Dear Family & Friends:
We just finished three absolutely wonderful zone conferences focusing on the conversion process. The reason it was wonderful is because most of it was taught by the elders. I have a list here of potential EFY speakers for your files: Elders Richey, Schwarting, Nkosi, Terry, Holmes, Rothenberger, Muhwezi, Katende, Bradley, Emeneke, Crowther, O'Brien, Potter, Mbithi, Hatch, Vance & Ang'ila. Any of them could do a terrific job training and inspiring youth. And it was so fun listening to all the different accents - just let me know what kind you want: American, South African, Malagasy, Kenyan, Ugandan...oh, and of course Utahn.
The elders spoke on how to know what to teach (assessing needs), preparing and teaching powerful lessons, helping investigators feel and recognize the Spirit, teaching from the Book of Mormon, committing investigators to action. Afterwards the whole group offered suggestions of what else they might do on the particular topic - sort of like tips and hints. They were good, too! And I got an idea for the people emailing elders: You can send them coloring books and crayons to distract small children during the lessons; post-it pads for leaving commitments and follow-up reminders; and the new Gospel Art Book for illustrating lessons more clearly.
Elder Crowther suggested a way to remember the steps in preparing to teach - ABCD.
Always prepare fully for set appointments.
Before anything, get to know the person.
Check your surroundings (this gives clues about the family situation and their interests).
Don't forget to listen to the Spirit.
We focused on Elder Oaks quote - "Testimony is to know and feel. Conversion is to do and become" - and on pulling together the training on teaching and conversion from all the different chapters of Preach My Gospel. Elders still have a tendency to memorize the lessons, so there was also discussion on knowing the people, so you can follow the Spirit in adapting the lessons to their needs, and answering their questions from the Book of Mormon. And ALWAYS following up multiple times and multiple ways on commitments!
As a former missionary (from back in the days when there were 18,000 missionaries, with flipcharts, memorized discussions, and filmstrips, which these elders have never heard of!) it's interesting to see how the work has changed with Preach My Gospel. The most obvious, of course, is that missionaries teach more by the Spirit, instead of relying on memorized discussions. But there is also much more emphasis on having the RIGHT member present at every lesson. It's pretty easy to take a priest along, but if you're teaching a baba, he is always more willing to listen to another baba, someone who is his age, has had similar experiences, maybe even used to attend the same church. A baba who usually leaves the room when the missionaries come to teach his family will stay, out of courtesy, if another baba comes with the elders. The members invite the investigators to Church, even walk over with them, and can tell them what to expect, sit with them, and introduce them to other members. Having the right member involved makes a HUGE difference to the progress of the investigators.
Anyway, I wish you all could have been there. You'd have been impressed by the knowledge and dedication of the elders, and learned a lot about how to help with missionary work - and how to become more converted yourself! In addition to building the kingdom, missions are terrific leadership training camps. These elders, especially those from Africa, will be going home to guide their branches and quorums and wards and stakes, and they'll do a tremendous job. Steve is now having to repent for pride - in his missionaries.
In other news... Elder Sessions managed to stay out of jail in spite of a number of encounters with the police and court system this last week. We received a bill for 33,000 rands in unpaid traffic tickets - dating clear back to 2003. Tickets are issued from the cameras located on the highways, and although we have had tickets come in long after the date, this was ridiculous! Elders always pay their own traffic fines, but in this case there was, of course, no way to know who earned the fines - or even where they are today! The fines also covered courts all over - Durban, Chatsworth, Verulam, Pinetown, Umlazi, and Amanzimtoti, which required visits to every court and dealing with 6 different individuals to pay the fines. Plus up to 2-hour waits in some instances.
So, the police wanted to put the fines in Elder Sessions' name, probably so they could go after someone for payment. He refused, since if any were still unpaid when the Sessions finish their mission, they wouldn't be allowed to leave the country! He mentioned the fines to one of our panelbeaters, Teddy, who said "You can do better than this - let me take you to see Vernon." Vernon is a liaison to the prosecetor, and is 6'6" tall, and weighs in at around 290.( Good man to have on your side, or your team!) He took the printout to the Durban prosecutor, and was able to eliminate all fines over 5 years old. At Pinetown, they only required payment for the first and last tickets on the list, reduced by 50%. Elder Sessions had similar luck at most of the other courts, until he got to Chatsworth. The woman there had attitude. "Church people! Why should church people have speeding tickets!" She went through every single ticket, and they paid them all, even the older ones, but again with a 50% reduction. Bottom line, out of an original bill of R33,000, Elder Sessions ended up paying only R5,890. Well done!!
From the traffic desk: Two of the elders were involved in a very peculiar traffic incident last week. While changing lanes, they "bumped into" the "bully bar" on the front of an armored truck. When they pulled off to check the damage, another car immediately pulled off behind them, and men in bulletproof vests, carrying large weapons, jumped out and came over. It was the security detail that accompanies the armored truck, and they were checking to see if this had been an attempt to run the truck off the road and rob it. I'm not sure if the elders counted this as contacting, or not...
And in sports: 15 minutes into the Northwood game on Tuesday, Morgan sprained his ankle. We won any, by a large margin. He stayed home for 2 days, during which we were at zone conference, or I'm sure I would have broken one of his other limbs after the 2,000th "Mom?Mom? Will you bring me a..." He's at school today, as it's the start of exams. There is one more game on the 20th, and he really wants to play, so it will be interesting to see how it goes. On the spooky side, it was in the Northwood game last year that Hunter tore his ACL. Intentional? Or just coincidence? You decide...
Finally, a society update: Logan Mann and Sara Scott will be sealed in the Salt Lake Temple on Thursday, June 18th. Our first daughter-in-law! Loud hurrahs and huge celebrations will be the order of the day.
Love to everybody,
ps Three different elders came up to me at the Newcastle Zone Conference to tell me how much they enjoy receiving emails from their "adopters". Great work! And there are always new elders arriving, if you'd like to support missionary work in a very rewarding, hands-on way - just email firstname.lastname@example.org, and you too can be the highlight of an elder's preparation day!