Kyle has been serving his mission for...

Kyle has been serving his mission for...

Monday, September 30, 2013

Canberra Zone Week 5

Dear Everyone,

Yesterday was Labor day in AU, so that is why we had to email today since the library was closed for the National holiday. Also, we drove up to the mission office yesterday (a nice 3 hour drive) so that we could have mission leadership council last night. All of the zone leaders and the training sisters gathered together and we discussed how we are doing as a mission. The meeting was 5 hours long but very beneficial! Plus, Sister Lew's (our mission President's wife) made some DELICIOUS Butter chicken. I ate two giant plates of it plus naan bread and an ice cream to top it off. I felt about ready to pop afterwards, but it was worth it! Anyways, it was a great meeting, and well worth the drive. Now, we are about to drive back so I had better make this letter short, but just wanted to send you my letter I send to President Lew each week:

This week has been a great one! It seems like we have spent a lot of time in meetings and trainings since we had Preach My Gospel studies with both companionships of sisters in our zone in addition to Zone Conference, but in all situations we have been uplifted and learned a lot so it has been great! We Also witnessed a fantastic miracle in regards to our relationship between the Bishop and missionaries improving. In the past, I guess the relationship between missionaries and the Bishop has been a little shaky, but when the Bishop invited us over for dinner at his home, we made it our number one objective to help him realize we are here to work and serve him and his ward. We saw great success with it! During the dinner, we were discussing problems that he is seeing in the ward and talking about how we can help to overcome them. After a while he finally slowed down and said "well Elders, what do you need help with?" I took this great opportunity to explain that we are here to help him. We are not here to add to his previously describes list of problems, but we are here to help him fix them. We mentioned we have a great desire to continue to teach and bring many of the less active members back to church and he replied that he had actually just earlier compiled a list of specific members that he felt would accept us into their homes and that could be benefited by more help from the missionaries. This is a great way for us to not only help the members, but also to show the Bishop that we can be trusted and accomplish his goals and desires. The next day, he invited us to come early in the morning and play basketball with the ward as part of their ward activity. We showed up and continued to increase the relationship with members in a more casual way. For me, these two events were great miracles in helping us to grow closer to the members. Because it is the capitol, most members work for the government and are VERY busy with their careers and family. Our desire is to help them see that missionaries make their lives less stressful and more enjoyable, and I think that we are starting to get that message across. This excites me because as President Monson has stated: Member work is the most effective way to work. The ward is starting to get excited for missionary work and we know that this will continue to grow as we continue to serve and fan the flame of missionary work. Another great example is when we had dinner at a newlywed's home. During dinner the wife was asking what miracles we had seen this week, what was the best part of missionary work and so forth. We can see that she is very excited to be involved. When we asked who she knew that could benefit from the gospel she replied "well, our neighbor next to us is a pretty lonely man, just living by himself. Our neighbor across from us recently had someone pass away in their family I think, and there's another friend I have who has asked me a question or two about the church." We were so excited to see these wonderful opportunities to allow others to have the gospel in their lives. Knowing about life after this blesses us with peace and comfort. The Gospel brings hope and love to those who feel alone in this dark world. I am so excited to be a missionary and I pray I can continue to help others gain that same desire and energy to bring about this work of salvation among Heavenly Father's children.

As for the status of my planner. I think my planning abilities have improved a lot while being down here in Canberra, but I wouldn't say I quite have a celestial planner yet. One thing I would like to improve is my hand writing and neatness. The information is there, goals, names, addresses and lessons, but I need to take a minute more time to make it look neat and organized. This has been a goal of mine and one that I have plans to fix. With the help of my companion, I can accomplish it. He has been willing to help me to re-learn how to write neatly haha. It actually has been a good experience for us to do together, just practicing how to write neatly.

Love you all!

Elder Shafer

Canberra Zone Week 4

Hello Everyone!!
I wanted to announce that I have a new mission call!!! I have been called to labor in the Sydney Australia South mission for the next 12 months! No, I didn't really get a new mission call, but I have been thinking a lot about how I can avoid the tendency that many missionaries get to just "cruise" at about 1 year out. Many times I hear of missionaries who become complacent with their lives because they are experienced and know how to find, teach, etc.... so they just cruise for a while and then 6 months before they go home they realize... WHOA I go home soon, I had better kick it back into gear and work harder than I have. So, I have decided to just restart. I am not half way finished with my mission, but I am just starting my new mission. It is only for a period of 12 months, and so I have a lot of work to do in such a short time! I really dont want to let my past successes and accomplishments allow me to "take a break" and just relax for a bit, so I am going to trick myself into thinking that I am just starting over again. It's time to restart new study plans and goals, time to re-evaluate my teaching skills, how I am doing in developing Christ-like attributes, and the list goes on and on! :) I am excited to start my "new mission" and accomplish as much as the Lord has for me to do in this short amount of time.
We are about to go and have a district P-day so I will close with my letter to my mission President:
This week has been a fantastic week for sure! We saw so many miracles as we kept working on always inviting and opening our mouths. One of the greatest experiences was when we were going to visit a less active man. We walked into his apartment building and another man was walking down the stairs with his bike, we said hello, he saw our badges and said "Oh, go to that door right there, they need God in their lives!" then hurried off while we shouted back to him a thank you. We were pretty surprised, and so I feel bad we didn't get a chance to talk with him more, but we knocked on the door that he pointed to and they invited us in! They laughed when we told them their friend pointed us to them and said he was always playing pranks and jokes on them. I guess this was supposed to be another one of them, but as it turns out, they really are needing some change and help from God in their lives. The boyfriend recently had 3 friends and a brother pass away, and the girlfriend was really curious about where we go after life as well. We shared with them pamphlets on the Plan of Salvation and bore our testimonies of life after this. The boyfriend was really talkative, I think because he had been drinking a little bit prior to us coming, so we didn't get much of a chance to teach, but we set a return appointment with them for the next day and committed them to read the pamphlets we gave them. When we came back, it was only the girlfriend home so we couldn't go in, but she said they had both read the pamphlets and would love to have us come back Tuesday. It was a great miracle we were able to experience :)

Also, this week we have had great blessings come in regards to referrals. We received 3 referrals from Church Headquarters. One of them, Amelia, is so prepared! Her partner who lives in Sydney is a member, and encouraged her to go to and request missionaries to come and share with her about his beliefs. They are preparing for marriage, and upon us meeting her, she said that she "wants to convert, but wants to understand what it is that her future husband believes and make sure she believes it as well." We were really suprised to hear such a great answer, pure, simple, and true. Often we forget how much of an impact our examples can make. She loves this man and wants to be with him, but also wants to make sure she has the same beliefs that he does. She is really sincere and said she would be baptized when she knew the Church is true. I am so grateful for the people the Lord has prepared to receive of His gospel at this time. There are many who are prepared, and the Lord is in the work helping us to find them, or for them to find us. 

Love you all!! :)
Elder Shafer

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Canberra Zone Week 3

Dear Family,
All I have time for this week is to post my email to President. We had to clean the flat and then got here as quick as we could, but still only had about 25 minutes to read and write emails.
This week has just flown by! Elder Urbina and Elder Tilini are great additions to the ward and they are getting accustomed very quickly. This week we saw a great miracle in a recent convert of ours bringing her non-member friend to a lesson and she became our new investigator! We were planning to meet with Lois, our recent convert, and when we got there she said "Oh, I brought a friend along today, is that okay?" We were so excited to see her! She is just great! She has attended a Christian school for 10 years in Hong Kong, and so she understands who Christ is, but lacks a testimony that He actually died and was resurrected. She had been preparing for baptism in another church previously, but fell out of contact with her friends in that church, and said that she would like to prepare for baptism again! It made us very excited to see such a great miracle, especially when we are striving hard to find new investigators and to ALWAYS seek referrals. It was a tender mercy for sure.

This week from studying PMG chapter 1, I learned more about my role to help full families come into the church and how we can help even the young single adult members we interact with determine how the Gospel will play a role in their family life. So many of the less actives we have were baptized when younger, then married a non-member whom either is not interested, or does not support them in their church callings and beliefs. This awareness has made me think more about how I can continue to encourage the young single adults we have to share the gospel more with their family and friends, and for the families we talk to also to invite families, not just individuals, to activities, church, and other ways in which their whole family can enjoy the blessings that come from living a Christ-centered life. One thing that stuck out to me is just that plain and simple truth, that "happiness in this life is most likely to be achieved when founded upon the principles of the restored gospel." I have seen it time and again, how much hope, happiness, and peace comes from the knowledge that we have about the restored gospel. The purpose of this life. What happens after this life, and how we can be more successful in this life. It is such a precious gift I would like to share with everyone!

Sorry this letter will be a bit shorter, we have to go and teach a lesson in 2 minutes to a former investigator. Or, also known as our next baptismal candidate :)
Love you all!
Elder Shafer

Monday, September 9, 2013

Canberra Zone Week 2

Dear everyone,
Happy Tuesday! We had transfers yesterday, and so that is why I am writing today instead of yesterday. Once again, a large portion of our zone left. Many trainers were split from their companions part way through training and those trainees are now trainers. It is remarkable to think of how well prepared these missionaries are. We have 3 areas in our zone now that are being run by a missionary who has only been out 6 weeks and is training a brand new missionary! It is quite remarkable to think of how they can do it. I know it would be a very large trial for me to be responsible for my area at that early on in the mission.
Things continue to go really well here in Canberra. It has been a mad house in our flat with zone meeting on Friday to where we had 8 elders stay in our flat that night with only 1 shower, and then the same thing was repeated on Sunday night because of transfers. We had to wake up at 4am yesterday in order to drive up to Sydney on time for transfer meeting. Even though Elder Ah Fook and I weren't transferred, we had to carry other Elders' luggage to and from, but it was good because we got to stop by Goulburn which is normally too far to drive to unless we are heading up that way. We visited one of our recent converts up there and his family and helped to strengthen them. They live about an hour drive from the Chapel, so it is really great to see them come to mutual and church every Sunday when its quite the drive for them.
So to explain a little bit more about what I do here as a Zone Leader:
1.) Rebuke everyone! haha no, just kidding, but that, unfortunately is what others think. We are really trying to change that image though. Many times in the past everyone "shapes up" when the ZLs come around because they are intimidated or afraid I guess, but Elder Ah Fook and I are really working hard at not having the elders view us in a negative way, but we want them to wish we are always there even though we cant be. We want them to #1 feel our love and gratitude for them. It was really great actually to see this pay off with one of the elders who got transferred. There was some times where we had to remind him of mission rules that he needed to keep, and it seemed that waking up on time and being to studies on time was always a struggle for him. However, as we kept just "loving the problem out of him." by being good examples and encouraging him, it payed off. As I was sitting with him the night before he left and we were sharing our testimonies with each other, he told me how thankful he was to have us as zone leaders because his trainer was not obedient and it was hard for him to start off right and thus, he has to overcome bad habits. But he said that us waking up and showing him that he could do it gave him inspiration to do it. Now, he wants to make sure when he trains, that he doesn't make the same poor choices his trainer did. I was really grateful for this. It was a great example to me of how being patient and loving always overcomes the motivation of fear and punishment. In Jacob 5:65 it mentions how we cannot "take away all the bad at once, let the tree die" This is an interesting theory. Often we think that we must "purge" all bad things from us as quick as we can, but in reality, if we change too much too quickly, we wont survive. If we cut off all the bad branches at one time, there may not be enough good branches to allow the tree to still grow, and thus the whole thing dies, likewise, if we try to correct every bad thing in someone or ourselves, we will very quickly realize how overwhelming of a task it is, and give up all together. But as we slowly work on improving one day or week at a time, we can change greatly over time.

2.) Being a zone leader involves a lot more planning and organization, which is good! I need to be better at this. We plan a lot of activites for the zone, help individual areas with things they need, do exchanges with each of the District Leaders for 24 hours to help them in their areas or see what work is like in our areas, and coordinate with the Assistants to the President regarding upcoming trainings, baptismal services, and other mission correlation.

I really like the work, but it definitely is a lot more work.
I need to jump off now, but I will post my email to President:
This week has been really good! We had a great zone meeting last Friday that helped me a lot to learn more about the zone members and the strengths of our zone. I really like it down here. The area is very different from where I have served in the past, but it is a good different :) Elder Ah Fook is the best! This week we saw a lot of miracles, but in relation to "preaching by the way" we have a very cool miracle. We were walking to an appointment and had a hard time finding the block because of how many different apartment buildings there were in that street. We saw a man taking a rest in his car and so we walked up and asked if he knew where the address was and started talking to him for a little while. He didn't know where the address was, but ended up giving us his and said that we could come back this week and talk with him again. It was a great miracle for us, but it was also an awesome opportunity for the new missionaries I was with. I was on a power exchange with Elder Howse and Elder Shelton who have both only been out for 6 weeks while Elder Ah Fook worked with their trainers. They really wanted to get some more experience talking to people since they are still a bit shy about it, and so I took them right down town and we street contacted for a little over an hour before heading to some other teaching appointments. This small miracle was right at the beginning of our exchange and really helped them to see how miracles can occur as we are always opening our mouths. I love these types of experiences! So many people around us are prepared and waiting, they just need the right time and invitation to make them say yes.
Another great experience we had was last night at a Family Home Evening. There is a family in our ward who is preparing to go the temple and be sealed next month. They invited us over for dinner and then to share the message for their family home evening. We centered it on prayer and asked how prayer has changed their lives, and then discussed how others could be beneffited by our prayers. At the time that we left, we asked who we could pray for so that they would be willing to join us for the next FHE. We walked away with 2 names that we can now pray for, who, with time, the family feels would say yes to joining them in the next FHE with us. Both of these experiences have been great as we are trying to implement the trainings received. We are becoming better at always opening our mouths, and always inviting as well as always seeking referrals whether they be non-member, less-active, or service oriented, we are helping the members here see that the missionaries are here to serve EVERYONE, and that all people need to come closer unto Christ.
Love you all!
Elder Shafer

Monday, September 2, 2013

Canberra Zone Week 1

G'day mates!
What a crazy week this has been! So, just a quick recap. Monday morning, Elder Ah Fook drove up here with Elder Delphin who flew home on Tuesday morning. Elder Ah Fook and I from that time on starting working together up in Sydney. We had to stick around for a couple days since we were having meetings on Thursday and Friday that we needed to attend, and so instead of driving for 3 hours each way, President just had us stay with the Assistants and the Fleet Elders and help wherever we could. That meant we helped Fleet a lot to prepare for the upcoming transfer (clearing out rubbish and broken furniture from the flats to prepare them for new missionaries, taking loads to the dump- they call it the "tip" here- installing new beds for missionaries and many other "behind the scenes" jobs that we dont think of right away when we think of missionary work. But because of these things, missionaries now will have clean flats with beds when they come rather than dirty flats and the floor with a small blanket to sleep on.
Then, Thursday morning we had a Mission Leadership Meeting with Elder Hamula. He is over all the missions in the South Pacific. His wife is the GREATEST! She is really funny and actually reminds me a lot of Anna's Mom, Sister Fielding. They have a very similar voice and personality- one of love and compassion for everyone. She said that she always feels honored to stand among so many missionaries because she thinks of all of our mothers and how much they would sacrifice to have the opportunity she gets so often. They both helped us a lot in regards to how we can be great leaders and also some training on how to help discouraged missionaries get back up on their feet and working again. Finally, Friday we loaded up in the car and headed down to Canberra. I about froze! Although it was the first day of spring yesterday, it still gets in the single digits in the night. But I will be wishing that it will stay cool like this in a couple of weeks because I hear Canberra get VERY hot in the summer since it is away from the coast.
Have to go soon, but really this week has been awesome. My world has flipped upside down now that I am living with 2 tongans, a Samoan, live in a completely opposite climate and am watching over 24 missionaries as if they were my children rather than focusing mostly on training 2. But I love it. The work is great!
About my Companion- His name is Elder Ah Fook. He is Samoan, but was born and grew up in California, near LA. There are 10 kids in his family and they are all in different walks and stages of life. He really has a powerful testimony of the Atonement and forgiveness because of some of his experiences in life. He shared it with me, but I am not sure he would want the whole world to know over the internet, so I will refrain from re-writing it. He is a fantastic missionary and I know he will continue to help me a lot in learning how to be a good example and leader for the zone. Our other 2 flat mates are from Tonga and are quite a crack up. They are both giants and laugh louder than anything, but I love it. The Islander people always love to laugh and to sing. We will often sing together in the morning to help us wake up and get going because it is really difficult to get the desire to exercise when it's freezing cold. The temptation to just sit in front of the heater to stay warm is sometimes difficult, so we will sing to help us warm up and get moving haha. 
I have to go now, but here is my letter to President:
Canberra is awesome! It was so great to finally get down here into the area. Living with the Assistants, fleet Elders, and the other Elders visiting for conference was great, but I was really glad to finally get down into our area Friday night and get to work down here. I have come to see even more how important planning is being a Zone Leader. Not only do we have to plan for our area to be a model and example, but we also need to plan for our whole zone, for trainings, for activities in the Stake and are constantly trying to lift and encourage the other areas in our zone. It is great and exciting work for sure! On the way down, we stopped by and visited Ashley Hall, the 13 year old boy who was baptized just 2 days ago and confirmed yesterday. He is awesome! My first day, I get to meet him and his family as they are preparing for the service the next day. I can't think of a better way to start off in a new area. Sacrament meeting was also a big and pleasant surprise. We had almost 170 people at sacrament meeting, which would be about 3 times as many as normally come to sacrament in the Cantonese branch I had attended last week. Though the ward is much larger, I can still see areas where we can improve a lot and I am excited to help the ward continue to grow and rescue those who desperately need the Lord's assistance and guidance in their lives.
Elder Ah Fook is the greatest! He really knows how to have a good relationship with the other members of our zone. I think a large part of the unity we have in our zone is because of his love and guidance. He is helping me continue to learn how to be a better leader and I am grateful for him. His own personal conversion story is a remarkable one as well and allows him to really testify of the Atonement with personal experience.
This week from studying about the Holy Ghost and it's importance in conversion, I have learned more how the Spirit will only be there to testify when we are doing it the Lord's way. We need to continue to stick to the basics and bear frequent testimony to have Him be there to bear witness. I have learned that realistically, we cannot control the Holy Ghost or force him in any way. We can't think that just because we are saying the truth that He will automatically be there despite all other things. We must do our part and show Him that He is invited, and when we have done that, He absolutely will come. This has been important for me to learn because it has made me think of ways that I can continue to improve so that I am inviting the Spirit at all times, prior to and during the lesson. For example, I have often wondered how I can continue to develop a good relationship with investigators and make them feel we care about them in their life without drawing away from the Spirit. Many times we will meet, say a prayer and then when we ask them how their week was, we get side tracked into subjects such as work or vacations which are not bad, but don't really invite the Spirit. I have found that as we take about 5 minutes or so before the prayer and get these questions and "small talk" aside, when we actually say the prayer and begin the lesson, it is much more gospel focused and so our investigators will have a greater ability to discern when the Spirit is there during the lesson and when He is not as we have left. Just this one small change I have seen has helped us to have more effective lessons. Another thing I have learned in Chapter 4 is to have faith and trust that He will be there when we have done our part. We need to remember that He is working even harder than we are to help these people, and so at every opportunity that He can, He will be there to lead and guide them, we just need to offer Him the right opportunities to do His job and not push Him away.

All in all, it has been a fantastic week and I am very excited for my first full week here in the Canberra Zone. So grateful that Elder Hamula shared some more insights and I was able to learn more and have an increased desire to ALWAYS open my mouth, especially in asking referrals, because we have quite a bit of finding to do ahead of us! :)

Love you all!
Elder Shafer