We had a terrific Durban stake conference at Durban City Hall last Sunday. Umlazi, Durban North, and Bluff Zones are all in the stake, so we had a strong missionary presence. Steve and I spoke (which I think is the drill for most mission presidents at stake conferences).
President Bricknell has a very clean, concise, way of teaching, and uses great quotes. Here are some of his comments:
We always lead by example, whether it's good or bad.
Our Church is Priesthood-driven, family orientated, and Christ-centered. (Elder Young)
What you are doing is not a sacrifice - it's a consecrated offering. (Elder Bednar to couple missionaries)
There are two levels of discipleship: testimony (know and declare) and conversion (do and become). (Elder Bednar)
We must be more than convinced that Jesus Christ is the Savior, we must be converted.
I also learned an object lesson at conference was that we can be noticed even in a crowd: There were probably close to 500 people there, and I was up front on the stage, and when the hymns were sung, I immediately knew that Elder Nare was there - I could hear him! I guess that's the light on a hill concept come to life.
Mother's Day is a good time for paying tribute to the wonderful gogos and grannies here in the mission. There are so many of them! Some are raising grandchildren and nieces and nephews and whoever else has been left alone. Gogo Gumede is credited with single-handedly bringing in most of the members in Umlazi: she is tireless and fearless about sharing the gospel. Sister Kathie in Pinetown is the official "missionary mender". She is not only willing to repair their clothes - but reminds us often that she "still sews". Grandma Wilford has fed hundreds of missionaries over the years, and has elders living her in "granny flat" out back right now.
Sister Vilakazi in Madadeni deserves special recognition. She passed away recently, and there were 400 people at her funeral. This is what her daughter Charity had to say about her.
She was baptized in 1991, and her service over the last 18 years included (among other things) teaching seminary for 4 years & institute for 2 years. She was also a very effective Relief Society president, good at giving the sisters direction in doing what needed to be done.
About 6 months ago she gave a talk in sacrament meeting. The microphone wasn't working, but she could project her voice, so everyone could hear - this is especially notable because people here are very soft-spoken, and you can't always hear a speaker WITH a microphone! She had memorized her whole talk, including the scriptures and references.
And by the way, Sister Vilakazi was paralyzed for 20 years - even before she was baptized. She couldn't use her body at all - just her voice. Before the Church got her a wheelchair, they used to carry her into Church, and lay her on a mattress, then carry her to Sunday School, then back to the chapel. And just a few weeks before her death, she bore her testimony in fast meeting. She taught everyone around here that everything is possible if you have faith.
So Happy Mother's Day, wonderful grandmothers! (Including Grandma Mann in Parma, who has great stories as well!)
Steve got an email from Elder Thompson this week - he finished his mission in November, went home for about a month, then went back to the Marine Corp, and after training at Camp Pendleton is now in stationed in Ramamdi, Iraq. We are so proud of him - I'm going to share a little of the email, and hope he won't mind. (He's used to the way we use good examples we can find as teaching tools in the mission - Steve's been sharing this with the elders in mini-training this cycle.)
"...it is definitely a different place here, and nothing like my mission, but at the same time it is, because everywhere I go I always see a good chance or opportunity to do missionary work. A lot of the time I find myelf teaching my fellow marines about the gospel, and especially about the plan of salvation, and it is helping them so much. There are a lot of temptations out here, but I know because of my mission and what I've learned ... they aren't temptations anymore. My mission made me stronger than ever, and I was scared that I would lose that over time, but I haven't. The Lord is still with me the same, just like when I was on my mission, and he is keeping me strong. Everybody thinks I'm the weirdes kid because I don't do anything they think is normal, and even some returned missionaries are starting to falter, and I'm doing my best to help, but it is still their choice at the end of the day. But I'm still doing great, I'm staying way positive and it is giving me true happiness. Being powerfully positive is seriously one of the greatest things that I learned on my mission and I have used it everyday, and it has helped me motivate myself to do better and help others. (From) LCPL Payden Thompson, always Elder Thompson."
I corrected the spelling, but I wouldn't want to change one single other thing. Can you see why we love all our missionaries so much?
Just to finish with a few "missionary-isms":
There is a new member who is from Nigeria, who is doing wonderful member missionary work: the elders call her the "Nifty Nigerian Fellowshipping Friend".
"Make it a two-mite day." (Elder Pier)
"The gospel is so true it's ridiculous!" (Elder Schwarting, picked up from Elder Crowther)
And on that note, Happy Mother's Day to everyone!
ps My amazing children found a way to have flowers delivered to me here for Mother's Day. It's way fun being a mom!
pps In another case of elders maintaining their missionary awareness: Elder Hiatt finished his mission this last cycle, and his parents came to pick him up and tour a little. They were in Richard's Bay and he found himself driving behind a mission car he recognized, only it wasn't missionaries who were driving it. He thought perhaps it was another carjacking, so he followed it as he called in to Elder Sessions. It turned out, yes, to be one of our cars, but it it had recently been sold and replaced by a new car. If only the police were as capable as our missionaries!