is just a simple statement of “I Believe” and I’m done. I told her Faith is an action verb. If told her she was afraid to really find out if we were telling her the truth or not because then she would have to do something about the answer. Faith requires movement. Movement from where she is now…forever asking but never really having to know.
I told her that we are not itinerant preachers out preaching the Good Word of God. That we teach to convert. We teach to baptize. We teach for repentance and we teach to build the Kingdom of God. Our goal is to baptize her into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and to see her life change and she is in fear of that.
I really thought for a moment she was going to pack up her stuff and leave but then when she didn’t ES started asking her a few questions. She actually said that believed that Jesus really came to earth, that he was crucified and that he was RESURRECTED. When I heard that I asked her questions about resurrection. I asked her how could He be resurrected and not be the Son of God? It isn’t like that happens every day… I explained when it happened and when it will happen again. Who else could cause this to happen and why would it?
I really blasted her with doctrine. She either needs to apply herself or quite fooling herself into believing that she is trying to understand. She wears a necklace around her neck with a cross, a symbol of some other religion (eastern I think) and some other symbols. I told her she was hedging her bets. She needed to really ask in FAITH, really be BELIEVING and really be SINCERE or she’d never get an answer.
ES followed up with lots of stuff… like her biggest stumbling block to accepting the information we were giving her… the “why’s” of all of it was the fact that she won’t read the scriptures and when she does she resists them. She says the Bible is DEAD to her. So ES said but that is where we get all the answers we have…from the scriptures. We keep telling you the answers but you won’t believe them because you reject the source of the information. He really laid it out there as well.
It was kinda funny as the Jrs. sat there somewhat stunned not really knowing what to say but they kept turning to scriptures hoping to get a verse or two slid in. They managed finally, but if you don’t believe them in the first place what difference would it make?
In the end, she thanked us for being so honest and bold. She said she needed it. But, most importantly, she agreed to start at the beginning again. To listen to the lessons and get rid of all the baggage that is keeping her going in circles. She committed to read the scriptures. Yay!
Sadly, I don’t have a lot of faith in her. I feel like we are teaching the Greeks with Paul and the “unknown God.” I think she wants to say to her conscious, “but I tried.” So she can do whatever she wants to do. I guess it is to keep searching. It’s really sad because she is quite a nice person and I’m sure she lives an honest life. She would be a great asset to the Branch and it to her. But, we will keep trying until she says she’s had enough…
I read a great quote but Neal Maxwell. It’s in our Seminary stuff. I think it sums up our life so succinctly… like Elder Maxwell always could: “We will end up either choosing Christ’s manner of living or His manner of suffering! It is either ‘suffer even as I’, or overcome ‘even as [He]…overcame’” (Ensign, May 1987, 72)
Ultimately, isn’t that really what we must decide? I hope I can keep this in mind always and take advantage of the Atonement. I do not like to suffer.
My last story before I post this: We needed to go visit our Home Teaching family: the Bethels who live in Sabie. I heard from her VT that she has cancer of the thyroid and possibly lymph glands. L So we wanted to see her and give her a smile or two. But instead of just going out there we invited the Swans to go with us and share the P-day. The weather was perfect; the jrs. were off on their own so we left about 1 pm and wound through the mountains to Sabie. The Bethels were well considering (Dereck, the husband, is talking to people only he can see, forgetting who his wife is and getting side tracked but he’s doing OK.) She’s being stoic and preparing for the worst and hoping for the best. We won’t here much more until April 20th when she goes to Pretoria for more tests.
So we continued on our adventure.
We drove on to Mac Mac falls. No, I did not do a typo… it really is Mac Mac. When we approached, we discovered that in order to get on the path to the falls we had to walk through several vendors. At the first one, a very friendly woman, who pointed to my badge, asked, “Do you have one of your books? The Mormon one?” I said, “Yes, I think so. Would you like one?” She said, “Yes, in English if you can.”
So we gave her a Book of Mormon in English and told her we could come and teach her if she’d like. She said she would call if she ever has a day off. But, maybe we are just planting seeds. Sometimes seeds that will only grow in the next life but who knows… Life is great!
We continued on after buying a few things at the stalls…nothing huge but just a few take home trinkets… like how they purchased Manhattan Island… and ended up at a town called Graskop. It’s a real bump in the road but due to it being Monday not much was open except for the best store in all of South Africa! The African Silk Factory. Oh so LOVELY! I love silk. Was I ever thrilled to handle the silk, smell the silk and even buy the silk!!!!! Whoa. It’s going to be a MUST return place. They spin and weave the silk from their own silk worm plantations and their own little bitty silk worms. They even have one worm called a Mopani (not the pharmacy) that they also eat… after it has produced silk at least. Yeah, not going to eat any of those… But I do like the silk they make. But, the rest of the trip is secret since I did buy some gifts… Shhhhh! Don’t tell my daughters.
Still no monkeys in my kitchen but lots of missionaries… and sometimes they can act like monkeys…