Kyle has been serving his mission for...

Kyle has been serving his mission for...

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Canberra Zone Week 11

It's been a wonderful week! Our area is pumping, the district is pumping, the zone is pumping. Everything is just getting better and better! :)  We set a new record for the amount of lessons taught in our zone this week by a large margin and it seems as though it won't just be a spike, but that the trend will continue to grow. Our Stake President stood up in 2 of the wards yesterday and called all of the missionaries to the front as part of sacrament meeting. It was pretty awesome, but also awkward as he asked rhetorical questions to the congregation. He said "brothers and sisters, these are the missionaries serving in your ward. There are 6 of them. Each of them has sacrificed 2 years of their lives, away from family and friends, to come and serve the Lord. Their job is to teach, not to find. Who is to find? We are. The time for missionaries tracting is over, we need to be doing all that we can to join together in helping the missionary work be successful here in this ward." Now, that wasn't word for word, but it's about as close as I can remember. The fact of the matter is that the Stake President was making it very clear that we need to continue to grow together as ward members and missionaries to help the Lord's children here in this area. He referenced many times to President Monson's recent comments on the matter and enforced it with his own testimony that when we work together, the work moves forward. All of us missionaries were so excited!! Though we felt a little out of place standing in front of the whole congregation, I think it really helped to get the message accross that we are here to work and serve. I am grateful that our Stake President supports us in our desires to achieve the Standard of Excellence established by President Lew to be teaching 20 lessons per week to investigators, recent converts, and less active members and realizes that this realistically can only be effective with the accompaniment of the ward members. They have a much more important role than what most of them realize I believe. So to my famiy and all friends who are not full time missionaries reading this- thank you for the work that you do. Even something as small as sitting next to someone new at church and greeting them goes a LONG way. As missionaries one of our greatest concerns is that first time an investigator comes to church. We want to make sure they have friends to support them and guide them because realistically, the members can do a job that we cannot. They will stay when we will leave, they can relate and be the friends that we cannot since we do not experience the same difficulties of work, raising families and other stresses of life that naturaly happen. Yes, we as missionaries can teach, but we cannot always testify that we know how it is to raise a family where we are serving, or to find a job there, etc.... So, in all the good that you are doing- thank you! Also, I can promise as you continue to dive into missionary work, there will come an added measure of happiness and joy that cannot be found elsewhere. Helping someone come closer to Christ is so enjoyable! Why? Because it brings you closer to Him as well. There is greater love and charity towards all men that develops as you strive to bring others more happiness and peace that is found in following His example. As you focus on others, you become less focused upon yourself, and being less focused on yourself brings happiness. If you don't believe me- I encourage you to try it :) Then let me know how awesome it is because I have tested it, and it is true. Selfless service is the key to happiness.
Last night Elder White and I had the opportunity to eat at a members' home and then go and teach Noni right afterward. She was planning to come and eat with us at the members' but something came up last minute with one of her daughters falling and getting hurt and crying so hard she got a headache, so she felt it best to stay at home rather than bring a crying child along for dinner haha. But she welcomed us to come and teach her more about our living Prophet, Thomas S. Monson. We watched a video that explained briefly his life and some of the sacrifices he has made to serve the Lord. I am so grateful that we have a prophet on the earth today. It helps me to know that God is the same yesterday, today, and forever, and loves us just as much as He loved His children in times past. Though we may not have to cross the Red Sea in running away from our enemies, there are many current problems that we are confronted with, and having a living prophet's guidance and inspired counsel today is so beneficial. Even though the kids were running all over the place, she still mentioned that watching the video and discussing about having a living Prophet today helped answer many of her questions that she has had. She is such a wonderful soul, and will be blessed so much for the steps she is making in coming unto Christ. Let us all this week endeavor to be a little better, and take one more step towards Him. No matter where we are or what we have done, His arms are always open towards us in friendship and warm welcome. I know this to be true because I have felt it time and again. I love my Savior and know that He lives, and it brings great peace to my heart.
In closing, I will include my letter to President to share some more miracles seen this week:
This has been the best week so far that I have had in Canberra! The Lord has blessed us with so many miracles! We were able to accomplish our member present, other lessons taught, and new investigator goals for this week! Each week we keep improving and our area is right on track for achieiving the Standard of Excellence in teaching on a weekly basis. That gets me so excited because my transfer goal was to be steadily achieving Standard of Excellence by the end of the transfer, and it is going to happen! :) Unfortunately, the 2 baptismal dates that were scheduled for this month had be to pushed back just 2 weeks for different reasons, but they both are still prepared and very keen to be baptized the first and second week of December. It will be great for them as they begin to walk on the straight and narrow pathway back to our loving Father in Heaven. Also, a great miracle happened this week that will bless my life and studies for as long as I am here. We added a new investigator who grew up as a Jehovah's Witness. On our first meeting he said that he has always just wanted to know what the Mormons were about. So he decided to walk up to the Elders in the Belconnen area and talk to them. When they found out he lives near us, they passed him over and Elder White and myself have had the privilege to start teaching him. He definitely knows a LOT about religion and especially the bible, but has a deep craving to find the truth. He has read almost all of the Book of Mormon, has watched almost every video available on LDS.Org- even the District training videos- and still wants more. He is a very logical thinker and finds it hard to believe things just based upon faith without evidence to back it up, but His desire is still there and he loves to learn more and really enjoys meeting with us. I will admit, he has made me study into questions further than any investigator has previously. One of his concerns is the fact that the bible contradicts itself upon whether or not man truly can see God and live, and so he is not sure whether it was possible for Joseph Smith to see God the Father or not and is desirous to find out that possibility. One thing that I really love about meeting him though is the amount of boldness we use when we teach him. He asks questions others normally wouldn't but which always allow us opportunity to boldly declare that we do know the Book of Mormon to be truth and that Joseph Smith truly did see God the Father, and Jesus Christ. My favorite thing he said on our first visit goes as follows "I believe that there would be only one true way that God has given us, I am just not sure which one it is.... so, sell me." Needless to say, I am very excited to continue to teach someone like this. He definitely isn't going to just take our word for it, but will test every thing that we say to know for sure it is truth, which is exactly how it should be. We testify and invite him to come to know for himself that these things are true, but it is only by him acting that he will understand and come to know the truth. He gets that, and I am glad that he does because when he comes to gain that testimony, I believe he will be as the Lamanite converts spoken of in the Book of Mormon where it says that "as many as were converted, never turned away."
Another great miracle we had this week was David. He is a referral we have been trying to contact for several weeks, but because of exams he has been too busy to meet with us. We finally had an opportunity to meet with him and he is awesome! We met him and explained to him more about The Book of Mormon and how the Spirit works in helping one come to know the truth. He asked many great questions about how the Holy Ghost really operates and how we can know whether our answer really is from God. He too has great desire to know the truth, and even though we will only meet him once more before he goes home to China for 3 months, I believe he will meet the missionaries again upon return. He promised to read the Book of Mormon everyday and pray daily as well. He has already been keeping that comittment, so I think by the time he comes back from a holiday in China, he easily could have read the whole thing and come to know of its truth, then upon arrival back in Australia it will be easy for him to continue to prepare himself for baptism.

In studying Chapter 2 from Preach my Gospel this week, I have learned more of the importance of studying by topic- especially in answering questions. I have started a new practice to have my companion ask me one question our investigator may ask us the next day and study to answer that question. Doing this has helped me to study for my investigators more and suprisingly, as I study to answer their question, or questions they potentially would ask, I come to find that there are other questions I have that are similar and can find answers to them! So it is a win-win! Even answering a question as simple as "does God love me?" deserves more of a response than just one of us saying "yes!" But, in answering that question, we should help them discover for themselves how they can know God loves them. Thus, I will start searching into scriptures examples of God's love, and scriptures to find out how they can feel the Holy Ghost confirm to them God's love. I love studying by topic and answering questions that our investigators do have, or are likely to have- it really brings the Spirit and helps me to learn.
Elder Shafer

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Canberra Zone Week 10

Dear Everyone,
Though the day is rainy and wet, there is sunshine in my soul! :) This week has been great! Noni and Amelia are so awesome! They keep progressing really well toward baptism. We had a great Family Home Evening with Amelia this week which she really enjoyed and the Spirit was really strong as we watched the Restoration DVD recounting the miracle of how Jesus Christ's church was restored. She has been reading scriptures regularly and praying daily in preparation, and we can see how the Spirit is helping her change into an even better person than she already is! :) For Noni, we organized a ward service project to help her. The lawn that she has is quite large and takes about 2 hours just for her to mow by herself, but with 5 leaders and 8 young men plus us two elders there, the whole thing was lookin spick and span within 45 minutes. She also is progressing SOOO well! I think we may even move her baptismal date one week! So please continue to pray for her as she is preparing to be baptized in the next 2-3 weeks. This past week was really SO good :) I love the work down here and hope I can stay here forever,  though I know that is not possible :( Seeing how Jesus Christ changes people is too awesome to fully explain. Noni just mentioned the other day that "she did something Jesus would be proud of." Instead of drinking with her friends after going to a concert, she decided to be the designated driver, and even though her friends said she isn't as fun when she is sober, she said that she felt good about what she had done in choosing to not drink. It is so wonderful as people come closer to Christ, they start to just change things by themselves without even needing to be invited. As they experience His love, they want to come closer and start making those small changes which bring greater, and lasting happiness. This work truly is the best and most enjoyable work on earth. 

That's all for this week, here is my letter to President Lew.
WHAT AN AWESOME WEEK!! Elder White and I are so happy with the success we have seen this past week. For one, we accomplished our goal to have every lesson with an investigator have a member present! That was really exciting since we had quite a few lessons. Though we did not quite achieve the standard of excellence in total lessons, we were very pleased with the progress we have made and are glad that together, we have taught the most lessons I have taught in one week here in Canberra. Elder White is such an awesome missionary! We are really excited for the success we will continue to have together. Especially with the people that the Lord has prepared for us to teach. Across the zone, this last week we taught more lessons with a member present than what has ever been done as far as we can see. We have several baptisms that will be coming up before the end of this month and we are quite excited about how the work is moving forward in our zone. We know it is because we have some of the best missionaries in the world right here in our zone and we are grateful for them! Each of the new areas continues to grow and is teaching more and though we need to continue to find new investigators, we are pleased that the amount of teaching per companionship is increasing. Especially, we see as we are freely sharing what the Lord blesses us with, He gives us more! For example, when the new Elders arrived in our ward, we didn't want them to just start from scratch, so we gave them several of the people we meet with regularly to help them have people to teach, seek referrals from, and help them to have confidence to progress forward, and as we have done so, it seems that more and more people keep coming who are prepared to be taught. For example, a member just brought 2 non-members to church yesterday who were SOO keen! Though it would be very easy to just jump on them and claim them ourselves, we thought it would be best to have some of the other Elders teach them and gain that experience with them. The elders came home after the lesson feeling really uplifted and said that they both accepted the commitment to be baptized, when they knew the things being taught are true. As we have done this, we see that truly, the Lord has prepared the people for the gospel, and that as we show Him our love and trust, He will continue to lead us to those who are prepared, or lead them to us. I really have grown to love seeing others be happy more than just seeing myself be happy. As those two Elders came back really excited from that Lesson and the 2 new investigators they will be able to work with, I was very glad that I had acted on the thought to allow them to teach, instead of selfishly keeping the prepared investigators for ourselves. I don't say this to boast or gloat, but It has been an interesting lesson that I have learned. As we are willing to share with others the good opportunities and experiences we can have, The Lord blesses us with more. I know that as Elder White and I continue to help each area improve and grow rather than just make ours grow to be a perfect model, we will be blessed. For me, I would much rather have it be where we are now, where we are still striving to achieve the standard of excellence in our area and seeing other areas continue to grow, rather than us be able to achieve the standard of excellence at the expense of other areas by keeping all of our investigators and less actives we visited before adding a new area. The day will truly be joyous when we see that each of our areas in this ward is achieving the Standard of excellence. I know that it is achievable and will be done as we continue to work dilligently and with faith. Thank you so much for this opportunity to serve here. I love to see the blessings that continuously flow. Even though we are not perfect, I am glad the Lord shows His mercy and continues to give us gifts and moments of great happiness. We are very confident that we will continue to see the Lord blessing us and these wonderful people here. I am so excited for Noni and Amelia, both are preparing for baptism before the end of this month. Miracles are happening in the Canberra zone! We are especially excited to have received that personal referral from you and will get in contact with him today and set plans to go up to Goulburn as soon as possible.

This week, I studied more about helping our investigators receive revelation through prayer. I was really enjoying studying deeper and understanding clearly how exactly to help our investigators receive answers to their prayers. Many times they do not understand what all is needed on their part to receive an answer. For example, I think many people neglect to understand that they can only receive an answer when they have the faith to receive one. They may mistakingly feel that they can just wish it will happen, and then IF if does, it will give them faith, but they must have the faith first in order to see the answer. Also, many times we expect the answer to be bigger or different than what it really will be. It is by recognizing the small and simple answers that we can come to know we have a close relationship with God. Why would He shout at us when all He needs to do is whisper? If I am far from someone, I will need to raise my voice, but if I am close, I will speak more quietly. The same I feel is with God and answering our prayers. He shouldn't need to shake us or send us an angel like He did for Saul or Alma, but as we are willing to listen with open hearts and minds, He will answer us through the Holy Ghost and we can know He is closer than what we had first imagined. I am excited to continue to help my investigators and the Less active members we work with see how much the Lord loves them and how they can continue to receive specific answers as they ask specific questions. 
Love you all!!
Elder Shafer

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Canberra Zone Week 9

Hello Everyone!!!!
Sorry this week's email is really short, had some other things that interrupted email time. Been a FANTASTIC week though!!!! :) Wish I could write more about it, but here is President's letter:
What an amazing week! We were able to set a baptismal date with our new investigator, Noni. She is the one that was a referral from We had dinner and then a lesson afterward at a member's home. Even though the kids kept running in and out, it was a great lesson. We helped to answer her questions regarding the Plan of Salvation. She asked a wonderful question right when we were beginning. She sasked "What is the Atonement, I don't quite understand how that works. I know that because Jesus Christ died for us, all of us will live again, but how does Him dying for us allow us to be clean from our sin?" Such a great question, and one that we were thrilled to help her understand. She is very interested in learning more about the gospel. Later that night, we texted her just saying thanks again for allowing us to teach and to say we are excited to see her at church and she replied that she couldn't stop smiling about the thought that she will be getting baptized. I have never seen someone so prepared and just ready to learn. Her and her daughters will be benefitted so much from the gospel. She even invited her sister to come to church the following Sunday, but she wasn't able to attend yesterday. Hopefully this week she can. We are going over there this Wednesday night with the YM to help mow her lawn, supposedly it is HUGE and takes her 2 hours to mow by herself. So we got the ward involved in some service to help her and hopefully her sisters will be inclined to come and meet the YM. Could help them start some good friendships and desire to come to church as well! I have loved so much more being able to coordinate work with the members and have them help us in misionary work all the time. Elder White and I have really been trying to involve members in everything that we do, whether it be lessons, service, finding... anything! It has really started paying off as well, the ward continues to grow in excitement for missionary work.

This week, I studied more about Revelation Through Church Attendance. It was so good! I rated myself at an average of 4.5/5. One area I have been trying to work on and I have seen how important it is, is to inform the teachers, auxillary members, and the Bishop on who is planning on coming to church and making sure there is good fellowship to help them feel welcome the whole time through. As we have been making a lot of calls to different people and asking them to help our investigators, it gets them excited and lessens the stress on us A LOT! We can get ready in the morning not having to worry about who will say hello, who will be teaching and so on because we have already coordinated it. When the teachers know about non-members coming, they will expect them and can welcome them instead of it being a surprise, when ward members know we expect them to specifically take care of one person or a family and help them feel comfortable, we find that they are early to church, have a place reserved and are anxiously waiting whereas sometimes they come in after the meeting has started or just sit by themselves toward the back. Helping people create friendships and come outside of their "zone" is great! Our investigators really appreciate having so many people welcome them, but also having that one close friend to help answer their questions and help guide them is invaluable. So glad to be here and to be working with these wonderful people!!! Missionary work is the greatest!