What a great week! We just finished our three zone conferences, and they were "power".I'm sorry every mission doesn't have the outstanding missionaries we have...
We started in Richards Bay, with Richards Bay and Swaziland Zones. The general outline was mission business, including a review (by me) on how to fill out Baptism and Confirmation Records. The elders are getting so excited about all the miracles going on they're letting the administrative details slip. And if Sister Johnson doesn't submit it to Church Headquarters - that person isn't a member of the Church!
Next Steve went over what's happening in the mission in the areas of retention, finding, conversion and preparation, He compared stats from January to stats from last week, and the difference was huge. Things are moving, and as an elder quoted Steve as saying : If you are not ready to roll the stone with us, you'd better get out of the way!"
Steve was followed by thoughtful, mature talks by elders, on Using the Temple Planner, Using the PEC Action List, Finding Focus with the Strategy Planner, Being Bold in the Conversion Process, Being Obedient with Exactness, How Thorough Preparation Enhances Teaching and Commitments, and Bringing the Spirit into our Lessons. The fact that every one of those talk titles is meaningful to every elder in the mission tells you something about how focused they are. Different elders spoke on these topics in each zone conference, and used personal experiences with their investigators, and I wish you could have heard them all. You parents would have been so proud!
Following the talks we had a testimony meeting - with a 2-minute time limit on the testimonies. The missionaries were asked to tell about one of the miracles they've seen. (As a reminder, the mission formula is Faith + Hard Work + Obedience with Exactness = Miracles. And yes, it works.) I can't tell you all of them, but here are a few miracles and comments that really struck me:
"Preparation gets us ready for our day of Pentecost when the Holy Ghost comes to help us."
"I didn't just let him know about the gospel - I testified and witnessed by the Spirit."
"And then the Zionist pastor we were speaking with asked us to come teach his congregation..."
"And we started talking to this baba, and he said 'I think you guys are men of God, so will you come in my house? It is not good to stand outside with men of God'."
"If you aren't obedient, you might miss somebody, and that would be a tragedy."
"I came on mission for my folks, but now I know the Book of Mormon and the Church are true, and I'm here to teach people the truth."
"So we went in to teach this contact, and he called three other family members in to listen, too."
"We'd been tracting unsuccessfully for 5 hours, but kept persisting, and all of a sudden a young man called out to us and wanted to be taught...he is progressing very rapidly."
"I spoke to the elders in my old area, and learned that the family I baptized is now sealed in the temple."
"We were having a rubbish day, and feeling very discouraged, and and then we found her. The gospel has totally changed her life - and we got to help."
"I've only been out six days, but I've seen miracles. It's the first time I've ever taught by the Spirit."
"We did a call back and no one was home. We were really disappointed, then the lady across the street called us over, asked us to teach her, and after three lessons she has a baptism date."
"I don't speak Zulu very well, but we were talking to a man who had had a dream about learning the truth, and I was explaining things to him...in Zulu. Afterwards I said to my companion, "I was speaking Zulu!"
"And then he asked, 'Is it OK for us to have this Book of Mormon?'"
"And the second time we came to teach, the baba said, 'I've had a vision: you are teaching us the truth. When can we be baptized?''
"Then they asked us, 'Do you allow visitors at your Church?'"
"I had a chance to visit my old area, and found one of the families I baptized are going to the temple next month, and another man is now on the high council."
"It's wonderful to be serving a short-term mission, and come to zone conference, and see Elder Katende. I first met him when he knocked on our door - and he baptized me."
And my favorite of all:
"We knocked on one more door...
"We felt impressed to go to this house...
"A member took us to see a referral...
"We talked to a baba on the street and he invited us to come over..
AND IT WAS A FAMILY!"
We haven't done a breakdown of the baptisms over the last few years, but I can guarantee that the elders are finding more and more families (some with 13 children in their home!) who are ready to hear the gospel. You can imagine how that strengthens the wards and branches. In their planning sessions, elders look at their branches and see what's needed, and set goals to find a future Young Men's president, or Primary president, or branch clerk. And they do!
Well, if the comments of these elders (and these are only a few out of 105) don't touch you, you need to go out with your local missionaries and catch the vision of this work they are doing. I'm here, and I can't even believe how wonderful they are!
After the amazing testimonies we listened to the talk Elder Holland gave to the missionaries and mission presidents at the Provo MTC in June of this year. It is called "The Divine Companionship", and among other things teaches the missionaries to include the Holy Ghost as the third member of their companionship. "You can't go forward in this work without the 'ultimate teacher'." This is what the brethren expect from missionaries today:
"If we will listen with spiritual ears, just the way we must see with spiritual eyes, the investigators will tell us what lessons they need to hear. (Learn) to choose the particular doctrine (to be) taught, the amount of it that is taught, the pace of the discussion, the order of the concepts, the kind of examples that are needed by this particular family. Every lesson (should) be tailor made - and none of them are going to be memorized."
This is NOT your father's missionary work! Or even mine!
So, please keep supporting these wonderful missionaries. Write them emails every week, and sometimes send them letters, or goofy little packages - even just candy in a padded envelope - they love getting "real" mail, even though they hear from you by email. Send little things they can give to children in their branch or area: trust me, the children here will be thrilled with stickers or pencils or anything.
Mom/Grandma/Sue/Susan/SisterPresidentMann/Chairman of the South Africa Durban Missionary Fan Club
ps At zone conference we always stand and recite "Our Purpose" from Preach My Gospel, D&C Section 4, and 3 Nephi 5:13. Maybe you could read them this week and think about what you can do to build the kingdom...
pps Did I mention we still don't have any couples coming to replace those who are leaving?
ppps Are you tired of my subtle hints yet?
pppps Could someone define subtle?