Kyle has been serving his mission for...

Kyle has been serving his mission for...

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Sydney Week 11

G'day Fam!

Wow, this week has been pretty fantastic! There are some huge things coming on the horizon in our zone. As you all mentioned, yes there will be a new Sydney Australia North mission. However, just like we can read on, that's all we know as of now. But in the future when I know more, I will let you all know. Hooray for Vancouver, WA!!!

Our zone is really on the brink of some really big things we think. We've had many trainings and have received a lot of counsel regarding increasing our zone and superseding our goals.  We all can feel a certain energy that is coming into the zone. Very similar to being on the starter block of a swim race when the countdown is happening right before the gun fires. Mark may understand this reference the most, but when those 3 seconds are counting down, if you are prepared and ready to go, it is a very anxious and exciting feeling. We have made some needed changes in order for us to be more focused and accomplish our purpose. The ward recently has been lacking, and we need more cohesion between the missionaries and the ward leaders as to how we can best help accomplish both of our goals, which are really the same goal. The answer has come with a new ward mission leader, a change in "not very effective" meetings, and the calling of many new ward members to positions where they can grow. This allows more of the burden of the missionaries lifting up the ward to be set upon the ward's shoulders and us to really focus more on finding and boosting ward numbers. The Branch President here is really wanting to use us more effectively and so has made some needed changes to allow us to focus truly on our goals and boost the ward. Lots of exciting changes brings more enthusiasm and desire into the work. Also, one thing Elder Imeson (the new zone leader) shared with us last evaluation meeting on Sunday, is that within the past few weeks Elder Oaks, of the quorum of the 12, called him personally and asked "how is the Hyde Park branch doing?" That's our branch! It's because so many people come from all over the world (especially China) and are able to then take the gospel back to their families when they return home. Hearing Elder Imeson talk about the personal inquiry to our branch and zone made me realize that we truly are accountable and are on a great errand here. 

We need to make sure we are all living up to our potential and fulfilling our duty to the fullest. I ask that you will continue to pray for me specifically to increase my finding skills as we will be doing a lot more finding with the changes in the ward, and also with me being finished with my training. This now gives us another whole hour that we can go finding rather than doing the 12 weeks training program that all new missionaries have to accomplish when they enter the mission field. We have 2 investigators that Elder Wan and I believe will be baptized on the 23'rd of next month. Please keep Noy and Jodie in your prayers as they will both need help and encouragement to keep preparing for baptism. We have many other investigators, but few that are actually progressing :( So many people are very content with their lives and aren't all that interested in changing their lives, but I am very grateful at least that they still answer our calls often and are not opposed to speaking with us. It's all about when the time is right for them. I've thought a lot about that concept on timing. How the right timing is so important for things in our lives. The Lord always has His own timing. For why the Restoration took place when it did, why missionaries are transferred at specific times, why people experience certain trails at certain times.... the list goes on and on. I think it's the same for us as missionaries. That we are often a part of that process in helping people prepare for their perfect timing. I'll use a baking analogy this week :) for a lasagna, if it's not completely cooked, it may still be edible, but not taste the best, if it's overdone, it's even worse and you want to eat it less, but when the timing is perfect, you can enjoy it to it's fullest. Sometimes I feel that we go out finding and looking for people who are "golden." as if we come home from work and expect to just pull the lasagna out and eat it right up. More often than not, I've found that is not the case. The Lord uses us to really monitor that person's preparation and then allows us to act when the time is perfect for them. We have many people that I can tell are close to being ready, but the timing just isn't quite right yet for them to give them the best chance of success and best happiness. Also, we need to know when it is right to act and help them so that they don't get "burnt out" and become uninterested in the gospel. Just some "food for thought"... haha! :) 

This upcoming weekend is mardi gras here in the City, so as I wrote in my planner at 7pm on Friday, all the missionaries in the zone will be "fleeing from babylon." We are all being flushed out for the weekend so that we are not here in the city during the parade and party. I've heard that every year, there is a big banner that is put up and paraded of missionaries badges. Some missionaries have had their badges stolen from them which then end up on the big banner. Luckily, it hasn't happened to any of the missionaries in our zone here this year, but we always need to be careful and make sure someone isn't sneaky and snags our badge off our shirt or our jackets. I really don't want my badge up on that banner. There is such a need for the gospel in this city. I am reminded so often of the quote from PMG "only the gospel can cure the ailments of society." on page 2... something to that effect :) This city desperately needs the gospel and I pray that many people will come and drink from the fountain of Living water found in Christ's true church on the earth. It is hard to respect someone's choice when you know it will not bring them happiness. However, I trust and believe that all will be well in the end. I have seen many miracles and felt the spirit in great abundance to where I know that the Lord is guiding this work and that it is in His control. I just need to keep working ever more effectively to bring about His purposes. I love you all and will write you next Monday. As in the hymn... "the time is far spent", and I must go :) 

Lots of Love,

Elder Shafer

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Sydney Week 10 (Sorry this is posted late, for the second time!!!!)

Hello Family!

Well I survived transfers. Elder Wan and I are in the same spot and will be for the next 5 weeks. This next transfer is one week shorter because of the mass influx of missionaries we will be receiving in the upcoming march. Everyone keeps saying jokes about leadership positions and all, but realistically, I think they will need to be desperate and have me train next transfer. We will see though, the Lord's will be done, not mine. 

The last week with the Kangaroos was amazing!! SOOO Much fun and a really cool experience, I'll send some pictures for sure! Elder Au, the other Hong Kong elder left yesterday. My companion was a bit sad because they have been best friends for about 4 years, but they both admit that it was for the best. He's a really good missionary and will do a lot to benefit the new zone. With his leaving, a new zone leader came into our area. His name is Elder Imeson and he's from Star Valley, Wyoming. So now I'm finally not out numbered 3 to 1 on Asian culture vs western culture debates haha :) we all get along really well and he has served here in the city before so the members were really excited he has come back. This transfer we are all expecting some big things to happen and they already have started off great! With the holiday season (most people are out of school) our numbers in the city have dropped a bit, and we have had a bit of a droop in our missionary unity and mood in the zone the past little while, but with some really good trainings, some change in the area, and each of us just sharpening up a bit, I think we are in store for some really great things to happen this next transfer! We are really trying to focus a lot more on members and helping build up the ward in addition to bringing in new members because we have found that flooding the branch with heaps of new, pretty fragile members, and had a crippling effect on the overall branch. I guess there has been a trend in the zone to bring in new converts, but then they drop off the focus once they are baptized and unfortunately are easily forgotten. This, and some other minor things that can be tuned up have hurt our relationship with the branch. After all, it's pretty hard for a struggling little ysa branch to keep up with 13 full throttle missionaries wanting to surge the work forward. For example, last year we had 67 baptisms that we brought in the branch, but the total branch membership right now is only about 150 or so. Many people have gone back to their home countries for sure, but there are also too many that have fallen through the cracks, and so we have started to put a much bigger emphasis on just helping ward members. Meeting them for lessons and just trying to provide service and counsel any way that we can. To aid in this, Elder Wan and I are trying to meet with 1 ward member each day to develop a better relationship with them, and hopefully help them have the desire to share the gospel with others and also help us through fellowship. The main goal is to help ward members trust and join in the work we are trying to accomplish rather than be burdened by us. I've already seen the success stories! Even though I am really new, many ward members can finally pronounce my name correctly.... almost :) It's quite hard for Vietnamese and Thai people to pronounce the "sha" portion haha. But I've found when I have called members, or talked to them at activities and just asked about their lives, what they like to do, why they came to AU and other things, they are a lot more inclined to talk, and lo and behold, they will start coming to more activities, bring their friends to them, and walla! Referalls and fellowshippers! :) There is one member who recently came to me talking about her computer being broken and asked me which new laptop she should buy because she doesnt have a lot of money. It put me in a bit of an awkward spot because I can't really support any specific brand or reccomend her to make purchases, but it showed at least that she had developed some trust in me that she was willing to listen to my opinions when her money was on the line. Also, we have seen an increase of food that ends up in the fridge with our name on it as well hahaha :) These aren't the main reasons why developing a good relationship with members is important, but I'm not going to deny there are some good side effects as well! :) 

This last sunday we had a national stake conference broadcast from SLC. All of the members gathered in their stake centers and watched a satellite broadcast for stake conference in which President Baxter of the 70, Elder Christofferson, and President Monson spoke. IT WAS AMAZING :) On the bus ride over there (we had to charter a bus because so few members have cars) I met one of the first members ever to be baptized in Rwanda! There are only two branches in the country and her parents and her were some of the first members. I was pretty honored and excited to be able to learn about her culture and why she joined the church. That is one of the things im most grateful for over here is learning about other people. The world is SOOOO much bigger and more diverse than I had originally thought and being over here has made me realize how much God loves each and every one of His children and that the Lord doesn't care near as much as where people were as where they are now, and He doesn't focus as much as where people are now as to where they can be. I want to develop that same vision. To truly see people for their potential, not their past or present. There is a really good poem I have been trying to memorize called "the fellowship of the unashamed" One of the lines in it states "my past is redeemed, my present makes sense, and my future is secure." I love this line because it talks directly of the benefits of having faith in Christ. If we truly have faith in Him, then we know because of Him, our past is redeemed upon our conditions of repentance, we understand better our present situations and trials, and we know with Faith on Him, things in the future will always be for our benefit. 

This new transfer I have a greater desire to make gratitude my attitude. Elder Wan gave a really good district training about how humility and being grateful for things in our lives bring us greater and lasting happiness. I want this more in my life. I want to not only be happy and grateful when things are good, but also to be grateful for the good in my life at all times. And even though bad will enter in my life as I keep going against the world, that I will always be happy and optimistic knowing that I am doing what is right. I have realized more recently the true reality and power through temptation that satan can have on people, however with that, I have been able to see how quickly his power can be changed and how miniscule it is in comparison to righteousness and the power of the Savior. Seeing how years of satan trying to make us unhappy, feel guilty, discouraged and all other kinds of bad can be washed away and purified in one moment by baptism, and that for a moment, those people feel in the midst of heaven shows to me the power that light and righteousness have in our lives. This work is so crucial and so true. I love being able to read and understand more and more the Plan of Salvation. I think I have likely read D&C 76 about 5 or 6 times since starting my mission and each time I am able to understand a little more about the necessity of our lives and of the life after this. Another section I found that goes along with this section so well is section 88. There is not enough time for me to write about the comparisons and insights I gained, but maybe try reading these two sections yourself and see what you can get out of the importance of following Christ while on the earth, and how the gospel of Jesus Christ purifies us and helps us to become accustomed to the Laws we must keep to live in God's presence. 

I love you all so much and am so grateful for all you do to help me and support me. I am sorry to hear about the health conditions of those at home and will keep them all in my prayers and thoughts. I give a challenge to all who read this letter :) Read your patriarchal blessing this week and look for any specific words that are repeated. I found one word that was repeated 5 times that brought a much greater insight to me about myself. Try it out :) Love you all!

Elder Shafer 

We ran to the Opera house to see the sun rise last saturday for our exercise. We woke up a bit earlier and ran there as a zone because we wanted to see the sun rise together as a zone before some of us got transferred. 

Monday, February 11, 2013

Sydney Week 9

*Disclaimer, not the most spiritual post.....

Sorry this week is going to be shorter. We are doing a big zone p-day activity and going up to feed wild kangaroos!!!! Pictures for sure to come next week :) I had this wonderful idea this week, however... it didn't work :( I tried to take a mini video clip and send it as an attachment like a video clip, but I dont think it will allow me to send it. Probably too big. 

Quick story regarding the shirtless missionaries and the nasty bathroom...... One of the other Elder's in our flat ( I will keep his name anonymous so he doesn't feel embarrassed) flushed paper towels down the toilet because he didn't know that it would clog the drain. When the other two elders were both using the two seperate showers.... the main drain line was clogged without them knowing. Thus when I looked down the hallway the hall was SOAKED with water. There is a drain in the bathroom floor that is the main drain spout for the APT, that's what was backed up and it was pouring out heaps of water all over our apt. Needless to say... it was several hours before the apt was suitable enough for us to even leave without coming back and having sewage water all over our carpet. A carpet cleaner had to come in and try to get the brown stains out of our carpet but I think it could use a second go cuz it still doesn't look quite the same color as it did before we had heaps of water and a bit of sewage pouring onto our hallway haha. Sorry, that's all the time I have for today :( but next week I will have pictures of me feeding live kangaroos!! That'll be sweet!!!! :) 

Love you all so much, this week was amazing! Transfers are going to be next week, so I am not sure If I will get to write Mon, Tue, or if at all. We will see! 

Elder Shafer

Monday, February 4, 2013

Sydney Week 8

Dear Family :)

My Mission President encouraged me this last week to forward on bits of my letter to him to my family as well (why didn't I think of that before?? :)) So here is a copy and pasted clip in response to the question: "what is my core experience with God this week?"
My core experience with God this last week was being able to meet with Steffi, a former investigator that has come back and forth from meeting with missionaries. We went and had dinner with her to try to just reach out again in friendship. During our discussion over dinner, we were able to talk to her about the movie "how rare a possession." Hearing about it, she was interested to watch it, so we watched it with her and talked to her afterwords more about the Book of Mormon and how it can help her in her life. It was a very good lesson for us to have and We helped her to recognize the ways the spirit has spoken to her in her life. 

This week was truly a great week! I can't remember hardly anything that happened because it flew by, but that's why I brought my journal today :) Before I get into that though, I want to answer some of the questions you all have asked. 

No, unfortunately I still cannot read any of the Book of Mormon in Cantonese. President Howes said it's not necessary for me to learn characters, so I won't likely learn characters here on the mission, or if I do, it will only be after I'm fluent in Cantonese and Mandarin. And they dont have a Book of Mormon in Cantonese romanization yet, so as for now, I have to use other methods of study, but to be honest, my language is progressing pretty well concerning the circumstances. I continue to talk with my companion in Cantonese as much as possible, and each of the special lessons we are able to have I am able to understand more and more each time! I think for me, I just need to keep getting submerged in it, so when the time comes that the Lord wants me to serve in the Cantonese branch, I think I will be ready and wont be set back by much because most of the time, I can get by okay, as long as people are patient and willing to repeat things slowly :)

Every morning we wake up and meet as a zone for morning sports as our workout. We play touch rugby ( no contact, so no worries) the worst thing that has happened to me is stepping in a nice pile of dog poop someone left hahaha. After this, we will go back to eat breakfast and get showered up for the day, while my companion is in the shower, I usually have time to do some extra pushups and situps and sometimes some body squats to make sure I'm staying fit for the work. Then, I walk and walk and walk for miles up and down the streets if we have time to contact :) My health is staying up, for sure on the exercise portion. I have trimmed up a little bit as I lose some of the extra flab I have carried around for a while and I actually feel really good and healthy! That's the really nice thing about asian food is it has heaps of veggies in it that I actually am starting to like! I didn't think I'd ever say this, but it just goes to show how much a missionary can change...... I tried coleslaw the other day..... it was actually pretty good :) 

Elder Wan and I have really grown closer this past week. I've really tried to focus on having fun times with him and getting to know him better for who he is. I've found an interesting key that just getting along with your companion will bring you some success, but really loving your companion and seeing him as your best friend, brings a lot more miracles and brings a whole new life into the work together. So I need to keep going with this. Even if sometimes I have to sacrifice a bit for him, it's because I love him and realize that when we get along together and actually HAVE FUN, the Lord will allow us to have the most fun by granting us spiritual experiences we can share together. 

Some excerpts from the journal:

Feb 2, 2013

Today and Yesterday were both awesome! Yesterday we taught a good potential I pulled off the street. He's German and unfortunately will be going back to Germany tomorrow, but he's going back with 2 Books of Mormon (1 english, and 1 german) a restoration pamphlet, and a commitment to meet the missionaries in Germany. As for today- we taught a girl named Natalie. She will be getting married this month and actually seems pretty interested to learn more about Jesus Christ and seemed to accept our message well. She prayed at the end of the lesson and committed to pray daily. Also tonight while watching Finding Faith in Christ with a less active member who we have just recently helped come back, I felt the spirit SOOO many times. Pretty much every single miracle that was performed, I felt the spirit touch my heart strongly. Emily (the less active) also said she really felt the spirit so I'm glad she was able to have a similar experience. Great past two days, hope the next two are even better!

feb 28, 2013

Great p-day today, we went to paddy's market and bought some souiveniers because a lot of the missionaries think they will likely be transferred next transfer and want to make sure they have some little souvenirs in case they can't come back to the city before leaving for home, Bedtime! 

^ that actually happens a lot, where I look at the clock and realize I have only a few minutes left to be dilligent. I've been in bed every single night by 10:30 except one. One night I was 10 seconds late.... :( always room for improvement :b

I'd add some more, but they were a lot of just short messages this week. We have had this big new push to contact heaps of former investigators recently. Our zone leaders found five 3-ring binders full of former investigators from the city, some of them go as far back as 5 years ago. So we've made it a goal to call each and every person because we know that there has got to be at least one person who is ready for the gospel now in these names. Thus, every meal time we are at home, and almost all the evening time I devote to calling formers after I have made calls to confirm appt's and such. It's already brought miracles so I'm so glad we were able to come across these names! 

As for names of investigators, there are so many people that we teach one and set a return appointment, but then they never come back, so for now, the constant names that really could use prayers would be Cindy, Danny, Edward, Natalie, Damien, Noy, Jodie, and Hank. 

Things are going really well. Was able to have a good interview with President Howes yesterday. Every 3 months he will come to the city and interview missionaries to see how they are and such. So it was good to finally have an interview with Him and receieve guidance on how I can improve. Today we went to the Temple and it was amazing!! Such a great experience. I love and really have missed the temple! 

So glad to hear everyone is doing so well! I will try to send some pictures next time of the things that have happened over the past couple weeks. There hasn't been too much I've taken pictures of, but I'll try to dig some up :) Going to go play touch for p-day with a recent convert who is going back to Taiwan tomorrow. Love you all heaps!!!!!

Elder Shafer

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Sydney Week 7 (sorry I am posting this a week late!)

Hello Family!

Happy belated Australia day! Last Saturday was AU day here, so that meant lots of people walking around with flags and.... well honestly, lots of people drinking alcohol and being crazy. It was still a great day though! Life was pretty normal for us on that day. This week was a bit sad in the fact that we had 3 potentials drop. Simon, the underground Christian, has come across some opposition from his family and Pastor and is not interested in learning about how Christ still works and speaks today the same as he always has, but instead believes that when Christ said "it is finished." that all was finished, and thus, there could not be prophets and speaking to His children today. It was very sad to say goodbye to him on the phone since he was not willing to meet again with us. I wish him the best though. There are so many people here that come across Anti-Mormon materials or people that Anti our investigators. It's all opposition to the work going forward though because we still have many that keep progressing and moving forward in the Gospel. There will always be this trend. It reminds me of Joseph Smith's statement of the Standard of truth being erected never to be hindered. The members here are so amazing in their testimonies and what they are willing to sacrifice for the gospel. It truly is humbling and such a privelidge to live here and experience the things that I do. People have asked me what my favorite part of missionary work is, and I can't remember if I already shared it, but I will again anyways. I think my single favorite moment is hearing people pray to their Father in Heaven for the first time. It is so genuine, precious and special. It reminds me of the experience that Lamoni's father had in Alma 22 when people kneel down and Pray and thank their Father in Heaven "for allowing me to meet the missionaries and to learn about you." Seeing them progress from that point on just keeps that joy increasing, but being able to participate in a person's first prayer ever is sacred in my opinion. The other two that dropped are because one went back to China for a while, so we cannot contact them there, but we hope and pray he will make contact with the Chinese members. And the third we have not been able to contact after our first lesson. On the other hand though..... I was able to see several miracles this week!! 

1.) Jay- Walking down the street contacting, I was scanning the up and coming crowd to see if there was anyone I felt specifically prompted to speak to. I looked to my left and saw a man sitting by the stairs smoking a cigarette, I smiled, turned back to survey the crowd, when I was thinking "maybe I should go back," the really weird thought came to my mind "he will call out my name." He did! Well, he said something very similar. He said "Hey! are you a missionary??!" I was dumbfounded and turned back and said "Yes!" long story short, he feels that recently he has been losing his faith and that God isn't answering His prayers. We were able to meet with him..... He's a curious situation but we have a return apt set up with him later this week after he takes His IELS test (test needed to pass to ensure foreigners have enough english capabilities to stay in AU and work) so we will keep him in our prayers and hope that he comes back!

2.) Candy- Elder Wan and I had just finished a lesson and I was excited to get out and start finding ASAP, so I asked him, "can we say a prayer and go find until our next apt?" of course he agreed and we said a prayer and I asked where we should go. I had the name of the only park where we can contact come into my mind and so we decided when we left the building to go that way. Right when walking that way, the sister missionaries were walking up the street with Candy. We met her and showed her the Chapel and then had a lesson with her. She's really keen!! And Her boyfriend also is interested in meeting with us she has said. So that was another minor miracle. Now we have 2 investigators we can teach in Cantonese! :) It just reminded me of the importance to always be out and doing and productive and allowing the Lord to guide our footsteps as we move our feet. If we had taken a minute longer, not said the prayer, turned right instead of left... etc, who knows if we ever would have met her because she didn't speak very much english. Anyways, my time is up for this week. I love you all so much and am so grateful for all that you do in supporting me!!


Elder Shafer